Stephen A. Smith of ESPN has reportedly received a contract extension in the area of $8 million a year for the next five years. Smith has been a staple of the industry for over a decade at this point, but is he actually good his job? The Daily Campus writers Richard Goyne and Mike Mavredakis debate here:
To suggest that the sports television industry has not been enhanced by the work of Stephen A. Smith is, as he may so eloquently put it, absurd, atrocious, disrespectful, blasphemous, preposterous and utterly ridiculous. In this newfound era of producing constant content and maintaining the short attention span of mainstream media, Smith’s job has evolved from an intelligible sports columnist to that of a TV personality.
The “NBA expert” once rode a six-year streak of incorrectly picking the NBA Finals champion (2011-2016) and has even described himself as an “ignorant fool” on national television when looking back on his assessment of then-Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. But we have not come to expect nuanced, carefully calculated or even accurate commentary from the most famous man in sports talk television. Instead droves of fans await the next time he storms off set, or the next Kwame Brown rant. Smith reminding us of Lamar Odom’s brush with crack cocaine, and to “stay off the weeeeeeeeeeeed,” generates much more attention for his network than any column he could ever write. Smith has accumulated millions and millions of views between his infamous rants and all the times he’s recommended athletes stop smoking marijuana.
The age of clicks and engagements has swept over sports media and Smith has taken the reins, as the chief sports personality in a market craving constant entertainment and content.
To suggest that Stephen A. Smith has done anything positive for the industry of sports television is completely asinine. Everything he has done as a personality, yes a personality and not a journalist, on ESPN networks has been entirely unproductive. He is nothing but a takemeister who yells into the ether to get his point across. He is one of the main reasons sports fans have to deal with nothing but opinion shows of two people yelling their ridiculous opinions back and forth every day. What he does is plain annoying. Raising his voice and using a colossal vocabulary to get his point across doesn’t mean he has actual talent, it just means he is willing to showboat louder than everyone else.
Just because you’re good at drawing attention to yourself does not mean you are good at your job. Take Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow for example, both people with massive amounts of hype surrounding their careers with a limited payoff. Stephen A. Smith is a legend, yes, but the changes he has made to the industry are only negative. His work has turned sports television into reality TV, where hot takes reign over real journalism.
Aside from stuffing Max Kellerman in a proverbial locker every weekday from 10 a.m. until noon, Stephen A. Smith has proven his quality in the industry of sports media through a commendable journalism career, including time with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and by being the best at what the market demands.
The main fallacy in this argument against Smith, is the fact that he is not good at his job because he is focused on drawing attention to himself. Speaking objectively, his job on television is to draw as much attention to himself as possible. The more people that watch him be wrong about where Kevin Durant is going over the summer, the more money he and ESPN make. As a master attention grabber, and creator of soundbites, Stephen A. Smith does exactly what his network needs him to do, he gets good ratings (evidenced by his consistent appearances on SportsCenter, Get Up! and more) and in turn they give him the big bucks.
The industry has changed and Stephen A. Smith has evolved with it. He has become a master entertainer, and producer of content which is exactly what he is being paid to do. Having the unmitigated gall to claim that Stephen A. Smith is not good at his job is, in his own words (probably), quite frankly, absurd, atrocious and unfathomable.
His job as someone who’s on television providing sports fans with news and updates on their favorite teams is to give them the facts, period. All he does instead is use those facts to forward an agenda which is the whole reason people hate the media, it always comes with an agenda. We should not be living in a space that has an agenda and the job that Smith does is entirely viewership focused, so, in turn, he yells because it makes people think what he has to say is important. Sure he is paid to yell now that he has a big contract at ESPN, but the sheer creation of his position is inherently bad in my opinion. Giving people like Smith a platform, which their sole purpose is to garner viewership, puts the whole field in a bad position because they have to compete with the way he does business – by yelling right back.
His work, alongside that of Skip Bayless and Max Kellerman, have completely tainted the universe of sports television. It is no longer a space for people to learn and appreciate what these great athletes work extremely hard every day to do, it is a platform of forced disagreement between two or more people who likely don’t even believe the things they are saying. Stephen A. Smith has forced the industry to yell, yell, yell and yell some more so people pay attention to them, instead of using well-crafted and thoughtful opinions. It’s tired and honestly of very little value to the sports universe. Stephen A. Smith and co. have created a problem in media; at some point people need to see it.
Richard Goyne is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org