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Skip Bayless needs to go back to journalism school

February 28, 2008 - Chris Masse
In the past I fed the monster by doing this, but nearly every day I tuned into ESPN's First Take and watched Skip Bayless. Why did I do so, you ask?

Because I wanted to see what stupid thing he would say next.

Hence, I gave Bayless and ESPN exactly what they wanted because it seems like all the tag team cares about is getting ratings--even if they embarrass the journalism profession while doing so.

Skip's opinionated and says what I and many others believe are dumb, outlandish things. All one has to do is google search 'Skip Bayless is an idiot' and see the 1,230 results that come up to make that conclusion.

But I can live with the dumb comments. Let's be honest, we in the journalism business have to have a thick skin. I myself have been called stupid many times. It comes with the territory.

My problem is not simply that Skip says stupid things--it's that he breaks basic journalism tenets through his bias and factual mistakes. Every time he does so he adds another black eye to a profession that needs no more.

Let me preface all this by saying it's perfectly fine to be critical of athletes. Look at my past blogs to see that I am as well. I criticize Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning in two entries. But I back up my criticisms with actual evidence and can admit that both are great players.

Unfortunately, Skip frequently uses false evidence to back his usual whipping boys which is a slap in the face of journalists who strive for accuracy.

Let's first examine Skip's bias. We'll break it down into specific athletes. Anyone who has had the misfortune of watching First Take will know what I am talking about.

Lebron James: Skip's biggest basketball target can do nothing right. It doesn't matter that he led a subpar Cavaliers team to the NBA finals in only his fourth year or that he is the quickest player in league history to score 10,000 points, or that he routinely records triple-doubles. Nope, Lebron is overrated.

Skip backs up his claims by always finding some kind of fault in Lebron's greatest moments. When he scored all but one Cavaliers point down the stretch in Game 5 of last year's Eastern Conference finals against the heavily favored Pistons in Detroit, Skip said it was because Antonio McDyess was ejected--and he lamented how Lebron missed some free throws. Never mind that had Lebron not played the Cavs would likely have been embarrassed.

When Lebron recorded two straight triple-doubles earlier this year it was because the Cavs were playing weak competition in Skip's eyes. And even though Lebron averages 7.5 assists per game, Skip insists that Lebron is a ball hog. However, when Lebron was unselfish like Skip wants him to be and passed to a wide-open Donyell Marshall for a chance at a last-second, game-winning shot in Game 1 of last year's conference finals, Skip ripped Lebron for not taking the shot.

You get the point--whatever Lebron does he can't win with Skip. That's what happens when somebody is biased and does not want to admit they might be wrong about somebody.

Skip likes to say that 'everyone' has compared Lebron to Michael Jordan and that he falls grossly short of living up to that billing. Well, first of all, it's instant historians like the ones running rampant at ESPN who started making those comparisions. Second, last time I checked it took Jordan seven years to get to the NBA finals, while it took Lebron just four.

Like he often does when he lets his bias run out of control, Skip also makes factual errors when it comes to Lebron. A month or so back, Skip said he has never seen Lebron hit a big game-winning playoff shot. And even though Skip claims that he somehow sees every game, he must have missed the first round of the 2006 playoffs when Lebron beat the Wizards with a last-second shot.

Skip also criticizes James, saying he can't shoot from the outside and hasn't made big outside shots in big games. Again, Skip somehow must have missed Lebron hitting some 3-pointers and long-range jumpers while dissecting the Pistons late in his epic Game 5 performance last year.

Skip repeatedly also has said how great Lebron's supporting cast is. This is the same supporting cast that is 0-6 without him this season and that lost to the lowly Super Sonics who were riding a double-digit losing streak. Oops.

Skip's never been one to let facts get in the way of his bias.

Terrell Owens: I don't know if Owens stole Skip's lunch money or what, but Skip despises one of the game's best wide receivers. Since First Take, originally called Cold Pizza, first aired in 2004 I have never once heard Skip say anything complimentary about Owens. Granted, Owens has been a distraction at times but the bottom line is he is a phenomenal athlete who has caught more career touchdown passes than Marvin Harrison (usually regarded as the best receiver over the last decade) while outperforming him in the playoffs. Skip could look up these facts on numerous web sites, publications, ect....but why do that when you can just ignorantly rant like a mad man instead?

Owens had one of his best seasons in 2007 with the Cowboys, but Skip always had only negative things to say about him. Never mind that Owens was instrumental in helping the Cowboys go 13-3 and win the NFC East for the first time since 1998. It was always something the other team did wrong and nothing that Owens did right.

All year, Skip told us how Owens would show his true colors and start whining and tearing the Cowboys apart. I'm still waiting for that to happen. And when Owens stands by his quarterback, like he did following a playoff loss to the Giants, Skip still rips him. When Owens returns from a high-ankle sprain earlier than most players usually do, Skip rips him again and says he's only doing it for himself. He bases this on what exactly?

Skip also uses the above logic to explain why Owens came back from a late-season broken leg to courageously play in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots while with the Eagles. Many of Owens' harshest critics applauded him for having the guts to play and risk further injury that could jeopardize his career, but not Skip.

Owens somehow played a great game as well, but Skip explains this by saying his nine catches were "dinks and dunks." Really? Actually, Owens caught nine passes for 122 yards, an average of 13.6 yards per catch which is hardly a dink and dunk average. Looks like Skip's math skills are as bad as his professionalism.

Skip routinely talks about Owens choking in big games and during the 2007 season publicly asked "when has T.O. every made 'The Catch' in a playoff game?" Uh, Skip you might want to look at footage of the 1998 wild card game between the Packers and 49ers. You know, the game where Owens made an amazing game-winning touchdown catch with four seconds remaining against the two-time defending NFC champions while being hit hard by three defenders. You know, Skip, the play Niner fans affectionately call "The Catch II." The sad thing is that Skip covered the 49ers and yet his history skills are as bad as his professionalism.

Kevin Garnett: If you've read the James part of this entry you can basically apply all the above to Garnett, one of the game's top players over the last 10 years. Skip went as far as to say Garnett wasn't even in his top 15 players last summer. This is the same Kevin Garnett who in his first year with the Celtics has taken them from a 23-win laughingstock to the best record in the NBA.

Another pearl of wisdom from Skip was that the Timberwolves would be better this season without Garnett. Yeah, because Garnett wasn't any good or anything...Whoops. Minnesota currently is 11-44 and has the Western Conference's worst record. Looks like Skipás prognostication skills are about as bad as his professionalism.

Tony Romo: Skip basically has a vendetta against the entire Cowboys orginization but only Owens caught as much grief during the 2007 season as Romo, who had one of the best years a Cowboys quarterback has ever had--in his first full season as a starter no less.

All you need to know about Skip's bias against Romo getting in the way of facts is that early in the season he said that Romo was a 6-foot quarterback and too short to be a franchise quarterback. Pick up a media guide, Skip, and you will see that Romo is 6-foot-2, the same height as two of your all-time favorites, Joe Montana and Brett Favre. Looks like Skip's researching abilities are as bad as his professionalism.

Speaking of research, for someone who covered the 49ers Skip somehow often forgets a lot of legendary moments in their history. A day after the Patriots thumped the Steelers late in the 2007 season, Skip complained about Tom Brady running into the end zone and mocking safety Anthony Smith, who had guaranteed a win in the days leading up to the game.

That's fine. I didn't like it either. But as Skip is prone to do, he backed up his opinion with a false statement. Skip said "Can you imagine Joe Montana doing that?" Skip's co-host retorted that all quarterbacks talk trash to which Skip arrogantly replied that Joe Montana never did.

Uh, Skip? You remember that classic 1981 NFC Championship Game known simply as "The Catch?" You know, the one where Montana hit Dwight Clark for the game-winning touchdown pass on an amazing throw and catch that propelled the Niners to a 28-27 win over the Cowboys? Well, as has been repeatedly documented in articles, shows, highlights, etc. recalling that game, Montana had quite a bit to say to Dallas seconds after Clark scored. Montana had been knocked to the ground on the play and seconds after Clark scored, a Cowboys defender said, "You just beat America's Team." Montana responded, "Well, you can sit at home with the rest of America and watch the super bowl on TV."

Skip, that's what is known as trash talking.

Then there are times when Skip outwardly admits bias even though he might not call it that. Earlier this week he referred to Vanderbilt as "we" on the air, breaking one of the rules sports journalists learn the first day of college. He also consistently referred to the Red Sox during the 2007 season as "my Red Sox." He also openly cheers for Oklahoma football and against the Cowboys.

In the days leading up to the Cowboys-Giants playoff game, Skip whined when one of his co-hosts said the Giants might beat Dallas. Skip admitted he was worried that that prediction would motivate the Cowboys and give them the boost they needed to win the game.

Above all else you are supposed to be objective, Skip. You are not supposed to publicly be worried about who wins or loses. You're job is to report on the teams and players involved.

I understand Skip wanting Vanderbilt to win because he went to school there but when you're on national TV that is something that should not be made public. One sign of a solid journalist is that one can not decipher who his or her favorite or least favorite teams are. Skip makes it public knowledge seemingly on a daily basis.

I don't know if Skip really believes the things he says or whether he just says what he does because he knows it will generate water-cooler talk. Either way, he and ESPN are happy. They want a lightning rod who will keep viewers tuning in every day and Skip gives them that. That's why they try fitting Lebron and the Cowboys or Owens into every show during basketball and football season. They know Skip will take the bait every time and go off on a rant that one way or another gets people talking.

Never mind that Skip's bias drags down the public's perception of the sports media every day. Never mind that he reinforces stereotypes the public holds for those in the sports media. Never mind that he violates the cardinal rule of journalism when does these things.

As long as Skip sells, ESPN will keep selling out.

Unless Skip receives a refresher course in basic journalism, my advice to the public is to follow my lead.

Change the channel.



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