hot takes

In a world that has embraced debate, there are many hot sports takes out there in any given week, and they’ve been termed “one of America’s greatest exports.” But which takes can stand out in that crowded environment? And which personalities consistently bring the most heat? That’s what we’re tracking in This Week In Hot Takes, counting down from the fifth-hottest to the hottest. We’ll be keeping an ongoing leaderboard where we’ll eventually crown a king or queen of Hot Takes. Here’s the latest edition covering Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, from your friendly neighborhood keyboard bully

5. Skip Bayless thinks some Cubs’ fans didn’t want to win the World Series:

This is quite the hot take. “It forever destroys their sympathy card that they’ve been able to play their whole lives.” It seems hard to imagine fans out there who wouldn’t want their team to win in favor of maintaining some nebulous “sympathy card.” (CBS’ Tony Massarotti’s take that “Baseball needs the Cubs…to lose” is also almost ridiculous enough to make this column, but not quite.) But, hey, at least Bayless is keeping his takes hot. It’s worth noting that he also almost qualified for his ridiculous take that “LeBron James is not a top 5 player,” but Bayless has been on that train for far too long despite all evidence to the contrary. We’re looking for piping-fresh hot takes here, not microwaved leftovers!

Rating: 🔥🔥

(Thanks to @BMoreDaveS for the submission!)

4. Greg Bedard says it’s Super Bowl or bust for Bill Belichick: Many have weighed in on the New England Patriots’ surprising trade of linebacker Jamie Collins, but Sports Illustrated‘s Bedard (a former Boston Globe writer) really stood out with his all-or-nothing take:

In the wake of the Patriots’ shocking trade of linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns on Monday, it’s now Super Bowl or bust for New England. 

There were small rumblings of discontent last year after a series of questionable moves (poor coaching in New England’s Week 13 loss to Philadelphia) cost the Patriots home-field advantage in the playoffs, which likely helped swing the AFC Championship Game in favor of the Broncos. But if New England again fails to win the Lombardi Trophy this season, even the most ardent “In Bill We Trust” droids will question the recent defensive moves made by Patriots coach/demigod Bill Belichick, leading to thoughts that were once considered heresy: has the 64-year-old Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting started to lose his touch?

This take, coming with the Patriots at a surprising 7-1 despite Tom Brady’s early-season suspension,  was so hot that it sparked a parody “Bill Belichick Should Be Fired If The Patriots Want To Salvage Their Season” take from Stephen Douglas of The Big Lead. Question the trade, sure, but there are some valid reasons to support it (including the Patriots having other linebackers they believe are better overall fits, and ones they’ll be able to keep at a lower cap hit when free agency rolls around this offseason). Suggesting that this trade indicates Belichick has “started to lose his touch” seems like ridiculous debate fodder, especially with how well the Patriots have played so far.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

3. Michael DeCourcy thinks Ben Simmons’ NBA rewards cancel his college servitude: Sporting News college basketball writer Michael DeCourcy has long been known for his devotion to the ideal of amateurism and criticism of NCAA athletes who complain about not being paid, and he continued that this week with a column blasting Ben Simmons and the Showtime documentary on him. Here are the highlights:

The 76ers might have taken him first without any college experience, sure. But that $20 million Nike deal and that Showtime documentary that allowed him to voice all these complaints? Those probably don’t happen without a year of college basketball, where Simmons was on ESPN over and over again even as his team didn’t justify the spotlight. He was talked about as the next big thing, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, even compared to LeBron James.

So what’s the problem here?

DeCourcy is right that there are a few other options for players than the NCAA, but none of those options are particularly appealing or lucrative. Also, there’s no compelling evidence that Simmons’ Nike deal hinged on him spending a year in the NCAA (a No. 1 pick is probably going to land a good shoe deal regardless), and Simmons himself has tweeted that he didn’t receive anything for the documentary. Sure, Simmons is doing well now, but he could potentially have done just as well if the NBA had let him into the draft a year ago. DeCourcy also nicely ignores how much value Simmons brought to LSU in particular and college basketball in general, all without compensation. At least he’s consistent in his belief that college athletes shouldn’t be compensated for their work.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

2. Phil Mushnick thinks TNT hiring Kevin Garnett is “an insult to viewers and the game”: The many noted hot-take artists at The New York Post have spent a few weeks out of this column, but Phil Mushnick brought the paper back with a vengeance with his fiery takes on Kevin Garnett joining TNT as a guest analyst. Here are the highlights of his hot-takery:

Turner TV has hired recently retired Kevin Garnett, one of the most vulgar, antisocial, bottom-feeding NBA players, to serve as a “Special NBA Contributor.” No doubt he’ll use his richly undeserved forum to distinguish for us good from bad, and what’s wrong with the world, sports and otherwise.

Garnett’s résumé as a professional lout is extensive. He has been involved in unprovoked highly personal, cruel and crude name-calling hassles with many players, including teammates. Joakim Noah, Carmelo Anthony and even the most gentlemanly of NBA gents, Tim Duncan, were among his selected targets.

Dallas forward Charlie Villanueva, afflicted with alopecia universalis, which causes full body hair loss, claims Garnett tried to provoke him by mocking him as looking “like a cancer patient.”

Nine times TNT’s newest hire was ejected from games — not disqualified with six fouls, but ejected for acting like a creep. Nine times.

But this is the bag we’re in; no better ideas, no sense of responsibility or accountability to the sports TV purchases and a fan base that’s presumed to prefer the malevolent.

That’s a bizarre take. What in the world suggests that fans won’t want to watch Garnett just because he trash-talked other players? If anything, Alex Rodriguez’s success as a Fox pundit (or Ray Lewis’ TV stints) signifies that there are many willing to overlook past criticisms of a player as long as they’re decent on TV. There’s plenty of “accountability to the sports TV purchases (sic)”; if fans don’t tune in, there will be a change. Mushnick doesn’t like Garnett; that doesn’t mean he should be disqualified from broadcasting jobs.

(Also, this column is bizarre for the way it tries to contrast this hire with a Yogi Berra Museum event that has nothing to do with it, and for its out-of-nowhere slams of Katie Nolan. “On a United flight back from Chicago, Tuesday, the in-flight airlines feature — a tour of United’s hangar facilities — starred FS1’s Katie Nolan, host of the appropriately titled “Garbage Time.” Perhaps Nolan was chosen because of her vulgar tweets and smirking, look-how-low-I-can-go eagerness to attract the desensitized young males by rhyming Mets with “Tourette’s.” What are you even talking about, Mushnick?)

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Erril Laborde thinks Colin Kaepernick doesn’t know about (a severely twisted version of) U.S. history: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick has created a lot of hot takes with his anthem protest, but the one that showed up this week from Erril Laborde (editor and associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine, apparently) stands out. Laborde decided to write about Kaepernick this week thanks to the Saints’ upcoming game against the 49ers, and he found some napalm-level takes to drop in a column titled “Colin Kaepernick: What He Doesn’t Know”:

On the weekend that Kaepernick made his statement as a protest against racial injustice by police by not standing for the national anthem, I happened to be on vacation in France. We were in the town of Arromanche, which is near Omaha Beach. There is a statue of an American GI struggling from the beach while carrying a fellow soldier on his back. Neither soldier might have made it through the day, but I hope they at least knew they had participated in one of America’s greatest moments.

Whenever Kaepernick’s politics is talked about, even among those who disagree with his action, there are those who are quick to add, “but he has a right to say it.” Indeed he does, nevertheless in focusing on one issue he is overlooking the greater good that defines the United States.

Just as Kaepernick has a right to express his opinion, I have a right to question it. And that has made me wonder the following:

          Does he know about D-Day and the subsequent liberation of Europe?

          Does he know about the Marshall Plan and the United States having financed the rebuilding of Europe?

          Does he know about the Cold War in which the United States stood eyeball to eyeball with the Soviet Union for fifty years and ultimately saved the world from Communism?

          Does he know about the Monroe Doctrine, which obligates the United States to protect the Americas (both North and South) from foreign invasion? Both continents sleep soundly tonight because the United States is on the beat.

          Does he know about terrorist movements and the United States leading the coalition to be rid of them?

          Does he remember Sept. 11 and at least concede that the attacks were an injustice against this nation?

           Does he know about American inventions, including the Salk vaccine, which ended polio throughout the world, and the internet, which has shrunk the world and made it more democratic?

          Does he appreciate America’s amazing leadership in exploring space and the country’s willingness to share the technology with the rest of the world rather than trying to dominate it?

          Does he know about America as the great melting pot, which has enabled a mix of people to have opportunities?

          Racial injustice?

          Does he know about the Civil War in which 360,000 Union soldiers, mostly young white males, died to end slavery?

          Does he remember that a United States President was assassinated for that cause too?

          Does he know about Brown Vs. Board of Education by which the Supreme Court integrated America’s public schools?

          Does he know about the Civil Right Act, which tore down barriers for minorities?

          Does he know about Barack Obama?

          Does he appreciate that this land of plenty has made it so that he and his teammates are multi-millionaires just from playing a game?

Wow. Anyone with any knowledge of history can point out so many flaws in this (including that the Monroe Doctrine was not designed to help South American countries “sleep soundly,” that the Marshall Plan was far from an altruistic gesture, that the U.S. did plenty to dominate space rather than share it, that the Union lives lost in the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination were not solely about ending slavery, that “The Civil Right Act” (sic) was far from a perfect document, and that the very military Laborde is so proud of was officially segregated until 1948), but the really remarkable thing is that Laborde somehow concludes that positive moments for minorities in the U.S. (and not all of his list even represents that, to be sure) mean that Kaepernick and others both don’t know about this history (which they assuredly do) and cannot complain about the problems that still exist (which many would dispute, including the veterans who have rallied to support Kaepernick). This is some straight fire, and poorly targeted.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Notable absences this week: Stephen A. Smith (almost made it for this), Clay Travis (almost made it for this), Don Cherry (almost made it for this), Jason Whitlock (the overall leader is slipping!). Congrats to Bayless for moving past former First Take co-host Smith, and to Mushnick for moving up into fourth.

Hot Take Standings

Jason Whitlock – 22
Clay Travis – 11
Skip Bayless – 10
Phil Mushnick – 9
Stephen A. Smith – 8
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Doug Gottlieb – 5
C.J. Nitkowski – 5
Frank Isola – 5
Shannon Sharpe – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Ray Lewis – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Michael DeCourcy – 3
Greg A. Bedard – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Bob Ryan – 3
Terry Bradshaw – 3
Bart Hubbuch – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Colin Cowherd – 2
Don Cherry – 2
Dan Wolken – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. You can send submissions to me here.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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