Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes. This time around, we’re looking at the hottest sports media takes from Jan. 26 – Feb. 1.

5. Elise Finch’s “Kiss Between Tom Brady, 11-Year-Old Son Raises Questions About Parent-Child Affection” story: This piece from CBS New York is one of the weirdest you’ll ever see, featuring Finch not only making a mountain out of a molehill (a kiss between Brady and his son shown on the Tom Vs. Time Facebook series) but going and asking completely unqualified New Yorkers on the street to comment on what that means for parenting:

CBS2 asked New Yorkers what they thought.

“I’m a little uncomfortable with that,” one passerby said.

“I think at a certain age it’s like OK you can kiss them on the cheek; you can give ‘em a hug,” said Emily Hernandez, a mother of two from Harlem. “But not in the mouth and not for that long.”

“Too long, like romantic long,” said Parrish Watson of Parkchester.

“I kiss my son on his lips. I have since day one,” said Kurt Czaplinski of Hempstead. “I would have no problem with my son kissing me like that.”

Doing this piece in the first place is a hot take. Asking a bunch of random people on the street what they think only elevates it.

Rating: ???

4. Alex Reimer calls Brady’s daughter “an annoying little pissant,” Joan Vennochi argues ” If Tom Brady didn’t want his daughter talked about, he shouldn’t have put her in a documentary”: Continuing with the theme of Brady’s parenting, which for some unbeknownst reason sports media members feel compelled to present themselves as experts on after watching this documentary, we have a combined couple of very dumb takes from Boston media. First, WEEI host Alex Reimer called Brady’s five-year-old daughter “an annoying little pissant” last Thursday night (yes, that’s technically before the start of this Hot Takes period, but it’s included because it really came to light later with the follow-up), leading to the station suspending him and to Brady cutting his regular interview with the Kirk and Callahan morning show short on Monday.

After that, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi took to print to defend Reimer’s take, blast Brady, and argue that his annoyance at his daughter being called “a pissant” was all a marketing scheme, citing known parenting authority Howard Stern along the way. The tweet promoting her column picked up a delightful ratio:

And it’s thoroughly deserved. Some highlights from this column, titled “For Tom Brady, outrage is another way to sell the product“:

Brady’s diva act put an even bigger spotlight on “Tom vs Time,” a documentary posted on Facebook Watch.

…In the film, daughter Vivian seems like a typical little girl, demanding her dad’s attention. But whatever the reaction, as Howard Stern put it, if Brady didn’t want people to talk about her, he should have left her out of the documentary. “I’ve got to stick up for radio guys, because number one, you’re on the air and it’s not like there’s a script,” Stern said on Sirius XM radio. “But for God’s sake, Tom Brady should know better. If you’re going to put your young child on a TV show, on the Internet, you’re putting her out there for comment.” Stern’s right about that.

…You have to be a pro athlete or a supermodel, like Brady’s wife Gisele, to appreciate the utter self-absorption involved in his quest to play football into his 40s.

…Because, when it comes to commentary about females on WEEI, “pissant” is no big deal. So it’s funny that a throwaway phrase, involving a word that most listeners probably had to Google, created such a storm. Supposedly the line Reimer crossed involves disparaging talk about a five-year-old. But let’s be honest. He’s in trouble because the five-year-old is Brady’s daughter. Any threat of losing Brady as a regular guest is a threat to access and audience. The show thrives on pushing the envelope, not pushing the greatest quarterback of all time off its air. Then, the bottom line trumps the First Amendment.

Stern, who famously makes a living out of shocking radio talk, advises Brady to “take a deep breath, go and see the psychiatrist, and say, ‘Hey, I overreacted.’ ”

I’m no psychiatrist, but I don’t think it was overreaction as much as calculation.

On the field and off, Brady truly is master of his own universe.

Yeah, I’m sure no father would be annoyed at a radio host calling his five-year-old daughter “an annoying little pissant” if not for marketing reasons. How dare Brady be offended about that, especially when Howard Stern isn’t! Vennochi’s right that it’s not the worst thing ever said on WEEI and that it’s interesting that there’s more listener backlash when it’s something involving Brady versus something disrespectful to women in general, but that kind of whataboutism is far from a good argument. And saying that having your child briefly appear in a documentary about your personal life justifies any sort of commentary on her is an amazingly bad take.

Rating: ???? for both

3. Graham Couch wonders if Michigan State football and basketball scandals are “different than other major universities,” calls ESPN “irresponsible”: The Michigan State scandals go well beyond Larry Nassar and gymnastic, with athletic director Mark Hollis resigning last Friday and ESPN shortly afterwards releasing a piece raising major questions about the football and basketball programs’ handling of sexual assault. That led to Lansing State Journal columnist Couch engaging in some whataboutism of his own:

Couch continued that theme Thursday with a column blasting ESPN’s “irresponsible behavior“:

On one hand, [men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo] owes his community answers and assurances that, over time, he hasn’t treated accusations of sexual assault or abuse toward women by his players with callous disregard. This is a core question facing the university right now — does it listen and respond to sexual assault victims? And it’s the argument ESPN makes for coupling these two storylines. If the state attorney general’s investigation shows that Izzo and his program were dismissive or ignored appropriate steps, he’s in trouble and should be.

On the other hand, I don’t blame him for not giving ESPN easy material for a story that it has turned into a television drama.

Not with how ESPN has behaved, including irresponsibly plastering the faces of Izzo and [men’s football coach Mark] Dantonio next to a picture of convicted serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar — on the same television backdrop — not-so-subtly conflating those two stories behind the headline, “Crisis at Michigan State.”

Even if you think the worst of Izzo and Dantonio, they sure as hell don’t deserve that.

…ESPN has put Izzo and Dantonio the center of this story without any direct allegations of wrongdoing. Izzo and Dantonio aren’t being accused of the misdeed themselves. They’re being accused of perhaps mishandling or covering up the misdeed. That’s harder to prove, as evidenced by ESPN’s lack of evidence that Izzo and Dantonio were directly involved.

…ESPN is hard to respect right now. Beyond the secondhand hearsay and flimsy sourcing in places, there are lines in the initial report that reek of an agenda and sentences that mislead or needlessly build drama.

Yes, there are some distinctions between the Nassar story and the questions about the football and basketball programs’ handling of sexual assault allegations, but there’s a strong argument for those stories to be covered together given their shared questions about the university’s leadership and its handling of those allegations. And yes, other schools have had sexual assault scandals, but that’s no reason to downplay this one. It’s also notable that Michigan State’s response here, including suing ESPN over records requests, is far from typical. Couch is right that Izzo and Dantonio aren’t implicated in the Nassar case, but there are still plenty of very serious accusations against them, and ESPN’s reporting played a key role in bringing those to light. Downplaying that over a supposed ESPN “agenda” is a take.

Rating: ????

2. Ryan Rishaug calls Al Montoya “fragile” for not talking on game days, says he’s “in the trenches”: One of the worst consistent takes out there is media members getting mad when a player won’t talk to them and implying that correlates to poor performance. TSN’s Edmonton reporter Ryan Rishaug created a whole mess along those lines with a take Thursday, arguing that Oilers’ goalie Al Montoya was “fragile” for not wanting to talk to him or other media on game day:

That’s a heck of a ratio, Ryan. It should be noted that many goalies and some other players have opted not to talk to media on game days, and most media haven’t raised this kind of stink about it. Also, Rishaug’s timing was particularly bad considering that this came the day after TSN’s parent company Bell’s Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative:

Oh, and in an argument with former NHLer and current Sirius host Patrick O’Sullivan, Rishaug said he was “in the trenches.” On the Oilers’ military appreciation night, no less.


Rishaug later issued one of the more halfhearted apologies you’ll ever see:

“I certainly apologize to any who were offended” is very, very weak. Ryan, you are possibly the only person in the world who cares if Al Montoya decides to give you some boring soundbites on gameday or not. There’s a whole locker room full of other players to talk to, and it’s no reflection on his “fragility,” his performance or anything else. Whining about this and implying bad things about Montoya over it is a terrible look.

Rating: ?????

1. Bob Brookover argues “Maybe it’s not a coincidence Aaron Hernandez tragedy happened to Patriots”: Brookover, the Philadelphia Daily News columnist, made this column this summer for insisting Markelle Fultz was bad because he “didn’t win” (despite never watching him play), and he’s back thanks to another half-baked take. This time around, he’s blaming the Patriots for the murders Aaron Hernandez was charged with:

In addition to being adept at winning games and championships, the Patriots are also great at avoiding the things they want swept out of sight.

Spygate and Deflategate fall into those categories, but the one subject they want to skirt more than any other is the violent and tragic career of the late Aaron Hernandez. Perhaps that’s because Hernandez’s draft selection, despite bright red flags everywhere, is a reflection of how winning means everything to the Patriots and no cost is too high.

…The shame of the matter is that the Patriots, and specifically coach Bill Belichick, acted as if they could not possibly know something so awful would ever happen despite the fact that Hernandez had a troubled past at the University of Florida and in his hometown of Bristol, Conn.

…The Patriots or Urban Meyer, who was the coach at the University of Florida when Hernandez played there, should have done more when they saw the signs of trouble. What Hernandez did was horrible, but you get the feeling the only reason Meyer and the Patriots cared about him in the first place was because he could play football.

Once he no longer could help them, it became a sin to even speak the name Aaron Hernandez. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the NFL team that has had the most success in this century also had to deal with the league’s greatest tragedy.

Sure, you can question coaches’ treatment of Hernandez in college and the pros, but implying that his situation happened because of the Patriots’ supposed unique willingness to win at all costs is ridiculous. If they hadn’t drafted him, someone else would have not long afterwards. Football teams take players who they think can help them win, often regardless of off-field trouble; someone who covers the Eagles, who controversially signed Michael Vick soon after his release from prison, should know that. And this piece’s initial headline of “Maybe it’s not a coincidence Aaron Hernandez tragedy happened to Patriots” (which is drawn directly from Brookover’s last line, quoted above, so it’s not like the headline writer exaggerated his column” is particularly going too far. Especially when you consider that this isn’t a thoughtful look at Hernandez’s life and football’s role in it, or a timely discussion of that (Hernandez last played for the Patriots in 2012, was cut in 2013 after his arrest, and died of an apparent suicide last April), but a way to throw some shade at the team playing your city’s team in Sunday’s Super Bowl. That’s one hot take.

Rating: ?????

Honorable mention: Tom McAllister’s “Resist The Darkness: Stand With Philadelphia” piece for BuzzFeed calling the Patriots “the most loathsome organization in professional sports” and talking about “the tyranny of the Patriots.” It’s obvious over-the-top trolling, but it’s still a spicy take.

Notable absences: Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Phil Mushnick.

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 177
Skip Bayless – 136
Phil Mushnick – 112
Colin Cowherd – 46
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Rob Parker – 26
Doug Gottlieb – 22
Charles Barkley – 19
JT The Brick – 17
Albert Breer – 16
Don Cherry – 15
Ray Lewis – 14
Bill Plaschke – 14
Rick Morrissey – 13
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Chris Broussard – 10
Keith Olbermann – 9
Dan Dakich – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Pat Forde – 7
Danny Kanell – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Michael DeCourcy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
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
Ross Tucker – 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
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
Cris Carter – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Elise Finch – 3
Kevin Skiver  – 3
David Bahnsen – 3
Harold Reynolds – 3
Kevin Reynolds – 3
Mike Sheahan – 3
Bob Ford – 3
Dan Shaughnessy – 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
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.