First Take

Earlier in his career, Stephen A. Smith was a journalist. Now he’s a performer and an entertainer, which he reiterated to First Take moderator Molly Qerim.

Wednesday morning on First Take, weekly contributor Chis “Mad Dog” Russo was given his opportunity to riff with his “What Are You Mad About?” segment. Much like Michael Irvin’s Top Playmakers segment on Mondays, Smith passes the baton to Russo, allowing him to yell, scream and rant the way someone nicknamed “Mad Dog” should.

After Russo completed the prepared segment, Qerim asked if he struggles whittling down his list each week. That prompted the Radio Hall-of-Famer to go off script and start screaming about things he cut from the bit.

“Does anybody think this is normal?” Qerim looked at the camera and asked regarding the hijinks from Smith and Russo on First Take. “Anybody at all whatsoever? I just want to know. Call me.”

“It’s not whether or not it’s normal,” Smith calmly pushed back. “It’s whether or not it’s entertaining and it works. And it does. OK? Pay attention, Molly. Pay attention.”

“That’s the key word,” Russo jumped in to defend his cartoonish rants. “Move the needleeeee.”

Debate shows are often mocked for being too over the top, but as Smith pulled back the curtain and reminded everyone Wednesday morning, it’s all part of the theatrics. Fans don’t tune to First Take or Undisputed for hard-hitting sports analysis and insight, they go there to be entertained. Maybe watching people mindlessly yell and scream isn’t your type of entertainment, but there remains an audience of sports fans that are drawn to it.

[First Take]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to