Dan Le Batard and Pat McAfee have long had a mutual adoration for one another, but as the McAfee era begins at ESPN, Le Batard also acknowledged he never could have reached McAfee’s heights at the Worldwide Leader. The main reason being Le Batard’s politics and social commentary on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.
“I can’t go back in time and know if it would actually be possible to have my politics and be what (McAfee) is,” Le Batard mused. “That show is not gonna have politics, but it looks a little bit like ours, the fun formula and all that stuff.
“But at the center of it is a professional wrestler who’s vastly more entertaining than me and a star. He was already headed toward stardom, and now this is going to be rocket fuel.”
Le Batard previously warned McAfee about ESPN stifling his freedom despite McAfee’s insistence his show would not change while simulcast on ESPN. But Le Batard also hosted McAfee on his show during McAfee’s first stint at ESPN last decade and has praised him often.
The question Le Batard posed was more about ESPN.
“ESPN chose (McAfee) over Bomani (Jones) and me and Sarah (Spain) and whatever it is that we were doing that doesn’t fit with the politics of whatever McAfee does,” Le Batard said.
The more diverse segment of ESPN talent brought in by former president John Skipper is, in fact, mostly gone. That includes Le Batard, Jones, and Spain as well as Pablo Torre, Jemele Hill, Katie Nolan, and others.
In their place comes McAfee and his staff, who are goofy and unorthodox but also very down-the-middle in terms of their sports commentary. The Pat McAfee Show may need a bleep or two day by day, but the show is about having fun talking sports with friends. That’s it.
“I don’t know if we could have ever actually been there given what my politics are,” Le Batard said. “I don’t think it’s possible.”
Credit Le Batard and his staff’s self-awareness. They immediately agreed.
“Most people don’t want to feel bad about their politics,” said executive producer Mike Ryan. “He doesn’t make them feel bad when they’re watching ESPN. You do.”
Still, Le Batard launched his own content company and received a sizable licensing deal. Meadowlark Media leans into political and social commentary and has grown since its launch in 2021 when Le Batard left ESPN.
Maybe Le Batard was never going to be on College GameDay or First Take like McAfee, but both star hosts have carved their own unique paths in sports media’s digital age.