Which Bowls Are Usually The Best — And Worst

Not surprisingly, the championship games of the BCS (and, now, CFP) rank highest, followed by the rest of the BCS/New Year’s Six games — except, oddly, the Peach Bowl. (Aside from the mid-1980s and the last decade or so, the Peach hasn’t traditionally been much more than an average bowl.) Also near the top of the list: The oft-forgotten Bluebonnet Bowl, which was discontinued in 1987 despite consistently featuring good matchups between major-conference schools.And if you’re curious, here are the rankings if we just limit ourselves to bowls that have played 10 or more times since college football’s BCS era started in 1998: As I was writing my piece about 2016’s bloated bowl season, I developed a system for ranking each game based on a five-point grading scale in each of three factors: The quality of the teams involved, the evenness of the matchup and the amount of offense expected of each team in the game. Since I have those scores for every bowl that featured FBS/Div. I-A teams1Sorry, Salad Bowl. going back to 1936, I figured I’d calculate each bowl’s average over that span to see how they usually tend to grade out: read more

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The World Cup Players Who Step Up Most For Their Countries

CasemiroBrazil-0.26-0.13-0.39-0.24 X. ShaqiriSwitzerland+0.09+0.02+0.11+0.46 J. KimmichGermany-0.02+0.33+0.31+0.24 PlayerCountryGOALsassistsGoals + AssistsExp. Goals + Assists E. ForsbergSweden+0.27-1.44-1.17-0.49 E. CavaniUruguay-1.48-0.33-1.81-2.04 I. GundoganGermany+0.13+0.00+0.13+0.51 J. BlaszczykowskiPoland+0.52+0.58+1.10+0.50 J. KimmichGermany13.119.2+6.1 Share of team exp. goals + assists KokeSpain-0.21-0.23-0.44-0.27 A. Di Mari­aArgentina+0.04-0.50-0.46-0.34 P. PogbaFrance-0.11-0.39-0.50-0.26 L. ModricCroatia12.925.4+12.5 A. KolarovSerbia15.320.6+5.3 C. EriksenDenmark+0.53-0.13+0.39+0.29 L. PiszczekPoland10.017.1+7.1 Y. CarrascoBelgium-0.19-0.43-0.62-0.46 L. MessiArgentina57.563.3+5.8 E. HazardBelgium+0.30+0.68+0.98+0.45 DIfference between club and national team J. Dos SantosMexico-0.14+0.06-0.08-0.24 T. MeunierBelgium16.324.9+8.6 X. ShaqiriSwitzerland42.848.1+5.3 J. MikelNigeria5.227.9+22.7 Messi and Ronaldo probably only appear to be underperforming on the international level because they’ve spent the past decade thrashing defenses in Spain’s La Liga while playing for two clubs that are lousy with all-world talent. Scoring at a pace of roughly a goal per game is difficult to sustain over the course of a single season; Messi and Ronaldo have been doing it for 10. They’re not performing terribly for their national teams, they’ve just set the bar too high for themselves.But then there’s Neymar, the other greatest player in the world. He has set his bar pretty high during his time with Barcelona and now with Paris Saint-Germain. But unlike the two legends lording over him, Neymar has been able to vault over it — he scores at roughly the same rate for Brazil as he does for his club, and he provides more assists. And Neymar has increased his share of the team’s expected goals plus assists by 12.8 percentage points from club team to national team.Argentina is done; Portugal is done; Brazil and Belgium meet tomorrow in Kazan to decide who gets a spot in the semifinals. So it will be Hazard and Neymar trying to become the next Pelé, Maradona or Zidane.Check out our latest World Cup predictions. I. RakiticCroatia15.835.2+19.4 C. RonaldoPortugal54.659.4+4.8 B. DzemailiSwitzerland-0.05+0.20+0.15+0.72 DIfference between club and national team C. RonaldoPortugal-1.09-0.57-1.67-1.53 R. LewandowskiPoland+0.25+0.01+0.26-1.35 A. GuardadoMexico+0.53-0.24+0.29+0.29 P. CoutinhoBrazil+0.27-0.23+0.04-0.23 PlayerCountryGOALsAssistsGoals + AssistsExp. Goals + Assists The biggest changes in share of team productionWorld Cup players with the biggest increase from share of club team’s expected goals and assists to share of national team’s expected goals and assists, 2014-18 J. Rodri­guezColombia34.5%58.5%+24.0 S. RudyGermany-0.07-0.21-0.29-0.33 M. RojoArgentina+0.19+0.12+0.31+0.22 J. MikelNigeria+0.39+0.41+0.80+0.44 C. VelaMexico-0.03+0.35+0.31+0.18 IscoSpain+0.13-0.38-0.25-0.29 T. SilvaBrazil+0.31-0.03+0.27+0.19 PaulinhoBrazil24.530.7+6.2 NeymarBrazil45.658.4+12.8 J. BlaszczykowskiPolad13.723.9+10.2 Joao MarioPortugal-0.26-0.23-0.49-0.44 J. VertonghenBelgium+0.20+0.05+0.25+0.18 L. MessiArgentina-0.67+0.11-0.56-0.61 From 2014 to 2018, Messi notched 0.61 fewer expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes while draped in the vertical blue and white stripes of Argentina. Ronaldo has found it more difficult to score for Portugal: Over the same span, he scored an entire goal per 90 minutes fewer with Portugal than he did with Real Madrid, and he averaged 1.53 fewer expected goals plus assists. And Uruguay’s superstar striker Edinson Cavani has had it even worse: He averaged 2.04 fewer expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes with La Celeste than he with Paris Saint-Germain.The outlook gets brighter for Messi and Ronaldo (but not for Cavani) when you consider their contributions as a percentage of their national team’s expected goals plus assists versus their club team’s since 2014: Messi was responsible for 57.5 percent of Barcelona’s expected output and 63.3 percent of Argentina’s, while Ronaldo accounted for 54.6 percent of Real Madrid’s expected output and 59.4 percent of Portugal’s. They’re not in James or Rakitic territory, but they’re not in the red either. A. GriezmannFrance-0.30+0.12-0.17+0.28 M. RojoArgentina7.113.9+6.8 L. ModricCroatia+0.28+0.05+0.33+0.17 G. SigurdssonIceland+0.38-0.22+0.16+0.20 E. BanegaArgentina-0.21+0.06-0.15-0.37 I. RakiticCroatia-0.02+0.30+0.28+0.39 I. GundoganGermany17.332.4+15.1 M. FellainiBelgium+0.31-0.03+0.28-0.24 J. RodriguezColombia+0.49+0.03+0.52+0.53 Only players who played 1,000 minutes for a major European team since 2014; national team data includes only major tournaments.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group The club team heroesWorld Cup players with the biggest drop-off in expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes between national team and club team, 2014-18 The national team heroesWorld Cup players with the biggest discrepancy in expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes between club team and national team, 2014-18 B. DzemailiSwitzerland23.431.0+7.6 PlayerCountryClubNationalDifference T. MeunierBelgium+0.32+0.73+1.04+0.50 S. RamosSpain9.615.9+6.3 A. IniestaSpain13.319.1+5.8 D. MertensBelgium-0.63+0.38-0.25-0.84 Only players who played 1,000 minutes for a major European team since 2014; national team data is only major tournaments.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group When we think of the best soccer players in history, we rarely think about the relatively inconsequential goals they scored for their club teams in midseason matches against their middle-of-the-pack competition. Instead we think about how they played for their national teams, and especially how they performed at major international tournaments like the World Cup. We think of a 17-year-old named Pelé delivering Brazil its first title in 1958; we think of Diego Maradona ripping through England’s defenses (and famously getting a little handsy with the ball in the box) in 1986; we think of the French maestro Zinedine Zidane scoring twice on home soil to topple Ronaldo and Brazil in 1998.Some players just seem built to wear their national team’s jersey.We wanted to know if there are certain players who play well for their club but disappear when playing for their national team — and certain players who raise their production when playing for country. So we looked at the tallies of expected goals and assists per 90 minutes for every player at the World Cup and compared the difference between club stats1Big five European leagues only. and country2Including World Cup, World Cup qualifiers and each confederation’s tournament. since 2014. We also looked at each player’s share of his entire team’s expected goals plus assists.Among the remaining stars at the 2018 World Cup, the best example of one who thrives while representing his country is Belgium’s Eden Hazard — at least based on raw production. The quick and crafty man from Wallonia has a knack for playing his best soccer when the world is watching. From 2014 to 2018, Hazard scored 0.30 more goals per 90 minutes and provided 0.68 more assists per 90 minutes while wearing a Belgium jersey than while repping Chelsea blue — while his expected goals plus assists are 0.45 better for Belgium.Hazard’s exceptional international form has carried over into this World Cup: In three games played, he contributed two goals and two assists — one of which tied the match against Japan after Belgium had gone down 2-0. The diminutive Belgian danced at the left corner of the penalty area, shrugging off a pursuant Yuya Osako before delivering an inch-perfect cross with his left foot to the edge of the 6-yard box and onto Marouane Fellaini’s head. Fellaini scored, but Hazard’s brilliance was responsible.Hazard’s form and contributions are expected. Thomas Meunier’s form and contributions, on the other hand, are a bit of a surprise. The right back has been perfectly competent for Paris Saint-Germain, but he’s been an outright world beater on the international stage: Since 2014, he’s scored 0.32 more goals per 90 minutes and provided 0.73 more assists per 90 minutes while playing for Belgium than for his clubs. The biggest of his 10 international assists was the one he provided to Nacer Chadli to knock off Japan on Monday. Both Meunier and Hazard are among the top seven players at the World Cup when it comes to expected goals plus assists for country versus club. But based on actual goals and actual assists, both Belgians are in the top three.3Only Poland/Wolfsburg winger Jakub Blaszczykowski has them both beat. J. VertonghenBelgium2.78.2+5.5 Only players who played 1,000 minutes for a major European team since 2014; national team data includes only major tournaments.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group C. EriksenDenmark36.548.8+12.3 D. CarvajalSpain9.714.5+4.8 B. SilvaPortugal-0.60+0.04-0.56-0.45 The leaderboard is peppered with players who have made a difference in Russia: Swiss mainstays Blerim Dzemaili and Xherdan Shaqiri led their team to the round of 16, while Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric have been the backbone of the Croatian attack. Another quick and crafty midfielder — this one from Colombia — has been very good for both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich over the past four seasons, but he’s been downright marvelous for Los Cafeteros: From 2014 to 2018, James Rodriguez scored nearly half a goal more per 90 minutes while wearing the yellow Colombia kit than while donning club colors. In our sample, his difference in expected goals plus assists from club to country is second to only Dzemaili, who plays for Bologna in Italy. It’s no surprise then that Colombia was eliminated by England in the round of 16 when a calf injury sidelined James.Hazard and James are built to wear their national team jerseys. But there are others — two of whom are often invoked in the GOAT conversation — who seem to perform a little worse, or at least score with less frequency, on the international stage. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two best players in the world,4They’ve each won five of the past 10 Ballon d’Or awards, given to the best soccer player in the world. but both have underwhelmed a bit while representing their countries. PaulinhoBrazil+0.33+0.18+0.50+0.32 read more

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Can The Mariners Finally End Their Playoff Drought

Of all the storylines to watch as Major League Baseball begins the second half of the 2018 season, the most interesting might be whether the Seattle Mariners can hold on to their current position in the standings — and, in the process, end the longest active postseason drought in major professional sports. (The Mariners earned this dubious honor when the Buffalo Bills grabbed an AFC wild card last season.)It’s been a magical start to the summer so far in Seattle. Picked preseason to finish around .500, the Mariners instead sit nearly 20 games over that benchmark. Surprisingly, they spent much of the first half challenging the defending champion Houston Astros for the top spot in the American League West; they’ve also built for themselves a three-game cushion over the division-rival Oakland A’s in the race for the AL’s second wild card. (And they’ve done it even after losing star second baseman Robinson Cano, who was putting up great numbers before getting busted for steroids in mid-May.) If the regular season ended today, the M’s would finally be back in the playoffs.That would be a major accomplishment for a Seattle club that hasn’t tasted postseason baseball since its disappointing five-game exit from the American League Championship Series 17 years ago. When my former colleague Rob Arthur wrote about the Mariners’ streak a few seasons back, he found that no team in baseball had made the playoffs fewer times relative to expectation (based on their regular-season records) since 1998 than Seattle. It’s undeniable that, with just a little better luck, the Mariners would have sneaked into the playoffs at least a few times over the span of their drought. In that regard, they are long overdue to catch a break.In 2018, however, Seattle might be collecting all of the extra good fortune it’s owed at once. According to The Baseball Gauge, no first-half team exceeded its expected record more through luck in close games or favorable “sequencing”1Bunching hits within innings on offense and scattering them across innings on defense. than the Mariners. For instance, if you simply looked at Seattle’s runs scored (412) and allowed (414), you’d think it was precisely the .500-ish team that the preseason projections had called for. Instead, the Mariners have gone 26-12 in one-run games, which — while not exactly in 2016 Texas Rangers territory — suggests they could be due for a serious second-half downturn.In fact, Seattle’s combination of win-loss record and negative run differential is so unusual that it’s tough to find similar historical teams. Since 1950, the Mariners are the only team to be 19 games over .500 through a similar stage of the season2Specifically, between 90 and 100 games into the schedule. while also having a run differential below zero. But if we just limit ourselves to the 13 teams that were at least 10 wins above .500 and had outscored opponents by 10 runs or fewer through 97 games, those clubs won only 51 percent of their games over the rest of the season (an 83-win pace per 162). So the Mariners probably shouldn’t expect to keep cruising along at a clip remotely close to their current .598 winning percentage.Indeed, if the wheels do fall off for Seattle, naysayers may point to the team’s poor play just before the All-Star break — eight losses in its last 11 games — as a sign of when things started to go wrong. But ace pitcher James Paxton will be back from the disabled list soon, and Cano is eligible to return Aug. 14. Meanwhile, the time off should benefit the slumping quintet of Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy and Nelson Cruz, each of whom seemed to be running out of gas heading into the break.In the bigger picture, there’s also something to be said for the team’s overall balance as an antidote to the notion of an impending collapse. The Mariners are one of only six teams in baseball to rank among the top 10 in wins above replacement3Averaging together the WAR values found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. from both its pure hitting and its pitching, joining the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Dodgers — pretty good company! Of course, that brushes aside Mariner weaknesses such as baserunning (they rank 24th) and fielding (20th), but it also underscores that despite Seattle’s uninspiring run differential, the fundamentals of the team aren’t necessarily unsound.In order to stay on course for the playoffs, Seattle will need to keep getting unexpected performances like the ones they’ve enjoyed from first-time All-Star Mitch Haniger and journeyman-turned-10-game winner Marco Gonzales. Closer Edwin Diaz (who leads baseball with 36 saves) will have to keep slamming the door shut in the ninth inning, and the lineup will need to continue hitting well in big moments. None of that will be easy, especially not with Oakland zooming up in the rearview mirror. But after nearly two decades of the pieces never falling into place for a postseason push, it’s high time the Mariners had the breaks go their way.Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

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¡Vámonos Paloma Escobedo makes her voice heard on the court

It doesn’t take long to realize when senior Paloma Escobedo steps onto the tennis court. Within seconds of the first serve, you can hear Escobedo’s voice, shouting and hissing a mix of Spanish, English and the occasional curse. “Vámonos! Let’s go!” Escobedo shouted, zooming a return past Wisconsin’s Jenny Hois. It was Escobedo’s first tennis match in more than a month, and she’d been itching for her return to the court. When she went down with a stress fracture in her left leg on March 11, she was forced to watch her team hit the home stretch of its season without her. “At the beginning, it was really hard mentally and physically,” Escobedo said. “Sitting through practice was exhausting. I wanted to be out there.” She returned to the court for the final two home matches of the season and the senior captain put her struggles into perspective. When she saw someone in a wheelchair, Escobedo said, she quit feeling sorry for herself. “It was a learning experience,” she said. “As time went on, I started to mature, in a way, because I started to accept it. I started thinking, ‘Things could be a lot worse. It was a bad deal that it was my senior year, but I’m a healthy girl and I should be thankful.’” When Escobedo went down, the women’s tennis team lost its No. 1 singles player. Alone, she has accounted for 65 total wins, with an additional 78 wins in doubles play. But with the loss of its captain, the team gained its most vocal cheerleader. “I make it a big deal to have the positive energy transfer to every court,” Escobedo said. “This is my job; I’m the juicer. Sometimes we get nervous, and it helps to have a good captain. It shows how strong our team is.” Coach Chuck Merzbacher said he knows how valuable Escobedo was to his team, both on and off the court. “She gets it,” he said. “She knows if she can’t be on the court … she’s going to cheer them on. She’s going to help every kid out and just be a good leader. She’s stepped up by being real helpful and keeping everyone going.” Escobedo said when she was unable to play, she had to find an alternative way to help her team. “Even when I’m not playing, I’m the loudest person,” she said. “Even when I’m not playing, I know I annoy the other team. … I’m proud of that. I try to show who’s boss when I’m on the court.” Despite a fiery effort, Escobedo’s return to the court ended with a loss. But her frustration was short-lived. Within minutes, she was with her teammates again, screaming at the top of her lungs. After the match, she was calm and collected. “I had a lot of fun out there, even though I lost,” she said. “I saw what I needed to work on still. It was just really nice to be out there. I was really just happy to be able to play tennis again, to be able to play competitive tennis and matches. I think that it’s just going to get better from here on out.” It’s this Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior that defines Escobedo. On the court, her passion and spirit make her a daunting opponent. Off the court, the same qualities define her as an individual and teammate. The significance of her return to the court can’t be measured simply in wins. For Escobedo, the journey has been worthwhile. “It has been the most memorable, enjoyable experience,” she said. “I’ve been very lucky and very blessed to have this opportunity. … I’ve had the best four years. It went by way too fast.” Following OSU’s victory against Minnesota on Senior Day, a tearful Escobedo stood side by side with her teammates in the same fashion she had since her first days as a Buckeye. In front of her stood Merzbacher, equally emotional, if not more so. Beside her, teammates cried and laughed with her. “Everyone gets along with her, everyone appreciates her and everyone has enjoyed her as a teammate,” Merzbacher said. “I think that’s more important than anything. They just want her to end on a good note.” read more

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Commentary Downandout Buckeye football hits rock bottom after loss at Nebraska

Remember Annie from the movie “Bridesmaids?” She was the main character who was dumped by her boyfriend, broke her car, lost her job, lost another job and got into a fight with her best friend. One life-altering tragedy happened after the other and just when you didn’t think it could get any worse, it did. But then, finally, Annie hit rock bottom. Right now, the Ohio State football program is like Annie. They’ve finally hit rock bottom. They can’t possibly fall any further than they already have. The program-defining coach was forced out, the star quarterback left, players were suspended left and right, an endless stream of negative headlines dominated the news, and the program’s once-lustrous reputation was irreversibly damaged. Then the season started, and instead of a welcomed distraction, the results have been a constant reminder of what once was. The mighty OSU football team almost lost to a team from the MAC (Toledo) and was a fingernail away from being shut out for first time since 1982 against Michigan State. More suspensions were issued for players who were paid for work they didn’t perform and the Buckeyes traveled to Nebraska, a train wreck without a conductor. Just when it looked like there was a spark of hope, with the Buckeyes leading the Cornhuskers 27-6 in the third quarter, it all fell apart. The Buckeyes imploded on both sides of the ball and blew the biggest lead in the program’s history. Any hope or confidence gained in the first half was washed away along with the lead. The Buckeyes fell to 0-2 in the Big Ten, a conference they’ve made a habit of winning over the past seven years. But it won’t get any worse. It can’t. If your car’s already broke, your boyfriend already broke up with you, and you already lost your job, then there’s just not much else to go wrong. The NCAA can go ahead and give the program a bowl ban. What are they really taking away? A mid-December bowl game with a “.com” after the name? Or maybe the NCAA could slash scholarships, but what would that do? The OSU football program might be a “quick fix” by normal standards, but programs are rebuilt in years, not months or days. A reduction in scholarships wouldn’t be enough to severely hamper the rebuilding process. So, in a weird way, the Buckeye’s bottoming out is good news. It means everything is up from here. Some spoiled Buckeye fans may have to readjust their expectations because, unlike years past, a BCS bowl appearance seems like a fairy tale, not an inevitability. It’s a sad reality, but at least things can’t get any worse. Unless OSU loses to Michigan. read more

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Ohio State baseball stumbles into Big Ten Tournament

It wasn’t pretty, but the Ohio State baseball team earned its spot in the Big Ten tournament over the weekend. Indiana swept OSU in its three-game series, but the Buckeyes still earned the sixth and final spot in the tournament because of a tiebreaker against common opponents in the conference. OSU falls to an 11-13 record against Big Ten opponents after losing the series. The Buckeyes received some assistance from Minnesota defeating Illinois in their series finale Saturday to secure OSU’s spot in the tournament. OSU coach Greg Beals said he wants his players to come with more energy for the tournament since they weren’t able to build momentum against Indiana over the weekend. “We did not play loose and relaxed in our final conference series this weekend and we need to change that heading into this week,” Beals said. “We’re very fortunate that we have been given another opportunity and we need to come out re-energized on Wednesday.” One advantage OSU will have heading into the tournament is home field. Columbus’ Huntington Park will host the Big Ten tournament again this year and some players think it can help them get some wins. Tim Wetzel, sophomore center fielder, said the team can have success in the tournament playing at home. “No team’s going to want to play us (in Columbus),” Wetzel said. “We can make some noise in the tournament.” Beals, on the other hand, said playing for a Big Ten championship is the main priority and that playing in Columbus isn’t a big deal. “Our guys have an expectation to play for a championship and it doesn’t matter where it’s at,” Beals said. Kirby Pellant, junior shortstop, said winning the tournament is at the top of the team’s goals. “One of our main goals all year has been to win the Big Ten Championship,” Pellant said. Despite the losing effort over the weekend, the team can still reach its goal starting at 3:35 p.m. on Wednesday against No. 3 seed Penn State. Beals said people shouldn’t count OSU out even though the team is stumbling into the tournament after a rough weekend. “Ohio State should be in the discussion when you’re talking about Big Ten Championships,” Beals said. read more

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Opinion Michael Sams coming out could open road to brighter future in

Then-redshirt-senior Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) celebrates a sack during a game against Vanderbilt Oct. 5 at Vanderbilt Stadium. Feb. 9 Sam came out as gay and hopes to become the first active openly gay NFL player.Courtesy of MCTTypically an article like this would begin with something clever. A witty pun or a topical joke used to entice someone to dig further.But I feel this deserves more. Any attempt at humor would diminish and, honestly, disrespect the incredible bravery shown by former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam.In an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” Sam has come out as “an openly, proud gay man.”“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am,” Sam said in the interview with ESPN’s Chris Connelly. “I’m Michael Sam, I’m a college graduate, I’m African-American and I’m gay.”Sam recently finished his career at Missouri and is an NFL draft prospect, something that already comes with a heavy amount of scrutiny.Now the limelight will shine even brighter on the young football player.In 2014, this shouldn’t be big news. In the U.S., we have openly gay teachers, doctors, politicians, even pastors, and yet a major professional athlete admitting he or she is gay remains somewhat of a taboo.There has never been an openly gay player actively playing in the four major American professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL).Although former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins came out in April, he has not played for an NBA team since his announcement. LA Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers made the same courageous announcement in January 2013, but Major League Soccer isn’t given as much attention as the NFL.There have even been former NFL players who have come out as gay after retirement — Dave Kopay, Kwame Harris and Wade Davis to name a few — but never someone who is, or is seeking to, actively play in the league.What Sam is attempting to do is break into the most popular and over-analyzed sport in America.Sam is putting his career, his livelihood and, to be frank, even his life, on the line so he can be a role model and a leader for countless others across the country.“I understand how big this is,” Sam told “Outside the Lines.” “No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”I don’t pretend to understand what going through adversity is truly like. I am an upper-middle class, heterosexual, white, liberal male, but that does not diminish the respect that I have for what Sam is doing.His courage and fearlessness are something that could pave the way for the future.But now that the announcement has been made, another hurdle must be jumped: getting drafted.Sam — projected as a mid-round draft prospect by nfldraftscout.com — is set to continue preparing for the NFL draft in the hopes of being selected in May.It would be completely naive to pretend that his draft stock will not be affected with this coming to light.Even with all of the talent he possesses — Sam led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss in 2013 — the media circus that is sure to follow him wherever he goes might make NFL general managers think twice before pulling the trigger and selecting him.It shouldn’t, though. If this were an ideal world, Sam would be judged on his football accomplishments and not his sexual orientation. In 2013, Sam had an incredible season for the Tigers, being named first team All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.“It shouldn’t matter,” Sam said about coaches and players reacting to his sexuality. “If I work hard, if I make plays, that’s all that should matter. ‘Can he help us win games, is he a team player,’ that’s all that should matter.”“Sports Illustrated” reported there are anonymous sources in the NFL who believe Sam’s presence in the locker room will prove to be a distraction, which is an argument that is not only ridiculous, but offensive to the gay community.“I mean, people will talk about the stereotype of gays being in the locker room … to me, I think that it’s a little stereotyped that gay people are predators,” Sam said. “It’s just very offensive.”Sam said in the interview he told his teammates at Missouri in August before the 2013 season began. If his coming out to the team was a distraction, it wasn’t a very good one. The Tigers finished with a record of 12-2, tied for the best in program history, and finished the year ranked No. 5 in the country.Since the announcement, there has been a large number of people come out in support of Sam.Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams took to Twitter to back Sam.“I could care less about a man’s sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!,” Williams tweeted  Sunday evening from his personal account, @DeAngeloRB.The NFL issued a statement on their stance, which said “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with the ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”Despite all of the positive support, it is the detractors — whether they be players or coaches — who could change Sam’s fate.If even one player in the locker room comes forward to the general manager, the owner or the coach and voices his opinion against Sam, it could be the difference between Sam being drafted or not.I am asking, nay I am begging NFL owners to try and not see Sam just for his sexual orientation but to see him as a player. Look at his résumé to judge his abilities — don’t base your decision to employ him on a factor that has nothing to do with football.At the end of the day, it will come down to just one team deciding that it wants Sam and the barrier will be broken.Only time will tell if Sam will be rightfully rewarded for his bravery or not. But one thing is clear to me.People like Sam, Collins, Rogers and the many others deserve to be celebrated more than any other athlete. What they are doing reaches beyond sports and into the culture of America.Michael Sam, I am in awe of you and what you are doing, and want to thank you for the step you are taking toward a brighter future. read more

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Ohio State announces ticket prices for 2015 spring game

Coming off of a championship season, the Ohio State football program is gearing up for 2015.It was announced Wednesday that tickets for the 2015 spring game are now on sale for the intrasquad scrimmage at Ohio Stadium, scheduled for April 18.Tickets for general admission seating will cost patrons $5, while reserved box seats will cost $15.Last season, OSU sold general admission seats for $12 before lowering the price to $5 just days before the game.A ticket will also get fans access to the OSU men’s lacrosse game against Maryland which will precede kickoff, set for 1:30 p.m.Last season, the OSU spring game drew 61,058 fans to Ohio Stadium on a seasonally warm 78-degree day.

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Gallery 2017 Cotton Bowl

The Buckeye offense takes the field for warmups prior to the start of the 2017 Cotton Bowl against University of Southern California on Dec. 29 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

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UK beachgoers defend woman in burkini prank video

first_imgA viral video has captured how UK beachgoers reacted to a woman being told to remove her burkini in a staged encounter.YouTube channel Trollstation got two actors, one dressed in the body-covering swimsuit and another as a police officer, to argue over removing the  full length swimming costume on a beach in Southend.They secretly filmed the encounter in what they called a ‘social experiment’ and the video has received more than 160,000 views in 48 hours. As the argument gets more heated and more people surround the pair, the woman admits: “We’re actors. We need to raise awareness about this issue.”The burkini ban has been ruled illegal in France – prompting right-wing backlash and vow from towns to ignore it.Last week, protestors against the controversial burkini ban staged a “wear what you want” beach party outside the French embassy in London. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. burkini bancenter_img YouTube pranksters Trollstation looked at how UK beachgoers would react to the burkini banCredit:YouTube / Trollstation “You’re not allowed to wear this it at the beach. It’s banned,” the man dressed as a police officer says in the video.The woman pretends to respond angrily: “I’m not going to take anything off. I’m allowed to wear whatever I want.“How am I any different to anyone else? This is racial profiling.“You can’t say this to me. I don’t feel oppressed at all.”A member of the public then defends the woman, telling the male actor: “You can’t do that…She’s obviously a Muslim. Do not discriminate against her religion. You can’t do that.”last_img read more

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