Rob Parker talks LeBron's pool party on Undisputed.

Sports media takes many forms, though, as evidenced by the rise of Stephen A. Smith and other pioneers of the debate genre, the ability to churn out “hot takes” might be the most coveted skill in a broadcaster’s toolbox. If you’re committed enough to the bit, defending your argument—no matter how outlandish—with conviction and a performative flourish, odds are, you’ll have an audience.

What that says about our collective entertainment tastes is troubling to say the least, though for aspiring broadcasters in search of relevance, the hot-take business—if you can stomach it—has proven time and again to be the surest path to media stardom. USC’s prestigious Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism just finished hosting its annual “Broadcaster U” with NBA alums Craig Smith, Will Barton, Shelvin Mack, Alan Williams and Norense Odiase getting a crash course in hot-takery from polarizing Fox Sports host Rob Parker.

“It’s okay to be wrong,” said Parker, advising his students to lean into conflict with “meme-able” opinions that incite visceral responses from viewers watching on the edge of their seat. “If we all agree that LeBron is the greatest player ever, what conversation are we having? Do you know what I mean? There’s nothing going on here, and no one’s going to watch it.”

When asked if his takes were genuine or contrived, Parker said he and Chris Broussard, his cohost on The Odd Couple, flesh out their arguments before going to air, only debating topics they disagree on. Odiase, a journeyman center who averaged 4.8 points per game in the G League last season, admitted to being “uncomfortable” with this concept, overwhelmed by the ethical dilemma of voicing a contrarian opinion, merely for the sake of argument. Barton showed similar trepidation, critical of the debate format that’s become so popular in recent years.

“If you haven’t played you don’t really know what the guy’s going through,” Barton expressed to New York Times reporter Sopan Deb. “I feel like a lot of guys try to do that so they could go viral or feel like they’re a bigger asset to whatever company they’re working with because it’s entertainment.”

While sports media’s descent into argument culture can be problematic, muddying the discourse by rewarding the loudest voice in the room, the unfortunate reality is that it’s here to stay, a necessary evil in a business that increasingly prioritizes entertainment over nuanced analysis

[New York Times]

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.