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Mulvena: Slow down with these “hot takes”

| Friday, November 9, 2018

This morning, on my daily procrastination visit to ESPN’s website, I decided to meander over to the NCAA basketball page after frustratingly watching Kirk Herbstreit talk about college football in every clip on the website. As I scrolled down the page, I saw a clip from “First Take” (which, for the record, I absolutely love), entitled “Is it too early to compare Zion to LeBron?”

What a ridiculous headline. First of all, if the clip is intending to ask its viewers if it is too early to compare Zion Williamson of Duke to the current LeBron James, it has to be self-aware of how comically ridiculous a question that is.

If, on the other hand, it’s asking whether or not it is too early to compare Zion Williamson to a young LeBron James (presumably toward the end of his high school paper), then it may be a reasonable headline. But still, Williamson put on a standout performance in the State Farm Champions Classic, and we’re talking about comparing him to arguably the most highly touted recruit in basketball history. As of now, we have every reason to believe that R.J. Barrett is a better NBA prospect than Williamson, especially considering the obvious fact that he was a higher ranked prospect.

But I think this one short clip is emblematic of a trend in sports TV media, and it’s one I’m sure you’re all aware of, but it’s worth probing now and again. People are so hungry for “hot takes,” which are admittedly fun to entertain and sometimes necessary to address, but this hunger has gone so far as to prompt a massive decrease in the demand for well-thought-out, nuanced sports columns.

When I want to talk about professional sports with my friends, what starts our conversations are things like “I heard [insert boisterous sports TV personality] say this.” I may be wrong, but the atmosphere of sports opinion seems underlined by a glaring lack of substance. It just feels like people don’t demand quality sports columns or nuanced arguments anymore.

And don’t get me wrong, I love turning on my television to see Skip Bayless profusely sweating while spewing nonsense about whether or not LeBron James could beat the Cleveland Browns front seven in a game of basketball if he played on crutches. I can’t get enough of Max Kellerman talking about whether LeBron of Muhammad Ali is the GOAT. If I don’t get my daily dose of Stephen A. Smith screaming the phrase “unmitigated gall,” how could I go on with my day?

But I’ve found that all of this, while thoroughly entertaining, leaves me feeling a little empty. I know that may sound ridiculous, but following and reading about sports, to me, can be a tremendous joy. It can be one of the most stimulating things I do all day. And recognizing that, we all ought to dismiss loud drivel when appropriate to do so and demand more quality discussions on sports talk shows.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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