The Pat McAfee era has begun at ESPN, and the popular host’s job description will apparently also include a weekly appearance on First Take debating Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe.
Smith welcomed McAfee to ESPN with a guest appearance on First Take and announced that McAfee will be a panelist each Tuesday alongside Smith, the newly hired Shannon Sharpe, and host Molly Qerim.
The move makes sense in theory. ESPN likes to milk as many appearances as possible out of its top personalities. And McAfee brings a level of passion, particularly for football, that should make for great TV alongside a showman like Smith.
“Obviously if you ask me to be on the No. 1 show on TV, I’m certainly going to take that opportunity and be appreciative,” McAfee said on Thursday.
But McAfee has expressed a distaste for sports debate shows in the past. Shortly after his show’s move to ESPN was announced in the spring, McAfee told his audience that “debates naturally lead to division and nitpicking and tearing people down.”
He said that part of the impetus for going to ESPN was “a real opportunity here to change sports media as a whole.” McAfee has long been a proponent of a “celebratory” perspective on his show and around the industry.
He echoed that sentiment on First Take in his ESPN introduction on Thursday, telling Smith, “we are basically just celebrating sports for two hours.”
To his credit, Smith is great at incorporating different personalities into First Take. Panelists like Mina Kimes, Domonique Foxworth and JJ Redick have blended fairly seamlessly into the show’s format without necessarily being performance artists like Sharpe or Skip Bayless.
McAfee should be able to do the same each Tuesday. But it will be a fascinating collision of styles and perspectives when the two generations of ESPN collide.