Skip Bayless

Published : Feb 3 2014 | Modified : Jun 4 2016

Skip Bayless is a TV host, commentator, and sports journalist. His christened name is John Edward II, but he has always been called ‘Skip’. He co-hosts ESPN’s top-rated program, ‘First Take’ with Stephen A Smith. He is in fact credited with leveraging ‘First Take’ rankings and for making the show one of the most popular ones in this segment in the United States.

Skip Bayless was born in Oklahoma City in December, 1951. His parents called him ‘Skip’ (as in ‘Skipper of the ship’). Skip was the eldest of three children. He has a brother and a sister, younger than himself. Skip’s parents were in the restaurant business. They owned a successful barbeque restaurant, ‘Hickory House’ in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, he now admits that he always felt like the black sheep of the family.

Unlike his younger brother, Rick Bayless, Skip was not interested in the restaurant business. He loved sports instead, from a very young age. His love for sports led him to actively participate in sports and athletics throughout his academic career. He played baseball and basketball in school and was a member of the National Honor Society, a nationwide organization with chapters in many high schools. Skip was not just an ardent sportsman; he also loved to write about sports. In fact, he attended the Vanderbilt University on a Grantland Rice Scholarship (Grantland Rice was a sportswriter). Once at the university, Skip went on to become the sports editor of his university’s newspaper, ‘The Hustler’.

Perhaps Skip’s all-consuming passion for sports as a young boy is not surprising, considering how bad things were at his home front. He has openly discussed his parents’ alcoholism, although he has been more vociferous about the abuse he suffered from his father, even calling him an “evil man”. But he has attributed his rough upbringing to his success, saying that as he was alone, he had to become self-sufficient and resilient. After his father died, he legally changed his name to Skip, cutting off his final connection with him. He even refused to carry his casket. In 2012, Bayless described the last major conversation he had with his father:

“This was the turning-point moment for me and my father, the summer I said, ‘I have to get out.’ I was working at Hickory House, his barbecue place, filling a truck with big cookers of ribs. Dad was drunker than usual and abusing me in front of the staff, throwing these scalding-hot cookers at me so I’d burn my hands. ‘What’re you doing? You want to fight me?’ I said, and he goes, ‘Yeah. Let’s see what you got.’ So we go to a back storeroom, and he takes his stance, comes at me with a big old roundhouse. I casually half-ducked it and creamed him with a right, knocked him into a vat of potato salad. He got up spitting fury and said, ‘Go home to your mother!’ Screamed me out the door yelling that. He died five years later, during my first year out of college. That was the last time we really talked.”

Skip is married to Ernestine Sclafani, who is a publicist. They met on ESPN’s show ‘Cold Pizza’, a floundering show that Skip helped put back on track. Ernestine is fiercely private and therefore, for the first few years, it was thought that her existence is a rumor. Even after the rumors about her being a fake story hit the internet hard, Skip did not comment on his wife. There are no pictures of Ernestine Sclafani in the internet sites and no wedding pictures were uploaded either. It looks like Skip wants to share a lot about his personal life but she does not like to be noticed. Some people tend not to wallow in their husband’s publicity. He mentioned that his first marriage was to his college sweetheart, but it ended in a divorce. He never gives any reason for it, except that it was a “big mistake”. The details about the alimony, spouse support settlement, and his current relationship with her are all unknown. There is no information on whether he has any kids from his first marriage.

His net worth is 4 million dollars and he draws an annual salary of 500 thousand dollars per month. He and his present wife, Ernestine live in different cities for their work, but they meet over the weekends, and have this strict Friday night routine of watching Jeopardy episode. Skip talks a lot about Ernestine on his show. He once apologized to her on the show as he could not spend that Sunday with her. He also apologized to her on his show for doing weird things, but which actually work for him. He says that his wife once threatened to file for divorce if he continued this weird superstition he has when it comes to sports. He has this superstition that if she sits with him during a game, the game goes against his team. He has proved it a lot of times to her but she keeps saying that it is all hogwash.

When he talked about his personal life, he said that he had only four long term relationships in his life. He got married to his high school girlfriend, which for some unknown reason, he now considers as his biggest mistake. It took him four long term relationships before he got married to Ernestine. She was the one who was able to live with his possessiveness of his job. He declared on his first date that the job is his first priority. They have no children, as of now.

Skip is a man of routine. He exercises twice a day and goes to Church every Sunday morning. Even his food habits are strictly regimented. At the beginning of every week, Skip buys five days’ worth of chicken and broccoli. This is his dinner for all five nights of the week. Every weekend he buys five sandwiches for his five lunches of the week from the same Manhattan Deli.

By all measures then, Skip comes across as an intense personality. This has won him some detractors as well, who feel that he is a polarizing person. His wife, on the other hand, says that Skip has a “heart of gold”. Nowhere is his personality more apparent than in the world of sports that he loves so much. His obsession with the ‘Dallas Cowboys’ is well documented. Recently, when the Dallas Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs, Skip broke down in tears on his show, ‘First Take’.

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