Sep 14, 2011, 6:33 PM EDT
I know this isn’t a “Philadelphia story,” but it’s nonetheless worth your consideration, especially if you have strong feelings for either of the two men in the above title.
As many of you know, Skip Bayless is the star of the ESPN program 1st & 10. A writer for the Dallas Morning News for nearly two decades, Bayless claimed national prominence at ESPN thanks to his wildly outspoken, sometimes controversial views on the world of sport.
To many, Bayless is a loudmouthed, nonsensical, caricature of a pundit. His audacious comments frequently fly in the face of basic logic and human understanding. When challenged to support his views with evidence, Bayless frequently repeats his prior claims, becomes frustratingly evasive and grows increasingly belligerent. This 2009 interview with Mike Missanelli—where Missanelli asks Bayless to provide specific examples of illicit fan behavior in the stands of a Philadelphia sporting event since the implosion of the Vet—hits every one of those notes.
I’m not bringing this up because I necessarily have it out for Bayless, or 100% of the time disagree with him; instead, it’s because Skip Bayless has willfully chosen to rob himself of his own basic humanity.
I’ll clarify right now that this post is not to meant to be one long bitch session about some guy I don’t like. If it was, I could turn on 1st & 10 on almost any day and be moved to write a diatribe about why I think “Skip Bayless is the antichrist” and how he should, in the parlance of a certain Facebook group, “Shut the F*** up.”
Instead, this is meant to show how someone generally detested can become instantly likeable by evidencing even the smallest bit of vulnerability.
In November 2010, Chris Bosh “sucked.” He “sucked” because he played for the Miami Heat. He “sucked” because he wasn’t playing up the standards of winning “not 5, not 6, not 7…” NBA titles. He “sucked” because he took part in this. He “sucked” because he parlayed great stats on a bad team into a fat contract and media attention he didn’t deserve. He also “sucked” because he at times physically resembled an actual Raptor.
But sometime last spring, Chris Bosh stopped “sucking.” Sometime last spring, Chris Bosh proved that he wasn’t just a “great stats, bad team” kind of player; he proved that he did deserve the media attention he received when he stood next to two of the top five players in the NBA; he proved that with his play, the Heat might be even be capable of winning all those “not…” titles; he even proved to look less like an actual Raptor.
Still, at the end of 2011 NBA Finals, I continued to label myself as “anti-Chris Bosh.” He screamed and pounded his chest every time he made a play, and I could see his obnoxiously colored mouth guards all too often and it just wasn’t happening for me, even in spite of his dramatically improved play. I remember remarking at least nineteen times throughout the playoffs, “I’d tell Chris Bosh to act like he’s been there before, but I know he hasn’t.” I had it in for Chris Bosh, and I was really excited about it.
In this way, I was absolutely no different than Skip Bayless.
Fast forward to September 2011 and we find out that Chris Bosh has had enough. We find out that the 6’11 power forward is not going to tolerate being called “Bosh Spice” any longer. So what does this supposedly unlikable, overrated, calculating and callous member of the NBA’s most-hated franchise decide to do? He decides to go on 1st & 10, sit directly across from his harshest critic, and respond to accusations about his “manhood” with dignity and class.
In the twelve minutes of video below, Chris Bosh made me a fan of Chris Bosh. And maybe it says something about me that this turn was so rapid and so easy, but all it took to change my mind was the realization that this guy is aware that he exists in a larger world.
Chris Bosh isn’t affected, he’s effected. And this is what separates him from someone like Bayless.
While Bayless admits to hearing the barrage of criticism he so earns on a daily basis, he also admits to ignoring it—fully. Chris Bosh, on the other hand, listens to all the criticism he likewise earns, and processes it. He hears it, understands it, contemplates it, acts on it.
This is how evolved human beings behave. They realize that they exist in a world that includes consciousness outside their own and they adapt to their changing environments. Nothing is static. Nothing is black and white. Everything is gray, and moving, and shifting. Everything is subject to change, including my opinion of Chris Bosh.
In the twelve minutes below, Chris Bosh calmly sits across from Skip Bayless, defends his family name, politely responds to Skip’s criticism, and takes full responsibility for his poor play at the beginning of the last season. Chris Bosh resembles a real human being offering his real thoughts on real events.
On the opposite side of the table, Bayless continues to evince his hyper-aggressive, hyper-judgmental, hyper-affected persona. He resembles more of a caricature, more of an actor playing a part, than a individual with a legitimate investment in his own sense of self.
For nearly the entire video, I find it impossible to actually listen to Skip. All I can focus on is a jittery, upset, irritated, overworked, probably over-caffeinated cartoon. And that cartoon is ranting and raving across from a secure and confident man.
I realize Bayless is, to an extent, playing a character, and that the show’s producers encourage him to act in the manner in which does. That’s reality and that’s television. And that’s fine. But there is nothing preventing him from softening his stance on the rare occasion to reveal a more genuine side to his personality.
Sadly, in the one instance it’s possible that Skip will lay down his guard for even just a moment, he immediately quashes all hope of redemption by telling Bosh “that he respects Chris for having the courage” to sit across from himself, as if he, Skip Bayless, were the end all and be all of Chris Bosh’s fragile emotional psyche.
Chris Bosh showed me in just a few minutes that underneath all the screaming and the chest-beating and the exposed mouth-guards that he is a real person capable of contemplating both his public perception and own self-perception.
Skip Bayless, on the other hand, even when offered the chance to behave like a real human being, even when away from the provocative flame-throwing of the Stephen A. Smiths and Two Live Stus, even when faced with what appears to be a highly likeable, non-threatening individual, he showed the world that maintaining his affected personality is more important than evidencing any form of an effected response.
I said at the beginning that this isn’t about the ways in which I currently detest Skip Bayless, and I maintain that it isn’t. This is about the ways in which we judge public figures, and the ways in which we unfairly treat them as absolutes. Yes, Chris Bosh once was this monolith of a soft forward I found to physically resemble a Raptor. But, now I see him as a complicated person with a genuine interest in his own public perception.
But Bayless, Bayless remains an absolute. He is a monolith of an individual and he exists in this way because it is how he willfully chooses to present himself.
Moving forward, I am fully prepared to make a leap of faith on Skip Bayless. I am prepared to change my opinion. And I’m prepared to do it on the day he shows me that beneath his affected exterior exists a self-aware and vulnerable
interior. But until that day comes, I will continue to view him as the absolute he wants me to see. I will continue to believe that his affected personality is really in line with authentic perspective. And, thanks to his own actions, I will continue to believe he lacks the basic functions of his own humanity.
Congratulations, Skip. You’ve succeeded. You are alone.
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