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J.K. Rowling Intends to Milk Her Harry Potter Success In a Whole New Ridiculous Way

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

There is no such thing as a “Quidditch World Cup.” I repeat, there is no such things as a “Quidditch World Cup.”

Harry Potter fans will be able to read regular updates from the Quidditch tournament via the Pottermore website.

Characters from the books will feature in the reports, which will be credited to Harry’s wife Ginny.

Ginny is billed as “the Daily Prophet’s Quidditch Correspondent in the Patagonian desert” where the tournament is said to be staged.

The first installment of Rowling’s History of the Quidditch World Cup was posted on the digital platform last month, with the second part following shortly afterwards.

 

 

 

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Rand Paul Must Wear Blumenthal’s Huskies Tie After NCAA Game

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Kentucky’s senators have to pay up to the Connecticut delegation after the Huskies beat the Wildcats in the NCAA championship game last night.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wagered a selection of Kentucky Derby-Pies from Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) put Stew Leonard’s brownies and UCONN Dairy Bar ice cream on the line.

“Kentucky has made an unbelievable run and is one win away from its 9th National Championship. Big Blue Nation couldn’t be more proud and excited. So, I look forward to enjoying desserts after Kentucky beats UConn tonight,” Paul said before the game.

McConnell noted they’d already won brautwurst and cheese in a wager over the Wisconsin game. “I do believe, however, that some dessert is in order,” he quipped.

Blumenthal, one of the eventual victors, said Monday he’d “eat a light dinner so I can save room for derby pie.”

Murphy said he looked forward “to a big portion of humble pie from my friends from Kentucky.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said before the game that President Obama’s picks “washed out in the brackets

The Senate wager grew as the day went on…

 

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NFL to Allow ‘Seat Visits’ by Cheerleaders. What Can Go Wrong?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

At first I thought this must be an April Fool’s joke, but the date is wrong for that — the story came out March 31. And it’s…interesting.

The National FootballLeagues has partnered with an app developer that will allow fans to get an in-seat visit from cheerleaders.

Sports Business Journal reports the NFL has teamed up with Experience in an effort to help improve the in-game experience for fans. On top of having cheerleaders visit fans in their seats, the app will allow fans the opportunity to upgrade their seats and also allowing them to be on the field before the game.

I don’t know about this. But I do know that I blame/credit Jerry Jones.

When Cowboys Stadium debuted in 2009, it edged the NFL cheerleader’s tasks just a bit farther from the family experience that the NFL says it wants. Cheerleaders dance up in little stages/cages on one of the field during Cowboys games.

cowboys-stadium-1

That got one-uppped by the app, which is going across the whole league this coming season.

Now we’ll have “seat visits.” Plus flowing alcohol. And in some states, maybe, pot smoking.

I don’t know about this…

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VIDEO: New Yorkers Boo Their Socialist Mayor

Monday, March 31st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

What is going on in the world? First France goes about ousting local socialists who have been in power forever. Now New Yorkers greet their new socialist mayor on baseball’s opening day with a hail of boos as he throws out the first pitch for the Mets.

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Open Thread: MLB Gets Ready For Its First Big Replay Season

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Sign of the times.

The baseball purists will be losing it over this one, but that’s what they do. I’m only a purist when it comes to the designated hitter, a loathsome rule designed simply to give fat guys another five years of playing time and American League managers the opportunity to nap during the part of the game where National League managers have to earn a living.

Baseball is already a slow game and there is some justified trepidation about replay making it even slower. That’s mostly based on the fact that the NFL replay officials take an average of seventeen hours to see what everyone else with the same video feed can see in fourteen seconds. The NFL, however, is working with a couple of guys and and a couple of small monitors. MLB has gone all NASA for its replay purposes.
replay

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Obama, Putin Release their March Madness Brackets

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

In keeping with his annual tradition, President Barack Obama has gone on ESPN and released his 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket. The president has released his bracket, which he has clearly spent a great deal of time personally formulating, every year since 2009. That year he predicted the North Carolina Tarheels to win it all, and that remains the only year in which he has called the winner correctly.

This year, Obama is predicting Michigan State to win the final.

“Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach,” Obama said. “I’ve got Michigan State going all the way. … He know how to motivate folks and he knows how to coach. My pick: Michigan State. Bring it home for me. It’s been a while since I’ve won my pool.”

Besides the fourth-seeded Spartans and Cardinals, President Obama also selected No. 1 overall seed Florida and top seed Arizona to reach the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.

“I know these are not imaginative picks, but I think they’re the right ones,” Obama said of his Final Four picks.

In a first, Russian President Vladimir Putin has also released his take on March Madness. Putin stuck to the friendlier confines of state-run Russian media rather than ESPN for his announcement. Putin says that as a man who wrestles bears shirtless, his pick is similar to Tom Izzo in that he also knows how to motivate folks, but that’s where the similarities end. He is expecting this motivated team to win it all. Take a look at Vladimir Putin’s bracket on the next page.

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Open Thread Video: Sportsmanship Isn’t Dead

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

It’s always nice to end the day with something fun and/or hopeful.

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NBC Depicts Married 23-Year-Old Olympian as Living an ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ (Update: Yahoo Too!)

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Just read this and weep for our future.

David Wise is at the top of his sport. He’s always smiling among his friends and competitors, however, he’s not like the rest of the field. He is mature.

Not to say the rest of the freestyle skiers of halfpipe are not mature, but Wise is mature far beyond his years. At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, Alexander, who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada.

At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult.

Well, at 23, he is an adult. He has been an adult for five years. He is old enough to have graduated from college, gotten married, started a family, become a world class skier — all kinds of adult things. Because he is an adult. He also sounds like a great guy.

He wears a Baby Bjorn baby carrier around the house. He also attends church regularly and says he could see himself becoming a pastor a little later down the road.

I’ll grant that in our day, when Christian business owners find their livelihoods threatened by Obamacare mandates and same-sex marriage proponents targeting them with lawsuits, being a Christian is a countercultural path. The culture and the media try their hand at tearing you apart, when they’re not mocking you.

But if being a married, responsible father at 23 is an “alternative lifestyle” then we are well and truly doomed.

nbc-alternativelifestyle

 

Update: NBC has deep-sixed its own story. Click on the link above, and now you’ll get this instead of the story.

nbc-pagenotfound

 

I’m sure they’re thrilled that we captured a screenshot of the original story.

Update: This story is such a train wreck for NBC. Note in the excerpts above that NBC names David Wise’s wife as “Alexander.” Her actual name is Alexandra.

Update: NBC aren’t the only ones who have gone after David Wise for being a married adult taking care of his family. Yahoo Sports says he is “wildy uncool.”

yahoo-wise

Update: NBC’s article is back up, here, complete with the poor spelling of Mrs. Wise’s first name.

Update: Sign. The last time I checked, 23-year-olds are adults. They can drink and everything.

If you take both the NBC and Yahoo treatments together, Wise’s perfectly sane and ordinary life is cast as “alternative” and “wildly uncool” in the most important part of the stories — the headlines. I see this as media elites once again reporting on flyover types as if they’re anthropologists studying some mystifying lost tribe. I guess some disagree.

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Bipartisan Bills Want Olympic Medals to be Tax-Exempt

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to keep 2014 Olympic medalists and beyond from having to pay taxes on their newly acquired metals.

The Senate version, introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is co-sponsored by Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

It would amend Section 74 of the Internal Revenue Code to state that “gross income” for U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes will not include the value of any medals or prize money they win while competing in the Olympics or Paralympics. Medalists would still have to pay taxes on any endorsement or sponsorship income.

“I congratulate all of our Olympic and Paralympic medalists who have dedicated their own time and money to compete on behalf of our nation,” said Isakson. “They should be welcomed as heroes, not handed a tax bill, when they return home from competition. This legislation is just the right thing to do.”

The House version was introduced by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

“It’s stupid to tax the medals our Olympic athletes won,” said co-sponsor Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). “They represent America as ambassadors as well as superior competitors in their sports. Medal winners in particular are a source of pride to us all. The last thing we should do as a government is send them a bill from the IRS when they return home.”

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Is Sochi the Last Olympics for NHL Players?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

On Saturday morning U.S. time, the U.S. Olympic hockey team faced off against the Russians on ice in Sochi. The match wasn’t quite the 1980 Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t far off. Both sides left it all on the ice. The Americans and Russians battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw, kept a stalemate through the 5-minute overtime, and went to a dramatic shootout. The St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie took most of the shots for the Americans, and scored the winning shot to end the game. USA 3-Russia 2. The victory set Team USA up to win their group, which they did, sending them straight to the quarterfinals. The Russians have had to win their final group game and an extra playoff match against Norway (which Russia won 4-0) to get to the knockout stage. For the remainder of the Sochi Olympics, and maybe for the rest of his life, Oshie will have a new nickname — T.J. Sochi.

Team USA took 25 players to the Sochi games, all of them National Hockey League players. Team Canada’s 25-man roster is plucked entirely from the NHL. Team Russia also hails mostly from the NHL — 16 of its 25-man roster ply their trade in the USA, with the rest coming from different professional leagues around the world. Pavel Datsyuk, arguably the best player in the Russian kit, is a forward for the Detroit Red Wings. Twenty-four of Sweden’s 25-man roster are NHL players, 16 of Finland’s player are NHL players, 17 of the Czech players, 14 of Slovakia’s, 8 of Switzerland’s…you get the idea. This year’s tournament wouldn’t be the same competition at all if NHL players were not representing their countries on the ice in Sochi.

Prior to 1998′s games in Nagano, Japan, the NHL did not participate and its players did not play in the Olympics. That’s part of what made Team USA’s 1980 gold medal victory in Lake Placid, NY, so special. The Americans fielded a team of amateurs to take on the pros from behind the Iron Curtain including the Soviet Union’s Big Red Machine, and America’s plucky amateurs shocked the world on home ice.

While the amateurs-versus-the-world storyline was romantic, the fact is, it did not showcase the best hockey players in the world. The NHL is the world’s top hockey league and its players sat the Olympics out until 1998. Since the Nagano games, Olympic hockey’s inclusion of professional players has turned its tournament into a kind of hockey World Cup, a competition that hockey has not held since 2004, but which never rose to the profile of either soccer’s World Cup or the Olympic competition.

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Russian Official: Sochi Hotels Have No Problems. Our Shower Surveillance Video Proves It!

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the tweets and tales of misadventure and squalor that awaited journalists who’ve congregated in Sochi, Russia for the Olympics. Some of it makes the most Spartan stuff I dealt with in the military look luxurious.

Via Gizmodo comes a WSJ report on the situation. The Russians can be quite reassuring. Not.

The WSJ reports that Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak is downright peeved at visiting journalists from the west. He claims the journos are deliberately trying to sabotage the Olympics as well as to undermine Russia’s international reputation by sending back false reports that depict Sochi’s often amusing lack of preparation for the games. So far, they’ve only received 108 “registered” complaints. According to Kozak, it’s all a sham. Consider what the hidden surveillance cameras have detected:

“We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” he said. An aide then pulled a reporter away before Mr. Kozak could be questioned further on surveillance in hotel rooms. “We’re doing a tour of the media center,” the aide said.

The Russians quickly walked that back, claiming that the hotels have “absolutely no” video surveillance systems. But the country is known to hack pretty much everything and to listen in on pretty much all electronic communications. It’s Putin’s place, the other Russians just live in it.

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What the Puck: Kerry Giving Locker Room Pep Talks Now

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry will send off the U.S. Olympic team with a ceremonial puck drop at the Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets hockey game on Thursday in Washington.

“As part of his visit, Secretary Kerry will participate in a ceremonial puck drop with Olympians from both teams prior to the game. Secretary Kerry will also address the Capitals in the locker room prior to the team’s pregame warm-up,” the State Department said today.

Kerry is known for his verbose, lengthy addresses.

However, media will not be allowed in the Capitals locker room to witness Coach Kerry’s pep talk. Press will only be able to obtain footage through the Capitals’ HQ.

The Washington Capitals’ John Carlson (United States), Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden), and Martin Erat (Czech Republic) will represent their respective countries at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while the Winnipeg Jets will send Blake Wheeler (United States), Michael Frolik (Czech Republic), Ondrej Pavelec (Czech Republic), and Olli Jokinen (Finland).

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will lead the U.S. delegation in Friday’s opening ceremonies. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will lead the delegation to the closing ceremony.

Kerry sported a couple of black eyes and a broken nose around Washington in January 2012 from getting roughed up during an amateur hockey game. Actually, he didn’t take a stick or a puck, but fell down.

 

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Coburn, King Want to Sack NFL’s Tax Exemption

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have been using Super Bowl week to promote their new bill that would end the NFL’s tax-exempt status.

The PRO Sports Act would amend the tax code to prohibit professional sports organizations with annual revenues of more than $10 million from enjoying the same tax-exempt, 501(c)(6) status as industry trade associations and public interest groups.

Coburn said on CNN that the NFL can’t pass itself off as a trade group as “they don’t represent arena football.”

“They represent only the NFL. And the tax code specifically says in terms of trade associations you can’t promote any brands. And they promote all the brands within the NFL only,” he said. “…Every other American pays a little bit more every year because we give the NFL league office a tax break and call them a nonprofit, which, in fact, they’re not.”

“The NFL doesn’t promote college football, high school football, arena football. It’s a group of teams. And by the way, I’m a huge NFL fan. I mean, sponsoring this bill may be wiping out my possibility of being a quarterback for the Redskins, which is a lifetime goal,” King quipped. “But, you know, I just don’t think this is right. How do I look at my constituents in Maine and say you’ve got to pay a little bit more income taxes so these guys can be tax-free at this entity that’s bringing in millions of dollars a year?”

“If this is truly a tax-exempt organization, how is it that 20 percent of the revenue that comes in goes to one individual in the organization?” Coburn added.

Several pro sports leagues in addition to the NFL, such as the NHL and PGA, have central offices registered as 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organizations, which allows the opportunity for their revenue to be tax-free. To qualify under current law, the leagues must state that their purpose is to help promote their respective sports and membership instead of themselves.

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that closing the loophole would save taxpayers approximately $109 million over 10 years.

“Major League Baseball dropped this in 2008. The NBA is not taking advantage of this — and rightly so, because they aren’t a trade association. They know they’re not a trade association,” Coburn said.

“I think you need to look at this bill as pulling up the corner of a big tent, because I think everybody around here agrees that we’ve really got to look at the tax code and what they call tax expenditures, because every time somebody gets a tax break, that means somebody else has to pay more,” King said.

King quipped this morning on MSNBC that he’s now probably “the only guy in America who has to go to an NFL game under the witness protection program.”

“The NFL has a foundation that does charitable work. That’s tax exempt. Nobody is questioning that. We’re talking about the league office, which by the way pays the boss $29 million a year. How many nonprofits do you know pay their executive director $29 million a year? You know, it just sort of is ridiculous,” the Maine senator continued.

“That exemption was in the law to exempt organizations that represented large groups in a whole industry. The National Association of Manufacturers. The NFL is a brand. It doesn’t represent football. It doesn’t have anything to do with high school football, or arena football, or college football. It is a brand representing the teams, the very highly profitable teams, and that’s different than a broad association of groups of people, the National Skiing Association or something, that represented a whole sport. This is a brand. And I think that’s what really — what the difference is.”

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Washington Learned About Potential Suicide Bombers on the Loose from Media Reports

Monday, January 27th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Administration officials said they’re working with Russian counterparts to help keep Sochi more secure for the Olympic Games that begin Feb. 7.

But it was also acknowledged that they only learned about a “black widow” terrorist potentially being on the loose inside the security perimeter from media reports.

President Obama has asked former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to lead the official delegation of 230 athletes and 270 coaches and support staff to Russia. The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service will be coordinating their security through the International Security Event Group.

“We will have a fairly large contingent of personnel in Sochi as well as we obviously have the United States Embassy in Moscow, which plays a huge role in this. In Sochi, we have Diplomatic Security agents and representatives from other agencies in the federal government, including the FBI and others. We will have people on the ground manning what we call a joint operations center, which is an information hub for all of us. We will be passing information out through OSAC, the Overseas Security Advisory Council, to American businesses and subscribers. We will be passing information directly to the U.S. Olympic Committee when we think that there is security information that needs to be passed. And we will be working closely with consular as well,” an administration officials told reporters on a Friday conference call.

“On the ground in Sochi, we will have enough American diplomatic security agents so that they will be accompanying the American teams to all of the venues. They’ll be on site at all times. They’ll be available to liaise with the Russian Government security services that are there. They’ll be an interface for the Olympic Committee. And they’ll be overseeing generally the levels of security that we’re getting and making sure that our Olympic teams and our Olympic participants are as safe and secure as they can be.”

Another senior administration official said “we are aware of reports of potential threats that may occur during the Olympic Games, including the media accounts we’ve seen of female suicide bombers and a video posted online claiming responsibility for the tragic bombings in Volgograd that also promised more attacks during the Sochi Games. We take all such threats seriously.”

Athletes are being warned to not wear Team USA uniforms or colors outside of accredited areas. “I think it reflects just good common sense if, in fact, there are threats of terrorism. And I think most of us agree with many of the outside security experts that have decided that it’s probably more likely that things may be happening at soft targets outside the actual Olympic events,” an official said.

The State Department’s travel alert for Russia was updated on Friday to include more specifics on the terrorist threat. “In early January 2014, media reports emerged about the possible presence of so-called ‘black widow’ suicide bombers in Sochi. These reports have not been corroborated, and the U.S. government continues to seek further information. Other bombings over the past 10-15 years occurred at Russian government buildings, airports, hotels, tourist sites, markets, entertainment venues, schools, and residential complexes.  There have also been large-scale attacks on public transportation including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights, in the same time period.”

“I think that particular report came to us through the media. I – we have been aware for some time that in the entire region, that that is a type of attack that has been used before. I don’t think it surprised us that that came up on the radar screen at all,” an administration official said.

“Sure, we’re frustrated we don’t know everything,” another official said. “I didn’t say we were frustrated with the Russian Government. I said we’re frustrated we don’t know everything. We always want more information, and you always want to – that’s in any situation, not just dealing with the Sochi Olympics. It’s a – so I guess what I’m saying is, certainly there is uncertainty. There’s uncertainty in any kind of big event like this.”

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More NFL Bad Lip Reading, the Little Sisters of the Poor, And Other Very Important Stories that You Must Not Miss

Friday, January 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

It’s Friday. I’m going to close out my shift celebrating a victory — the Little Sisters of the Poor are winning against Obamacare’s abortifacient mandate.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Friday will enable a religious-affiliated non-profit and other groups like it to remain temporarily exempt from Obamacare requirements to cover birth control and other reproductive health they oppose for religious reasons.

The justices extended an injunction first granted on an emergency basis just before the New Year for a Catholic charity for the elderly run by nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The order will remain in effect while lower courts continue to wrangle with the merits of the primary challenge to the health law mandates on contraception.

Still, it is an important victory for the two groups that appealed socially charged requirements that were a negotiated compromise aimed at allowing coverage but also giving those who object a way around having to provide it directly.

The Obama administration continues to insist that nuns should pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control, which is utter madness.

The earth-shattering news that the mainstream media refuses to report. Because reporting it threatens to shatter their world.

A blueprint for creating viral Interwebs content.

A prototype for Noah’s Ark? A prototype for Noah’s Ark.

LONDON (AP) — It was a vast boat that saved two of each animal and a handful of humans from a catastrophic flood.

But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow – the original Noah’s Ark, new research suggests, was round.

A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq – reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle – as well as the key instruction that animals should enter “two by two.”

Round? That doesn’t fit any of the drawings I’ve ever seen. The thing on Mt. Ararat is rectangular.

noahs_ark

We say we’ll die for America. Will we buy for America?

I’m conflicted over the Super Bowl. The NFL is too — they might have to move it if the polar vortex demands it. Gee, a snow storm in New York in winter. Who coulda seen that coming?

I don’t have a team in the game. That’s been true since 1996. I do like the Broncos. I’ve always liked Peyton Manning. I’ve never had a problem with the Seattle Seahawks. Richard Sherman’s post-game interview, the one he has apologized for, made me like him and the Hawks. Every subsequent revelation about him has made me like him more.

So I’m not sure what to do. Hope for a good game, I guess.

I will associate myself with this comment. Sherman had no reason to apologize. Justin Bieber, a burgeoning criminal who is not an American citizen, does.

biebs-sherman

Egads, the horror.

Obama says he has confidence in all of his nominees. That confidence is often misplaced. Obama was never vetted, and he doesn’t vet many of his appointees.

This made me laugh.

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Warren Buffett Has A Cool Billion For Anyone Who Fills Out A Perfect March Madness Bracket

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

As bracket challenges go, this one is worth a shot.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans are partnering to award anyone who fills out a perfect 2014 Men’s NCAA Tournament bracket with $1 billion.

The prize will be paid out in 40 annual installments of $25 million. If there’s more than one winner they’ll have to share. The winner or winners can also take or split up an immediate $500 million lump sum payment.

Don’t worry, they’re dishing out plenty for some less-than-perfect brackets too.

In addition to the grand prize, Quicken will award $100,000 each to the contest’s 20 most accurate ‘imperfect’ brackets submitted by qualified entrants in the contest to use toward buying, refinancing or remodeling a home.

Of course, if the grand prize is won it will be by a 20 year old woman who hasn’t watched ten minutes of college hoops in her life and completely spitballed her bracket.

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NFL May Dump the Extra Point, but Probably Won’t

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Fox and others are reporting that the NFL is considering doing away with the most routine scoring play in football — the extra point kick.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the NFL Network on Monday that the league’s Competition Committee is looking at proposals that would end extra point kicks after touchdowns in favor of a revised scoring system.

“The extra point is almost automatic,” Goodell told the network. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd (attempts). So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play.”

One proposal would have touchdowns count for 7 points automatically, but teams could elect to go for two. If they did and succeeded, they would get a 2-point conversion, but if they failed, would only get six points.

When I first heard this idea I didn’t like it, but upon further review, it’s not bad. Football games now seem to run about twice as much ad time as game time, especially when games like this season’s Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos shootout went go to 51-48. The game was exciting, but ad time between scores made it seem like it would never end.

If you’ve gotten the impression that there isn’t much action in televised football, that’s not a mistaken impression. Commercial time takes up roughly six times as much airtime as actual football, according a study by the Wall Street Journal.

football-time

Game action only accounts for 11 minutes out of a typical 3 to 3.5 hour football broadcast. Soccer haters are gonna hate, but one thing that I love about watching that sport on TV is that once they kickoff a half, there are no commercial breaks. Commercial breaks do not interrupt the flow of the game. Game time is game time and 45 minutes usually ends up taking between 45 and 48 minutes, accounting for stoppage time. Football delivers far less action time, but far more opportunities to air ads, so it will always be more viable as a TV product in the US than soccer.

The extra point kick is usually one of the dullest moments of football, coming after the excitement of scoring a touchdown and before what is now usually a booming kickoff through the back of the end zone. But eliminating it would come at a price. A worthless play is worth a lot of ad revenue.

As football games are aired now, networks tend to run a full commercial break after a team scores a touchdown, return for the all but automatic extra point kick, run another full slate of commercials, then return for the kickoff, and run a full slate of ads after the kickoff, then return for first down. Eliminating the extra point kick would eliminate a couple of those commercial breaks. That would cost between three and six minutes of air time after every single touchdown. Eliminating that many commercial breaks would be great for keeping the game going and flowing and would shorten overall airtime, but runs the risk of bringing in fewer ad dollars per game. The NFL could remedy that just by charging more per spot, but that might also drive some ad buyers away. If teams and players stand to haul in less revenue due to the elimination of the extra point kick, they will fight to keep the extra point kick.

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Mike Tyson Says Rodman Committed ‘Treason, 100%’

Monday, January 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

I was always on Evander Holyfield’s side (who wasn’t?), but this smackdown of Dennis Rodman by Mike Tyson is really great:

“[Rodman] lost it. They’ll probably arrest him when he gets back in this country. When you see  [former NBA player] Charles Smith, who you know is a decent person. I could not believe that Charles Smith would be involved with that, unless it was something advantageous for him” Tyson said.  “But I couldn’t believe, Dennis Rodman, who’s leading the way. Man, it’s such a disappointing factor. It just wasn’t good. And it didn’t help the cause. Look, nobody can stop me from making a fool of myself, but that was some really, some really bad stuff. It wasn’t even funny. It was like, a [fictional] scene. You couldn’t even believe that’s real. If I would have woke up in the middle of that, I would have thought it was a sketch or something. It was really some bad stuff, when you look at it. And he put those other guys in a bad predicament too. They may never get a job to work with, to be involved with the NBA again, for life.”

…”It’s treason. It’s treason, 100%. Look, I’m not politically incarnate or anything, but when you examine what treason is, it’s treason,” Tyson said. “He’s in another land, that’s an enemy of our land, and he’s talking [expletive] on us. He’s talking really bad to our guys over there.”

…“And he’s defending [North Korea]. And plus they’ve got one of our guys over there in prison, and he’s defending them, saying ‘do you know what that guy did?’ well you don’t either,” Tyson said.  “You become his lackey. He must have paid them with money, I’m sure he’s getting paid. I’m sure Dennis is not doing this out of the kindness of his heart.”

When asked if he might consider visiting North Korea to promote his one-man stage show, which lands in Vegas this month, Tyson replied, “You ain’t gotta worry about that.”

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Budget Buddies Murray and Ryan Now Have Cute Matching Jerseys

Friday, January 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

ryanmurrayjersey

The bond between Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has lasted long beyond the year-end budget deal.

Now the pair has matching jerseys.

Murray presented Ryan with a signed jersey from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson “as a token of her appreciation for his efforts during the Budget Conference Committee,” her office said.

“During budget negotiations, Sen. Murray and Congressman Ryan shared their love of football and admiration for Russell Wilson, a former Wisconsin Badger and current starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. In an interview with Meet the Press shortly after the budget agreement was announced, Murray and Ryan joked about how Wilson was a common line during budget negotiations,” Murray’s office noted.

Ryan’s team, the Green Bay Packers, were knocked out of the playoffs last weekend by the San Francisco 49ers.

Tomorrow, the Seahawks face the New Orleans Saints in a game that has ignited some heavy betting on the Hill. Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) wagered Pike Place Pale Ale and oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms against Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) charbroiled oysters and Abita Amber beer.

“When we win, I look forward to celebrating a Saints victory with Maria and Patty and tasting Washington spoils, which I’m sorry, just do not compare to gulf oysters or beer brewed from the Abita Spring,” Landrieu said. “Washington oysters are seasoned with salt and rain while Louisiana oysters are covered in garlic, butter and greatness.”

Murray said she’s “looking forward to seeing how Louisiana’s well-seasoned seafood stacks up with the natural bounty of the Pacific Northwest.”

Ryan showed his appreciation for his budget negotiating partner by presenting Murray with Kringle and cheese.

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Rodman Has CNN Meltdown Over His ‘Love’ for Kim Jong-un, Declares U.S. Hostage Must Be Guilty

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

Props to CNN’s Chris Cuomo for not letting up on Dennis Rodman in this morning’s interview about his North Korea “basketball diplomacy” trip, especially when Rodman accused U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae of committing some sort of unspecified crime against the regime of Kim Jong-un.

The sad and awkward part of the interview — because we know Rodman is nutty — is the former NBA players flanking him, aware that they’re being offered as some sort of birthday gift to the dictator about to turn 31.

Charles D. Smith, who played with the Clippers, Knicks and Spurs over his career, tried to defuse the tension of the interview and pitch their case, but even he seemed unsure of what their case is. “What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it,” Smith told the Associated Press. “Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government.”

The AP also notes that some of the ex-players who followed Rodman have their own colorful pasts, and could be in need of the cash if that’s what Pyongyang dangled to get them there. They looked increasingly uncomfortable as Rodman’s apologist interview wore on.

Which brings us to the worst tweet of the Rodman trip:

And the most succinct:

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Clearly, NFL Players Need a Sleeve Mandate

Monday, January 6th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Colin Kaepernick

When the San Francisco 49ers faced the Packers at Green Bay on Sunday, players had different ways of dealing with the cold. It was about 5 degrees at the beginning of the game, with the wind chill dipping to 15 below by the end. Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to go sleeveless and to keep his throwing hand gloveless.

“I’ve played in cold-weather games before,” said Kaepernick, who went to the University of Nevada-Reno. “I feel like it’s more mental than anything.”

Tackle Joe Staley joked, “He has those tattoos he needs to show off,” referring to the Biblical tattoos on the QB that include Psalm 18:39.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said he suggested Kaepernick wear sleeves, but “I’m a little hardheaded at times,” the QB acknowledged.

What Kaepernick seemed to want to convey was that with all the predictions that the team from the Bay Area would be felled by the shivers in Green Bay, he was tougher than that. It’s not just an issue of getting psyched up to play in the cold, but psyching out your opponent.

Well, that’s just clearly unacceptable machismo, right? What about the health and safety implications of our poor vulnerable football players?? Says…

 

White House sleeve mandate?

MORE: NFL Playoffs Wildcard Open Thread: Cold Bowl Doesn’t Ice the Niners

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White House Treats Obama’s Golf Summit Like Oval Office Meeting

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

When the president has an important meeting behind closed doors, the White House sometimes issues a readout — general summary of what was discussed, with administration spin. After President Obama golfed for five hours with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the White House tried to dress it up as a meeting of sorts by releasing a readout:

Today, President Obama invited Prime Minister John Key to play a round of golf in Hawaii. The two leaders have long discussed their shared interest in the sport, and they enjoyed the opportunity to spend several hours together on the golf course. President Obama and Prime Minister Key have developed a close partnership, which reflects the friendship and broad cooperation between the United States and New Zealand. While the two leaders are both enjoying some time off with their families and friends, they also reaffirmed our continued work together to deepen our trade relationship, enhance regional security, and support the democratic values that the United States and New Zealand share.

In the short time the press pool was allowed to view the game, it was more about high-fiving and teasing each other about putts.

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Obama Ups His Golf Game Partners on Tee-Heavy Hawaii Trip

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama has been enjoying a leisurely vacation of shaved ice and long dinners in Hawaii, as well as lots of golf.

Today, another head of government in the Pacific joined Obama on the course. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who owns a home in Hawaii, the prime minister’s teenaged son Max and White House aide Marvin Nicholson hit the Kaneohe Bay golf course, and the media was allowed a rare glimpse of the commander in chief in golf mode.

Just before 10 a.m. local time, the press pool was escorted to the second green to watch the world leaders play.

“The foursome pulled up in two golf carts with the president and the prime minister riding together. Obama, in a lavender golf shirt, khaki pants and khaki baseball cap, grabbed two clubs from his bag before striding toward the green. The group joked as they golfed and appeared to be playing a fairly casual round,” reads the pool report.

“Obama initially putted from just off the green, announcing that he was opting to putt. When he left his ball well short of the flag, Obama said, ‘I guess I should have chipped it after all.’ The president’s second putt rolled close to the hole, and he opted for a gimme shot rather than putting a third time.”

Obama high-fived the prime minister’s son after a successful putt and “ribbed” Nicholson when he missed one. White House trip director Nicholson is the most constant player in Obama’s golf excursions.

“As the pool was led away from the green, Obama was joking with the prime minister about the challenge of beating the younger players in their group,” the report said.

The pool was then escorted to a food court at a nearby mall. Obama traditionally has the press left at an eatery of some sort out of sight of his golf game.

On New Year’s Day, Obama golfed for more than five hours. He had similarly long games with his friends on Sunday and Monday, and put in six hours on the course the day after Christmas. On Christmas Eve he only played for four and a half hours, but played through a rainstorm.

The Obamas return to Washington on Sunday.

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What if the NFL Changed Its Rules Like the White House Did with ObamaCare?

Monday, December 30th, 2013 - by Paul Hsieh, M.D.

The Washington Redskins finished the 2013 NFL season a disappointing 3-13, in a year when many fans expected them to make the playoffs.

But their record could have been much better if the NFL referees had shown the same “flexibility” towards the rules as the White House has taken towards its own health care law.

For instance, the White House unilaterally delayed the mandate requiring employers of at least 50 people to provide insurance to workers (or face a fine).

The White House also delayed twice the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges for small businesses employing fewer than 50 people.

Similarly, after angry public outcry over cancelled insurance policies, the President declared that insurance companies could keep offering plans he had previously declared “substandard.”

And the President has also magnanimously granted some Americans a “hardship waiver” from the individual mandate if their new government-compliant plans were too expensive.

Think of how much better the Redskins’ season could have been if the refs gave them a first down after only advancing the ball a “substandard” 7 or 8 yards, rather than the standard 10 yards. Or if they were given a hardship waiver of 5 downs for each possession, rather than 4 downs like everyone else. Or if the coach had a few extra timeouts to use whenever he needed. Or if the refs moved the goalposts to give them a shorter field to score.

Arbitrarily changing the rules to favor the Washington Redskins would certainly have helped their season. But of course, it would have also made a mockery of football as a sport governed by objective rules.

Fortunately, the NFL has higher standards than the White House. It doesn’t “move the goalposts” to favor Washington’s preferred team. It’s too bad the White House doesn’t take the same approach towards its preferred law

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FCC Unanimously Moves to Consider Ending Sports Blackout Rules

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

The Federal Communications Commission decided by unanimous vote to consider a proposal to eliminate 40-year-old sports blackout rules that prohibit cable and satellite providers from carrying a game if it is blacked out on television due to insufficient ticket sales.

No one was happier than Senate sports fans, who took did an end zone dance and took credit for nudging the FCC in this direction.

“The FCC’s unanimous vote today is a big victory for sports fans,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “This June, Senator Blumenthal and I sent a letter to FCC Acting Chair Clyburn, urging the Commission to move to eliminate the Sports Blackout Rule, which is no longer supported by facts or logic.”

“For years I have worked to reform the regulatory framework that favors the interests of cable and television programming companies and the leagues over those of sports fans and cable consumers,” McCain added. “There is much more work to be done, but the FCC’s vote today moves us one step closer to the finish line.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the vote a “tremendously positive step forward for consumers and sports fans.”

“Existing blackout policies quite literally leave fans in the dark, and leagues or programmers that enforce them should not be rewarded with special regulatory status, antitrust exemptions, or taxpayer subsidies,” he said.

“To combat this abuse, Senator McCain and I introduced the FANS Act and the Television Consumer Freedom Act. Fans deserve a level playing field that gives them fair access to their favorite teams.”

Their bill aimed to decrease the frequency of sports blackouts by requiring leagues to meet basic obligations to fans if they wish to continue receiving substantial benefits from the public.

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Cowboys vs Packers: Meltdown in Jerryworld

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

After watching the Dallas Cowboys blow a halftime 26-3 lead, at their home in the most jaw-dropping sports building on the planet, to the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers, my first instinct was to go out and buy a Tony Romo replica jersey. I would douse it in something extremely flammable, set up a video camera, and capture the joy of igniting the #9 and watching it burn. Upload the video to YouTube and I could just about guarantee a billion hits.

But buying the jersey would just end up putting another dollar in Jerry Jones’ pockets. So, I believe I speak for millions of Cowboys fans on this, no thanks.

As a lifelong fan, I have supported the Cowboys from the days of Roger Staubach through Danny White, to the late lean years of the Landry era, right through to the present. So I’m no fair-weather fan. I supported them when they went to Super Bowls and won, when they went to Super Bowls and lost, even when they were 1-15. Their only win that year was against the Redskins. And it was sweet. When egos drove three-time Super Bowl winner Jimmy Johnson* away and Jones brought Barry Switzer in to replace him (knowing full well how much most Texans hate Switzer) we still stuck by the Boys.

The current Cowboys team is a collection of pretenders owned by an ego attached to a greasy grin. Jones builds his gaudy stadium with its giant TV screen and hasn’t bothered to assemble a coaching staff or a team that’s capable of stringing more than two wins together at a run unless they have lost the previous three. This is a team that was once a contender year in and year out. The star meant something. America’s Team. Always glamorous, and always able to back up their swagger with winning seasons and deep playoff campaigns. Champions.

They were champions often in the early Jerry Jones years. But he has clearly lost the plot.

Now over the past dozen years or so the Cowboys are .500. Mediocre. Never great, never the worst, always among the most frustrating.

These Cowboys aren’t the perennial bottom-feeders that fans love even without having a faint trace of hope. This Cowboys team is cruel. It must surely hate its fans. On paper, Jones assembles one of the most talented teams in the NFL. It has the chance to run away with a weak NFC East but keeps blowing games week after week. It builds up massive leads only to squander them. It plays well against good teams but loses by one point, or three. It makes you think they have finally gotten it together. It dominates for half a game. It strides and runs hard and shoots from the hip and looks downright dangerous. Then it falls apart in the most appalling ways imaginable.

In this particular game, the Cowboys built up a huge lead by halftime. Then they made an almost winless backup quarterback look like Troy Aikman and Tom Brady combined. Against the Packers they got pass happy in the third quarter when they could have sat on a 19-point lead with a sustained drive on the ground. A couple of drives that featured a patient ground game and a couple of first downs each could have deflated the Packers and ended the game, even if the Packers scored touchdowns in between.

Anyone could see that the clock could become the Cowboys’ twelfth man when they had half a game to play and a 23-point lead. Well, anyone but the Cowboys play callers. The Princeton-educated genius head coach, Jason Garrett, and his brain trust decided to throw throw throw their way to a drive that lasted 6 nanoseconds and gave the Packers a short field. What was 26-3 at the half was suddenly 29-17.

For most NFL teams, a 12-point lead in the second half is enough to see out a win. But the Dallas Cowboys aren’t most teams. Did Princeton and his brain trust learn anything from getting pass-happy and allowing the game to tighten up and the momentum to shift to the visitors? As a matter of fact, did they learn anything from the epic second-half meltdown against Detroit in October 2011? They surrendered a 24-point second half lead in that one, because when they should have played the run to seal the game, they went pass-happy, committed turnovers, forgot how to play defense, and lost.

They did not learn anything from any of that. They did pretty much the same stupid thing again. With 4:17 to go and a 36-31 lead, the Arkansas Charlatan’s Cowboys get the ball back. The Packers had to have a touchdown. Running back DeMarco Murray was having a good day. The Cowboys’ injury-ravaged defense had proven that it had all the stopping power of a soaked Kleenex. So the Cowboys simply needed to eat the clock and put maximum distance between the Packers and their goal line. A field goal would probably have sealed the win. The Cowboys’ kicker is pretty good too. This was a situation full of no-brainers.

So they run the ball, right? That’s what anybody who has ever seen a game of football would do. That’s what anybody with a lick of common sense would do. Run left. Run right. Burn up the clock. Wear out the opposing defense. Get a couple of first downs. Force the Packers to use their timeouts. Kick a figgie if you have to. Close. Out. The. Game.

Unless you’re the Jerry Jones Cowboys. The Jerry Jones Cowboys got pass-happy again, and Romo was intercepted with 2:50 to go. From that moment forward there would only be one outcome. The pitiful Cowboys would shoot blanks and lose.

And they did. Final score, 37-36. In their remaining two games, their opponents have to figure that spotting this Cowboys team four touchdowns will just make the fourth quarter a little more interesting for them, and a little more cruel for whatever Cowboys fans bother to watch the horror show.

The team that has been a mediocre .500 for more than a decade stands at 7-7 — mediocre again.

Here’s something I still cannot get my head around. If you’re calling the plays, you call run. But if you’re the quarterback and the coach calls pass, you have checkdowns. You can read the defense and check out of a pass into a run in most situations. In that second down situation, Murray was in the backfield. A checkdown to a run should have been the call. So Romo is no less guilty here than Garrett, and Garrett is no less guilty than Romo. One or the other should have had the sense to realize, “Hey, a couple of run plays here should put us in a good position to win.” Even if Romo and Garrett can’t figure this out, Jones claims he knows football well enough, and he’s enough of a tyrant as the team’s general manager, that he should have had the sense to call down and flame Garret after the first botched drive early in the third quarter: “Run the ball or you’re fired!” The shocking thing is that none of these people looked like they had ever so much as driven by a stadium in which football was being played, much less played a game of real honest to goodness football.

The collective stupidity of the Jerry Jones Cowboys is mind-blowing. Anyone who has ever played a game of Madden — heck, Tecmo Bowl — could have managed that second half to a Cowboys win. I’m not kidding. Anyone could have.

Anyone not currently associated with that team that calls itself the Cowboys, that is.

Even after all this, Jerry Jones’ Cowboys can still win the division and make the playoffs, but this lifelong fan doesn’t care. They don’t deserve to get to the postseason. They deserve to lose their remaining games by about 40 points apiece and be remembered as the most pathetic, characterless, leaderless bunch of rabble to ever wear the helmet with the star. Tony Romo should forget about ever being a legendary Cowboys quarterback. He has the stats for it, but he isn’t clutch. When the game is on the line, he tends to lose his mind. A life in arena football would be a suitable career ending. The entire coaching staff deserves to be fired for forgetting football 101 and blowing a chance to move back into first place in the division. All they had to do was run the freaking ball, behind a quality run blocking line and on the legs of a solid and healthy back, who did in fact run for over 100 yards and a touchdown on this very day.

Jerry Jones should also be fired, but he owns the team so that’s not happening. He should apologize to Dallas Cowboys fans, find a buyer, sell the team, and content himself to live out the rest of his days in humiliating anonymity.

*Switzer’s Super Bowl really belongs to Jimmy Johnson.

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USA, England Both Get ‘Groups of Death’ World Cup Draws

Friday, December 6th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

The United States Men’s National Team has had a brilliant 2013. It won its World Cup qualifying group. It won the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Its world ranking kept rising and rising.

But the great year just ended on a decidedly down beat. FIFA held the draw for the 2014 World Cup today, and the United States finds itself in Group G with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. The latter have had a bad year, but they are America’s World Cup bogey team — Ghana eliminated the US from the 2010 and 2006 World Cups. The US is bringing a much stronger side this time, but it’s facing an extremely difficult group.

Germany brings world class firepower all over the pitch. Manuel Nauer is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now. Mesut Ozil is arguably the best playmaking midfielder in the world right now. Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski, the Bender brothers, Marco Reus, Per Mertesacker (the Arsenal defender who sunk England at Wembley in their most recent friendly), Mat Hummels…this squad is quality from front to back. The only thing they might lack is an out-and-out striker, but with everyone else rotating around Ozil, they may not need one. At Arsenal he is proving that he can find anyone anywhere for an assist at any time.

Portugal is arguably weaker across the pitch than Germany, but they also bring probably the world’s best player this season — Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He proved in Portugal’s playoffs against Sweden that he can carry his team to victory all by himself. Portugal might be a one-man team, but when your one man is that man, you always have more than a chance of winning.

It’s not hard to see Germany winning this group with Portugal right behind them, leaving the Americans out in the Amazon heat. On the other hand, being an underdog isn’t a bad thing for a US used to playing second to Mexico in its region.

England fared slightly better. It drew Group D along with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy. Mercurial Uruguay won the World Cup on Brazilian soil decades ago, and brings the in-form striker Luis Suarez to lead the line. All he has done lately is score four spectacular goals for Liverpool versus Norwich in the Premiere League on Wednesday. Italy is a perennial world soccer power. Costa Rica managed to dismantle a tough US side on its home soil during the qualifying stages. England is capable of beating all of them if its best players are healthy and on their best games. Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere, Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard…they don’t lack energy, experience, youth, or quality.

These are tough draws, especially in light of how the rehearsal draws went. In the mock-up, the US drew a very survivable group with Uruguay, Nigeria and Croatia. England’s rehearsal would probably have seen it through to the knockouts: The Three Lions drew 2010 winners Spain, along with Ivory Coast and South Korea. Spain and England should have coasted through that group.

Compounding the US draw problem is its venue problem. Each of its game sites are very long plane rides away from its home base in Sao Paulo. The logistics alone will be a nightmare for the US Men.

 

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They’re About to Ban Street Soccer. In Spain.

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

Eurosport reports that Spain is about to restrict some political speech and ban…unauthorized soccer?

A new bill entitled ‘The Citizens’ Security Law’ has been proposed, and it contains some rather specific pieces of legislation that will find stern opposition, both domestically and at EU level.

Particularly eyebrow-raising are proposed fines of up to €600,000 for ‘disrupting electoral processes’ or unauthorised demonstrations at strategic government sites such as airports or nuclear plants; €30,000 penalties for offences such as burning the national flag; and up to €1,000 fines for insulting or threatening police officers.

These proposals seem geared solely towards limiting embarrassment to the government as it goes about its business under admittedly difficult circumstances, with the bonus of pleasing senior citizens, many of whom hark back to General Franco’s ‘legacy of order’.

But another law stands out in particular, one that is set to provoke widespread anger among the young and the old.

For anyone breaking an absurd regulation regarding ‘the practice of games or sporting activities in spaces not designed for this’ will be fined between €100 and €1000.

That’s right, the country whose street football culture has spawned the back-to-back European champions and defending World Cup winners is set to ban kickabouts.

The name of that law — “The Citizens’ Security Law” — just reeks of Orwellian statism. Barack Obama must be thinking, “How do I work that into my next speech extolling the wonders of myself and my glorious healthcare law?”

Spain only has the strongest soccer culture and probably the two best club-level teams on the planet, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Well, two of the top four if you toss Bayern Munich and Arsenal into the mix.  Soccer is Spain’s unofficial religion. So what’s going on? Eurosport says that Spain’s government is responding to its increasing unpopularity by going populist. In Spain, going populist means appealing to the leftovers of the Franco era, from which the ruling People’s Party springs, when law and order were much more strongly enforced than they are now. Conveniently, the government’s populist moves will limit what Spaniards can say against it. The soccer strike supposedly appeals to the law-and-order types who don’t like seeing kids playing in the streets.

The government’s increasing unpopularity has nothing to do with free speech or soccer, of course. It has everything to do with Spain’s lousy economy and the lack of jobs. Unemployment is above 25% and has been for quite a while, across left and right governments.

spain-unemployment

 

Spain’s overbearing green policies, its debt and its insane tax rate are contributing factors in keeping the economy hovering just above death. Ripping a page from the Obama playbook — or is Obama ripping a page from Spain’s? — the Zapatero government is creating distractions to mask the fact that it won’t free up the private sector to create jobs.

The street soccer ban is bound to backfire, though. Spain’s street soccer culture has created some of the world’s best players and, until they’re dethroned, the world’s best national soccer team. Spain has won two European championships and the 2010 World Cup. Spain expects to at least do well at the World Cup next summer, and stands a good chance of being the first European nation to win a World Cup in South America. Banning street soccer threatens to weaken future generations of the Spanish team. One of the most popular products of that culture is speaking up in protest — while he can, anyway, since political speech is about to become more scarce.

Xavi, who describes himself as ‘a player from the street’, grew up playing on a concrete square in Terrassa, a smallish city near Barcelona. The Plaza del Progreso (the irony is not lost on us) was the site of his development, and Xavi is furious that Spain’s football future is being limited.

“They’ve made it very nice, very modern, but they’ve screwed it up for kids who are like I was — they have no chance of playing football there now,” the Barcelona midfielder said.

Zapatero can mess with quite a bit, but Xavi? He’d better re-think this foolishness. Once you empower police to crack down on kids playing soccer, there’s really nothing they won’t crack down on.

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Watch the Ad that the NFL Doesn’t Want You to See

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

The National Football League has banned this ad from airing during the Super Bowl.

The NFL’s ad policy for the Super Bowl bans ads for many products including firearms, but that policy allows advertising by companies that sell other products along with firearms. Daniel Defense does sell other products. The ad above doesn’t show a gun. Its theme isn’t guns per se, but about the responsibility to be prepared to defend your loved ones. Responsibility is apparently a forbidden topic now. Watching how many NFL stars lead their lives, the concept should be revived.

The Second Amendment itself isn’t banned by the NFL, and the league has allowed anti-gun ads to run in the past.

The NFL can do what it wants with its product. But potential viewers can respond to what the NFL does. We’re the ones who make the Super Bowl the spectacle that it is. I might spend Super Bowl Sunday brushing up on techniques at a gun range this time around. It’s not like the Cowboys will be playing anyway.

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Climate of Hate: Redskins Bus Egged on the Way to Game in Philly

Monday, November 18th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

When will Slate and other leftwing publications answer for the climate of anti-Redskins hate they have created?

PHILADELPHIA (CBSDC) — The Washington Redskins team bus was apparently egged on the way to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Sunday morning.

Defensive lineman Chris Baker posted a photo of the egg smeared side of the vehicle on Instagram.

Hate: It’s what’s for breakfast.

redskins-bus-egged

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CNN’s Crossfire is a Ratings Misfire

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

CNN’s new Crossfire isn’t firing the cable news network to the top of the ratings, says Deadline Hollywood.

Resuscitated on September 9 after eight years off the air, the political debate show pulled in just 233,00 viewers overall and a mere 59,000 among adults 25-54 between 6:30 PM and 7 PM on Monday. Full-hour time-slot rivals on Fox News Channel and MSNBC did a lot better — to put it mildly. FNC’s Special Report had 2.44 million viewers with 411,000 in the key news demo, while MSNBC’s Al Sharpton-hosted PoliticsNation had 707,000 total viewers and 170,000 among the 25-54s.

The younger political animal me used to watch Crossfire every chance I could. I admired the platform itself and the figures who engaged each other, whether I agreed with what they were saying or not. Well, other than Mike Kinsley, who mostly just made my skin crawl. It seemed like a healthy place for real debate, when so much of political debate is staged and phony, just set up for gotchas and soundbites, only occasionally and accidentally engaging in real ideas.

But I haven’t tuned into the new Crossfire, not even once. Not even just to check it out.

When Crossfire debuted, there were very few other places to find conservative opinions on the air outside the Sunday morning talk shows, which air when most Americans are just not interested in politics. We’re at church or off at sports or sleeping in or doing a million things other than watching strangers argue about arcana. 

Crossfire succeeded, to the extent that it did, in a different cable news universe. When it debuted, political debate on television wasn’t all that common. Now it’s ubiquitous to the point that even those of us who engage in it every day just want to turn it all off sometimes. I can only imagine what normal people must think. Arguments do make for compelling television, evidenced by ESPN’s and Fox Sports One’s embrace of sports debate to fill out much of their respective broadcast days. Sports radio is almost nothing but debate and argument, with the occasional game thrown in to break things up. There’s always something to argue about, and everyone has an opinion. But do normal people want to watch very flawed politicians and opinionators argue and strut without ever solving a single thing? Some days, even I would rather argue about whether Arsenal really can mount a Premiere League title challenge (yes) or whether the Cowboys can ever rise above mediocrity with Jerry Jones as GM (not likely), or whether this player or that one is a better fit for one team or another. No one off the field really gets hurt and ultimately facts do win out when the season ends. Political season never ends now. It just. Never. Ends. There are no permanent victories, though paradoxically, there may always be a permanent defeat coming up tomorrow or next year.

Now that the entire political world is Crossfire on steroids and speed, there may not be a place for Crossfire, the show.

When does Fox Sports Live come on tonight?

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Minnesota Congresswoman Asks Governor, Metrodome to Not Display Redskins’ Name, Logo at Vikings Game

Friday, October 25th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

A Minnesota congresswoman is pleading with her home state to not display any symbol or hint of the Washington Redskins’ name inside the Metrodome when they play the Vikings on Nov. 7.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) directed her request to Gov. Mark Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson, co-chairs of the state Senate Legislative Committee on Minnesota Sports Facilities Bobby Joe Champion and Julie Rosen, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, City Council president Barbara Johnson, and Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen.

“As you are aware, the Washington team is a privately owned business that chooses to use the disparaging and demeaning brand ‘Redskins’ as their mascot,” McCollum wrote. “In my view this NFL team’s mascot is an unacceptable racial slur disparaging to Native Americans and offensive to Minnesotans.

The congresswoman argued that since the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is financed by taxpayers it has “legal obligations” to ensure no one is offended.

“With regard to the NFL game on November 7th, it would be my hope that all state statutes, ordinances of the City of Minneapolis, and policies of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) regarding civil rights, non-discrimination, and affirmative action would be fully reviewed and applied with regard to displaying, publicly announcing, and promoting the Washington team’s racially disparaging name and logo.”

McCollum added that she’s read news reports that “the MSFA may have concerns about limiting the use of the Washington team’s name and logo, as requested by some Native American groups, due to contractual obligations with the NFL.”

“Such concerns should never trump the civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, ordinances, and policies of government bodies charged with defending and advancing the public interest,” she declared.

“The NFL and the owner of Washington’s football team have a right to free speech. Constitutional protections allow them to offend, degrade, and disparage any race, ethic [sp] group, religion, or person of any sexual orientation with their private funds within private spaces,” McCollum continued. “But the people of Minnesota do not have an obligation to open the doors of our public sports facility and allow a for-profit entity to display and promote their racial slur.”

“…As responsible and committed Minnesota leaders, I would urge you to take action to ensure that on November 7th the Metrodome remains a public venue where all Minnesotans, especially Native Americans, can work, watch, and enjoy a Vikings game without a hostile, degrading, and offensive racial slur inflicted upon them.”

McCollum doesn’t detail how she wants the name and logo replaced. She sent copies of the letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf.

McCollum is co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, but is not a Native American. The only two in Congress are caucus co-chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who has also come out against the Redskins’ name, and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.).

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union similarly asked the Vikings not to use the Redskins’ name when they visit.

The ACLU also asked that media covering the game not use the name or images of the Redskins. With a 2-4 record right now, many Washingtonians don’t want to see images of the Redskins, either.

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Anti-Communist Vitali Klitschko Running for President of Ukraine

Friday, October 25th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

I have to count my 2008 interview with reigning WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko as one of my best interviews ever. Not because I was being an especially intrepid journalist asking the 45-2 (41 wins by knockout) boxer about his run at the time for mayor of Kiev, but because it’s hard to get fan-level excited about an ordinary politician. And Klitschko, dubbed “Dr. Ironfist” because of his power punch and PhD, is awesome inside the ring and out. Simply put, he feels deeply about fulfilling the promise of true democracy and free markets after growing up in the Soviet Union.

From the Los Angeles Daily News column I wrote about the Klitschko interview back then:

The boxer, who was born in what is now Kyrgyzstan and whose dad was a colonel in the Soviet Air Force, noted that his bond with Kiev runs deep as he grew up there and worked as a tour guide as a teen. “I know every building,” he said proudly. “…It is a beautiful city, one of the oldest.

“Kiev has problems like any other city in the world,” Klitschko said. “We see Kiev as a modern city like Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles.”

After the Orange Revolution that brought President Viktor Yushchenko to power, Klitschko wants to keep the ball rolling. “People go to the streets to demonstrate against totalitarianism – fighting for freedom, fighting for democracy – and democracy won,” he said. “Just two years old, we have a lot of problems. People want to change.

“In a couple years, Ukraine will be part of the European Union. Geographically it is a European country; we have to feel European inside Ukraine.”

It’s that Soviet upbringing which makes Klitschko so committed to helping forge a more perfect democracy.

“I remember my first visit from the Soviet Union in 1989 to the U.S. It opened democracy world for me,” he said. “I see the life standards in the U.S. and what we have to bring here to Ukraine. People want to be part of the modern world. It’s one point to speak, another point to be.”

To Klitschko, that can’t be accomplished without knocking out corruption and developing a strategic vision and general development plan for the city. For this, he’s now got Rudy Giuliani’s firm working in his corner.

“Infrastructure, traffic problems; we have so many social problems, but the main problem is corruption,” he said. “People in business are afraid to invest money in Kiev, afraid to work to invest money in infrastructure for the people.

“We need to breathe fresh air into our city.”

…And when it comes down to it, Klitschko’s time in the ring can only help his efforts to champion democracy.

“You fight for ideas, fight for your dream in boxing,” he said. “Actually, boxing is not as complicated as politics. Politics is much more difficult, totally different roles.

“The will to win, the will to go through help me in politics as well. (These) help not just in boxing, but help in life and politics.”

Klitschko has already mastered the art of politicospeak: I asked him if he had ambitions for higher office down the road, privately envisioning – OK, dreaming of – a President Klitschko sending uber-socialist Hugo Chavez flying off the rostrum at the United Nations.

“I have ambition to make my city much better and comfortable for everyone coming here,” he responded gamely.

Klitschko is currently leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform of Vitali Klitschko, which holds 40 seats in parliament. He won his seat just last fall and announced in a floor speech Thursday that he’s running for president in 2015, and he’s steadily gaining in the polls.

Until then, I can dream about the first bilateral meeting of the heavyweight champion — with the second-to-best knockout-to-fight ratio after Rocky Marciano — and the judo-chopping self-styled machismo president Putin. Anti-communist to the core, Klitschko is described as “vehemently” anti-Putin.

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Arsenal’s ‘Playstation’ Goal One of the Best Sports Moments of the Decade

Monday, October 21st, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

Most Saturday mornings you can find me checking headlines on my laptop while English Premiere League soccer is up live on my TV. Moments like this one from Saturday’s matches are why soccer fans watch the games. They’re what the sport is all about.

Arsenal are north London’s biggest soccer team (Spurs fans, you know it’s true). The Gunners currently lead the league, and Saturday they were at home facing Norwich, who are currently near the bottom of the league. Arsenal  are playing lights out lately and expected the win, but no one expected the Gunners to score their first in quite the way that they did.

It happened in the 18th minute. With the match still scoreless but Arsenal dominating possession and forcing their will on Norwich, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere picked up the ball in the Gunners’ end and started to charge forward. He passed left to defender Kieran Gibbs, who passed forward to midfielder Santi Cazorla.

Cazorla, just returning from injury for his first match in several weeks, was showing a few signs of rust early in the game. But not at this moment. He held up the ball while Wilshere continued his run forward toward the Norwich goal. What follows is telepathic team play.

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Cazorla’s move starts at the :05 mark of the video. He has the ball, and that’s Wilshere in red facing the Norwich #27 in yellow. Cazorla passes to Wilshere, who passes back to Cazorla, who one-touch passes to Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, standing side-facing the goal at the top of the Norwich penalty area. Giroud flicks back to Wilshere, who heel flicks back to Giroud as he continues to charge forward through the Norwich defense. Giroud turns around and one-touch flicks the ball forward into Wilshere’s path. All Wilshere has left to do at that point is slide the ball past the keeper into the net, 1-0. Those six pinpoint moves spanned about :03 on the clock. Play the video a few times and you’ll see 21-year-old Wilshere’s unbelievable heel flick as he charges at pace right through the defense. A lifetime of work on the training ground won’t leave most of us anywhere near capable of pulling that off.

The stunning goal silenced the stadium. Norwich’s defenders and goalkeeper could do nothing about it. Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil, who scored two on the day and is regarded as one of the best playmakers in world soccer, said his teammates’ “Playstation” goal was “unbelievable.”

The Gunners weren’t finished. Arsenal went on to score three more, including this solo masterpiece by midfielder Aaron Ramsey that sealed the win.

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Mexican TV Announcer Goes on Epic PRO-AMERICA Rant After the US Saves Mexico’s World Cup Hopes

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

The 2014 World Cup qualifiers ended in insanely dramatic fashion Tuesday night. The US Men’s National Team, cruising to qualification, trailed in its final match to Panama last night, 2-1. If Panama won, it would pass Mexico and stay alive for a playoff against New Zealand. Mexico would have been eliminated. Soccer is a much bigger deal in Mexico than it is here in the US; missing out on the World Cup would have been a national disgrace and disaster. Because the US had already won its qualification group, it fielded a reserve team for the Panama match and could easily have lost to a Panama side that had everything to gain. The US team could have just laid an egg and ensured that its bitterest soccer rival was knocked out.

The US trailed Panama 2-1 all the way into stoppage time before rattling in two goals just before the whistle. The USA wins, 3-2, eliminating Panama and allowing Mexico to sneak into that playoff with New Zealand. All of this happened in the span of a few minutes, as Mexico was losing to Costa Rica at the same time the US shocked Panama.

So, the US and its reserve team saved Mexico’s World Cup hopes. There’s just no other way to describe it. If not for a heroic American effort at the end of the match, Mexico could only get to the World Cup in Brazil by buying tickets to watch from the stands.

The TV announcer for the Mexico loss went off on a rant that has now been translated.

It is because of the USA that we are being placed in the playoff …BECAUSE OF THEM , NOT DUE TO YOU..NOT ANY OF YOU in the green shirts ….IT WAS THEM!!.NOT YOU!..THEY DID IT!!!!!NOT YOU! remember this forever….. KEEP THIS CLEARLY IN MIND FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES! You do NOTHING for the shirt, you do NOT put the effort, you have NOT placed us in the playoffs , you HAVE NOT placed us in the WORLD CUP ..YOU WOULD NOT HAVE KEPT US ALIVE….IT WAS ESTADOS UNIDOS, NOT YOU! NOT YOU AND YOUR ARROGANCE/CONCEIT…..NOT YOU AND YOUR INFAMY….NOT YOU AND YOUR MORONS/PUNKS….
….
“IT IS A FAILURE…..and UNDESERVED -to go through to the playoff- WE HAD NO ARGUMENTS to earn the playoffs, THE USA, WITH SUBS , WITH MANY SUBS as the visiting team shows us once again what the USA is all about ….how to play the game with dignity, how to approach the sport..MExico is a horror, just terrible….A FAILURE….
……
THE USA HAS SURPASSED US ..They are better than Mexico in SOCCER ….THEY EVEN HAVE THE LUXURY OF PLAYING THEIR SUBS and KEEPING US LIVE…. I hope our coach wears the pants and resigns..He has failed as coach….”

There’s nothing in that to argue with. Mexico has played miserably and barely scored. The US has soared.

Mexican newspapers have followed suit, praising America for saving the Mexican team from humiliation.

mex-papers

The official US Soccer Twitter feed got cheeky.

Here’s to hoping Mexico’s more unsporting fans remember this the next time they’re tempted to throw disgusting things reminiscent of a Wendy Davis filibuster at US players, or think about chanting “Osama” from the stands.

But the pessimist in me says that Mexico will now brush New Zealand aside and end up eliminating the US from Brazil in the knockout stages. There’s just no thanks for being a Yank in this world.

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