Skip Bayless Haters Celebrate His ESPN Exit

As the analyst moves from ESPN’s “First Take” to the struggling Fox Sports 1, his critics explode with relief

For the past 12 years, Skip Bayless has enraged some sports fans with his opinions and tweets.

Once known as an award-winning newspaper columnist, he’s taken on a new identity in the past decade as a contrarian talking head.  Now he’s leaving the Worldwide Leader in sports for smaller pastures, and sports fans are throwing some of his shade right back at him.

Bayless’ “debate” segments on the ESPN2 morning show “Cold Pizza” became so popular — or infamous, if you ask some sports fans — that the show was rebranded as “First Take” with Bayless’ debate segments getting a greater focus over highlights and athlete interviews. He became known for dwelling on certain topics for weeks, like when his support of now-unsigned quarterback Tim Tebow became the basis for a viral remix. In 2011, the show did away with any non-debate programming and brought on another controversial pundit, Stephen A. Smith, to rant with Bayless for two hours every morning.

But now it’s over. Fox Sports National Networks president Jamie Horowitz was the executive producer responsible for the Bayless-oriented overhaul of “First Take,” and now he wants to make talking heads the core of FS1’s new focus. Bayless is joining radio host Colin Cowherd and columnist Jason Whitlock in the group of former ESPN pundits making the jump to Fox.

Meanwhile, the network’s flagship news show “Fox Sports Live,” has shifted from a standard sports highlight and news program to a comedy show. The previous format averaged only 87,000 viewers for its first-run telecasts from Dec. 27 to Jan. 24.

While they wait for the transition to happen, fans who have longed for the day that Bayless would stop domineering over the biggest sports media outlet in the world can relax and reflect on the time that Mark Cuban was a guest on “First Take” and proceeded to rip the show and its pundits apart for being sound and fury signifying nothing.