• phil cantor/@osgphil

Can we end the "Embrace Debate" era of sports trolling please?


Please stop this man from talking

Ok, can we all agree that we've reached peak "Sports Opinion" now? Add the fact it seems like we all now have one sole purpose in life which is to troll people or "own" who have differing opinions and it seems like all everyone is doing is yelling at each other.


That's one of several reasons why it did not shock me in the least bit when Fox Sports living, breathing, sports troll Skip Bayless slammed Dallas Cowboys QB Day Prescott for speaking out about his battle with depression.



I could go on forever why Bayless should have been dumped from television years ago but it would be a waste of time, breath and effort from my fingers typing it. The guy's sole purpose in his late career as a TV Sports talking head exists because he's willing to say things like that.


Yes, that's right. He's a troll.


He's different than ESPN's "Screaming" Stephen A. Smith in that Smith will at least agree with a good argument or evidence to prove he is wrong. His biggest problem is the idea he has to shout and scream everything to the people he's talking to.



Bayless will stake out a contrary position on a topic for the sole purpose of starting an argument. It doesn't seem to matter who or what it hurts.


To be perfectly honest, in a lot of ways, the long running "Embrace the Debate" theme ESPN picked up nearly a decade ago has been a pre-cursor to the inflammatory time in which we now live.


It seems like the one and only preoccupation people (not just sports talking heads) have is "owning" a group that disagrees with them. I do not and probably never will understand why it has become a thing. Maybe its political, maybe because the person with the biggest title in all the land has decreed its the only way to communicate--I honestly don't get it.


Sports on TV has largely become a microcosm of this exact philosophy and in some ways, the games themselves have too. I'm not going to get into my thoughts on this because then we shift from sports to politics and you can easily argue politics is the single most evil sport/thought process/brainwashing to ever exist.


Listen, here's what I do get. I get what gets fans into their sports is the ability to cheer for or against others. I get that. And I get that there will always be questions like: Who's the greatest player? Who's going to be the best team? Why this guy is not the next big thing?


Those are normal conversations. It's what we debate as sports fans. It's what makes being a fan a choice or in some cases a lifestyle. I understand that.


But when the talk drifts into the personal life issues an athlete faces, that's a line we don't need to cross. It's one thing for the athlete to interject their thoughts or opinions on life issues, believe it or not they are humans and have thoughts on things other than their chosen profession just like you do.


When a Dak Prescott speaks up and says he's been dealing with depression issues, it's a BIG statement. He's a human who puts on his shoes one at a time just like the rest of us. There are millions upon millions of people who battle depression on a daily basis looking for even the slightest of motivations to move forward, deal with their problem and try to make things better for themselves. Dak was speaking to them.


Trust me, I can tell you from experience, depression is not something you should EVER take lightly. It is not something to be brushed off, mocked or criticized on TV or in general conversation. Not for anyone. Not for you, not for me and certainly not for a professional athlete. People take their own lives because of this. Any time a life enters the discussion---you don't wish ill will towards or criticize a person. Period. No further argument needed.


If we're going to live as sports fans in a world where the radio and TV hosts are going to debate things that happen in and around a game or team, that's fine. That's the sports I'm here for.


But for the sake of everything good in the world, don't let trolls like Skip Bayless or Clay Travis or anyone else who says contrarian or horrible things about others or discounts the virtue of a human life because it doesn't fit a narrative they are trying to push for the sake of a rating or page view. If you are going to criticize someone for talking about a real life problem they are dealing with, you have much, much bigger issues your own self.


That's why I bring up trolls like Travis who has spent his entire summer mocking everything COVID-19 and sports by focusing on the fact less than 3% of people who get it die. As we close in on 200,000 people who have died from it, never mind the millions who've gotten it or put others at risk, you are trivializing something that has impacted a shit ton of people. Just because it hasn't impacted you doesn't make it "not a problem" for anyone else. Just because your "brand" doesn't believe its real, doesn't make it or you right.


If you're going to be one of those people who spend their life online saying horrible things about other people solely because either (a) you need to be a contrarian or (b) because your politics are different, you've got some serious life issues. There was a time not long ago where we could all agree to disagree and move on.


We're no longer there.


I know Fox Sports isn't going to make Skip Bayless go away (unless they don't want to pay him so much) because he generates some eyeballs for them. I can't say that I've watched his show on FS1, because there really isn't much of a reason outside an occasional baseball game for me to ever actually watch FS1. But I watched him on ESPN and the act hasn't changed only the location on the programming grid.


I said it earlier, I'll say it one more time. We can have debate in sports. We can argue over who is the G.O.A.T. and we can say our team is better than yours. This is what we do as sports fans.


When it gets personal, the problems begin. There's no reason to go there. If your job security is based on talking about the personal problems or life of a professional athlete, you better have your own house in order.


The old saying "Ye who lives in glass houses should not cast the first stone" is adage every single one of us should live every single day.


Is there a reason we can't go back to that? I don't think so. We owe it to ourselves though to at least try.



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