Steve Harvey ESPN Remarks Draw Fire From Conservative Sports Analyst

Talk and game show host Steve Harvey twice referred to the Golden State Warriors as “gorillas” in a conversation with ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday during an NBA championship pre-cast.
Harvey made the remarks when asked whe…

Talk and game show host Steve Harvey twice referred to the Golden State Warriors as “gorillas” in a conversation with ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday during an NBA championship pre-cast. Harvey made the remarks when asked whether his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers could do anything to derail the Warriors, who are up 3 games to none in the best-of-seven championship series. So far, there has been little uproar over the comments. Harvey twice used the…

ESPN Launching Interactive ‘First Take’ Show on Facebook (EXCLUSIVE)

Here’s your chance to mix it up with Stephen A. Smith head-to-head. ESPN next week is launching a viewer-participation version of “First Take” produced exclusively for Facebook’s Watch, in its latest move to up output of original programming on social platforms. “First Take: Your Take” on Facebook will feature the TV talk show’s trio — […]

Here’s your chance to mix it up with Stephen A. Smith head-to-head. ESPN next week is launching a viewer-participation version of “First Take” produced exclusively for Facebook’s Watch, in its latest move to up output of original programming on social platforms. “First Take: Your Take” on Facebook will feature the TV talk show’s trio — […]

ESPN’s Stephen A Smith Accuses Jeff Pearlman of Racism: ‘Why Are You Focusing on Me?’

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith ripped “low life” author Jeff Pearlman for suggesting the “First Take” co-host does nothing but scream and should have been laid off, asking, “Why are you focusing on me?”

The beef started after ESPN laid off roughly 100 on-air personalities and writers on Wednesday, after which Pearlman tweeted his frustration that “good” employees are being let go but Smith still has a job at ESPN. Pearlman attached a lengthy memo essentially declaring that keeping the “First Take” co-host is, in essence, the end of journalism as we know it.

On @stephenasmith, a $3.5 million contract and good @espn employees being canned left, right. Farewell, journalism … pic.twitter.com/jYyOYbD0aA

— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) April 26, 2017

“I read Mr. Jeff Pearlman, a former writer for Sports Illustrated, what he had to say about me in regards to the layoffs that have been suffered at ESPN by some of our colleagues. ESPN management makes a decision. Ratings equal revenue. Obviously it influences advertisers, ad sales, things of that nature. When those things are not flowing in abundance, business decisions need to be made,” Smith said Thursday on his radio show. “Here is what they wanna do. What the Pearlmans of the world, and others, want to do is take a loud-mouthed black person and act like I’m just a loud mouth.”

Smith continued: “I could sit up here and talk about ‘First Take’ and its ratings and how successful we have been and we are. I could sit up here and talk about radio, and the radio show and how successful I’ve been. I can talk about a lot of things. But I’m not gonna go there. Instead, rhetorically speaking, I’m going to ask Mr. Jeff Pearlman, and all of the Jeff Pearlmans of the world a simple question. Why are you focusing on me?

Also Read: Here’s Everyone Laid Off at ESPN, From Andy Katz to Britt McHenry (Updating List)

There are people in our business who actually get paid more, who do less and produce less. Why are you not talking about them? See, these are the kind of things where I want you, the American people listening to this show, to understand the nuances that go along with this,” Smith said calmly before his tone picked up.

“To really highlight specifics about the hypocrisy that comes out of the mouth… is to call out somebody else. And I’m not gonna do that. Like when they say to me, ‘Screaming A.’ I’m the only dude on the air that’s loud? I know plenty of white dudes that scream… they’re called passionate. I’m called loud.”

Also Read: ESPN Bloodbath: 11 Reasons Why the Network Axed 100 People

Smith said the “real issue” is that Pearlman brought his qualifications into question before literally rifling off his entire resume.

“Now, Mr. Pearlman, let me not be the low life that you are, in terms of what you decided to write… did you know that Mr. Jeff Pearlman used to write for Sports Illustrated? Did you know that he’s a best selling author… unlike him, I’m not going to hate on his credentials and act like they’re non existent because I want to be a child,” Smith said. “If I were to be that low life, at least I would have the decency to recognize someone’s credentials.”

Smith went on to say that maybe Pearlman doesn’t understand because he is “not black.”

“Maybe that’s why he’s so quick to talk about what I have deserved,” Smith said. “This was earned.”

Pearlman quickly responded to Smith, once again on Twitter:

Didn’t hear any of it, but to be clear I have 0 prob w @stephenasmith making his case. I made a point, he countered. That’s how it goes.

— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) April 27, 2017

The large cut comes as the expensive “Worldwide Leader in Sports” hemorrhages subscribers in the cord-cutting era. Readers can find out how ESPN is combating that new reality through content by clicking here. Business-wise, a large chunk of cost-savings will be based on the layoffs, which we knew were coming.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Here’s Everyone Laid Off at ESPN, From Andy Katz to Britt McHenry (Updating List)

ESPN Bloodbath: 11 Reasons Why the Network Axed 100 People

ESPN to Lay Off 100 On-Air Personalities and Writers

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith ripped “low life” author Jeff Pearlman for suggesting the “First Take” co-host does nothing but scream and should have been laid off, asking, “Why are you focusing on me?”

The beef started after ESPN laid off roughly 100 on-air personalities and writers on Wednesday, after which Pearlman tweeted his frustration that “good” employees are being let go but Smith still has a job at ESPN. Pearlman attached a lengthy memo essentially declaring that keeping the “First Take” co-host is, in essence, the end of journalism as we know it.

“I read Mr. Jeff Pearlman, a former writer for Sports Illustrated, what he had to say about me in regards to the layoffs that have been suffered at ESPN by some of our colleagues. ESPN management makes a decision. Ratings equal revenue. Obviously it influences advertisers, ad sales, things of that nature. When those things are not flowing in abundance, business decisions need to be made,” Smith said Thursday on his radio show. “Here is what they wanna do. What the Pearlmans of the world, and others, want to do is take a loud-mouthed black person and act like I’m just a loud mouth.”

Smith continued: “I could sit up here and talk about ‘First Take’ and its ratings and how successful we have been and we are. I could sit up here and talk about radio, and the radio show and how successful I’ve been. I can talk about a lot of things. But I’m not gonna go there. Instead, rhetorically speaking, I’m going to ask Mr. Jeff Pearlman, and all of the Jeff Pearlmans of the world a simple question. Why are you focusing on me?

There are people in our business who actually get paid more, who do less and produce less. Why are you not talking about them? See, these are the kind of things where I want you, the American people listening to this show, to understand the nuances that go along with this,” Smith said calmly before his tone picked up.

“To really highlight specifics about the hypocrisy that comes out of the mouth… is to call out somebody else. And I’m not gonna do that. Like when they say to me, ‘Screaming A.’ I’m the only dude on the air that’s loud? I know plenty of white dudes that scream… they’re called passionate. I’m called loud.”

Smith said the “real issue” is that Pearlman brought his qualifications into question before literally rifling off his entire resume.

“Now, Mr. Pearlman, let me not be the low life that you are, in terms of what you decided to write… did you know that Mr. Jeff Pearlman used to write for Sports Illustrated? Did you know that he’s a best selling author… unlike him, I’m not going to hate on his credentials and act like they’re non existent because I want to be a child,” Smith said. “If I were to be that low life, at least I would have the decency to recognize someone’s credentials.”

Smith went on to say that maybe Pearlman doesn’t understand because he is “not black.”

“Maybe that’s why he’s so quick to talk about what I have deserved,” Smith said. “This was earned.”

Pearlman quickly responded to Smith, once again on Twitter:

The large cut comes as the expensive “Worldwide Leader in Sports” hemorrhages subscribers in the cord-cutting era. Readers can find out how ESPN is combating that new reality through content by clicking here. Business-wise, a large chunk of cost-savings will be based on the layoffs, which we knew were coming.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Here's Everyone Laid Off at ESPN, From Andy Katz to Britt McHenry (Updating List)

ESPN Bloodbath: 11 Reasons Why the Network Axed 100 People

ESPN to Lay Off 100 On-Air Personalities and Writers

ESPN’s Molly Qerim on New England Patriots Trump Snub: ‘That’s Their Prerogative’

If Molly Qerim can control “First Take” analysts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman, and survive former side-kick Skip Bayless — then there’s nothing she can’t handle.

The ESPN host took the reins from Cari Champion 18 months ago, and since then she’s proven that she’s not to be taken lightly.

Whether it’s keeping her outspoken colleagues in check or forwarding the sports conversation to prove that she can keep up with the big boys, Qerim has more than earned her stripes on the high-energy debate show.

Also Read: ESPN Names Samantha Ponder, Suzy Kolber and Trey Wingo as New NFL Studio Hosts

“First Take” recently took a trip out west to Los Angeles from the show’s usual Bristol, Connecticut studio. TheWrap caught up with Qerim to discuss her expanding role, the evolution of the show, and some of the most-talked about stories in sports.

TheWrap: Has your role hosting “First Take” changed since Skip left for Fox Sports 1 last September?
Molly Qerim:
 Obviously, this year has changed in terms of Skip and Max joining, but I think now my main role and job description — as it always has been — is to continue to move the conversation forward, to play devil’s advocate, to bring up points of order. Primarily, it is to be the eyes and ears — listen to the guys and get them go deeper or look something from a different angle. The only time my job is hard is when we are in an intense debate and have to go to a commercial break. Advertisers pay our bills!

Was it difficult adjusting to Max joining the show just six months after you did?
I felt like as soon as I met Max that I’d always known him, it was natural and organic. I revel in his intelligence, he is highly cerebral, he is well-read on so many different subjects and has a different way of looking at sports than Stephen A. I like having the dichotomy of them. We feel like a team and we are collaborating well, the show is evolving and everything is tracking in the right direction.

Is it easier to work with him than Skip?
I wouldn’t call it easier, it is just different. Skip and I were also very close, he is so passionate about his craft. “First Take” was his baby and he essentially created that show and helped it evolve from “Cold Pizza.” When he left, I was definitely disappointed as we had a good rapport on air and I had just got adjusted.

Then Max just stepped right in and there was no awkwardness on- or off-camera. I can’t say one is easier than the other, they are just two entirely different people.

While “First Take” was ahead of the game, debate shows like Skip’s new “Undisputed” seem to be the new trend in sports media — why do you think that’s so?
TV is changing in terms of how we are consuming sports. Appointment viewing no longer exists, as between social media and the internet, people already have the news and can get the highlights — so now people want the opinions. I think that’s why the debate shows work and this is just the beginning, we are going to be seeing more and more of that. I look at it as a positive as we must be doing something right.

LaVar Ball [the father of three of L.A.’s hottest basketball players] has been in the center of his own media firestorm lately by clashing with LeBron James. You recently had him on the show — how was he in person?
He is hilarious, that man is TV gold. When I was sat in between him and Stephen A., I was just dying. It was two big personalities going at each other and I told Stephen A. he had met his match. He is very likable in person, and he has a lot of personality.

Do you think he was out of order talking about LeBron’s sons?
I think his point was that LeBron’s kids have to live up to LeBron, where his sons (Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo) don’t have those expectations of being in the limelight of a celebrity parent. I personally wouldn’t be talking about other people’s children or family … I get what he was saying, but I would have left it alone.

 

Also Read: Colin Kaepernick to Scrap Protest, Will Stand For National Anthem Next Season

One topic that’s been a source of endless debate Colin Kaepernick first not kneeling for the national anthem and now talk of him being blackballed in the NFL — do you think that’s true?
If Kaepernick is trying to become a backup quarterback and we’re seeing guys like Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith being picked ahead him, then you can argue that he is being blackballed. But if he is trying to be a starting QB, and being overlooked for guys like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler who are more proven than him, I can’t look at that as a political situation.

If all things were equal, and there was another player with the same talent and record, then I think owners might shy away from because they wouldn’t want the hoopla or the negativity that could come from him. If that’s the case, then it’s unfortunate. But if he’s good enough on the field, then people are going to take him either way.

Rick Ross and Molly Qerim/ESPN

What topic has really gotten you fired up recently?
I am really irked by healthy NBA players resting, I really don’t understand it. Players in the past have played all season for years. I just don’t love it. I feel like it hurts the integrity and competitiveness of the game. It’s got nothing to do with the TV partners, it’s about cheating the fans. You can’t have LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving all sitting out if they are healthy.

ESPN announced last week that Sam Ponder and Suzy Kolber are among the hosts joining, what do you think of the growing number of women in prominent sports media roles?
I love it — it wasn’t that long ago when women weren’t allowed in locker rooms, now we have them in front offices, coaching and calling games. I truly believe that ESPN has been in the forefront in terms of the diversity in front of the camera and improving the balance between men and women.

Also Read: New England Patriots’ Donald Trump White House Visit Is Set

Finally, what do think about some of the New England Patriots players refusing to meet with Donald Trump for the traditional Super Bowl champions’ White House visit?
That is their prerogative. They have won a Super Bowl and if they want to celebrate and be honored with whoever is in the White House, then they should go for it, and if they don’t — then they shouldn’t have to.

I would assume that the players who choose not to go are taking a stance against Trump, unless they’ve been a few times before (like Tom Brady). However, if they choose to go, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are pro-Trump. It is not just about him — it’s about the history, experience, honor and being able to say, “I’ve just won a frigging Super Bowl.”

“First Take” airs daily on ESPN at 10 a.m.

Related stories from TheWrap:

ESPN Names Samantha Ponder, Suzy Kolber and Trey Wingo as New NFL Studio Hosts

ESPN ‘SC6’s’ Jemele Hill, Michael Smith on NBA All-Star, Bringing a Fresh Attitude to ‘SportsCenter’

ESPN’s ‘Mike & Mike’ Share Weirdest Super Bowl Moments: Think Real-Life ‘Puppy Monkey Baby’

If Molly Qerim can control “First Take” analysts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman, and survive former side-kick Skip Bayless — then there’s nothing she can’t handle.

The ESPN host took the reins from Cari Champion 18 months ago, and since then she’s proven that she’s not to be taken lightly.

Whether it’s keeping her outspoken colleagues in check or forwarding the sports conversation to prove that she can keep up with the big boys, Qerim has more than earned her stripes on the high-energy debate show.

“First Take” recently took a trip out west to Los Angeles from the show’s usual Bristol, Connecticut studio. TheWrap caught up with Qerim to discuss her expanding role, the evolution of the show, and some of the most-talked about stories in sports.

TheWrap: Has your role hosting “First Take” changed since Skip left for Fox Sports 1 last September?
Molly Qerim:
 Obviously, this year has changed in terms of Skip and Max joining, but I think now my main role and job description — as it always has been — is to continue to move the conversation forward, to play devil’s advocate, to bring up points of order. Primarily, it is to be the eyes and ears — listen to the guys and get them go deeper or look something from a different angle. The only time my job is hard is when we are in an intense debate and have to go to a commercial break. Advertisers pay our bills!

Was it difficult adjusting to Max joining the show just six months after you did?
I felt like as soon as I met Max that I’d always known him, it was natural and organic. I revel in his intelligence, he is highly cerebral, he is well-read on so many different subjects and has a different way of looking at sports than Stephen A. I like having the dichotomy of them. We feel like a team and we are collaborating well, the show is evolving and everything is tracking in the right direction.

Is it easier to work with him than Skip?
I wouldn’t call it easier, it is just different. Skip and I were also very close, he is so passionate about his craft. “First Take” was his baby and he essentially created that show and helped it evolve from “Cold Pizza.” When he left, I was definitely disappointed as we had a good rapport on air and I had just got adjusted.

Then Max just stepped right in and there was no awkwardness on- or off-camera. I can’t say one is easier than the other, they are just two entirely different people.

While “First Take” was ahead of the game, debate shows like Skip’s new “Undisputed” seem to be the new trend in sports media — why do you think that’s so?
TV is changing in terms of how we are consuming sports. Appointment viewing no longer exists, as between social media and the internet, people already have the news and can get the highlights — so now people want the opinions. I think that’s why the debate shows work and this is just the beginning, we are going to be seeing more and more of that. I look at it as a positive as we must be doing something right.

LaVar Ball [the father of three of L.A.’s hottest basketball players] has been in the center of his own media firestorm lately by clashing with LeBron James. You recently had him on the show — how was he in person?
He is hilarious, that man is TV gold. When I was sat in between him and Stephen A., I was just dying. It was two big personalities going at each other and I told Stephen A. he had met his match. He is very likable in person, and he has a lot of personality.

Do you think he was out of order talking about LeBron’s sons?
I think his point was that LeBron’s kids have to live up to LeBron, where his sons (Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo) don’t have those expectations of being in the limelight of a celebrity parent. I personally wouldn’t be talking about other people’s children or family … I get what he was saying, but I would have left it alone.

 

One topic that’s been a source of endless debate Colin Kaepernick first not kneeling for the national anthem and now talk of him being blackballed in the NFL — do you think that’s true?
If Kaepernick is trying to become a backup quarterback and we’re seeing guys like Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith being picked ahead him, then you can argue that he is being blackballed. But if he is trying to be a starting QB, and being overlooked for guys like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler who are more proven than him, I can’t look at that as a political situation.

If all things were equal, and there was another player with the same talent and record, then I think owners might shy away from because they wouldn’t want the hoopla or the negativity that could come from him. If that’s the case, then it’s unfortunate. But if he’s good enough on the field, then people are going to take him either way.

Rick Ross and Molly Qerim/ESPN

What topic has really gotten you fired up recently?
I am really irked by healthy NBA players resting, I really don’t understand it. Players in the past have played all season for years. I just don’t love it. I feel like it hurts the integrity and competitiveness of the game. It’s got nothing to do with the TV partners, it’s about cheating the fans. You can’t have LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving all sitting out if they are healthy.

ESPN announced last week that Sam Ponder and Suzy Kolber are among the hosts joining, what do you think of the growing number of women in prominent sports media roles?
I love it — it wasn’t that long ago when women weren’t allowed in locker rooms, now we have them in front offices, coaching and calling games. I truly believe that ESPN has been in the forefront in terms of the diversity in front of the camera and improving the balance between men and women.

Finally, what do think about some of the New England Patriots players refusing to meet with Donald Trump for the traditional Super Bowl champions’ White House visit?
That is their prerogative. They have won a Super Bowl and if they want to celebrate and be honored with whoever is in the White House, then they should go for it, and if they don’t — then they shouldn’t have to.

I would assume that the players who choose not to go are taking a stance against Trump, unless they’ve been a few times before (like Tom Brady). However, if they choose to go, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are pro-Trump. It is not just about him — it’s about the history, experience, honor and being able to say, “I’ve just won a frigging Super Bowl.”

“First Take” airs daily on ESPN at 10 a.m.

Related stories from TheWrap:

ESPN Names Samantha Ponder, Suzy Kolber and Trey Wingo as New NFL Studio Hosts

ESPN 'SC6's' Jemele Hill, Michael Smith on NBA All-Star, Bringing a Fresh Attitude to 'SportsCenter'

ESPN's 'Mike & Mike' Share Weirdest Super Bowl Moments: Think Real-Life 'Puppy Monkey Baby'

Max Kellerman on Going From Well Known to ‘First Take’ Famous (Exclusive)

Max Kellerman has been a popular on-air sportstalk personality, boxing analyst and occasional political pundit for nearly 20 years now. Hell, the guy even dabbled in rap music for a while, sharing a legitimate record deal with his late brother Sam.

You probably recognize his face — even without the chinstrap — maybe from a “Rocky” movie, perhaps from “I, Max,” “Around the Horn” or “SportsNation,” but those outside the sports-fan arena might not recognize Kellerman by name. That selective notoriety is becoming less and less common, however, now that he’s co-hosting ESPN’s high-profile morning debate program “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith.

Considering the flagship show just moved from little brother ESPN2 to the main channel yesterday, grabbing a quiet dinner with his wife and three kids could become even more challenging in the near future.

Also Read: Max Kellerman: ‘First Take’ Relaunch ‘Felt Celebratory’ (Exclusive)

On Tuesday, TheWrap had the first interview with the “Max on Boxing,” minutes after ESPN’s “First Take” relaunch debut rolled its end credits. One of the things we posed to the Columbia grad is to help us quantify or qualify how much his personal stock has skyrocketed due to the big move.

“Hard for me to say,” he began. “The level of privacy in public has diminished — noticeably.”

“Oftentimes — even if you’re on TV — when you’re in public, you can still be a private person,” Kellerman elaborated. “But with ‘First Take,’ that’s just not the way it works. When you’re in public, you’re in public.”

Also Read: ESPN’s Max Kellerman on Why He’s No Skip Bayless (Exclusive)

But please don’t take that as Kellerman complaining. He made it very clear that anyone who sits in front of a microphone and a camera knows that this is what success looks like. And after a few decades of being a fan favorite and reliably delivering strong TV ratings, Kellerman is cool with your selfie request.

“It feels better being asked to take a picture than getting a picture, believe me,” he said.

Fortunately, working mostly in remote Bristol, Conn. helps keep some of that fanfare to a minimum. Catch Kellerman, Smith and moderator Molly Qerim weekdays from 10 a.m.-noon on ESPN’s ‘First Take.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

ESPN Talent That Jumped to Fox Sports, From Cris Carter to Skip Bayless (Photos)

Skip Bayless Blasted by Indianapolis Colts Punter for Insulting NFL Kickers

Troy Aikman Blasts Fox Sports Over Skip Bayless Hire

Skip Bayless Insists He’s Not a Troll: ‘I Know Nothing of Being the Bad Guy’

Skip Bayless Sticks It to ESPN With 3 Billboards in Bristol for His Fox Sports Show (Photos)

Skip Bayless Reveals Why ESPN Almost Canceled ‘First Take’

Max Kellerman has been a popular on-air sportstalk personality, boxing analyst and occasional political pundit for nearly 20 years now. Hell, the guy even dabbled in rap music for a while, sharing a legitimate record deal with his late brother Sam.

You probably recognize his face — even without the chinstrap — maybe from a “Rocky” movie, perhaps from “I, Max,” “Around the Horn” or “SportsNation,” but those outside the sports-fan arena might not recognize Kellerman by name. That selective notoriety is becoming less and less common, however, now that he’s co-hosting ESPN’s high-profile morning debate program “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith.

Considering the flagship show just moved from little brother ESPN2 to the main channel yesterday, grabbing a quiet dinner with his wife and three kids could become even more challenging in the near future.

On Tuesday, TheWrap had the first interview with the “Max on Boxing,” minutes after ESPN’s “First Take” relaunch debut rolled its end credits. One of the things we posed to the Columbia grad is to help us quantify or qualify how much his personal stock has skyrocketed due to the big move.

“Hard for me to say,” he began. “The level of privacy in public has diminished — noticeably.”

“Oftentimes — even if you’re on TV — when you’re in public, you can still be a private person,” Kellerman elaborated. “But with ‘First Take,’ that’s just not the way it works. When you’re in public, you’re in public.”

But please don’t take that as Kellerman complaining. He made it very clear that anyone who sits in front of a microphone and a camera knows that this is what success looks like. And after a few decades of being a fan favorite and reliably delivering strong TV ratings, Kellerman is cool with your selfie request.

“It feels better being asked to take a picture than getting a picture, believe me,” he said.

Fortunately, working mostly in remote Bristol, Conn. helps keep some of that fanfare to a minimum. Catch Kellerman, Smith and moderator Molly Qerim weekdays from 10 a.m.-noon on ESPN’s ‘First Take.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

ESPN Talent That Jumped to Fox Sports, From Cris Carter to Skip Bayless (Photos)

Skip Bayless Blasted by Indianapolis Colts Punter for Insulting NFL Kickers

Troy Aikman Blasts Fox Sports Over Skip Bayless Hire

Skip Bayless Insists He's Not a Troll: 'I Know Nothing of Being the Bad Guy'

Skip Bayless Sticks It to ESPN With 3 Billboards in Bristol for His Fox Sports Show (Photos)

Skip Bayless Reveals Why ESPN Almost Canceled 'First Take'

Max Kellerman: ‘First Take’ Relaunch ‘Felt Celebratory’ (Exclusive)

If you turned on ESPN2 this morning to watch “First Take,” you were probably disappointed — or at least confused.

The sports-debate show re-launched on regular ol’ ESPN Tuesday, a move many consider overdue. Max Kellerman told TheWrap that he thinks the timing was spot on — but of course he does, given that he joined the franchise a few months ago. Since then, he’s made made many forget or even wish good riddance to former “First Take” host Skip Bayless, who jumped ship for a similar gig over at prime competitor Fox Sports 1.

Since his summer start, Kellerman says he and co-host Stephen A. Smith — as well as moderator Molly Qerim and the rest of the staff and crew — have gotten to know each other and gotten in rhythm. They’ve also been getting “ramped up for this” relaunch, which arrives with the new year.

Also Read: ESPN’s Max Kellerman on Why He’s No Skip Bayless (Exclusive)

“When people make a big deal of a moment or a game or a show or… a demarcation in time, a launch of something — there is extra adrenaline,” he told TheWrap in an exclusive interview. “You want to use that adrenaline to keep you sharp, and to use it in the service of the show — and I think that’s what happened today … It felt celebratory.”

The move from ESPN2 to ESPN has been in the works for a while, company vice president and “First Take” overlord David Roberts told TheWrap. The timing seemed perfect.

“You’re talking about a changing environment,” he said. “We certainly know that there’s more competition — and I’m not just talking about the competition on Fox Sports 1.”

Also Read: Meet Max Kellerman: 9 Things to Know About Skip Bayless’ Replacement (Photos)

He’s referring to the Bayless show, “Undisputed,” which is basically a carbon copy of “First Take.” Roberts knows others are coming for his first-place podium, and doesn’t plan to give up his spot. He’s keeping a close eye on Bayless, Shannon Sharpe and others.

“My job is to watch all of the competition, but not to overreact to what the competition is doing,” Roberts told us. “My primary focus is on the product that we do here, but like any good leader, you have to be aware of what’s going on in the landscape around you.”

Roberts, who’s even newer to the gig than Kellerman, is quite pleased with his “First Take” rookie’s progress.

Also Read: Skip Bayless Insists He’s Not a Troll: ‘I Know Nothing of Being the Bad Guy’

“Max Kellerman is Max Kellerman — and that’s a good thing. The last thing we want to do is to replicate who he replaced. That’s not gonna happen,” Roberts said. “All we expect is that Max will be the best Max Kellerman he can be, and he’s well on his way to achieving the next steps in his own evolution as a superb talent in this business.”

Watch “The Continued Evolution of Max Kellerman” — a.k.a. “First Take” — now on ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon.

Related stories from TheWrap:

ESPN Talent That Jumped to Fox Sports, From Cris Carter to Skip Bayless (Photos)

ESPN Host Rails Against ‘Jerks on Social Media’ During Tirade About Clemson Fans (Video)

Drake Wears a ‘Doris Burke’ Shirt, Asks ‘NBA on ESPN’ Reporter Doris Burke Out Mid-Game

If you turned on ESPN2 this morning to watch “First Take,” you were probably disappointed — or at least confused.

The sports-debate show re-launched on regular ol’ ESPN Tuesday, a move many consider overdue. Max Kellerman told TheWrap that he thinks the timing was spot on — but of course he does, given that he joined the franchise a few months ago. Since then, he’s made made many forget or even wish good riddance to former “First Take” host Skip Bayless, who jumped ship for a similar gig over at prime competitor Fox Sports 1.

Since his summer start, Kellerman says he and co-host Stephen A. Smith — as well as moderator Molly Qerim and the rest of the staff and crew — have gotten to know each other and gotten in rhythm. They’ve also been getting “ramped up for this” relaunch, which arrives with the new year.

“When people make a big deal of a moment or a game or a show or… a demarcation in time, a launch of something — there is extra adrenaline,” he told TheWrap in an exclusive interview. “You want to use that adrenaline to keep you sharp, and to use it in the service of the show — and I think that’s what happened today … It felt celebratory.”

The move from ESPN2 to ESPN has been in the works for a while, company vice president and “First Take” overlord David Roberts told TheWrap. The timing seemed perfect.

“You’re talking about a changing environment,” he said. “We certainly know that there’s more competition — and I’m not just talking about the competition on Fox Sports 1.”

He’s referring to the Bayless show, “Undisputed,” which is basically a carbon copy of “First Take.” Roberts knows others are coming for his first-place podium, and doesn’t plan to give up his spot. He’s keeping a close eye on Bayless, Shannon Sharpe and others.

“My job is to watch all of the competition, but not to overreact to what the competition is doing,” Roberts told us. “My primary focus is on the product that we do here, but like any good leader, you have to be aware of what’s going on in the landscape around you.”

Roberts, who’s even newer to the gig than Kellerman, is quite pleased with his “First Take” rookie’s progress.

“Max Kellerman is Max Kellerman — and that’s a good thing. The last thing we want to do is to replicate who he replaced. That’s not gonna happen,” Roberts said. “All we expect is that Max will be the best Max Kellerman he can be, and he’s well on his way to achieving the next steps in his own evolution as a superb talent in this business.”

Watch “The Continued Evolution of Max Kellerman” — a.k.a. “First Take” — now on ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon.

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Skip Bayless Jumpstarts Fox Sports 1 Viewership by 358 Percent in First Month

Skip Bayless’ impact on Fox Sports 1’s TV ratings is truly undisputed.

The former ESPNer’s new series “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” has produced a 358 percent overall time slot increase in its first month versus the same calendar-part last year. In the key 18-49 demographic, the jump is a whopping 733 percent in the 9:30 a.m. ET-noon ET window on FS1.

Last September, prime competitor ESPN2’s average viewership was 23 times that of Fox Sports 1. This time, the ESPN2 advantage was down to three times that of FS1. Not bad for four weeks of work.

Also Read: Skip Bayless Reveals Why ESPN Almost Canceled ‘First Take’

Speaking of ESPN2, Skip’s old show, “First Take,” is down 28 percent since the launch of “Undisputed.” Max Kellerman replaced Bayless as the foil for Stephen A. Smith on that sports debate show.

“I’m thrilled with the launch of the show on FS1 and what we’ve accomplished in the first month,” said Bayless. “I’ve been overwhelmed with the fans’ support and loyalty. This is just the beginning.”

“Undisputed,” moderated by Joy Taylor and co-starring Shannon Sharpe, launched Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016 on Fox Sports 1. Bayless previously spent a dozen years on “First Take,” which was formerly called “Cold Pizza.”

Also Read: Skip Bayless Insists He’s Not a Troll: ‘I Know Nothing of Being the Bad Guy’

The “Undisputed” impact is also carrying over to the show that follows it, “The Herd With Colin Cowherd.” Since launch, “The Herd” has recorded its four most-watched weeks in history, rising 60 percent over the same time period last year.

Plus, ESPN2’s “His & Hers,” which goes head-to-head with “The Herd,” has been down 22 percent since “Undisputed” kicked off, per Nielsen numbers.

“The pairing of two shows with incisive perspectives has been a great way to bring new fans to FS1,” said Charlie Dixon, executive vice president of Content. “I’m excited to see the plan come together.”

Also Read: Skip Bayless Sticks It to ESPN With 3 Billboards in Bristol for His Fox Sports Show (Photos)

Before “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” Fox Sports 1 mostly just ran replays of both random sporting events and some studio shows. So, the massive gains are at least as much a product of “out with the old” as “in with the new.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Skip Bayless’ New Show Drops 30 Percent From Debut Ratings

Skip Bayless’ Fox Sports 1 Debut Drowned by ‘First Take’ in Overnight Ratings

Troy Aikman Blasts Fox Sports Over Skip Bayless Hire

ESPN’s Max Kellerman on Why He’s No Skip Bayless (Exclusive)

8 Times Skip Bayless Haters Stuck It to Departing ESPN Blowhard (Photos)

Skip Bayless’ impact on Fox Sports 1’s TV ratings is truly undisputed.

The former ESPNer’s new series “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” has produced a 358 percent overall time slot increase in its first month versus the same calendar-part last year. In the key 18-49 demographic, the jump is a whopping 733 percent in the 9:30 a.m. ET-noon ET window on FS1.

Last September, prime competitor ESPN2’s average viewership was 23 times that of Fox Sports 1. This time, the ESPN2 advantage was down to three times that of FS1. Not bad for four weeks of work.

Speaking of ESPN2, Skip’s old show, “First Take,” is down 28 percent since the launch of “Undisputed.” Max Kellerman replaced Bayless as the foil for Stephen A. Smith on that sports debate show.

“I’m thrilled with the launch of the show on FS1 and what we’ve accomplished in the first month,” said Bayless. “I’ve been overwhelmed with the fans’ support and loyalty. This is just the beginning.”

“Undisputed,” moderated by Joy Taylor and co-starring Shannon Sharpe, launched Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016 on Fox Sports 1. Bayless previously spent a dozen years on “First Take,” which was formerly called “Cold Pizza.”

The “Undisputed” impact is also carrying over to the show that follows it, “The Herd With Colin Cowherd.” Since launch, “The Herd” has recorded its four most-watched weeks in history, rising 60 percent over the same time period last year.

Plus, ESPN2’s “His & Hers,” which goes head-to-head with “The Herd,” has been down 22 percent since “Undisputed” kicked off, per Nielsen numbers.

“The pairing of two shows with incisive perspectives has been a great way to bring new fans to FS1,” said Charlie Dixon, executive vice president of Content. “I’m excited to see the plan come together.”

Before “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” Fox Sports 1 mostly just ran replays of both random sporting events and some studio shows. So, the massive gains are at least as much a product of “out with the old” as “in with the new.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Skip Bayless' New Show Drops 30 Percent From Debut Ratings

Skip Bayless' Fox Sports 1 Debut Drowned by 'First Take' in Overnight Ratings

Troy Aikman Blasts Fox Sports Over Skip Bayless Hire

ESPN's Max Kellerman on Why He's No Skip Bayless (Exclusive)

8 Times Skip Bayless Haters Stuck It to Departing ESPN Blowhard (Photos)