There's a large contingent of sports fans who dislike ESPN's Skip Bayless. It's certainly understandable: he trolls, he issues "he just didn't want it enough" judgments, he reduces the outcome of a game to who was "clutch," et cetera.
A lot of you would love to see him fired, so let's imagine a scenario in which you get your wish. Thousands of fans picket the ESPN compound in Bristol, and the next day the network releases a statement.
Sorry about Skip Bayless. We have decided to fire him for being a jerk all the time. We didn't even give him any boxes in which he could pack all his stuff; he just had to wrap what he could in a hobo bindle and trudge away while everyone pointed and laughed at him. He even cried!
Immediately following, President Barack Obama gives an address.
As you may have heard, ESPN has fired Skip Bayless for being a total dorkus malorkus. I have decided to issue an executive order dictating that he can't ever get a super-sweet job again. In fact, he's going to have to bag groceries at the Kroger in order to pay the rent on his 100-square-foot studio apartment.
Also, we're going to attach this thing on his front door that dumps a bucket of green Double Dare slime on his person every time he leaves for work in the morning. He is not allowed to tamper with it, by penalty of law.
I am President. Bye!
There. How's that? Are you satisfied now? Has your disdain of Skip Bayless been properly sated? Well, then, let's check in and see how he's doing.
The room was dark, save for the faint glow of the alarm clock radio. It read 5:59. Skip lay awake on his Murphy bed, staring at it. The bed tilted upward 20 degrees, the foot of it resting upon the miniature refrigerator; there wasn't enough room in the cramped studio for it to fold all the way to the floor. Still 5:59. Skip wondered why alarm clocks didn't display seconds. Maybe so that people wouldn't think they were bombs? That was stupid. He was only half-awake. 6:00.
The radio fired at full volume, the analog dial tuned just barely south of the public radio music station. Gary Jules' "Mad World" pushed faintly through the sharp crackling. So that the refrigerator wouldn't fall on its side, Skip gingerly edged to the near end of the bed before standing up. He moved his hand to the top of the clock to turn it off, then to the side to adjust the tuning, and then simply stood still in the dark for a moment, content to leave it be.
The un-shaded light bulb hung high overhead; the room was actually taller than it was wide. Weeks ago, the pull cord broke such that only three beads remained, but Skip had become good at this. Reflexively, he climbed the aluminum stepladder that stood in the middle of the room, felt for what remained of the cord, and squinted as 40 watts of unfiltered light spread across the room. As he climbed down, he noticed splotches of dried paint on the top rung of the ladder. Eggshell white. His old carriage house, which he had renovated into a garage, was eggshell white. He could never quite get the stray drops of paint off the hood of his Roadster, and he reasoned that an aluminum stepladder would not be so much different. He stopped picking at it, stepped down, and rooted through his laundry bag for his striped blue-and-white polo work shirt.
Skip examined the shoulder of the shirt. Despite a time through the wash, it still reeked of baby spit-up; yesterday he had volunteered to hold a woman's child as she searched her purse for her wallet. He surprised himself with a chuckle, then pulled the shirt over his head.
7:24. For reasons unclear, the station was now playing "Mad World" for the eighth consecutive time. Fully dressed, Skip slowly opened his front door. He turned his eyes above, toward the bucket hung from overhead, while sticking out his leg and gently pressing on the welcome mat. A snap, and then the bucket turned on its end and plastered the welcome mat with green slime. Skip had managed to pull in his leg without a single drop hitting his pant leg. He was getting good at this, too.
9:00 in the morning, and the sun was already blazing. As Skip rode past the expressway off-ramp, he glanced down at his rear tire. It was plump against the ground, as though only half-inflated. Skip could never tell whether it really was leaking air, or he was just having a bad day. The optimist in him refused to believe the latter. "Heh," he said to himself as he worked up speed to climb the overpass. "Just extra exercise. Extracise! Heh!" At that moment, his wheel hit a pebble and the tire burst entirely.
Skip climbed off the bike. The frame was scorching to the touch. He grabbed the handlebars and walked the remaining 4.3 miles to the Spring Plaza Kroger.
"Rogjer! You're early. It's... " Marcia, the shift supervisor, looked down at her phone. "It's 10:30. Didn't we have you coming in at 11?"
"Yes'm, indeed you did! But better to be early than late, that's what I always say!" Skip pulled his name tag off the felt board in the break room. "Well, Dave asked me to send you into his office when you came in. He should be in there now."
After gulping down one of the mason jars that he had filled with water and packed with him, Skip knocked on the door labeled "STORE MANAGER." "Hey, man! Come in. How you doin'?"
"Good as can be, boss! Don't s'pose you could do somethin' about that sun up there though, huh? Just about got roasted, toasted, an' burnt to a crisp out there!"
Dave laughed. "'Fraid not, Skip, fraid not... listen, I wanted to talk about your name tag. I know you want to go by Rogjer, but I got a memo from Corporate yesterday. They're adamant that everyone's name tag reflects the employee's actual name, for legal reasons. No nicknames."
"Wull..." Skip scratched the back of his neck. "Wull, y'sure I can't just go by Rogjer?"
Dave reclined in his chair and sighed. "Listen, Skip, if it were up to me, you sure could. I know you're trying to keep a low profile and all." Skip stared at the floor. "OK, how about this. Today you can wear the Rogjer name tag, and I'll talk to Corporate, see if we can make an exception for your special circumstances. But hey, you know you can just go down to the DMV and put any name you want on your ID? And once you do that, it's just about as good as legal."
"Oh, I know," Skip said. "Checked on it just th'other day. They charge some dough for it, though! Can't quite stretch m'budget for that this month! You know th' feelin'?"
"How much is it?"
Skip cast his eyes back down to the floor and rolled up the end of his shirt with his thumb and forefinger. "Oh, 'bout... 'bout eight dollars."
Dave, without really meaning to, paused for a moment to take it all in. Skip Bayless, in his office, Kroger shirt soaked in sweat, hands idly screwing and unscrewing the lid of a mason jar marked with, "MORNIN' WATER! DRINK UP, SKIPPY!" on a piece of masking tape in Skip's own architect-sharp handwriting. And if he let this silence drag on for a moment longer, he was afraid Skip was going to cry. Skip never would, of course, but Dave didn't know that. He handed Skip eight dollars from his wallet, and dismissed him with a nod.
4:28 p.m. Skip sat in the break room, watching television with Scott, a 16-year-old cashier. A car insurance commercial played; "you'd have to be crazy to say no to extra cash!", it said. Scott grinned. "Hellll yeah you would! I'm sayin', can't be messin' with my money! You think I'm gonna say no to more money? Helllll no son!"
Skip laughed. "Heh! No way, Jose! I'm with y'there, Scott!"
Scott turned in his seat. "Yo Rogjer, so I been thinkin' about gettin' a car. Got like 1200 saved up from this job, plus I'm cuttin' lawns. How much I gotta pay for a good car? Like a car that ain't gonna break down and shit."
"Oh, I dunno... when I was your age, I didn't have th'wherewithal to get a car! You sure are lucky!"
"How old are you, Rogjer?"
Scott paused. "Aw Hell no you ain't! Bullllll shit!"
Skip threw up his arms and smiled. "Heh! Y'got me red-handed!" He stood up. "Welp, gotta go clock back in. See y'out there, Scott."
This was Skip's favorite part of the day. Strangely, he didn't enjoy punching out for the day as much as he enjoyed the feeling he got after his last break, when he only had 90 minutes left to go. It always gave him a second wind, and helped him enjoy his job even more than he usually did.
Meat in one bag, produce in the other, non-perishables in a third. Skip could do this on autopilot, so that he could spend time chatting with the customers. One guy walked up with a six-pack of Bud Ice and a Kyrie Irving jersey. "Hoo boy, that Kyrie Irving," said Skip. "He sure can play out there!"
The man smiled. "Oh Hell yeah, man. Man, just think if LeBron hadn't left. Irving and LeBron on the same team, man, Cavs would have won like seven titles."
"Well," Skip answered. "If LeBron stayed with the Cavs, they woulda been way better in 2010-11, so they wouldn'a got such a high pick in th'draft to get Irving."
"Well yeah, but I'm just sayin'. Plus, LeBron's a bitch for leaving, dude. Anyone could win a ring with the Heat. That shit doesn't count, far as I'm concerned."
Skip scoffed. "C'mon now. In today's NBA, you can't ever pass up a chance to be in the best position to--"
The man slowly raised a finger. "Wait. You're ..."
Skip's blood ran cold. He looked down and realized that he was leaning on a can of green beans, pressing it into a tray of pork roast sitting at the bottom of the bag.
"You're, uh, that dude who was on ESPN like three years ago? You look just like him."
Skip looked up. The rest of the line in Lane 8 was already staring at him, and now Lanes 7 and 9 turned to look at him as well.
"Is that Colin Cowherd?" he heard someone ask softly.
The man in the jersey suddenly grinned ear-to-ear. "You're Skip Bayless! Oh my God! You work at this store? You're Skip Bayless! They said you were working in a Kroger, man, but shit!"
"That ain't Skip Bayless!" someone said. "Yeah it is," answered someone else. Obama made him work here. You remember?"
"Hey Skip, what the **** kind of name is Rogjer? Rogjer isn't even a name. Why's it got a J in it for? Are you stupid?"
If Skip was in the mood to say anything, he would have explained that he had resolved on the pseudonym Roger, but that in his interview, he had nervously stammered out "Rogjer" (pronounced "rock-jer") instead. He was terribly nervous that day. He never lied. He was awful at it. Skip always said what was in his heart.
But Skip was not in the mood to say anything. He turned and ran out of the store; halfway through, he realized he was still holding a customer's bag and dropped it. As he did, he heard more yells. "You tried to out Troy Aikman, you creep! This is what you get!" yelled one woman. "Yo, I wish Mark Cuban was here to clown you again!" said another.
Dave would understand. He wouldn't fire him just for walking out of a shift. He always did right by Skip. Anyone who knew Skip these days always did, whether he was Skip or Rogjer to them. He was just that sort of fellow, the one who always did right by you, and whose good will you always wanted to see come right back to him.
Look at what you have done to him. You did this. Your angry tweets and posts and rants did this to him. You all got your dearest wish. You monsters.