Because I am neither a lonely college freshman nor a hospice invalid without the ability to change the TV channel, I do not watch “First Take,’’ an ESPN production fronted by the facade of it being a “sports debate show’’ when it’s really a cartoonish sitcom, “The Jeffersons Meet Gilligan’s Island,’’ pretty much, starring journalists-turned-charlatans Stephen A. Smith (in the Sherman Hemsley role, only louder) and Skip Bayless (in the Bob Denver role, only without the floppy hat).
And except for the offensive fact that Skip and Stephen A. neither love nor hate your Cowboys — their favorite subject because despite the fact they are largely ignorant about this "James Hardy'' and the rest of this team (and I assume most others) — the world continues to spin because not even The Televised Grifters are all that important.
Until they knot the ratings score that is "Cowboys Talk'' with the ear-perker-upper that is “Racism Talk’’ and veer dangerously off the rails of decency.
I’ve known Skip for 26 years and I know him to be a soulless liar. I do not know Smith, except that when he “acts’’ on his sitcom he seems to be trying to sound more intelligent than he clearly is, with a sing-song style overflowing with meaningless syllables.
But this week on “First Take’’?
“Jason Garrett is the walking epitome of everything that black folks in America lament,” Smith said about the Cowboys coach. “He didn’t get the blame but he got the credit. … Jason Garrett is (Jerry Jones’) boy. … You know any black folks in professional sports that have it like that?’'
The Cowboys employ people of color who have job security. Athletes, executives, coaches, department heads. That list includes Will McClay, the de facto assistant GM who turned down a chance for a promotion elsewhere to remain with Jones.
Stephen A. and Skip did not mention Will McClay, to my knowledge, but an awareness of Will would be helpful because he has power at Valley Ranch and he has job security at Valley Ranch.
Oh, and he’s black.
Oh, and his record is as 4-12 as Garrett’s was this year … and as 12-4 as Garrett’s was the year before.
Any other “black folks’’ in pro sports with job security? Well, yeah. Hundreds of them. Some have great track records. Some have ups and downs. But all of them have the trust of their employer, regardless of their race.
Does professional sports do enough to make certain there is no racial bias in hiring practices? It does not. Does that make every powerful individual involved in those hirings “racist’’? It does not ... Except in the race-baiting “First Take’’ world.
It’s impossible to prove you’re not a racist, and it’s the reason thinking people don’t throw around such an accusation lightly. It is feces thrown against the wall: It’s messy, it might stick forever, it will definitely leave a stain and it will definitely leave a stench.
But that doesn’t stop Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless from slinging feces.
In the case of Skip, this practice is troubling and dangerous because he’s a scam artist, the journalistic equivalent of that email you get from Nigeria advising you to send money to a prince. On Twitter, just for fun, I’ve established that Skip has over recent years posted that he is a de-hard Cowboys fan … AND that he’s not a Cowboys fan at all. It’s whichever way the wind blows … and Skip blows(hard) the opposite way.
Skip hurts people. In one book, he profiled a good man in Tom Landry and tried to destroy him based on Landry’s faith. In another book, he profiled a good man in Troy Aikman and — maybe in part because Aikman, knowing Skip personally, declined to cooperate (as did Jimmy Johnson) — tried to destroy him based on his heterosexuality.
When he learned in 1992 that I was writing a book about the Cowboys, the reptilian Bayless went to the Morning News and suggested that my book ("Stars & Strife") would be a forgiving look at the Cowboys because Jerry’d bought me a car.
At the time I was driving a 1985 Jetta that I’d purchased from my mom.
Thanks for my Mom’s old Jetta, Jerry, you cheap SOB.
But this crime trumps that one. This is Stephen A Smith using the bully pulpit at ESPN to decisively race-bait an angry audience into being more angry.
It’s what demagogues do: They target the lowest-common denominator, the weakest or most susceptible minds, and they prey on them using as their tool … HATE. Smith is instructing "Black America" to act ... And challenging "White America" to get pissed off, too. Divide and conquer and do anything to keep the ratings up. Every word Smith screams here is garbage, including his reference to Jason Garrett as “boy,’’ a Molotov cocktail in any conversation about race in America.
Is it fair to intelligently ponder the role of race and racism in sports? Damn right. Is it fair to criticize Jones and Garrett (and McClay) and the Cowboys for every aspect of 4-12? Damn right.
Is it fair to insist that Garrett has his job just because he’s white? If you believe the answer to that question is also "damn right," then you must also believe is it fair to ask if Stepen A Smith has his cartoonish-but-hate-mongering job just because he’s black.