These are just scattered examples, but all of them are symptoms of the same thoughtless style of commentating, and it is a style ESPN needs to move away from anyway. The popularity of a show like Katie Nolan’s “Garbage Time” on FS1 (which won a Sports Emmy this week) is a sign that humor, and diverse voices, are more popular now than loud white men arguing. Granted, “First Take” is meant to be an opinion show, but Bayless and his sparring partner Stephen A. Smith are too often inflammatory for the sake of being inflammatory. Young talent, and more diverse talent (Kate Fagan, Jemele Hill, Kara Lawson, and Adnan Virk, to name just a few) will be the smarter investment for ESPN moving forward.
I don’t think that talent departures at ESPN over the last year make any significant difference to ESPN’s business one way or the other, but if you want to pick a side I have no qualms with that.
I don’t have a problem with wanting to watch/listen to Katie Nolan & Jemele Hill and not wanting to watch/listen to Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd either. That more or less lines up with my own preferences.
What I have a problem with is thinking personal preferences, even if they are shared with the Internet echo chamber one is immersed in, mean anything about popularity. I totally get liking Katie Nolan more than Skip Bayless. I can even understand wishing that Katie Nolan was more popular than Skip Bayless. But just because you wish for it doesn’t make it so.
It is, in fact, not so. By objective measures*, “First Take” was nearly 14 times as popular as “Garbage Time” on Wednesday and even the TV simulcast of Cowherd’s radio show was more than twice as popular.
*reasonable people can disagree and if you have issues with Nielsen’s measurement system, that’s cool. But if you think Nielsen is less objective than your personal biases I’m pretty sure that’s not reasonable.