The Age of the $5 Million Dollar A Year Sports Pundit


It’s taken me a while to fully absorb the fact that Skip Bayless has been lured away from ESPN with a reported $5 million per year contract, with a $4 million signing bonus.

As a comparison, Ricky Henderson – a 25 year Hall of Fame baseball player, who stole 400 more bases than any man in history, was the AL MVP – never topped $5 million a year.

Skip Bayless was, on a clear day, a mediocre sports writer who has since hung up his typewriter. He’s a guy who was perfectly willing to slander Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman as homosexual in a for-profit book. It was a dereliction of ethics that the sports editor at Bayless’ newspaper said was “the most unfair thing in my 44 years as a journalist.”

He’s also a guy who still pathologically lies about his not-so-glorious past as an athlete, as if such a false resume was going to be enough to buttress some of his weak and non-sensical opinions.

And the amazing thing: ESPN tried really, really, really hard to keep him from leaving!

I just don’t get it. I mean, yeah, sure. I’m jealous. Who in the sports opinion business wouldn’t be? But that jealousy is beside the point. I’m trying to figure out how and why television executives think that THIS GUY is what their viewers actually WANT?

Sure, ESPN’s mid-morning Take Bakery with Skip and Steven A. Smith is a profitable ratings “success.” But how many people are aware of just how FEW people still actually watched that show? The show draws about 400,000 or so viewers +/- depending on the season. Other cooked-up non-game programming on ESPN and ESPN2 are usually only about 100,000 or so viewers on average behind.

By comparison, a show like “My 600 Pound Life” on TLC scores about 600,000 viewers a week.

So now Bayless will join other ESPN ex-pats at Fox Sports One – also known as “Fox Sports WHERE?” on your channel guide. Colin Cowherd is another one of FS1’s million-dollar-plus-plus hires. He’s in witness protection. And likely to stay there, forever.

Take Colin Cowherd, whose July departure from ESPN was hastened due to his thoughts on Dominican baseball players. While Fox Sports suits have talked up the show’s viewership in press releases, the facts (per ratings data) reveal that between 50,000 and 60,000 people are tuned in on any given day. About twice as many viewers are choosing Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s show on MLB Network—despite that channel being available in 18 million fewer homes. Other programs that beat out Cowherd during our ratings sample period: Fisher’s ATV World; Saltwater Experience; and Fishing with Roland Martin. All those air on NBC Sports Network, perhaps FS1’s most appropriate rival.

It’s a television strategy I guess I’ll just never understand. It seems like these pundits are hired for no other reason than to give the media who cover the media, a splashy press-release to regurgitate. LOOK WHO WE HIRED! LOOK HOW MUCH WE ARE PAYING HIM! WE EXIST!

It would be smarter to just CLAIM you have hired Cowherd, Bayless, et. al, and then let those guys angrily deny it. Then, hold open auditions for your cooked-up debate shows (I have always said: “Facts vs. Volume” would be a sure-fire smash hit winner! One guy has the numbers. The other guy just yells. Think about it. Gold.) hire the best guys/girls at 1/10th of the cost, scoop up your pathetic 55,000 viewers, and call it a day.

I suppose one day, FS1’s programming hotshot Jamie Horowitz will be called in by somebody above him and asked pointedly: “Dude, where’s our ratings?” He’ll likely leave, taking with him a hefty severance package, along with his teflon reputation as a programming genius, and land somewhere else.

Hell, if you get fired after 10 weeks at NBC, for nearly causing a riot on the network’s most profitable entity “The Today Show” and you still get hired somewhere else…. shoot. Good for you. And good for all my fellow sports blowhards that hit that lottery. I don’t think my opinions are any worse than yours (and we’re all full of shit, to be honest) but they pay me pennies on the dollar compared to you. So what do I know?

At least we’ll always have Jalen Rose taking Skip out back for an Adrian Peterson style whuppin’. It never gets old….


  1. Bayless is awful and beyond annoying. I don’t know a soul who thinks he’s even so-so. I do think Cowherd can be entertaining at times – kinda like Czabe. Best thing CC ever did – by far – was that short-lived Sunday morning football show on ESPN about betting vs. the spread.

  2. If the Kardashians can make a billion $ off the idiots in this work, 5 mill a year for this clown shouldn’t be to shocking

  3. Yet those salaries are cheap compared to broadcasting actual, live sporting events. Fox has to create something in the way of content in between games. Skip and his brand of irritainment is the least risky hire for people who perfected the pundit vs pundit format. What Geraldo is to Fox News, Skip will be to Fox Sports.


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