Stephen A. Smith has made a career at ESPN of critiquing others. One ill-fated pitch put the shoe on the other foot Thursday.
The “First Take” host reported to Yankee Stadium to throw the ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, wearing a Derek Jeter jersey and making sure everyone knew what he was about to do. He documented the experience on social media and even released a video to preview the pitch and name-drop Jeter, who apparently had one piece of advice:
“Don’t F this up.”
Unfortunately, Smith F’d it up.
More specifically, he grounded the pitch 4 or so feet in front of home plate. The ball ended up in the strike zone but had to be saved by Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka. It wasn’t a 50 Cent-grade offering, but it wasn’t enough to save Smith from mockery.
We will remind you that Smith was a basketball player at Winston-Salem State University, so maybe he was attempting a bounce pass.
Of course, no one milks an opportunity quite like Smith, who was in the broadcast booth analyzing his own performance in the second inning. He did not hold back in his criticism of Stephen A. Smith:
“I was disgusted with myself, man. Let me tell you something, I was warming up down there, I was throwing strikes from 60 feet away. And I got on that mound, and it looked like it was a mile away. I said, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ There’s no excuse. It was a choke job. I should do better than that. Stephen A. choked a little bit. I just did. It was straight, but damn it, I can do better than that.”
Smith proceeded to apologize to Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay, then — because we are talking about Stephen A. Smith — started name-dropping the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Draymond Green as people who would be going after him for the pitch.
He was also afraid of what at least one ESPN colleague would have to say:
“God, I don’t even want to think about what [Chris] “Mad Dog” Russo is going to say about me. It was not my shining moment, but hey, I’ve seen worse. I’m not going to lie to you, I went up on the mound, I was a little scared.”
Some other ESPNers, including Smith’s host Molly Qerim, didn’t wait for the next day’s broadcast to mock their well-known colleague.
For comparison, here is the mother of Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol, who followed a touching night by taking the mound at Dodger Stadium and ripping a breaking ball into the strike zone.
Maybe she can try hosting “First Take,” too.