Categories
SPORT SPORT_MLB

No small-sample problems (yet) for dominant Dodgers

Even in this shortened season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have stood out with their dominance.

And Clayton Kershaw is still a big part of it.

Kershaw has won his last three starts, allowing just two runs in that span. For the season, the 32-year-old left-hander is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA. He’s struck out 33 batters with just four walks.

Kershaw pitched like that while winning three Cy Young Awards from 2011-14, but he declined ever so slightly the last couple seasons. His 3.03 ERA last year was his worst since his rookie season of 2008, for example.

He began this season battling a back issue that caused him to miss his customary opening day start, and with the schedule shortened to 60 games, even a talented team like the Dodgers was vulnerable to the vagaries of a small sample size. But Los Angeles can start making postseason plans after a 26-10 start that has the Dodgers five games up in the NL West.

Los Angeles has a run differential of plus-90 — the Chicago White Sox have the next-best mark at plus-42 — and the Dodgers just set a National League record for home runs in a month with 57 in August. Mookie Betts entered Sunday’s action ranked second in the majors in wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Los Angeles has not lost a series all season.

Of course, the series that matter won’t come until later. The expanded postseason this year has been a nice safety net for some other highly regarded teams. The Yankees and Astros have had some issues but are still in good shape, and even the last-place Nationals aren’t out of contention by any means.

But for the Dodgers, the extra teams in the postseason just represent more potential pitfalls for a Los Angeles team that has done just about everything in recent years except win it all.

ON THE RISE?

The AL Central has taken its lumps lately — last year, the division had two teams lose at least 103 games. But right now there’s an intriguing three-way race developing at the top, with Chicago (21-13) and Cleveland (21-13) narrowly ahead of Minnesota (20-15). Even Detroit (16-16) has made it back to .500 after a nine-game losing streak earlier in the month.

The AL Central has gotten the better of its interleague partner. Four of the five NL Central teams are under .500.

TRIVIA TIME

Miguel Cabrera reached a milestone Sunday with his 2,000th hit as a member of the Detroit Tigers. He even came out for a curtain call in front of the empty seats at Comerica Park.

Cabrera has the most hits with his current team of any active player in baseball.

Who is second on that list?

HIGHLIGHT

The St. Louis Cardinals turned a bizarre 3-2-8 double play against Cleveland on Friday night. With men on first and third, Francisco Lindor hit a groundball to Paul Goldschmidt, who threw home to Yadier Molina.

Molina ran baserunner Cesar Hernandez back toward third and eventually tagged him out. Jose Ramirez, the original runner on first, had come all the away around toward third but didn’t make it far enough and got trapped between second and third. So Molina ran him back toward second and eventually threw to center fielder Dylan Carlson, who had come in to cover second. Carlson applied the tag on Ramirez.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Lucas Giolito of the White Sox threw the season’s first no-hitter Tuesday, blanking Pittsburgh 4-0. He struck out 13 with one walk.

It was the 19th no-hitter in White Sox history. Only the Dodgers (23) have more.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Molina isn’t far behind Cabrera. He has 1,982 hits, all with the Cardinals.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NFL

NFL stunner: Jags waive Fournette after failing to trade him

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jaguars moved another step closer to purging Tom Coughlin’s tumultuous tenure in Jacksonville.

The team waived running back Leonard Fournette on Monday, a stunning decision many outsiders view as the latest in a series of head scratchers that could help the franchise tank the season and get the No. 1 draft pick.

“If that’s the case, then the realization is if that happens, then I’m not going to be here,” coach Doug Marrone said. “At the end of the day, if I don’t win enough games or do enough with this team, I don’t foresee me still being employed. I’m doing everything I can to make sure we have the best team to make sure we win football games. That’s as simple as I can be on it.”

Coughlin wanted Fournette as the centerpiece of his old-school, run-first philosophy. It worked in 2017, although it became clear that Fournette needed to be a better pro. He was fined repeatedly for being late and skipping mandatory functions.

The Jaguars spent months trying to trade Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft who’s coming off a career year. He was on the block during the NFL draft and again over the summer.

“We couldn’t get anything, a fifth, a sixth, anything,” Marrone said.

So they dumped the 25-year-old former LSU star one day after trading former Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to Minnesota in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2020. Jacksonville also traded Jalen Ramsey, fellow cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive end Calais Campbell in the last 10 months.

“It’s going to fall to me as to who those best players are,” Marrone said. “At the end of the day, I’ve got to be able to field a team that I believe gives us the best chance to win. That’s what my role is and that’s what I’m doing.”

Still, no one expected Jacksonville to part ways with Fournette less than two weeks before the opener.

He is due $4.17 million in guaranteed salary this season if someone claims him. If he clears waivers, he would become a free agent.

Jacksonville voided all the remaining guarantees in his rookie deal in December 2018, so Fournette would need to file a grievance to get any money from the Jags in 2020.

Fournette’s time in Jacksonville took a turn in 2018, which ended up being the worst season of his football life. He was injured, suspended and on the bench in crunch time. He was fined, criticized and admittedly not in ideal shape late in the year.

The Jaguars voided his guarantees following his one-game suspension for fighting with Buffalo linebacker Shaq Lawson, and Coughlin ripped him for being “disrespectful” and “selfish” for sitting on the bench — while injured and inactive — during the season finale. Adding to the chaos, Fournette was arrested in April 2019 for driving with a suspended license.

He bounced back last year with his best season. He topped 1,600 yards from scrimmage in 15 games, carrying 265 times for 1,152 yards and catching 76 passes for 522 yards. He scored only three touchdowns. He also fumbled just once in 341 touches.

Fournette has 2,631 yards rushing, 1,009 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns in three seasons since he was now-fired personnel chief Coughlin’s first draft pick since returning to Jacksonville. But with Coughlin gone, general manager Dave Caldwell put Fournette on the block and declined to pick up the fifth-year option in his rookie deal.

Marrone insisted Fournette did nothing to prompt his release, instead pointing to his fit in coordinator Jay Gruden’s new scheme.

“It strictly has to do with on the field,” Marrone said.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NBA

Coaching great John Thompson of Georgetown dead at 78

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Thompson, the imposing Hall of Famer who turned Georgetown into a “Hoya Paranoia” powerhouse and became the first Black coach to lead a team to the NCAA men’s basketball championship, has died. He was 78

His death was announced in a family statement released by Georgetown on Monday. No details were disclosed.

“Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on but, most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else,” the statement said. “However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear everyday.”

One of the most celebrated and polarizing figures in his sport, Thompson took over a moribund Georgetown program in the 1970s and molded it in his unique style into a perennial contender, culminating with a national championship team anchored by center Patrick Ewing in 1984.

Georgetown reached two other title games with Thompson in charge and Ewing patrolling the paint, losing to Michael Jordan’s North Carolina team in 1982 and to Villanova in 1985.

At 6-foot-10, with an ever-present white towel slung over his shoulder, Thompson literally and figuratively towered over the Hoyas for decades, becoming a patriarch of sorts after he quit coaching in 1999.

One of his sons, John Thompson III, was hired as Georgetown’s coach in 2004. When the son was fired in 2017, the elder Thompson — known affectionately as “Big John” or “Pops” to many — was at the news conference announcing Ewing as the successor.

Along the way, Thompson said what he thought, shielded his players from the media and took positions that weren’t always popular. He never shied away from sensitive topics — particularly the role of race in both sports and society — and he once famously walked off the court before a game to protest an NCAA rule because he felt it hurt minority athletes.

“I’ll probably be remembered for all the things that kept me out of the Hall of Fame, ironically, more than for the things that got me into it,” Thompson said on the day he was elected to the Hall in 1999.

Thompson became coach of the Hoyas in 1972 and began remaking a team that was 3-23 the previous season. Over the next 27 years, he led Georgetown to 14 straight NCAA tournaments (1979-92), 24 consecutive postseason appearances (20 NCAA, 4 NIT), three Final Fours (1982, 1984, 1985) and won six Big East tournament championships.

Employing a physical, defense-focused approach that frequently relied on a dominant center — Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were among his other pupils — Thompson compiled a 596-239 record (.715 winning percentage). He had 26 players drafted by the NBA.

One of his honors — his selection as coach of the U.S. team for the 1988 Olympics — had a sour ending when the Americans had to settle for the bronze medal. It was a result so disappointing that Thompson put himself on a sort of self-imposed leave at Georgetown for a while, coaching practices and games but leaving many other duties to his assistants.

Off the court, Thompson was both a role model and a lightning rod. A stickler for academics, he kept a deflated basketball on his desk, a reminder to his players that a degree was a necessity because a career in basketball relied on a tenuous “nine pounds of air.”

The school boasted that 76 of 78 players who played four seasons under Thompson received their degrees.

He was a Black coach who recruited mostly Black players to a predominantly white Jesuit university in Washington, and Thompson never hesitated to speak out on behalf of his players.

One of the most dramatic moments in Georgetown history came on Jan. 14, 1989, when he walked off the court to a standing ovation before the tipoff of a home game against Boston College, demonstrating in a most public way his displeasure against NCAA Proposition 42.

The rule denied athletic scholarships to freshmen who didn’t meet certain requirements, and Thompson said it was biased against underprivileged students. Opposition from Thompson, and others, led the NCAA to modify the rule.

Thompson’s most daring move came that same year, when he summoned notorious drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III for a meeting in the coach’s office. Thompson warned Edmond to stop associating with Hoyas players and to leave them alone, using his respect in the Black community to become one of the few people to stare down Edmond and not face a reprisal.

Though aware of his influence, Thompson did not take pride in becoming the first Black coach to take a team to the Final Four, and he let a room full of reporters know it when asked his feelings on the subject at a news conference in 1982.

“I resent the hell out of that question if it implies I am the first Black coach competent enough to take a team to the Final Four,” Thompson said. “Other Blacks have been denied the right in this country; coaches who have the ability. I don’t take any pride in being the first Black coach in the Final Four. I find the question extremely offensive.”

Born Sept. 2, 1941, John R. Thompson Jr. grew up in Washington, D.C. His father was always working — on a farm in Maryland and later as a laborer in the city — and could neither read nor write.

“I never in my life saw my father’s hands clean,” Thompson told The Associated Press in 2007. “Never. He’d come home and scrub his hands with this ugly brown soap that looked like tar. I thought that was the color of his hands. When I was still coaching, kids would show up late for practice and I’d (say) … ‘My father got up every morning of his life at 5 a.m. to go to work. Without an alarm.’”

Thompson’s parents emphasized education, but he struggled in part of because of poor eyesight and labored in Catholic grammar school. He was moved to a segregated public school, had a growth spurt and became good enough at basketball to get into John Carroll, a Catholic high school, where he led the team to 55 consecutive victories and two city titles.

He went to Providence College as one of the most touted basketball prospects in the country and led the Friars to the first NCAA bid in school history. He graduated in 1964 and played two seasons with Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics, earning a pair of championship rings as a sparingly used backup to Bill Russell.

Thompson returned to Washington, got his master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of the District of Columbia and went 122-28 over six seasons at St. Anthony’s before accepting the job at Georgetown, an elite school that had relatively few Black students. Faculty and students rallied around him after a bedsheet with racist words was hung inside the school’s gym before a game during the 1974-75 season.

Thompson sheltered his players with closed practices, tightly controlled media access and a prohibition on interviews with freshmen in their first semester — a restriction that still stands for Georgetown’s basketball team. Combined with Thompson’s flashes of emotion and his players’ rough-and-tumble style of play, it wasn’t long before the words “Hoya Paranoia” came to epitomize the new era of basketball on the Hilltop campus.

Georgetown lost the 1982 NCAA championship game when Fred Brown mistakenly passed the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy in the game’s final seconds. Two years later, Ewing led an 84-75 win over Houston in the title game. The Hoyas were on the verge of a repeat the following year when they were stunned in the championship game by coach Rollie Massimino’s Villanova team in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

Success allowed Thompson to rake in money through endorsements, but he ran afoul of his Georgetown bosses when he applied for a gambling license for a business venture in Nevada in 1995. Thompson, who liked playing the slot machines in Las Vegas, reluctantly dropped the application after the university president objected.

Centers Ewing, Mourning and Mutombo turned Georgetown into “Big Man U” under Thompson, although his last superstar was guard Allen Iverson, who in 1996 also became the first player under Thompson to leave school early for the NBA draft.

“Thanks for Saving My Life Coach,” Iverson wrote at the start of an Instagram post Monday with photos of the pair.

The Hoyas teams in the 1990s never came close to matching the achievements of the 1980s, and Thompson’s era came to a surprising and sudden end when he resigned in the middle of the 1998-99 season, citing distractions from a pending divorce.

Thompson didn’t fade from the limelight. He became a sports radio talk show host and a TV and radio game analyst, joining the very profession he had frustrated so often as a coach. He loosened up, allowing the public to see his lighter side, but he remained pointed and combative when a topic mattered to him.

A torch was passed in 2004, when John Thompson III became Georgetown’s coach. The younger Thompson, with “Pops” often watching from the stands or sitting in the back of the room for news conferences, returned the Hoyas to the Final Four in 2007.

Another son, Ronny Thompson, was head coach for one season at Ball State and is now a TV analyst.

Categories
LOL VODAVIRAL

Highly Questionable Photoshops

Categories
SPORT SPORT_MLB

Mets, Marlins walk off field in social injustice protest

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Mets and Miami Marlins jointly walked off the field after a moment of silence, draping a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they chose not to play Thursday night.

After other games around baseball were postponed to protest social injustice, the Mets were late to take the field Thursday and never submitted a lineup to the public or the umpires. Neither starting pitcher threw any warmup pitches. The teams stood around their dugouts in full uniforms shortly before the 7:10 p.m. scheduled first pitch, and the national anthem was played and all players and coaches stood.

Mets outfielder Dominic Smith — a Black man who wept Wednesday night while discussing the shooting by police of a Black man in Wisconsin over the weekend — led New York onto the field. Players took their positions, then reserves and coaches filed out of both dugouts and stood silently for 42 seconds.

Members on each team doffed caps towards the other side before returning to their clubhouses, leaving only the black T-shirt at home.

“The words on the shirt speak for themselves, just having it in the center of everything, just knowing that both teams are unified, and that we agreed to do this,” said Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was Miami’s leadoff hitter and stood near the batter’s box for the silent display. “And it was the right thing to do.”

The scene capped a whirlwind 20-hour span that began with Smith’s emotional press conference following the Mets’ 5-4 victory.

“It really touched all of us in the clubhouse, just to see how powerful his statements were, how emotional he was,” Conforto said “He’s our brother, so we stand behind him and we stand behind (Black Mets outfielder) Billy (Hamilton). All the players who stand up against the racial injustice, we stand behind them. And that’s what you saw tonight.”

Both teams held clubhouse meetings Thursday afternoon before Conforto, the Mets’ player representative, met with Brinson and Miguel Rojas, the Marlins’ player rep.

Conforto said Rojas came up with the idea of the teams walking off the field, and that it came together at the last minute. Conforto and Smith were seen talking with Brinson and Rojas as the teams warmed up.

“We wanted to do something special,” Rojas said. “We wanted to do something different.”

Smith, who implored people to give their time to inner-city communities on Wednesday night, said he’d heard from players in the NBA and NFL as well as baseball players such as Jack Flaherty who were interested in donating money and time to his foundation.

“It’s still overwhelming at this moment, just to see how moved my peers are, my teammates, my brothers, the front office, the coaching staff, everybody who talks to me on a daily basis,” Smith said. “Just to see how moved they were, it made me feel really good inside. It made me feel like we are on the right path of change.”

The 42-second moment of silence came a day before Major League Baseball plans to hold its annual Jackie Robinson Day, which was pushed back from the usual April 15 due to the pandemic.

“It needs to be an ongoing thing,” Brinson said. “It can’t just be one day out of the baseball year that we bring light to everything.”

The teams walked off about two hours after a video appeared on the league’s official website in which Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said that his players did not want to play and they were waiting to hear from the Marlins about coordinating a postponement.

Van Wagenen also criticized Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s handling of player protests this week and alleged Manfred was pressuring New York to stage a symbolic walkout against players’ wishes, rather than a full postponement.

“That’s Rob’s instinct,” Van Wagenen said in a conversation he didn’t appear to know was being streamed on MLB.com. “At a leadership level, he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”

Van Wagenen said in the video — after specifying the conversation “can’t leave this room” — that Manfred wanted the Mets and Marlins to walk off the field together shortly before the scheduled 7:10 p.m. first pitch, then come back and play at 8:10 p.m.

Van Wagenen apologized for his comments later Thursday, saying in a statement the idea to walk out and return was actually hatched by Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon.

“I have put myself and this organization into this conversation in a way that takes away from the real point,” Van Wagenen said on a conference call Thursday night. “I’m disappointed in myself.”

Manfred said in a statement that he has not tried to override players’ wishes to protest by not playing.

“Over the past two days, players on a number of Clubs have decided not to play games,” he said. “I have said both publicly and privately that I respect those decisions and support the need to address social injustice. I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing, nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any Club personnel or any player. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”

Wilpon also said in a statement that the walkoff-and-return plan was his.

“To clear up any misunderstandings, it was my suggestion to potentially look into playing the game later because of scheduling issues,” Wilpon said. “Brody’s misunderstanding of a private conversation was and is inexcusable.

“We fully respect our players and the Marlins players decision to not play tonight and appreciate the sincerity of all those who wish to draw attention to social injustices and racial inequalities that must be addressed. The entire Mets organization remains committed to creating meaningful change in our society.”

Van Wagenen said he didn’t know how or when the Mets and Marlins, who were scheduled to complete their season series Thursday, would make up the game. The only mutual day off remaining for both teams is Monday.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NBA

A 2nd day of NBA playoff games halted over racial injustice

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — An unprecedented NBA walkout over racial injustice postponed a second day of the playoffs Thursday, although players pledged to finish the postseason even as they wrestled with their emotions about wanting to bring change in their communities.

For now, the basketball courts in the NBA’s virus-free bubble at Disney World remained empty. And other athletes across the sports world also said they weren’t ready to resume playing.

They are still angry and emotional after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. NBA players considered not playing again the rest of the postseason and going home to their communities, although they decided Thursday they wanted to continue, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

“We obviously agree that whether we play or not, we still have to do our best to make change and we still have to do our part in the community,” Orlando guard Michael Carter-Williams said in a video interview with a Magic public relations official.

“It’s obviously not easy, given everything that’s going on. But I think that if we can go out there and do our best and also have a list of things that we want to accomplish, everything gets completed.”

The NBA decided to postpone three more games Thursday to join the three that weren’t played a day earlier.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league hoped to resume Friday or Saturday. He added in as statement that a group of players at Disney would hold a video conference call later Thursday with representatives of the owners, including Michael Jordan, and National Basketball Players Association to discuss the next steps.

The tennis tours had already decided they would pause play Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in New York; a number of NFL teams canceled practices; and the NHL postponed two nights of playoff games.

A second night of WNBA games were postponed and other teams and sports pondered whether they would play on.

“This is not a strike. This is not a boycott. This is a affirmatively day of reflection, a day of informed action and mobilization,” WNBA players’ union president Nneka Ogwumike said on ESPN.

Seven Major League Baseball games also were postponed.

The sudden stoppages were reminiscent of March, when the NBA suspended its season after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Other sports quickly followed until the worldwide sporting landscape had almost completely come to a halt.

NBA players agreed to resume their season in July at Disney, making clear they intended to chase social justice reform just as passionately as a championship. But the video of Blake’s shooting on Sunday left them so disgusted and dispirited that they wondered whether they should continue playing.

The players voiced their frustrations in a meeting Wednesday night, then continued talks Thursday morning. As they prepared to do that, NBA referees led a march around campus to show their support in the fight against racism.

Play had been set to resume at 4 p.m. with Game 6 of the Western Conference series between Utah and Denver. Boston and Toronto were also to begin their second-round series before the Clippers and Dallas met in the nightcap.

It was the Raptors and Celtics who had been most vocal about the idea of not playing, but the Milwaukee Bucks acted first when they opted to remain in their locker room instead of playing their Game 5 against Orlando on Wednesday. Kenosha is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee.

Before coming to Disney, many NBA players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing that a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.

They ultimately decided that playing would give them the largest platform — while also providing a bigger target for critics.

The NBA’s relationship with the White House eroded when Donald Trump was elected after President Barack Obama was close with some players and officials. Trump was critical of the league again Thursday.

“They’ve become like a political organization, and that’s not a good thing,” Trump told reporters, noting that the league’s ratings are down from previous seasons. “I don’t think that’s a good thing for sports or for the country.”

Earlier Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said in a CNN interview that the NBA protests are “absurd and silly” when compared to their response to ongoing to human rights violations in China.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NFL

Brady-led Buccaneers look to end long playoff drought

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are learning Tom Brady is lot more than a six-time Super Bowl winner who’s determined to help transform them into champions, too.

“He’s the G.O.A.T. on and off the field … a superstar, the most accomplished player in our game in history, and he’s just like everybody else,” Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans said.

“He works extremely hard, he’s always taking care of his body, he loves his family, he loves family time and he’s just cool … a real down-to-earth guy,” Evans added. “He’s already up there as one of my favorite teammates and we’ve only had a few practices together, so that says a lot. I’m learning a lot from him, and hopefully we can tear it up this year.”

Jason Pierre-Paul won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants (against Brady) and has 79½ career sacks entering his 11th NFL season — third with the Bucs, who haven’t earned a postseason berth since 2007 and don’t have a playoff victory since winning their only Lombardi Trophy 18 seasons ago.

The 31-year-old linebacker, who re-signed with the Bucs in free agency after Brady inked a two-year, fully guaranteed $50 million deal in March, notes how he’s always wondered what it would be like to play with Brady.

Brady won 17 division titles and appeared in 13 AFC championships game and nine Super Bowls during a historic 20-year run with the Patriots. He’s a three-time league MVP and four-time Super Bowl MVP.

The Bucs have the worst all-time winning percentage among teams in the four major professional leagues.

Pierre-Paul has made the playoffs once during his career.

“I always (asked) myself, ’If I had a quarterback like Brady, what would I do? Now is the perfect opportunity. It’s not, ‘What would I do?’ Now I can go out and do something. It’s totally different from all the years I’ve been playing football, and every guy on this team should have that feeling,” the linebacker said.

“He’s the G.O.A.T. of football. There’s a reason he has six NFL championship rings,” Pierre-Paul added. “You can see it. There’s really nothing too much to talk about. It’s Brady you’re talking about.”

Brady joins a team with a plethora of offensive playmakers, including Evans, fellow Pro Bowl receiver Chris Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s favorite target for much of his stint with New England.

Gronkowski, one of the most dominant tight ends in league history, returns after one year in retirement. He says Brady, who many of Tampa Bay’s players liken to being a coach on the field, looks refreshed.

“The way Tom works is never going to change — he just loves the game of football. But I can definitely say he has embraced this new challenge. And for myself, it’s definitely a challenge, too,” Gronkowski said.

“To go out there, to learn a whole new system, a whole new organization, a whole new team is definitely a challenge. … I can’t speak for Tom, but I can say, from my eyes just looking at him, he looks refreshed,” Gronkowski said. “He looks ready to go. He looks ready to play every single day, and he’s motivated every day. It’s nice to see.”

LET’S GET READY

Brady got a head-start on getting acclimated to new teammates, organizing small group workouts at a local high school while NFL clubs were prohibited from conducting customary conditioning programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The gatherings continued even after the NFL Players Association advised players to not participate in informal practices.

Teammates said Brady provided detailed instruction on how he likes certain pass routes run, as well as other tips that benefited them once training camp began.

Brady has a deep appreciation for this collection of playmakers that was bolstered this summer by the signing of veteran running back LeSean McCoy.

“The guys worked really hard and it’s been fun getting to know the receiver position,” Brady said. “Gronk’s the only guy I’ve played with, so I know what he can do. It’s really up to everybody to go out there and earn their role. I’ve always believed that you get out of it what you put into it.”

STRONG ARM

Brady turned 43 on Aug. 3. The Patriots won 12 games and another AFC East title a year ago, but he had one of his worst non-injury seasons statistically with 4,057 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

How would he fit into coach Bruce Arians’ offense, which emphasizes throwing deep passes. Arians said there’s no problem with Brady’s arm strength.

“I think he answered that question the first day. I think he was dropping 60-yard dimes,” the coach said. “Our job is to make sure he maintains that strength and not overwork it, because he’s an over-worker.”

Gronkowski is impressed, too.

“His arm looks like (when) I first got into the league,” the tight end said. “His arm may actually be stronger than when he was 33 … which is incredible.”

STOUT DEFENSE

The Bucs are confident they have a defense capable of helping Brady be successful. The unit led the league against the rush in 2019. It improved significantly against the pass over the last half of the season, too.

Arians and general manager Jason Licht made sure the core remained intact, placing the franchise tag on NFL sacks leader Shaquil Barrett and re-signing Pierre-Paul and tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Practicing against Brady doesn’t hurt.

“We’re getting better every day we go out there and compete against him,” linebacker Devin White said. “And I think a great thing is I’m able to go to him after practice and see the things that he’s seeing that we need to improve on to make us even better.”

Categories
VODAVIRAL WOW

Mistakes The Allies Made In World War 2

While the Allied forces during World War 2 eventually won the war, they made many considerable mistakes along the way. Rarely do we remember or care about the mistakes of the victors, but valuable lessons can be gleaned from them nevertheless. From the policy of appeasement to dropping the ball at Dunkirk to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies were clearly not perfect and made plenty of mistakes along the road to victory. So, what were they? Well, get ready to go back in time, here are 25 Mistakes The Allies Made In World War 2.

The Failure of Appeasement

In the pre-war period of World War 2, Britain and France took on a policy of appeasement to stave off war. Knowing the European democracies didn’t want war, Hitler pushed their limits to see how much he could get away with. This policy became notorious when English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler at Berchtesgaden and, without consulting the Czech government, essentially gave Hitler all of the Sudetenland. He came back to England declaring “Peace in our time,” but only made things worse. Hitler eventually dismembered all of Czechoslovakia.

Underestimating the Japanese

American racists’ beliefs about the Japanese were a big reason they weren’t ready for them before Pearl Harbor. American magazines and newspapers considered them inept, technologically backward, and “funny” people. They also thought they were physiologically incapable of being good aviators and that their inner ear was askew because their big sisters would bounce them around on their back.

Failure to Anticipate the German Blitz

Despite clear signs that Hitler was about to invade France through the Ardennes, France, and other Allied leaders totally ignored them, not believing Hitler would do it. Failure to anticipate Hitler’s actions led to one of the most devastating military defeats in the 20th century with Hitler unleashing a panzer offensive known as the blitzkrieg. Seven weeks later, Hitler toured Paris for the first time, taking a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower. To spite them, he forced France to surrender in the same carriage that Germany surrendered 22 years before.

The Failure to Attack Germany after They Invaded Poland

England and France assured Poland they would be protected if invaded, yet on September 1st, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and decimated their military with more than 2,000 tanks and 1,000 planes. Within 27 days, Warsaw surrendered. While England and France declared war on Germany in retaliation, they effectively did nothing afterward. The declaration was meaningless, and Poland ultimately remained occupied by Nazi forces until 1945.

Seizing the Initiative at Anzio

On January 22, 1944, British and American troops carried out an amphibious landing on the shores of Italy near Anzio and Nettuno. The German resistance was so light they were able to complete many of their objectives early, moving four miles inland that night. Clearly, the Germans were not ready for the invasion. However, rather than taking the initiative and moving further in toward Rome, the Allies waited and prepared. This proved costly and allowed the German commanders to prepare and lead a much more effective assault, resulting in four months of some of the bloodiest fighting in the war.

Churchill Sending Troops to Greece

In October 1940, Mussolini sent troops into Greece, triggering a wider-ranging conflict. While the Greeks pushed Mussolini back themselves, the Germans signaled invasion. Churchill, not wanting to lose Greek independence, offered assistance and sent Australian and New Zealander troops from Egypt. The German invasion totally overwhelmed Greek and British forces, and poor communication and bad infrastructure didn’t help. 50,000 British troops evacuated, leaving all their equipment behind, while 3,700 British and 15,000 Greek soldiers were killed. Churchill later admitted the decision was an error.Ike’s Early Errors.

Ike’s Early Errors

While General Eisenhower became one of the greatest leaders in World War 2, his early start in the war was met with many errors, including logistical messes, poor cooperation between English-American militaries, and failure to lead in combat operations. His British contemporary Field Marshal Alan Brooke was increasingly frustrated and critical of Eisenhower at this time, saying, “Nice chap, no general.”

Slow Development of Atomic Research

Albert Einstein wrote a letter to FDR in 1939, warning him about the dangers of uranium enrichment and how it could potentially be used as a bomb by the Germans. The Germans had discovered it and already had a head start. FDR responded cautiously, developing a committee to research the matter further, but the order to build an atomic bomb didn’t come until 1941. If the Germans hadn’t lost their physicists, many of them Jewish, and taken the gamble to develop the project further, it would have been too late, and they would have easily won World War 2.

No French Flanking During the German Blitzkrieg

Not only did the French fail to anticipate the German blitzkrieg strategy, their army was entirely disorganized and unprepared to counter it effectively. Blitzkrieg is severely vulnerable to counter-attacks and flanking. If the French had developed early flanking defenses like the Russians had, they wouldn’t have been conquered so easily.

Omaha Beach

Speaking of Omaha Beach, its invasion by Allied forces was not without serious problems. The Navy launched their landing crafts too far out at choppy sea, resulting in capsized vessels and extensive loss of men and equipment. In addition, the airborne fleet failed in its objective, leaving invading troops to be vulnerable, forcing them to hide behind the bodies of fallen comrades. Fortunately for the Allied forces, the Germans also made their fair share of mistakes.

Dunkirk

While Dunkirk turned out to be a success story, rescuing hundreds of thousands of British soldiers from enemy territory, it was also a massive military disaster that almost left England defenseless and without an infantry. The 400,000 British troops stationed in Belgium were there to fight off the German invasion, but instead, they were left surrounded and practically powerless. Poor-planning, intelligence, and leadership put them in the awful Dunkirk situation. If Hitler had destroyed and captured the British men there, things may have turned out differently in the war.

Intelligence Failure of Pearl Harbor

Outside of racist assumptions about the people of Japan, the United States intelligence about the military capabilities of Japan was horribly out of date due to Japan’s intense secrecy and the US not having deep contacts on the ground. For instance, the US thought they lacked the fuel capacity to bring them in range of Pearl Harbor, that their torpedoes wouldn’t be ineffective in Pearl Harbor’s shallow waters, and that their airplanes were copies from other military forces.

Operation Market Garden

The brainchild of General Bernard Montgomery, Operation Market Garden was a massive operation that could have not only ended the war but drastically changed the European landscape, keeping the Soviets from taking over Berlin. The operation involved a narrow thrust into German lines rather than a wide offensive. For a time, it looked like the Allied forces victory was within grasp, but when they reached the route to Arnhem, everything fell apart, thousands were killed, and their troops were forced to retreat.

Not Fighting the Soviets

This one is definitely the most controversial. When Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allied forces, both General Patton and Winston Churchill already had their eyes set on the Soviet Union, fearing their growing dominance. Churchill had his war cabinet come up with intelligence and a plan to potentially strike against Soviet forces in Eastern Europe and drive them back. It was called Operation Unthinkable. The outlook, unfortunately, was not good. His cabinet told him the Soviets would likely bombard the UK with missiles and other advanced weaponry, so Churchill backed off and so did the Allies. The Iron Curtain fell quickly, allowing for a long, tense Cold War. Perhaps that was their greatest mistake?

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NFL

NFL teams adjusting from 80,000 die-hards to 80 decibels

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The jokes write themselves: The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to play home games in front of a significantly reduced number of fans this season.

“How’s that different than any other year?”

Don’t laugh. The Jaguars — along with Atlanta, Cincinnati, Miami, Tampa Bay and others — might be better equipped to handle the NFL’s drastic change in hometown support. They’ve dealt with it for years.

Videoboard enhancements? Player-generated content? On-field celebrations recognizing community heroes and military veterans? Some NFL teams have been doing those and more for decades to help offset fewer butts in seats.

“One of the unfortunate advantages of being in a smaller market like Jacksonville is we have to get a little more creative in terms of how we create that home-field advantage,” Jaguars President Mark Lamping said. “We’d have to do that if it’s normal capacity or not.”

Twenty-one of the NFL’s 32 teams have ruled out spectators for the start of the season, with Buffalo, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minnesota and San Francisco the latest to announce plans Tuesday. At least eight are preparing to host a limited number of fans.

The bottom line: home-field advantages created by generations of fandom — most notably and noticeable in Green Bay, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Seattle — could be momentarily wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

Teams are adjusting.

New-age videoboards and top-of-the-line sound systems are taking center stage and assuming the all-important role of helping hype players in home venues. Those extras could spill into living rooms as several teams, including Jacksonville, are launching phone apps designed to provide in-stadium experiences to those watching from couches and comfy chairs.

Want to see player introductions? Want to experience a military flyover just before kickoff? The Jaguars are giving fans at home a peek at both through their new app.

The television product, meanwhile, might not look a whole lot different aside from empty venues or sparse crowds. The NFL’s TV partners are expected to add fan reaction to broadcasts.

For players and fans on hand, the voids will be filled by simulated crowd noise. The NFL is expected to allow 80 decibels piped in, a number many teams are already using during training camp practices and scrimmages.

General managers, coaches and team officials are preparing to play with that simulated crowd noise. Normal conversation is about 60 decibels. Double that for a rock concert. Eighty decibels equate to being in heavy traffic or next to a lawn mower. Anything above 85 is consider dangerous, depending on the duration of the exposure, the number of times exposed and the use of hearing protection.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium holds the record for the loudest NFL game. Chiefs fans registered 142.4 decibels on Sept. 29, 2014, while hosting the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.

Going from 80,000 die-hards to 80 decibels will sound like relative silence for anyone accustomed to a raucous, three-hour Sunday afternoon.

“I’m a defensive guy, so I need fans,” Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. “I love my fans. That’s a big edge. People don’t know how much it affects offense. It affects receivers, especially when the momentum is on the defensive side. It becomes a mental game, almost. Fans yelling, crowd going crazy, people are just raving. You can get caught up in that.”

Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey questioned how the piped-in noise will be monitored.

“Who controls the volume on that?” Gailey said. “If you get a homer that slips that volume a little bit louder on third down, I’m not sure I’m for that a lot.”

Home-field advantage was hardly a huge factor in 2019. Home teams posted their second-lowest winning percentage since the AFL-NFL merger, going 132-123-1. That’s just a touch over .500, and only ahead of the 1972 season, when home teams went a combined 90-87-5.

Nonetheless, it’s become the hot topic across the NFL this week. Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott made headlines by saying “it’s honestly ridiculous” that some teams will allow fans and others won’t. But those decisions were dictated by state and local guidelines, not the league.

“When I first came into the NFL, they were like, ’Well, we’re playing in these stadiums and it’s loud and it’s the NFL,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve been in the SEC for two years. We average more people.’ You know what I’m saying? It’s louder in the SEC than it is in the NFL.’”

Rowdy crowds are hardly the only benefit to playing at home. Visiting teams in Denver deal with altitude. In Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Miami in September, it’s sweltering heat and humidity. In Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay and New England in December, it’s freezing temperatures.

“I think there’ll always be some home-field advantage for all the teams just because (of) different surfaces, different way the field plays, the way the wind blows in each stadium. There’ll always be a little bit of that,” Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said.

Still, the thought of a Lambeau Leap into empty stands, or no Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, or few, if any, Terrible Towels is hard to imagine.

“It’s going to show if you really love football or not because without fans it’s still a football game at the end of the day,” Miami Dolphins rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene said. “You’ve got your teammates. You’ve got your coaches. I feel like that’s all you really need.

“Yes, fans are a big part of the sport. The fans make the sport what it is, I feel like. But that’s just the reality we’re in right now, so we’ve got to adjust and we’ve got to come together as a team and hype ourselves up.”

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NBA

Boycott: NBA playoff games called off amid player protest

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Making their strongest statement yet in the fight against racial injustice, players from six NBA teams decided not to play postseason games on Wednesday in a boycott that quickly reverberated across other professional leagues.

Also called off: Some games in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the three WNBA contests, as players across four leagues decided the best way to use their platform and demand change was to literally step off the playing surface.

Players made the extraordinary decisions to protest the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday of Jacob Blake, a Black man, apparently in the back while three of his children looked on.

Kenosha is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee. That city’s NBA team, the Bucks, started the boycotts Wednesday by refusing to emerge from their locker room to play a playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

“There has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” said Bucks guard Sterling Brown, who joined teammate George Hill in reading a statement on the team’s behalf. Brown has a federal lawsuit pending against the city of Milwaukee alleging he was targeted because he was Black and that his civil rights were violated in January 2018 when officers used a stun gun on him after a parking violation.

Other games that were not played: NBA playoff games between Oklahoma City and Houston, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland along with three WNBA games, three MLB games and five MLS matches. Two members of the St. Louis Cardinals sat out their team’s game with the Kansas City Royals as well.

The NBA’s board of governors have called a meeting on Thursday to discuss the new developments, said a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the meeting plan was not revealed publicly.

“The baseless shootings of Jacob Blake and other black men and women by law enforcement underscores the need for action,” the NBA Coaches Association said in a statement. “Not after the playoffs, not in the future, but now.”

The statement by the Bucks also called for state lawmakers to reconvene and take immediate action “to address issues of police accountability, brutality, and criminal justice reform.”

“I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Bucks,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tweeted.

The NBA did not say when Wednesday’s games would be played or if Thursday’s schedule of three more games involving six other teams would be affected. NBA players and coaches met for nearly three hours Wednesday night to determine next steps, including whether the season should continue. They did not come to a consensus, a person with knowledge of the meeting told AP.

“We fully support our players and the decision they made,” Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan said in a joint statement after Milwaukee players decided to not take the floor. “Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us.”

Added Jeanie Buss, the Governor of the Lakers, in a tweet: “I stand behind our players, today and always. After more than 400 years of cruelty, racism and injustice, we all need to work together to say enough is enough.”

Several NBA players, including the Lakers’ LeBron James, tweeted out messages demanding change. Some teams did the same.

“We weren’t given advanced notice about the decision but we are happy to stand in solidarity with Milwaukee, Jacob, and the entire NBA community,” Orlando guard Michael Carter-Williams said. “Change is coming.”

Magic players and referees were on the court as if the game was happening, unaware that Milwaukee did not intend to take the floor. The National Basketball Referees Association said it “stands in solidarity” with the players.

“Players have, once again, made it clear — they will not be silent on this issue,” National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts said. The NBPA is expected to be part of Thursday’s meeting with the board of governors.

Demanding societal change and ending racial injustice has been a major part of the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the arena courts, players are wearing messages urging change on their jerseys and coaches are donning pins demanding racial justice as well.

Many players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing that a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation on March 13. The warrant was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found. Then on May 25, Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into the Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes — all captured on a cell phone video.

Hill said after Blake’s shooting that he felt players shouldn’t have come to Disney.

“We’re the ones getting killed,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is Black, said in an emotional speech Tuesday night. “We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back. And it’s just, it’s really so sad.”

Players from Boston and Toronto met Tuesday to discuss boycotting Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, which had been scheduled for Thursday. NBPA officers were part of those meetings, and Miami forward Andre Iguodala — one of those officers— said around 2:15 p.m. that he did not believe a boycott plan had been finalized.

Things apparently moved quickly: Less than two hours later, the Bucks wouldn’t take the floor.

“When you talk about boycotting a game, everyone’s antenna goes up,” Iguodala said. “It’s sad you have to make threats like that — I wouldn’t say threats — but you have to be willing to sacrifice corporate money for people to realize there’s a big problem out there.”

Professional sports has seen both strikes and lockouts in the past, almost always over salary disputes. But this wouldn’t seem to classify as a strike, even though it was initiated by players, since their dispute is not with the NBA. Boycott, meanwhile, is defined as the act of refusing to engage in an action, usually to express disapproval with some condition.