According to The Big Lead, Stephen A. Smith has wrapped up negotiations with ESPN on a new contract extension and will be staying in Bristol “for the foreseeable future.”
Six years ago, Smith left ESPN without a new contract and his career as a national sports personality seemed dead in the water. Now he’s remade himself into one of ESPN’s biggest and most profitable lightning rods. Well, “remade” isn’t the right word because his Screamin’ A. gimmick really hasn’t changed. It’s just that ESPN has moved in the direction where the louder and more controversial someone can be, even if you get suspended for it, the better.
Smith might have had suitors elsewhere, but let’s be real. No other network is going to give him the reach, nor the near 24/7 airtime that he enjoys at the present moment with ESPN. There’s been enough times that I’ve actually seen Stephen A. Smith on more than one ESPN network at the same time that I think it’s either a cruel joke ESPN is playing or I’m in the third level of hell and just didn’t realize it. I suppose Fox Sports 1 could have made a big play at him, but studio personalities just aren’t bringing viewers at the moment and they need to focus on live events. Unless Screamin’ A really wanted to take his talents to the cable news world (As bad as First Take is, have you seen Ronan Farrow try to host a show on MSNBC? My word…), being Skip Bayless’ carnival barking partner is the best gig he’s going to get.