Skip Bayless

When I read about Skip Bayless’ comments on Dak Prescott, I couldn’t say I was surprised. When the hot take artist (not a compliment) took on clinical depression with the seriousness of most things discussed on that two-and-a-half-hour worthless excuse for “entertainment,” Bayless once again acted like an expert on something he really knew nothing about.

Usually, the kind of hot takes Skip puts out are stupid, but somewhat harmless. The worst it typically gets is when he says something that denigrates a high-profile athlete, usually the same athlete, hoping that take goes viral and maybe that player responds to him or the show, maintaining their relevancy in sports media. 

That’s the point of debate shows. Say something stupid enough to anger people, or anger the subject of said take, and get them to hate-watch and respond in such a way that Bayless and Fox Sports see as great business. And when more and more people are immune to the sewage that gets said every day, it’s time to go even further and even more horrible. Then you get to a point where someone is making the argument that a high-profile quarterback admitting to being depressed after his brother killed himself is a sign of weakness that an NFL player shouldn’t reveal publicly because others might exploit that.

To be fair to Bayless, he was somewhat right about one thing: People will use Prescott’s admission of being depressed and try to exploit that. I know that because Skip did exactly that. He exploited Dak’s anxiety and depression to make a point about what kind of quarterback he’ll be, a point that is completely absurd because many of his peers aren’t going to see Dak’s vulnerability as a sign of weakness.

Instead, the people who will try to exploit Prescott’s mental health and who do see it as a weakness will be fans in the stands and on social media. Those people are ignorant cowards and that’s when someone like Bayless, who has two-and-a-half hours of cable TV screen time every weekday, has a responsibility to use his platform to tell those fans to go screw themselves and not put any blame on Prescott.

Maybe Skip can use a more TV-appropriate way to tell fans to “go screw themselves,” but if he really has a “deep compassion for clinical depression,” going after those people who will do the things he’s saying would be a far more suitable response to Prescott’s admission. 

Bayless instead pretty much shrugged his shoulders and blamed Prescott by saying he “didn’t have sympathy” for Dak admitting to his struggles and possibly giving people the chance to use that against him. Putting this on Dak and blaming him for ignorant trolls with nothing better to do is the kind of victim-blaming people like Skip will never understand.

If Bayless said something similar toward someone who was raped or beaten or been a victim of a hate crime, would he say the same thing? If he did, would he still have a job?

Think about it. Why are there no openly gay players currently playing in the four major sports? We’re told that players and the league would have no problem playing alongside a gay teammate, so the fear of coming out isn’t due to their fellow players. No one wants to come out because of homophobic fans and homophobes in general.

Unlike Skip, I would never insinuate that a Cowboys quarterback was gay when they actually weren’t, but what if Dak came out? Would Skip blame Dak and not have any sympathy for him if others used that revelation against him, as he did with Prescott’s mental health?

The reason I’m so passionate about what Bayless said is because people like him are why people like me don’t like to go public with our mental health struggles. I won’t go into detail because I don’t even want to publicly reveal this much, but it’s been tough at times for me for most of my life. And like many people, the past six months haven’t helped matters.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was discovered I have some sort of mental issue, but I haven’t been diagnosed because I haven’t sought out treatment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about anyone seeking help to improve their mental health and I’m happy and supportive for those who do.

I realize I probably sound like a hypocrite, but I haven’t sought treatment because 1) I can’t afford to see a therapist. Health insurance sucks in this country and it’s even worse when seeking out mental health options. And 2) I still believe that if I do go, some powerful people in sports, media, or really any industry will someday use that against me in my professional future.

So I’ve been trying to do what I can, figuring things out on my own. And don’t get it twisted that I’m trying to blame Bayless and others for my actions. I’m ultimately responsible for my decisions on what to do and what not to do. But things like this make it very tough to make certain decisions.

Maybe I’m totally wrong about believing that second reason and maybe revealing what I revealed is already enough for someone to use against me. But Skip’s comments, and Fox Sports’ reaction to Skip’s comments, are a great example of why I don’t really trust people and their regard for mental health.

Fox Sports put out a statement saying they were “proud” of Prescott and that he showed “tremendous courage” while saying they disagreed with Bayless’ opinion. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe Fox Sports actually believes that. I know a bunch of individuals at Fox Sports who I have come to appreciate and respect, and I believe they themselves truly believe those things. But I don’t think that’s something the company believes.

If Fox Sports actually did believe that, they wouldn’t have tried to bury their response by posting it minutes before kickoff of the opening game of the NFL season. Not only that but they couldn’t even apologize for the man. I wasn’t expecting much. I wasn’t expecting Fox Sports to fire Bayless or even suspend him, but they couldn’t even come to terms to make a meaningless hollow apology for what he said.

In a way, I shouldn’t be surprised they couldn’t exceed my low expectations. Skip Bayless and Fox Sports don’t see athletes as people. They see athletes as things who have no outside life and only exist through the TV with their sole purpose being to entertain the public. That’s why Bayless said what he said and that’s why Fox Sports allows him to say the things he says. 

Skip’s remarks got someone like me, who loathes to even mention the name “Skip Bayless” for fear I’m just giving the attention-seeking troll what he wants, to pay attention to him and give him what he wants. By that logic, he won.

“Skip Bayless” was the top trending topic on Twitter Thursday afternoon. It didn’t matter if it was because everyone hated his guts because Skip honestly doesn’t care if I, or anyone else, likes or respects him. He and Fox Sports got so much publicity for what was said, the outcome is what they both truly wanted.

Let’s be honest, that’s the hope of every host on every sports debate show, to have a day like what Skip Bayless had on Thursday. It doesn’t matter who they hurt, as long as people are talking about what they said. And as someone trying to make his way in this industry, it’s a horrible thought to come to the realization that kind of content will continue to dominate more and more of the sports media landscape.

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp