Skip Bayless Just Doesn't Have the Juice Anymore

Skip Bayless
Skip Bayless /

Yesterday, there was a post on this website concerning Dan Le Batard's opinion that we are watching the end of Skip Bayless. This stance was largely backed by the plummeting ratings of Undisputed that coincide with Shannon Sharpe's departure from the show and further observations that Bayless may have underestimated how many eyeballs Sharpe brought in. Regardless of the why, it is a fact that Undisputed 2.0 with Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson, and a rotating cast of characters has been much worse ratings-wise than the original version.

That was rattling around my head today as I poked around the sports sphere and ended up watching a clip from Undisputed featuring Bayless' thoughts on how the Dallas Cowboys have handled free agency so far. The caption of the social media post suggested Bayless is not a fan of how Jerry Jones' squad stood pat as they lost Tony Pollard to the Tennessee Titans and didn't make a single signing overall. Bayless, of course, is the media's No. 1 Cowboys cheerleader but he does call it like he sees it when he disagrees with their decisions. Which is admittedly very rare, but it does happen.

In years past, even just one year ago, this would be appointment viewing for aggregators and those who love to get angry about what the people on TV say about sports. Even if you hate Bayless and his act and the sports media ecosystem that rewards it, you can't deny he's always had something to say and always said it with his full chest. But this was... just nothing. Absolutely nothing. Bayless meandered for three minutes while Johnson interrupted him and never had a conclusive take.

Watching a single three-minute clip from a Tuesday in March and making sweeping conclusions is a little much, for sure, but this isn't new. It's been a pattern ever since Undisputed launched its new and "improved" version in August. Bayless just doesn't have the juice anymore. The "it" factor, if we're venturing into the land of sports analogies. Whatever it was that made him a lightning rod for engagement in past years is just... gone.

And it is not because everyone is just sick of Bayless. Everybody has been sick of Bayless for a long time and that didn't stop them from watching his show and yelling about his takes. No, something changed in Bayless, and it happened recently.

Anecdotally, I feel like the tides shifted when the format of Undisputed changed after the departure of Sharpe. Throughout the show's original run Bayless was a gunner of a media personality, hucking up shots at every opportunity no matter how ridiculous. He'd take a stance and find the most controversial angle to that stance and hit it again and again until they moved on to another topic. But when Sharpe left and Bayless had to welcome in new personalities and sometimes juggle two or three people across from him at once, it seems like he shifted into more of a game-manager. He was lobbing softballs for his new co-workers so they could establish themselves and feel comfortable. He could have embraced the alpha male role and made it so that everyone who joined him was a challenger in his arena, but instead Bayless wanted to set the table for everybody.

It's a smart thing to do and maybe it was the only thing to do but in the process Bayless seems to have abandoned his own creativity. Sometimes he has no take, as in the clip above. But most times his takes are simply not interesting. In the past they were at worst interesting in the way a mild car crash was interesting, and at best they would get the whole sports world focused on his take instead of the subject he was opining on. The ones that stand out in your memory when you read that sentence probably border on the line of morally reprehensible but there are thousands of examples of lesser takes that resonated on a similar level simply because Bayless cooked up an absurd way to present it.

That is completely gone. I will not mourn for it, either. Bayless' act made me roll my eyes most of the time and actually got me worked up once or twice. The media world is probably better off without his schtick, even if the damage is done in the form of dozens of imitators at all the rightsholding networks nowadays.

But when we consider how far Undisputed has fallen, I might start by looking at Bayless himself.