Stephen A. Smith's volume dial was turned down to 1, his trademark bombast on mute.
"I have to sit back and get some rest and take stock in my life and where I am moving forward," he said quietly Friday, an hour after ESPN announced the cancellation of his talk show, "Quite Frankly."
This was a long way from the summer of 2005, when various media outlets, including Sports Illustrated, profiled Smith as a rising star in sports punditry, a lightning rod many loved to hate.
SI called him "the most despised personality on the air today."
But ESPN's then executive VP Mark Shapiro said, "Stephen A. Smith moves the needle on ratings ... People might come back because they hate him. The bottom line is they come back."
As it turned out, they didn't. His show got weak ratings on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m., then switched to 11 on Jan. 30, 2006. Since then it averaged 0.3 percent of cable homes, a total of about 240,000.
Smith praised his staff and insisted the show was "getting better and better," but added that given the production costs for a daily, hour-long show in Manhattan, the audience did not justify the price tag.
"Would it have succeeded on ESPN [rather than on ESPN2] or in a different time slot?" he said. "I can't blame anybody for that but myself, because I'm the one who wanted to move it to 11.
"The finger should be pointed at me."
Quite frankly, the show simply never caught on, and staff members regularly were outside Penn Station trying to drum up even a studio audience.
So it is difficult to fault ESPN, and Smith didn't, saying "the buck stops with me."
Still, something was lost with its demise. Defending Smith can get people nearly as upset as they get at Smith himself, but we can take it, so here goes:
On the last episode much of the show was devoted to a panel discussion featuring three black journalists in addition to Smith and one who is a Korean-American. Some subjects that touched on racial issues led to heated disagreements and points of view not often heard on national shows.
It was good stuff, the kind that shows the potential Smith, 39, has as a loud, distinctive voice amid the cacophony of sports talk.
That doesn't excuse his excesses, such as questionable reporting, shouting for the sake of shouting and sexist guy talk on his ESPN 1050 radio show. But you have to admire the spunk of the chronic hustler out of Hollis, Queens.
The end of "Quite Frankly" is far from the end of Smith. He plans to continue writing a column for The Philadelphia Inquirer and doing his radio show. ESPN said it would expand his presence on SportsCenter and as an NBA analyst.
"For the first time in my career, I was a little tired and I do think I bit off more than I can chew," he said. "No matter how well people think I handled it, the toll was significant and substantial.
"But I'm OK. If anything I'm going to be even more of a fixture on the NBA and hopefully the NFL. I don't plan on going anywhere. I'll be around. I just need some rest."
I hate to see his show get cancelled, but I didn't watch it often.
Maybe they should give him a Rome is Burning type of show, that is just 30 minutes. I'd definately watch it then, in fact just give him Rome's spot. 1 hour was too long anyways, there's not much you can talk about for an hour on sports talk shows. It would be great if he replaced Woody for 1st and 10.