This Week In Hot Takes for March 23-29.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re looking at the hottest sports media takes from March 23-29.

5. Craig Calcaterra suggests baseball has a demographic problem because of…fish oil supplement ads? There’s been plenty of discussion about the average age of baseball’s televised audience over the years, with 2017 Sports Business Journal data showing that average audience as age 57 in 2016, fourth-oldest amongst sports considered (behind the PGA Tour, the ATP Tour, and NASCAR). There certainly can be some analysis of that, and some thoughts on how that’s going. And then there’s suggesting that baseball’s in demographic trouble because of…fish oil supplement ads, something Craig Calcaterra (of NBC’s Hardball Talk) tossed out there Thursday.

This is a hot take for several reasons. For one thing, fish oil supplements aren’t only used by older people; they may be predominantly so, but they’re not exclusively so. Beyond that,  discussing demographics of an audience based on individual ads is a bad idea, as media buys have a whole lot of complicating factors going on beyond audience age, from larger deals with a network through attempts to reach viewers with certain interests. And even if you restrict it just to age, even products that see most of their sales to older people might advertise on a particular program to try and attract younger customers; a given ad isn’t necessarily a sign a program is “for the olds.”

It’s also notable that just about every sports broadcast has a fair bit of older viewers and at least some ads that could be described as likely targeting an older audience. So, if they’re proof a sport has a demographic problem, just about every sport has one. And beyond that, even if you accept all of Calcaterra’s problematic assumptions (fish oil is for old people, its marketers are only trying to reach old people, this indicates baseball has a demographic problem), the Opening Day broadcasts he was talking about would likely skew older than the average baseball broadcast because they’re aired on a weekday during work hours.

Should baseball be worried about aging viewers? Absolutely, as should most sports. (Young viewers aren’t always perfect either, though, especially considering how the millennials have allegedly blown all their money on avocado toast, or more accurately, never had it in the first place.) There’s maybe a case that baseball should be more concerned than some other sports given that 2016 viewership data, but it’s far from the only sport with demographic worries. And “Fish oil ads on Opening Day = demographic problem” is a hell of a take, and one that’s taking a thread and sewing a sweater on it.

Rating: ??

4. Skip Bayless has all the hot LeBron takes: It’s far from surprising that FS1’s Bayless is again bashing LeBron James, but he did take it to an interesting level this week. First, Bayless somehow suggested that injuries to Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving (Curry may well be back before the Finals, the first point at which James’ Cavaliers could face him, and Irving could also potentially be back before a hypothetical Celtics-Cavs matchup) give James a “superhighway” to a championship:

Even if there was no Curry or Irving in the playoffs, winning a title is still incredibly hard, and there would still be plenty of obstacles in the way of James and the Cavs. Bayless continued this trend of making other players’ injuries about LeBron later in the week, though:

And that was far from the only LeBron take Bayless dropped this week. He got particularly upset over James tying Michael Jordan’s record for consecutive games with 10+ points:

(That is an excellent freeze frame. Nice finger wag form, Skip.)

Bayless also dropped some takes on this on Twitter:

Stay fiery, Skip.

Rating: ???

3. Phil Mushnick goes off on Michael Bennett and Serena Williams: New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick regularly rants about athletes he doesn’t like (which tends to be anyone other than scrappy white guys), and this time around, he put Michael Bennett and Serena Williams in the crosshairs:

Last week, new Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett — a recidivist cheap-shotter, trash-mouther and dubious social activist — made the rounds, making noise and news, bragging that no one can block him, Eli Manning should run for the hills, and reasoning that it takes bad guys to make good teams.

…Friday, Bennett was indicted by a grand jury for injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic female security attendant he allegedly shoved to the ground — he was a spectator — after last year’s Super Bowl.

Roger “Good Investments” Goodell, a frequent BS artist, just six months ago, after Bennett’s hassle with Vegas police — he had run from the site of a suspected shooting — went on record with, good grief, “Michael Bennett represents the best of the NFL.”

In 2015, despite piles of evidence to the contrary — petulant, vulgar, threatening self-entitled behavior — Sports Illustrated named Serena Williams its “Sportsperson of the Year,” replacing the title “Sportsman of the Year.” Though Williams was already 33, SI noted her “continuing growth” in the right direction.

Last week in the Miami Open, in her fourth match since becoming a mother, Williams was defeated by 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, who claims Williams as her tennis idol.

Afterward, Williams, now 36, again made the SI selection seem ridiculous. She immediately bolted, disregarding rules about answering post-match questions from media that includes SI. But she’s often an ungracious loser, and she can afford the fine, if any.

First, there are all sorts of questions with the Bennett case (including how police in Houston only appear to have started actively working on it after he criticized police in Las Vegas over alleged racial profiling), and Mushnick is (shockingly) portraying it in the worst possible light to try and make someone he doesn’t like (partially for the crime of being, horror of horrors, a “trash-mouther”) look bad. As per Williams, Mushnick is one of the only people still using the words “petulant” and “vulgar” unironically, and that says a lot more about him than it does about her. And an emotional Williams deciding not to take questions after a tough loss really doesn’t matter; it’s understandable, and while there may be a fine for her for violating media policies, who really cares? Pillorying her over this is ridiculous, but that’s right up Mushnick’s usual alley.

Rating: ????

2. Greg Witter says Washington State basketball player Malachi Flynn “should be ashamed of himself” for transferring: There are always some fun hot takes when a player decides to transfer, and Greg Witter of (Scout’s Washington State site) dropped a doozy this week over transferring player Malachi Flynn. Part of what makes this so amazing is Witter’s preamble about how he promised not to do what he’s about to do:

WHEN COUGFAN.COM was founded two decades ago, one of the unwritten rules of coverage was this: always remember that the players are youngsters. The point there being that a mental lapse or other miscue shouldn’t warrant the cutting invective that sports can sometimes  produce.

Coaches, we deemed, are fair game — but student-athletes belong in a different category when it comes to dispensing harsh commentary.

Today, an exception is made.

Malachi Flynn announced on Twitter that he’s leaving Washington State. He offered up a syrupy thanks for everything that omitted the key point: he’s in pursuit of a higher-profile program. Transfers happen, with increasing regularity in college hoops, but Flynn’s decision is just plain unsavory.

…Flynn was given a golden opportunity at Washington State — and for that every day, two-year investment in him by coaches and support staff, Flynn doesn’t repay WSU with gratitude or allegiance. No, he says it’s in “my best interest” to move on.

Mr. Pacific thinks he’s hot stuff now that [head coach Ernie] Kent and his staff have developed him into a bona fide major conference player.

What a pathetic commentary on Flynn’s character. What a pathetic commentary on the state of college basketball.

Mr. Pacific thinks he’s too good to see through the commitment he made to help WSU rebuild the program. Washington State put Malachi Flynn on the map — and the reward for it is a stunning lack of integrity. Flynn ought to be ashamed of himself. He owes an apology to Kent and all of Cougar Nation for taking their goodwill, support and investment and gift wrapping it for whomever he deems worthy enough for his talents.

This is just hilariously bad, and is the real “pathetic commentary” here. NCAA players are allowed to transfer; you’re already not paying them, now you want to ensure that they’re locked in to continuing to enhance your program? Oh, and transfers enhance programs too; does Witter want Washington State to not take players from other schools? The “stunning lack of integrity” comes from a high-and-mighty opinionist who boldly declares he’s not out to be harsh on student-athletes, and then goes and does exactly that for no good reason.

Rating: ????

1. John Steigerwald drops a Neanderthal-level take about men and women: Steigerwald is a former TV sports anchor and newspaper columnist for Pittsburgh-area outlets, and he was previously infamous for wondering if Giants’ fan Bryan Stow’s apparel choice meant he deserved the 2011 beating that put him in a coma, a piece that raised questions like “Is this the worst sports column ever written?” (It even spelled Stow’s name wrong and said he was from the wrong city.) For that, he was selected as Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person Of The Day,” and he hasn’t exactly improved in the seven years since.

More recently, Steigerwald has written for outlets like the Daily Caller (penning great columns like “Discrimination Is Wrong — Except When It’s Not“), done a weekly podcast that appears to have ended two years ago, which featured great episode titles like the most recent “Shut Up And Pitch” (Hey, Laura Ingraham, when you’re done fighting with high-school kids and losing, there’s a dude stealing your bit), and penned a book titled “Just Watch the Game: Stories, opinions and insults from a veteran journalist in America’s best sports town.” (That sounds delightful!) His Twitter bio includes “No apologies for my age,” but what he really should be apologizing for is the weapons-grade idiocy he unleashed this week:

Let’s go through that bit by bit. First, tools “invented by men.” The modern computer as a whole owes a lot to brilliant women like Ada Lovelace, Grace HopperElizebeth Smith Friedman, Susan Kare, Radia Perlman, Barbara Liskov and many more. Wi-Fi in particular, which Steigerwald may have used to send that tweet, is built upon a frequency-hopping patent issued to Hedy Lamarr (and George Antheil). And those women, and many more, found incredible success in technology despite massive barriers and the retrograde attitudes of trogdolytes like Steigerwald, who as far as we can tell, has not invented a single thing. So really, he’s whining using tools invented by women.

Beyond that, the rest of this is also absurd. Women can and do design and build buildings, work for utility companies, and install cables. And if Steigerwald thinks it’s just women criticizing patriarchy and regressive attitudes, he’s very wrong there too. It’s not entirely surprising that a moron who argued that a beaten fan deserved it for his jersey choice has dumb and factually incorrect takes on gender roles, but this is still an insane level of heat for a take. And it’s not just this week’s hottest take, but the hottest one in some time.

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 180
Skip Bayless – 144
Phil Mushnick – 120
Colin Cowherd – 49
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Rob Parker – 29
Doug Gottlieb – 22
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Ray Lewis – 16
Albert Breer – 16
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Keith Olbermann – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Dan Shaughnessy – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Danny Kanell – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
John Steigerwald – 5
Josh Peter – 5
Darren Rovell – 5
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
Greg Witter – 4
Myron Medcalf  – 4
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
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
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.