ESPN’s First Take has rotated an extended checklist of — by no means numerous — personalities to debate Stephen A. Smith since he kicked Max Kellerman off the present in August. Most of the rotation’s contributors are weak, like Keyshawn Johnson, Ryan Clark and somebody referred to as Kimberley Martin.
Yet the latest version has exceeded even the very best expectations. On Wednesdays, long-time radio host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo joins Smith for the total two hours. And Smith, who makes the calls on First Take, ought to already be contemplating making Mad Dog his everlasting co-host.
Sports-talk, by definition, is meant to be enjoyable, an escape from the toxicity of the actual world. And Smith with Russo is enjoyable.
Last yr, Smith tried to carry his former First Take co-host Skip Bayless again to ESPN. (Bayless selected to remain at Fox Sports.) Smith has spoken publicly about eager to recapture their chemistry. Yet Madvert Dog and Smith are extra entertaining collectively than Bayless and Smith had been.
This duo is much less critical. Mad Dog is goofy, he can’t pronounce half of the names he paid to pronounce and has a bias towards younger folks.
Mad Dog brings out one of the best in Smith. Together they’re cartoonish, excessive, very loud and headline-making.
First Take depends significantly on social media clips for monetization. And for the next causes, Mad Dog goes viral all morning on Wednesdays:
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) March 9, 2022
Mad Dog simply ran a clinic on Stephen A Smith this morning pic.twitter.com/Np4kUC6kQ8
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 2, 2022
Most company on First Take can’t carry themselves to debate meaningless sports activities matters authentically. It’s beneath them, in order that they power themselves to match Smith’s schtick. How cringe is that?
Meanwhile, Mad Dog actually believes these debates may change the course of historical past. Just ask him about James Harden:
— First Take (@FirstTake) February 16, 2022
Seeing Mad Dog get such a response of late makes you marvel how massive of a star he may have been if he had labored at ESPN as an alternative of WFAN and at SiriusXM.
Mad Dog has plenty of Smith in him. He’s a caricature of a sports activities debater, an precise SNL character. ESPN doesn’t have many fascinating personalities after Smith. The others — Balyess, Colin Cowherd, Will Cain and Bill Simmons — all left. Mad Dog would give ESPN one other.
Will it occur? It’s laborious to see Stephen A. Smith relinquishing his standing on the present and sharing it once more. But regardless of his vanity, Smith isn’t a silly man. He is aware of what’s greatest for enterprise.
Trust me after I say he is aware of the present is healthier with Mad Dog on set.