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Stephen A. Smith: ‘I’ve Never Lost a Debate Ever’

“When it comes to basketball, I’m really asking you as a technicality. I know the answer. I just want to see whether or not you are going to lie to me about it.”

Ricky Keeler

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Whether it’s Skip Bayless, Max Kellerman, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, or any other people Stephen A. Smith debates or has debated on First Take in the past, one thing you will find out is that he never feels he has lost that debate.

On the latest episode of Just Getting Started with Rich Eisen (now Suzy Shuster) on the Cumulus Podcast Network, Smith said that even when he doesn’t feel like he won a debate, learning something about that topic in the end makes him believe he couldn’t ever possibly lose.

“I’ve never lost a debate ever,” said Smith. “I’m either right or I’ve learned something new by being wrong, which makes me brighter, more intelligent about that particular issue we were broaching, which means I’m a winner because I’m going to be better for it than I was before we started the debate. How did I lose?”

While Smith knows he has a lot of knowledge about all sports, basketball is the one sport that he’ll use questions to figure out if people are telling the truth. Some of that comes from his experience playing college basketball at Winston-Salem State University. 

“When it comes to basketball, I know basketball. When it comes to sports, I know football from watching it, I know baseball from watching it,” Smith explained. “Boxing and stuff, I know enough of it to be able to interview you about it and ask you questions and things of that nature. When it comes to basketball, I’m really asking you as a technicality. I know the answer. I just want to see whether or not you are going to lie to me about it. That’s really the difference between me covering basketball and covering every other sport.

“I know the nooks and crannies of it all. I also studied in a way where I am looking for certain things. When I go to a team or a player, I’ve spoken to them ahead of time about what their definition of success is. I evaluate whether it vibes with my thought of what their definition of success should be and I judge their actions accordingly as the season goes on. I’ve been that way since Day 1 in my career.”

Even when players might disagree with what Smith has to say, he said he’s confident enough to have that conversation. With the confidence he shows, players ultimately learn that they might disagree, but Smith shows them he know what he’s talking about.

“When I talk basketball with guys and they’ve attacked me or come at me… we can sit down and have a conversation,” said Smith. “By the time I said bring your boys since you’re so bold…they quickly learn, ‘He does know what he’s talking about.’ Even if they disagree with me, they know that I know what I’m talking about. Those are the kind of things that influenced my career tremendously because it gave me a confidence I never had anywhere else.”

Towards the end of the interview, Shuster asked Smith why he thinks he resonates with so many people and he thinks it is because of his authenticity.

“I believe it’s because people know they can trust me to say what I truly mean,” Smith said. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to be right. It doesn’t mean they are not going to disagree with me. They know they can trust me to be who the hell I say I am. When I say something, I actually mean it and I’m not saying it for effects, not saying it for ratings, not saying it for clicks or just so you read my article.

“I want you to do those things because I want to get paid, but I mean what I say and I’m fearless with it. I think they see this fearlessness that I approach my job with and I think you combine that with the fact that I say the things that people think and say off-the-air, but they don’t believe it can be said on-the-air, that’s where it all started.”

Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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Sports TV News

NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

Jordan Bondurant

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The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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