Drew Magary, writing on Defector, has a few choice words regarding Stephen A. Smith’s racist take on Shohei Ohtani. I have never, ever been a fan of Smith and his horribly stupid comments are really just the icing on the cake.
Shohei Ohtani could end up being the most remarkable and exciting baseball player of my lifetime, and perhaps he already is. If you watched him at the Home Run Derby last night, you didn’t need a goddamn interpreter to love him. The man’s got enough smiles and enough titanic dingers to win you over, no matter who the fuck you are. So it’s not simply that Stephen A. was wrong about Ohtani in the ugliest possible way, but that he was so NEEDLESSLY wrong. He didn’t need to be talking about Ohtani at all. But this is what happens when ESPN hitches its wagon to ONE guy, and then decides to filter everything that happens in sports through him. When I wrote that GQ profile, I was told by someone within the industry that Stephen A. was quietly campaigning for the network to replace his First Take co-host, Max Kellerman. I couldn’t verify that claim, and Max still occupies a chair opposite Stephen A. every weekday morning. But that clip above shows you that Max, in fact, already HAS been replaced. By his own co-host.
I do not give a shit about ESPN, but they should do something. I know they won’t. Magary knows they won’t. The coin of the realm is attention and Smith does this well.
The show will go on. Everything remains content. ESPN isn’t gonna suspend Stephen A. for this. They’re not gonna fine him. They’re not gonna shitcan him. Through a combination of relentless ambition and a terminal inability to say NO, Stephen A. has become too big to fail at ESPN. A one-man take monopoly. And when you have no competing voices standing in his way, he reveals his blind spots more frequently and with virtually no blowback.
I would like Major League Baseball to prosper and Ohtani is an amazing worldwide ambassador. Everything else is noise and I don’t have to pay attention.