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Raw Footage of Chelsea Fans Shouting Racist Chant in Paris

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Carlos Perez

Sometimes soccer (aka football) can be as divisive as it is unifying

Such was the case when Chelsea fans, in Paris for the Champions League match of their team again Paris Saint-Germain, refused to allow a black man to board the metro with them. Chelsea fans can be seen blocking the man’s way and even pushing him from the metro car before they start chanting “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho was embarrassed by the incident, saying ”I felt ashamed when I found out but these supporters do not represent the club.”  The team likewise released a statement saying they were appalled by the incident, and reached out to the man to apologize.

The Champions League match between the two elite teams ended in a 1-1 draw.

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Daily Fantasy NBA 2/11: 5 Picks for DraftKings Big Wednesday Tournaments

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Max Steinberg

Last week, I wrote an article covering strategy for Daily Fantasy Golf on DraftKings. Golf, in my opinion, is one of the most fun daily fantasy sports, but it’s limited in its profitability because the contests are usually on the smaller side and the tournaments run only once a week. Daily Fantasy NBA, on the other hand, has contests almost every day and hosts much larger tournaments than golf. For example, the $33 NBA Bird tonight has a $150,000 prizepool (awarding $20,000 for 1st place) and even the cheap $3 to enter “Sharpshooter” has a $100,000 prizepool.

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Clearly, there’s a lot of money to be made in basketball on DraftKings. Daily Fantasy NBA strategy is more complex than Golf, but there are 3 fundamental concepts in NBA that can simplify your strategy a lot, and can make you big money if used correctly.  I’ll give you a quick breakdown of these concepts below.

1. Injuries

The most important information in Daily Fantasy NBA is injury information. Players will sit out games with minor injuries throughout the season, and if that player has a big role on the team, it can drastically change the dynamics of that team. Players who may have not had much of an offensive role may find themselves as the #1 option, and a player who may have normally come off the bench may become a starter and have his minutes double. When I go into my picks below, you’ll see how injuries influence which players I play every night.

2. Matchup

In the NBA, every team plays with a different style and at a different pace. Some teams will be poor defensively, some will be great. Some will have tall, big post players who are good rebounders, some will play small and be vulnerable on the offensive glass. Some will play at a frantic pace, and some will use up every second of the shot clock to slow the game down. All of these factors determine whether a team is a good matchup for a player, and which is a bad matchup. Matchups can drastically affect a player’s fantasy performance, and should always be taken into consideration.

3. Price

The price of the player is the most fundamental but sometimes overlooked factor in determining whether a player is a good play. In Daily Fantasy NBA, each player is assigned a salary and those salaries vary from day to day, based on an algorithm DraftKings has created in order to price players fairly. However, their algorithm isn’t perfect. Some players will be drastically mispriced due to injury or recent performance. Finding underpriced players, and avoiding overpriced players, is the key to creating a great lineup. You may like Russell Westbrook against the 76ers, but if he’s priced at $12,500, he’s simply not worth it even in the juiciest of matchups.

With all of my picks on the next page, I’ll be using the tools on my daily fantasy strategy website, DailyFantasyWinners.com, to analyze these 3 factors and find the best plays. All of these tools are free to use if you’re a registered user, so sign up if you want to do some analysis yourself.

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How to Profit Playing Daily Fantasy Golf on DraftKings.com

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 - by Max Steinberg

Some people would say I’m a professional gambler. I’d say that I’m a professional gamer — strategy games, specifically. I’ve played professional poker for a living since I was 19 years old, and I’ve only had a handful of losing months in my career. But this may not be surprising to you. Over the past several years, the ability for players like me to make consistent money playing a game that used to be considered gambling but now is widely (and rightly) considered a game of skill has become well-known.

Within the last year, I’ve gotten into a new game that reminds me of poker. It’s a game where skilled players can win big money and, more importantly, can win consistently. Furthermore, just like poker in the mid-2000s, its popularity is skyrocketing. In 2013, DraftKings’ biggest tournaments had mostly prize pools in the thousands. But in 2014, DraftKings was awarding $1 million for first place each week in a fantasy football tournament that was only $25 to enter. On a given weekend, they awarded over $10 million prizes.

Daily fantasy sports have hit extraordinary heights. Sadly, the football season has just come to a close, which means you’ll have to wait until next season to try daily fantasy football. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t experience DraftKings right now. As someone who loves golf, DraftKings’ PGA tournaments are a ton of fun and can be wildly profitable if you know the right strategy.

The rules are quite simple. Each player is assigned a dollar value based on varying statistics and previous performances. You are allocated $50,000  to spend on six players. Players have salaries that range from around $16,000 all the way down to about $3,000. The goal is for your six-player team to score as many fantasy points as possible (more on the scoring system later).

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Lobby for DraftKings Farmers Insurance Open Tournament

The tournament is similar to a poker tournament. You pay a fee to enter, that money goes into the prize pool, and that prize pool is allocated to the top 10-to-20 percent of entrants. In the case of DraftKings’ $27 tournament this upcoming weekend, the top 20 percent of entrants will at least double their money, and $10,000 of the $65,000 prize pool will go to first place.

Scoring is explained in detail here. Make sure to look at that page, because the scoring system is designed in such a way that certain lineup building strategies are vastly superior to others.

There are three fundamental strategies that are the backbone to every lineup I create, and if you know these strategies, you will quickly learn how to create quality, profitable lineups that will give you a chance to win big every week.

Making the Cut and a Balanced Approach

Since players are awarded points for essentially participating (a player gets .5 points for every par), one thing about daily fantasy golf becomes immediately clear: in order to win, every player you draft needs to make the cut.

Players who make the cut will have the benefit of playing two more rounds, and they will at least double the score of players who fail to make it (unless a lucky 20 points for a double eagle occurs). Because of this, you don’t want to take risks on low salary players, unless you have a very good reason to (I’ll go into that later). If you do, it can ruin an otherwise great lineup.

This past week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, I made a lineup that fortunately included Martin Laird (who is currently leading the event as I write this). But, the lineup also included two risky low-salary players, Michael Putnam and Cameron Tringale.

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The chance of one of those players missing the cut was pretty significant, so while my Putnam pick (his salary was a bargain at $4,800) is doing quite well, Tringale missed the cut, which completely blew any chance I had at placing high. If I decided to only take a chance on Putnam, this lineup could have had a chance to win big. All I had to do was use a more balanced-salary approach by not spending big on a player like Rickie Fowler and simply upgrading Tringale.

In general, I recommend taking a balanced approach when constructing your lineup. Essentially, don’t spend big on the high salary guys like Rory McIlroy or Bubba Watson, because it will handcuff your salary, and you’ll be forced to take a risk on a player or two who may have only a small chance of making the cut.

Playing several mid-salary players (in the $6,500-$10,000 range) will increase the likelihood of all your guys making the cut tremendously.

Favor the Birdie and Eagle Chasers

One hidden but crucial factor of DraftKings scoring is how important birdies and eagles are. Since bogeys are only -.5 points and double bogeys -1 point, but birdies are +3 points with eagles +8, players who take risks and go for birdies and eagles at the risk of bogeying (think Keegan Bradley or Brooks Koepka who just won in Phoenix) are much better for your team than a player who doesn’t make many mistakes (think Zach Johnson).

This can be clearly illustrated with a little math. Let’s say two players shoot 2-under in the first round of a tournament. The first player does it with 8 birdies, 1 eagle, 3 bogeys, 4 pars, 1 double bogey and 1 triple bogey. The other player has 3 birdies, 1 bogey and 14 pars. Let’s compare the fantasy points of each player:

Player 1: (3*8)+(1*8)+(4*.5)+(3*(-.5)+(2*(-1))= 30.5 pts

Player 2: (3*3)+(-.5)+(14*.5) = 15.5 pts

Despite both players shooting the same score, Player 1 has almost double the score as Player 2.

That 15-point difference can go a long way in the end. The first and fifth place finishers will only be separated by a few points, but fifth will only win $1,000 while first wins $10,000.

An easy way to find the differences in players is to go to PGATour.com. They keep a statistic that tracks the percentage a player scores birdie or better per hole, which goes back several years (you can find this statistic here). Try to favor the players who rank highly. However, don’t go overboard, because there’s actually a very easy and accurate way to evaluate every golfer’s skill…

Let Sportsbooks Do the Work

I’m not an expert on evaluating golf. If you asked me what I thought Hideki Matsuyama’s chances of winning the Masters were, I’d have no idea. But luckily, I don’t have to know, because Las Vegas and online sportsbooks handicap these events for me.

My favorite online sportsbook to look at odds is called Bovada.lv (they’re a reputable international sportsbook), and every week they will have a list of players and their odds to win a given event. This information is much more accurate than anything you could read on ESPN, and you can use it to evaluate which salaries may be too high or too low.

For the Farmers Insurance Open this week, for example, Brian Stuard is 100/1 to win with a salary of $6,100. Sang-Moon Bae is also 100/1 to win, but has a $6,800 salary. By picking Stuard over Bae, we can save a small chunk of salary but get the same caliber of player.

Another example is Jimmy Walker, who’s tied at 12/1 with Jordan Spieth as the favorite to win, but Walker is $1,200 less than Spieth. Walker’s birdie or better percentage is also higher than Spieth’s, so we expect him to outscore Spieth on average as well.

Looking for these differences can be tedious, which is why on my strategy site dailyfantasywinners.com, we have a table that averages the odds of several different sportsbooks, then weighs them against the player’s price. This table makes it obvious which players are over-valued and under-valued. To find it, all you have to do is go to our homepage and look under the tools tab.

Let’s Make a Lineup

This is a lineup that I’ve made for DraftKings $65,000 Fairway Tournament that starts this Thursday. I decided to pay up a bit for Hideki Matsuyama, whose odds to win are much better than Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose at the same price point.

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I also went with little known Seung-yul Noh, a player who has fantastic odds at his price-point (80-1 on Bovada.lv) and whose birdie or better percentage is a ridiculous 26.5 percent this year (the average is around 20 percent). All the picks in this lineup are a combination of finding players with both great odds at their price and a high birdie or better percentage. No player is worse than 80/1 to win the event, and all of the players are within the top 40 players in their odds to win.

This is the type of lineup you should be looking to construct if you decide to enter this tournament, and feel free to steal some of my picks.

You may have never heard of daily fantasy golf prior to reading this article, but by using the basic concepts and strategies I’ve laid out above along while doing a little more research on your own, I’m confident that you can become a profitable player in no time. 

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Those GoDaddy Superbowl Ads, Cruel Click Bait, and Other Ways Media Manipulates You

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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Unless you’ve been living in a bunker for the last week,  you’ve probably seen the controversial GoDaddy ad where the lost puppy returns home only to find out he’s been sold online. The ad has been pulled from the Super Bowl lineup and the online version was removed after vocal protests by PETA and other animal rights groups. Now viewers are waiting with eager anticipation to see the replacement ad (which will no doubt feature a large-breasted, scantily clad woman who is not talking about the product GoDaddy actually sells).

“This was not a stunt,” a representative for GoDaddy told FOX411.

That might be a credible statement if GoDaddy’s entire marketing strategy wasn’t built on controversial ad campaigns.

GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons explained in an interview with Inc.com how his company’s strategy originated:

“I decided to advertise nationally, and the Super Bowl was coming up. I thought, That would be a hell of a debut, but how do I get a bunch of drunk people’s attention? If we explained what we do, we’d be dead in the water,” he said. “So then I thought, be outrageous. It doesn’t take Harvard Business School to figure that one out.”

He said the scantily clad GoDaddy girl was his idea. He told the ad agency, “I want a really well-endowed, good-looking gal in a tight T-shirt, with our name right across her breasts.”

GoDaddy bought two slots that first year, but because of the uproar, the network pulled the second one. “I was doing interviews for days,” Parsons said. “The media called the ad inappropriate, which got even more traffic to our site. Our market share shot up to 25 percent, and my mother’s very proud that I’ve established a standard for indecency in broadcasting.”

Every time I see a story like this I’m reminded of a book by Ryan Holiday called Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. In the book Holiday, the former director of marketing for American Apparel (a rather liberal-leaning guy), describes how he would intentionally create provocative ads designed to generate controversy and outrage.

“If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites,” he wrote in the book.

He described the time he ran a series of completely nude ads featuring a porn star on a couple of low-budget websites.

“A naked woman with visible pubic hair + a major U.S. retailer + blogs = a massive online story,” Holiday wrote.

Predictably, the ads were picked up by Nerve, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Jezebel, Refinery29, NBC New York, Fleshbot, the Portland Mercury and others.

“Some blogs wrote about it in anger, some wrote about it in disgust, and others loved it and wanted more. The important part was that they wrote about it at all,” Holiday said. “It ended up being seen millions of times, and almost none of those views was on the original site where we paid for the ads to run.”

He said he had “substantial data” to back up the fact that “chatter” over such controversial stories resulted in increased sales. He claims his guerrilla marketing tactics rocketed online sales at American Apparel from forty million dollars a year to sixty million in three years.

And so we have two examples of how viral marketing works and how public opinion is manipulated for profit.

Fair enough, you might say. It’s the word we live in and besides — go capitalism!

And you’d have a point. Questionable (and sometimes outright dishonest) sales tactics have been in use for as long as people have been trading. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware and all of that. If you’re the type of person who chooses your web hosting company based upon the breast sizes of the models in the commercials, more power to you. I wouldn’t want my business associated with a company like that, but it’s a free county.

This isn’t really hurting anyone, is it?

Unfortunately, the same tactics used to propel a brand into the national spotlight can also be used to destroy someone’s life.

Holiday describes the phenomenon of online “degradation ceremonies” in his book:

Their purpose is to allow the public to single out and denounce one of its members. To lower their status or expel them from the group. To collectively take out our anger at them by stripping them of their dignity. It is a we-versus-you scenario with deep biological roots. By the end of it the disgraced person’s status is cemented as “not one of us.” Everything about them is torn down and rewritten.

You may remember the congressional staffer who dared to write something critical about the Obama daughters on her personal Facebook page. The young woman wrote about Sasha and Malia’s eye-rolling at the White House turkey pardoning ceremony and criticized what the first daughters were wearing at an official event. One of her Facebook “friends” leaked the post to someone who knew exactly what to do with it.

The story (which I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to give it more air) went viral. You couldn’t open up Facebook or any website that covers news (or even entertainment) without seeing her picture and reading about what a terrible person she was. The young woman quickly apologized for her Facebook post and resigned from her job, but that wasn’t enough to quell the rage of the mob. The broadcast networks devoted an astonishing 14 minutes over two days to this non-story about a mid-level congressional staffer’s personal Facebook post. The Smoking Gun ran a story about an alleged arrest when she was 17 years old (but neglected to provide any documentation, which calls into question the veracity of the story). There were allegations that Obama staffers were complicit in pushing the story out.

The young woman criticized the first daughters — and by proxy, the president —  and she needed to be destroyed.

Holiday described in his book how the process works. He said that blogs (by which he means all online publishers) level accusations on behalf of an outraged public. “If you don’t feel shame, then we will make you feel shame,” Holiday says. “The onlookers delight in the destruction and pain.”

Another recent example is the young woman who became a Twitter sensation after posing with a Bible and a gun in front of a Chick-fil-A. A blogger (who claims to be a conservative and who I won’t bother to link to) thought it would be a great idea to expose a moral failure in her life from a few years ago. The blogger bragged on Twitter that he had outed her and exposed her sins to the public. (A week later the same blogger attacked conservative talk radio host and Blaze contributor Dana Loesch, which is ill-advised, at best).

Holiday wrote,

Blogs lock onto targets for whatever frivolous reason, which makes sense, since they often played a role in creating the victim’s celebrity in the first place, usually under equally frivolous pretenses. You used to have to be a national hero before you got the privilege of the media and the public turning on you. You had to be a president or a millionaire or an artist. Now we tear people down just as we’ve begun to build them up. … First we celebrate them, then we turn to snark, and then, finally to merciless decimation. No wonder only morons and narcissists enter the public sphere.

These days, anyone can become a target and a victim, whether because of a craven quest for page views or because of a more sinister motive — a deliberate attempt at character assassination. Your risk increases exponentially if you do anything that puts you in the public eye (especially if you’re a conservative), but there are plenty of examples of people who were leading perfectly normal lives and became overnight viral YouTube sensations because they woke up one day and said or did something stupid (or brilliant, or controversial, or funny). Suddenly, through no real fault of their own, they’re famous and they’re a target.

And there’s not a thing you can really do to prevent this from happening to you, except for perhaps unplugging completely and heading for the bunker. And even that won’t really protect you (but at least you won’t have to endure the public humiliation).

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Does Brain Damage Make a Case for Ending Sports?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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When I was working in Africa I read a paper that proved that intravenous corticosteroids were of no benefit in cerebral malaria. Soon afterwards I had a patient with that foul disease whom I had treated according to the scientific evidence, but who failed to respond, at least as far as his mental condition was concerned  – which, after all, was quite important. To save the body without the mind is of doubtful value.

I gave the patient an injection of corticosteroid and he responded as if by miracle. What was I supposed to conclude? That, according to the evidence, it was mere coincidence? This I could not do: and I have retained a healthy (or is it unhealthy?) skepticism of large, controlled trials ever since. For in the large numbers of patients who take part in such trials there may be patients who react idiosyncratically, that is to say, differently from the rest.

A paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine brought back my experience with cerebral malaria. Animal experimentation had shown that progesterone, one of the class of steroids produced naturally by females, protected against the harmful effects of severe brain injury. The paper does not specify what exactly it was necessary to do to experimental animals to reach this conclusion, but it does say that it has been proven in several species. What is not said is often as eloquent as what is said.

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Is Odell Beckham’s One-Handed Grab the Best Ever?

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I’ve already seen the catch by New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham several dozen times and I still can’t believe it.

Neither will you:

Note that the Dallas Cowboy defender, Brandon Carr, was pawing, grabbing, and holding on to Odell during the catch, giving his best impression of a mugger. The only way to catch the ball was one-handed, so necessity became the mother of invention for Odell in this case.

But where does it rank in the pantheon of great NFL catches?

It should be noted that the catch, however spectacular, was made in a relatively meaningless regular season game with Beckham’s Giants at 3-7 — hardly playoff bound — and the Cowboys at 7-3. Plus, the Cowboys won the game, which takes a little luster off the historical greatness of the catch.

If we’re talking about sheer athleticism and talent, Beckham’s catch has to be right up there. But it may not even be the best catch in Giants’ history. Another Giant, David Tyree, made an otherworldly catch in the waning moments of New York’s Super Bowl XLII upset of the undefeated New England Patriots.

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

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Mike Tyson: He Has a New TV Show, But Does Anyone Care?

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

If you had to affix a precise date to the beginning of Mike Tyson’s professional decline, you could do worse than December 9, 1988. On that day, Tyson fired Kevin Rooney, the masterful boxing trainer who had guided him to the world heavyweight championship, and moved firmly into the camp of Don King, a man whose name is interchangeable with corruption and degradation. Once an invincible fighter with precise punches and defensive skills, Tyson got sloppy, trading his scientific pugilism for flat-footed brawling. Seduced by a world of women and money, he abandoned all discipline. His laziness caught up with him in February 1990, when a journeyman named Buster Douglas outclassed him in a championship fight and knocked him out.

This was still merely the beginning of the end. In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping a young beauty queen named Desiree Washington, and spent the next several years in an Indiana prison. Emerging in 1995, he knocked out a few tomato cans before fighting the bigger names, biting ears and going on ridiculous rants about eating people’s children and stomping on their testicles. He nurtured an obsession with pigeons and exotic tigers, living as an eccentric in his own Xanadu. More arrests ensued, more assaults, more crude outbursts.

What’s the point of rehashing this ugly tabloid history? The point is that the name “Mike Tyson” comes with a lot of unwanted baggage, which I simply couldn’t set down while watching the premier of Tyson’s new “show,” a 15-minute animated sketch called Mike Tyson Mysteries. It airs on Adult Swim, which is a grown-up portion of the Cartoon Network featuring peculiar and often graphic shows that blend violence and dark humor. The show has Tyson voicing an animated version of himself. A retired boxer, he is inexplicably portrayed as a freelance mystery solver. His team, a cross between Animal House and the Scooby Doo gang, consists of Norm Macdonald as an alcoholic talking pigeon, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, and Tyson’s brainy adopted daughter.

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The Death of Moneyball

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

I have just watched the Athletics blow a 7-3 lead all the way to hibernation for the winter, and as that last Royals run crossed the plate, it sealed the deal: Moneyball is dead.

You have seen the movie. Brad Pitt as the general manager of a baseball team. No money, no stars, just smarts — extreme smarts — and a willingness to buck baseball tradition and assemble a team no one – not even its field manager, in the Hollywood fable that also gave him an untrue-to-life beer gut and sour mien – thought would work. But it could work and it did work. By the numbers.

The numbers. WHIP and WAR and BABIP and CERA and DERA and all the Bill-Jamesian glut of incomprehensible statistics that have overwhelmed the game just as Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco and their butt injections rendered HR and RBI and BA essentially meaningless, and (along with Brad Pitt) made Billy Beane into a cult figure, a demigod, an F. Scott Fitzgerald character – The very rich, they are different from you and me. The Pitt/Beane version is The very knowledgeable about arcane baseball numbers, they are different from you and me. And Beane (and Pitt) got very rich playing on this.

To be sure, Beane has done all right by the Athletics, who are anything but very rich. Their small but passionate fanbase has held its own amid his repeated attempts to abandon the unloved Coliseum (or Mausoleum, as Bando, Jackson, Rudi and Tenace – ah, there were baseball players in those days — dubbed it) for presumably greener San Jose pastures, and he has with immense ingenuity parlayed the small budgets he has been handed into on-field success that the small but passionate ones have lustily cheered and magnificently appreciated. 

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Rihanna Beaten Up Again (by NFL and… Debbie Harry?)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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“Singer” Rihanna is having a crap week:

There’s more fallout from the Ray Rice domestic violence incident and the turmoil it has caused for the NFL – CBS and Rihanna are splitting up.

The network said Tuesday it was permanently editing a song featuring Rihanna’s voice out of its Thursday night NFL telecasts – after the singer issued a profane Tweet about it.

CBS issued a statement saying that it was “moving in a different direction” with different theme music.

The song was one of a handful of elements CBS cut out of its inaugural Thursday night football telecast. At the time, CBS Sports president Sean McManus said Rihanna’s own history as a victim of domestic violence was one part of the decision but not the overriding one.

Had the NFL kept the song in rotation, they’d have been torn apart on Twitter and elsewhere for “bad optics.”

(There’s a “broken occipital bone” joke in there somewhere…)

The league is currently in full hair-shirting mode, pantomiming “outrage” and “concern.”

It doesn’t need another black eye these days.

But of course, some will now scream that the NFL is “punishing the victim” by “silencing a battered woman’s voice” or something. (See below.)

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The NFL Borrows from the Iliad’s Playbook: Ray Rice and Achilles

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did a rare thing earlier this month — so rare it’s hardly ever been done since the 1200s BC. In cracking down on Ravens running back Ray Rice for a savage act of domestic abuse, Goodell (begrudgingly, after getting backed against the wall by public outcry) plunked for morals over talent. That, as the ancient Greeks knew from reading the war stories of their cultural icon, Homer, is easier said than done.

It shouldn’t have been a hard choice. Rice seems to have been caught dead to rights on camera, beating his fiancée senseless in a public place. Even the snippet of the video that’s been publicly released by TMZ is difficult to watch: with the casual unconcern of a man used to being treated like a demigod, Rice drags the unconscious woman out of an elevator like a rag doll. He takes his time, as if daring anyone to stop him.

Worst of all, no one did stop him. Rice was right to assume that starting running backs with Super Bowl rings and solid rushing averages can do what they want and get away with it. Rice is a star; he sells seats. So for an offense that may put him behind bars, the league suspended that naughty, naughty boy for two whole games. It looked like Rice was in line to join the ever-growing complement of suspected criminals and potential felons to be slapped gently on the wrist before returning to their adoring fans and multi-million-dollar contracts. Ray Lewis, Leonard Little, Andre Smiththe list goes on.

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Top 5 Things to Watch in College Football’s Opening Weekend

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Lyndsi Stevens

Top 5 Things

We’ve already seen a huge upset when the Johnny Football-less Texas A&M Aggies destroyed the ninth-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks. What else can college football fans look forward to this weekend?

1. The College Football Playoff System Goes Into Effect

It’s a new era. Goodbye BCS; hello CFP. College football fans have been begging for a playoff system for years, and it’s finally here.

2. Florida State Seminoles Go Head to Head with Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Cowboy Classic

Will the defending national championship team show up to prove that they are “True Champions” in this College Gameday featured game? The Seminoles lost some of the key members from the championship team, including Kelvin Benjamin, the 6’5 wide receiver who caught the game-winning pass from Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston to beat the Auburn Tigers in the last seconds of the national championship game.

3. Will Ohio State’s Backup QB Handle the Pressure?

Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, is out for the year because of a torn labrum. The backup QB will start, but what does this mean for Ohio State’s chances of a slot in the new College Football Playoffs? We’ll see how the team is shaping up as the Buckeyes go up against Navy this Saturday at Noon Eastern.

4. Who will secure the starting quarterback spot at Alabama?

Heisman nominee AJ McCarron graduated and moved on to the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team. Blake Sims has been named the starter for this weekend’s game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, but it’s still considered an “open audition” as former FSU backup quarterback Jacob Coker is expected to play.

5. Maryland, Rutgers, and Louisville Debut in New Conferences

Maryland and Rutgers are ready to play in the Big 10, with Maryland moving from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Rutgers switching from The American. Louisville also left The American to join the ACC.

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A Casual Reason Football (Ours) is Better Than Football (Everyone Else’s)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 - by Rich Tucker
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BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL – June 17, 2014: Marc wilmots, head coach of Belgium is seen during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Group H at Mineirao Stadium

The Belgian soccer team apparently doesn’t worry about excess baggage costs. Sports Illustrated reports that the team packed 674 home shirts and 878 away shirts for its trip to the World Cup in Brazil. Since it’s only guaranteed three games, that’s quite a wardrobe. Maybe they’re afraid the Brazilian dry cleaners might lose their items.

One thing’s for sure: None of those shirts will be worn by team manager (we might call him coach) Marc Wilmots. He’ll be on the sidelines running his team, but he’ll be wearing what might be called street clothes: dress shoes, slacks, oxford shirt and a blazer. And he’s not alone.

At the World Cup, tens of thousands of fans come to games wearing crazy costumes, flag-themed pants and, for the less adventurous, replica team jerseys. But when the camera pans to the team managers they seem always to be dressed as if they’re on their way to work at a bank. Most, as in the recent South Korea-Russia contest, even wear a tie.

It’s just another reason American football is better than the rest of the world’s football.

America football coaches created “casual Sunday” many years ago. Perhaps the last man to coach in a tie was Dan Reeves, and he retired from coaching in 2003 when the Falcons fired him.

Since then, the sidelines have been filled with nothing but men in comfortable clothes.

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Why Americans Shouldn’t Embrace Soccer

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 - by Dennis Mitzner

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There are many signs suggesting that America is changing. In fact, to an outside observer America is starting to look a lot like Europe on many fronts.

One indication of the Europeanization of America might be the growing interest towards soccer. (For the purpose of this article and to avoid confusion, I will, albeit reluctantly, refer to football as soccer.)

The New Republic, once the torchbearer of American liberalism – the classical kind – and now largely a progressive voice, dedicated a whole section for the ongoing soccer World Cup taking place in Brazil.

Granted, I have always been uneasy about Americans and soccer. I love soccer and see it as part of being European. But in my murky soul, soccer represents nothing more than the same lightness and irrelevance of European cultural novelties and indulgences as coffee shops, fashion and high-speed trains.

Of course Americans love sports, but should they embrace a sport that has a bloodier history than any other sport in modern times?

Football and its all-pervasive fan culture is yet another example of the tribalism that Europeans – excluding the euro elites – are sinking into. Western Europe today is defined not by a coherent set of values, but by its identity crisis and deep divisions between lawmakers and the public, Brussels and local governments – and of course between the secular and the religious.

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Star Wars: Retribution Debuts July 5

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Chris Queen

A few months ago, I brought you the story of Chris Conley, a football star at the University of Georgia (my alma mater – Go Dawgs!) who was putting together a Star Wars fan film. The finished product, entitled Star Wars: Retribution, is set to make its debut July 5. Here are the trailers:

Conley’s production company will soon begin work on a new film, Volition, soon.

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5 Suggestions to Make Soccer More Palatable for American Audiences

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There are legions of soccer haters in America, including some on this site. As I’ve said in the past, there’s nothing wrong with this. Many soccer haters know the game as well as I do and still can’t stand it. Others don’t know the game at all and hate it, which is illogical. Either way, the haters have their reasons and who am I to try and convince them otherwise?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the haters, but the World Cup has actually generated some interest in soccer. The ESPN broadcast of the U.S.-Ghana match drew a 7 share overnight, or 8 million viewers. By contrast, a usual broadcast of Monday Night Football draws an 8.6 share, or 9.3 million viewers. Somebody out there in America likes soccer and loves the World Cup.

But it is my belief that a few rule changes would go a long way to getting even more Americans interested in the game. Hopefully, these suggestions wouldn’t alter the character of the game, but simply make it more accessible to American audiences.

1. Injury, or “stoppage” time

The timekeeping problem in soccer is incomprehensible. Are the officials too stupid to keep accurate time? Why not stop the clock for an injury instead of adding on an indeterminate amount of time at the end of the half? (They’re rarely close to being right.) Why can’t they stop the clock after a goal is scored, or when there are long periods of time wasted on arguments with the officials? They rarely stop the clock, except in the case of very serious injuries.

There is nothing exact about timekeeping in a soccer match which is ridiculous in the 21st century. Either keep time or don’t. Add an official timekeeper as they have in football, basketball, and hockey. The ref can control when the clock is stopped and when it starts again. None of this nonsensical, subjective, inaccurate guessing about how much time was lost during a half.

No injury time. No stoppage time. Just 90 minutes of action. Isn’t that what they’re after in the first place?

2. A lack of precision on ball placement and out of bounds plays

How often do you see a foul called and, instead of the player placing the ball exactly where the foul occurred, he advances it 5 or 10 yards and puts it in play? Or you may have noticed when a ball goes out of bounds, the throw-in might eventually occur far from where the ball left the field of play.

The referee will occasionally blow his whistle and force the player to move the free kick back, or motion the player throwing the ball in to play to move closer to where the ball went out of bounds. But there’s no precision, no exactitude. (On throw-ins, I’ve seen players dance 20 yards down the sideline before putting the ball in play.)

It offends the American soul to see this demonstration of inexactness. It’s vaguely unfair. We’re used to games where precision makes a difference between victory and defeat. It can in soccer too.

I understand the attraction in not requiring the referee to handle the ball before putting it in play. It keeps the flow of the game going and maintains an advantage for an attacking team if they can quickly put the ball in play. But there are plenty of times when this rule is abused. Penalizing a team for abusing the practice by awarding a free kick to the opposing team should get players to be more exact in ball placement and out of bounds throw-ins.

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Chuck Noll: The Coach that Saved a City

Monday, June 16th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams
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Dejan Kovacevic has this poetic and wonderful piece at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on the passing of Chuck Noll, the greatest NFL coach, ever.

Ever? Kovacevic:

Noll won not just by being the greatest coach in football history, with all due nods to Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Bill Belichick and all others whose ring count is lower than four. He did so by being the quintessential Pittsburgher.

But Kovacevic’s piece isn’t about comparing the greatness of NFL coaches against each other.  It’s about describing the greatness of a man, an introspective, brilliant and understated man who saved a city.

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Saved a city?

If you don’t see a correlation there, chances are excellent you don’t have first-hand familiarity with what truly made those Steelers of the 1970s so Super.

It was a terrible time. The steel mills that employed nearly half the city were closing en masse. The surrounding businesses were failing with them. Pittsburghers were out of work, out of luck and, soon, out of town: From 1970-80, the city’s population was slashed by 96,179, per the U.S. Census. Almost 20 percent! Some fled for the D.C. area and government jobs, others for new economies in the South and West, others just for sanity’s sake.

We were Beirut without the bombs, Chernobyl without the radiation. . . . This was just how it was going to be, they’d say. Pittsburgh had its time. Now that was done.

Crazy thing would happen every Sunday during football season, though.

Yeah, on those days, all was well. Because Pittsburgh ruled.

Kovacevic is right. On Sundays during football season, a city stopped and witnessed an amazing run of four Super Bowls in just six seasons – a feat that no team is ever likely to match again. It wasn’t just that the Steelers had a swarm of Hall of Famers starting – Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, the ferocious headhunter Jack Lambert, Mel Blount and Joe Green – and more. They also had a coach who was unlike any other. They had a coach who tapped the best in players and called them to find the purpose of their life, even if it wasn’t football.

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‘Never Let Anyone Tell You that Sports Doesn’t Matter’

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Long time Sports Illustrated columnist and ESPN commentator Rick Reilly is retiring from the business at age 56.

Reilly didn’t invent the human interest sports story, but he may have perfected it. His “Life of Reilly” columns at SI were full of ordinary athletes performing with incredible handicaps. He wrote of their families, their teammates, and their communities with love and respect.

And man, could he write. Reilly and P.J. O’Rourke are the reasons I decided to try my hand at writing so late in life. Reilly had an ability to boil down the essence of a story until nothing but shining truth remained.

Reilly reminisced about some of the people he wrote about along the way at ESPN.com:

I’d notice how Michael Jordan never appeared before us until his tie was tied, his $3,000 suit buttoned, his silk pocket square just so. From him, I learned professionalism.

I watched safe after safe fall on John Elway’s head — Super Bowl losses, divorce, the loss of his twin sister and his beloved dad — and yet he refused to allow himself one ounce of self-pity. From him, I learned grit.

I’d see how Jim Murray would get up out of his chair in the press box to greet each of the dozens of people who just wanted to shake the great sports writer’s hand, even though he could hardly see his chair, much less their hands. From him, I learned humility.

I wrote about the teammates of high school cross country runner Ben Comen, who would finish their 3-mile races and then double back out onto the course to run with Ben and his limping cerebral palsy gait. From them, I learned love.

I discovered the athletes of Middlebury College, who would pick up a severely handicapped fan named Butch, load him into the car and take him to every game, where they’d provide a hot dog, a Coke and a buddy. From them, I learned service.

Never let anyone tell you sports doesn’t matter. Never let them tell you it’s all about the wins, the losses and the stats. Sports is so much more than that. It’s your grandfather and you and the way a Sunday Bears game bonds you like Super Glue. It’s what you ask of yourself to break four hours in the marathon. It’s the way your softball buddies can still laugh about you hitting the ump instead of the cutoff man 30 years later.

From his perch at SI, Reilly brought readers into the world of sport like no other writer of this or any other generation. Using the drama and sweep of sports to tell the most intimate of stories was inspired writing and the fact that he could pull it off most of the time speaks to his talent and his heart.

Reilly has not been forthcoming about his plans for the future except to say he’ll be living in Italy. His fans will look forward with anticipation for whatever genius flows from his pen.

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Seeking Relevance, Networks Broadcast Live

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

David Bauder at the AP reports:

Networks are adjusting to the changed world of how people watch their programs: hours or weeks later on DVR, online or on-demand. But the industry’s financial structure hasn’t caught up yet, so viewers who watch when a program is first aired – once the only way to watch – are considered more valuable.

That’s why Fox is putting on a live production of “Grease” and NBC is remaking “The Music Man.” Fox is recreating an Evel Knievel motorcycle jump. ABC touts its Oscars telecast and other awards shows. NBC locked up Olympics rights through 2032, and CBS won a bidding war to show NFL football on Thursday night.

Sports usually gets little or no attention in network sales pitches to advertisers. Not this year. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all gave sports a starring role. Why? Very few people DVR sports events.

ABC made the point explicit with a message on a wide video screen: “Your DVR can’t handle live.”

“We’re obsessed with trying to eventize everything we can – even episodes of our scripted shows,” said Robert Greenblatt, NBC’s entertainment chief.

“It’s about the urgency to view,” said Fox’s Kevin Reilly.

When Lucy and Desi went live to tape in the 1950s, the audience revolved around the celebrity’s schedule. Now, with the power of recording in the hands of the viewers, the networks are scrambling to get their celebrities ready for something TV actors haven’t needed to do in a long time: Go live.

Reality TV changed the way networks styled television in the early 2000s. Now, social media is changing the way networks market their product. Being a part of the “cultural conversation” is paramount; unfortunately, it also means a steady diet of imitation and near-naked chicks, as Bauder’s quick quiz illustrates:

QUICK QUIZ

Which of the following lines was NOT uttered at a network presentation last week:

A) “A lot of people called `Battlestar Galactica’ one of the best shows ever.”

B) “This series is `Game of Thrones’ meets `The Borgias’ meets `The Bible.’”

C) “We have two hours of bloody, sexy drama.”

D) “Some of our new shows will disappear before you even realize they’re on the air.”

If you answered anything other than D, then you have something to learn about the atmosphere of hype and hope that accompanies this week every year.

Can the Big Three really compete with streaming services like Netflix who are willing to invest in original programming and dish it out in an a la carte fashion? Or, will the thrill and nostalgia of live television force even the most radical of new service providers to push the Internet to its streaming capacity?

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Why You Should Not Be Running

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

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If you are a competitive distance runner or cyclist who is serious about your sport, this article has not been written for you. This highly informative discussion is intended for those people who have taken seriously the advice of doctors, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and the popular media’s dutiful reporting on these sources of common misinformation about what kind of physical activity is best for your long-term health and continued ability to participate in the business of living well.

Endurance exercise is the most commonly recommended form of activity for health and “wellness.” Every time you see an exercise recommendation denominated in minutes, you are seeing a recommendation for long slow distance exercise — LSD, or “cardio” in the modern vernacular. Running, bicycling, rowing, or their health-club analogs on machines at the gym are what they mean when they say “exercise.”

Depending on who you listen to, 20 minutes per day, 3 hours (120 minutes) per week, or any permutation thereof as a prescription for fitness/health/wellness is the standard in both the fitness and health care industries, and getting stronger is always of secondary importance.

The endurance exercise approach ignores several basic facts:

1. Strength is the ability to produce force with your muscles against an external resistance, like those with which we interact in our environment as we go through our days, living our lives productively. And endurance exercise is directly antagonistic to strength, because an endurance adaptation occurs at the expense of strength.

The body’s basic response to a stress of any type is to recover from that stress in a way that makes it less likely to be a stress when next exposed to it. In other words, we adapt to stress by becoming better able to withstand it. This means that the adaptation to the stress is specific to the type of stress. An endurance stress is low-intensity and highly repetitive, meaning that each of the individual physical efforts that make up the run is easy — none of them are physically difficult from a strength perspective. If they were, you couldn’t do them over and over again for an hour. This means that the hard part is the cumulative effects of the run, not the strides themselves, which are easy.

Since the individual efforts that compose the run are easy, they do not depend on, nor are they limited by, the runner’s strength. Therefore, running cannot make you stronger, since it does not stress your ability to produce increasing amounts of force. Rather, it only depends on your ability to keep producing small amounts of force for an hour.

But more importantly, since running for an hour requires a different adaptation from the muscles, that adaptation will be favored by the muscles and will actively compete for precedence over a strength adaptation — especially if you’re not doing any strength training, or doing it wrong.

Quite literally, the more you run, the better you are at running and the worse you are at being strong.

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How’s That New Replay System Working Out For Ya, Major League Baseball?

Monday, April 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As a conservative, a traditionalist, and a baseball fan for 55 years, I can say that I hate instant replay. I used to hate the designated hitter but eventually, grudgingly, accepted it so chances are pretty good about 30 years from now, I’ll get used to the game being taken out of the hands of flawed, mistake-prone umpires and placed in the hands of technology.

I always saw mistakes made by the umps as simply the “rub-o-the-green” — thems the breaks, boys and over 162 games, the bad calls tend to even themselves out. But the powers that be in baseball didn’t quite see it like that, so they built a huge “war room” in New York — the Replay Operations Center — with dozens of TV feeds for league officials to view a play and make the right call.

I am probably a little more gleeful than I should be when I report that the plot to destroy baseball via replay is not going according to plan. In fact, at this rate, the fans will be screaming for the wires to be ripped out of the ROC and by mid-season, the league go back to relying on human beings to make the right call.

Fox Sports:

I can tolerate the growing pains of expanded replay, the flaws in the challenge system, the awkward delays as managers decide whether to seek reviews, the debates over what constitutes a proper transfer, a proper catch.

But no one should tolerate calls that are blatantly incorrect after review — not now, not with a system that supposedly was designed to help baseball avoid egregious mistakes.

Something is terribly wrong when television viewers are getting better access to conclusive angles than the umpires at the $30 million Replay Operations Center in New York. And it happened twice Saturday, first in a game between the Yankees and Red Sox, then in one between the Braves and Nationals.

If it’s any consolation to Red Sox manager John Farrell, I spent Sunday trying to get a better explanation for Anna-gate from Major League Baseball, and none was forthcoming.

Farrell became the first manager to receive an automatic ejection for arguing a replay decision later that night, contending that the out call on the Yankees’ Francisco Cervelli at first base should not have been overturned because the replays were inconclusive.

The essence of Farrell’s argument is that the ball needed simply to enter first baseman Mike Napoli’s glove, not hit the back of it. The confusion alone over what qualifies as an out is embarrassing to baseball, but Farrell would not have been nearly as hot if not for the shenanigans of the day before.

Clearly, Farrell was still seething over the missed call Saturday — the one in which replay conclusively showed the Yankees’ Dean Anna had his foot off second base when he was tagged by Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts with one out in the eighth inning.

At least, the replay on FOX Sports 1 and other networks broadcasting the game conclusively showed that. No one is quite sure what the umpires at the Replay Operations Center were quite watching, but evidently their 12 feeds were not good enough.

The promise of this expanded replay was that it would be quick (90 seconds or less), and the calls would finally be correct. But, like football replay which came in making the same promises, the reality is quite different. What we found with replays in football was that even multiple angles and several minutes of examining tape, there were many inconclusive outcomes. The standard of “incontrovertible proof” necessary to overturn a call is, after all, arbitrary, and you end up adding a human element anyway.

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The 5 Most Overrated Sports Movies

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Kyle Smith

5. Draft Day (2014)

It’s currently at 57 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s not highly rated. But it is highly amazing that anyone at all liked this football-illiterate soap about a Cleveland Browns general manager (a sullen-looking Kevin Costner) simultaneously having girlfriend problems (with Jennifer Garner, who plays his team’s salary-cap guru), dead-dad problems and personnel problems on the biggest day of year for general managers.

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) trades three first-round draft picks at the annual NFL draft of top college prospects in order to move up six spots and select the hottest college quarterback in years. But then he worries he’s made the wrong decision because of a rumor that none of the jock’s teammates attended his twenty-first birthday party. Also he gets jittery because of a game in which the QB got sacked four times, though even a non-expert looking at the tape can see how the sacks were entirely the fault of poor blocking by the offensive line, not the quarterback.

In short, no one who knows anything about football can take this film seriously, and the romance between Costner’s character and Garner, is flat and tepid. Their arc? They’re having difficulties because he’s not very nice to her. But then he decides to be nice. The end.

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How Can Parents Fight Back Against Federal Bleacher Bullies?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Rhonda Robinson wrote earlier this week about the school district in suburban Detroit that dismantled the bleachers from the boys’ varsity baseball field so they would be in compliance with Title IX regulations after a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR had determined that the boys had better facilities, including better bleachers that had been paid for by parents on the team’s booster club. Rhonda wrote:

In an attempt to make everything fair and equal all it could do is bring everything down to the lowest level–in this case quite literally. The men and women that worked to rise above their circumstances, by building something better, were punished. Their work is completely destroyed. The moral of the story for the everyone-goes-home-with-a-trophy generation: When you expect the government to make everything fair then everyone becomes equally impoverished.

You have to actually read the OCR’s onsite inspection report to fully grasp the enormity of the federal reach into our local public schools and the extent to which their attempts to make everything equal have devolved into a mess that would be hilarious were it not so serious. Woe to the unfortunate school district that receives a visit from these federal genitalia counters with their clipboards and unhealthy interest in urinals and shower curtains. With respect to the availability and quality of the locker rooms, the genital counters who visited the Plymouth-Canton schools wrote:

All School athletes are permitted to use the locker rooms at the School, although some athletes prefer to change elsewhere. The school has varsity locker rooms for both the boys and the girls. The locker rooms are of nearly identical square footage and layout. The boys’ locker room has 236 lockers while the girls’ locker room has 218 lockers. The additional lockers in the boys’ locker room are larger lockers used for football equipment. Each of the locker rooms has eight showers of regular size, and one accessible shower; the only difference noted between the two shower facilities is that the girls’ locker room showers have curtains. The boys’ locker room has two toilet stalls, two urinals, and eight sinks. The girls’ locker room has four stalls and eight sinks. Both locker rooms have a whiteboard in the offices for coaches to use.

Oddly enough, the genitalia counters didn’t seem to have a problem with the disparate toilet facilities, which inadvertently gives us a glimpse into the insanity of these laws. Boys and girls are not the same.  Girls cannot (in the absence of advanced gymnastic skills or large quantities of liquor) use urinals (trust me, I know this … I have a cousin who tried it once). The girls’ swimming facility used by the Plymouth-Canton schools has eight wall-mounted hair dryers — presumably because they recognize that women have different grooming needs than men (the guys are stuck with a few hand dryers, surely violating the rights of those with long tresses). And not to be all sexist or anything, but girls (especially those of the high school variety) need want mirrors. It’s written in the female genetic code that there can never be enough mirrors when a gaggle of girls is present and performing grooming activities. No amount of genital counting and forced gender equality can alter these biological —  and cultural — differences between the sexes.

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NCAA Women’s Final Four Set

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

While the NCAA men Final Four teams await their trial by fire set for Saturday, the women are preparing for Sunday games that feature two unbeaten squads, along with two traditional women’s powerhouses.

The first game on Sunday will see unbeaten Connecticut against the Stanford Cardinal while the late game has undefeated Notre Dame against Maryland. UConn took care of 3 seed Texas A&M 69-54 to earn the trip to Nashville while Stanford handled North Carolina 74-65. The two teams played early in the season with UConn winning handily 76-57. The Lady Huskies will be making their 7th trip to the Final Four in a row. They’ll be going for their 9th national title while Stanford has won it all twice.

In 2010, Stanford ended UConn’s 90 game winning streak with a 71-59 victory. Their All-American, Chiney Ogwumike was a freshman on that squad and after suffering some health set-backs during the year, is now fit and in fighting trim. UConn will have all they can handle trying to contain Ogwumike who is expected to be the number one choice in the WNBA draft.

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Countdown to Selection Sunday

Friday, March 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is less than 48 hours away and for a dozen teams sitting on the bubble, it’s crunch time at their conference tournaments.

So far, March Madness has lived up to its billing with several high seeds losing in early round conference play. The most significant surprise was Villanova’s heartbreaking, last second loss in the Big East tournament to lowly Seton Hall. The loss probably takes Villanova out of the conversation for a top regional seed, but the Selection Committee will probably take into account their tough schedule and several good wins on the road to give them a 2 or 3 seed, probably in the East regional.

As always, it’s the bubble teams that attract the most curiosity from fans and give the Selection Committee indigestion. Who is playing themselves into the Big Dance by doing well in the conference tournaments and who is in line for an NIT bid?

SI’s Michael Beller is on the Bubble Watch:

6:30 p.m. — Big Ten: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

The Golden Gophers had just three wins in 10 tries against conference rivals that are headed to the NCAA tournament. Can they get three in the next three days? That might be what it takes to get in, and the road starts against the Badgers. (Follow along here.)

7:00 p.m. — Big East: Providence vs. Seton Hall

Providence surely thought it would be getting top-seed Villanova if it got this far but Seton Hall’s upset scuttled those plans. A semifinal win over the 17-16 Pirates won’t help as much as a loss would hurt.

9:30 p.m. — Big East: Xavier vs. Creighton

The Musketeers appear to be well within the field of 68, but they would remove any doubt with a win over Doug McDermott and the Blue Jays.

11:30 p.m. — Pac-12: Stanford vs. UCLA

Stanford has to be feeling good about its case for the tournament after routing Arizona State on Thursday. The Cardinal split their season series with the Bruins.

EARLIER GAMES

ACC: Florida State vs. Virginia

It was simple: A win would have gotten the Seminoles into the field. A loss would keep them out. They lost.

FINAL: Virginia 64, Florida State 51

SEC: Missouri vs. Florida

The Tigers’ only really impressive win this season came at home against UCLA back in early December. They couldn’t add another one Friday against the nation’s No. 1 team, getting routed by the Gators in the SEC quarterfinals.

FINAL: Florida 72, Missouri 49

ACC: Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina

The Pirates were probably going to make the tournament anyway, but their lack of signature wins was cause for concern. After knocking off No. 15 North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals, they move into the lock category.

FINAL: Pittsburgh 80, North Carolina 75

Beller is keeping on eye on these bubble teams this weekend:

Illinois: The Fighting Illini needed to advance to at least the Big Ten championship game to entertain hopes of a bid. Their upset bid of Michigan on Friday came up just short in a one-point loss, so they’ll have to settle for the NIT.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack pulled away late to beat Miami on Thursday, and though they struggled to a .500 finish in the ACC this year, they could create a little bubble chatter with a win over Syracuse in the quarterfinals.

Georgia: The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament. Could a trip to the finals get them into the field if it includes a semifinal win over Kentucky? Not likely.

LSU: A win over Kentucky on Friday would be their second over the Wildcats this season, but the Tigers likely still need to win the SEC tournament to go dancing this year.

N.C. State may be the one team that falls victim to the Selection Committee’s sensitivity to charges that they fill out the brackets with too many middling teams from big conferences. How many teams from the ACC really deserve to go? 5? 6? Same for the Big 12 and Big Ten. Some teams like Minnesota who didn’t do well in a conference loaded with quality teams might “deserve” to go the Big Dance based on strength of schedule and non-conference record. But most conferences will only be guaranteed their conference tournament champion will make it.

There will be a lot of nail biting by players and coaches on Sunday afternoon.

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