Love them or hate them, it cannot be denied that the talking heads of sports have reached new heights of public attention within the past decade.
Guys like Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Skip Bayless, Max Kellerman, Colin Cowherd and so forth give their controversial, often blasphemous takes every morning. Their responses are met with anger and backlash, some of them receiving horrendous messages online for their opinion on a professional sports team; however, people continue to tune in, day in and day out.. and these guys are well aware of that fact.
For example, Shannon Sharpe purposely gives with blind support to LeBron James, or “GOAT” James as he likes to call him, and Skip Bayless purposely hates on LeBron’s every move, because they know that the more radical they go, the more of a reaction they will get. Shannon emphatically calls Skip “SKEEUP” because he knows the fans will go crazy and Tweet about it all morning, and then come back the next day to watch an almost identical exchange.
Their formula is quite simple: say whatever it takes for ESPN or FS1 to get their sound bite and their clickbait YouTube title, and watch the views and ad revenue pour in. It’s absolutely genius.
So why do we watch it? Why can we not turn away? I’m no psychologist, but I think it’s pretty obvious that is in our all of our DNA to react to these things, especially when it comes to such a passionate industry as sports. These teams, these players, and these games have such personal connections to us, which is why we love sports, but is also why we take offense or are outraged by any comment that threatens our devotion to a team/player. They poke the bear that lies within us all, knowing we will respond. How we respond is no matter to them, because we are watching, and that is all that matters.
I’m not trying to say that these men are monsters, more so that they’re just businessmen, and excellent ones at that. Perhaps this is just a reminder that these men are paid to provoke audience reactions and put on a television show; if they had sensible and calm discussions all day, who would watch?
We are living in the Golden Age of talking heads, so next time you turn on ESPN (our your sports channel of choice), just laugh and enjoy it, and try not to get rattled.
(P/C: USA Today)