This past Friday Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks (my favorite team, full disclosure) went on ESPN's First Take program to debate Skip Bayless on several issues that Cuban had with Bayless. Up to the point that Cuban sat in the chair, this had followed the blueprint that has led other people on to the show to debate Skip.
They would go on twitter and take issue with something that Skip said, usually something ridiculous, and Bayless and ESPN would then invite them to come on to the show. Usually this turns out to be rappers who are fans of the show such as Joe Budden, Wale and Lil Wayne, but it has also been athletes such as Terrell Suggs and Chris Bosh.
Then they would get on the show, and it would quickly become the Skip Bayless show. Bayless, much like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly is the master of his domain. It's his house. In the case of O'Reilly he has the benefit of the show being taped, so no one will be able to expose him without his letting that happen, because he can simply edit the interviews and voila! he will have the better arguments.
With ESPN's First Take, however, it's a live show so there's no chance of that, however what it is a situation of is Bayless and ESPN bring on people who may be articulate and may be able to express their thoughts, but they are not on Bayless' level when it comes to manipulation that he and ESPN refer to as "Debate".
As Stephen A. Smith is fond of saying on the show, what Bayless may say is not technically incorrect, it's twisted so that it's saying something that is not true. Or exaggerating what is being discussed. Rarely do you see someone go on there and really put Skip's feet to the fire and make him accountable for some of the utterly ridiculous things that he's said.
Enter Mark Cuban.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
Cuban, unwilling to play the role of yet another foil for Bayless, took Skip to the woodshed in the interview. It was so one sided that I've yet to find a single piece online that has even debated that point. It's universal that Cuban wiped the floor with Bayless, and wonder was expressed that ESPN actually posted video of it on their website. This lends credence to those who say that ESPN is all about stirring up conversation and debate, even at the expense of their own self respect and dignity.
Below is the 6 minute first segment of the interview where Cuban basically destroyed every little point that Skip was trying to say while pointing out that all he does is spout generalities and exaggerations.
As you can see, Mark came prepared with logical points, and facts and was able to break down the actual game of basketball as it relates to defensive schemes and whatnot, and Bayless was only able to come back with opinions and generalities like "LeBron James just wanted it more".
On the show the moderator Jay Crawford and the co-host Stephen A. Smith have both said that the things that Skip says on the show is not done for attention or ratings, it is all 100% exactly what Bayless means and believes. That he is 100% sincere and not pandering for attention, no matter how negative that attention is by coming up with this contrarian point of view on damn near every topic that's up for debate.
And when I think about both of them saying this, I can only come to one of two conclusions.
1. Stephen A. Smith and Jay Crawford are lying. This landing on the mere act of my having a brain and the ability to comprehend things that are said. Bayless has said some of the most outrageous things over his time on the show. Some of them are able to be defended, some are not. I mean, for pete's sake, Skip and Chris Broussard compiled a list of the best and worst #1 picks ever, and he was slotting people into positions that they don't even play! (His Best #1's had Tim Duncan as a Small Forward and his Worst #1's had Greg Oden as a Power Forward?)
So it's very difficult to take the word of two people, who I like a good deal, on this. I've always been a fan of Stephen A, although I disagree with some of his politics, and I acknowledge those that point out his tendency to scream a bit (Screamin' A Smith?). That said, can you really take those comments as truth, that Skip means 100% what he says and that he's not just coming up with bat shit crazy theories and talking points to stir up conversation in a show that gets horrible ratings (although I suppose good for what they are wanting)?
But let's say that Crawford and Smith are telling the truth, and Bayless is not bullshitting or putting on a show. This leads to my second conclusion.
2. Skip Bayless should be fired immediately from ESPN. I know, this isn't going to happen. For what meager ratings the show gets, the network is happy with Bayless and he's practically got the run of that show. It's essentially The Skip Bayless show, and they've tailored the entire show around him and his assinine opinions.
As Cuban clearly demonstrated, Bayless doesn't know jack shit about basketball. Let's not be wrong here, I don't either. I can't tell you how to break down plays and defensive schemes or anything like that. But then again I'm not running my own show on a network that bills itself as the sports leader. And it's not limited to Basketball, as he's been exposed as a fraud on any number of topics to the point that Smith is fond of joking that he's going to management and demanding that Bayless not be allowed to debate basketball anymore.
How can ESPN in good conscience employ a man that makes a mockery out of the actual sports journalists that they have working there? How many people on that network could flat out embarrass Skip Bayless if ESPN were to pull their protection of him and allow them to come on and call him out on his bullshit to the point that he was forced to explain his positions beyond simple platitudes and throwaway opinions that mean nothing?
Skip's whole argument is "Opinions can't be wrong".
I'm actually shocked that Cuban got on the air because he clearly knows Basketball and Skip clearly doesn't. I think ESPN thought it'd be another day in the park, someone would come in and be grateful to be in Skip's presence and not go hard at him. Cuban clearly didn't give a shit and was glad to walk in to Skip's house like Cher, and slap him in the face and tell him to snap out of it.
As I said on twitter, I bet that doesn't happen again. I bet Cuban doesn't get a return trip there. They don't want it like that. It's why they rescinded their invitation to former rapper and now columnist Luther Campbell after his incendiary column bashing Skip over the racial overtones of his arguments against black athletes.
I've never known whether or not Skip's arguments and attacks are race based or whether it's simply a case of him going after whoever is in the limelight. Although I'm sure many have drawn the comparison between his vicious attacks on LeBron James and his almost canonization of Tim Tebow.
To be clear though I am not necessarily a huge fan of Lebron although my dislike of him has tempered a bit over the years, and I am a fan of Tim Tebow, although I also acknowledge his faults and weaknesses (unlike Skip) and realize that he's got a long way to go before being a legitimate starting QB in the NFL. But even I can see that Skip's attacks on LeBron (a three time MVP and now World Champion) and his effusive praise of Tim Tebow (an all around good guy, but mediocre starting QB) is beyond ridiculous.
And while I realize what he was trying to point out with the Blake Griffin "I take pride in that he came from a white mom" comment, there's really ZERO way to say that without coming off in a way you may not want to. I don't know if Bayless is racist, I just think he's an idiot.
He is intelligent enough to know how to be a master manipulator, but he's not intelligent enough to be able to form legitimate thoughts and opinions on the area that he is getting paid for: Sports. He's like a street cat who this because he's street smart and ran shit on the block, that he's going to translate that same success to the business world, and finding out that street smarts and business world smarts are two different things.
I've long felt he was a dirtbag after trying to out Troy Aikman in a book about the Dallas Cowboys years ago. That was a dick move by any definition, and a lot of people lost respect for him at that point both in and out of the sports world.
So in the end, Bayless is going to keep getting paid to talk shit on ESPN about things he has no clue on, and my guess is that ESPN will do a better job protecting him in the future than they did last Friday when they let Mark Cuban in to eviscerate any shred of dignity that Bayless still possessed.
Watching Cuban's takedown of Bayless, only one thing came to mind and that was Nas' line from his devastating diss of Jay Z
"Ask me if I'm tryna' kick knowledge
Nah, I'm tryna' kick the shit you need to learn though
That ether, that shit that make your soul burn slow"
Cuban came correct with that ether that burned Skip Bayless from the inside out, completely wiping out any chance for anyone to take Bayless seriously. Now I listen to the shows since then and it's almost cartoon like how fake and phony he sounds. Like today when he tried to insist that Kevin Durant and LeBron James hugging and being friendly meant that Durant gave LeBron an advantage, and when Stephen A. pointed out that Michael Jordan and James Worthy were like BROTHERS, Skip scoffs and said "Not like this though..." as if somehow the friendship between Durant and LeBron, was deeper than two that were like BROTHERS.
And at that point I just suddenly realized, much like Neo when his eyes were opened to the Matrix, it's all a show. It's all fairy tale. Or as the late great Bill Hicks once noted, "It's all just a ride."