Many loyal readers of The Hot Takery have been asking me about what makes a take a really piping hot one. The answer is not as simple as you might think.
I tried to point out some of the nuances of hot takery in our post on Angelo Cataldi and how he hates Sam Hinkie because he doesn’t return his calls or something, but there really isn’t any comprehensive guide to what constitutes a truly hot take. Until now.
In order to promote the art that is hot takery and provide guidance for our budding hot takists, I present to you the eight best practices for piping hot takery.
1. Grabby, possibly misleading headlines
This is probably the most obvious of all the best practices, as it’s the first thing your readers will see. Injecting the hot take right into the headline will not only get you a ton of clicks, but also let people know that they definitely want to read the words underneath it.
Classic headlines like “Where are the critics of Nonis’ off-season moves now?,” “Sam Hinkie is arrogant, irresponsible,” and “Captain whine rips media” will undoubtedly land their takists in The Hot Takery hall of fame, so take note.
Strong headline writing is the backbone of any piping hot take, so practice is key. Just remember: the more outlandish, the better.
2. Factual inaccuracies
To really show your readers you mean business, it’s always good to sprinkle in a few factual errors in your takes. Being correct implies that you did research prior to serving up a take, which is a big no no in the hot take community.
A perfect example is Tim Panaccio’s recent article on how Flyers captain Claude Giroux should be publicly shamed. In the article, Panaccio noted that while the #buttgate incident happened in Ottawa, Giroux is from “nearby Hearst.” Had Timmy taken a few seconds to Google the actual location of Hearst, me may have found out that it’s, well, not so close:
This kind of factual inaccuracy adds a necessary spice to any take, and it’s often a key ingredient of the hottest ones.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you do decide to utilize the factual inaccuracy in your take, it’s very effective to repeat it incessantly. That way your readers fully understand that you will, under no circumstances, let facts stand in the way of your takery. Take this classic example of Stephen A. Smith arguing that the Chicago Blackhawks’ point streak in March 2013 was adulterated because hockey has “ties”:
If your utilization of factual inaccuracies gets you in hot water, just take a page from Master Hot Takist Steve Simmons‘ book and yell like a petulant child.
3. Make yourself the focus
Getting indignant in your takes is always a great way to make sure they get served piping hot, and there’s no better way of doing that than by making yourself the focus.
Did an athlete do something that you disagree with or offended you? There really is no reason to write about it in a logical, level-headed way. That athlete affected you personally, so it’s best to make sure that your take reflects that.
Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer pretty much wrote the book on this. His classic articles whining about how former Flyers captain Mike Richards didn’t like talking to a media that treated him like garbage are really quite amazing examples of hot takery. By doing this, Carchidi makes himself the center of attention, turning the scribe into the subject.
Making yourself the focus lets everyone know just how awesome you think you are. When utilized properly, it’s one of the best items in a hot takist’s toolkit.
4. No analysis allowed
This is the most important principle of hot takery. People don’t read the sports section to become bored by dry, reasoned analysis. They read it for the takes, and analyzing whatever sport you cover will make sure that they end up cold and brittle.
I would provide some examples here, but to be honest, there are just far too many. All the great hot takists of the world eschewed analysis decades ago, and you would be wise to not try and reverse this trend.
In fact, you should hate analysis so much that your hot takes focus on just how muchyou really hate them. This practice has made Steve Simmons (presumably) millions of dollars, so it’s kind of hard to call it silly.
And if, for whatever reason, you do decide to inject analysis into your takes, make sure you temper it with a heaping dose of factual inaccuracies.
5. Point to immeasurable, subjective concepts
Have a favorite player whose numbers just aren’t so hot? Don’t let that stop you from writing a take about him/her, but just make sure you point to plenty of nebulous concepts to make sure it comes out nice and hot.
This happens in hockey journalism all the time — the hot takists in a particular city latch onto one player who nerds like Tyler Dellow and Eric T. argue is useless, and in order to reinforce their points, they cite things like “heart,” “grit,” and “leadership.”
You should start doing this as soon as possible. That way, if someone disagrees with you, they can’t entirely disprove you. How do you quantify and compare the levels of these things? You just can’t.
This team has one player with heart remaldo. That’s it
— Flyers Facebook (@FlyersFacebook) October 16, 2013
And, to be completely honest, it’s a good way of convincing your readers that you’re right. Do fans like Jake Voracek because he scores goals? Hell no, but they do love Zac Rinaldo because he has a ton of heart. If you have any doubts about this, just take a look at any team’s Facebook page (a.k.a. the Realm of Hot Takes).
6. Blow everything out of proportion
The best hot takists realize that a reaction to a particular incident cannot treat it as an isolated and contained event. Everything you write about should be blown completely out of proportion and employ “slippery-slope” like arguments.
If a particular player was seen out on the town the night before a game, it’s probably the reason why they lost. Hell, if the team has any sense they’ll ship him out of town and make sure that the mayor publicly disavows him. This is a tactic that has been utilized by the Philadelphia hot takists, and it has undoubtedly led to some piping hot takes and helped shape their teams for the better.
If you ever find yourself thinking you might be taking things a little too far, don’t. Nothing can be blown out of proportion too much — not even if you suggest an entire country has no identity because they lost a soccer game. As with anything in life, it’s always good to think big when delivering hot takes.
7. You’re definitely right
Because hot takes are generally contentious and will face scrutiny from firemen trying to douse them with cold water, it’s important that you let your readers understand that you know you’re right. A good way to handle this is to approach your writing as if any disagreement with what you dish out is virtually impossible, especially if that’s not the case.
A good way of doing this is by presenting your case in short, pithy sentences. This lets readers know you are Very Serious, and won’t take kindly to criticism. If you can throw in a paragraph that is one sentence of three words or less, people will be effectively unable to criticize you.
It just works.
Another good practice to adopt is getting rid of indecisive words like “probably,” “maybe,” and “perhaps” from your lexicon. These are just avenues for firemen to enter to try and dismantle your take, and they’ll also cool it down a bit.
8. Je ne sais quoi
While I’ve tried my best to impart my knowledge of hot takery to you, it’s impossible for me to provide an exhaustive list of what makes a take truly hot. Remember, hot takery is an art with many nuances and opportunities for personal expression.
What I can say is that every great hot take has that little extra something that takes it to the next level. Finding the best way to do this can be hard, but there are some proven routes that you can experiment with.
Injecting moral outrage into a take usually does the trick, and if that doesn’t work, you can always posit absurd and unrealistic hypotheticals to get your point across. If you really need to make your point very clear, a tidy reference to Benghazi can really turn the heat up of any take to scorching hot.
I hope that this exercise has aided you in your journey to becoming a world class hot takist. Just remember that practice makes perfect, and when in doubt ask yourself: “what would Simmons do?”
Going forward, The Hot Takery will be using this lesson as a guide for our new take-o-meter. For each best practice a take exhibits, it will receive one Simmons on the take-o-meter, with the maximum set at 10. This method ensures that our assessments are as objective as possible.*
*The Hot Takery reserves the right to make totally arbitrary ratings not based on this method.