Nancy Armour led the way in the hottest takes from Sept. 29-Oct. 5.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes. This time around, we’re breaking down the hottest sports media takes from Sept. 29-Oct. 5. 

5. Skip Bayless says LeBron James “should be disqualified (from MVP consideration) because of his lack of competition.” MVP discussions are often interesting for the knots media members will twist themselves into to argue that the award shouldn’t simply go to the player who put up the best performance. That’s where we get fun things like only considering players on playoff teams, bringing in widely-debunked “clutch” statistics, and in the latest case, eliminating a superstar from MVP consideration before the NBA season even starts because he happens to play in what looks like a weaker conference:

“I do think LeBron has a shot this year because voters give him a pass, they love him, they want him to win.” (Shannon Sharpe interjects “Give him a pass on what?”) “On everything he says and does that hurts his basketball team, like ‘I don’t have enough help, we’re top-heavy as you know what.” (Sharpe interjects “And they were.) “So, maybe on career achievement he’s got a shot, maybe on sympathy vote he’s got a shot, because I think a lot of the people who vote here are starting to think it’s just pathetic that poor LeBron James has lost five Finals, and he’s probably going to lose a sixth Finals. So just on the sympathy vote, he’s got a shot. I think it would just be a good story, and people are going to get into it.”

“It’s like [Penn State running back] Saquon Barkley, ‘Oh, he’s the front-runner.’ Because of what? And I think LeBron’s going to be the front-runner going in. Because of what? I’ve got a bunch of questions to ask here. First of all, yesterday, you told me you love the new all-star system because the East is all-time pathetic, it is the starless East. So how can we have a MVP who gets to play in the East? He should be disqualified because of his lack of competition. It’s so much harder for Kawhi [Leonard] to win it in the West because his degree of difficulty is much higher than the East.”

Considering the competition a player faces isn’t ridiculous in and of itself, but disqualifying him from MVP consideration before the season even begins is something else. Yes, if a player puts up insane stats against only the worst teams out there and struggles against good teams, that probably would be a factor weighed against them in MVP voting. But even that isn’t a purely disqualifying factor. And it hasn’t actually happened yet. Disqualifying someone from a MVP race before the season starts is insane, as it’s saying “nothing they possibly do could change my mind.” Even if James averaged 60 points a night and a triple-double, Bayless still wouldn’t support him for MVP by this logic. (And that’s probably true, but it says more about Bayless than James.)

Rating: ??

4. Steve Greenberg thinks Bryce Harper should smile more. There’s long been major backlash against telling women to smile more, and that logic isn’t necessarily much better when applied to a male athlete. That’s what Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times did Thursday, pulling out the old local columnist standby of “criticize opposing star, make unflattering comparison of him to local star,” but doing so by saying that Washington Nationals’ right fielder Bryce Harper should copy Chicago Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant’s facial expressions. Here are the highlights of “What’s with the poker face, Bryce Harper? Just smile like Kris Bryant“:

Six minutes and eight seconds.

That’s how long superstar right fielder Bryce Harper spent with a cluster of playoff media Thursday in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park. And, boy, were we ever entertained. For 6:08, he answered questions in unbroken monotone. For 6:08, he gave us unflinching expressionlessness.

Is this the NLDS or the World Series of Poker?

…You know that iceberg-melting smile you see on Bryant’s face in photos and on television? He has one of those for everybody he encounters, right down to the pushiest, most annoying writers. And that’s on an everyday basis.

“I pride myself on being a respectable guy that smiles often, even if I don’t want to smile,” Bryant said. “Just treat people respectfully, you know? That’s how I was raised. That’s how my parents treated everybody they ran into, and I learned from them and saw them. So there’s no other way I’d rather be.”

…Harper is doing things his way. It’s not like he isn’t thriving. Hey, whatever works. Although the monotone and the poker face sure aren’t going to win him any popularity contests.

Bryant, meanwhile, figures he’ll stick with the Mr. Nice Guy routine no matter how outsized the attention and demands that come his way.

This is a poor take on a number of levels. First, who is Greenberg (or any media personality, for that matter) to tell Harper what his facial expressions should be like? What possible impact does that have on his play, which is what we’re supposed to be talking about, right? Most general managers would probably be thrilled with a guy who hit .319/.413/.595 with 4.8 wins above replacement (by Fangraphs) regardless of his facial expression. Yes, Bryant produced an even better 6.7 WAR thanks to superior defensive contributions, but that isn’t really about his smile. And it’s odd for a media member to be telling an athlete they cover not just that they should feel a certain way (joyful), but that they should be expressing that outwardly.

Beyond that, this goes to show one of the oft-complained-about perils of access-based coverage, where players’ personalities and interactions with specific media members impact how they’re viewed. That’s led to plenty of glowing profiles of “nice guys” who are supposedly “good in the room” but can’t contribute worth a lick in competition, what they’re supposedly actually paid for, and has also produced plenty of unfair criticisms of superstars who don’t happen to get along with the media in general particular media members, often based around spurious off-field commentary. (See Steve Simmons, Phil Kessel and hot dogs, or any of the many people who went in on Marshawn Lynch for not answering Super Bowl media day questions.)

This also leads to some terrible logic for Hall of Fame ballots in various sports, such as Woody Paige writing why he’d vote for friend Goose Gossage “even if he wasn’t deserving.” Whether Harper smiles, gives good quotes, or is nice to the media is completely irrelevant to his on-field play. And maybe he isn’t wrong to not be thrilled about spending six minutes and eight seconds answering questions from people who think “smile more” is appropriate advice for a professional athlete. (Or anyone, for that matter.)

Rating: ???

3. Phil Mushnick hits the MLB/ESPN/late-game bashing trifecta: New York Post columnist Mushnick has become so predictable and stale in his bashing of late games that jokes were flying around about his anticipated column on Tuesday night’s New York Yankees-Minnesota Twins game long before it ended. Mushnick didn’t disappoint, and managed to blast regular foes MLB and ESPN along the way in a column titled “MLB, ESPN combine to make greedy, ugly playoff mess.” Here are some lowlights.

Once, as a matter of common sense and greater-good decency, it would have been impossible, but Tuesday’s Twins at Yankees AL wild-card game began at 8:10 p.m., ESPN-standard time. Eight and one-half innings later, it ended at midnight.

This is the new norm, hard, indisputable evidence of MLB leadership continuing to place money far ahead of the good and long-term welfare of The Game. Still, commissioner Rob Manfred shamelessly declares that MLB’s No. 1 priority is to ensure that America’s children become and remain baseball fans.

…For the past two years, ESPN’s lead MLB trio of Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Jessica Mendoza, with generous portions of Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian “down on the field,” has been met with widespread disgust for the inability to allow even one groundout to occur without a full-blown, multiple-speakers analysis (steeped in “perhaps”) of what just happened and why it happened, and now to an in-game, split-screen taped feature about someone or something.

Surely, if ESPN’s geniuses can’t figure it out for themselves, they have been told. Thus, ESPN either doesn’t care or doesn’t believe it. Or is it that ESPN execs enjoy the way ESPN destroys baseball games?

During Tuesday’s third inning, the Twins, down a run, had first and second with no one out. Yet, for all the non-stop talk, that the Twins, under Paul Molitor, didn’t even attempt a sacrifice bunt — especially in a league with the DH — impossibly went unspoken!

In order: no one cares about your bedtime, Phil, there are time zones outside of Eastern (and people who watch there too, and they often work until 5 p.m. or later, which is why 8 p.m. Eastern is generally considered prime time in the U.S.), the long-term welfare of the game involves more than the preferences of ancient grumpy columnists from New York, 20-plus critical columns from you does not equal “widespread disgust” or “destroying baseball games,” and stop bunting. Oh, and Mushnick managed to be typically dumb about the NCAA scandal too, throwing around “sneaker pimps” and saying that shoe companies are ruining sports…because of gray and black uniforms?

Rating: ???

2. Colin Cowherd calls Philadelphia “the dumbest sports city in America”: No one does more team/city/regional/country trolling without much evidence than Cowherd,  and he was in fine form on that front again this week, going after Philadelphia for…not properly appreciating Andy Reid?

I mean, even the Philadelphia Eagles had a more logical response than Cowherd’s take here:

The Comeback’s Kevin McGuire had an in-depth refutation of Cowherd’s points, in a piece titled “I am a Philadelphia sports fan, and Colin Cowherd is a misinformed idiot.” Here’s his conclusion:

So maybe we are dumb in Philadelphia, because how else would you explain getting all hot and bothered by some radio blowhard in a cushy Los Angeles studio who has to stoop so low to make the same tired lame jokes about whatever team he happens to set his sights on?

So go ahead and attack us from your radio studio and behind the TV cameras, Cowherd, because you can feel secure lobbing verbal jabs at a market with no interest in listening to your show, and you will not have the courage to come on a local sports radio show to defend your ridiculous comments. We can take it, because we’ve heard it all before. Your rant was nothing more than the recycled garbage that has been hurled our way far too many times over the years by voices more creative and unique than you anyway. We may have our faults, but at least one of them isn’t bowing to your ignorance and pompous jackassery of a clown show just because you are a national radio guy.

The really amazing part is that Cowherd has continually insulted the intelligence of certain regions (Philadelphia, the Midwest, Iowa, New Orleans, etc, etc) that have plenty of theoretical listeners and viewers. And yet, he still somehow has a show.

Rating: ?????

1. Nancy Armour calls LaVar Ball “the worst sports parent ever”: It’s relatively likely that a piece stating “X is the worst Y ever” is going to have some problems with it, but this one, from USA Today‘s Armour, is particularly bad. Some lowlights from “It’s official: LaVar Ball is worst sports parent ever“:

LaVar Ball has done what once seemed impossible.

Not create the world’s greatest basketball player – the jury will be out on that for a while, though early indications are not promising. Nor did he create a model athletic experience or dynasty that will be remembered for years to come.

No, what Ball has done is finally supplant Marv Marinovich as the worst sports parent ever, a title Marinovich had a lock on for 30 some years.

Until now, Ball has been a caricature with his outlandish claims and delusional view of his and his sons’ talents, the basketball equivalent of a Kardashian. With his announcement Monday that he is pulling youngest son LaMelo out of high school so he can make him “the best basketball player ever,” Ball crossed into troubling territory.

These are children he’s raising, not commodities, and the ramifications are huge when a parent forgets there’s a difference.

First, if Marv Marinovich is your standard for “worst ever,” you might want to look a little further. What about Thomas Junta, who beat another father to death at a hockey practice and was convicted of manslaughter? Or Wanda Holloway, who tried to hire a hitman to kill the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival? Or parent and coach Martin Tremblay, who tripped a 13-year old in a hockey handshake line and spent 15 days in jail? Even if you’re limiting it to somewhat-famous people, there’s everyone from Mitch Williams to Sean “Diddy” Combs to discuss. But beyond that, homeschooling a kid is far from the worst thing someone can do. Sure, Ball’s actions and motivations can be questioned, but declaring that this makes him the worst parent ever is insane. Even Stephen A. Smith agrees:

When overall This Week In Hot Takes leader Stephen A. thinks you’ve gone too far, you know you have a problem.

Rating: ?????

Notable absences: Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Rob Parker.

Hot Take Standings: 

Stephen A. Smith – 128
Skip Bayless – 107
Phil Mushnick – 81
Colin Cowherd – 39
Shannon Sharpe – 30
Rob Parker – 21
Charles Barkley – 19
Doug Gottlieb – 18
JT The Brick – 17
Albert Breer – 16
Don Cherry – 15
Ray Lewis – 14
Rick Morrissey – 13
Kristine Leahy – 10
Chris Broussard – 10
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Bill Plaschke – 9
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Danny Kanell – 7
Dan Dakich – 7
Michael DeCourcy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Nancy Armour – 5
Richard Justice – 5
John Middlekauff – 5
Garth Crooks – 5
Bill Plaschke – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
Jeremy Roenick – 5
John McGrath – 5
Ross Tucker  – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Bob Brookover – 5
Berry Tramel – 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
Frank Isola – 5
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
Steve Greenberg – 3
Matt Burke – 3
Michael Rapaport – 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
Mike Francesa – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
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
Dan Wolken – 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.