Dan Le Batard might hate what Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless have done to sports television, but he loves to hate it.
After a more than two-month layoff, where Bayless attempted to rebuild Undisputed in the wake of Shannon Sharpe’s departure, FS1’s premier sports debate show returned this week, and it returned loudly. Monday’s Undisputed featured Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Irvin and Richard Sherman on the show. Oh yeah, and Skip Bayless was there too.
But according to Dan Le Batard, Keyshawn, Irvin and Sherman didn’t just walk through the doors of FS1’s studio in Los Angeles (where the bathrooms are too far away for Skip’s liking), they walked through the gates of hell.
“20 years, they’ve dominated debate culture and really changed the face of the sports media critic,” Le Batard said of Bayless and Smith during an appearance on Pablo Torre’s show. “And in debating everything, created an acid of cruelty around the way we treat athletes because it’s all entertainment and we say nasty things and it’s all sports radio and it’s all supposed to be content.
“And Skip Bayless is trying to keep up with changing times in his 70s by opening the gates of hell to three generations of ‘this is the loudest Black guy who played football during his generation.’ Three generations of it. Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson and Richard Sherman. Of course when they get together, because they all want to be thrown the damn ball, all of them are talking at the same time and Skip Bayless shrinks to the size of a postage stamp.”
Le Batard’s assessment of Bayless shrinking to the size of a postage stamp is accurate. Despite being known as one of the loudest hot take artists in sports media, Bayless struggled to find his voice alongside Keyshawn, Irvin and Sherman on Monday, although he has since regained a bit more control of his show. But it might be too harsh to fault Bayless and Smith for creating “an acid of cruelty around the way we treat athletes.” I would argue, despite the existence of First Take and Undisputed, athletes are treated like human beings today more than they were decades ago, when they were often viewed as objects.
Le Batard hates what Bayless has done to sports television, he hates the loud, brash, and at times, toxic nature of debate shows. You might assume he would just turn away from Bayless returning to the airwaves this week. But Le Batard can’t do that, because as much as he hates sports debate shows, he loves to debate their existence even more.