Skip Bayless Bolts ESPN Just Like He Did The Dallas Morning News

Last spring, Skip Bayless took NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis to task. Fresh off a win in the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, Revis jumped ship and headed to the New York Jets for a $70 million contract that included $39 million in guaranteed money. Bayless was mad, as he was paid by ESPN to be, over Revis' perceived lack of loyalty. Last week, Bayless, best known in his current iteration for spouting nonsense every morning on ESPN's First Take with co-panelist Stephen A. Smith, did the same thing. Bayless ditched ESPN for Fox Sports because the ratings-desperate network was willing, according to Sports Illustrated media reporter Richard Deitsch, to give him $5.5 million a year and a $4 million signing bonus.

The last time Bayless did something like this, it was in Dallas.

Before Bayless was the man he is today, endlessly taunting LeBron James for lacking something called the "clutch gene," touting Johnny Manziel as the next coming of Joe Montana and serving as the arbiter of all that was good and right about sports on TV, Bayless became a national name as a sports columnist in Dallas, where he was a big part of the newspaper war that eventually finished off the Dallas Times Herald

Bayless came to the Morning News in 1978 when he was just 26. On arrival in Dallas, he immediately jumped all over Tom Landry, the legendary Cowboys coach who was still leading the team through its first glory period. Bayless, his Morning News editor Dave Smith told the paper in 2013, "was not well-liked. . . . He had an ego like nobody else in the world, and he was very reclusive." He was making $40,000 at the News, a huge sum for a journalist in the early '80s, but leaped at the chance to join the Times Herald  when they offered to make him one of the highest paid journalists in the country in 1982. Bayless also got a company car, free gas and maintenance and a country club membership.

In a 1986 interview with D Magazine, Bayless essentially admitted that he was an agitator, that his predictions weren't made in particularly good faith.

"I think through the situation, but I will not go for the obvious," he said. "I’m just giving the reader something to throw darts at." 

He continued to make himself a target as the Times Herald floundered through the end of the '80s before eventually collapsing and being sold for parts in December 1991.

After the Times Herald folded, Bayless began distributing his thrice-weekly column via fax, which was innovative at the time. He also wrote three books about Jerry Jones-Jimmy Johnson Cowboys before parlaying a role in the founding of The Ticket into a career as a broadcast commentator, first on ESPN Radio and then on ESPN itself. The content of those books made it impossible for Bayless to stay in Dallas.

Bayless insinuated that Troy Aikman, the Cowboys' star quarterback was gay, something Aikman strenuously denied. He also accused the QB of calling wide receiver Kevin Williams a "nigger" after Williams mis-ran a route. Aikman, in a 2011 radio interview, reiterated his anger toward Bayless.

"I still kind of wonder what I might do to him when I do see him," Aikman said.

This football season, Aikman may get his chance. He and Bayless will share an employer after Bayless's contract with ESPN is up in August. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young