There have been hundreds of sports-related talk shows that aired on TV, but only a few are as iconic as Cold Pizza, which premiered on October 20, 2003, and ended on May 4, 2007. Who were the hosts of this memorable talk show, and how did it become so popular? Let’s find out as we look into the history of ESPN’s Cold Pizza.
Early Broadcasts and Change in Timeslot
When it premiered in October 2003, the first co-hosts were Jay Crawford and Kit Hoover, and they had the correspondent Thea Andrews who goes to sporting events. Leslie Maxie was also hired to serve as a news anchor for the show. The executive who handles Cold Pizza was James Cohen, who previously helped develop another popular talk show on ESPN called Pardon the Interruption.
It initially aired every day at 7 am ET, but a few days before its first anniversary, the time slot was changed to 8 am, as executives thought that the first time slot was too early for sports fans to see. After the change in the timeslot, the show would have repeat airing for the West Coast at 10 am, although they would sometimes add updates if there are any recent sport-related news in between the said timeslots.
1st and 10
In the last months of 2004, Woody Paige and Skip Bayless, who were newspaper columnists for sports, were added to the show to add more “intensity” to the newsroom’s environment. For these two columnists to show their “fiery” personas on TV, they were given a segment called 1st and 10.
The segment was moderated by Jay Crawford and featured ten topics wherein Paige and Bayless would debate on whose opinion is more credible in the said topics. Bayless and Paige became popular for insulting each other during these debates, and the segment further launched their careers to even bigger paths in the years after Cold Pizza’s final episode. The 1st and 10 segment was so well-received that it turned into a half-hour program that aired at 3 pm ET on ESPN, although the first episodes were just rearranged segments and topics from Cold Pizza.
Change in Hosts
The hosts for Cold Pizza were changed in March 2005. Jay Crawford remains as a host and moderator for the show, but Thea Andrews and Kit Hoover were replaced by Dana Jacobson, a known anchor for SportsCenter during that time.
Bayless’ partner-in-crime Woody Paige left Cold Pizza and 1st and 10 on November 28, 2006, after citing concerns about his health and wellbeing. He returned to a less stressful job at the Denver Post, wherein he had been a writer for many years before coming to ESPN. A guest contributor is invited to debate with Bayless on 1st and 10 after Paige’s departure.
Controversies and Cancellations
Like many sports talk shows, Cold Pizza also had a few shares of controversies surrounding their segments. One of the famous controversial events on Cold Pizza happened in February 2006, when guest Bobby Knight, the then-coach for the Texas Red Raiders men’s basketball team, was asked by Dana Jacobson if he would like to come back to coaching the Indiana University Hoosiers for the next NCAA season. Knight became furious with the out-of-topic question, and he eventually walked out of the interview. The next day, Jacobson was not present on the show, and many speculated that her absence was due to the incident with Bobby Knight. However, Jacobson explained that she filed for vacation leave during that day, and her absence on the show was not related at all to the failed interview.
A few months before that incident, the show was not aired in October 2005 for unexplained reasons. Jacobson was vague in answering the question as to why Cold Pizza did not air, but she cited that there were some technical difficulties that prevented the show from airing. Until today, nobody knows what happened in the newsroom on that day, except for the crew and the hosts of the show.
Cold Pizza’s Final Edition and ESPN First Take
Just a few days after the newsroom was moved to Bristol after leaving New York City, Cold Pizza aired its final edition on May 4, 2007. The cancellation of the show was not thoroughly explained, but ESPN wanted to move on with a new show hosted by the same people who were on Cold Pizza. The show was successfully replaced by ESPN First Take on May 7, and it featured Jay Crawford and Dana Jacobson as hosts, with Skip Bayless as an analyst.
The 1st and 10 segment was carried over to First Take due to its popularity, and it continued to air on ESPN until 2011. Dana Jacobson left the show in 2011, and Jay Crawford left in 2012. Skip Bayless was moved to a hosting position to replace Jacobson, and Stephen A. Smith took Crawford’s place as the host of the show.
The show with Smith and Bayless is arguably the most popular version of ESPN First Take, as it featured rants, arguments, and debates that have become viral over the internet. Unfortunately, Bayless left the show in 2016 to work as a host in Skip and Shannon: Undisputed on Fox Sports alongside Shannon Sharpe, a retired American football player who is known for playing for the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos in the NFL. Bayless was replaced by Max Kellerman in the same year. Stephen A. Smith is still working as a host for First Take, and he still remains to be a colorful figure not only on TV but also on social media.