First Take broadcasts from ESPN Studios in Manhattan, but Thursday Stephen A. Smith showed up in style to a remote broadcast in Dallas:

Fantastic stuff right there. Killer sun glare, but hilarious nonetheless with the cigar in hand. Stephen A. has been CRUSHING the Cowboys for years on television, and yet finds himself in Jerry Jones’ helicopter down in the Big D anyway.  Cowboys fans seem to be annoyed that Jerry is goofing around with Stephen A. just one day after starting left tackle Tyron Smith went down injured, but sometimes you lose the optics game.

The takeaway here though is brand. Brand, brand, brand. Everything Stephen A. touches turns to gold. He’s making $8 million a year and recently assumed alpha status at First Take following Max Kellerman’s departure. He’s bringing on JJ Redick, Mad Dog Russo, and any guest he wants. His individual brand has never been more prominent and his stock has never been higher. He’s really turned himself into this larger-than-life figure after innocuous beginnings at The Philadelphia Inquirer and other print outlets. Say what you will about the debate shows, and whether there’s any merit to opinionated yelling, but First Take specifically has carved out a legitimate niche in the ether where sports and entertainment cross paths. If you did a sports/entertainment/trolling triple Venn Diagram, you’d find Stephen A. and First Take right in the middle. People watch the show and get their kicks from it.

And listen, the Giants and Jets might not do much this season, but we’ll go for the low-hanging fruit and pick up some cheap laughs on Stephen A. trolling the Cowboys for the umpteenth time:

ESNY staff reports.