Rich Lowry brought this week's hottest take.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re breaking down all the hottest takes from July 6-12. 

5. John Middlekauff asks “How long will you take it, Laker fans?” about LeBron, while Skip Bayless says he “can’t buy the love of true Laker fans by giving away pizza,” and Rob Parker says his no-showing the pizza party is “another example of why LeBron James cannot be the greatest of all time”: LeBron’s hint that he might go to the pizza chain he owns a stake in for their free pizza giveaway in honor of his signing led to lots of people showing up and being disappointed, and it also led to a trifecta of hot takes. Let’s start with Middlekauff, a former NFL scout turned contributor to The Athletic San Francisco who’s shown up in this column before for his thoughts on Eddie Lacy and eating disorders and narrowly missed for his take that taxes will one day extend to personal bathrooms. (They already do if you consider water bills, but that’s not quite what he was going for.) After the pizza incident, he wondered “How long will you take it, Laker fans?”:

How about Bayless, who started dropping takes even before LeBron didn’t show up?

And then brought some more spice:

Or Rob Parker, who argued that not showing up for an offseason pizza appearance he only hinted at is “another example of why LeBron James cannot be the greatest of all time”:

Yes, Undisputed somehow spent 11 minutes talking about this. Pity the five people who watched it. And yes, while there are some Laker fans upset over the pizza thing, and there are others who have criticized the LeBron signing because of past dislike of him or even love for Kobe Bryant, they’re far from in the majority. Plenty are excited about LeBron making their team a potential contender, which is why they waited hours in hopes of getting a glimpse of him at a pizza outlet in the first place. While the take artists may argue they’ll turn on him over that, that’s a pretty bold claim to make less than a week after he’s officially signed, before he’s even played a game for the Lakers.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 for all.

4. Evan Roberts says John Tavares leaving is “almost as if he secretly hated the franchise”: Tavares played nine seasons for the New York Islanders since they drafted him in 2009, including signing a deal with them as a restricted free agent following his entry-level contract. He scored 272 goals and racked up 621 points for the franchise while leading them to three playoff appearances. But now, because he left in free agency, WFAN’s Evan Roberts argued that he was some sort of double agent:

“It’s almost like he secretly hated the franchise and said, ‘How can I hose them as much as I possibly can? Oh, I’ve got this great idea. So I’m going to basically whisper sweet nothings into the organization’s ear, to the fans’ ears, about Belmont, and Brooklyn, and Long Island, and I’m going to wait as long as I possibly can. I’m going to have everybody come to me in LA like I’m a king, and I’m going to make it as painful as I can and then I’m going to leave. But don’t worry, I’m going to write a nice letter.’ Great! Thanks, bro!”

You know, it’s almost as if there’s a thing called “free agency,” the one time in professional athletes’ careers where they get to decide where to play. And it’s almost as if a player leaving after nine productive years doesn’t mean he was undermining a team the whole time, or that he “secretly hated the franchise.”

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

(Thanks to Dave for passing this one along.)

3. Dan Shaughnessy claims baseball is “taken over by geeks,” “analytics are out of control”, while Andy Benoit argues about college football despite not watching it: We have a couple of red-hot takes on different sports to combine here. First, Boston Globe columnist Shaughnessy has the curmudgeon act down pretty well, and boy, he brought it this week in a piece titled “The Red Sox may be red-hot, but baseball is striking out in every way.” Some highlights:

On and on it goes. Meaningless game after meaningless game as the Red Sox put up cartoonish numbers while we wait for the real games to start in October. So much winning.

…As great as the Sox weekend was, as scalding hot as the Sox are now, my takeaway is that Major League Baseball is in trouble.
And as much as I love the game, I can no longer defend all the things that are hurting the sport.

…There are too many bad teams (the once-proud Orioles are 41 games under .500). There are too many non-competitive games. There are too many strikeouts. There are not enough balls in play. Baseball stars are increasingly anonymous.

…Baseball has become the sanctuary of senior citizens. Hardcore baseball fans are the same people who have land lines in their home and still read daily newspapers. Anybody seen my Sporting News?

Pace of play has made the game largely unwatchable on television. The estimable Tom Verducci recently put his stopwatch to work and calculated that the average time between balls in play is 3 minutes 45 seconds. This is unacceptable. It is killing the sport. There is simply not enough action.

…Analytics are out of control. Even commissioner Rob Manfred agrees. Manfred recently told The Athletic, “There is a growing recognition that analytics have produced certain trends in the game that we may need to be more proactive about reversing. There are owners that feel that way. There are fans that feel that way.’’

Meanwhile, as the game is taken over by geeks, the players become more faceless.

The whole piece is a long “back in my day” whine, arguing for the good old days of no analytics, less strikeouts and more (while ignoring that, you know, there have always been tons of bad teams). And it may not be the best strategy for a daily newspaper columnist to mock those who subscribe to daily newspapers. But the analytics takes here are the really hot ones. Shaughnessy lost that fight long ago, but that won’t keep him from complaining about it. Meanwhile at Sports Illustrated, NFL writer Andy Benoit continued his streak of hot takes on sports he doesn’t watch, this time bashing college football as less strategic than the NFL while admitting he doesn’t watch the college game:

For the past six years I have watched almost every NFL game and, aside from a few pre-draft projects, zero college football games. This is partly because covering the NFL is my job, but mostly because I enjoy pro football infinitely more than college. To me, comparing college to pro is like comparing a small town community theatre to Broadway.

…But there are those of us who like football’s pageantry but love its strategy. We see the game as a chess match, only where everyone’s pieces are not the same, those pieces are not confined to individual squares, they move not one at a time but all at once, and that movement usually doesn’t stop until someone scores or gets hit.

From a strategic entertainment standpoint, pro football annihilates college football.

His “strategic” arguments include such things as jersey numbers, the differing catch and overtime rules, and the number of teams in college football, and none of that actually proves his argument whatsoever. But the best part is how he starts off a piece bashing college football by saying that he doesn’t watch it.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 for both.

2. Chris Reed and The San Diego Union-Tribune argue that “dogs are parasites”: This isn’t sports, but it’s such a hot take that we couldn’t leave it out. San Diego Union-Tribune deputy opinion editor Chris Reed decided to write a piece titled “Let’s be honest, America: Dogs are parasites, not man’s best friend,” and the paper decided to run it, possibly hoping that all the hate clicks would make up for ticking off much of the world. Some highlights:

This crazy dog love keeps getting more and more costly. Spending by Americans on their pets more than quadrupled from 1994 to 2017, going from $17 billion to $69.5 billion.

A July 4th story in The New York Times detailed just how eager dog owners are to pamper their loyal, loving, obedient “fur babies” — even if the dogs don’t grasp that what’s being done to and for them is pampering.

… Instead of overthinking why people love their dogs, maybe we should just accept that they do. That’s especially the case for those whose mental health is dependent on dogs’ companionship. That’s because the more the human-canine relationship is examined, the more its parasitic nature becomes obvious — and the more clingy and forlorn humans come to appear.

He then goes on to quote arguments from genomic research suggesting that dogs chose to defend humans and keep them company to easily acquire food rather than humans domesticating dogs, but that doesn’t exactly make humans “clingy and forlorn” or make this a “parasitic relationship.” (If anything, it goes to show that dogs are pretty smart, and that both humans and dogs get benefits from that relationship.) At any rate, it’s quite a hot take, and it led to the paper getting hilariously dunked on on Twitter, where they got over 5,600 replies to 585 retweets and 1,566 likes. Some highlights:

So, yeah, that’s not the greatest piece by Reed, or the greatest move by the paper to run it.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 for both Reed and the UT.

1. Rich Lowry calls soccer “a fundamentally flawed game,” argues that it’s too subjective…unlike baseball?:  It wouldn’t be a World Cup without some hot takes on soccer from people who don’t watch it regularly, and National Review editor Rich Lowry decided to grace us with a fiery one this week. Here are some highlights from Lowry’s “Soccer Is a Fundamentally Flawed Game”:

I’m a sucker for sports spectacles, so I’ve relented and watched a couple of World Cup games. I’ve lost some of my reflexive disdain for soccer, but it still strikes me as fundamentally flawed. It’s not just that it is dull most of the time for the uninitiated viewer (although I’d probably prefer to watch a soccer game than a NBA regular season game — someone please check on David French). The problem from my amateur’s point of view is that the regular action in soccer can’t be relied on to create scoring. So a lot of it happens as a result of interruptions in play and referee calls — on corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks.

I watched some of the Russia–Croatia game last weekend (which did have a thrilling finale), and the announcer kept saying after a goal something like: AND ANOTHER BIG SET PIECE IN THIS WORLD CUP! Well, yeah. When else does something happen? This creates the incentive for players to flop and pretend they’ve just gotten shot in the leg. If a referee falls for it, the tactic might change soccer history.

And then there are the penalty kicks. They have much too much of an element of randomness since the goaltender has to guess which way to jump. This is absurd and makes ending a tied game on penalty kicks a travesty.

In this sense, baseball is the purest sport. It relies less on subjective umpire calls, especially now with replay (and laser strike zones will eventually bring more certainty to ball-and-strike calls). There’s not a big routine penalty that affects play. And there’s no way for a team to go into a defensive crouch and sit on a lead or otherwise game the clock. It’s 27 outs for each team, no set pieces or fakery necessary.

As noted on Twitter, baseball might be the most subjective sport of them all (and the “laser strike zones” Lowry talks about are a long way off, if ever):

And yes, lots of soccer action happens off set pieces, but there are “interruptions in play” in every sport. And soccer’s running clock means there aren’t any commercial breaks mid-game, so it’s arguably less “interrupted” than anything else. But, like anyone else, Lowry doesn’t have to like soccer. Suggesting it’s “fundamentally flawed” because of set pieces and subjective referee calls is a stretch, though, especially if you’re going to hold baseball up as the “purest” example of objectivity, something it is nowhere close to.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Hot Take Standings: 

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 206
Skip Bayless – 178
Phil Mushnick – 142
Colin Cowherd – 66
Rob Parker – 41
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Doug Gottlieb – 28
Albert Breer – 23
Ray Lewis – 21
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Dan Shaughnessy – 17
Britt McHenry – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Darren Rovell – 12
Ben Maller – 12
Andy Benoit – 11
Tony Massarotti – 11
Jason McIntyre – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Danny Kanell – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
John Middlekauff – 8
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
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
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
The Sporting News – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Stan Fischler – 3
Sonnie Wooden – 3
Chris Jones – 3
Kelly Smith – 3
Michael Wilbon – 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
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
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.