‘His worst game ever’: Lonzo Ball underwhelms in Summer League debut

The No2 overall pick finishes with five points on 2-for-15 shooting in his NBA Summer League debut with the Los Angeles Lakers

It took Lonzo Ball 20 seconds to get a near-capacity crowd off its feet in his first summer league game.

Just like LaVar taught him.

Balls highly anticipated Los Angeles Lakers debut on Friday night started with a flourish on a perfectly timed lob pass to Brandon Ingram. But that was one of the few bright spots for a player Magic Johnson has dubbed as the new face of the Lakers in a 96-93 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The No2 overall pick scored just five points and missed 13 of his 15 shots, to the disappointment of a near-capacity crowd that came out to see him. Leave it to his father to sum up the night with some of his trademark straight talk.

He dont be discouraged because thats the worst he can do, LaVar Ball said. He cant go but up. And he still kept them in the game playing his worst game ever. Thats what I like about it.

Lonzo Ball was 1-for-11 from three-point range, including a bad miss from well beyond the line the kind of daring pull-up the Ball family is known for with 1:16 to play in regulation.

He was also a little slow to react on defense, including when Brice Johnson made a quick spin past him for a dunk. The Clippers posted the highlight on their Twitter account, calling it a pretty baller move.

Thats the kind of target that LaVars antics have painted on his sons back. And its much bigger than the purple No2 under his name.

Tough game. We didnt get the job done, Lonzo Ball said. I need to be better.

Lonzo Ball managed a scant five points on 2-for-15 shooting in his NBA Summer League debut.

Scouts do wonder how that unorthodox shooting stroke will translate to the NBA game. What is not up for debate is the Lakers return to must-see status with the pass-first point guard on the trigger and his carnival barker father on the mic.

While LaVar Ball has dropped hints that he could tone down the bombastic comments and unending marketing of his Big Baller Brand apparel that turned him into an internet villain of sorts during Lonzos lone season at UCLA, he was totally in character for his sons debut.

The Lakers fans are coming and my boy is gonna bring em out, LaVar Ball crowed at halftime. Because theres excitement for the game. Its entertainment. That boy is going to entertain. Hes been doing it all his life.

LaVar Ball entered the Thomas & Mack Center to a raucous ovation, flanked by more than a dozen family members. They watched the game from a raised stage behind one baseline, and as he ascended the stairs for the first time, he raised his hands and pumped his fist to the crowd.

Lonzo Ball got off the bus wearing a black Big Baller t-shirt, red shorts and black Big Baller ZO2 shoes yes, the ones with the $495 price tag and did two television interviews before he even changed into his Laker uniform. A bedazzled, patent leather backpack draped over his shoulders and established NBA players including DeMar DeRozan, DAngelo Russell and Isaiah Thomas were all in attendance for the game, while Johnson, the new Lakers president of basketball operations, sat courtside.

Lakers games have always been well-attended here in Vegas, just a four-hour drive from Los Angeles. But this one reached another level, with fans piling into the arena three hours before game time and sitting through a Bucks-Cavaliers game before finally getting to the main attraction. And when Lonzo found Ingram for the alley-oop on his first possession, it looked like things were going to come easy.

I always said get em out their chairs on the first play, LaVar Ball said. Thats how we used to play with his brothers. Either hit a long three-pointer from halfcourt or a dunk.

But it became clear very quickly that things wouldnt always go smoothly. The sophomore Ingram shined with 26 points in 31 minutes, playing with more assertiveness than his celebrated rookie teammate. Lonzo finished with five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Its got nothing to do with him, LaVar Ball said. Hes going to make this team come up and make everybody start passing the ball. And thats when that chemistry comes in and thats when that winning comes in. Thats when the winning comes in. Once you start winning, everybody starts feeling good.

In that way, LaVar is right on the money.

Lonzos clothes are flashy, and the first play was quite a highlight. But the rest of his game was decidedly understated, much like his personality. Magic may have dubbed him the new face of the NBAs marquee franchise and his father says the rookie is on the Lakers because he spoke it into existence. But there is nothing look-at-me about him.

He speaks quietly and with a straight face, nothing like the mega-watt smile Johnson brought to Hollywood from Michigan State. Surrounded by cameras after the game, he couldnt wait to move on.

The only way to go now is up, Lonzo said. Thatll probably be the worst game Ill have all week so hopefully I keep getting better.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/08/lonzo-ball-summer-league-debut-lakers

US women’s hockey team strike ‘historic’ pay deal and agree to end boycott

Players and federation announce agreement on pay and conditions, meaning team will play in world championships, which begin on Friday in Michigan

USA Hockey and the womens national team reached a wage agreement Tuesday night to avoid a boycott of the world championships.

Players and USA Hockey announced the deal in a joint statement just three days before the tournament begins in Plymouth, Michigan. Its a four-year agreement that pays players outside of the six-month Olympic period.

Its historic, its new and different, and the players are happy, said John Langel, the players lawyer.

Team captain Meghan Duggan said: Our sport is the big winner today. We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockeys leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. Im proud of my teammates and cant thank everyone who supported us enough. Its time now to turn the page. We cant wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.

After more than a year of negotiations over wages and equitable support, players announced March 15 that theyd boycott the International Ice Hockey Federation Womens World Championship on home ice if significant progress wasnt made toward an agreement. The sides met for 10-plus hours in person last week and continued conversations before striking a deal Tuesday.

USA hockey president said: Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport. Well now move forward together knowing well look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.

Over the course of the public dispute, unions from the NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball and 16 US senators voiced support for the players. NHL agent Allan Walsh tweeted that mens players were considering boycotting their world championship in solidarity if a deal didnt get done.

It took until almost the last minute, but a deal did get done that includes the formation of a womens high performance advisory group with current and former players like Hockey Canada has had for some time. The groups goal is to advance girls and womens hockey programing, marketing, promotion and fundraising to augment existing grassroots programs.

Players are set to travel to Plymouth on Wednesday and open the defense of their gold medal Friday against Canada. The US has won six of the past eight world championships.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/28/us-womens-hockey-team-end-boycott-world-championships

LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerry Jones and Kurt Warner elected to Hall of Fame

ll unstoppable in their own way, LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis and Kurt Warner earned their spots in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The running backs were known simply by their initials: LT and TD. The quarterback served as ringmaster for The Greatest Show on Turf. All unstoppable in their own way, LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis and Kurt Warner earned their spots in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Joining them are Jason Taylor in on his first ballot, the same as Tomlinson and Morten Andersen, the NFLs all-time leading scorer, who joins Jan Stenerud as the second pure placekicker to make the hall.

Seahawks safety Kenny Easley made it as a senior nominee, while Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is in as a contributor. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue did not make it, with his role in downplaying the severity of the leagues concussion problem playing a role.

In nine years with the Chargers, then two with the Jets, the 5ft 10in Tomlinson reset the template for what had been known as a scatback, proving someone of his size and speed could be a game changer, not merely a change of pace. As dangerous catching the ball (4,772 career yards) as he was running it (13,684), in 2003, LT became the first player to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes. He was hard to keep out of the end zone, too. He had at least one rushing touchdown for 18 straight games between 2004-05 and finished his career with 145 touchdowns, not counting the seven he threw on halfback options.

In giving the thumbs-up to Davis and Warner, the 48 Hall of Fame voters answered Yes to the question of whether a few truly dominating years are enough for someone to be enshrined. (They said No, however, when it came to Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli, who didnt advance beyond the final 10.)

Warners heyday was 1999-2001 with the Rams, whose offense was known as The Greatest Show on Turf. Warner quit his job bagging groceries, first for a stint in the Arena League, then landing in the NFL after getting a tryout with St. Louis.

An injury to Trent Green put Warner in the lineup for 1999. Sharing the backfield with future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, and throwing to Torry Holt and Issac Bruce (who was a finalist this year but did not get in), Warner won two overall MVPs and one at the Super Bowl to close the 1999 season, when the Rams captured their only Lombardi Trophy. The 1999 and 2000 teams are still among the top 10 in most points scored in league history.

Davis was a sixth-round pick out of Georgia in 1995 who caught Broncos coach Mike Shanahans eye with a big hit on special teams in a preseason game. Davis became the starting tailback, and from 1996-98 he complemented John Elway, helping the Broncos to 45 victories and finally pushing Elway over the top with two Super Bowl titles. In 1998, Davis became the fourth runner to surpass 2,000 yards, with 2008.

He suffered a career-changing knee injury in 1999 while making a tackle after an interception, and played only 17 more games before retiring in 2001. His 78 career games spanned seven seasons, meaning Davis lasted the same number of years as Hall of Fame runner Gale Sayers, who is often held up as Exhibit A when voters are debating short bursts of greatness versus longevity.

On the other end of the spectrum was Andersen, the kicker who lasted 25 seasons, played in 382 games and scored 2,544 points for five teams. He is the all-time leading scorer for both the Saints and the Falcons and was among the first to make the 50-plus-yard field goal routine. His 40 kicks of 50-yards plus were the most in NFL history at his retirement.

Taylor was Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 with 13.5 sacks and finished his 15-year career, most of them with the Dolphins, with 139.5 sacks, eight interceptions and 29 fumble recoveries.

Easley was the hard-hitting Seattle safety who also played only seven seasons, but made them all count. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1981, Defensive Player of the Year in 1984, a four-time All-Pro selection, and helped Seattle to its first AFC title game in 1983. He finished with 32 interceptions.

Jones is still very much active in charting the leagues course in the 21st century. His $1.2bn stadium, dubbed Jerry World, set the standard for stadiums to follow it in New Jersey, the Bay Area, Minneapolis, Atlanta and, eventually, Los Angeles. He brokered TV and marketing deals that have helped turn the league into a $13bn-a-year business, all the while keeping a steady and some might agree, entertaining presence in front of the TV cameras.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/04/ladainian-tomlinson-jerry-jones-and-kurt-warner-elected-to-hall-of-fame

Kobe returns and Tebow thrives: our bold sports predictions for 2017

On the heels of a sports year that was chock full of surprises, Guardian US contributors make their bold predictions for the months to come

Here are our bold predictions for 2017. Please note the bold (or should that be bold?) in bold predictions these are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Especially the Tebow one.

Kobe Bryant will return from retirement

Few athletes are as prepared for a life after basketball than Kobe, a man of diverse interests and immense worldwide fame. Few athletes also are as ill-suited for retirement than Kobe, who burns to be on the court. These last few months away have to be killing him. He will mount a comeback, though probably not with the Lakers, who are building around a gifted young core of players. Hes always wanted to play for the Knicks. Would Phil Jackson dare drop him on the same floor as Carmelo Anthony? LC

Tiger Woods will win again

The notion that Woods could challenge for, let alone win, major championships was flawed even before his last and lengthy absence through injury. The depth of talent at golfs summit means Woods will always be overawed and outplayed in such environments now.

Still, he can and will win lower grade PGA Tour events. Woods has a propensity to prevail on the same courses, as shown by his record. He retains more competitive ability than some of those who win once or twice on Tour in any given year. If fitness troubles really are behind Woods, he will return to the podium. Then? Cue more major discussion. EM

An American not named Serena will win a grand slam title

Serena Williams did win Wimbledon six months ago, so lets not put her in the ground just yet. But shes now closer to 40 than 30 and theres no question her stranglehold on the womens tour was weakened during a year that saw the late-blooming Angelique Kerber win a pair of major titles to inherit the world No1 ranking on merit. The door has never been more open for the sports 90s babies. Garbie Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova took advantage in 2016; Madison Keys will follow this year. The 21-year-old from Illinois, who has played into the second week at the last six majors, has all the shots, and power on both wings. Look for her to put it all together and become the first American woman not named Williams to capture a major singles title since Jennifer Capriati in 2002. BAG

A wildcard team will win Super Bowl LI

The NFL playoffs do not favor wildcard teams. To win the Super Bowl as a wildcard you have to win on the road three straight weeks and beat three of the leagues top teams. That said, it has happened six times before. Three of the last 11 Super Bowl champions came into the postseason as wildcards and 2017s will as well. With no great, dominant team, the path is wide open. The Lions stumbled late in the season but still have a potent offense and the Patriots would rather forget their Super Bowls against the Giants and Eli Manning. LC

Villanova will finish the regular season undefeated

Villanova
Villanova are looking hot again this season. Photograph: Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports

The Wildcats have moved to No1 in the polls, but virtually no analysts predicted a repeat for a Villanova team that returned most of its title-winning 2016 team. Aside from a shaky performance against DePaul late in 2016, the Wildcats have been stellar this season. Josh Hart has been the best player in the country, Jalen Brunson generates offense at will when he has the ball and Villanova are hitting their threes something they didnt do until the tournament last season. Ken Pomeroys stats say the Wildcats have less than a 2% chance to go undefeated in the regular season, but with this team I like those odds. DM

Sebastian Giovinco will return to Europe

Arguably the best player in the history of Major League Soccer, Sebastian Giovinco has made himself a superstar at Toronto FC. But his success has come at a cost. Italy manager Giampiero Ventura, just like Antonio Conte before him, says the playmaker has no international future as long as he is a MLS player. And so Giovinco could be tempted back to Europe, especially with the 2018 World Cup coming into view. GR

Tim Tebow will thrive as a baseball player

At first glance, it seems that New York Mets farmhand Tim Tebow, super-athlete and light of all of our lives, sufficiently failed during his stint in the Arizona Fall League, and thats probably because of his measly slash line of .194/.296/.242 over 70 plate appearances. Tebow did not hit a single home run, but he did help save a fan having a seizure, staying with him until the paramedics arrived, and so its probably safe to say that the outfielder is more Moonlight Graham than Babe Ruth, right? Not so fast: Tebow was competing against some of the best prospects baseball has to offer, and picked up steam as he went, finishing with an 11-game stretch where he hit .281 and posted an OBP of.425. In 2017, the Mets defy all logic and expectations by their May promotion of a surging Tebow to help with their sagging mid-week attendance. The Wilpons sell a package they call Tebow Tuesdays, which promises at least one pinch-hit appearance per-game and private autograph sessions for the first 50 to sign up. Tebow not only survives, but prospers, becoming a cornerstone in the Mets lineup as they win their first title since 1986. DL

Tom Brady will finally show signs of age

Tom
Tom Brady stays ahead of the youngsters … for now. Photograph: Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports

Tom Brady will turn 40 before the 2017 season. Saying a 40-year old athlete in a contact sport will look his age doesnt seem especially bold, but in Bradys case, it is. In his age 39 season this year, hes the favorite for league MVP and is having one of the best seasons of his career. But Peyton Mannings performance fell of a cliff from his age 38 to 39 seasons and Brett Favres did the same in the only season he opened as a 40 year-old. Maybe Brady stretches his youth a year or two beyond that pair, but the end is coming. Soon. Time, unlike the 2007 New England Patriots, is undefeated. DG

Floyd Mayweather makes a face turn

No one believes hes really retired, even if more than 15 months have passed since he last climbed through the ropes. Not when one more fight could lift him to the singular mark of 50-0, one better than Rocky Marcianos recognized paragon of fistic perfection. Not when he can effectively name his own price as a free agent, having fulfilled his six-fight contract with CBS and Showtime.

Many insiders believe a rematch with Manny Pacquiao looms, which, despite the tart aftertaste of their first installment, would still be the second-richest fight in history. But it says here Mayweather will instead opt to fight Adrien Broner, an opponent who hardly deserves the opportunity but one who would allow Floyd to take on the unfamiliar role of good guy in the promotion.

Eight-figure paydays werent the norm for Mayweather until he turned heel, trading in his polite and humble Pretty Boy Floyd persona for a pantomime villain whom more fans pay to watch lose than watch win. But just because he made the business decision to break bad doesnt mean he doesnt care about people liking him. By going against the one fighter in the world more disliked than himself, Mayweather will exit the game as the cowboy in the white hat. BAG

Los Angeles will be awarded the 2024 Olympics

Maybe this doesnt qualify as a bold prediction, after all most of the other competitors have dropped out. But Los Angeles was once eliminated as a contender after the USOC chose Boston as the American city to push. It has never seemed like LA was a favorite of anyone to host the games for a third time. The other competitors Paris and Budapest are more appealing choices. And yet LA might be the perfect Olympic city. The facilities are already in place. It could probably host the Games next year. For this reason Los Angeles will be the safe choice. Probably the only choice. LC

Ronda Rousey doubles down … and wins big

After being embarrassed by Amanda Nunes in Las Vegas on Friday, many have speculated that Ronda Rousey wont fight again. Shes noncommittal but we say she will enter the octagon in the first half of the new year, before Conor McGregor even books another fight, and get back to her winning ways. It wont be at 135lbs, however. Rousey will venture up to the featherweight division and chase down a fight with Cris Cyborg Justino (presuming she available after a PED tussle with Usada) in a last ditch effort to rebuild herself as a competitor and secure one more big-money fight. JG

The Washington Nationals will miss the playoffs

Although the Nationals did win the NL East by eight games in 2016, repeating in 2017 will be substantially more difficult. They should not expect Daniel Murphy to have the monster season that he had in 2016. Washington was also reportedly chasing some bigger names this offseason including starting pitcher Chris Sale and closer Kenley Jansen, among others, but were unable to land them. While having Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper on a roster can make any team a playoff contender, there are questions surrounding their role players including an oft-injured Ryan Zimmerman and an aging Jayson Werth. With the Mets power arms returning from injury, and other NL teams including the St Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants making moves this offseason, the Nationals will have a rockier road to October. EF

An NFL player will come out as gay

Michael
Michael Sam was the first openly gay player drafted in NFL history. Photograph: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

An active NFL player, one known to casual fans, will come out as gay. As of now, the specter of Michael Sam, the defensive end who came out prior to the NFL draft and ended up never playing in a regular season game, looms over the league as a missed opportunity. Sams story isnt one that anyone wants to see repeated. Because of this, I fully expect the first out athlete in the league to be someone who is already established as an NFL-caliber player and has had significant experience dealing with the national media, two advantages that Sam never had. HF

The NHL takes actual steps to increase scoring

Yes, I know. This is supposed to be a bold prediction, and suggesting that a pro sports league will try to boost offense doesnt exactly sound like going out on a limb. Every league knows that scoring sells, and every league makes sure the rulebook encourages plenty of it. Its sports marketing 101.

But this is the NHL were talking about. The league has been talking about boosting offense for over two decades literally but they never actually do it. This year, the decided theyd tweak the goaltending equipment. Then, whoops, they didnt make the adjustments in time, so nothing changed. Thats just how things go in the NHL.

But I think this year could be different. Maybe its wishful thinking, but todays NHL is packed with exciting young talent like we havent seen in a generation. Surely now is the time to let them shine. Surely now is when well finally get some forward thinking from a league addicted to its past. Surely we cant do three straight decades of plunging scoring rates while the powers that be twiddle their thumbs and wonder why ratings are down.

Or maybe we can. But you asked for something bold. In the NHL, sadly, this qualifies. SM

The Los Angeles Lakers will make the NBA playoffs

I can hear you rolling your eyes through the computer. Real cute, but these predictions are supposed to be bold, right? The Lakers are currently only two games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Granted, they are also only three games ahead of the cellar-dwelling Phoenix Suns, but that just goes to show you how mushy and undefined the bottom of the West is right now. Anyone could catch fire for a few weeks and find themselves volunteering to be demolished by the Warriors in four games this spring.

The Lakers were hovering around .500 before Thanksgiving, then lost 12 of 13 during a brutal road trip made worse by injuries to Julius Randle, DAngelo Russell, Nick Young, and Larry Nance Jr. A healthy Laker team still cant play much defense, but they can score against anybody, as wins over the Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, and a short-handed Clippers team proves. Most importantly, they have as good a chance as anyone in the West basement. The Kings, Pelicans, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Blazers all have true superstars, but what the Lakers can offer is something close to the team cohesion that defines the elite squads in the NBA. This is still a rough unit that is dragging a few ridiculous contracts down the court each night, but they have as good as chance as anyone right now. DS

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/02/bold-sports-predictions-for-2017

Randy Couture backs fighters’ rights before congressional subcommittee

Les Carpenter: Couture, a UFC champion turned outspoken critic, spoke out on Thursday for more federal regulation of the sport that made him a star

This was something the UFC could not want. But there before a congressional subcommittee on Thursday sat Randy Couture, one of their once-great champions and now one of their biggest critics, telling Americas lawmakers that fighters dont have basic rights in a billion-dollar company

What if Wimbledon forced all the top 10 players to sign an exclusive contract, Couture said to members of the House subcommittee for Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. You wouldnt have Wimbledon.

The first real blows toward forcing MMA organizations under federal regulation are being struck. Oklahoma Republican congressman Markwayne Mullin, a former MMA fighter, has been pushing for some time to add organizations like the UFC to the Ali Act, a 17-year-old boxing reform law that would force MMA promotions to share financial information about fights and use independent ranking systems to set title fights. In the case of the UFC, it would mean president Dana White couldnt form bouts based on what would make the most compelling pay-per-view battle. And because the organization has used this freedom to build themselves into a lucrative giant that was recently sold to WME-IMG for $4bn, they have not supported being added to the Ali Act. In fact they have hired a DC lobbying firm to oppose it.

But fighters have long complained that MMA organizations are exploitative, doling out tiny pay for grueling matches, forcing them to fight several times a year to break even, while signing away much of their endorsement power. Even at the highest level of the UFC, a superstar like Conor McGregor, who says he made $40m this year, earns far less than his boxing counterpart, Floyd Mayweather, who took in $300m last year. McGregor had to fight three times in eight months while threatening to retire and fight Mayweather to get that money. Imagine how much harder it is for a less popular but still top-level fighter to get even a fraction of what McGregor earned?

Mullin is pushing to change that system. After Thursdays hearing, he stood in the back of the room and said the UFCs title current title fights are essentially shams, calling them championships of the loudest mouth. He added that had Peyton Manning, the winning quarterback in Februarys Super Bowl, been in the UFC, he never would have reached such heights because Manning is not a flamboyant self-promoter. In January, he plans to hold another subcommittee hearing to add MMA organizations to the Ali Act with the hope of pushing the bill before all of Congress.

(Said the UFC in a statement issued late Thursday: The UFC issued UFC continues to believe the federal government would have no productive role in regulating MMA promotions or competitions. In addition to the organizations standard health and safety practices, each state actively regulates MMA bouts to create an atmosphere that promotes the safety and well-being of the competing athletes.)

Thursdays hearing seemed to be more about getting others in Congress to understand the fighter complaints than it was to grill the organizations lone representative: their anti-doping chief, Jeff Novitzky, a former agent for government agencies who prosecuted some of sports biggest doping cases. The subcommittees chair and also ranking member both said they were treading into a world they knew little about with the UFC. In fact, the most aggressive move Mullin might have made was his most passive, mumbling at the end of his questioning that he was slipping what turned out to be fighter Eddie Alvarezs original UFC contract into the record.

Advocates for a fighters association believe members of Congress will be shocked when they see the contracts restrictions on Alvarezs licensing and marketing opportunities.

This week, leaders of the newly-formed Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association visited what they estimate was 16 to 18 Congress members to lobby for adding MMA fighting to the Ali Act. They took along Couture and fighters Carlos Newton, Vinicius Quireoz and Nate Quarry. In most cases, the lawmakers knew little about the MMA. But when the organizations founder, Phoenix-area attorney Rob Maysey, told them he was only trying to get Congress to expand the definition of the Ali Act from boxing to cover all contact sports, he said the reaction was positive.

They got that, he said.

But how much they understood about MMA or the sports political issues is debatable. Rather than ask about pay or independent rankings many on subcommittee directed their questions to Ann McKee, one of the witnesses, who runs Boston Universitys center for the study of CTE the degenerative brain condition found in many boxers and football players asking her about the sports safety record. There was even a question about whether MMA fighters should be required to wear headgear, something no fighter will want.

When asked after the hearing if he worried that Congress might try to regulate MMA fighting more than he wished, Couture, smiled and shrugged.

I think we have to find that fine line, he said, inching his thumb and index fingers.

Mullin did not seem to be concerned about excessive regulation. He also said he isnt worried that Whites friend, Donald Trump, will soon be president and didnt expect that Trump would interfere with the legislation. Mostly he was happy to finally be talking about the Ali Act and fighter rights and pay.

Ive been wanting to do this for years, he said of the legislation that might finally happen.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/08/randy-couture-fighters-rights-congress-ufc-mma

World Series trumps presidential election in two title-starved midwest cities

In Cleveland and Chicago, a dream matchup between the Cubs and Indians has pushed the ugly Trump-Clinton battle off the front pages: Its a breath of fresh air

Frank Roddy supports the Cleveland Indians and Donald Trump. Matt Brenner supports the Chicago Cubs and Hillary Clinton. When Roddy had a pair of tickets for game 2 of the World Series in Cleveland, Ohio, he knew who to call.

I had 50 people I could invite to this game but I only have one friend whos a Cubs fan and I knew what it would mean to him, said Roddy, 28, sporting an Indians cap and shirt. I knew it would mean more to him than anyone else.

With flights in demand and prohibitively expensive, Brenner hired a car on Wednesday morning and drove for five and a half hours to be here; he drove back on Thursday, exultant after the Cubs 5-1 victory squared the series. This, after all, is history. The Cubs and Indians have the longest title droughts in baseball: 108 and 68 years without winning the World Series respectively. It is the resistible force against the movable object.

Cleveland, for a few golden hours, also felt like something of an antidote to, or at least a refuge from, arguably the most divisive and poisonous presidential election campaign ever. It is oddly reassuring to discover that there is still a place in the US not transfixed by Clintons reckless emails or Trumps 3am tweets. Here sports comes first, politics nowhere. A baseball cap is still a baseball cap, not a marketing prop for making America great again.

Thom Majka, a sales rep who keeps his Indians cap on through every game for good luck, said: These fans couldnt care less about the election. Every day it gets nastier and uglier, not even talking about the issues. Its a breath of fresh air to have something as easy as playing a baseball game. Its like taking a shower: youre all cleaned up.

The Democratic and Republican nominees have historically high unpopularity ratings. Their contest has been extraordinary rancorous, including a tense debate in which Clinton castigated Trump over allegations of sexual assault and Trump threatened to jail his opponent. The blowhard billionaires appeal to authoritarianism and cries of rigging have led some to fear an existential threat to the republic.

But baseball, as American as jazz, as regular as the seasons, goes on. It is the most storied and soulful of US sports. It survived the second world war when Franklin D Roosevelt declared: I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. After reaching the World Series at last, Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams and wept. While pro football is by far more popular, baseball is cultural bedrock, a social safety valve for a fractured nation.

Indians
Indians fans gather outside the gates before game 1 of the World Series. Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA

Cleveland feels this more acutely than most. Three months ago its basketball arena, cheek-by-jowl with the baseball park, hosted Trumps coronation and dark vision at the Republican national convention. Where in July the strongman claimed that only he can fix the system, and delegates chanted Lock her up!, this week the Cleveland Cavaliers led by the Hillary Clinton-endorsing superstar LeBron James received their championship rings after ending the citys 52-year sporting championship famine.

Where in July political hacks crowded bars and restaurants on nearby East 4th Street, this week sports fans erupted at every Indians run they saw on multiple TV screens.

Where in July street vendors sold hats and T-shirts with slogans such as Hillary for Prison and Lifes a bitch, dont vote for one, this week the merchandise says Hard working town Cleveland, Land of champions, C*town dont back down and I liked Cleveland before it was cool. And where in July party delegates walked behind high steel fences separating them from potential civil unrest and thousands of police, this week Clinton and Trump supporters rubbed shoulders, recalled learning the sport in corner parks and backyards, and went to the ballgame together.

Cubs fan Joe Wiegand, 51, from Maniton, Colorado, mused: Baseball is a wonderful distraction from the workaday world and the issues at hand. It brings people together. Its an important election and this is just a game but this is not only once in a lifetime, its once in three lifetimes. Therell be another election in four years.

Wiegand had come to add to the joviality of the proceedings outside the Indians Progressive Field (the name honours an insurance company, it has nothing to do with liberal politics). He bills himself as the worlds premiere Theodore Roosevelt reprisor and was dressed for the part, including a 1908 / Cubs sign attached to his top hat referring to a year when Roosevelt was in the White House and the Cubs last won the World Series (the Indians need only go back as far as Harry Truman).

We are long suffering but always hopeful, Wiegand said. That optimistic statement: Just wait till next year. We believe in the Cubs. Theres a great sense of relief and celebration just being in the World Series. And I think we will win the World Series.

As he spoke, Wiegand was greeted by old acquaintances: Cubs fan Wendy Menard, 56, and her partner Chris Frampton, 57, an Indians supporter. The couple, both financial advisers, recalled being nine or 10 years old when they attended their first baseball games. Frampton said: As much as following Cleveland has been difficult for a long time, Im an Indians fan and always have been.

Menard added: Its in your blood. Cut me and its blue.

And how about the election? What election? Frampton shot back.

The Indians comprehensive 6-0 victory in game 1 on Tuesday, with pitcher Corey Kluber dominant, was celebrated by fans driving the streets blasting horns and high-fiving each other. The mood was more subdued on Wednesday as Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta took control over four hours in a raw 43F (6C); a crowd watching the game on two giants screens outside the park ebbed away into the night. A small plane flew overhead trailing a banner that said: Trump tried to buy and move the Indians.

The Cubs, whose home, Wrigley Field, is one of the great cathedrals of American sport, seem to have most of the country rooting for them. They have been striving and falling short for more than a century. Author Rich Cohen wrote in the New York Times: For as long as anyone remembers, following the Cubs has meant embracing futility, choosing the losers over the winners, seeing the romance in failure.

The lovable losers have suffered a legendary curse ever since a tavern owner, barred from a World Series game in 1945 because he was trying to bring in a malodorous goat, proclaimed that they would never win the title again. But inspired by Cubs fan Bill Murrays film Ghostbusters, some fans have paraded the slogan I aint afraid of no goat and this year the team have carried all before them. Barack Obama has expressed hopes for a Cubs victory despite being a supporter of city rivals the Chicago White Sox.

Cleveland, meanwhile, is relishing its moment in the sun. It is one of Americas poorest and most racially segregated big cities; only Detroit fared worse from the trauma of industrial decline. It has had to live down nicknames such as the mistake on the lake while its river was so badly polluted that it caught fire in 1969. Progressive Field sits near steel bridges, smoking chimneys and slag heaps.

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The idea was that in an industrial, smoky city you could get a ticket and walk through that gate into a green space. This is the pastoral aspect. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Todd Fisher, 45, district manager at PizzaFire restaurant, where The Chicago pizza has been crossed out and replaced with The Ohio, said: Its such a sense of pride and it brings the community together more than anything else. Were still considered a blue-collar town. Growing up in my neighbourhood, we played baseball in the spring and football in the fall and winter. When all the jobs left, thats what everyone clung to: our sports team.

Majka, 63, whose daughter Stephanie favours the Cubs, agreed. Cleveland is not a city people flock to as a major metropolitan area, he said. The 70s, 80s and 90s have been tough years and thats why people hold on to their sports teams. Things in Cleveland are consistent. They put up with tough winters and losing sports franchises. They keep on coming back, hoping tomorrow will be a better day.

People in Cleveland are hard-working and good-hearted and have their hearts broken thousands of times. To have the baseball after what happened in June with the basketball two tremendous events in one year was worth the wait. Thats the Cleveland mentality: the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Cleveland is a Democratic stronghold but Ohio remains a perpetual electoral battleground. Majka says he intends to vote for Trump because he wants change from the career politicians who run America. But if he was forced to choose between picking the winner of the election or the World Series? Its got to be the Indians.

Most fans would make the same decision in the view of John Grabowski, who teaches a sports history course at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The election has been a long, brutal process and people are much more interested in the World Series, he said. It is pushing the campaign off the front of the news locally.

Grabowski cautioned against notions of baseball as morally pure escapism, noting the sports own history of chicanery and trickery, but added: Nonetheless its linked to what America is supposed to be about the field of dreams. The idea was that in an industrial, smoky city you could get a ticket and walk through that gate into a green space. This is the pastoral aspect.

Although there has been concern about the drop in African American players across baseball as a whole, both the Cubs and Indians have increasingly racially diverse lineups, he added, reflecting the diversity of the US itself. You can see yourself on the field, no matter who you are.

Baseball has arguably been in decline since the 1980s, although the sport has long served as a metaphorical shorthand for an idealised America. Grabowski sees evidence of a revival in that rose-tinted view in the era of Ronald Reagan his celebrated Morning in America TV commercial was released in the same year, 1984, as the fond movie The Natural starring Robert Redford. Field of Dreams If you build it, they will come came out a few months after Reagan left office. Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore was conceived in the 1980s and completed in 1992, starting a trend for nostalgic retro ballparks.

Reagans promise to make America great again has been expropriated by Trump and sewn into baseball caps and other merchandise. Trumps repeated promise at rallies Were going to win so much, youre going to be so sick and tired of winning is probably unfathomable to success-starved Cubs and Indians fans.

The battle shifted on Friday to Chicago, where residents are no less sports mad: box seats for the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years were selling on StubHub for $50,000 and more. But Grabowski, 68, whose father was a gifted amateur player, cannot bear to look. My wife watches but I cant, he admitted. I get too nervous. I judge whats happening from the shouts downstairs.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/29/world-series-chicago-cubs-cleveland-indians

Carli Lloyd’s memoir explodes myth that US women’s soccer is all fun and friends

In When Nobody Was Watching, the World Cup winner paints a portrait of a player who has given perhaps too much in the pursuit of success

When the US womens soccer team rose to fame in the late 1990s, they projected an image that was a well-polished composite of fun, friendship and teamwork in the pursuit of excellence.

Two new memoirs, Carli Lloyds When Nobody Was Watching and Abby Wambachs Forward, shatter that perception. But they do so in a way that should open a more realistic discussion on what we expect from athletes, especially but not limited to female athletes, and what they should expect from themselves.

Four years ago, Hope Solos Solo: A Memoir of Hope swung the first sledgehammer at the teams image, which had been built up through years of seeing Mia Hamm deflect praise upon her team-mates and plenty of commercials portraying the team as a fun-loving bunch of young women with ponytails and cute nicknames.

Any drama had been hidden behind the omerta of the locker room. New York Times writer Jer Longman summed it up in his chronicle of the 1999 Womens World Cup, The Girls of Summer: No team is without its internal tensions, and the American women had distinct groupings of age and alma mater, but private cliques never became public nuisances.

By 2007, the nuisances were public. Before a World Cup semi-final against Brazil, coach Greg Ryan abruptly benched Solo in favor of Briana Scurry, the accomplished but rusty back-up goalkeeper. The reasoning was murky Ryans public line at the time was about goalkeeping styles, but he later said Solo had broken several team rules off the field. After Brazil won 4-0, Solo walked over to an interviewer in the mixed zone, over the objections of US Soccer PR staff, and ripped the decision to bench her. Since then, one sentence has lived in womens soccer infamy: Theres no doubt in my mind I wouldve made those saves.

Thats unlikely Brazil were simply a class above the USA at the time. But new coach Pia Sundhage worked a miracle to get the team on the same page to win the 2008 Olympics. The wounds were closed, until Solo re-opened them with her memoir after the 2012 Olympics.

Now, coincidentally timed just after Solos termination from the national team, Lloyd has revisited the controversy. Solo has long credited Lloyd as her most steadfast supporter through the years, and in Lloyds book, she strongly defends her friend.

In mens sports, people criticize coaches and managers all the time, call out team-mates too, and its not that huge of a deal, Lloyd writes. Often the guy speaking out is even lauded for having the courage to tell the truth.

Men who lose their livelihoods or at least spend a few days enduring a public slaughter on social media or talk radio after being labeled a problem may beg to differ. In retrospect, Solos career is similar to that of Barry Bonds, Stephon Marbury or any other controversial male athlete their disagreements were tolerated when they were stars, but they were easily jettisoned when the team no longer depended on them.

But thats hardly the only complaint in Lloyds scorching book. In her eyes, the US Soccer marketing department never did enough to promote her. The national team feels as if its a girls club, and no, new members are not exactly welcome. After players convince then-coach April Heinrichs to cancel a fitness session, she gripes: The players get their way. People have told me the inmates run the asylum on the womens national team. Here is the first example of it Ive encountered.

She caps the complaints with a shocking accusation in the wake of Sundhages departure in 2012: A so-called leadership group of players had a conference call and began to quietly push Sunil [Gulati, US Soccers president] to get rid of Pia.

Lloyd says she doesnt want drama, unlike many of her team-mates. Unfortunately, in a dozen years on the US womens national team, Ive been around enough drama queens to fill a royal palace, she writes.

Yet drama is the bulk of this book. And its actually much of her career. Prodded by trainer James Galanis, she always has a chip on her shoulder, and she readily admits she plays better with an underdog mentality. She always has to have someone to prove wrong, whether its a media critic, an opposing coach (based on whispers of disrespect), or any random person who doubted her.

And shes wildly inconsistent about those who criticize her. Some merely fuel her anger. But her relationship with Galanis starts when he gives a harsh assessment, saying she has world-class talent but neither the fitness nor the mentality to live up to it, and she appreciates the honesty. She is grateful to former youth national coach Chris Petrucelli for giving her a similar assessment in cutting her from the team. Shes pleased when current US coach Jill Ellis shows her stats proving she had been giving away possession far too easily something Lloyds critics had noted for years.

She recounts a conversation with Abby Wambach, who warns that the team sees her setting herself apart from team-mates, sitting in a corner and texting, not talking with others. She concludes that Wambach is only saying these things to ingratiate herself to veteran players who dont like Lloyd. But when Galanis tells her roughly the same thing, citing the togetherness factor of a team sport, Galanis is brilliant in her eyes.

(Curiously, while Lloyd mentions many of her club teams over the years, she does not mention the 2011 WPS season in which she played for the Atlanta Beat under head coach Galanis. That year, the team won one of its 18 league games.)

Yet for all the head-scratching moments and petty accusations (the topper: in 2007, when she was nowhere near the player she is today, she gripes that a team-mate isnt passing to her, and it clearly must be for political reasons), Lloyds book has some value. Its not as directly inspirational as Wambachs book, in which the prolific goal-scorer recounts her battles with addiction with remarkable self-awareness. But Lloyd undoubtedly works hard. A familiar pattern sets in she suffers a setback, then goes home to do such intense training with Galanis that the national teams fitness coach worries she is overtaxing her body. She comes back fitter, coaches praise her, and shes back where she wants to be.

And along with Wambachs book, When Nobody Was Watching provides a harrowing account of athletes sacrifices. Lloyds single-mindedness has undoubtedly put her in a different plane to most people. Recently, she refused to take postgame media questions until a reporter deemed to be asking tough questions was dismissed. She and Galanis are constantly searching for enemies to motivate her, leaving her in a state of perpetual conflict. Worst of all, shes tells us how she is estranged from much of her family over disagreements on how to handle her soccer career.

And yet despite her flaws, by the end of When Nobody Was Watching, the reader is rooting for Lloyd. Not necessarily to add more accolades to a distinguished career, but to salvage what she sacrificed of her life. We root for her to have a happy marriage her boyfriends charming proposal is one of the few moments of levity in the book.

And we root for her to leave behind the world of paranoia and perfectionism in which she has lived for more than 10 years, and we hope that future athletes wont give so much of themselves in pursuit of glory.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/sep/27/carli-lloyd-memoir-us-women-soccer

A-Rod was both a cheat and a pleasure to watch: how we will miss him

Alex Rodriguez bowed out of baseball on Friday night, hitting a double. He was often infuriating but he was never boring

The sport of baseball has always been known for odd symmetries. Friday night, Alex Rodriguez played the last game of his career as a New York Yankee against the same team he played his first, the Tampa Bay Rays (he hit a double too). Fitting that this time his Yankees would leave the winners, and it couldnt have mattered more in the dugout or less in the standings.

Rodriguez is probably the most reviled US athlete of his generation, in any sport. Barry Bonds probably surpasses him, but Bonds started playing a decade earlier and by the end of Bondss career, A-Rod was giving him a run for his money. There are lots of reasons those who hated Rodriguez those who still hate Rodriguez will give for that: his offputting attitude, his arrogance, his inability to stay out of the tabloids, and of course, the steroids. These are just symptoms; external expressions of a root cause. People feel the way they feel about A-Rod, as intensely as they do, because of money and the morality behind it.

There is a distinction so ingrained in the way we talk about Rodriguez and his career that it almost feels strange to explicitly spell it out: while on paper Rodriguez made his MLB debut in 1994 for the Seattle Mariners and played 790 games over that seven season period, the real story of Alex Rodriguez the parable of the rise and fall of a superstar doesnt begin until 26 January 2001, when the 25-year-old shortstop signed a 10-year, $252m contract with the Texas Rangers. It was the largest free agent contract in major league history by a wide margin, and arguably it ruined Rodriguezs career.

Three years later, Alex Rodriguez came to the New York Yankees on a stormcloud; the disposition and disposal of his massive contract by the Rangers was the hottest topic of the winter of 2003, and it ended with everyone angry at Rodriguez: the Rangers and their fans because their team had gone nowhere over the first three seasons of Rodriguezs deal; the Mariners and their fans because Rodriguez left Seattle for that contract in the first place; the MLBPA because Rodriguez tried to renegotiate that contract in order to go to the Red Sox; the Red Sox and their fans because Rodriguez listened to the MLBPA when they told him in no uncertain terms that was not permissible; and the Yankees and their fans because they already had Derek Jeter, a shortstop they loved on the team, a guy they nicknamed the Captain, and three years earlier their new third baseman gave an Esquire interview in which he opined that the Captain had it easy and had never actually had to lead.

That anger would not abate. Rodriguez was merely the sixth-best third baseman in the majors in his first season in New York, which was unacceptable considering he was the reigning American League MVP and was being paid a kings fortune (you know, comparatively; the 2004 Yankees were a $182m enterprise). And 2004 was painful for Yankees fans for other reasons as well, though Rodriguez was hardly to blame for New Yorks implosion in the ALCS. He had an .895 OPS with 2 HR and 5 RBI that series. But most of that came in the Game 3 19-8 blowout when everyone was hitting, comes the reply from certain quarters. He disappeared after that. So did the rest of the Yankee lineup. Thats why they lost.

The next year Rodriguez was once again the MVP of the American League, by a wide margin on the stat sheet, if not on award voters ballots in 2005, baseball writers love affair with Bostons David Ortiz was beginning to blossom. The Yankees didnt win the World Series. In 2006, Rodriguez had another off year (for him): only a .914 OPS with 35 HR. The Yankees didnt win the World Series. In 2007, Rodriguez won his third and final American League MVP Award, this one pretty much uncontested. The Yankees, once again, did not win the World Series. This was a franchise whose fans were used to success not merely historically, but specifically and immediately. It had only been a few years since the Bronx Bombers won four world championships in five seasons, after all.

The Yankees were a good, solid playoff team in those years, if a bit inconsistent in the starting pitching and without a clear staff ace; but most good, solid playoff teams dont end up winning the World Series once, let alone multiple times the current San Francisco Giants dynasty being the modern exception that tests the rule. But this was about money, remember. By Opening Day of 2008, the Yankees were paying $209m for their roster. They expected that to buy them more than just a good, solid playoff team.

So who was to blame? Theres always so much to go around, when expectations have been frustrated: Randy Johnson took his fair share (yes, these were the Randy Johnson years in New York); Melky Cabrera, then in his early twenties and a well-regarded prospect, was unable to put together the success hed find later on elsewhere; first base was an underwhelming carousel of novelty guys, journeymen and Jason Giambi. But in the winter of 2007, one target dwarfed all the rest in ire: Alex Rodriguez, the reigning American League MVP. Why? How?

Because that damn contract of his had one last finger to curl shut, of course. Mere days after the Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies out of the World Series, A-Rod opted out.

Opt-out clauses are now almost boilerplate features of any massive free agent contract, but back at the turn of the century when Rodriguezs agent, Scott Boras, negotiated the 10-year deal with the Rangers they were fairly new territory. Starting in 2007, A-Rod had the contractual right to void the remainder of his deal in the ten days following the end of that years World Series, and thereby become a free agent.

Looking back, whats odd about that winter was how certain everyone was Rodriguez was leaving New York. Part of this was because thats what JD Drew had done when he similarly opted out of his Boras-negotiated contract with the Dodgers and went to the Red Sox the year before; part of it was because it was hard to imagine the unhappy (but productive) relationship between A-Rod and the Yankees going on any longer. The local media was thrilled, in that peculiar, angry, excited way columnists get when an ambiguous issue suddenly clarifies into a moral fable for example, here is Pete Abraham, then-Yankees beatwriter for The Journal News, propping up Ron Villone of all people as the Gallant to Rodriguezs free agent Goofus. The year Rodriguez won his third American League MVP Award, Ron Villone pitched 42.1 innings of 4.25 ERA baseball in middle relief and walked almost as many guys as he struck out. Weird thoughts.

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Alex Rodriguez embraces his team-mate Mark Teixeira during his final game. Photograph: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Abraham wrote that blog in the first week of November; by the second week of December, Rodriguez had re-signed with the Yankees. His new deal capped a crazy five weeks or so for Yankees fans, appetites whetted but never satiated by the obsessive coverage every public statement, sourced, anonymous, or otherwise, was being parsed and reparsed, then parsed again, then turned into a conspiracy theory. This, not his performance on the field, was how the nation knew Alex Rodriguez: the endless story, the star consuming everything around him in the gravity well of his undeserved fortune and misapplied fame. The cautionary tale: Minnesota, Oakland, Pittsburgh, teach your children right. Dont let your prospects grow up to be A-Rod. As if they would be so lucky.

Alex Rodriguez has only signed four professional contracts in his career. The first was a three year deal with the Seattle Mariners after they took him first overall in the 1993 draft. The second was also with the Mariners, signed after the first expired, buying out the next four team-controlled years of his career. The third was that fateful January deal with the Texas Rangers. Then there was the contract he signed days before Christmas to stay in New York. That was his fourth, and Rodriguez intended for it to be his last. He not Boras negotiated the terms, as he took pains to make clear to the press. He wanted everyone to know that, as if somehow that was the thing that was going to make fans like him. Above all, he wanted to retire a Yankee. Last night, his wish was finally, brutally granted. It took the form of a mercy killing.

The fourth contract was ten years in length, just like the one that had preceded it, and was loaded with all sorts of synergistic, cross-promotional escalators and sidepots concocted with an eye towards the triumphal end of his Hall of Fame career. The centerpiece was a $30m marketing agreement based on reaching home run milestones; $6m apiece for reaching 660, 714, 755, 762, and 763. In 2008, these were not idle clauses; it seemed plausible if not probable that Rodriguez would end his career as the new Home Run King. In 2016, they seem not tragic but cruel; a mean-spirited joke Rodriguez played on his future self.

The history of this contract is far fresher, far more raw: after being the best hitter on a forgettable 2008 team that finished in third place and was most notable for giving 80 innings to Sidney Ponson, Rodriguez finally did it. In 2009, the New York Yankees won the World Series on the back of an amazing postseason performance by A-Rod: 68 PA of 1.308 OPS hitting, with 6 HR and 18 RBI. He won the Babe Ruth Award, making him the postseason MVP. That should have been it: that should have been the moment things changed for Alex Rodriguez in New York.

In another world, maybe they did. But in this one, shortly before the beginning of the 2009 season someone leaked a list of 104 players that had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in a supposedly sealed 2003 MLB fact-finding survey to Sports Illustrated. Rodriguezs name was on that list. He denied the allegations for two days, and on the third, he admitted to steroid use.

That was what the world took away from Rodriguezs year. Not the postseason heroics and not the World Series ring, but the money and the cheating. Without the money, the Yankees could have quietly forgiven the cheating, as they did with other players. Without the cheating, the Yankees would have been more than happy to spend the money. But both together made them look like fools that had overpaid a liar for a defective product.

That wasnt the end of A-Rod and PEDs; in 2013 hed be named as an offender in the Biogenesis investigation, a sloppy, ethically and legally compromised show trial that Major League Baseball inflicted on their product more as a means to expand the discretionary power of the Commissioners Office than as a good-faith effort to punish violations of the Joint Drug Agreement. As part of the Biogenesis fallout, Rodriguez would accept a one-year suspension for the 2014 season, despite not having failed a drug test. This was his nadir; at one point Rodriguez was not only suing MLB, but the Players Association as well, doing anything in his power to get a legal injunction to allow him to continue playing.

But it was three years earlier, in 2009, when Rodriguezs dream of a triumphal final season full of milestones, columnist hagiographies and pre-game farewells at visiting stadiums vanished. That was when the narrative surrounding his money and his morality suddenly clarified, his story arc was made legible, and it turned out he was not a hero, not even the flawed, Greek kind. Nor was he a villain, because villains have the power to do harm. Somehow the best baseball player of his generation was nothing more than an undignified fraud. That he was successful in spite of that became an embarrassment; his career was either a lie, a joke, or both, and the Yankees didnt want him to stick around for them to find out. They tried everything they could to get rid of him, but Rodriguez just kept showing up to work, eager to get out there and play; a ghost haunting Yankee Stadium, ignoring his own exorcism.

All of that is why a guy who was Rodriguezs clear inferior on his best day got to hit weak grounders at the top of the order for all of 2014, and A-Rod got a press conference, a week on the bench, one final out playing third base at Yankee Stadium and his unconditional release after the game. And you know what? He looked pretty goddamn happy with it.

His last game was won by Yankee heroics, but they were not his own. That didnt seem to affect his enjoyment of them. Jeters story ended in triumph; A-Rods ended with the acceptance of fate. Theres something more human about the latter than the former. Rodriguez is retiring to work with Yankees minor leaguers as a special instructor and advisor; thats something hes been doing for years informally, but has shown an especially keen interest in lately. Its work he seems well-suited for. It will keep him around a game he clearly loves, and an organization he clearly tries to love.

A-Rod can be baffling, infuriating, frustrating and mystifying in turn, but he is never tragic. Alex Rodriguez spent 22 years hitting baseballs better than just about anyone else alive, and along the way made a whole lot of money, alienated friends, lied, cheated, disappointed himself and others, filed lawsuits, got suspended, wonked out over swing mechanics, mentored rookies, became a father, never really figured out how to talk to the press, watched his mistakes close the door on his chance at history and then made his peace with walking away. It was a privilege to watch him play and to write about his career, and I will miss him dearly.

  • This article was amended on Saturday 13 August to correct the details of JD Drews contract. Drew had opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and gone to Boston, not, as we had written, opted out of Boston and gone to Philly. This has now been changed.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/aug/13/alex-rodriguez-final-game-new-york-yankees-mlb

White Sox ace Chris Sale suspended for allegedly destroying team jerseys

Pitcher, 27 scratched from start against Detroit Tigers on Saturday, reportedly for cutting up throwback jerseys so no one could wear them

White Sox pitcher Chris Sale has been suspended for five days after he was accused of cutting up the retro jerseys the team had been asked to wear because he found them uncomfortable.

According to multiple reports, Sale, 27, was unhappy with having to wear the White Soxs 1976 navy, collared throwbacks on a day of 91F temperatures and high humidity and so sabotaged the strips so that nobody could wear them.

Chris has been suspended for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment, said the senior vice president and general manager Rick Hahn in a statement on Sunday. While we all appreciate Chriss talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organizational expectations.

FanRag Sports reported that Sale cut up the 1976 throwbacks with a knife during batting practice so they couldnt be worn. Fox Sports said that Sales dislike for the uniforms was because he thought they were uncomfortable; Sale also thought the White Sox were putting PR and jersey sales ahead of winning.

Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 24, 2016

Sources say: Sale cut up throwbacks during batting practice. Upset that, in his view, PR and jersey sales were more important than winning.

The team then decided to send Sale home from US Cellular Field.

Matt Albers, who started in Sales place, seemed to confirm the incident, but the White Sox initially provided no details beyond a team statement. The game was suspended by rain after eight innings tied at three and the teams will resume Sunday before the series finale.

Were going to keep that in-house, Albers said. Obviously you guys probably know what happened, but for me as a player, and in our clubhouse, were going to keep in in-house.

Youre going to have to ask somebody else about that.

White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier said: I cant really talk about that.

The White Sox didnt announce Sale was scratched until less than a half hour before the scheduled first pitch.

Chris Sale has been scratched from tonights schedule start and sent home from the ballpark. The incident, which was non-physical in nature, currently is under further investigation by the club, GM Rick Hahn said in a statement released just before the scheduled 6.10pm start.

The White Sox will have no additional comment until the investigation is completed.

The White Sox were expected to wear the collared, blue and white V-neck jerseys first worn during the 1976 season. But with not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white retro uniforms from the 1983 season. The White Sox marketing department had publicized the night as the Throwback Game.

After Saturday nights game, White Sox manager Robin Ventura declined to discuss the incident and would not comment on whether the team will enact any further discipline.

Not going to discuss what went on in there, but unfortunately he didnt start tonight, and Im proud of the guys that came in and filled in, Ventura said.

Hes one of the best, absolutely, Albers said of Sale. But were here for teammates. Were here to pick each other up in good times and bad.

Saturday wasnt the first time Sale has exited before a game. The five-time All-Star left before a game near the end of the 2014 season after sharing some heated words with Ventura.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jul/24/white-sox-pitcher-chris-sale-jerseys-reports