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Ranking the Most Popular Sports Talk Shows

Did the game go into overtime? Was there a big fight on the field? Maybe a sticky contract situation is making a superstar hold out, or somebody famous for golfing got a DUI… either way, you’re probably going to want to turn your brain off at some point of the day, and consume the apogee of mindlessness that composes the cable-TV landscape.

If that’s the case, look no further than this expertly curated list, to help you decide what kind of content you’re in the mood for. Forget asking Siri or Alexa: you’ve got Dan-bot right here, at your service. Now just sit back, relax, pick your poison and let me sell your data to China!

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7. Good Morning Football:

This show would definitely give your eyes diabetes, if it could. One of the most saccharine, sappy and overall embarrassing displays currently on TV, “Good Morning Football” seems to have been born solely from retirement-home focus groups trying to answer the question: How can we get grandma out of bed? Well, the answer to some coke-fueled exec was apparently to slap on some “GMF” and let the bright colors, cartoons, puns and zany footage do the rest!

To top it all off, the estrogen-laden hosts, led by a neutered Nate Burleson, consistently make terrible predictions and have a way of idolizing players and coaches in an uncomfortable, fawning way that is truly unbecoming of grown men. This show takes football and makes it into easily-consumable entertainment for the masses, instead of keeping it a sport that celebrates grit, dedication and sacrifice.

6. Speak for Yourself:

Hosted by Emmanuel Acho and Marcellus Wiley, two ex-NFL players looking to keep the gravy train rolling. The pair form a loud and obnoxious duo that find a way to argue – even when they think alike.

Having replaced Colin Cowherd (who will pop up later in this list – just you wait!) and the actual creator of the show Jason Whitlock, this duo now spend their days yelling sports-related monologues back and forth at each other from opposite sides of the set, while acting like they’re in a Colgate commercial.

It’s a pretty terrible show to watch or listen too, not only because of their superficial analysis (and borderline misunderstanding) of whatever stories they’re tasked with “covering”, but also due to the fact that their played-up “alpha” competitiveness always ends up sidetracking the actual subject their discussing.

Too scatterbrained and shallow for my tastes… next!

5. First Take:

Oh, to be a fly on the wall, the day Steven A. Smith discovered a thesaurus… After arguing with Skip Bayless for far longer than any sane man would, it seems Steven A.’s vocabulary suffered some sort of mutation, multiplying and then spewing words faster than his brain could comprehend them.

Soon, Skip was gone and Max Kellerman had come to replace him, but the damage was done.

These days, and despite doing his best to keep his condition under control, Steven can’t help himself when his emotions get riled up, and erupts in bursts of loquacious verbosity. He gets high praise for being a consistent Dallas hater, and popularized the concept of the Cowboys being a “disaster waiting to happen”.

But the rhythm of his delivery becomes grating after a few segments in a row, and Max, for all his gumption, just seems happy to be there and at the end of the day, doesn’t really challenge his co-host on some of his more preposterous claims.

4. Undisputed:

Skip has made a career out of commiserating the sorry fate of the Dallas Cowboys and praising Tom Brady, year in and year out, while also always choosing the most unlikely (and sought after) outcomes in his sports predictions.

By doing this, he hedges his bets and guarantees easy airtime/talking points by either being improbably right and looking like a visionary genius expert, or being wrong and lamenting whatever minute, anecdotal happenings transpired during said event. Watch like three segments of his show and you’ll see this revolving blame game pretty clearly.

After finally leaving Steven A. Smith to helm his previous show with Kellerman, Bayless finally saw his wishes come true and got to pair his commentary up with that of an actual NFL player (the Hall of Fame and three-time Superbowl champion, Shannon Sharpe) without missing a beat.

Skip’s obsessed, Shannon gets to relive his good years… what’s not to love?

3. The Herd:

Colin loves to compare things to other things. That baseball game last night? Just like a high school dance. The manager and the star player aren’t seeing eye to eye? Typical father-son growing pains. Contract talks? Something… something… fortune five hundred-Amazon-Google!

With all the grace and confidence of a step-dad interrupting a sleepover, Colin tells you how it is with a humble brag in every sentence, and is the type of character that really makes you wonder if there isn’t an algorithm running in his head, ensuring that he never appears too likeable.

With a mood that swings any way his guest starts blowing, it’s hard to take much of his content at face value because he’s constantly pumping Vegas lines and gambling apps. But for all his faults, at least he owns up to some of his stupidity when referencing an ill-fated boat purchase, or his disastrous attempt at dying his hair.

2. Sports Center:

For the modern, Western man who’s constantly on the road: It’s fast, no-nonsense and covers all four of the major sports franchises (MLB, NBA, NFL and MLS) while also giving college sports and international competitions their due.

The only problem is, because of it’s “Ben Shapiro on Adderal” pace, it never really goes beyond the most obvious of commentaries. In fact, it’s purpose is more to inform than to analyse, and it does so admirably… even though it’s pretty annoying to have the same bullet-points cycle again and again as their time-slots keep repeating, without being warned that there’s no breaking info to add to their initial presentation.

Always a delight to see at airports and the DMV, it blows CNN out of the water for the title of “public building screen-saver” and will always have a place in my heart, for camouflaging sports info as news.

1. Around the Horn:

Although the quality of the guests has dipped over the course of the show, and the novelty has slightly worn off, “Around the Horn” remains the gold standard for what all sports shows should aspire to be: a conversation framed as a competition, where smart ideas gain you points (doled out magnanimously by a progressively more elvish-looking Tony Reali) and stupid soliloquies net you negative scores.

The show tackles daily sports-related issues and runs down the headlines, until each of the four contestants/columnists has had their say… and the two lowest scorers are kicked off the air!

That’s it, their little Skype window closes and they disappear until the next day. The final two guests then duke it out over the juiciest stories until there’s only one left. It makes pundits, who blabber on about games we all understand and watch, finally watchable because they’re held accountable for their words (unless Jim gets enamored with one of his female guests and gives her all the points…).

All in all, a fun take on a stale product. If I had to watch one show break down the sporting world, it would probably be these guys.

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