This Week In Hot Takes Feb 16-22

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re looking at the hottest sports media takes from Feb. 16-22.

5. Gareth Wheeler wants to eliminate Olympic women’s hockey: Women’s hockey at the Olympics has seen the gold and silver medals won by the U.S. and Canada every year it’s been contested, with the U.S. taking gold in 1998 and again this year and Canada winning in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. But rather than discussing how to help other countries become more competitive and grow the sport overall, some media personalities have decided the better approach is “Get rid of Olympic women’s hockey.” The latest there is TSN Radio’s Gareth Wheeler:

That tweet got 90 replies, two retweets and eight likes, which is quite the ratio. Wheeler later tried to say he was just asking the question, a bad excuse we’ve previously seen in Canadian media circles:

It should be noted that the 1998 Winter Olympics saw only six teams compete, and the U.S. and Canada both went undefeated (except for Canadian losses to the U.S. in the round-robin and the final), with goal differentials of +23 and +19 respectively if you don’t consider the games against each other. The 2018 tournament had eight teams, and its format was designed to help further grow the game and avoid blowouts; the top teams played in Pool A, with the two best getting a bye to the semifinals and the bottom two facing the top two from the less-competitive Pool B. And that produced some improvements; while it again saw the U.S. and Canada go undefeated except for games against each other (Canada won in the round-robin, the U.S. won in the final), the goal differentials for games not against each other were +12 and +13 respectively, and the biggest blowout either recorded was 5-0.

The tournament overall showed significant progress from bronze medalists Finland, fourth-place finishers Russia and fifth-place finishers Switzerland (who actually recorded the biggest blowout of the Games with an 8-0 win over the unified Korean team).  They won’t necessarily beat the top two yet, but there are plenty of Olympic sports dominated by particular countries, and having women’s hockey at the Olympics does appear to be growing the sport overall. Pulling out of the Olympics would probably have an adverse effect on global women’s hockey participation and competitiveness. And beyond that, do you really want to take the incredible prize of Olympic gold away from the U.S. and Canadian athletes who have trained for it forever? For a sport played on a sheet of frozen water, this is an awfully hot take.

Rating: ??

4. Cathal Kelly says Canadian women’s curling team “dropped the ball,” ignores curling history: Continuing on in the vein of Olympic hot takes from Canadian media personalities, here’s a doozy from noted hot-take artist Cathal Kelly of The Globe And Mail. After the Canadian women’s curling team’s loss to Great Britain Wednesday eliminated them from contention for the medal round, Kelly wrote a gem of an article titled “Canada’s Olympic women’s curling team will be remembered for one thing: dropping the curling ball.” Never mind that there’s no ball in curling, make that tortured metaphor work! And the body of the article had plenty of heat, too:

Leading 5-4, Canada collapsed mentally and physically – allowing the Brits to load up the house, then inadvertently hitting guards and missing takeout shots. Homan still had a chance to steal something at the end, but wasn’t close. Britain won 6-5.

…Going from a historic run through the sport to five losses in eight games isn’t bad luck. It’s an issue of physical performance. It’s a mental collapse. The idea of what it all means gets into your head, and you start thinking about it.

That’s pretty bold of Kelly and all his curling expertise to determine that this was a “mental and physical collapse” rather than a tight loss to a good team. But it gets even better when he turns to history:

Were this any other team in any other sport, you’d shrug and say, “Good try, good effort. This is why they play the games.” But since it is curling in Canada, this feels like the end of an era.

The last time any curler representing this country failed to make the podium at an Olympics, William Lyon Mackenzie King was prime minister. For the first time.

For the non-Canadian history majors out there, Kelly is referring to the 1924 Winter Olympics, the first time curling was contested at the Games. The only problem? Canada didn’t compete there. Only three teams did, and only in men’s curling. Curling was then only a demonstration sport in 1932, 1988 and 1992, and didn’t fully return to the Games until 1998. So that streak is a lot less lengthy than Kelly’s piece might make you think. Oh, and how about his declaration they’ll never be back?

Since no Canadian women’s rink has ever competed twice in a Games, there’s probably no “next time” for Homan. This was a one-off.

Yes, there’s fierce competition to win the Canadian curling berths at any Olympics, but Homan is 28, with third Emma Miskew 29, second Joanne Courtney 28, and lead Lisa Weagle 32. They’re all capable of being great curlers for a long while yet, including the 2022 Olympics and beyond. Whether they stay together as a rink that long may be more of a question, but declaring that this is a “one-off” is an awfully bold take, and one that Homan and company may well prove false.

Rating: ???

3. Bill Polian says 6’3” Lamar Jackson is too short to play QB in the NFL, says Browns “got what they deserved” for drafting Johnny Manziel after arguing they should have taken him even higher: 75-year-old ESPN analyst Bill Polian, the former general manager of the Bills, Panthers and Colts, has been in the news this week for a whole bunch of nonsensical takes. First, he became one of the many to argue against Lamar Jackson playing quarterback in the NFL, but did so with the hilarious logic that the 6’3” Jackson is “short.”

“Short, and a little bit slight, and clearly, clearly, not the thrower the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.” Jackson is listed as 6’3” and 212 pounds. And posted a 59.1 per cent completion percentage this past season, well above the 56.3 mark of beloved draft prospect Josh Allen. Maybe find some better coded reasons to bash Jackson there, Bill, because these ones aren’t holding up. But this wasn’t even as hilariously inconsistent as Polian’s take on Manziel:

Remember 2014?

The Browns actually took Manziel at 22. And that didn’t work out, but maybe they did get what they deserve for doing something Polian advocated. And hey, if Polian wants to bash “short” quarterbacks, it’s interesting that he thought the 6’0” Manziel could be a fourth-overall pick.

Rating: ????

2. Greg Gabriel argues that Louisville, where Lamar Jackson played, “does not have a very complex offense”: Speaking of bad Jackson takes, former NFL scout and current Pro Football Weekly writer Greg Gabriel dropped an incredible one this week. First, he started by getting mad at those who dared to criticize Polian:

Former Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian said that he would advise Jackson to switch to playing wide receiver in the NFL.

This brought about a wrath of comments by people on twitter and on various websites, led by Mike Florio from Because of Polian’s comments, that particular website wrote a minimum of four different articles criticizing Polian’s opinion. Isn’t one enough to make your point known?

Personally, although I don’t agree with what Polian said, the fact that people would go out of their way to criticize and lambaste him is utterly ridiculous.

First off, Polian is one of the most successful evaluators in the history of the NFL. As I mentioned above, he has been the general manager of three different franchises and led each of them to a Super Bowl. That led to him being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Agree or not, he is entitled to his opinion and entitled to state that opinion. With his background, Polian’s opinion should also be respected.

Nah, the opinion of a 75-year-old analyst who thinks a 6’3” player is “short” doesn’t necessarily need to be respected. But Gabriel is just fine with counterfactual narratives, as his piece goes on to show:

There have been quarterbacks in recent drafts who had excellent physical traits — including arm strength, size, overall athleticism and even accuracy — but when they were put in a class room situation and asked to explain their offense, they struggled. This has nothing to do with the innate intelligence of the player but everything to do with what type of system the quarterback has played in both high school and college.

Quarterbacks in many of today’s college spread offenses don’t do anything close to what an NFL quarterback has to do as far as making pre-snap reads, changing plays, reading a whole field and going through a multi-receiver progression.

…Louisville does not have a very complex offense. Quarterbacks who come from those types of offenses often struggle when they get into the league. That is why the classroom portion of a private workout will be so important. Following that well-spent time, each club will have a strong understanding of whether it thinks Jackson has what it takes to be a successful quarterback in the NFL.

Louisville is coached by Bobby Petrino, who is not only renowned for his complex offensive schemes but also for his ability to prepare players for the NFL and for his ability to develop quarterbacks. Remember back when Ryan Mallett was a draft prospect out of Arkansas (where Petrino coached at the time), and was widely praised with lines like “Has played in pro-style systems and understands reads and progressions“? Oh, and if you’re going to say that’s now different thanks to a spread or thanks to Jackson’s running ability, consider how frequently Petrino used Jackson under center this season. In any case, play-diagramming expert Chris Brown (of The Essential Smart Football  and The Art of Smart Football fame) pointed this out on Twitter, and Gabriel got into quite the fight about it:

Brown summed this up well later:

For this, Gabriel gets a five-star hot take. And his comments and the way he handled it makes it pretty hard to consider anything he says to be credible.

Rating: ?????

1. Alexi Lalas says diversity “poses our biggest challenge to putting a successful soccer team on the field”: Fox soccer analyst Alexi Lalas is fitting right in with FS1’s motto of embracing hot takes, and he dropped a remarkable one this week:

What’s dumb about this particular take is that Lalas at times makes some logical points (of course the U.S. should have an overall team plan of some sort), but he’s doing so in a way that drops a lot of problematic hints, especially considering his past rant about “underperforming tattooed millionaires” and his long history of bashing players who grew up in different countries. And the latter issue appears to be what he’s really arguing here, although he’s doing it somewhat subtly. But even his claims that national teams should have an “identity” and be chosen from people with similar backgrounds and similar styles are ridiculous historically, as one of Lalas’ Fox colleagues noted:

For that, Lalas gets the hottest take of the week.

Notable absences: Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Phil Mushnick. 

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 177
Skip Bayless – 136
Phil Mushnick – 112
Colin Cowherd – 46
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Rob Parker – 29
Doug Gottlieb – 22
Charles Barkley – 19
JT The Brick – 17
Albert Breer – 16
Don Cherry – 15
Ray Lewis – 14
Bill Plaschke – 14
Rick Morrissey – 13
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Chris Broussard – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Keith Olbermann – 9
Dan Dakich – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Pat Forde – 7
Danny Kanell – 7
Dan Shaughnessy – 6
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Michael DeCourcy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
Steve Simmons – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Britt McHenry – 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
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Andy Benoit – 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
Cris Carter – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Cathal Kelly – 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
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.