“First Take,” co-hosted by Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith, occasionally is a compelling watch. On the other hand, ESPN’s morning sports debate program oftentimes offers some of the most obnoxious content you’ll see on TV.
Well, portions of Wednesday’s episode absolutely fell into the latter category.
Kellerman and Smith, along with former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, attempted to debate the New England Patriots latest “cheating” controversy, which centers around film crew member inappropriately filming the Cincinnati Bengals sideline Sunday afternoon. But, unfortunately for the viewers, the talking heads, perhaps with the exception of Clark, checked all nuance at the door.
Kellerman: “If everyone’s doing it, but the Patriots are the ones getting caught constantly, what does that mean? Because the Patriots are better at everything than everyone. They’re fastidious about the way they do things. … The reason that the Patriots get caught, is because they’re doing it more than anyone. It’s not that they’re sloppy, or they’re bad at it, or they’re arrogant — they’re doing it so much that they sometimes get caught. They keep getting caught. And they keep giving the same excuse. … And they don’t respect your intelligence, by the way … for them to use the same excuse.”
Smith: “It’s not a matter of whether we believe they cheated or not. Now it’s a matter of Bill Belichick and what he has to say. Do you really believe what Bill Belichick said? ‘It has nothing to do with me.’ Something that had to do with the Patriots has nothing to do with Bill Belichick? … OK, a videographer, you’re scanning the sidelines, etc. etc. You have a credential from the Browns, you don’t inform the Bengals you have that credential, and you’re filming them from the sidelines, but somehow, someway, that’s completely disassociated and separate and apart from you, bill Belichick? … How could a filming, video, be actually in the process of taking place the week before you play that particular opponent. and the person in charge of game-planning for that opponent has absolutely nothing to do with it.”
Clark: “I believe they’re cheaters. I believe they’re the best cheaters in the world. I think they cheat more than anybody. And I don’t believe they were cheating this time.”
Take a look:
This is as bad as it gets from people who are supposed to inform their viewers.
Listen, we get the Patriots have lost the benefit of the doubt, but this situation isn’t like Spygate nor Deflategate. Unlike those two scandals, there is very little mystery involved with this controversy. The “Do Your Job” series is not some laughable, clearly made up excuse, as Kellerman would like you to believe. In fact, the concept of traveling with an advanced scout and filming them on the job is completely in step with what the series has been about through seven episodes. Moreover, the idea that Belichick would have zero interest with a short-form docuseries conceived and executed by the Patriots’ production department is entirely believable. He doesn’t come across as a guy who has seven minutes to burn on a YouTube video about “How an NFL Film Room Works” — something he already knows plenty about.
Ultimately, controversy involving the Bengals comes down to one thing: Did Belichick identify a Week 15 game against a 1-12 team as the ideal time to exploit “Do You Job” for the purposes of executing the most brazen cheating operation in modern sports history?
Maybe, but we’re skeptical. And the NFL reportedly is, too.
Just don’t tell that to people like Kellerman and Smith, both of whom would rather take the lazy route and pump out nonsense void of any rational thinking — at least in this instance.
Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images