As you may know, folks in England are bonkers about soccer/football. If you want to get a good sense of how much they love their hometown teams, and how football is so engrained in their culture, go watch “Welcome to Wrexham” or “Sunderland ‘Till I Die“. And just to illustrate that point further, take a look at all the football teams – from the highest level Premier League to the lowest non league teams – that are just based in London. By my count, there are 80 teams based in the greater London area as depicted by the logos below. I was inspired by a friend to turn this into a desktop wallpaper, so I did so in two styles – one with a plain grey background and another with all the team names in light text behind the map of London. Click on the images below to download a full size version (2560×1440). Enjoy!
An interesting thing transpired this week out in the San Diego market. Major League Baseball teams here in the US have traditionally relied on local networks to broadcast the majority of their games to the fans in the team’s region of the country. So, for example, I live in the NYC metro area so the Yankees and the Mets are broadcast locally via YES and SNY respectively – cable networks partially or fully owned by the teams themselves. Out in San Diego, where the Padres play, the broadcaster Diamond Sports Group (who operates as Bally Sports) a few weeks ago failed to pay the licensing fee to broadcast Padres games. Once the grace period to pay the fee expired, Diamond Sports Group effectively, and apparently willingly, broke their contract and rescinded their rights to broadcast Padres games.
Diamond, the Sinclair subsidiary that operates under the name Bally Sports, skipped its payment to the Padres a couple of weeks ago and had until the end of its grace period on Tuesday to make the team whole and maintain their long-term agreement. Choosing not to meant Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins was the last Padres game under the Bally Sports umbrella. Moving forward — starting Wednesday, continuing through the end of the season and resuming in perpetuity — MLB will air Padres games through its streaming service and on different cable channels.
MLB will provide Padres games through its MLB.TV app for free through Sunday. After that, in-market fans can continue to stream games for $19.99 a month or $74.99 for the rest of the regular season on MLB.com and Padres.com (postseason games air on national platforms). Through this process, Padres games will no longer be subject to blackouts. Local fans can also watch Padres games through a variety of cable providers — AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV, Cox and Spectrum — on a different channel. fuboTV will also continue to air Padres games through its platform.
In a release issued late Tuesday night, MLB stated that the new approach would increase the Padres’ reach from 1.13 million to about 3.2 million homes within the team’s TV territory.Alden Gonzalez, ESPN
What we are seeing here is the the first crack in the local/regional sports broadcasting ecosystem as a result of the rampant “cord cutting” that is happening around the country and the world. The significance of this can not be understated. We may very well see a few more teams/regional networks suffer the same fate and that will mean that the league(s) will start to take over “local” broadcasting services. The economic implications on the league will be very interesting to watch as the sky high valuations of many MLB teams have historically been tied to the value of the regional sports networks that the individual franchises have huge stakes in. If those broadcast rights shift to the leagues, how does that impact the individual teams, especially if the streaming subscription dollars do not add up to the ‘per household’ fees traditionally paid through cable packages?
Another interesting element this highlights and also brings into focus is one that has been around forever – the fact that not all fans of said teams are located in that region of the country. I am a displaced New Englander who lives in the NYC metro area. For as long as I have lived here, the only way I have been able to watch the Red Sox on broadcast or cable TV has been if the Red Sox were playing the Yankees or Mets (or the Braves on TBS), or if they were being broadcast nationally (regular season and/or playoffs).
If I wanted to be able to see all the games of my favorite teams – basically to mimic what I would be able to watch if I was living in New England – I’d have to subscribe to ‘league pass’ services from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and drop an additional $750/year. And that’s not even counting if I’m a soccer fan where an MLS subscription would be another $100 via the new Apple TV+ deal or that the English Premier League has many games broadcast on NBC’s Peacock premium streaming service.
If I wanted to be able to see all the games of my favorite teams – basically to mimic what I would be able to watch if I was living in New England – I’d have to subscribe to ‘league pass’ services from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and drop an additional $750/year. And that’s not even counting if I’m a soccer fan where an MLS subscription would be another $100 via the new Apple TV+ deal or that the English Premier League has many games broadcast on NBC’s Peacock premium streaming service. Or, I could just move back to the New England region.
On an average day, with an average golfer, the odds of hitting a hole in one is about 12,500 to 1. For professional golfers, the odds of a hole in one fall significantly to 3,000 to 1. Most hole in one shots are similar – the ball, which is 1.68″ in diameter, lands on the green, rolls towards the cup, which is 4.5″ in diameter, and then falls in, which is then followed by vigorous celebration and high fives all around. So then, what do we think the odds are of a golfer of any skill level making a hole in one on the fly? Meaning, that 1.68″ diameter ball doesn’t touch the green and literally lands right in the 4.5″ diameter hole. The odds have to be astronomical. And that is exactly what happened at this weekend’s PGA Championship when Michael Block, a golf course pro from California (not even a PGA Touring pro!!), aced the 15th hole at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY. Take a look at the video. It is a stunning shot. It even took Mr. Block several minutes for it to register that he aced it.
The 2022-23 season in the English National League (England’s 5th tier football league) has been defined by the phenomenal race at the top of the table between Wrexham AFC and Notts County. As good as Wrexham was this season, Notts County was equal to the task, keeping everyone in suspence all the way to the critical match at the Racecourse on April 10. It was a battle for the ages with (essentially) automatic promotion to League 2 (England’s Fourth Tier) to the winner, while the 2nd place team likely had to reckon with the playoff round for the final promotion spot. And as we all know, just about anything can happen in a playoff round, as Wrexham found out last year.
Yesterday, Notts County took on Boreham Wood with the winner going to Wembley for the National League Playoff final. Boreham Wood has the best defense in the National League. Notts County accumulated a record 107 points this season, a clear 25 points better than Boreham and only bested by Wrexham’s 111. All those facts didn’t matter yesterday, as Boreham took a 2-0 lead in the first half. And from there, Notts County staged a comeback for the ages – scoring the tying goal in the 97th minute of regulation – literally the last minute of the game (And you must remember, the April 10 game against Wrexham was decided in the last minute as well) – and then scored the winning goal 30 minutes into extra time. Just watch the highlight reel above. It is an amazing summary of the game – especially because each team had ample opportunities to score throughout the entire game.
The quality of football in the English Premier League is world class – there is no argument there. However, the energy, passion and enthusiasm that we have witnessed through this year’s National League season has been every bit as spectacular.
I admit it. I jumped onto the Wrexham AFC bandwagon as soon as I heard about Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchasing the club, and then went head first all in after watching the wonderful 1st season of their documentary “Welcome to Wrexham”. I started following Wrexham on ESPN – tracking their every game and checking the standings religiously. I carved out a Wrexham section in Apple News, salivating for any tid bit of news or information about the team and its upcoming matches, since the English National League (England’s 5th level soccer division – something similar to single A baseball here in the US) does not get much attention. I have been trying to purchase the Wrexham baseball cap that has their crest on the front. And as this season has progressed and it became apparent that Wrexham was in a record setting steel cage death match with Notts County (both teams have surpassed 100 points this season, an unheard of level of success for one team, much less two in the same season!) for promotion from the English National League to the EFL League 2 division (the English Football League’s 4th division) and that the April 10 match vs Notts County at Wrexham’s Racecourse Grounds was going to be an important match. And oh, did it deliver. Wrexham won 3-2 but that does not begin to tell the whole story. Take a few minutes to watch this short highlight video from the match – because it had literally everything, from Wrexham coming from behind to win, to the 40 year old goalkeeper who used to play for Manchester United (English football royalty), who came out of retirement a month ago to join Wrexham because their lead goalie was injured, making the game winning save on a Penalty Kick in the 96th and last minute of extra time. Yes, even Hollywood could not have written this.
What is most appealing to me about this whole story is how ‘all in’ both Reynolds and McElhenney are with their responsibility to the club and the city of Wrexham. There was a lot of conjecture early on that they both were doing this as a publicity stunt, but it is obvious from the documentary, from the way they have engaged with the Wrexham community, and from the level of investment that both have made to the club and the north Wales region, that they are fully 1000% committed for the long haul. Hell, Reynolds just bought a home outside of Wrexham. League 2 is just the first step in their quest. They have their sights set on the English Premier League. And the scary thing is – they may just get there. Earlier this year, Wrexham participated in the FA Cup – an elimination tournament that all English teams from the EPL to the National League participate – and went to the round of 16 by beating 3nd Division Coventry City at their home field, and then came thisclose to beating 2nd division Sheffield United. (Had they won that Sheffield United match, they would have hosted Harry Kane and Totteham Hotspur on Wrexham’s home field, The Racecourse Ground, which would have be an off the charts event). This team is legit and can hang with many of the top teams in English soccer.
I sincerely hope that Wrexham succeeds in their goal to achive automatic promotion to League 2. And I sincerely hope that Notts County wins the playoff to secure their promtion to League 2 as well, because they are just as deserving. I am, and will always be, a Newcastle United fan first – who themselves are having a spectacular season in the EPL – however I am unapologetic about joining the many newly minted Wrexham fans out there and look forward to riding this as long as they will let me.
Dick Fosbury, the man who literally transformed the sport of high jumping with his unique ‘flop’ method, died today. The above video details how the method of high jumping that he introduced in the 1968 Mexico Olympics transformed the sport and quickly became the ‘de facto’ method and style of high jumping to this day.
The technique has been compared to a corpse being pushed out of a window. Like Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, Fosbury’s flopping struck many onlookers as residing somewhere between a physical feat and a joke. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, the crowd oohed, aahed and laughed watching Fosbury compete.
But the last laugh was his: The high-jump bar kept being raised, and Fosbury kept clearing it. He finally executed a Fosbury Flop at 7 feet 4¼ inches — earning him not just the gold medal, but an Olympic record at the time.NY Times
What is most interesting is that Fosbury was an engineering student and took a mathematical, problem solving approach to his sport, with the end result being his innovative flop method. What is most bizarre in this video – primarily because the “Fosbury Flop” is so common today – is the footage of how high jumpers used to do high jumping. They would go feet first – which makes zero sense when looking at that method in the year 2023.
If you thought the politics of a disgruntled suburban soccer mom’s vitriol against the town’s soccer coach was bad, you clearly did not play soccer in suburban NJ, because those moms will take on the US Men’s National team coach (paywall) without blinking an eye, as Danielle Reyna did to Craig Berhalter:
To set the record straight, I [Danielle Reyna] did call (U.S. Soccer sporting director) Earnie Stewart on December 11, just after the news broke that Gregg had made negative statements about my son Gio at a leadership conference, I have known Earnie for years and consider him to be a close friend. I wanted to let him know that I was absolutely outraged and devasted that Gio had been put in such a terrible position, and that I felt very personally betrayed by the actions of someone my family had considered a friend for decades. As part of that conversation, I told Earnie that I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age. Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. It took a long time for me to forgive and accept Gregg afterward, but I worked hard to give him grace, and ultimately made both of them and their kids a huge part of my family’s life. I would have wanted and expected him to give the same grace to Gio. This is why the current situation is so very hurtful and hard. At the time I called Earnie, many people were trashing Gio on social media due to Gregg’s comments, and I didn’t know when or if this would stop. I just wanted Earnie to help make sure that there would be no further unwarranted attacks on my son. I thought our conversation would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation. I’m not criticizing Earnie here. “I very much commend the recent efforts by U.S. Soccer to address abuse of women players, and I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared. But I want to be very clear that I did not ask for Gregg to be fired, I did not make any threats, and I don’t know anything about any blackmail attempts, nor have I ever had any discussions about anyone else on Gregg’s staff — I don’t know any of the other coaches. I did not communicate with anyone in U.S. Soccer about this matter before December 11, and no one else in my family has made any statements to U.S. Soccer regarding Gregg’s past at all. I’m sorry that this information became public, and I regret that I played a role in something that could reopen wounds from the past.The Athletic (paywall)
Now, the USMNT did not have any chance of seriously competing for this year’s World Cup in Qatar. It was a ‘we’re happy to be here’ appearance and anything beyond making the knockout stage was playing with house money (being that the USMNT didn’t even qualify in 2018). Would playing Gio Reyna have changed the USMNT’s outcome? I’m guessing probably not. The Netherlands team the US lost to was an exceptionally well coached team that was playing chess compared to Berhalter’s checkers strategy. Playing Gio may have made the matches in the knockout stage a little easier however I’m not convinced he would have been a difference maker vs the Netherlands, much less the next round opponent Argentina should we have advanced.
The way Berhalter handled the Gio Reyna situation was a failure of leadership to not clearly and truthfully communicate the reasons for his decisions to the player, the press and by proxy, the fans of the USMNT team. I can also relate to Mrs. Reyna’s perception on how Coach Berhalter’s negative statements about Gio in the conference she noted above were unfair, damaging, and, frankly, an immature way of handling the situation. Reading between the lines, it seems that the long and deep relationship that the Reyna and Berhalter families had probably gave Gio and his parents the perception that he was going to get ample playing time in the World Cup and when things didn’t go exactly to Gio’s liking, there was likely a sense of disappointment that clearly went south quickly. The way Gio reacted was immature, yet even though he has been playing soccer at some of the highest levels in the world, let’s remember that he’s still all of 20 years old. Suburban soccer mom’s can be a nasty bunch sometimes, and even when you’re the Head Coach of the freaking US Men’s National Team, you can be taken to the woodshed by a mom who’s pissed her son did not play as much as they would have liked.
This video of yesterday’s Kentucky Derby is incredible. The eventual winner, Rich Strike, was 2 spots from dead last heading into the final turn – and an 80-1 long shot to boot – and then took off and passed the whole field like they were standing still. On top of all of this, the team managing this horse did not know that their horse was even in the field until Friday when another horse had to drop out.
Last week, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots retired from pro football after an amazing 13 year career with the only team he knew. Edelman started his football career at a Quarterback at a Southern California Junior college and then transferred to Kent State University in Ohio to play the same position. He was making headlines at Kent State at QB, however the prospect of a 5’9″ QB from a Missouri Valley Conference school breaking through in the pros was slim to none. Yet, the scouts on the Patriots staff saw something, and the story of how they developed relationships with the coaches at the school, and evaluated how Edelman could possibly play other positions in the pros is a story I absolutely love. From Mike Reiss at ESPN:
But Julian was a heck of a football player, and you don’t want to discard really good football players. So you think outside the box and try to get creative, try to find a role for him. There were reasons you thought it could work. He had incredible short-area quickness. He had really good reactive cutting ability. He had great football instincts in terms of feeling people — spatial awareness, things of that nature. Extremely tough with the ball in this hands.
“Digging into the background part of it, he was extremely competitive. The fact he was a California [Junior College] kid and assimilated at a school in the Rust Belt, that’s not easy to do. He’d come out to practice and B.S. with the wideouts, so you could tell he was comfortable with that position group, and that made you feel good — that he was one of the guys.”
Nagy recalled that Edelman just wanted to play football, and bought into the idea of a position switch in the pros — which doesn’t always happen with prospects. The Patriots had December scouting meetings, and then their standard cross-check process in February, with Pioli assigning Nagy wide receivers as his cross-check position. Through that process, Edelman landed on the team’s draft board.Mike Reiss
Wether he makes the NFL Hall of Fame is up for vigorous debate and that decision and evaluation is way beyond my influence. However, this life long Patriots fan has nothing but respect and happy memories of all that he did to help the team win several Super Bowl championships. He was dependable, tough as nails, and made some phenomenal plays during his career, none more important that the catch in the photo above that he made against the Falcons in SB LII.
Recently, and over the next few years, there will be several centennial anniversaries related to the Irish War of Independence that took place roughly 100 years ago (1919-1921) and was led by Irish heroes like Michael Collins. A key event during that difficult time was the Bloody Sunday massacre that took place 100 years ago this past Saturday, November 21st. It was on this day where people attending a Gaelic Football game at Croke Park in Dublin were attacked by British operatives in retaliation for the death of 14 British intelligence officers earlier that day at the hands of the Irish Republican Army. Charles Piece wrote a great piece at The Defector detailing what happened:
Dublin was on edge. That morning, in a coordinated attack, guerrillas under the command of IRA leader Michael Collins fanned out of the city and systematically decapitated the British intelligence apparatus in the Irish capital. In a single operation, the IRA killed 14 people it had identified as British intelligence operatives. It was one of the most decisive episodes in the War of Independence that had begun in 1919 and it shook the British government in Ireland to its core. Suspicions arose that the gunmen may have planned to melt into the crowd at Croke Park; the GAA was born out of the same burst of Irish nationalism that eventually would lead to the Easter Rising and the birth of the IRA. (In fact, historians now believe that John McDonnell, the goalkeeper of the Dublin side, had been involved in the killing that morning of two British intelligence agents before showing up to play the match. That is one rich, full day.) The money raised at the challenge game would go to a fund that supported the families of Republican prisoners still held in British jails.
At Croke Park on the afternoon of November 21, 1920, about five minutes after the game had begun, the attention of the spectators was drawn by an airplane that circled above the stadium twice and then fired off a red flare.
As if it were a signal, which it likely was, the police and soldiers surrounding the neighborhood stormed into Croke Park through its southwest gate and opened up on the crowd with rifles and revolvers. When the killing was done, 14 people were dead. They included three schoolboys—10-year-old Jerome O’Leary, 11-year-old William Robinson, and 14-year-old John William Scott—as well as Jane Boyle, a 26-year old who was planning to be married later that week, and Michael Hogan, a Tipperary player who was killed while crawling to cover. Somewhere between 60 and 100 people were wounded.Charles Piece, The Defector
On that fateful Sunday 100 years ago, the final four teams that had survived the Gaelic Football playoffs were Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan. And wouldn’t you know that fate would mess with us 100 years on.
The biggest of the planned centenary commemorations, some of which had been in the works for years, were downsized or outright canceled because of COVID-19. But the games went on, sans fans and English soldiers. And from the just-completed quarterfinal round of the GAA’s All-Ireland tournament (an annual competition that grips the nation and is played exclusively by amateur athletes representing their home counties) it appears that the Gaelic football gods remembered what happened all those years ago. The four sides that advanced over the weekend to next month’s semifinals—Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan—are the exact same quartet that made the semis in 1920, the year of the bloodbath.
The 2020 Gaelic Final Four semi finals will take place the weekend of December 5-6 and the Championship will be held on December 19.
Millions of kids across the country participate in high school athletics. Invariably, those high school athletes will compare themselves, or be compared, to the other players in their conference and state. Some will think they measure up pretty well. Others know they will not do more than earn their high school varsity letter. And then, every once in a while, a generational talent will show up and re-calibrate everything.
Zion Williamson, a rookie Power Forward on the New Orleans Pelicans, is two years removed from playing high school basketball in South Carolina. Every opponent during his high school career had his game marked – “The Zion Game” – and those opponents knew that they were in for a long, humbling evening:
The Zion Games didn’t feel real most of the time, more like some kind of fever dream. Just to see a dude that massive, yet somehow more athletic than everyone else on the court by a factor of about 10, is astonishing. I still remember watching him go up for an alley-oop and seeing him float in the air like he was made of helium or something.
Even though these kids knew that they were in for a humbling beat down from one of the great players of their age – or any age – their appreciation and respect for Zion was what was most interesting to me.
All that said, Zion is genuinely one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever played against, just super positive and humble. He was a huge deal in high school, especially in South Carolina. We had an unofficial team policy that you weren’t allowed to take a picture with him after the games, just to maintain what little integrity we had. But that still didn’t stop a lot of the younger guys — and even some coaches — from doing it. To Zion’s credit, he was always willing to talk to anyone as well as always encouraging to the younger guys. Everyone should really be rooting for him to succeed. He’s a great guy, and he’s overcome a lot to get to where he’s at.
Maybe current and future stars from across the sports spectrum can take a cue from the 20 year old rookie from New Orleans. Be humble and show respect to your opponents no matter how good your are and no matter what the outcome of the contest is.
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the singing of the National Anthem across the 2016 season, the NFL turned a cold shoulder and let him flap in the wind. The league has never admitted as much, yet it is so clear that is what happened as the fine folks at The Ringer have clearly articulated, down to the detail about his playing performance (which admittedly did tail off but was still better compared to other QBs signed in the past few years).
And so it took a course of inaction. The NFL never suspended Kaepernick; the quarterback simply never found his way onto a roster in 2017, 2018, or 2019. This inaction pissed just about everybody off. Kap’s supporters were convinced that he had been blackballed from the league, while President Donald Trump urged his base to stop watching NFL games and in 2017 called protesting players “sons of bitches.” Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke publicly about the importance of having “different viewpoints” while reportedly “looking for a way for the protests to end.” Last December, Goodell told media that the league had “moved on” from Kaepernick.
Fast forward four years to 2020, where a string of police brutality cases capped by the death of George Floyd led the NFL and their ‘silver spooned’ commissioner Roger Goodell to release an awkwardly crafted video that basically admitted that Kaepernick was right. Yet they didn’t have the guts to call him out by name.
There was just one error with the NFL’s approach: Kaepernick was right. The league seemed to think that it could ignore police brutality simply because it had “moved on” from Kaepernick, but police officers kept killing Black people. Hundreds of American cities have held Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and kneeling has become one of the international symbols of the movement. Public opinion has shifted. In 2016, Kaepernick was villainized for protesting during the anthem; in 2020, Drew Brees was villainized for saying he would “never agree with anybody” who protested in that way.
A touch late after the kickoff of the 2020 MLS season but I have updated all the Home/Away wallpapers to resemble the kits for the full slate of MLS teams. As always, I took a little ‘artistic license’ with some of them however you should find that they all are true to their 2020 kit designs.
Some random thoughts: Piling on with the hatred of the new Chicago Fire logo and highly bland kit designs….I think I like the Toronto FC away kits the best out of the whole league…with the Houston Dynamo’s funky orange striped ones a close second (so funky, I could not replicate it on my version of their wallpaper…will have to revisit it one day soon)…still can’t believe that the NE Revs still have that horrid 1990s faux painted logo…No surprise that Sporting FC has the most elegant, sharpest kit designs.
Here’s to a solid MLS year ahead and hope that keeps momentum for USA soccer as we look to 2022.
Bottom of the 9th. Auburn up 3-2. LSU runners at 2nd and 3rd.
Elimination game in the SEC Tournament.
Kids, if you are a catcher, don’t lose sight of where the ball is and kick it up the 1st base line.
A warm summer day at the ballpark has always held a soft spot in the heart of sports fans in America. Maybe that is a vision from back in the innocent ‘hey days’ of Major League Baseball circa 1955 when tickets were $3 and soda cost a nickel, because when you think about going to the ballpark today, you start to see why attendance is down and baseball’s position at the top of the sports mountain is fading fast. The combination of the excruciatingly long game time (can anyone spend 5 hours watching a Red Sox – Yankees game and then tack on travel time, in this day and age?), coupled with the outrageous (ludacrous maybe? is there another word we could use here?) costs kind of takes any remnants of joy out of going to a ballgame for the average fan.
Ginny Searle at Deadspin makes a pretty compelling – damning even – arguement about the fundamental issues underlying the experience at your typical Major League Baseball stadium. Let’s start with this doozy from the Washington Nationals :
Joining in the American tradition of impeding ease of access to public spaces through feckless security theater, the Nats announced that backpacks will no longer be allowed in the stadium. “The bag policy was created for the safety of all our guests,” explained the team in a statement, ignoring the fact that there is scant evidence that such security measures actually make anyone safer….The Nationals [then] waited more than a month after announcing the ban to reveal that they had partnered with D.C-based startup Binbox to “make 500 medium- and large-sized storage lockers available” in which to store bags that won’t be allowed in the stadium.
So you can’t bring back packs into the stadium but feel free to fork over some money at an hourly rate to store it in a bin outside the stadium for the 5-6 hour, super important Nationals – Rays game. Do you hear that sucking sound because that is the sound of money leaving your pocket. Later on, she does a great job of illustrating what it would now cost a family of four to attend a typical baseball game.
Let’s imagine a family of four trying to go to a baseball game a few years from now. Opening Day, 2021: four tickets cost $132 on average in 2019, so let’s say this family paid $150 per ticket. Kids have little legs, so they will need to park close: add another $50. After struggling to bring up their e-tickets on a single phone at the gate (the team recently phased out all paper tickets), our family will be informed their backpack is a no-go, and they’ll have to spend $20 to rent a Binbox. Finally, after making it into the stadium, it’s time to buy food. Hot dogs and peanuts for four, plus beer and sodas for two each will likely crest $40, and that’s assuming the parents are okay with cans of cheap frat-party beer. (For a pour of the local microbrew, it will be more like $15 each. We’ll say the conscientious parents share one.) Our imagined family had better have their credit card, too, or else they’ll need to load their cash onto a gift card before buying anything in the stadium. Maybe they will be lucky enough to have access to the State Farm-Geico Rewards Club, which the e-ticketing app will remind them of along with directions to the team store. After meandering through the State Farm-Geico Rewards Club so as not to feel like they have missed out on any perks available to them, the parents limit their children to the choice of one $25 stunt food to split. When our family returns to their seats with their Mac and Cheese Pizza Nachos just after missing a home run, they will have already spent a small fortune. If they decide not to attend another game for the rest of the season, it’s unlikely that pace of play will be a determining factor.
From what she itemized above, that’s roughly $800. For one day. At the ballpark. Let’s say it takes 45 minutes each way to get to and from the park. Let’s say the game is 3.5 hours long (average). That’s 5 hours. If they are lucky and it does not go extra innings, or if there are not 5 pitching changes in the riveting 6th inning when the batters take 6 pitches each, or if it is not a shit show getting out of the parking lot along with 50,000 of your best friends. Curious when was the last time parents had a good time taking kids somewhere for 5+ hours that was not named Disneyworld?
I used to *love* baseball. Today, I like baseball. And there is one thing I know for damn sure when I go to a baseball park: I refuse to pay $10 for a plastic cup of 3 day old Bud Light (and $6 for a Nathans Hot Dog), when I can go to a local liquor store and buy a six pack for that same price and still have $$ left over for a hot dog.
As we celebrate the American pastime of Super Bowl Sunday, a public reckoning continues to eat away at the edges of the sport of football. More than enough studies have been published stating the real, long term issues from the physical nature of the sport – blows to the head, concussions, injury, and on and on. It has gotten to the point where school systems are discontinuing football programs and parents are refusing to let their sons play the game.
Research suggests that tackle football can cause long-term brain injury, and as a result, many parents are telling their kids they can’t play. In the 2017-18 school year, 6.6 percent fewer high-school athletes participated in 11-player tackle football than in the 2008-9 school year, “according to” the National Federation of State High School Associations.ALANA SAMUELS, THE ATLANTIC
What is more interesting is how decisions by school systems and parents against participating in the sport differs depending on the socio-economic profile of those stakeholders, as Alana Samuels profiled in a recent article in The Atlantic.
Yet not all parents are holding back their kids from tackle football at equal rates, which is creating a troubling racial divide. Kids in mostly white upper-income communities in the Northeast, Midwest, and West are leaving football for other sports such as lacrosse or baseball. But black kids in lower-income communities without a lot of other sports available are still flocking to football. In keeping with Americaâ€™s general racial demographics, white boys continue to make up the majority of youth-tackle-football players, according to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. But proportionally, the scales appear to be shifting. A recent survey of 50,000 eighth-, tenth-, and 12th-grade students found that about 44 percent of black boys play tackle football, compared with 29 percent of white boys, as analyzed by the University of Michigan sociologist Philip Veliz. Football at the high-school level is growing in popularity in states with the highest shares of black people, while it’s declining in majority-white states.ALANA SAMUELS, THE ATLANTIC
In essence, the children that live in areas of the country that don’t have as many economic opportunities are looking to sports like football as a vehicle out of their situation, the very real and risky long term physical and health issues be damned. This sort of storyline is nothing radically new, as you will hear more than a few famous athletes that fit this profile talk about how their sport was a vehicle and an opportunity for a better life. The issue is that the chances of making it to the professional level are so small, and the risks of playing a sport like football are so so high. The effect that this sort of scenario has on the broader socio-economic dynamics is one that likely will not close the already growing differences. Now I’m not saying that football is the root cause of the economic disparity in this country. What I am saying is that in lower income areas of the country, where there is little to no opportunity for upward mobility, the already existing economic and social headwinds are accelerated further when such a high proportion of the youth in these areas have no other options other than to ignore the real, physical risks.
In honor of the World Cup, I went and created a set of computer/device wallpapers for each of the participating teams that mimic their kit design (home and away). There were a handful of designs that I used a little “creative license” only because the designs were too complex and I was running out of time to meet the kickoff of the tournament. As it was, I didn’t finish the Germany kits until over the weekend. So check them out and be sure to download and decorate your device with your team of choice.
It is that time of year again – March Madness, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where your brackets will be busted by the end of the weekend and the chances that you will win the office pool will go down in flames. But don’t let that prevent you from showing some school spirit on your computer or mobile device.
Head on over to my NCAA desktop backgrounds page for backgrounds of all 68 teams in this year’s field!
With some schools, there are other ‘designs’ within the other tabs on the page so hunt away if the ones in the “NCAA Tournament” tab don’t float your boat.
As a Syracuse fan for the majority of my life, I have to admit that I was extremely surprised that they made it – by the skin of their teeth – into the Field of 68 . So Let’s Go Orange! Let’s make some noise in this year’s tournament like we did in 2016!!
From ESPN’s Seth Wickersham’s hit piece on the whole dynamic between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft:
Those who know Belichick and Brady well are amazed that they’ve co-existed this long, two ruthless and proud self-made men, both secure though still unfinished in their legacies, both loved and hated, both having received stiff penalties for cheating, both motivated by ego, humility and — as much as anything — doubt. Belichick is famously secretive, creating an entire system in which knowledge flows directly to him and only he decides how to deploy and exploit it. And Brady is famously unhelpful toward his backups — or, at least, a threat like Garoppolo. The two quarterbacks were friendly, but Brady — like Joe Montana to Steve Young and Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers — didn’t see it as his role to advise Garoppolo, even on matters as trivial as footwork, as nobody had helped him during his climb. Garoppolo played well in 2016, starting in place of the suspended Brady, and Belichick began to see Garoppolo as the final piece of his legacy, to walk away in a few years with the Patriots secure at quarterback. But after Garoppolo was knocked out of his second start because of a shoulder injury, he set up a visit at TB12. As he later told Patriots staffers, when he arrived, the door was locked. He knocked; nobody was there. He called TB12 trainers but nobody answered. He couldn’t believe it, Garoppolo told the staffers, and that night ended up visiting team trainers instead. Guerrero vehemently denies ever refusing to see any player, and Garoppolo was eventually treated at TB12 — but it was two weeks after he showed up for his original appointment, and only after a high-ranking Patriots staffer called TB12 to inquire why Garoppolo hadn’t been admitted.
Several times this past October, Brady met with Kraft to discuss playing longer. That same month, he also met with Belichick, who was skeptical of a long-term contract extension but was content to start Brady as long as he was the best quarterback. Belichick understood how much Brady had meant to the franchise, and had always insisted privately that he wouldn’t move on from Brady unless he could convince the coaching staff of it. But the reality was that no quarterback has ever played at a championship level into his 40s. The meeting ended in a “little blowup,” according to a source. Complicating matters was that Garoppolo would be a free agent at the end of this season. Complicating matters more was that Brady and Garoppolo share Yee as an agent.
And complicating matters even more was that Belichick didn’t want to trade Garoppolo. He had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand. In early September, Belichick did trade third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. “If we trade Jimmy, we’re the Cleveland Browns, with no succession plan,” one person inside the organization said earlier in the year. The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and Yee rejected the offers out of hand, for reasons that remain unclear, and the Patriots knew they couldn’t make any promises to Garoppolo about the timing of a transition at quarterback without it getting back to Brady.
Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job. One morning in late October, Belichick texted San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and asked him to call. Belichick had long admired Kyle’s father, Mike, who not only had been one of the NFL’s smartest tacticians but had also personally defended Belichick to commissioner Roger Goodell during the Spygate scandal. At the combine this past February, Kyle, weeks into the 49ers job after being the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, met with Belichick for hours to learn from his team’s humiliating Super Bowl loss. Belichick believed that Garoppolo would excel under Shanahan, and when he and Shanahan connected on the phone, Belichick offered the quarterback for a second-rounder.
I’ll make no secret that I have been a life long New England Patriots fan. I have been with them through thick and thin. They humored us and made the 1986 Super Bowl, only to get embarrassed by one of the great teams in NFL history – the 1986 Chicago Bears. They also made it to the 1996 Super Bowl and were in the game until the Desmond Howard kickoff return broke their spirit.
To me, the Patriots are playing with house money at this point. Heading into the 2001 season, the prospect of the New England Patriots ever winning one Super Bowl, much less 5 (and counting) was a pipe dream. The prospect of winning 5 (and counting) Super Bowls with a coach that was run out of Cleveland and a 6th round draft pick who played all of one season at Michigan? Off the charts.
I’m not saying I fully buy into the whole tone and narrative of Wickersham’s piece – I would really have liked a LOT more on-the-record quotes – but I do think that he is hitting on a festering dynamic within the walls of Foxborough. Eighteen years on from that first Super Bowl victory, the Patriots are now a model franchise and they have the opportunity to set things up for future success once Belichick and Brady walk away. Belichick was moving his chess pieces to ensure that the team will be set up with both the infrastructure and the talent – centered around the backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo – to continue its string of success for many years to come. But Brady seems to be putting his own priorities ahead of all else. Where I think Wickersham exposes an interesting element is around the notion that Kraft meddling in football decisions does not sit well with Belichick.
I honestly wonder if Belichick did in fact get the directive to trade Garoppolo from Kraft, that he basically said “F it, if you want me to trade Jimmy G, and leave us exposed at the most important position on the field, fine.” and then went to the 49ers and put a “Don Corleone” offer (aka – one they could not refuse) on the table.
The next few weeks will be very interesting in terms of how history will look on at this incredible run of the Patriots.
In the span of an evening earlier this week, as I am sure you may be aware, the US Men’s National Soccer Team was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup. Just about everything that needed to go wrong for the USMNT, did. The NY Times broke down the evening, minute by excruciating minute.
It’s all over but the shouting now, and Americans are doing most of that. In a split second, a difficult feat, qualifying for the World Cup, that has become something of a birthright for a generation of United States fans has vaporized.
I’ve read several articles about this fiasco over the past few days and the POV that resonated with me was that US soccer needed something like this to happen to deliver a cold wake up call to the US National program. After so many years of progress, having a result like this should serve as a top to bottom five alarm fire that US Soccer needs to get it’s shit together.