Has Skip Bayless ever been wrong?
“Honestly, I’ve never regretted an opinion because I work too hard at it. I prep too hard, I think too hard,” Bayless told The Post.
“When I give that list [of 10-15 topics] to the coordinating producer, I give my nutshell opinion and once I say it, I don’t waver, I don’t change.”
Bayless is entering the fourth and final year of a reported $22 million contract he took to leave ESPN for Fox Sports in the summer of 2016. The 67-year-old gives no indication he has any interest in leaving the world of hot takes he has built his life around.
“I was born to do it, because if you know me at all, I can be stubborn to a fault and highly competitive, maybe overly competitive, definitely highly intense, overly emotional and just flat-out hard-headed,” Bayless said.
The co-host and star of Fox Sports’ “Undisputed” remains one of the most polarizing, famous and well-paid figures in sports media. He has helped FS1 make up some ratings ground against ESPN and his former show, “First Take,” with ratings jumping from 107,000 viewers in 2016 to 169,000 this year for “Undisputed,” a number the network expects to grow once football season begins.
Bayless routinely eviscerates some of the most successful athletes in the world, and it does not seem to faze him. It may even invigorate him.
In the middle of a response during a 45-minute interview about his career, he is suddenly dishing out takes. He tears down Kawhi Leonard’s transcendent NBA Finals run because he held the Lakers hostage in free agency. Then in the next breath, he is explaining why Robert Griffin III was the right quarterback to draft over Andrew Luck.
His critics consider it a ratings charade authored by an ego-driven used car salesman. He considers it part of his unwavering conviction.
“I call it my God voice, that little voice in the back of my mind,” Bayless said. “Your conscience or whatever, it’ll tell you the right thing to do if you listen to it.”
He wakes up at 2 every morning (with the Instagram posts to prove it) in Los Angeles and spends the next four-plus hours preparing for a sports-take war with Shannon Sharpe. He then sprints from his office to the set in part to intimidate the NFL Hall of Famer “with creaky knees” that he argues with for two-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week.
“Most debates are won the night before,” Bayless said.
“It’s thinking it through. If he goes here, I’ll go here. It’s reading, studying, watching the games very closely. You cannot miss a trick or you will get exposed. The reason my energy stays so high is the fear of losing. It’s more real than I can express to you how competitive the two of us are.”
Bayless talks fondly of his friendships with rapper Lil Wayne and other celebrities, but knows there is a flip side to his fame he has to manage carefully.
Back in his ESPN days, Bayless had to dress in disguise when walking through New York City with his wife, Ernestine, to get to a movie on time. When dining out, he is often approached by fans in the middle of a dinner who want to debate him.
Bayless recalls his first date with Ernestine — at a Second Avenue pizza place — and how he tried to prepare the woman he would marry for what was ahead.
“I had this deep feeling something could develop here, and I just told her, ‘If this relationship goes anywhere from this point forward, please understand that you’ll always be 1A to my job,’ ” Bayless said. “Because it’s not my job, it’s my life. She doesn’t love it that I told her that. I have told it on the air a couple of times, and she really doesn’t love that. It’s just the truth, and she appreciates I was dead honest with her, that I was painfully, harshly honest.
“I also told her, ‘You’ll be 1A. I don’t go out with the guys. I don’t do a lot outside of my calling, my life.’ She gets every bit of me away from ‘Undisputed.’ ”