The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of our most beloved television personalities to adapt to challenging new production environments. The results fall along a vast spectrum of creativity, from Katie Nolan and team turning Zoom into a competitive game of “which famous people can you get to join this conference call” to Ellen DeGeneres not paying her staff.
Skip Bayless has also stepped up to the challenge, smoothly transitioning from arguing about sports with Shannon Sharpe in person to arguing about sports with Shannon Sharpe remotely. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you a single thing he’s discussed because every video he posts has a small but persistent distraction: a bronze horse butt.
That butt is part of Bayless’s 1977 Eclipse Award, which he won for his coverage of Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown at the L.A. Times. He’s clearly as proud of this trophy as he is of the Cowboys and Vanderbilt; that this sounds like an insult is entirely accidental.
The horse butt appeared – barely – in the first video Bayless shot from his home setup, on March 26:
Not a perfect placement by any means, but Bayless doesn’t make the big bucks for his set design skills. Had the horse butt remained here permanently, I might not have noticed it.
The horse butt did not remain stationary. Over the next 23 episodes of Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, the butt traveled. It flipped. It never, however, disappeared. Let’s review the analytics:
On more than half the episodes I reviewed, the horse butt appears on one side of Bayless. Most of those (12 of 24) have the butt to his left, with a small sampling of right butts. In three episodes, the horse butt was on set behind Bayless. And on five episodes, the entire horse, including its butt, was visible.
Don’t worry. I made you galleries of each use case.
RIGHT BUTT (March 26, April 2, 3, and 6)
Just within these four episodes you’ve got a ton of variety. The horse is facing Bayless in two episodes and facing away from him in the other two. The butt is sometimes barely visible, and sometimes almost obscenely prominent.
You will note that the placement of the hats never changes. That holds true in the other use cases, too. The horse moves, but not as part of a reshuffle of the entire set.
LEFT BUTT (April 13-14, April 16-29)
This use case shows far more consistency, which you may mistakenly think is a good thing. We know from the previous set that Bayless can and will flip the horse in either direction. We also know that he’s aware of the horse’s placement; why else would have changed it so often before this?
That means Bayless (and maybe his producers) decided to keep this horse butt, which is SO CLOSE to just being the entirety of the horse, in the shot. It’s currently been in this position for ten episodes straight. Until it moves to a new location, this is where the horse butt’s human masters believe it belongs.
FULL HORSE (April 7-10, April 15)
Arguably the most infuriating orientation, as it proves Bayless can, in fact, display the entire horse and not just feature its butt. Most of the Full Horses are to Bayless’s right, but one’s on his left.
HIDDEN BUTT (March 27-April 1)
Look at that lil’ horse, just peeking out from behind Skip Bayless, who serves as a horse butt human shield. Hi buddy! Sorry we’re talking about your butt so much.
Based on those screenshots, we can create the following Horse Butt Heat Map.
If you want to watch Undisputed but do NOT want to see any horse butt, focus your eyes on Bayless’s left shoulder, the horse butt safe zone.
Note: For horse butt locations after April 29, please scroll down to the comments, where I will be providing daily updates.
While we all agree this data is interesting and important, it doesn’t answer the key question: why is this horse butt there? I have a handful of theories.
1. Skip Bayless is Sending a Message
Bayless favors direct confrontation, but maybe this is his way of needling some unknown enemy. The repeated display of a horse’s ass could be a signal to whoever that is – maybe his cohost Shannon Sharpe, an ESPN executive, or LeBron James. Its presence tells the target “Skip thinks you’re a horse’s ass and he always will.”
2. Skip’s Wife is Messing With Him
Quarantine forces you to find new sources of entertainment. Maybe Bayless’s wife, Ernestine, sneaks into his office while he’s working out and adjust the placement of the horse to throw Bayless off. Maybe Bayless caught her one day and asked her to stop, which is why the horse butt hasn’t moved from his left side in two weeks.
3. Skip Wanted Me to Write This Post
Nobody gets the better of Skip Bayless. This whole horse butt thing was a setup, and I’ve falled right into his trap. Now I’ve written and posted hundreds of words about a TV show I don’t watch, which is free publicity for Bayless! What a fool he’s made of me!
4. The Horse is Trying to Escape
The Toy Story and Night at the Museum franchises confirm what we already suspect to be true: objects are alive, and they move of their own volition when we’re not around. This horse, though won by Bayless decades ago, yearns to return to its true companion: celebrated horseman Stephen A. Smith.
Each night, the tiny horse struggled towards the window, an exhausting task given the heavy base to which it’s affixed. Progress was slow but steady. Then one day, the horse learned of the coronavirus pandemic. And the horse realized if it escaped Bayless, it could be putting Stephen A.’s health in serious jeopardy.
The horse won’t risk that. Can’t risk it. So it waits, patiently, for the day when this madness is over and it can finally hurl itself out the office window and make a cross-country trek to find Stephen A. Smith once more.