Since rising to prominence at ESPN, Dan Le Batard has never shied away from giving his (usually gloomy) thoughts on the state of sports media. After wading into a back-and-forth with Stephen A. Smith over the problems with debate television, Le Batard used a segment on his show to analyze the chaotic nature of Undisputed‘s new format and what it means for Skip Bayless and his final act.
“What he has decided to do is every athlete he’s been crushing for 20 years, they sit next to him now,” Le Batard said on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Tuesday. “And they want the ball.”
Certainly, going from one cohost in Shannon Sharpe to three panelists in Richard Sherman, Michael Irvin and Keyshawn Johnson decreased Bayless’ usage rate and ramped up the theatrics of the show even more. But wasn’t that the point?
Maybe, Le Batard said, but only if Bayless evolves along with the show.
“They’re going to take your show,” Le Batard predicted. “And that’s not a terrible way to evolve at 70 if he’s willing to be the joke, if he’s willing to not take himself seriously and just allow the floor to a bunch of people who are really good at television.”
Several clips from the show went viral on Monday despite questions about its success and whether Bayless would accept a reduced role. The new personalities are among the more recognizable personalities of the NFL’s past three decades. It could work, Le Batard said.
“To get millions of views is how Skip stays in the game,” he said.
Always one to up the ante, co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner went so far as to say that if Bayless doesn’t accept change and take solace from the engagement of the first episode in the new format, he could move to fire one of the new panelists.
“I’m thinking Skip Bayless is not happy with the first show,” Stugotz said. “He might be happy with the views, but I think Skip wants to go out being Skip.
“I don’t think Skip likes being made fun of, I think Skip still has plenty of hot takes to give, I think Sip wants to be the guy that dominates that show and will be the guy that dominates that show, otherwise he will get one of them fired. I believe that.”
It’s hard to say now how the show will fare in its new iteration. But Bayless was unable to find one sparring partner he liked to replace Sharpe and played more of a moderator role on Monday. At age 71, it’s unclear how much longer Bayless wants to work or what he wants his show to look like in the coming years.
And while viewers still haven’t seen the debuts of Rachel Nichols or Lil Wayne in the new format, Tuesday’s edition with the NFL ensemble was far less contentious than the premiere. At least from a Bayless standpoint.
[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on YouTube]