Fox Sports 1 TV personality Skip Bayless has been a polarizing person on television for years now. From his time on ESPN to his arrival at Fox Sports, he has been getting under the skin of many athletes and fans alike. This annoyance also has spurned many interesting, thought-provoking, and in a few instances, policy-changing conversations.
January 2nd saw the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals facing off on Monday Night Football. With the broadcast being simulcast on ABC and ESPN due to the Rose Bowl, the world was tuned in as these teams clashed and jockeyed for better positions in the playoffs. During the second play of the Bengals opening possession, Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a routine tackle on Tee Higgins. Taking a right shoulder to the chest, Hamlin popped back up and collapsed in less than 5 seconds.
After being surrounded by teammates and opponents, the medical staff gave him oxygen and CPR before bringing the ambulance out to take him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Fans gathered to pray as did the teams while they awaited word on the fallen Bill, and naturally, Twitter and other social media were ablaze with comments about the situation.
For Bayless, this was the perfect time to unleash his thought to the world on the situation, as that is his job: “No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how? This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant.”
A tweet like this is incredibly insensitive. While ESPN was filled with similar comments during their impromptu broadcast, they had some context to them. Counterpoints consistently reminded the other broadcasters about what matters; not the game, not who plays for what team, or who you support. It was all about Hamlin and if he was going to be okay.
The NFL, and sports in general, have seen their fair share of accidents. People are being carted off the field on stretchers or loaded into an ambulance after a vicious hit. Most of the time, we as fans assume that things will be okay, but are a bit shaken as are their teammates. With Hamlin getting up and then collapsing, there was no rush to get back to the game. While players waited for him and prayed, many were visibly crying. The game of football didn’t matter to anyone.
Yet for Bayless, this was a lightning rod for activity. His apology after he was drug across social media was just as pathetic. “Nothing is more important than that young man’s health. That was the point of my last tweet. I’m sorry if that was misunderstood but his health is all that matters. Again, everything else is irrelevant. I prayed for him & will continue to.”
Bayless may not be able to recover from this kind of insensitivity — and it should be a lesson learned for everyone. Tweets matter. Timing matters even more.