This week concludes Max Kellerman’s first week stepping into the shoes of Skip Bayless as Stephen A. Smith co-hosts in the first take with new look. The notable aspect of Kellerman’s selection is that she, in many ways, was one of the original members of ESPN’s crash course on the “hug debate” as the first host of Around the Horn. And in many ways, his rise, fall, and rise again mirrors that of Smith. Their union completes ESPN’s 15-year journey with sports talk television.
go up: get to the scene and get around the horn
around the horn has taken a bit of a turn in recent years with its emphasis on new voices, particularly female sportswriters and sportswriters of color. Giving this young and diverse collection of sports media members a national platform is a very good thing. However, it is still fair to remember the era of Woody Paige, Jay Mariotti, T.J. simers etc, and they say around the horn it made it cool for old school sportswriters to come on TV and yell stuff. That’s not exactly the greatest legacy in the world of sports media, but it is what it is.
Reading: Around the horn max kellerman
The counterweight to those old-school sportswriters was the young Kellerman, who first emerged as a boxing analyst on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights alongside Brian Kenny. Kellerman was in his 20s at ESPN when he started at FNF and instantly became one of the most esteemed voices covering boxing, given his passion for a sport that was slowly being pushed off the national stage. p>
When ath was released in 2002, sorry for the outage, it was only a year old. this was espn’s second foray into the sports debate after pti had been so surprisingly successful.
kellerman, then 29, would make the leap from being a “boxer” to a much more prominent role as host. ESPN could have taken any of its dozens of hosts to get the job done, but Kellerman’s selection would epitomize the direction ESPN was looking to take with much of its studio programming. he was never afraid to share his opinion and he did it with passion.
At first, the critics did not respond well to the corner. here’s what slate had to say about espn in a 2002 article titled “when did espn stop playing sports?” (The google headline is “when did espn become mtv” which is funny because apparently mtv didn’t stop showing music videos yesterday).
“even for the most obsessive geek, around the speaker is meaningless noise pollution, the thunder of sports programming. His host, Max Kellerman, is excellent at talking boxing on Friday night fights, but his smart-guy personality and his raucous voice aren’t right for hosting a show devoted to bombast. At least Sports Reporters (Version 1.0) featured the late and inimitable Dick Schaap, who managed to lend an air of grace to the proceedings. he would be horrified to learn that his legacy was a series of second-rate scams, each trying to outdo the next in words per second.”
Even though it debuted mostly to negative reviews from critics, enough viewers tuned in to keep ESPN happy. 14 years later (!!!), Around the Horn is still on the airwaves on ESPN every weekday at 5 p.m. ET as an introduction to PTI just as it was in 2002. Kellerman’s back-and-forth with the featured writers was the crux of the show. And the Kellerman star had gotten to the point where it was a hot commodity among sports networks. In 2004, Kellerman decided to leave ESPN for Fox Sports.
how it reflects stephen a. Smith: Like Kellerman, Smith started out as one of the most passionate voices covering a single sport (the NBA). Like Kellerman, Smith was plucked from that role analyzing a sport to become a more prominent national figure hosting his own show frankly. ESPN put a lot of chips behind Kellerman and Smith, and those initial investments didn’t pay off. both left the net about a year and a half after the first runs of quite frankly and around the horn.
autumn: i, max and withdrawal from sport
kellerman left espn to host a new show on fox sports net (remember that?) called i, max after espn didn’t agree with fox’s offer to kellerman. On his new digs, Kellerman would be the main attraction instead of facilitating the others. via a 2004 sports illustrated blurb:
“Instead of being the point guard, I will be the primary scoring option,” says Kellerman, 30, who first made a name for himself with animated displays of his encyclopedic boxing knowledge on ESPN2. “Around the horn, the most I could show of my ability was to draw a conclusion without the possibility of going through the analysis of what got me there. now I can.”
It’s more than a little ironic that Fox’s strategy is basically the same now as it was then: try to build a network that can compete with ESPN by recycling former ESPN talent. it hasn’t worked so far in 2016 and it didn’t work in 2004.
i, max only lasted nine months before fox sports called it off.
kellerman also suffered a personal tragedy during this time. his brother sam his was murdered in october 2004 by boxer james butler.
His departure from Fox Sports sent Kellerman on a rather nomadic journey. He spent time at MSNBC as Tucker Carlson’s partner, so long ago that he predated MSNBC’s bid to be the liberal cable news network of choice.
kellerman then had a three-year stint with espn radio new york that lasted until 2009, when the two sides were unable to agree on the direction of his show. That show also featured a temporary reunion with former Friday night brawler Brian Kenny.
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