Skip Bayless and FS1 relaunched Undisputed this week. With Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Irvin and Richard Sherman among the new cast, the sports debate show is undisputedly different.
Bayless took more than two months to build a cast of contributors that could fill the void left by Shannon Sharpe’s departure. And now that the new Undisputed has finally launched, Bayless reflected on the first few shows.
For most viewers, the biggest difference about the new Undisputed seemed to be that Bayless was forced to take a back seat on his own show. Bayless, however, was asked about what has changed with the new Undisputed, and while he admitted his role is different on the revamped show, he seems to think it’s given him more work, not less.
“As you might have noticed, we’ve been experimenting with me sort of wearing two hats through the show,” Bayless said.
Those “two hats” are that of host and moderator. In past iterations of Undisputed, the show was always built around Bayless and Sharpe as hosts, with a third person filling the moderator role. Most recently, Fox Sports’ Jen Hale was Undisputed’s moderator, starting and stopping each debate. But Hale has not been on Undisputed this week, instead, Bayless has taken on the task of setting the topic.
“My comfort zone is always outside my comfort zone,” Bayless said of his new role. “I don’t like comfort zone. I like to be uncomfortable. And I guess you could say I was a little uncomfortable on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of this show, but in a great way, like an edgy way, like an explosive way.”
“And I love the feel and the flavor and the vibe and the momentum of the new Undisputed. All I can tell you is my new teammates, Michael, Key, Sherm, those three, every day, the moment we finish, they look across the table and say, ‘Man, that flew by.’ Maybe it didn’t fly by for me quite like it did for them, cause I’m having to do some heavy lifting. But that is a great sign.”
Heavy lifting? If anything, it seemed like Bayless was doing less lifting this week on Undisputed. That’s not an insult, it’s just the nature of having four alphas on one show. Bayless said he discussed about 75 different candidates with Fox as they worked to replace Sharpe throughout the summer.
According to Bayless, Sherman, Johnson and Irvin were his top three, and he landed all of them. Or as Dan Le Batard put it, he opened the “gates of hell” for each of them, finding three generations of ‘this is the loudest Black guy who played football during his generation.’”
“I’m not sure you can find that kind of energy anywhere on television,” Bayless said of sitting himself at a table alongside Keyshawn, Irvin and Sherman. And he’s right, the show was not lacking energy when it relaunched Monday morning, so much so that Bayless was forced to be a spectator, or moderator, on the show he stars on.
But while Bayless doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting to keep the energy up on the show, the weight of the show does still fall on his shoulders more than it does on any other contributor. If Undisputed fails without Shannon Sharpe, Bayless will receive the blame.