Skip Bayless says intentionally incendiary and silly things in order to maximize the attention directed toward him and has parlayed the parlor trick into being one of the most handsomely compensated stars in all of sports media. Those are the rules of this game and it's not lost on me that reacting to whatever obtuse shiny object he throws out into the water makes me no better than the dumbest fish who gets caught again minutes removed from having a fish hook pulled from its mouth.
Yet there's been a real curiosity growing within me as I've observed Bayless' shtick with fresh eyes in recent weeks and it centers around this: who could possibly enjoy it? Whose brain is either so addled or self-esteem so low that they settle for this aging kayfabe?
Take yesterday's events, for instance. LeBron James tweeted at 11:15 a.m. local time asking for recommendations about the best/most comfortable gaming chair.
Nearly eight hours later, as it was clear James' Los Angeles Lakers would be dropping a pivotal game to the Toronto Raptors to increase their chances of falling all the way to the play-in tournament, Bayless offered this zinger.
It's C-minus/D-plus work. The type of reply you'd see from someone on social media that might cause you to hit the mute button. The type of non-sensical burn that a local sports radio caller might trot out that the host would politely laugh at while rolling his or her eyes at the producer. If it didn't have the name Skip Bayless attached to it, there would be no ascribed value.
Let's imagine a world where a gaming chair came with a clutch gene option. That sounds like some sort of futuristic hell. James threw an alley-oop up there wishing for a comfortable seat and instead of pointing out that he's going to be sitting in it before the real playoffs begin, Bayless opted to envision some Black Mirror episode for less payoff.
It's maddening on an editorial level, even if the whole endeavor is doomed. I simply ... don't get it. I don't get who this is supposed to be for. It's like he's working backwards trying to court the civilization from Idiocracy and tailoring his material and persona to excel in that world.
And yet here we are. The two biggest players in sports television are willing to pay him a king's ransom for this type of fare. It seems it's not important if there's any logic, critical thinking or self-awareness to his tired, one-note James antagonism. It's only important that he's doing it and is willing to dance for the absolute dumbest faction of a mid-morning audience.
Five days a week we get an updated version of The Emperor's New Takes, in which everyone involved is nakedly embarrassed by the whole prospect but are forced to endure it. On one hand, there's a begrudging respect for the confidence it takes to expose such a psyche to the world. On the other, it's a bit frustrating that one of the most influential and valued voices in this world is a glorified Twitter egg with better branding.