First Take – “It’s Hurting America”


“It’s hurting America. Here is what I wanted to tell you guys: Stop… You have a responsibility to the public discourse and you fail miserably” Jon Stewart said to Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson in his now infamous 2004 appearance on the now defunct CNN program called “Crossfire”. While not cited as the official reason for its cancellation, Stewart is credited for killing the show.

Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith have worked feverishly (and one might assume unintentionally) to brand themselves as a sports version of Crossfire. The show thrives on contrived controversies, outlandish positions and a Barbershop style format. The two men have managed to make sports debate (as opposed to discussion) popular, while deflating the spirit of the word altogether. Journalists and media critics long dismissed the show as a farcical circus.

 
But even as the vast majority writers have ripped the show, musicians and athletes are willing participants in the Bayless-Smith debates. By reaching out to hip-hop artists such as Fabolous, Lil Wayne, T.I. and Wale, First Take’s cross-cultural appeal survives the lowbrow verbal sparring. The entertainers and athletes are all too willing to sling mud with the hosts in First Take studio.

Richard Sherman was no different.

Much like Jon Stewart, Sherman arrived at the First Take desk with an agenda. He wanted to embarrass Skip Bayless, much like Jalen Rose before him. But unlike, Rose Sherman quickly banished any thoughts of engaging in a real discussion with Bayless. As if holding up a mirror to Bayless, Sherman reinforced the absurdity of Bayless’ usual posturing by mimicking Bayless and insulting his credentials.

In a smug matter-of-fact tone Sherman said, “When you refer to me, refer to me as ‘All-Pro’ Stanford graduate.” Sherman made it clear very early that he had no respect for Bayless or the show. The segment was awkward and choppy. He avoided questions, made Bayless look petty and gave the hosts a little taste of their own medicine. Sherman’s petulance was only matched by Skip’s arrogance and condescension. The two men were scrapping at the bottom of the barrel of debate.

That’s the problem. Sherman’s appearance fit perfectly with the First Take style: controversy for the sake of controversy.

Sherman’s shaky voice, his evasiveness and disjointed answers were as childish and immature as the as anything Bayless and Smith have done on the show. If he meant to prove a point about First Take’s relevance to the sports world, Sherman failed to deliver. It’s entirely unclear exactly what Sherman attempted to gain from the appearance.

First Take is no doubt a cancer to the sports discourse. The death of the show will come by a lack of ratings or Rob Parker-like scandal or some combination of the two.

But First Take is going to continue to survive if it continues to be a place where prominent athletes (and athletes looking to make a name for themselves) and entertainers find their appearances will go viral. First Take feeds into reality television zeitgeist. But the rejection of the show is growing, it doesn’t need a Jon Stewart, the show is its own enemy.

 

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Kevin Benoit

Kevin Benoit is the editor of Parlé Magazine. He founded the magazine while in college and continues to run it today. Follow him on IG: @parlewithme Read more articles by Kevin.

Kevin Benoit has 1774 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin Benoit

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