Ever hear Skip Bayless drop a hot take and wondered what goes on through his mind during a debate? According to the Fox Sports host, most of what comes out of his mouth was already written down on paper.
Say what you want about his provocative opinions or over-the-top hot takes, but Bayless is 70 years old and still brings it every day on Fox Sports with unwavering energy and tenacity. If you’ve watched him on First Take, Undisputed, or even his recently launched podcast, you’ll notice he spends a lot of time looking at his notes rather than the camera. During his latest podcast episode, Bayless was asked what was on those pieces of paper and the answer is – everything.
— The Skip Bayless Show (@SkipBaylessShow) April 1, 2022
“My process is what I call flash memory,” he answered on The Skip Bayless Show. “I need to write down all my thoughts on a topic and then I need to write down all the ammo I’m gonna need to win that debate.”
The audience won’t be surprised to learn that sports shows are scripted in terms of what topics each segment will hit on. Hosts without a debate partner such as Colin Cowherd or Jim Rome script almost their entire show with a team of writers. Cowherd will often even repeat segments on the same show, where it’s hard to tell if he’s just reading off a teleprompter for the second time or if they’re airing a previously recorded segment.
Debate shows provide a little more spontaneity because Bayless can’t predict everything Shannon Sharpe will say, and Stephen A. Smith certainly doesn’t know every direction Chris “Mad Dog” Russo will go during a discussion. But Bayless attempts to eliminate the element of surprise by creating a blueprint for every potential counterpoint.
“I memorize it by writing it in case I need it,” Bayless continued. “So hopefully I’ve written down every conceivable move I’m going to have to make against Shannon in a debate. I’ve scripted it out so that it will be emblazoned in my flash memory if I need to reach for it.”
And once the show’s over, Bayless says he already starts erasing the notes from his memory.
“I’ll remember maybe half of it by tomorrow,” Bayless said. “And in 48 to 72 hours I’ll remember maybe a fourth of it and by next week I won’t remember much of it at all.”
Maybe that’s true for some debates, but many show segments are recycled discussions with a fresh chyron slapped over them. Game planning for “every conceivable move” of each debate before every show is a little bit easier to manage when you consider how much time Bayless spends debating LeBron James.