The hottest takes of 2018.

2018 has been quite the year for hot sports takes. Last week, we went away from the usual hot take recap for a look at the best sports stories of the year; this time, we’re looking at the opposite, the absolute hottest takes of the year. Here are our picks for the top 10.

10. Rich Lowry called soccer “fundamentally flawed,” baseball “the purest sport” because “it relies less on subjective umpire calls” : There were plenty of ridiculous soccer takes this year, from Alex Shaw saying Japan “shamed the World Cup” by advancing on the fair play tiebreaker to Alexi Lalas claiming America’s diversity “poses our biggest challenge to putting a successful soccer team on a field.” However, the most absurd of all may have come from National Review editor Lowry during the World Cup. If he’d just chosen to bash soccer, this wouldn’t have stood out so much, but Lowry instead decided to argue that baseball was a better sport because it “relies less on subjective umpire calls,” in a piece titled “Soccer Is A Fundamentally Flawed Game“:

The problem from my amateur’s point of view is that the regular action in soccer can’t be relied on to create scoring. So a lot of it happens as a result of interruptions in play and referee calls — on corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks.

And then there are the penalty kicks. They have much too much of an element of randomness since the goaltender has to guess which way to jump. This is absurd and makes ending a tied game on penalty kicks a travesty.

In this sense, baseball is the purest sport. It relies less on subjective umpire calls, especially now with replay (and laser strike zones will eventually bring more certainty to ball-and-strike calls). There’s not a big routine penalty that affects play. And there’s no way for a team to go into a defensive crouch and sit on a lead or otherwise game the clock. It’s 27 outs for each team, no set pieces or fakery necessary.

Ah, yes, the sport where literally every ball, strike, safe or out is a subjective call made by a human being, with balls and strikes not even subject to video review. That’s the true paragon of objective measurement right there. If only soccer could reach those levels.

9. David Hookstead argued the Browns should be “concerned” that Baker Mayfield got engaged: We often see pundits opining on athletes’ personal lives for some reason, but one of the strangest comments there came from Hookstead of the Daily Caller, who argued that the Browns should be “concerned” that…Baker Mayfield got engaged before the season?

Some highlights from that piece:

Baker Mayfield got engaged to his girlfriend Emily Wilkinson over the weekend, and it might be a cause for concern.

First off, congrats to Mayfield and his future wife. I’m always happy to see other people living their best life and being happy. Getting married is obviously a huge step in a person’s life.

Having said that, I’m not sure this was such a smart thing to do. Mayfield has known the blonde bombshell for about six months. That’s not exactly a long time. Second, he’s about to be the face of one of the most depressing franchises in all of pro sports. He hasn’t even thrown a pass yet, and he’s already focused on marrying a woman he’s known for a few months. Seems a bit quick.

If I was the Browns general manager or head coach, I wouldn’t be loving this at all. I want Mayfield focused on slinging touchdowns. Now, I’m not saying he shouldn’t get married. I’m simply stating that maybe he should slow down a little bit. Let’s focus on getting a year of football under our belt before we rush off to get married.

As we all know, Hookstead was proven completely right. Mayfield was so distracted by his engagement that he played terribly, and the Browns had yet another winless season. Wait…I’m getting a report that that isn’t true at all. How strange.

8. Ray Lewis said Odell Beckham Jr. “has removed God from his life” and “Where there’s no God, there’s chaos”: Speaking of diving into athletes’ personal lives, Fox’s Ray Lewis decided to debate Odell Beckham Jr.’s faith this April on FS1. Colin Cowherd asked Lewis what he’d tell Beckham if they sat down for 10 minutes (presumably in relation to the criticism Beckham took in March after a model posted a photo from a hotel with him and potential drugs; it never led to any legal or NFL punishment for Beckham), and Lewis went on one of his bizarre rants about religion:

“Where there’s no God, there’s chaos. Odell has removed God from his life. This is a kid who grew up under the covenant of who God really is. And everything that he’s doing, he’s crying out for help.”

“…We have a lot of people reporting about it, but it’s always been the duty of elders to go back to help him. So that’s why I raised my hand. And I told him, ‘I’m here [for] whatever you need.'”

“…It’s the commitment he started to make. So we started to make those phone calls, we started to have conversation. And then I started to see [that] he started to distance himself a little more, a little more, and a little more. And the moment — just listen to me, Colin, I don’t care about religion, I’m talking about a foundation. When your foundation is disturbed, when everything you’re doing is the opposite of what’s got you to this place, then you’re making your own bed hard.”

Ah, yes, the man known for his guilty plea to obstruction of justice after the murders of two men really should be the life counselor to a man who has never been criminally charged with anything. (And let’s not forget the questionable supplements.) Hopefully Beckham can one day find the off-field stability Lewis is known for.

7. Stephen A. Smith called viewers “idiots” for believing his alleged reporting on Dan Gilbert wanting to sell the Cavs: Some of the year’s funniest moments came from ESPN’s Smith trying to portray himself as a reporter, only for it to go badly. The best case of all came in January, where Smith claimed “What [Cavs owner] Dan Gilbert wants to do, from what I’m being told, is sell the team.” Big scoop, right? Well, other sites discussed Smith’s claim, but his own network completely disregarded it, Gilbert refuted it, and Smith then followed up by saying he didn’t actually report that and people who believed it were idiots.

“Well, first of all, I wanted to say to the folks out there that wanted to misinterpret, be idiots if you want to, I have no problem with it whatsoever, that’s why I have this platform, I have no problem calling you out. I happen to believe that I’m somebody that has a strong command of the English language, that I can articulate and elocute myself clearly. I did not say that ‘Dan Gilbert, oh my goodness, he’s going to trade him.’ What I said was is that LeBron James, I have been told, LeBron James is of the mindset that ‘Why should I sit up there and try and re-up for three to five years with this man when the man is going to try and probably sell the team after I sign up, because the team is far more valuable with me on it than with me off it.” That’s what I’m talking about!”

“So we don’t know whether or not Dan Gilbert is going to definitively sell the team.”

That’s not at all what you said, Stephen A., so maybe your belief that you can articulate and elocute yourself clearly is misplaced. (As are many of your other beliefs.) But hey, he’s not wrong on one thing; perhaps “be idiots if you want to” is a fair description for watching First Take and taking Stephen A.’s attempted reporting seriously.

6. Dan Shaughnessy blamed Red Sox slump on renaming of Yawkey Way, David Price’s hand issues on Fortnite: Boston Globe columnist Shaughnessy had plenty of ridiculous takes this year, but his highlight came in May, where he not only criticized David Price for playing video games and said that was to blame for his hand issues (it wasn’t), but also said the Red Sox slump at that point was thanks to Boston’s decision to rename Yawkey Way (around controversy of former owner Tom Yawkey’s segregationist policies):

Since the day Shaughnessy showed the world what an utter idiot he is, the Red Sox went 86-45, posted a MLB-best 108-54 record overall, and won the World Series. Just sayin’.

5. Skip Bayless said it would have been “blasphemous” to suggest Michael Jordan was ever tired, forgetting that he did: It’s always delightful when hot-take artists forget their previous takes and wind up mocking themselves, and that’s exactly what Fox’s Bayless did in June in response to Chauncey Billups’ comments about LeBron James looking “tired” in the NBA Finals. Bayless went off on this on Twitter as a way to argue for the millionth time that Michael Jordan was better than LeBron:

The only problem, Skippy? People have access to your archives:

“This will be remembered as the night Michael Jordan was mortal. This was his night, his game, his fourth quarter, and Michael Jordan got tired.” Ah, Skip, you old blasphemer, you!

4. John Steigerwald argued women are “whining using tools invented by men”: There were lots of stupid takes on gender roles this year, including Matt Walsh’s “What happened to gender equality?!” in the wake of the Kareem Hunt video, but the take former Pittsburgh-area TV anchor and sports columnist John Steigerwald (previously known as the subject of a 2011 piece asking “Is this the worst sports column ever written?” dropped in March stands out for how easily refutable it is:

Contrary to your tweet, John, there are plenty of women who do build buildings and install electric cables. But beyond that, there are a whole lot of women responsible for the technology behind computers, phones, WiFi and more. So Steigerwald is really “whining using tools invented by women.” And he hasn’t invented anything on his own, except some really stupid takes.

3. Phil Mushnick described Michigan-Michigan State pre-game shoving as “a prison-yard riot,” called Devin Bush “a crazed, escaped beast”: We could fill a whole column with ridiculous takes from New York Post curmudgeon Phil Mushnick this year, from bashing Lil’ Wayne as a “low-life rapper” to hating on three-pointers, the WWE, and touchdown celebrations. But the hottest take from Mushnick fit into his long history of remarks with problematic racial connotations. In November, he weighed in on pre-game shoving ahead of the Michigan-Michigan State clash, and compared Michigan linebacker Devin Bush to “a crazed, escaped beast”:

ESPN’s demolitionists went to work Saturday afternoon when its college football studio aired footage of a pregame Michigan-Michigan State turf war that resembled a prison-yard riot on the boil prior to the start of the sanctioned turf war between hate-fueled, adult-guided student-athletes.

When the group hassle ended, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush ripped free of his teammates’ restraints and, like a crazed, escaped beast, ran to the on-field Michigan State logo to tear and scrape at it with his cleats.

Disturbing, sick.

This sparked a “Race-Baiting Troll Phil Mushnick Is Really Reaching For Excuses To Be Racist Now” reaction, which about sums it up.

2. John Moody claimed the United States Olympic Committee is trying to fill “quotas” for a “Darker, Gayer, Different” motto, then left his job: It’s incredibly rare when a take we spotlight leads to any consequences for the person who said it; most of the people who make incredibly stupid comments have enabling bosses who are just fine with that. But sometimes, someone really does go out with a bang.

In February, Fox News executive vice president and editor John Moody reacted to a Washington Post story discussing the United States Olympic Committee’s efforts to find more diverse Winter Olympians (through programs to help those from backgrounds with economic or time challenges get involved with or stick with winter sports, or to target top athletes in some other sports to potentially switch to winter sports that might be a good fit for them, thus providing more competitors in those sports for U.S. Olympic berths and raising the medal chances of the U.S. team overall) in hilariously ill-informed and over-the-top fashion.

In a column on Fox News’ website, Moody argued that the USOC valued “quotas” over winning, which is dumb; the whole program is about winning, and about creating a larger pool from which to find the best possible athletes. And it should be noted that even with those efforts, the 243-person team had 10 African-American athletes and 10 Asian-American athletes, a combined less than 10 percent, with most of the rest white. But Moody argued that the USOC wanted a motto of “Darker, Gayer, Different”:

Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to “Darker, Gayer, Different.” If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work.

A USOC official was quoted this week expressing pride (what else?) about taking the most diverse U.S. squad ever to the Winter Olympics. That was followed by a, frankly, embarrassing laundry list of how many African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes are on this year’s U.S. team. No sport that we are aware of awards points – or medals – for skin color or sexual orientation.

For the current USOC, a dream team should look more like the general population. So, while uncomfortable, the question probably needs to be asked: were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do, or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B and C?

…Insisting that sports bow to political correctness by assigning teams quotas for race, religion or sexuality is like saying that professional basketball goals will be worth four points if achieved by a minority in that sport – white guys, for instance –  instead of the two or three points awarded to black players, who make up 81 percent of the NBA. Any plans to fix that disparity? Didn’t think so.

Moody completely whiffed on a lot of the facts there, including the USOC not being involved in selecting Olympic athletes (that’s the national sports federations), and he appears to have just made up the idea of “quotas.” This column was so bad and provoked so much reaction that it got pulled by Fox News with a statement of “John Moody’s column does not reflect the views or values of FOX News and has been removed.” And less than a month later, Moody left the company, with Fox saying in a statement that he’d retired. Maybe that’s completely coincidental, or maybe it isn’t. At any rate, this sure was an amazing exit.

1.  David Booth responds to Nike’s Kaepernick campaign with “does this mean you can fly a plane into a building?”: There were tons of hot takes on Colin Kaepernick this year, but perhaps the hottest came not from a sports pundit, but from a former NHL player. In September, David Booth reacted to the “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” campaign Nike did with Kaepernick by…suggesting that would justify 9/11?

Right. That sure led to some funny dunking on Booth, though:

Congratulations on the hottest take of 2018, David. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. We award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.