Skip Bayless is finished with his “First Take” tenure and gone from ESPN altogether, but Fox Sports 1’s newest host recently revealed to TheWrap that his old show nearly ended for good long before his departure from the Worldwide Leader in June.
Naturally, it was an infamous tussle with a famous football player that nearly brought the whole franchise crashing down.
“I loved my 12 years at ESPN,” Bayless began his recent reminiscing during a rare interview. “And I loved working with Stephen A. [Smith] — and trust me, it’s hard to even talk about it, because I miss him.”
“But the truth was, I never quite fit on a Disney-owned network. And it’s not that I was ever a shock jock — I just like to go a little deeper in my arguments than [ESPN] was comfortable with,” he continued. “I like to take on athletes who have issues with me.”
For the most prominent example of such a thing, cue up the Richard Sherman incident from 2013, in which Bayless and his guest awkwardly sparred throughout the entire segment. Actually, we’ve done that for our readers — watch the condensed video above.
Regardless of which version one watches, you’ll hear the trash-talking Seattle Seahawks cornerback become quite personal in his attacks against the former newspaper man, including taking shots as harsh as this ultimate claim: “I’m better at life than you.”
“That was the time that I thought ESPN should have supported me,” Bayless told us. “Our show took a big hit over it to the point that there was some discussion upstairs of pulling the plug on ‘First Take.’”
“First Take” is no small property, for the record — the former “Cold Pizza” became one of the network’s top performers and most important platforms. In other words, to scratch it would have been unprecedented. But anything to protect the Mouse House.
While the series remained on air — and still does, sans Bayless — the damage was done. Bayless has new bosses now — ones that he believes would welcome such a raw moment.
“Now I’m with people who believe in me, who support me, and if Richard Sherman attacked me, I would be much more comfortable attacking back,” Bayless said. “And furthermore, my superiors would love it, because it would be authentically — genuinely — great television. That’s the difference between the Disney-owned network and the Fox network.”
That declaration may be put to the test very soon.
“We are looking forward to having Richard on in the first couple of weeks of our new show,” Bayless added.
So it is truly out with the old, and in with the new for Skip. The laser-focused Tim Tebow advocate is only looking forward, and not back at all — even literally.
“I haven’t watched one second of ‘First Take’ since I walked off that set,” Bayless told us, adding the following about his replacement: “I know Max [Kellerman] off the field. I like him, I wish him well.”
Now it’s all about “Undisputed” and his new partner, Shannon Sharpe; that series debuts Sept. 6 on Fox Sports 1. If you don’t tune in then, readers should surely set their DVRs for Round 2 with Richard Sherman. As another famous NFL blabbermouth once said: Get your popcorn ready.
Check back here soon for more from TheWrap’s conversation with Fox Sports’ newest star.