Stephen A. Smith was on First Take again today with Skip Bayless. Was it loud? Of course. Was it unbearable at times? Of course. But because we are so fond of you, dear readers, we point you toward a less-shouty moment from the latest round of Smith Vs. Bayless…and it was on a topic one might think would inspire the most impassioned feelings.
That topic: has race played a role in criticism of LeBron James? Stephen A. said it had – not a big one, but one nonetheless. You were probably expecting that.
Then, though, Skip…agreed. And considering most Stephen A.-Skip “debates” are the purest form of the worst of what everyone imagines a program like First Take or Around the Horn to be – two guys with nothing but loudness in their favor, trying to out-loud one another until viewers’ collective cries for mercy are so overwhelming that yes, for once the people on TV can hear you through the screen just like you can hear them – that’s worth noting.
It makes sense that if Stephen A. and Skip were going to tone it down for anything, it would be for one of their more serious topics. It’s also wise on Skip’s part to not be quite so haughty when he’s talking about race relations with a black person who’s had experiences that Skip, for obvious reasons, can’t replicate. (His volume, if you’ll remember, also went down during the Jalen Rose-Duke controversy, during which Chris Broussard made some excellent points.)
Here is today’s discussion:
As for the arguments themselves – we’re not sure about Stephen A.’s contention that the LeBron problem (for a small number of people) originated in a “black man exercis[ing] the power that he had” in teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, thereby “buck[ing] the system.”
Sure, people were upset about that, but from everything we saw, that had a whole lot more to do with how teaming up with another superstar made it seem like LeBron was just giving up. Additionally, if people were mad that the Heat teamup had a “contagious effect” on other stars throughout the league, then they’d better also be mad at the Celtics’ Big Three, which LeBron pointed to as his inspiration to join Wade in Miami. And as far as well can tell, there’s no particular malice toward that group.
Rather, we find ourselves agreeing more with Skip’s side here. His position was ultimately the same as Stephen A.’s (i.e. yes, race is a factor), but for the reason that, well, race is a factor in everything. Race relations – often, through the years, in the ugliest sense of that term – are such a part of the fabric of American society that it’s impossible to entirely separate race from the rest of the equation when dealing with a polarizing figure like LeBron.
So brace yourselves: Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, in the clip you can see above, are…not so bad. They (mostly) use their inside voices, and in the end, we even agreed with them. Sure, we didn’t follow all of Stephen A.’s points, but hey – baby steps, people. Plus, he redeemed any potential misstep on his part by referring to those who overly criticize LeBron for unfounded reasons as “sports birthers.” Stephen A. Smith coining a phrase we might want to use? We don’t know if we’re ready for this.