ESPN’s First Take is essential viewing for people stuck in eye doctor waiting rooms across the country, but it’s hardly seen as something akin to high-level debate. Max Kellerman is certainly an upgrade from Skip Bayless, but there’s only so much you can achieve with the format.
Still, ESPN plugs on, with Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith going back and forth on a daily basis. The general read has always been that the format and show itself hold back the discourse, that the manufactured setting makes for stilted conversation and encourages theatricality, to the point that any reasoned, coherent sports discussion is lost.
It turns out that might not be the case! Today, the First Take Twitter account released a video of an apparently unstaged, unscripted commercial break argument between Kellerman and Damien Woody, as the two went back and forth on who is most at fault for the Green Bay Packers struggles this year:
The gloves come off in commercial breaks ? pic.twitter.com/6QwjW7Oedw
— First Take (@FirstTake) November 26, 2018
Molly Qerim and Smith remaining so calm might be a sign that this is a regular occurrence. Molly’s exasperation at the end is palpable, and anyone who’s been dragged into a sports argument between your two least favorite coworkers a few cubicles over can empathize.
Stephen A. in particular seemed quite unfazed, even refusing to be dragged in when Woody attempted to call for backup:
And Stephen A. just sitting there like "Oh, look! Cyber Monday deals!" Lol @stephenasmith
— Paratus (@Medic6940) November 26, 2018
That kind of shouting match might actually make for much better television than First Take, just from a trainwreck standpoint, but it’s certainly not a more interesting form of sports discussion.
For the record, and not that it matters, Kellerman is probably more correct: Aaron Rodgers is really good, obviously, and his team is not. Rodgers isn’t blameless for the season, but on the list of things wrong with the Green Bay Packers, he’s at the bottom. But there are so many fallacies on display, along with the unfortunately prevalent “blame and/or praise the quarterback for everything a team does” narrative that it may as well be a morning zoo call-in show.
For whatever it’s worth, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield also took aim at First Take in the comment thread of an Instagram post talking about Hue Jackson.
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) November 26, 2018
It’s a fascinating look, though, at the ways in which First Take actually corrals personalities and helps guide the discussion towards the end product. Until today, it seemed like the ingredients were being ruined by the cooking. Now it seems much more like Chopped, where the people in charge are taking a mixture of random things and somehow making it presentable.