Welcome to the one-year anniversary of This Week In Hot Takes! Here’s a look at the hottest sports media takes from September 8-14.

5. Skip Bayless says Le’Veon Bell “has too much of that Tinker Bell in him”: Undisputed‘s Skip Bayless has repeatedly blasted plenty of athletes, but Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell is one of the few who have responded in a very high-profile way, and that’s perhaps made him a bigger target for Skip. Bayless has criticized Bell lots over the years, and Bell shot back on Twitter in May 2016, but more notably, he dropped a “Shrimp Bayless” diss track this February and included it on his debut rap album Post Interview in March.

So, there’s even more reason for Bayless to go after Bell than your average athlete (to say nothing of Bell holding out during training camp, and playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which allows Bayless to of course unfavorably compare him to the Bayless-favored Dallas Cowboys and running back Ezekiel Elliott). And he did so in a particularly corny way Wednesday, accusing Bell of being “soft” after getting 32 rushing yards on 10 carries against Cleveland in opening week, and saying he has “too much of that Tinker Bell in him”:

There’s a whole lot of preamble there, and comparisons to Elliott’s “grown-man yards,” and just fawning over Elliott in general (“Nobody has better body lean than Zeke does!”!), but the key stuff comes around 1:55. “Le’Veon, to me, he just tiptoes too much. He would have had a hard time against the Giants, because you can’t tiptoe against those guys, against that front. Le’Veon Bell has too much of that Tinker Bell in him, he plays soft to me and then he tries to hit you hard.”

Bell had 1,268 rushing yards, 616 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns in 12 games last season. And Pro Football Focus noted in May how Bell had led the league in yards after contact from 2014-16:

But sure, he’s soft, and Shrimp Bayless should be the one calling him that.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

4. Stephen A. Smith says his own “damn network should be ashamed” over “garbage” NBA rankings having Carmelo Anthony too low: Smith melting down over something inconsequential is always amusing, and he delivered a memorable performance even by his standards on First Take this week, yelling about ESPN’s NBA rankings for almost five minutes because he thought they didn’t rate Carmelo Anthony highly enough. Here’s that clip:

Some highlights:

“Just because we all work at ESPN together, don’t believe we all believe the same things. We do have independent personalities, and you’re looking at one. This poll is a disgrace, it’s an embarrassment, and as far as I’m concerned, the damn network should be ashamed for having the poll! Who the hell came up with this list?! Because they clearly know nothing about the game of basketball! I don’t want to hear something about some garbage criteria that you came up with.”

“…But when you tell me number 64, you’re saying that 63 players from a talent perspective is better than this man? It is disgraceful, it is garbage, and I am sick and tired of people hiding behind the brand that is ESPN, pretending to know a damn thing about basketball, when they clearly do not. There is no one, I repeat no one, with knowledge of the game of basketball who would look at the NBA today and say that 63 players in the NBA are better than Carmelo Anthony.”

“And I don’t have the list in front of me. You know why I don’t have the list in front of me? Because I didn’t even bother to look. That’s how garbage I think the poll is. There are not 63 players that are better than Carmelo Anthony.”

Player rankings are inherently a little silly, and Anthony was one of the numerous NBA stars who got mad at ESPN (and Sports Illustrated, which did their own rankings) about them, so it wasn’t just Stephen A. criticizing this. And there’s an argument that Anthony should be higher; however, there’s also an argument that he’s not actually that valuable, based largely on advanced stats that consider efficiency as well as points per game. Going too far down that track produces its own hot takes, and makes you David Berri (who’s been relentlessly bashing Anthony for years, and in outlets that don’t often cover sports, but is well outside of most analysts in the lengths he goes to), but the general point about Anthony not being the world’s greatest player has merit.

Anthony’s scoring can matter, but he doesn’t offer a whole lot else. And even some of those who find him a generally-fine player, like 538’s Nate Silver (who built a whole CARMELO player-projection model to discuss Anthony), consider him a bit overrated and overpaid given his age and his stats at this point. But that can be debated, and if Anthony should be at 64 can be debated. The sheer venom Stephen A. spews at his own network over this rating is what really makes it a hot take, though. If you want to bet on Carmelo’s NBA ranking, then make sure to check out sportsbook for all your betting needs!

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

 3. Garth Crooks says Paul Pogba’s hair means he’s “behaving like an adolescent”: It’s always fun to see an outrageous soccer take, and the BBC’s Garth Crooks dropped an amazing one this week in an amazing location. Crooks was unveiling his team of the week as per usual, and managed to use that column to take a shot at a non-included player, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. Crooks wrote about Stoke striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, then veered into a random criticism of Pogba for…dyeing part of his hair red?

I also want to discuss Paul Pogba’s new hairstyle, which features a red streak. I only mention it because he clearly wants to bring it to our attention. There is so much for the midfielder to do at United and he still insists on behaving like an adolescent.

Granted, a hairstyle is not going to determine how well he can control a ball or make a pass, but it does say something about where his mind is at the moment. If you are going to attract attention to yourself on a football pitch do it with goals and performances, not cheap gimmicks and marketing tricks.

Unsurprisingly, this drew backlash:

Yes, that’s a photo of Crooks with Pogba’s haircut, and we couldn’t say it any better than that. The real “adolescent” behavior might be using your team of the week column to take a random shot at a non-included player for their hair. And it may lead to Crooks having friends in no places.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

2. Ameer Hasan Loggins writes in The Guardian that Fox didn’t show anthem protests…because Roger Ailes worked for Richard Nixon? The most absurd sports media take of the week comes from Berkeley doctoral candidate Ameer Hasan Loggins, who penned a “Why Fox doesn’t want Americans to see NFL players protesting about race” column for The Guardian. That title could lead to an interesting column if it’a look at the public statements Fox Sports executives have made about their balance of anthem protest coverage, or if it provided any proof that Fox covers anthem protests differently than other NFL rightsholders, or even if it recognized that anthems aren’t typically shown during NFL broadcasts. It does none of that, and instead references America’s Most Wanted and Cops before going on a deranged conspiracy rant about former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (who never worked for Fox Sports, resigned from Fox News last year following a multitude of sexual harassment allegations, and died in May). Here are the lowlights of this “column“:

Fox kept the cameras off of the players, blacking out their protest against racial injustice. While Fox screened an interview before the game with a black player – Michael Bennett – about why he was protesting, the fact that the network hid the actual protest irked many NFL fans.

I understand that we are talking about the same Fox network, whose earliest successes came via shows like America’s Most Wanted and Cops. Programs that served not only as cheap forms of first generation Reality TV, but they also were highly effective at spreading uncritical narratives of the police as being heroic public servants, that viewers could watch on a weekly basis, cemented as dependable good guys always catching the deviant bad guys.

…Before his time shaping Fox News as its CEO, Rodger Ailes [sic] was a media consultant/political strategist for Richard Nixon during his 1968 presidential campaign. We are talking about the same Richard Nixon campaign that saw the, “antiwar left and black people,” as his “enemies.”

According to former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman, a part of Nixon’s political strategy was to publicly “associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

…Given this history, I understand all too well why Fox has chosen to blackout the black NFL players protesting police brutality, as well as the white players willing to show solidarity and allyship to their black teammates.

I understand why Fox is unwilling to recognize that NFL players taking a knee, sitting, or raising a fist during the playing of the first verse of the Star-Spangled Banner are exercising their first amendment rights. It’s impossible not to understand.

No, what’s impossible not to understand is that Loggins is conflating a whole lot of unrelated elements, and failing to provide any relevant context. Fox Sports has long been separate from Fox News, and (less so) from Fox in general. This column might have a point if Loggins was able to show that Fox handled anthem protests differently than another network, but he doesn’t, and their approach (interviews about the protests but not actually showing the anthem, which is a long-time standard for many NFL broadcasts, one established well before protests; the anthem is a prime commercial break) sounds along the lines of what all the other networks have said. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told SI’s Richard Deitsch “We don’t show the anthem for most of our games,” but producers are free to show clips from it later if relevant, and ESPN and NBC producers had similar comments. How are you going to link those networks to Ailes? ESPN in particular has such an obviously right-wing agenda; never mind that they get regularly blasted for being too left-wing by critics, now including President Trump.

That SI piece is important, as it has detailed comments on Fox’s anthem approach. And basic research, or paying any attention to the sports media world, should have turned it up. Here’s the key part:

“It is an interesting and divisive topic,” said Richie Zyontz, the lead producer for Fox Sports on Joe Buck and Troy Aikman’s NFL broadcast. “I discussed privately with colleagues at our Fox NFL meetings, and opinions are split: Some feel it has no place in the broadcast; others feel it’s part of the game story. Our boss Eric Shanks, similar to last season, has asked us to acknowledge what our cameras see without dwelling on it, and I totally agree. I think we should document what transpires during the national anthem on both sidelines. I don’t think it would be right to show a single player without the context of his teammates and the other sideline. Every game account and every radio call-in show will be rife with description and discussion on Monday regarding the anthem so to ignore it would be negligent.”

So, that’s far from ignoring it, and it’s notable that they did exactly that during the described game, especially with the interview with Bennett. (That alone pretty much kills Loggins’ argument that Fox is trying to sweep this under the rug.) And if you want to argue that broadcasters should show the anthem protests in full, fine; you could at least make a logical and coherent case for that. But maybe acknowledge that it’s not just Fox not showing the anthem, and that they’ve spoken very publicly about their approach, and that their approach aligns with other NFL broadcasters? Instead, Loggins’ argument that this is all a giant conspiracy dating back to Ailes and Nixon takes the highway to the danger zone.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Bill Plaschke calls 2006 USC-Texas Rose Bowl “greatest game never,” says “it was one of the worst” college games: Historical revisionism is always fun, especially when it’s motivated by a local journalist’s clear homerism. The raft of pieces this week looking back at the legendary 2006 Rose Bowl (this Richard Johnson one at SB Nation on it being Keith Jackson’s final call is particularly recommended) ahead of USC-Texas apparently got the goat of Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, and convinced him to fire up a contrarian hot take of “USC-Texas Rose Bowl game wasn’t all that great“:

It’s interesting that so many people claim the last time USC and Texas played football it was one of the greatest college games ever.

Standing on the sidelines in Pasadena that night as Vince Young nearly flattened me on his way to history, I thought it was one of the worst.

This week, everyone wants to remember the 2006 Rose Bowl for the amazing Texas comeback that gave the Longhorns a 41-38 victory and a national championship.

To me, the most amazing thing was how badly USC blew it.

…The lost timeout was typical of the confusion that engulfed the Trojans in those final minutes as they were crushed by the amazing Young and steamrolled into a sad chapter in their history.

The greatest game never.

This really checks off all the cranky old columnist boxes. “Thing people like is bad because I say so, in a flurry of one-sentence paragraphs clearly driven by homerism.” And that makes it our hottest take of the week.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Notable absences:  Phil Mushnick, Colin Cowherd.

Hot Take Standings: 

Stephen A. Smith – 128
Skip Bayless – 101
Phil Mushnick – 72
Colin Cowherd – 30
Shannon Sharpe – 26
Doug Gottlieb – 18
Rob Parker – 17
JT The Brick – 17
Albert Breer – 16
Ray Lewis – 14
Rick Morrissey – 13
Charles Barkley – 13
Don Cherry – 11
Chris Broussard – 10
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Bill Plaschke – 9
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Dan Dakich – 7
Michael DeCourcy – 6
Kristine Leahy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Garth Crooks – 5
Bill Plaschke – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
Jeremy Roenick – 5
John McGrath – 5
Ross Tucker  – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Bob Brookover – 5
Berry Tramel – 5
Mike Bianchi – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Frank Isola – 5
Mark Spector – 4
Chad Forbes – 4
Gary Myers – 4
Mark Schlereth – 4
Andy Gray – 4
David Fleming – 4
The Sporting News – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Cris Carter – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Matt Burke – 3
Michael Rapaport – 3
Malcolm Gladwell – 3
Mike Milbury – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Jason Smith – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Mike Francesa – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Danny Kanell – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Bill Cowher – 2
Paul Finebaum – 2
Charley Casserly – 2
Amin Elhassan – 2
Jim Henneman – 2
Mitch Lawrence – 2
Nick Wright – 2
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Dan Wolken – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.