Welcome to another week of This Week In Hot Takes, this time examining the hottest takes from Sept. 14-20.

5. Jeff Ermann calls the North Texas fake fair catch a “bush league play”: The 90-yard fake fair catch touchdown North Texas returner Keegan Brewer pulled off against Arkansas Saturday inspired widespread admiration and plenty of praise, including from coaches like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. But it also spawned some hot takes, including this one from Jeff Ermann (publisher of 247 Sports’ Maryland site, Inside MD Sports):

That’s a play that’s fully within the rules, and appealing to “the spirit” of a rule is ridiculous, especially in this situation. Part of the fun of sports comes from when coaches and players are able to outthink their opponents and do something that’s legal but unexpected. And it doesn’t go against an emphasis on safety, either; fair catches can improve safety, but they’re optional for a reason, and it’s up to the cover team to make sure the returner called for one or at least make sure they’re in his way if they’re not sure. Complaining about this as “bush league” is quite the take.

Rating: 🔥🔥

4. Andrew Walker blasts fans who complain about NHL players trying to ban teammates’ video games: Many pro athletes, especially younger ones, are into playing video games in their spare time, and many teams use those as a bonding activity, including the Cleveland Indians. It shouldn’t be surprising that elements of the often-curmudgeonly NHL see this as a scourge, though, and Vancouver Canucks’ alternate captain Michael Del Zotto talked about “maybe banning it for the young guys bringing it on the road” this week:

Ah, yes, because athletes shouldn’t have free time, or should fill it with the traditional pastimes that the older players imposing these rules enjoy, such as cards and drinking. That makes as much sense as the arguments that Calgary Flames’ player Dougie Hamilton was a bad teammate because he preferred going to museums instead of hanging out at bad chain restaurants with others, and Del Zotto and the Canucks were rightly criticized for this idea. But Sportsnet 650 (Vancouver) radio host Andrew Walker took this to the next level, not only saying that this will produce wins, but blasting the fans who said the players are being dumb to try and do something like this:

First off, no one mentioned “until 3 am,” and there’s a pretty significant argument that many of those other behaviors (none of which they’re talking about banning!) could be more detrimental to performance. And no one’s shown any data that athletes who play video games perform more poorly, so the whole “this will produce more wins!” thing is silly. And this is about what these athletes do in their free time; they’re not skipping practice or workouts for video games. It would be interesting to see how some of the media people who are so in favor of regulating how athletes spend their free time would react if their bosses or coworkers tried to do the same to them.

But beyond even that, the take gets hotter when it comes to criticizing fans for weighing in on it. Fans can think whatever they want, and they’re not rooting against the team here (as mentioned, there’s zero evidence that this approach would produce any on-ice improvement); it’s perfectly reasonable to criticize ridiculously authoritarian moves from players and teams. And radio hosts like Walker certainly criticize teams and players for all sorts of reasons; why can’t fans do the same? Walker can be “happy about it” if he wants, but his whole approach here is a pretty hot take.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 

3. Stephen A. Smith, Damien Woody and Victor Cruz go in on Vontae Davis for retiring at halftime: There have been plenty of hot takes on Buffalo Bills’ defensive back Vontae Davis’ decision to retire at halftime of their game Sunday. Unsurprisingly, ESPN’s First Take came in with some of the hottest:

Some highlights include Smith saying “That is one of the weakest things I’ve ever seen an athlete do,” Woody saying “I’m sitting here right now and my blood is boiling right now. Honestly, I would want to fight this cat,” and Cruz saying “If we were there, there would have been an altercation.” And yes, it’s understandable why teammates would be upset over someone quitting at halftime, and yes, there are perhaps some valid points made here about how Davis handled this poorly, but there are a couple of other things to consider.

First, people quit or leave for better situations before their contracts are up all the time in every industry, including the media. Second, given the dangers of football, there’s maybe even more of an argument for leaving when you know you’re done; yes, Davis could have played out the second half, but what if he got horribly hurt there? And what if his mind not being fully in the game led to that? And as for the argument that he’s hurting his team, just leaving and letting them replace him with someone whose head was fully in the game seems less detrimental than having him continue to play but avoid situations that might get him hurt. Max Kellerman does well to bring up some of those points here, but the rest of the First Take panel is dropping some hot takes.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 for Smith, Woody and Cruz.

2. Jeff Diamond says in The Sporting News that Le’Veon Bell’s holdout has “reached the point of career-damaging consequences”: We often apply these takes to the individual media members and not the outlets, but it makes sense to count outlets as well when they’re publishing particularly hot takes from unusual contributors. They’re making a choice to broadcast those views to the world, and The Sporting News has done this pretty consistently over the last few years. The latest example has them giving former NFL executive Jeff Diamond (who worked for the Vikings through 1998, starting in PR and eventually becoming GM, then became the Titans’ president until 2004) a platform to just dump all over Le’Veon Bell:

Le’Veon Bell’s holdout from the Steelers, an illogical, costly and self-induced absence that’s a major misjudgment of potential market value by the player and his agent, is one of the most ludicrous in NFL history.

I saw a lot of holdouts during my NFL contract negotiating days and was a party to many. But the Pittsburgh running back, whose holdout dragged on through the preseason and is now into the third week of the regular season, has done major damage to his career just in the past two weeks.

…I predicted in July that Bell would report to the team the week before the season opener, and that “no player is going to give up $853,000 per week.”

Wrong and wrong.

I misjudged the ill-advised intentions of Bell and his agent, Adisa Bakari, who has been making inflammatory statements that Bell might wait until Week 11 to report in order to limit his exposure to injury prior to free agency and, in the process, forego $8.53 million.

…Both the statements from the agent and Bell’s absence into the regular season say several things to NFL team owners, general managers and coaches. As a former GM and team president, I first would consider the brain cramp that is Bell giving up so much money each week.

Then I’d think about the lack of commitment. As Bell frolics in Miami Beach on jet skis and in album-recording sessions, his Steelers teammates are struggling through an 0-1-1 start highlighted by diva wide receiver Antonio Brown’s truancy.

Well, it’s nice of you to admit you were already spectacularly wrong on what Bell would do, Jeff, and it’s interesting that you’re doubling down further. That’s a pretty minority take that Bell has made a “major misjudgment of potential market value” and “done major damage to his career”; much of the analysis on this has figured that Bell will get a big offer from someone after the season, even though there are still a lot of unknowns. It’s also a very pro-management take, unsurprising from a former GM. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much about making up that $8.53 million, but about not wanting to play in a situation he doesn’t like, and Bell has the ability to do that.

Maybe this will play out as Diamond says and Bell won’t get another big offer, but even that wouldn’t make his holdout “ludicrous”; if he doesn’t want to play for the Steelers, they can’t make him, and maybe he’s happier doing what he’s doing. But there’s also a whole lot of potential that Bell will eventually get a massive deal from another team, and that Diamond will again be proven very wrong.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Chris Childers and Aaron Murray suggest that Alabama is the 33rd NFL team, would beat the Buffalo Bills: A regularly-recurring hot take is that a top college football team would beat a bad NFL team, despite all the data suggesting otherwise. And Chris Childers and Aaron Murray brought that back this week on their Sirius XM radio show, with both thinking the Crimson Tide could beat the Bills and with Childers even going further and saying that “They are the 33rd NFL franchise in this country.”

This is a take that goes well against all the data out there. For example, WhatIfSports.com’s 2016 simulations of the Cleveland Browns (then 0-12, they’d finish 1-15) versus Alabama (then 12-0 and defending national champions, they’d finish 14-1 with a title loss to Clemson) had the Browns winning 93.9 percent of the time over 1,001 simulations, with an average score of 33-14.

Or, if you prefer data from actual on-field games, the history of the Chicago College All-Star Game may be indicative. Played from 1934 to 1976 between the defending NFL champions and a team of all-star college seniors from the previous year, it saw the NFL teams go 31-9-2. And yes, that was a different era and it was the league’s best team, not its worst. But that was against an all-star team that could pull talent from all over the college ranks, which seems like a much better team than even the most dominant college team.

And let’s look at it just from a talent perspective for a second. The start of this season saw 44 former Alabama players on NFL rosters, with some of those in very minor roles, so taking the very best still-active players from a decade or so of Alabama football doesn’t even add up to a a 53-man NFL roster. And that’s before you consider the age and physical maturity advantage; while some Tide players will soon be NFL rookies, they’d be going up against plenty of veterans as well, selected from the best of the college ranks, and there are numerous Alabama players still 20 and under. So, yeah, even the Bills would likely beat the Tide, and going further as Childers did to suggest that they could be regularly competitive in the NFL seems crazy. Suggesting otherwise is just “rat poison.”

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 for Childers and Murray.

Hot Take Standings: 

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 211
Skip Bayless – 191
Phil Mushnick – 147
Colin Cowherd – 74
Rob Parker – 44
Doug Gottlieb – 41
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Ray Lewis – 25
Dan Shaughnessy – 24
Albert Breer – 23
Britt McHenry – 20
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Ben Maller – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Danny Kanell – 14
Bill Plaschke – 14
The Sporting News – 13
Andy Benoit – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Darren Rovell – 12
John Middlekauff – 11
Tony Massarotti – 11
Jason McIntyre – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Jason Smith – 10
Joe Simpson – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Michael Wilbon – 9
Mike Francesa – 9
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Kirk Herbstreit – 7
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Aaron Murray – 5
Chris Childers – 5
Mark Knight – 5
The Herald Sun – 5
David Booth – 5
Tom Nichols – 5
Keith Hernandez – 5
Bill O’Reilly – 5
Brandel Chamblee – 5
Michael McCarthy – 5
Mike “The Reputation Doctor®”  Paul – 5
Dennis Dodd – 5
Rich Lowry – 5
Chris Reed – 5
San Diego Union-Tribune – 5
David Hookstead – 5
Tomm Looney – 5
Alex Shaw – 5
Rick Reilly – 5
Randall Mell – 5
Ian O’Connor – 5
Michael Bamberger – 5
Bob Bubka – 5
Cathal Kelly – 5
Pete Prisco – 5
Damien Cox – 5
Bill Simons – 5
Christine Flowers – 5
Jason Lieser – 5
John Steigerwald – 5
Josh Peter – 5
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 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
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
Jeff Diamond – 4
Marc Berman – 4
Evan Roberts – 4
Corbin Smith  – 4
DJ Siddiqi  – 4
The Express  – 4
Mark Kiszla – 4
Greg Witter – 4
Myron Medcalf  – 4
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 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
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Damien Woody – 3
Victor Cruz – 3
Andrew Walker – 3
Jim Kaat – 3
Jason Gay – 3
The Wall Street Journal – 3
Steven J. Brams – 3
Aaron Isaksen – 3
Will Muschamp – 3
Buck Lanford – 3
John Feinstein – 3
Stan Fischler – 3
Sonnie Wooden – 3
Chris Jones – 3
Kelly Smith – 3
Reggie Miller – 3
Mark Madden – 3
Larry Brooks – 3
Dan Canova – 3
Steve Rosenbloom – 3
Stephen Jackson – 3
Mike Sando – 3
Walt Borla – 3
Chris Russo  – 3
Nick Cafardo – 3
Ice Cube – 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
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Jeff Ermann – 2
Ed Werder  – 2
Ben Mulroney – 2
Ron Cook – 2
Brian Kenny – 2
Barrett Sallee – 2
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.