Graham Couch's basketball take topped this week's hot takes.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes. This time, we’re covering the hottest takes from Dec. 7-13.

5. John Kindt says internet gambling addiction is a looming crisis: Following May’s Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that prohibited state-authorized sports betting outside Nevada, many states have legalized various forms of sports gambling. That’s led to sports networks dramatically expanding their gambling content, and also cashing in on gambling ads. And it’s led to some criticisms of gambling’s spread, which can be fine if they’re made in a logical way. An “Internet gambling addiction is a looming crisis” op-ed in The Hill from John Kindt, a law and economics professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, is anything but that, though.

Kindt’s piece instead comes off as a fearmongering diatribe with a bunch of false equivalencies, from comparing gambling to opioid addiction to suggesting not only that all gambling leads to addiction, but that many things that aren’t considered gambling by most (such as video game loot boxes) count as a way to inflate the stats of the numbers of people gambling. Some highlights:

Similar to the bipartisan issue of opioid addiction, the looming crisis of internet gambling addiction is now getting renewed attention.

…Jeopardizing millions of families, internet gambling addiction is currently the fastest growing addiction among kids, high schoolers and college students because of real-time 24/7 sports gambling on cell phones and video games.

Young gamblers are notoriously unaware that most internet gambling is illegal in the United States, as exemplified by the case where a University of Wisconsin honor student lost over $72,000 in tuition money on illegal internet sports gambling, killed three young men in the bookie’s apartment and thereafter committed suicide.

…The United Kingdom has legalized more types of electronic gambling than the United States, and therefore, U.K. reports for November are illustrative of anticipated comparable U.S. numbers within the next 2 to 4 years.

The U.K. Gambling Commission reported that 1 in 7 children ages 11 to 16 (U.S. = 2.2 million kids) gamble regularly, which is more than those who have smoked, taken drugs or consumed alcohol — reflected in a 400-percent increase over 2 years in the numbers of kids becoming addicted and problem gamblers.

Via social media, 1 in 6 boys reportedly followed betting brands, and in this age group about 1 million kids (U.S. = 500,00 kids) had explored internet gambling via smartphone apps and video-game “loot boxes.”

Among the European Union, the almost universal trend of countries is to declare loot boxes illegal, but comparable U.S. safeguards have been legislatively paralyzed by the gambling industry.

…Without new U.S. safeguards, millions of American and international kids will continue to be targeted by the gambling industry and will become gambling addicts, creating enormous social and economic costs. A bipartisan Congress needs to act quickly to eliminate the surging specter of 24/7 sports gambling.

There’s a whole lot wrong with that piece, from saying that those who gamble will become gambling addicts to inflating the numbers with people who “follow betting brands” and open loot boxes to citing an anecdotal 2003 case in a different regulatory environment as proof that gambling leads to murder. But beyond that, “the surging specter of 24/7 sports gambling” was already there before recent regulatory moves, and regulated, legal gambling seems less likely to cause major problems than betting with shady, unregulated sites. As Legal Sports Report’s Dustin Gouker noted, the main difference in recent years is just that there’s now a legal option:

So Kindt’s piece comes off as a whole lot of bluster and hyperbole about the dangers of gambling without much to back it up, and it’s a pretty hot take. (The Hill also gets credit for running this.)

Rating: 🔥🔥

4. Stephen A. Smith cites matchup of injured Hunter Henry and unemployed Derrick Johnson: It’s always fun when a hot-air factory like Stephen A. Smith proves he has no idea what he’s talking about, and boy, did Smith do that this week, previewing Thursday’s Chiefs-Chargers game by calling the Chargers “The San Diego Chargers” and talking about the matchup of Chargers’ tight end Hunter Henry (who’s injured and hasn’t played all year) and Chiefs’ linebacker Derrick Johnson (who they cut in February, leading to him signing with the Raiders and then getting cut again in October):

“I’m also thinking about Hunter Henry and the way he has played this year and how effective he’s been. He’s going up against Derrick Johnson and I got to keep my eyes on all that.” Well, hey, Stephen, if you kept your eyes on even just current rosters, you might not get roasted by the entire internet. Including the Chargers:

This also bodes extremely well for how informed Smith will be on current events if he gets the CNN or Fox News job he dreams of.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

3. Tony La Russa calls anti-Harold Baines arguments “weak-ass superficial bullshit”: It’s not shocking that former manager La Russa is defending Baines’ controversial Hall of Fame election, considering that he was on the committee that voted him in (and was one of three members there with strong connections to Baines), but the particular remarks he made to Chris Russo on MLB Network this week were quite hot-takey:

“You know what, I would love to get into a confrontation/debate where we pull out the stuff that we looked at and you tell me that weak-ass superficial bullshit that you looked at, and I guarantee you…longevity, excellence over time…in the 80s and 90s, almost every one of the offensive stats that people trust, he was in the top four or five. For 20 years. He drove in 100 runs late in his career, he drove them in early, game-winning RBIs, he’s up there with the best of them. He had a very distinguished career.”

As noted before, game-winning RBIs were only an official MLB stat in the 80s, so that’s even a worse argument than the general RBIs point La Russa is making. It’s really more his argument than Russo’s that’s “weak-ass superficial bullshit.”

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

2. Doug Gottlieb has dumb thoughts on college football: Here we go again with Fox’s Doug Gottlieb, who had two particularly stupid college football takes this week:

Before the current playoff’s creation, people argued ESPN was holding back any playoff to protect the bowls without any evidence, and then ESPN played a big role in the creation of a playoff and made even more money from it. And their regular bowl ratings and revenue may have dropped some, but they didn’t go away. And an expansion to eight is probably the same sort of story; it would be incredibly valuable for ESPN to have more playoff games. It’s hard to see an expansion killing the regular bowls, but even if it did, ESPN would still probably come out on top based on the ratings playoff games draw. So no, that’s not “conflicting alliances.” And that wasn’t Gottlieb’s only dumb CFB take this week:

Criticizing players for sitting out a bowl game that they play for free to try and protect their NFL draft value is a bad look in general, but this is a particularly dumb version of that considering that there have been many quarterbacks injured in bowl games. That includes Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, who tore his ACL in the Music City Bowl just last year and likely cost himself a lot of money along the way. So once again, Gottlieb doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At least he didn’t mention Hunter Henry, though.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Graham Couch refuses to rank No.1 Kansas, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 8 Auburn, No. 11 Texas Tech, No. 17 Villanova and No. 19 Kentucky because they haven’t played a true road game: Media voting for polls and honors has some merit, as long as the pool of media voting is large enough to cancel out particularly dumb biases and attempts to make points. It’s usually not the media that are responsible for things like electing Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame. But while the final results from a large enough group of media are generally reasonable, there are still always some individual voters who come to absurd conclusions to promote their personal agendas. And boy, did Graham Couch of The Lansing State Journal do that this week. The actual AP Top 25 is pretty reasonable, but no thanks to Couch’s ballot; he refused to rank seven teams on that list (including the Top 3) and one other team that didn’t make it because they haven’t played “a true road game”:

Duke’s out until the Blue Devils play a true road game (Jan. 8). Kansas, too (until Dec. 22), Same for Auburn (Dec. 15), Tennessee (Dec. 15), Texas Tech (Jan. 2), Kentucky (Jan. 5), Villanova (Dec. 11) and Texas (Jan. 2).

I did this last year about this time with several teams.

They’ve had a month to play a true road game. By the end of this weekend and next week’s rankings, most teams will have played 10 games. I get the neutral-site commitments that make scheduling challenging. But Duke, for example, will also have played six games on its home court, five of them scheduled by the Blue Devils. 

You learn so much about teams on the road, in another team’s gym, when momentum is harder to maintain and adversity bites just a little bit harder. You’re not judging apples to apples when some teams won’t go on the road. Imagine if the Chicago Bears played 12 home games every year and the Detroit Lions just four. That’s the nonsense some college basketball powers get away with for two months every year. Well, not on my ballot.

No. 1 Gonzaga spent last weekend playing in one of the tougher environments in college basketball, in front of 17,000 fans at Creighton. The Zags were tested, trailed at the half, as Creighton blitzed them with 3-pointers. Gonzaga’s poise in that setting was impressive, giving credence to its No. 1 ranking. Meanwhile, Kentucky played its seventh straight home game — a stretch of college basketball behemoths including Southern Illinois, North Dakota, VMI, Winthrop, Tennessee State, Monmouth and, Saturday, mighty UNC-Greenboro. 

This is what I actually know about Kentucky: They were drilled in the Champions Classic against Duke and then struggled to overcome Southern Illinois at Rupp Arena. Then Buffalo, playing its second straight true road game early in the season, owned SIU in the second half in Carbondale, Illinois. If a voter has Kentucky ahead of Buffalo in their rankings, I’d love to hear the explanation. 

As soon as these teams play a road game, they’re back on my ballot, if their game and resume is worthy. There’s no long climb back up. It should never be that way. Each week should be a fresh evaluation.

At least Couch is consistent, doing this multiple years in a row and applying it to all teams that fit that criteria. But this is still insane. And it’s one of those takes that has a reasonable point at its basis (yes, a true road game can be more challenging than a home game or a neutral-site game!), but takes it way too far. If Couch had argued “Well, I don’t think Kansas, Duke or Tennessee’s resume is that great thanks to no true road games, so I’ll put Gonzaga first and bump them down a bit,” that would have been fine; questionable and debatable, but fine. But concluding that the top three teams in the country (and seven teams in the Top 25) don’t deserve to be ranked thanks to their schedule is absurd. And “Buffalo is a better team than Kentucky thanks to a better margin of victory over Southern Illinois” is also weird. At least the rest of the AP voters were able to counterbalance this ridiculous stand from Couch.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Hot Take Standings:

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 223
Skip Bayless – 198
Phil Mushnick – 167
Colin Cowherd – 74
Doug Gottlieb – 53
Rob Parker – 51
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Albert Breer – 29
Dan Shaughnessy – 26
Ray Lewis – 25
Danny Kanell – 20
Britt McHenry – 20
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Darren Rovell – 17
Jason McIntyre – 16
Andy Benoit – 15
Tony Massarotti – 15
Ben Maller – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Kirk Herbstreit – 13
Mike Felger – 13
The Sporting News – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Michael Wilbon – 12
John Middlekauff – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Bill James – 10
Jason Smith – 10
Joe Simpson – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Graham Couch – 9
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo – 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
Trent Dilfer – 7
Damien Cox – 7
Mike Bianchi – 7
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
The Wall Street Journal – 6
Pat Leonard – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Matt Walsh – 5
Jon Steinberg – 5
Bill Welt – 5
Jack Todd – 5
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
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
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
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
Bruce Levine – 4
Malcolm Gladwell – 4
That’s Kappy – 4
Mitchell Nathanson – 4
The New York Daily News – 4
“Big” Jim Murray – 4
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
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
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Tony La Russa  – 3
Jim Brady – 3
Bill Simmons – 3
Mark Teixeira – 3
Wally Hall – 3
Damien Woody – 3
Victor Cruz – 3
Andrew Walker – 3
Jim Kaat – 3
Jason Gay – 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
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
The Hill – 2
John Kindt – 2
Bill Madden – 2
Tony Gonzalez – 2
Mike Greenberg – 2
Grant Paulsen – 2
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.