Alex Shaw had the hottest take for June 22-28.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re looking at the hottest sports media takes from June 22-28. 

5. Ben Mulroney says Hope Solo “is so wrong it’s funny”…because hockey equipment is more expensive? Former U.S. women’s national soccer team keeper (and former USSF presidential candidate) Hope Solo spurred quite the debate with her comments at the Hashtag Sports conference, where she said that “My family would not have been able to afford to put me in soccer if I was a young kid today.” In particular, her claim that elite youth soccer cost around $15,000 annually was questioned by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, who cited lower averages that include recreational and low-level competitive players and was then bashed by Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, who made the case that Solo’s numbers were close to right.

Another part of Rovell’s argument was that cost increases in soccer were comparable to cost increases in other elite youth sports (which may be true, and may call some of Solo’s specific claims into question, but doesn’t really invalidate her point about economic barriers to high-level play, instead only illustrating they’re a wider issue), and that led to the hottest take on this, from a surprising source:

For those unaware, Ben Mulroney is the son of former Canadian prime minister Brian, and is most known for his work as a TV host. He currently hosts CTV’s Your Morning, and previously has worked on etalk, Canadian Idol et al, plus shown up on ABC’s Good Morning America from time to time. So he’s not exactly a sports figure (he did cover the 2010 Olympics for etalk), and that shows with this take. Mulroney is certainly technically correct that the equipment in hockey costs more than the equipment in soccer, but equipment isn’t the cost Solo’s talking about here; it’s much more about travel team costs, developmental camps and the other costs associated with elite youth athletics.

And yes, those costs definitely exist in hockey as well in both Canada and the U.S., and playing high-level hockey in certain parts of the U.S. can be particularly pricey given the extensive travel required to find competition. But “Haha, my sport costs more than your sport!” is a whole new level of #pleaselikemysport, and it’s not a great take. And Mulroney, Rovell and the rest arguing about if soccer is actually the most expensive or not are missing the larger point of the access barriers Solo was discussing. Absolutely, those aren’t just a soccer problem, but the better response might be discussing the issues those pose across sports, not getting into a Four Yorkshiremen-style one-upping of how hard things are in a certain sport.

Rating: 🔥🔥

4. Chris Jones argues that Liverpool should sell Mo Salah “as soon as possible,” his value “will only continue to drop,” and “his heart, like him, like Egypt, was gone”: Jones, the writer known for his work for Esquire and other publications, penned a long piece for ESPN this week. The piece was a massive argument that Egypt and Liverpool star Mo Salah’s value had peaked, that Liverpool should move on from him, and that he was only situationally useful. Some highlights:

If Liverpool could have sold him in that instant [during the Champions League final before he hurt his shoulder] they should have. That was Salah, the stock, at peak value. He will never be worth more than he was worth then.

Liverpool should still sell him. His value might be less than it was 24 minutes and 40 seconds into the Champions League final, but it will only continue to drop. Liverpool should sell Mohamed Salah as soon as they can.

…Mourinho soon cooled on his new signing. In Chelsea’s second-to-last game of the 2013-14 season against Norwich City, Salah was reportedly scolded by his frustrated manager at the half, told to come back the next season if he was “ready to be a footballer.” It was a question of heart. Salah appeared only three more times for Chelsea before he was loaned to Fiorentina a little more than a year after his arrival at Stamford Bridge. Salah left London a failure.

…Jose Mourinho had it right: Football has always been a question of heart. This time, Mohamed Salah’s heart didn’t seem broken.

His heart, like him, like Egypt, was gone.

The piece also argues that Salah is a poor player because he doesn’t use a lot of touches to score his goals (huh?), because he often scores with his left foot (maybe a criticism, but that hasn’t helped many stop him to date), and because he wasn’t able to do more to help an Egyptian team that was heavily reliant on him. But it’s the arguments about heart that are the most specious. And this didn’t go over well on Twitter, especially with Liverpool fans.

Yeah, that’s not a great piece, and not a good argument in favor of selling Salah. Salah’s 44 goals in 52 appearances (32 in 36 Premier League appearances) for Liverpool this season were remarkable, and at 26, he may have many more good seasons left. Maybe Jones will be proven right that Salah will decline from here (although he doesn’t offer much compelling evidence to support that), but that’s a bold claim, one much of the soccer world doesn’t appear to agree with. But  questioning Salah’s heart is the real hot take. Those sorts of intangible claims aren’t great in general, but suggesting that Salah’s heart is “gone” because he wasn’t dominant while playing for Egypt and recovering from injury is a pretty spicy opinion.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

3. Glenn “Sonnie” Wooden Jr. writes a Daily Iowan piece saying “Iowa Nice and its fans are detriments to the Hawkeye football program,” gets bashed and doubles down: Takes on how “fans must demand more!” are common on message boards, but it’s a little rarer to see one in a student newspaper, especially when its tactic is to go all-in on insulting many of the people reading the paper. That’s what Glenn “Sonnie” Wooden Jr. did in an opinion column in the Daily Iowan, though:

Iowa Nice and its fans are detriments to the Hawkeye football program. Hawkeye fans get excited when Iowa beats a team such as Boston College even though it has 7-6 record.

Yes, fans should be excited about the victory, but the win should be expected — not a surprise. To make things worse, the Hawkeye fan base continues to cheer for a coach who has an abysmal won-loss record. The Hawkeyes’ only brand recognition is the Tigerhawk, which the marketing team throws on everything it can. Really cool.

It seems as though the Hawkeye football team isn’t allowed to have a personality. It has zero sideline props: Miami has the turnover chain, Alabama has a Ball Out Belt for takeaways, and even Minnesota runs on the field with Oars for its Row the Boat slogan.

Every time I go to a game, I watch the Oakley- and cargo-shorts wearing, translucently pale fans cheer for mediocrity. At this point, I find it hilarious. I laugh, because fans are insane to expect a different result from a person who has been doing the same thing for 20 years. The fans need to demand more.

…Iowa football fans have a track record of incredibly low expectations and an inferiority complex in the Big Ten, which are the reasons Ferentz is still coaching.

Look, there are certainly arguments against extending Kirk Ferentz’s contract, and many have made the case that Iowa could perhaps use changes in approach, whether that’s with more outside-the-box coordinators or recruiters or even a different head coach. But doing so after an 8-5 season that included a decisive 55-24 thumping of then-#3 Ohio State might not be the best timing. Also, Ferentz’s last three seasons have been 12-2, 8-5, 8-5; of course, many would like still better than that, but we’re not talking dismal here, and there have been much rougher times for Iowa during his tenure, such as 2012’s 4-8 campaign.

It’s not the arguing to move on from Ferentz that’s really the hot take, though. That can be done well, and it has been done well, with cases looking at the Hawkeyes’ recruiting rankings, offensive and defensive ranks, and more. Instead, though, Wooden decided to just lob insults at the team’s fans, question the lack of sideline props (?!), and then cite LSU as an example where firing a successful coach has worked out great (which it hasn’t necessarily so far). And what really elevates this is the way he started arguing with critics on Facebook:

Not a great look there, Sonnie.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

2. Danny Kanell wonders if soccer players are “the softest athletes known to man”: If it’s the World Cup, it must be time for pundits from other sports to weigh in on if soccer players are “soft.” Step right up, CBS’ Danny Kanell!

There’s plenty of commentary on diving in soccer, and some of it is fair, but “the softest athletes known to mankind” feels like a bit of a stretch.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

1. Alex Shaw says Japan advanced “under the laughable guise of fair play,” “shamed the World Cup”: Japan and Senegal finished tied for second in Group H with equal goal differentials, so Japan advanced based off the far-down fair play tiebreaker, as they had four yellow cards to Senegal’s six. And boy, did that produce plenty of takes, with perhaps the most fiery coming from Alex Shaw, an editor. Here are some highlights from his “Japan’s ‘fair play’ yellow card victory leaves a sour taste for Senegal” piece (a headline that actually undersells just how mad online he is; the “Japan shame World Cup yet profit from ‘fair play'” shorter headline in the sidebar is more accurate):

What an irony it was to see Japan celebrate going through to the knockout rounds of the World Cup on Thursday afternoon, under the laughable guise of “fair play”. They shamed the World Cup, by literally not even trying towards the end of their 1-0 defeat to Poland.

Ridiculously, infuriatingly and improbably, Japan broke Senegal hearts, by virtue of collecting two fewer yellow cards than their Group F rivals, four to six.

That meant, in the eyes of the rulemakers, Japan had played fairer than Senegal across three group stage matches and into the next round they go, along with their flagrant disregard for the purest thing in football: trying your best, respecting the opposition and giving your all.

With around 15 minutes to go in Volograd, Japan dawdled on the half way line against a Poland side already going home, already winning the game and hardly in a mood to break sweat and win the ball back. For Japan, all they needed to do is protect a 1-0 deficit as long as they didn’t pick up any more yellow cards, or a red. With Colombia beating Senegal, everything between Japan and Aliou Cisse’s men was level. At times it resembled the old Monty Python sketch — all that was missing were the elaborate costumes.

Something was needed to split the two and FIFA stated before the tournament that fair play would be the tiebreaker. Someone has to go through, after all. Japan won’t care — they’ll rightly point out they have adhered to the rules of the game and profited from it. But it sticks in the craw for someone to be rewarded so richly by playing poverty football. There’s surely a better way to settle things than this?

…Japan lost more than 1-0 on Thursday, though. They may have won a route to the last 16 but they lost their respect for football and the World Cup.

In any sport, there will be teams “literally not even trying” when they don’t need to do more for a certain outcome. We regularly see that in games at the end of a long regular season, or in games where a lead’s insurmountable. And in a tournament like this, it happens a lot, especially where teams are angling for get a second-place finish that comes with a matchup they prefer. But there are much more blatant examples like England – Belgium, where both sides were arguably trying to lose; Japan wasn’t trying to lose here, they just didn’t need to press for an equalizer given that they controlled the tiebreaker.

So it made sense for Japan to be content with a 1-0 scoreline, and not risk allowing a second goal from Poland, which would have meant Senegal going through instead. In fact, from a certain point of view, Japan was absolutely trying; they were trying to maximize their chances of a spot in the knockout rounds, and their conservative approach seemed to them to be the best way to do that. Could they have advanced by pressing for a goal of their own? Sure. But that would have come with the risk of another Polish goal off the counterattack, or perhaps even with the risk of yellow cards that messed up the tiebreaker.

And as per that tiebreaker, many may not like it, but a tiebreaking match isn’t practical given the tournament’s schedule. (And neither are tiebreaking penalty kicks, as the two sides that wind up tied often aren’t in the same city.) Yes, elements like goal differential, goals for, and head-to-head result are better, but that’s why they’re used first. Fair play’s only to separate teams that wind up tied after the other tiebreakers. And it’s more related to the competition than, say, flipping a coin, and everyone knows it’s the rule in advance, so you can certainly play to try and be careful of cards.

In any case, criticizing the fair play tiebreaker can be fair, but those criticisms are better if you offer an alternative solution, which Shaw doesn’t. And what’s really hot here is not bashing the tiebreaker, but saying that Japan “lost their respect for football” and “shamed the World Cup.” No, they did what they needed to maximize their chances of advancing, rather than focus on winning or drawing a particular match. From the longer vantage point, that is “giving your all.”

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Honorable mentions: CBC/Sportsnet personality Don Cherry bashing Alexander Yakushev’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction, The Athletic San Francisco’s John Middlekauff complaining about California bottle deposits and plastic bag charges.

Hot Take Standings:

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 206
Skip Bayless – 175
Phil Mushnick – 142
Colin Cowherd – 66
Rob Parker – 38
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Doug Gottlieb – 28
Albert Breer – 23
Ray Lewis – 21
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Britt McHenry – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Dan Shaughnessy – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Ben Maller – 12
Tony Massarotti – 11
Jason McIntyre – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Danny Kanell – 10
Darren Rovell – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Andy Benoit – 7
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Alex Shaw – 5
Rick Reilly – 5
Randall Mell – 5
Ian O’Connor – 5
Michael Bamberger – 5
Bob Bubka – 5
Cathal Kelly – 5
Pete Prisco – 5
Damien Cox – 5
Bill Simons – 5
Christine Flowers – 5
Jason Lieser – 5
John Steigerwald – 5
Josh Peter – 5
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Chuck Modiano – 5
Joel Klatt – 5
Steve Buffery – 5
Joe Morgan – 5
Michael Felger – 5
Howard Eskin – 5
Nancy Armour – 5
Richard Justice – 5
John Middlekauff – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
John McGrath – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 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
Mark Kiszla – 4
Greg Witter – 4
Myron Medcalf  – 4
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Bill Livingston – 4
Michael Irvin – 4
Shawn Windsor – 4
Brock Huard – 4
Byron Tau – 4
Maggie Gray – 4
Michael Powell – 4
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
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Sonnie Wooden – 3
Chris Jones – 3
Kelly Smith – 3
Michael Wilbon – 3
Reggie Miller – 3
Mark Madden – 3
Larry Brooks – 3
Dan Canova – 3
Steve Rosenbloom – 3
Stephen Jackson – 3
Mike Sando – 3
Walt Borla – 3
Chris Russo  – 3
Nick Cafardo – 3
Ice Cube – 3
Justin Peters – 3
Elise Finch – 3
Kevin Skiver  – 3
David Bahnsen – 3
Harold Reynolds – 3
Kevin Reynolds – 3
Mike Sheahan – 3
Bob Ford – 3
Steve Greenberg – 3
Matt Burke – 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
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Ben Mulroney – 2
Ron Cook – 2
Brian Kenny – 2
Barrett Sallee – 2
Craig Calcaterra – 2
Max Kellerman – 2
Gareth Wheeler – 2
John Cornyn – 2
Tony Dungy – 2
Bruce Jenkins – 2
Chris Wesseling – 2
Seth Greenberg – 2
Doug Smith – 2
Newsweek – 2
Teddy Cutler – 2
Will Cain – 2
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
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 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.