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Media Meltdowns

Skip Bayless And Shannon Sharpe Bicker, But Not In The Rehearsed Way

4:08 PM EST on January 4, 2023

Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe argue on the show Undisputed
Image via Fox Sports 1

One day after Skip Bayless was left to host Tuesday's episode of Undisputed on his own and explain his callous tweet about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, co-host Shannon Sharpe returned to the set. Sharpe opened Wednesday's show by talking about Hamlin's injury and addressing Bayless's tweet. He didn't get through much of his monologue before Bayless interrupted him, and the show turned into something that felt less like a scripted debate and more like a workplace argument in front of everyone.

Even though it was reported that Sharpe skipped work because of what his counterpart said online, he didn't confirm on the show that his one-day absence was due to Bayless's tweet about the logistics of finishing the Bills-Bengals game just minutes after Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest and remains in critical condition, was driven off the field in an ambulance. But it quickly became clear that the issue between the co-hosts hadn't been resolved. As the Pro Football Hall of Famer explained why he disagreed with the tweet and wished that his co-host would delete it, Bayless cut him off.

"Timeout, timeout—I'm not going to take it down, because I stand by what I tweeted," Bayless said.

Sharpe was irritated about not being able to get a word in. "I mean, I cannot even get through a monologue without you interrupting me," he said. "I was just gonna say, Skip, I didn’t want yesterday to get into a situation where Damar Hamlin was the issue. We should’ve been talking about him and not getting into your tweet. That was what I was going to do, but you can’t even let me finish my opening monologue without you interrupting.”

“I was under the impression you weren’t going to bring this up, because nobody here had a problem with that tweet," Bayless responded.

“Clearly the bosses wanted you to offer explanation, so clearly someone had a problem," Sharpe said, referring to Bayless mentioning Tuesday that his Fox Sports boss asked him to "clarify" the following tweet:

Sharpe appeared to no longer have the appetite to uselessly argue about the particulars of who had a problem with Bayless's tweet, on a TV show built on useless argument. He threw it to moderator Jen Hale, who kept the program moving after a few seconds of awkward silence.

The tweet at the center of this drama reads to me as ghoulish because of its timing, but it's possible to read it as merely insensitive or even as a bland sentiment about the seriousness of Hamlin's collapse on the field. But because it came from Bayless, who has made his career as a dunk-tank clown who delivers offensive opinions as a matter of course, plenty of people, including Bayless's own co-host, were not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It can be difficult to differentiate between typical sports-debate shtick—especially between these two—and a legitimate squabble. Sometimes the pro wrestler does air out his actual issues with the workplace. In this case, Sharpe's refusal to continue debating on the debate show suggests that he was fed up for real.

But what does it matter if Bayless and Sharpe were hashing out a genuine conflict, as opposed to their usual routine of hashing out fake conflict? For the Fox Sports execs who need Undisputed to be successful, the difference is irrelevant. In fact, the bosses might think that real emotion, the kind Bayless provoked by being a prick, makes for better TV, or at least effective native advertising. That might be off-putting to some, but as long as people keep watching and advertisers keep paying, the network can continue to mine conflict—whether organic or manufactured—for all its worth.

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