Stephen A. Smith vs. Skip Bayless: Who Would Win in a Cage Match?
Both men are paid big "Worldwide Leader in Sports" dollars to entertain the masses with their emotion-fueled opinions on the world of sports. If ESPN has created the "Who can scream the loudest?" culture where the pundit is supposed to be more entertaining than the player, than Smith and Bayless have perfected the model from opposite, Pluto and the Sun ends of the media galaxy.
When put in the same room, they could hoot, holler, and spit at each other over anything from lawn bowling to the Little League World Series. But this begs the silent question that all fans ask themselves every time a talking head rips an athlete like a Christmas or Hanukkah gift: So did he ever play the game himself?
Now, while many media personalities have a very respectable athletic past, most are no better than the masses they entertain. Which is all well and good. They're paid to point, talk, and write, not play. Without their unique perspective, we'd have no past-present barometer by which to measure the growth and development of our beloved obsessions.
But wouldn't it be fun, at least for a moment, to see them lace it up? Wouldn't you get a kick out of watching Stuart Scott drive the lane against Tony Kornheiser? Or Chris Berman sumo-wrestling Barry Melrose? The answer is yes, for a minute or two, it would be an absolute riot.
But there's one mano e mano battle that would play like a 15 round soliloquoy. Yup, you guessed it. Smith vs. Bayless, with Allen Iverson and Tim Tebow as the completely unbiased referees.
At this point, these trash talking heads have sapped our eardrums to the point of exhaustion. It's time to get in the cage. ESPN First Take. Smith vs. Bayless. Shut up (as hard as that may be) and rumble.
Let's take a closer look.
A brother of Phi Kappa Sigma during his days at Vanderbilt, Bayless was a frat star in college, meaning his best sport was either horseshoes or beer pong.
Smith, on the other hand, went into his college career at Winston-Salem State with aspirations of basketball stardom under the tutelage of legendary future Hall-of-Fame coach Clarence Gaines.
While a knee injury and suspect jumper pushed him into the print and broadcast field, there's no denying Stephen A's basketball attitude and acumen came from somewhere. Growing up in the rugged Hollis neighborhood in Queens, NY, Smith was shaped on the archetypal "win and you stay" mentality of all the classic neighborhood playgrounds.
Growing up with four older sisters, his vibrant, riled up attitude is a clear result of the constant battle for attention within Smith's childhood household.
As for Bayless, his upbringing was characterized by the folksy Oklahoma plain lands and a Dad who lovingly nicknamed him "Skipper." Aww, how cute!
Edge: Stephen A
You have to give Skip Bayless credit for one thing.
While his stalker-like obsession with Tim Tebow was the most mind-numbing case of blind support and cockamamie analysis since Nixon and the Vietnam War, he sure as hell stuck to his guns in the face of undeniable scrutiny from his chief detractor.
While Stephen A. talks a big game, he does get visibly shaken when Bayless repeatedly swims against the whirlpool.
When you deliberately try to rattle someone, it damn well better work. If it doesn't, the only person you'll be throwing off is yourself.
Just ask Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen, Shaquille O'Neal and any other one time Kobe detractor out there.
At virtually identical heights (6'2" for Bayless, 6'1.5" for Stephen A.) and builds, this one could easily be a wash.
But let's not underestimate Stephen A's length as a former basketball player and his fighting roots.
The only physical fight Bayless has ever gotten into was probably with his fifth grade lunch lady over the intrinsic health value of a corn dog on a stick.
The minute he gyrated the stick above his head, she retreated into weapon defense mode. (Disclaimer: Scenario is purely hypothetical...but it probably happened.)
Edge: Stephen A.
No journalist has done more figurative running over the past decade and a half than Bayless, who somehow, in spite of his prominent sports media role, has not seen or run into former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman since infamously implying in a 1995 book that Aikman was gay.
Along the way, he's also picked fights with Charles Barkley and Cris Carter (among others), been called inflammatory nicknames by Terrell Suggs, and degraded Jalen Rose for playing professional sports and then attempting to analyze them.
If you don't think the Oklahoma-born shock-jock has to get on his horse when the cameras turn off, you're just as crazy as he is.
If this was based on talking, Stephen A would lap his First Take antagonist. Heck, he may even be as fast a runner as he is a talker.
But Bayless has no doubt been running for his entire professional career.
As I mentioned earlier, Stephen A's weakness as a basketball player was his jump shot. This means he had to drive in or contribute in some other athletic way to be a productive player.
As I also implied earlier, Bayless' weakness as an athlete was just about everything. Although you do need a hint of athleticism to champion the high school cheerleading squad (Another purely hypothetical yet probably true disclaimer).
There's also no denying how athletic you have to be to hop up and down in your seat, gesticulate your hands like a mime, roll your eyes like a cyclone, and talk faster than Robin Williams on speed, all at the same time. Somehow, Stephen A pulls this off.
Edge: Stephen A
Stephen A takes the 3-2 decision and turns it into a seventh round TKO.
Bayless rope-a-doped for a while, but as any former professional athlete turned First Take guest will tell you, he's no Chuck Wepner.
Heck, he's not even ButterBean.
Winner: Stephen A