Michael DeCourcy led the way in hot takes from Feb. 15-21.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot TakesThis time, we’re looking at the hottest sports takes from Feb. 15-21.

5. Howard Eskin asks Bryce Harper “what’s the issue and holdup” with not signing with the Phillies: Incredible homerism from sports media personalities is always fun, but 94 WIP radio host Eskin took it even further this week with a tweet at Bryce Harper:

Eskin starts with asking Harper the ridiculous question of “are you more interested in money or playing for a good team and organization?” (most free agency decisions at least consider the team’s record and the player’s fit there as well as the cash offered, but the money matters too; Harper’s not signing with someone for a league minimum regardless of how much he likes the team), then tries to answer his own question by claiming “that motivation doesn’t show me your desire to win” and “it is about money!” This whole tweet was pointless, especially as Eskin’s thoughts aren’t likely to be a factor in Harper’s decision. But the performative dumbassery here gets Eskin into this week’s hot takes.

Rating: 🔥🔥

4. Jon Johnson and Jerry Coleman have thoughts on Manny Machado: Speaking of radio hosts weighing in on MLB free agency, there were plenty of dumb tweets after Manny Machado signed with the Padres. Two of the most remarkable came from Eskin’s WIP colleague Jon Johnson and from Jerry Coleman of Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan:

From “Character revealed” to “a guy who doesn’t give 100%,” these tweets tell you more about the radio personalities in question than they do about Machado. But it’s Coleman’s “FOOLS” that really stands out here. Has someone been watching too much Gilbert Gottfried on Hollywood Squares?

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 for both.

3. Don Cherry calls the Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks,” which they promptly put on a t-shirt: Speaking of pundits unnecessarily bashing particular teams, that’s Don Cherry’s music! On Saturday, the CBC/Sportsnet personality decided to absolutely unload on the Carolina Hurricanes…over their post-game celebrations.

“This is a joke! Young men expressing themselves for joy of winning! You don’t do this thing in professional hockey! What are these guys, jerks or something? …That is absolutely ridiculous! They’re jerks doing it! …They’re a bunch of jerks, as far as I’m concerned!”

As many noted, it’s absolutely hilarious to see Cherry, an attention-grabbing stunt personified (especially with his wardrobe), going off on anything else for being attention-grabbing. But the best part is the “bunch of jerks,” which the Hurricanes quickly turned into a merchandising opportunity:

And their fans got in on the act:

So congratulations on again being the laughingstock of the hockey world, Don, and giving your critics a whole new way to make fun of you.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

2. John Feinstein spends a week fighting with critics after criticizing an algorithm for not watching games: Feinstein, the author and contributor to the likes of the Golf Channel, the Washington Post, and the CBS Sports Minute, has spent a long while covering Army football, from the 1996 book A Civil War: Army Versus Navy to a fictional mystery set at the Army-Navy game in 2011 (The Rivalry) to recent work for the Army Radio Network and pieces after each game for Army’s website. For some reason this week, he decided to go in on oreseason rankings that didn’t give the Black Knights the respect he felt they deserved in a preseason poll, and to do so with old sportswriters’ favorite insult at those who try to apply any sort of advanced statistics, “You don’t watch the games!” But what made this really funny was that he lobbed this insult not at a person, but at an algorithm, a mathematical model designed to try and avoid biases like “the eye test.” And he then spent a week arguing with everyone who called him out for that, and doing so in increasingly silly ways:

But, reader, it was not -30-…

We go to an exclusive look at Feinstein:

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Michael DeCourcy says if Zion Williamson wasn’t at Duke, “would you really even know who he is?”: Duke star Zion Williamson’s injury Wednesday night sparked a lot of debate about the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement currently keeping players out of the league until they’re 19, a rule that might soon be changing. At the moment, that age limit means players either have to play NCAA basketball (where they’re compensated with a scholarship and sometimes cost-of-attendance stipends) or head overseas to play professionally (something that often hasn’t worked out well for those who have tried it) before they can join the NBA.

Many of those who think it’s unfair for schools to draw incredible revenue from players like Williamson without paying them (including NBA players like DeMarcus Cousins) blasted that system this week, and that led to plenty of college basketball pundits trying to defend the NCAA setup. But some of those pundits overreached with some spectacularly silly claims. The most ridiculous might have come from Michael DeCourcy of The Sporting News in a column, which he exaggerated further in a tweet he’s since deleted. Here’s that screencap:

Michael DeCourcy's Zion Williamson tweet.

That take is ludicrous, especially considering how prominent Williamson was on social media and in NBA draft prognostications long before he ever played for the Blue Devils. Also, going straight from high school to the NBA (before the 19-year-old age cap was implemented) sure led to failure and complete anonymity for the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. DeCourcy is right that Williamson has likely further boosted his draft status with his dominance for Duke this year (some mock drafts had him as low as seventh overall before the season, and he’s widely assumed to be the number-one pick now), but some of that has to do just with more draft analysts spending more time watching him, which could have happened earlier in a system where he was allowed to go to the NBA without the intervening year. And some analysts thought he’d be a top pick even before the year started. Let’s go to DeCourcy’s column for more on how great this system of not getting paid is for Zion:

So please spare us the lament regarding what the NBA’s age-limit rule is costing him because he must spend a year after high school doing something other than playing in the league. That rule is presently making Zion a fortune, which he will begin reaping the moment he plays his final college basketball game. And the fortune will be that much grander if that game occurs April 8 in Minneapolis.

Yeah, no. What NBA draft picks make is slot-determined, and not particularly affected by if the player’s won a NCAA title. Sure, that might lead to extra-lucrative endorsement deals, but those could also come if Williamson was playing in the NBA this year instead of the NCAA (again, it hasn’t exactly gone poorly for Kobe and LeBron). It’s silly to say that playing in the NCAA is “making him a fortune” he wouldn’t have otherwise. And yes, some straight-to-NBA players have turned out to be busts, but it’s far from certain that would be the case with Williamson, and it’s also far from certain he’s gaining much from this NCAA stint, especially when it comes to economics. His NCAA career is working out very well for Duke, and very well for media who cover NCAA basketball, but it’s not leading to more money for him at this point, and it’s far from a foregone conclusion that it will lead to financial rewards in the end (especially if he gets hurt; fortunately, his injury this week didn’t wind up being that serious, but it could have been).

DeCourcy’s argument is also missing how much better NBA salaries are once you get past the rookie deals. If Williamson was able to enter last year’s draft instead of this coming year’s draft, he might not have been the first-overall pick (although he might have, as there wasn’t a whole lot of consensus about those top players), and he might have gotten a smaller rookie deal as a result. But he’d be spending this year getting paid instead of playing for just a scholarship, and he’d be done his rookie contract a year earlier and able to really cash in (presuming he’s as good at the next level as many think he’ll be). And, if his career’s an equal length in both cases, the financial gain from spending an extra year making a NBA salary (and possibly even a maximum NBA salary) would certainly seem to outweigh the “exposure!!!” he’s getting from the NCAA. (As a side note, it’s interesting that the writers who constantly drop these pro-NCAA amateurism takes seem to prefer getting paid themselves to just writing for exposure.)

It’s possible that Williamson would have chosen to play a year at Duke even without the NBA age cap, something that DeCourcy suggests is proven by his comments to NCAA.com (that’s really not proof, as he wasn’t actually given the choice to go straight to the NBA). And if he wanted to take that road in an open system, fine; playing in college certainly has been beneficial for some players to improve their skills and improve their NBA chances. But NBA decision-makers knew who Williamson was long before he suited up for the Blue Devils, and so did many who follow the sport. Claiming that his year at Duke was necessary for him to find NBA success and that it certainly will lead to better financial outcomes for him down the road is a hot take, but the real fire comes from the suggestion that no one would have known him otherwise.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Hot Take Standings:

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 231
Skip Bayless – 200
Phil Mushnick – 169
Colin Cowherd – 76
Rob Parker – 59
Doug Gottlieb – 53
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Albert Breer – 29
Dan Shaughnessy – 26
Ray Lewis – 25
Don Cherry – 22
Darren Rovell – 20
Danny Kanell – 20
Britt McHenry – 20
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Dan Dakich – 18
Michael DeCourcy – 16
Jason McIntyre – 16
Andy Benoit – 15
Tony Massarotti – 15
Ben Maller – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Jason Smith – 13
Kirk Herbstreit – 13
Mike Felger – 13
The Sporting News – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Mike Francesa – 12
Michael Wilbon – 12
John Middlekauff – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Greg Gabriel – 10
Rob Rossi – 10
Bill James – 10
Joe Simpson – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Graham Couch – 9
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo – 9
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Bob Ford – 8
John Feinstein – 8
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Howard Eskin – 7
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
Michael Kay – 5
Tom Jones – 5
Max Kellerman – 5
Mark Readings – 5
Neil Warnock – 5
Patrick Bet-David – 5
Jared Stillman – 5
Jen Rainwater – 5
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
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
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
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
Dan Crenshaw – 4
Mike Vaccaro – 4
Mike Klis – 4
Richard Keys – 4
Peter King – 4
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
Jerry Coleman – 3
Jon Johnson  – 3
Trey Wingo – 3
Lance Zierlein – 3
Michael Salfino – 3
Tom Van Riper – 3
Andy Katz – 3
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
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
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
Mike Florio – 2
Dari Nowkah – 2
Ella Dorsey – 2
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
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 is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.