The Champions League Final

On May 29th, 2021, in the Estadio Do Dragao in Porto, Manchester City and Chelsea fought for 100 minutes, for the glorious Champions League trophy. Here’s what happened. 

The line-ups were as follows, left to right:

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson in goal, a back four defensive line of Zinchenko, Dias, Stones, and Walker, with a midfield trio of Foden, Gundogan, and Bernardo Silva, and a front three of Sterling, De Bruyne, and Mahrez. A very offensive formation with no true striker and 2 wingers (Foden and Silva) in midfield, so while it was technically a 4-3-3, it played closer to a 4-2-4 formation.

Chelsea (5-2-2 / 3-5-2): Edouard Medny in goal, a back 3 of Rudiger, Thiago Silva, and Azpilicueta, a pair of fullbacks in Ben Chilwell and Reece James, with a defensive midfield duo of Jorginho and Kante, an attacking midfield duo of Mount and Havertz, and their lone striker in Timo Werner.

Manchester City started with the ball and right from the kickoff went on the offensive. Forward Kevin De Bruyne passed a through ball to midfielder Phil Foden on the left wing, who missed the first real chance of the game. In the 8th minute, forward Raheem Sterling of Man City got a shot at the bottom left corner, but got parried by Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. This was City’s only shot on goal in the whole game. In the 14th minute, Chelsea striker Timo Werner missed two on-goal shots, with one saved by Ederson and the second deflected as it left his foot. Midfielder Phil Foden and the aforementioned Sterling got a pair of deflected shots in the 27th and 30th minute by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. These were Man City’s only real chances since that shot on goal. In the 38th minute, Chelsea defender Thiago Silva went down with a groin injury after hyperextending his leg to tackle the ball and was replaced by Andreas Christensen. In the 42nd minute, Mendy cleared the ball to fullback Ben Chilwell, who played it off to midfielder Mason Mount, who followed that with a through ball to fellow midfielder Kai Havertz in the space before the box. Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson slides out too early and misses the ball, clipping Havertz’s heel– but he regains his balance, chases the ball down, and kicks it into an open net. Chelsea had scored the first goal of the Champions League final, and took the lead 1-0 at the half. 

In the 55th minute, De Bruyne and Rudiger collided with each other. De Bruyne stayed down for 3 minutes before being subbed out with a black eye and potential concussion, replaced by Gabriel Jesus. In the 66th minute, Christian Pulisic came on for Werner, becoming the first American to play in a Champions League final. In the 72nd minute, Havertz was approaching the goal and passed a light touch to Pulisic, who tried to lob it past Ederson, but the ball was just slightly wide. In the 76th minute, forward Sergio Aguero came on for Sterling to play his last minutes of his Manchester City career before heading to FC Barcelona. In the 90th minute, Manchester City had a cross on goal which went unchecked by the Chelsea defense until forward Riyad Mahrez tipped off Rudiger and Christensen, who slid in to clear it. In the 96th minute, Manchester City had a through ball into Mahrez, who shot a volley on goal that went inches above the top right corner. That was the last chance City had to equalize and send the game into extra time. The game ended 1-0, with Chelsea taking home their 2nd Champions League Trophy. 

N’golo Kante won man of the match, with three chance-breaking tackle (a tackle that occurs when a player is nearing the penalty box near the goal), an 85% pass completion rate, 11 duels (or challenges to the player with the ball) won, one interception, 2 clearances (kicking the ball away from your own penalty box), and one chance created (a key pass to a player moving towards the opposing side of the field). Defender Reece James also played exceptionally well, completely nullifying the threat of Raheem Sterling on the left wing, and not letting him get a single successful dribble or shot on goal. Overall, a great performance for Chelsea, who will now play Europa League winners Villarreal in the European Super Cup.

This was an incredible turnaround in their season, the obvious difference being the change in manager from Frank Lampard to Thomas Tuchel. When Tuchel took over Chelsea were almost mid-table in the Premier League, but he quickly turned the tide. He completely solidified the defense and led Chelsea to an FA Cup Final victory and top 4 finish, as well as this incredible achievement. Beating Real Madrid over two legs and then Manchester City in the final is a tall task. Manchester City go home in disappointment in the club’s first-ever Champions League final. They did very well to reach this point but will be devastated to not have finished the job, their main goal for this season. They still had a very good season, easily winning the Premier League title and the Carabao Cup for the fourth consecutive season. It was odd to see manager Pep Guardiola opt not to play a holding midfielder, as this was the first game in the whole season that neither Rodri nor Fernandinho got the start. Manchester City also played without a true striker, and even though they had been doing that successfully for the majority of this season, in a game like this they could have used a player like Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus in significant minutes to unlock the Chelsea defense. Some overthinking on Guardiola’s part may have cost his team in this one. They will try again for next year, with their squad being more than good enough to challenge for the title once again. And there we have it, the glorious 2020/2021 football season has come to an end. Chelsea are victorious and will play Champions League football next season. As for our prediction, we had Bayern as champions but as we saw, the unbeaten were defeated and a new king was crowned.

Euro 2021 Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

Club football and the Champions League have come to an end, and now it’s time for international tournaments. The biggest international tournament this side of the World Cup will occur from June 11th through July 11th, and that’s the UEFA Euro 2021, Europe’s national championship. 

The teams of Euro 2021 are split into 6 groups of 4 teams each, of which the top two of each group and the four best 3rd-place teams will move on to the knockout stages. Let’s break down the six groups. 

NOTE: We’ve listed each group in order of our predicted finish in the standings.

Group A: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales. 

Italy is the clear favorite in this group, if not one for the whole tournament. The Italian national team has always been great, winning 4 World Cups – good for second all-time- and have made the Euro finals 3 times, winning once in 1968. Today’s group is a mix of old and young, Roberto Mancini has done a great job as manager after the team’s failure to make the last World Cup under Gian Piero Ventura. Some of the team’s top young players include goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma, midfielders Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella, and a pair of forwards named Frederico with Chiesa and Bernardeschi. Some of the more experienced players include defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, midfielder Marco Veratti, and forward Ciro Immobile. Mancini has found a formula that works with a 4-3-3 formation that has them competing at a high level again and has earned him a contract extension through 2026.

Key player: Ciro Immobile. Italy has lots of talented players but lacks a superstar, so many players could have been picked here. Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne will be leading the front line and will have to contribute a lot if this team is to go far in this tournament. Immobile is a great striker playing for Lazio and should be the starting number 9, which is usually a pure striker role and one of the most important attackers on the team, if not the most important. If he scores at a high rate as he has for the past 5 seasons, then he is a dark-horse candidate to be the best player of the tournament.

Switzerland is a team that is always tough to play against and always boasts a competent team that can match up against anyone in a standalone game. The defense should be solid with Yann Sommer in goal, the experienced Ricardo Rodriguez at left wing back, with Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji, and Nico Elvedi at the center back spots, and Kevin Mbabu possibly the starter at right wing back. The midfield and attack also have lots of quality players, the main ones being Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Denis Zakaria, Remo Freuler, Steven Zuber, Djibril Sow, Hans Seferovic, Admir Mehmedi, and Breel Embolo. This team should be set to make a deep run and could even cause a few major upsets.

Key player: Hans Seferovic. There could be many players that we include here, but we picked Seferovic because he could be the most crucial in deciding the fate of the team. He will likely be the starting number 9, and has a lot of responsibility if that is the case. Seferovic is very much a hot and cold player, and Switzerland will need to hope that he doesn’t disappoint. 

Turkey will likely end up in the fight for 2nd place, or as one of the 3rd place qualifiers. The team, like Italy, has a good mix of old and young players and could surprise a lot of people by going deep in the tournament. The defense has been shaky in recent fixtures but boasts quality players such as Caglar Soyuncu, Zeki Celik, Ozan Kabak, Kaan Ayhan and Merih Demiral. The best midfielders and forwards for Turkey are Cengiz Under, Yusuf Yazici, Hakan Calhanoglu, Burak Yilmaz, and Enes Unal. This is all without mentioning the dozens of players from their domestic league. Manager Senol Gunes has the tough task of playing a balanced system that can fit in all the good attacking options whilst remaining solid at the back. If the team hits form at the right time, it can go past the group stage and even into the second or third round.

Key player: Burak Yilmaz. A player that deserves a shout-out here is AC Milan attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, a skilled player that is outstanding at set-pieces. But we have chosen Burak Yilmaz as the key player because he was the top scorer in Lille’s unexpected win of the Ligue 1 title. An experienced player who always fights extremely hard, Yilmaz could be a player that becomes the hero of a deep Turkey run in the tournament.

Wales was the Cinderella team of the 2016 Euros, reaching the semifinals after upsetting Belgium 3-1 in the quarter-finals. This was a wonderful run and one that the team will no doubt hope to repeat. But it will be much more difficult, as they have been drawn in quite a tough group. Wales will probably have an outside chance of second place, but more realistically will look to get a spot as one of the best third-placed teams. The squad is mostly average but boasts a few very good players like Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey, and Gareth Bale. Wales also has experienced players such as Wayne Hennessey, Chris Gunter, and Joe Allen as well as promising players for the future like Joe Rodon, Neco Williams, Ethan Ampadu, Rabbi Matondo, and Daniel James. There is a big question mark going into the tournament, and that’s manager Ryan Giggs, who has been charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend. If this is a distraction that impacts them, it will be tough to get out of this group. 

Key player: Gareth Bale. The easiest choice so far, Wales’ hopes in the tournament depends on how Bale plays. If he plays extremely well like in his early Real Madrid days, then the team can get out of this group and even cause an upset in the knockout rounds. If he plays poorly, like he has in large parts of the last three seasons, then there is really no hope for Wales to go anywhere. There is a huge responsibility on Bale to perform and we’ll have to see if he delivers. 

Group B: Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Finland. 

Belgium isn’t a team of many traditions, but is currently filled with talent and ranked #1 in the world by FIFA. Manager Roberto Martinez has the responsibility of coaching the so-called “golden generation” of Belgium and trying to lead them to their first-ever major trophy. The reason this feels like a crucial tournament for Belgium is that their core of important players is aging and it feels like it could be their last opportunity to win big. The squad is filled with world class players, starting with Thibaut Courtois in goal and the back three of Jason Denayer, Jan Vertonghen, and Toby Alderweireld. The likely starters in the midfield are Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, and Kevin de Bruyne. On the wings and fullbacks, there is Thomas Meunier, Timothy Castagne, Leandro Trossard, Nacer Chadli, Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard, and his brother Thorgan Hazard. The two up top will likely be Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens. Again, many quality players and ridiculous depth across the board, the question is if it will all come together. But for now, they should have no problems topping this group. 

Key Player: Kevin de Bruyne. De Bruyne is the best player on this Belgian team and is arguably a top 5 player in the world. His vision is incredible and his intelligence is elite, and he should be the most influential player in a potential run to the title. Honorable mention goes to the wild card Eden Hazard, who a few years ago was one of the best players in the world for Chelsea, but after joining Real Madrid has struggled mightily with injuries. Belgium also needs Hazard at the top of his game to win the Euros.

Denmark are an underrated squad in this tournament and are another one of those teams that can make a deep run if everything breaks right. They have a phenomenal defense, with Kasper Schmeichel in goal alongside Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Jannik Vestegaard, Joakim Maelhe, Daniel Wass and Joachim Andersen at the back. In the middle, they will probably start Thomas Delaney, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Christian Eriksen, a trio of quality players who will be essential to this team. In the rotation for the midfield and attack they have Mikkel Damsgaard, Martin Braithwaite, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Cornelius, Kasper Dolberg, and Jonas Wind. The team is stacked and should be tough to score against, but we question whether they have enough going forward to make a deep run. They will be the favorites to come in second however, and are a tough team to play.

Key Player: Kasper Schmeichel. Schmeichel will need to be on top of his game for Denmark to make a deep run in this tournament, with the goalkeeper being probably the most important position on the field. He is a phenomenal keeper and the son of Man United legend Peter Schmeichel, and is also known for leading Leicester City to their improbable Premier League title in the 2015-16 season. Honorable mention to Christian Eriksen, who needs to be decisive and generate chances for goals for this team.

Russia was host in the 2018 World Cup and went on a great run, losing on penalties in the quarterfinals to eventual finalists Croatia. They remarkably beat Spain in the round of 16, and while the home fans helped no doubt, this was an incredible run by Russia either way. The roster is not incredibly talented, with almost all of the players playing domestically. Manager Stanislav Cherchesov has done a great job in getting the most out of this group. The goalkeeper spot is uncertain, and at the back the main players will be Mario Fernandes and the experienced Yuri Zhirkov. In the midfield and attack, they will once again look for a spark from guys like Denis Cheryshev, Aleksandr Golovi, and Artem Dzyuba in addition to players like Aleksei Ionov, Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyayev and Aleksei Miranchuk. These guys will be the leaders if the Russians are going to repeat what they did in the 2018 World Cup.

Key Player: Artem Dzyuba. He is the captain and top goalscorer of the current squad but also finished as top goalscorer of the Russian league the past two seasons, as well as twice finishing as the top assist provider. At the age of 32, Dzyuba is still performing consistently as Russia’s main number 9 and true striker and shows no signs of slowing down. 

Finland enters as the clear underdogs of this group, as this will be their first major international tournament ever. They have nothing to lose, so we expect them to be a harder team than most expect, but also lose out in the end because of lack of talent and experience. Anything for them at this point is a bonus. They should have a quality starting goalkeeper, with Lukas Hradecky in goal. Their hope in the attack will be with Norwich striker Teemu Pukki. Other than those two, there aren’t many known players in that squad, but the Euros will be a spotlight on young and experienced players to show the world who they are.

Key Player: Teemu Pukki. Pukki is a 31 year old striker who has been around several clubs, but settled in very well at Norwich City. There he has an amazing 66 goals in 120 games, scoring consistently both in the Premier League and the Championship, England’s second tier. His record for the national team isn’t bad either, with 30 goals in 90 games. Expect him to be the main focus for Finland up top. 

Group C: Netherlands, Northern Macedonia, Austria, Ukraine

The Netherlands has gone through a tough rebuild that has lasted 6 years. But it’s been worth it, as the Dutch national team has been loading up with young talent, with the majority of their team being younger than 28 years old. They are stacked on defense with Matthijs De Ligt, Stefan De Vrij, Joel Veltman, Danny Blind, Denzel Dumfries, and Nathan Ake, have a stellar midfield led by Georginio Wijnaldum, Frenkie De Jong, Marten De Roon, Donny Van De Beek, Teun Koopmeiners, and amazing forwards in Donyell Malen, Memphis Depay, Luuk De Jong, Wout Weghorst, Steven Berghuis, and Quincy Promes. Although they are going through a big rebuild and have missed out on two major tournaments in a row, we think the Dutch will do well. The only question mark is how manager Frank de Boer does. He is not a proven manager, and early results haven’t been promising, but the players are there– so it’s on him if they don’t get the results the country is looking for.

Key player: Memphis Depay. Depay is a great goal scorer and assister and is the team’s essential player. They will be very reliant on his skill throughout the tournament.

Northern Macedonia is the newest entry to the Euros. Although they are debutantes, they have put forth a pretty solid team, with Egzijan Alioski and Stefan Ristovski on defense, Eljif Elmas, Boban Nikolov, and Enes Bardhi in midfield, and their forwards are led by captain Goran Pandev and his partner Aleksandar Trajkovski. They will do well if everyone plays their part. This could be a repeat of Iceland in 2016, a team who in their first Euro appearance made it all the way to the quarterfinals. Macedonia will be the underdogs of the group, but their belief and hard work could be what takes them through to the knockout stages.

Key player: Eljif Elmas. He can score, assist, and has played with Napoli for a fair share of Champions League, Europa League, and Serie A football. If he plays at his best, making key passes and turning them into assists, Macedonia can do well. The only downside is that he is fairly young, so experience is a question mark. Still, Elmas is a vital piece to Macedonia’s World Cup qualifiers success and could do the same here.

Austria is a team who is under the radar despite having a lot of talent. First off, their defense and midfield is absolutely stacked with talented players like David Alaba, Aleksandar Dragovic, Stefan Lainer, Andreas Ulmer, Martin Hinteregger, Valentino Lazaro, Julian Baumgartlinger, Stefan Ilsanker, Florian Grillitsch, Marko Arnautovic, and Alessandro Schopf. Their forward line is a bit weaker, with Marcel Sabitzer and Michael Gregoritsch as the only stars up front.

Key player: Marcel Sabitzer. Sabitzer is the Swiss army knife of this stacked Austria side. Although he is a traditional center-attacking midfielder, he is used as a forward here. If he gets the ball and consistently takes chances, Austria will progress to the knockout stages. 

Ukraine is a once glorious team that has declined sharply and are also rebuilding, bringing in talent from their major academies in Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk, the two biggest club teams in Ukraine. A whopping 23 of the players in the squad are below the age of 28. They don’t have many talents that have a good reputation in domestic leagues outside Ukraine’s own. This could be a problem for them, as many of their players don’t have experience in the biggest stages.

Key player: Ruslan Malinovsky. He’s a young but skilled midfielder playing for Italian club Atalanta, with similar experience to Elmas playing against European giants in the Champions League and Serie A. He is mainly a standard midfielder but has the leg power to bang in goals from afar.

Group D: Croatia, England, Czech Republic, Scotland

Croatia is one of the favorites for this year’s Euros. The 2018 World Cup finalists have with an all-around team with defenders such as Dejan Lovren and Duje Caleta-Car, midfielders such as Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, and a dominant forward line led by Ivan Perisic, Ante Rebic, and Andrej Kramaric. This team should go far in the Euros, and their rematch against England after beating them in the 2018 World Cup semifinals should be a highlight of the group stage.

Key Player: Luka Modric. Modric is an absolute beast in the midfield and was a key factor in Croatia’s 2nd place World Cup finish. If he plays like he did in his Ballon d’Or-winning 2018 campaign, Croatia will be a force to be reckoned with. Without dominant play from Modric, their stability may crumble.

England are a rather weak team, taking into consideration their key players and their comparison to other great football teams like Belgium and Croatia, who both bested England in the World Cup. Still, England will likely do rather well. They have a good defense with Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Tyrone Mings, a solid midfield with Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish, and Phil Foden, and an outrageously exciting forward trio in Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Jadon Sancho.

Key Player: Jadon Sancho. Sancho may be a little bit under the radar for this team, which is crazy considering he is one of the top young players in the world, but we’re choosing him over the many other talented players we could put here. Look for him to score and assist in high numbers throughout the tournament.

Czech Republic are on-the-rise and could challenge the favorites in this group. They have a pair of solid defense and midfield duos with Vladimir Coufal, Pavel Kadeřábek, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Darida, plus an amazing forward in Patrick Shick. This team has potential to do well, especially better than their 2016 Euro campaign where they went home early.

Key Player: Patrick Shick. He’s a dangerous forward that can score goals from practically anywhere. If he gets the ball enough from the midfielders, he can get the Czechs some vital wins.

Scotland are a fairly average team that has good players in every position but don’t have that edge most contenders have. It’s quite simple: put enough pressure on Scotland and they will crumble. It was seen in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against England, where they got an early lead but couldn’t hold on as England kept attacking and attacking. This appearance is Scotland’s first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, and thus probably won’t be a very surprising team. 

Key Player: John McGinn. He’s a skilled and deadly midfielder, this team’s Swiss army knife. As long as he plays to his best, Scotland have a chance to do well and maybe steal a 3rd place qualifying spot from the Czech Republic. Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, and Scott McTominay are also players to watch out for in this Scotland team.

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia

Spain is another favorite for the tournament, they have put forth a very strong squad for the Euros. With key players like Unai Simon, Jose Gaya, Pau Torres, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata, and Gerard Moreno, they can go very far. This is the first time in history where no Real Madrid player has been featured on the squad, not to mention the shocking news of Aymeric Laporte switching nationality from French to Spanish to get some playing time and immediately getting the call-up. This could be because Luis Enrique, Spain’s current head manager, coached bitter Real Madrid rivals Barcelona 5 years ago. Enrique also left out great players like Sergio Ramos, Isco, and Iago Aspas on the Euro roster, leading to a quite unspectacular roster. This team has fallen mightily from the glory years where they won the World Cup and two Euros in a five year span, from 2008 through 2012. Still, they’re favorites here.

Key Players: Gerard Moreno and Alvaro Morata. Both are in good form, especially Gerard Moreno, who finished as joint top scorer in the Europa League and led Villareal to their first major trophy ever, upsetting Manchester United in the final– and they both need to stay consistent for this team to truly contend.

Sweden made the World Cup quarterfinals three years ago but have since lost lots of talent. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s muscle injury is the biggest blow to their chances in this particular tournament. They have stars in Alexander Isak, Victor Lindelof, and Emil Forsberg but they will struggle and might even exit in the group stages.

Key Player: Emil Forsberg. Forsberg is one of their most underrated players, a deadly midfielder who can do well under stress. The question is if he will be consistent enough to pull Sweden through. If they had Zlatan it would have been easier to advance, but his absence is a major issue and makes Forsberg all the more important.

Poland are constant competitors in the Euros, and made the quarterfinals in 2016. They have a good offense and midfield led by Robert Lewandowski, Kristof Piątek, Piotr Zieliński, Mateusz Klich, Kamil Glik, and Arkadiusz Milik. They can do well in the tournament if the loaded attack can mesh together well.

Key Player: Robert Lewandowski. He is the best striker in the world at the moment. If he stays in form in the Euro, Poland will be deadly.

Slovakia has very few stars outside of Marek Hamsik and Stanislav Lobotka. They won’t have high expectations this year and have a very weak squad. What makes these tournaments magical are the underdog stories, but this one seems quite unlikely.

Key Player: Marek Hamsik. He’s the team’s creative playmaker, and has to carry this team on its back or they won’t get out of the group stage. Formerly of Napoli, Hamsik now plays for Sweden’s IFK Goteborg.

Group F: France, Portugal, Germany, Hungary

Germany will play their last major tournament with manager Joachim Low before turning the page to the next manager Hansi Flick. They will try to look past the 2018 World Cup group stage exit and embarrassing 6-0 and 2-1 losses to Spain and North Macedonia, respectively. They still have an amazing squad that should compete in this tough group and for the tournament as a whole. Hungary will be the heavy underdogs in this group and it will be surprising if they get past this stage. 

France is another favorite for this year’s Euro and will likely top this tournament’s Group of Death. They have the strongest squad in the world and are current World Cup Champions so there are naturally very high expectations. Their talent and squad depth is unmatched by any nation worldwide, with key defenders in Raphael Varane, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, and Jules Kounde. They also have a frightening midfield in Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, and Moussa Sissoko, and a near impossible to defend offense with forwards like Kylian Mbappe, a returning Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, and Marcus Thuram, son of 1998 world cup winner Lilian Thuram. This team is the Euro favorite without a doubt.

Key Players: Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema. They are a pair of skilled and dangerous strikers, and will spearhead the attack well in the likely event that this team wins. Honorable mention to N’golo Kante, the backbone of this team’s defense. 

Portugal are also favorites to win this tournament, as they won the 2016 Euro against France and are thus the reigning champions. Although they underperformed in the World Cup, they have new talent as well as some in their prime. They are full to the brim with superstars, with Jose Fonte, Ruben Dias, and Joao Cancelo on defense, and Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and Renato Sanches in midfield, and Joao Felix and Andre Silva up front. Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introduction. This team will do well. 

Key Player: Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes ended his season with 28 goals and 17 assists in 58 games. If he performs as well as he did for Manchester United this year, Portugal will be incredibly successful. Ronaldo is the best player on this team, but Fernandes could be the key to them winning the whole tournament.

Germany is a sleeping giant that has been wounded beyond repair. They are still haunted by their early World Cup exit, losing two games in the group stages. But this year is looking bright. They have brought in new talent, and are back on track. Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels led their 2014 World Cup victory and are back, and that’s incredibly important. They have talent in defense, with Hummels, Matthias Ginter, and Niklas Sule, and their midfield is out of this world with Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, and Leon Goretzka all involved. Finally, their trio of strikers up front will be Serge Gnabry, Kevin Volland, and Timo Werner, 

Key Player: Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos. They are easily the best players on this stacked German team. Thomas Muller has the most assists in the Bundesliga with 18, and Kroos came in 3rd in La Liga with 10. If both of these two can feed Volland and Gnabry through balls towards the goal on a consistent basis, Germany will do quite well. 

Hungary is a team rich in history that has sunken mightily over the years. Many say that Hungary has no chance– and that’s likely true, but it’s largely the fault of the stacked group they find themselves in. They do, however, have a lot of players that could squeeze them through to the knockout stage. A skilled goalkeeper in Peter Gulacsi, good defenders in Gergo Lovrencsics, Willy Orban, and Attila Fiola, a midfield team of Adam Nagy, Laszlo Kleinheisler, and Dominik Szoboszlai, and the captain Adam Szalai with his right hand men Nemanja Nikolic and Roland Sallai up front. There is a chance this team manages to get through, and while it’s unlikely, it would be incredible if it does happen.

Key Player: Adam Szalai. The captain of this team is a consistently solid forward. Although Hungary might not get past the group stage taking into account the group they are in, they might have a chance if Szalai hits his shots– provided he gets enough chances. 

That will do it for our preview of the 2021 European Championship. Lots of interesting storylines and fun games right from the get-go, especially with the headliner in Group F. International tournaments are always fun, as we see big upsets and crazy moments every year. It’ll be exciting to see what the group stage brings when it opens on June 11th. 

Sports arenas reopen: What will become our new normal, post pandemic?

By Olivia Barker Dell

Covid-19 has developed into a full on  pandemic over the last year. By early February of 2020 we knew about the incoming virus, but we never thought it would affect our lives to this extent. Everything we once knew as  normal, was  switched and mixed. Working from home, learning from home, and watching sports games from home became our new reality. During the Covid-19 city wide lockdown, families were forced to remain at home with only a few exceptions like going grocery shopping or traveling to work. And during this time, many office buildings, factories, restaurants and more were shut down due to the virus. In addition, most of our entertainment industry closed down, including sporting arenas.

This affected sport fanatics across the United States,especially New York: home to the Mets, Yankees, Nicks, Nets, Jets, Giants, Rangers, Islanders, New York FC, and more. The list goes on, from football teams to baseball teams. New Yorkers love the thrill of the crowd, the music, the food, the games, and the energy. This was all lost when restrictions were put in place for in-person events, you just don’t get the same feeling sitting in your living room staring at your television that you do surrounded by fellow fans. During the rise of Covid-19 . 

Over the past few months as our city has been reopening, people have begun  going back to work, restaurants are opening to a certain capacity, schools are reopening, and sports arenas are reopening as well. They were one of the last to reopen in New York. Currently baseball stadiums, like Yankee Stadium, are allowed to let in fans to see the game in person, but only up to 20% capacity. While centers, like the Barclays center in Brooklyn, will only be able to let in 10% of their fans to watch their team in person. Attendees will also have to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative covid-19 test within the timeframe given by the certain arena. Because of these new requirements, most new yorkers won’t be able to return back to their regular routine of going to see the games with family and friends. Something we’re all asking is: when will we be able to go back to our normal? Many people remember what it was like to attend a sports game in their home arena. As a New Yorker I would go to Yankees games all the time with my family. I remember getting ready for a game, wearing my sports fan gear, waiting on ridiculously long lines to get in, buying soda and hotdogs, crushing peanuts during the game, rooting and screaming when the yankees scored a run, and watching everyone around me scream, laugh, and show joy. That’s what many New Yorkers remember, but that is all in the past, sadly. That was before Covid-19’s new normal. And now we need to figure out what our post-covid normal is. The new regulations and restrictions will definitely change our known normal, but we will learn to adapt to it. There are many compontines to our new normal, some are economical, political, and some just involve the energy and feeling attendees will experience. As we have seen our current Governor of New York Andrew Cummo has continued to loosen guidelines as we progress through the pandemic. More and more New Yorkers are taking the variety of covid-19 vaccines available to our city, but many are against getting the vaccine. We have most seen this hesitation from the republican party. I think we all know, many supporters of the republican party are against getting the vaccines because of the politicians they support, who are against the covid vaccine. But as we progress many republican party supporters will give in and take the covid-19 vaccine because of the new sport arenas requirements. While getting a covid-19 test is another way to gain entry, it is much easier and quicker to just get the vaccine. 

Because of the lockdown we have seen a rise in food delivery because we were stuck in our house. While we were at home, we were still able to order in from most of our favorite restaurants. And many did so, while they were watching sporting events on television. Before and during football, baseball, basketball, soccer games NYC’s crazed fans would order many of these foods from online delivery websites such as doordash, and grubhub. A lot of this food came from fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, KFC, ect. But now that sports arenas are open, eventually food venders will reopen in all sports arenas. Stadiums like Yankee Stadium have reopened their retail food but many others have not. Other sports arenas are letting fans bring their own drinks and beverages to the game as long as it is checked by stadium security before entering. Our new normal sadly is wearing masks, getting vaccinated, bringing food and drinks, and not having the full energy of the crowd. But at least we can go to attend games. In the end, this is our new normal and we will adapt. Our lives were turned upside down a year ago and we are now getting back to our before pandemic lives. It will be a slow recovery for our nation and city but one day we will return to the roar of the crowd and the crushing of peanuts.  

Champions League Semifinal Review and Final Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

It’s decision time. We’ve gone from the original 32 Champions League teams all the way down to two that will play on May 29th in Istanbul. The remaining sides are Manchester City and Chelsea. Congratulations to them both for completing such a difficult journey to the Champions League final. But before we talk about that, let’s discuss those semifinals.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

The first leg was played in Estadio Di Stefano in Madrid. Chelsea got a quick start to the first half with a goal by American forward Christian Pulisic in the 14th minute. This lead didn’t last long though, as Karim Benzema equalized in the 29th minute with a sensational scissor kick on Real Madrid’s first real chance of the game. Give Benzema an inch and you will be punished. The first half was exhilarating, but the second was frankly disappointing. Both sides came out very conservatively and appeared to settle for a dras. The game ended at 1-1, with a slight advantage for Chelsea heading to Stamford Bridge, their home stadium, as they had a lead on the away goal tiebreaker. In the 28th minute, a shot by Chelsea midfielder Kai Havertz bounced off the crossbar and into the air where Chelsea striker Timo Werner headed it into the net to grant Chelsea the lead. The first half then quieted down other than a pair of vital saves of Karim Benzema shots by Chelsea goalie Edouard Mendy. The second half got to a slow start, with Real Madrid getting frustrated and getting 3 yellow cards. In the 85th minute, Chelsea had a breakaway on the wing and Christian Pulisic crossed the ball into the box where midfielder Mason Mount was waiting unmarked to score. Real Madrid failed to respond and the game ended 2-0. Chelsea go on to the final on the aggregate score of 3-1 and will play Manchester City in the final. Real Madrid’s full focus now is in the La Liga title race where they currently sit 2 points away from the leading Atlético Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester City

The first leg was played in Parc Des Princes in Paris. PSG got a quick start to the first half with a goal by defender Marquinios in the 15th minute, and the game stayed 1-0 into the half. In the 60th minute, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne whipped a cross towards the goal that went untouched and went past PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the score to tie the game at 1. Shortly after, midfielder Riyad Mahrez then took a free kick through the wall and into the bottom left corner and took the lead for Manchester City, 2-1. A couple of minutes later, things got worse for the home side as midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye tackled Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan outside the box. Gueye got sent off with a straight red card. For the rest of the time, the two teams, especially PSG, were getting frustrated, hacking at each other constantly. Other than that, PSG stalled out compared to the first half and the game ended 2-1 in Manchester City’s favor, with the return leg going to the Etihad in Manchester. At home, Manchester City got a quick start with a goal by Riyad Mahrez. For the rest of the first half, both teams got some shots on goal with nothing to show for it. In the 63rd minute, Mahrez got another chance from a Phil Foden cross and slotted it in. 5 minutes later, Angel Di Maria of PSG got sent off for losing his head in response to a poor Fernandinho tackle. The game ended 2-0, meaning a Manchester City victory on a 4-1 aggregate. PSG had no shots on goal, with Manchester City’s defense holding strong. Manchester City will go onto their first Champions League final in history. PSG will now look to overtake Lille, win Ligue 1, and try to win the Coupe de France which they are in the semifinals of. Regardless of how those competitions turn out, this defeat will be rough for PSG and could have implications for the future of some of their star players, specifically Kylian Mbappe.

Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview 

It’s the last challenge for these 2 teams. All eyes are set on Istanbul, where this historic battle will take place. Manchester City can win their first ever Champions League, and Chelsea can add a second to their collection. In their 2 games played against each other in 2020-2021, both had one win against the other. It’s a really close matchup here. Chelsea have had much success with a heavy defensive game in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation. Like Chelsea, Manchester City are a heavy defense team that usually line up in a 4-3-3. Manchester City have the upper hand here, having a well rounded team in general and in great league form. Chelsea have also been in great form, but we don’t see them beating Manchester City. Our early prediction is that Manchester City will win the final 2-1 after extra time and will take home their first UCL title.

Champions League Quarterfinal Review and Semifinal Preview

By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt

The Champions League quarterfinals have come and gone quickly. Across these past two weeks, four teams have gone home and now four remain – Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The semifinals are due to be in the weeks of April 27th and May 4th, and from there we’ll know who will make the final in Istanbul. Here, we will review the quarterfinals and preview the semifinals. We’ll start with the most entertaining of the four games, Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain.

Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain

The first leg of this 2020 Champions League final rematch was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. PSG got a quick lead through a goal via superstar forward Kylian Mbappe. Then, in the 28th minute, PSG center-back Marquinhos scored from a beautiful assist from Neymar which doubled their lead for nine minutes until Bayern forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, in for the injured Robert Lewandowski, scored a header. Once the second half got underway, Thomas Muller of Bayern scored a goal in the 60th minute to tie the game. But eight minutes later, Kylian Mbappe scored another goal, which would be the last of the leg as PSG beat Bayern in Munich 3-2, having a significant away lead with the return leg going to Parc De Princes in Paris. Bayern dominated the run of play in this leg with 31 shots to PSG’s 6 but PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas had a great game and was arguably the man of the match. This was a fantastic game and beautifully set up the second leg, in Parc De Princes. PSG looked the better side until the 40th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting of Bayern scored a header and tied the aggregate score at three. That was the only action of the game as they drew 3-3 on aggregate but PSG advanced on by the away goals rule, scoring three away goals compared to Bayern’s one. Throughout the game, both teams missed some great chances as PSG forward Neymar missed five clear chances at a goal, including 3 shots at the post, whilst Leroy Sane of Bayern Munich for his part missed seven goal scoring chances. Overall, poor finishing in the game by both teams but PSG advance and will play Manchester City in the semifinals. For Bayern, the only competition left for them this season is the Bundesliga, which they will look to win for the ninth consecutive time (currently they are 5 points ahead in first).

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

This was another Champions League final rematch, this one being from the 2018 final where Liverpool lost 3-1. This time, however, many key players were injured on both teams, including both teams’ senior center backs. The first leg was played in the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid scored twice in the first half, goals by Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio, in the 27th and 36th minute, respectively. Both of these goals were caused by errors from Liverpool, with the second goal stemming from an especially bad error from right back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The rest of the first half stayed relatively quiet, but only five minutes into the second half, Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scored a goal and got Liverpool back into the game, only for their hopes to be crushed in the 65th minute by Vinicius Junior, who capitalized from another error by Alexander-Arnold. The game ended 3-1, a big boost for Real Madrid going into Liverpool. In the second leg, the game was slow and frankly boring. Real Madrid were playing rather defensive with a comfortable two goal lead. Liverpool was quite cautious as well, having only four shots on goal, all of which were saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Real Madrid’s experience and tactical fouling gave Liverpool nothing and they coasted through. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, meaning that the aggregate score was 3-1, so Real Madrid goes on to play Chelsea in the Semi-Finals. Liverpool will now have to finish top 4 in their league to be back in the Champions League next season.

Porto vs Chelsea

This was the least exciting of the clashes in our opinion. This was because Chelsea opened up as huge favorites and were in great form under manager Thomas Tuchel going into this game. The two legs were played in Sevilla due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In the first leg, with Porto being the “home” team, they went on the attack. They had a number of goalscoring opportunities but Chelsea’s defense held strong. Then, against the flow of play, Chelsea’s attacking midfielder Mason Mount coolly spun off of Porto defender Chancel Mbemba with his left foot and shot with his right foot into the bottom corner. This fantastic turn and finish came at the half hour mark and changed the momentum of the game. Porto then looked for an equalizer but couldn’t find one. Unfortunately for them, Chelsea would go on to double their lead late, when Porto’s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona gave a gift to Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell who then went over to Porto’s keeper and scored. This gave Chelsea a very comfortable 2-0 lead going into their “home” clash, the first leg being an example of how individual mistakes and inability to convert chances into goals will cost you at this level. The second game played out as you might expect, with Chelsea looking to keep a clean sheet and Porto looking for the goal that would halve the deficit. Porto threatened little in this match, and while they would get a goal, a spectacular bicycle kick (rivaling Oliver Giroud’s goal from the last round) by forward Mehdi Tahremi in the 93rd minute, it mattered little in the end. Chelsea go through to the semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate where they will face Real Madrid. Porto will aim to finish in the top 2 in their league to be back in the Champions League next year.

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund

Heading into this fixture, Manchester City were the huge favorites being that they were 11 points ahead in first place in the Premier League and were still in the running for the quadruple (winning all the trophies they are in play for). In contrast, Borussia Dortmund sit in 5th place in the Bundesliga, seven points out of 4th and face a real danger of missing out on the Champions League next year, when new manager Marco Rose will arrive. Failure to make the Champions League for Dortmund may force them to sell their biggest stars, namely Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. However, Dortmund gave Manchester City trouble early on, pressing hard in the opening 15 minutes of the match in which they were on the road. Unfortunately for Dortmund, their midfielder Emre Can gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch and City made them pay with a lightning quick counter attack finished by attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne: another example of how mistakes cannot happen in games where you are the underdog. Dortmund would fight back though, and they were absolutely robbed of a goal at the end of the first half when midfielder Jude Bellingham was said to have fouled City keeper Ederson when in reality, it was Ederson who kicked Bellingham. So, Manchester City were fortunate to lead 1-0 at halftime, but they failed to add to that in the second half and Dortmund captain Marco Reus made them pay by scoring an equalizing goal in the 84th minute. This could’ve set up Dortmund very well where they would be in front due to the away goal for the second leg. Unfortunately for Dortmund, they switched off on the defensive end and Manchester City’s Phil Foden gave them the winner in the 89th minute. This gave City the 2-1 lead heading into the second leg, where Dortmund took the surprise lead in the 15th minute on a Jude Bellingham rifle into the top right corner. If it stood, the 1-0 result would mean Dortmund would go through to the semis, and that was the score at halftime. But the whole game changed when Manchester City was awarded a penalty early in the second half, as the ball hit Emre Can’s head and then hit his arm. It was a questionable penalty, and when you add this with the Bellingham disallowed goal in the first leg, Dortmund have a reason to feel slightly robbed. Riyad Mahrez smashed the penalty into the top corner to make it a 1-1 game, putting Manchester City back in front. Phil Foden wrapped it up with a beautiful shot into the bottom corner from outside the box in the 75th minute to send Manchester City through to the semis. The aggregate score ended up being 4-2 and Manchester City will now face PSG. Borussia Dortmund will now have to focus on getting top 4 in their domestic league and will look to finish the season on a positive note if they win the German cup competition known as DFB Pokal.

Semifinals Preview

As stated before, PSG will play Man City and Real Madrid will play Chelsea. Let’s take a look at those games, as well as our takes on who will go on to play in the Final.

Man City vs PSG

This fixture is the tastier of the two. Both of these teams are on fire, both in their domestic league and here in the Champions League. Manchester City has had a near unstoppable run with nine wins and a single draw in their last 10 Champions League games. Although they’ve had the easier road here, they are no pushovers. Paris Saint-Germain has had their ups and downs throughout their season, first having to survive the dreaded Group of Death we talked about earlier this year. Then, they had to go through Spanish and German giants- Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively. They beat both teams away but at home they’ve had their troubles, and in that lies their main weakness. When they get too confident with their lead, they falter and their offense slows down and underperforms. On the contrary, Mbappe and Neymar of PSG, as well as the defenders surrounding goalkeeper Keylor Navas, have been outstanding. Although they don’t have many flashy players in the midfield, they are worth more than the sum of their parts. The first leg will be played in the Parc De Princes in Paris. We predict a large 3-1 win for PSG. The second leg will be played in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. We predict that Manchester City will win 2-1, but they will ultimately lose on a 4-3 aggregate and PSG will advance on to the finals.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

Real Madrid has been a very difficult team to get a read on this season. They’ve had many embarrassing defeats including losing to Shakhtar Donetsk two times in the group stage and nearly failed to make it through. On the other hand, they are in the semifinals of the Champions League and this is their competition, having won it 13 times in their history, the most out of any team. In the knockout rounds, they made quick work of Atalanta and Liverpool and seem to be in top form at the right time to win a title. They also beat their fierce rivals Barcelona 2-1 this weekend, putting them squarely in the La Liga title race and giving them some momentum as they head into this matchup. Real Madrid are never to be counted out in this competition and their manager Zinedine Zidane will look to win it for his 4th time in 5 tries. Chelsea have similarly had an odd season to this point, starting off really slow with previous manager and club legend Frank Lampard until they replaced him with German boss Thomas Tuchel. Their form has been much improved since, especially on the defensive side. They are now 4th in the Premier League and find themselves in the FA Cup semifinals in addition to the Champions League semis. Tuchel’s work has been impressive for having taken over midseason. In the round of 16, they dominated a poor Atletico Madrid side and in the quarters made easy work of Porto. This will be no doubt their biggest challenge so far. We expect a pretty defensive matchup, with Real Madrid taking the home leg 1-0 and tying the away match 1-1. With this result, Madrid will have won 2-1 on aggregate and will advance to the final as they seek their 14th title.

Wrap-up

Through the past 18 weeks of Champions League football, we’ve seen 32 teams in the group stages get whittled down to four. All four semifinal teams have had uphill journeys to get here (apart from perhaps Man City). Real Madrid had a rough first start to the campaign and barely got past their group but they held on tight with a close win on the final day before moving through the knockout round smoothly. Chelsea had an easy group stage, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 draws before going through the knockout stages.  PSG had a very difficult journey. In the Group Stage they were drawn in the Group of Death with Manchester United, Leipzig, and Istanbul Basaksehir. They got through, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 losses, having to win their last 2 games against Istanbul and Manchester United to scrape through before having to go through Barcelona and Bayern Munich back-to-back. Manchester City had the easiest road here, breezing past the group stage with 5 wins, 1 draw, and 13 goals while conceding only 1 before playing a demoralized Borussia Monchengladbach team in the round of 16. But as the four teams get set to play there can only be one champion, and we won’t have to wait long to find out who. The final will be played on Saturday, May 29th in Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The Round of 16 of the Champions League has come and gone, with 8 teams advancing: Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Porto, Bayern Munich, and Paris Saint-Germain. The two legs will take place on the weekend of April 5th and April 12th, respectively. Let’s break them down:

Manchester City vs Dortmund

This is a rematch of the 2020 Champions League final, making this the best and most unpredictable draw of the lot. Both teams breezed through their opponents, with Bayern beating Lazio 6-2 and Paris Saint-Germain beating FC Barcelona 5-2, though PSG’s victory was all the more impressive over a powerhouse like Barcelona. These teams have only played each other once in the past 3 years and have changed a lot since then, especially PSG’s hiring of new coach Mauricio Pochettino. The first leg will be played in Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. My prediction is that Bayern Munich will get a 3-1 win over PSG at home, with a 2 goal advantage going away. PSG will have a lot of catching up to do and will score two goals but concede one in the final minutes, with Bayern Munich winning on a 4-3 aggregate. The winner of this draw will play the winner of Dortmund and Manchester City in the semifinals.

Manchester City vs Dortmund

Manchester City are on a roll right now, having won 24 of their last 25 games across all competitions. They are currently top of the Premier League by 14 points with 8 matches left to go, meaning they can now turn their attention fully to the Champions League. They are chasing a rare sweep of titles, looking to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, and the Champions League in the span of a year. The Champions League is a competition that they have never won, despite having very quality teams in the last few years. They have lost in the quarterfinals in the past 4 seasons which gives hope to Dortmund. Still, they will be the strong favorites to advance from this and a failure to do so will be seen as a huge disappointment for them. Borussia Dortmund should not be overlooked though, as they have started to improve this season after a disappointing start. They are currently 5th in the Bundesliga, battling for a top 4 spot needed to return to the Champions League in 2022. Dortmund has the potential to beat anybody, even Manchester City, as on their day they are unstoppable. 2 players to watch out for on Dortmund are Erling Haaland, the current top scorer by far in the League, and Jadon Sancho, who has something to prove playing his former team which he left because he was given no playing time. At Dortmund, he has become one of the best wingers in the world. Both can make a difference and help Dortmund to the upset. My prediction is a 2-0 win for Manchester City at home and a 2-1 win for them away, helping them win on an aggregate score of 4-1. As mentioned, the winner of this matchup will take on the winner of Bayern Munich and PSG.

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

This draw should also be incredibly entertaining to watch. This is a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final, where Real Madrid won to take their 13th title. As for this draw, it will be pivotal for both teams’ seasons. Real Madrid currently sit 3rd in La Liga, 6 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid. While they can overcome that deficit, the Champions League is their competition and likely presents them with their best chance of winning a trophy this year. The Champions League is Liverpool’s only chance of winning a trophy, as they are currently sitting in eighth in the Premier League. If they can’t make the top 4 in the Premier League, they have to win this competition to be back in it next year. I expect a very close, tense battle in both legs, and it is very hard to pick a winner. My prediction is a 2-1 win for Real Madrid at home in the 1st leg and a 1-1 draw at Anfield in the 2nd leg, with Real Madrid going through with an aggregate score of 3-2. The winner of this draw will play the winner of Chelsea and Porto in the semifinals.

Chelsea vs Porto

Both are underdogs in this year’s Champions League. Chelsea came off of an easy win against Atletico Madrid, while Porto had to beat Italian giants Juventus, as well as playing against one of the greatest players of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo. The first leg will be played in the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal. As for our predictions, Porto will win 2-0 at home, with their strong and centralized defense holding strong. The second leg will be played in Stamford Bridge in London, England. Chelsea will win 2-1, but that away goal will be the key to Porto securing a 3-2 victory on aggregate and advancing to the semifinals.

Champions League: Round of 16 Review

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The round of 16 has come to an end. Through this 4 week span, we’ve seen upsets, feats of persistence and perseverance, and lackluster performances. Let’s start with the first match of the bunch and arguably the most entertaining. 

Porto vs Juventus

The perfect case of a comeback story gone wrong. The first leg was played in the Estadio de Dragao in Porto, Portugal. After a goal right after kickoff and right at the start of the second half, Porto came away with a vital win at home and a good lead despite a late goal for Juventus. The second leg was set to be played in Turin, Italy, the home of Juventus. Like the first leg, Porto got a quick first-half goal from a penalty and put Juventus in a bad position. However, forward Mehdi Taremi was stupidly sent off in the second half. It was a second yellow for kicking the ball away in frustration. Juventus needed to score 2 goals and concede no more goals to send the game into extra time. Federico Chiesa of Juventus, the same player who scored their lone goal in the first leg, scored 2 goals and sent the game into extra time (which is 30 minutes with 15-minute halves). The score didn’t change after the first 15 minutes of extra time. Then, in the 115th minute, Sergio Oliviera of Porto, scored from a free-kick. Porto regained the lead and Juventus needed to score 2 goals to win the game. There were only 5 minutes left when Adrien Rabiot of Juventus got the goal they needed. The comeback was back on. Juventus continued to attack but the iron wall of Porto, led by their captain and veteran Pepe, held firm. After 5 minutes of extra time, the game ended in the 125th minute. Even though the score was tied 4-4 on aggregate, Porto went on because of the away goal tiebreaker, since they scored 2 goals at Turin, while Juventus only scored 1 in Porto. Porto toppled an overwhelming favorite, and will advance on to the quarterfinals. Lots of questions will now be asked about Andrea Pirlo (Juventus’ manager), Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus, who completely flopped in the Champions League again.

Barcelona vs Paris Saint Germain

This was one of the better games of this round, at least on paper, with two European giants going head-to-head. PSG were the better team from the start, taking a 4-1 win from Barcelona at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. Kylian Mbappe bagged a vital hat-trick which helped PSG get a big away win and a big lead ahead of the second leg in their own stadium. The second leg played in the Parc-Des-Princes in Paris was much less interesting, as Mbappe scored a penalty and Messi missed one, though he did score a ridiculous goal shortly before his miss. Barcelona was completely out of it for the entire round, but PSG were perhaps a little too careful with the lead. Still, they’re on to the quarterfinals. After the elimination, speculation abounded that this could be Messi’s last Champions League game for Barcelona. That will be an answer for which we must wait.

Dortmund vs Sevilla

Sevilla were probably the favorites in this match because of their recent performances in La Liga under ex Real Madrid manager Julien Lopetegui, but I picked Dortmund as they have slightly better players, especially when it comes to their forwards, although they have been very inconsistent in the Bundesliga this year with interim manager Edin Terzic. Sevilla actually started in front in the first leg with a very early goal by forward Suso, but from there, it was all Dortmund. Mahmoud Dahoud scored to tie the game up, and the goal machine Erling Haaland made it 2-1 at the 30-minute mark. He then scored a second goal right before halftime and gave Dortmund a very comfortable 3-1 away lead. Luuk de Jong would score a beautiful free-kick near the end of the game to cut Dortmund’s lead to 3-2, which is where it stayed. In the second leg, knowing they would need to score at least two goals, Sevilla was pushing for an opener and dominated the first half-hour. After that, Dortmund went on a beautiful counter-attack which was put away by Haaland. Now Sevilla needed 3 goals to win, so the tie was pretty much out of reach. Haaland would go on to score a penalty early in the second half, which brings his total in the UCL this season to 10 goals in 6 games. What a machine! Youssef En-Nesryi would score a penalty in the 68th minute and a consolation goal in the 96th minute, but it meant nothing. Dortmund go through to the quarter-finals, and if they continue playing like this they have the potential to be one of the dark horses that can win the Champions League. Sevilla were very disappointing in this tie, especially their two young center-backs in Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde. After their collapse against Barcelona in the Spanish Copa del Rey, their season is basically over.

Liverpool vs Leipzig

Similar to Dortmund and Sevilla, these two teams played quite differently in their domestic leagues. RB Leipzig are currently 2nd in the Bundesliga, giving Bayern Munich some competition for the title. Liverpool on the other hand are currently eighth in the Premier League, in large part due to the crazy amount of injuries that they have had, especially on defense. It has been a roller coaster season for them after winning the Premier League last year, but this year they have collapsed. Given this, you would probably think that Leipzig would win this, right? Wrong. Liverpool put their domestic woes aside and got a very impressive 2-0 away win in Budapest, this match’s temporary home due to COVID travel restrictions. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored a goal each early in the second half and coasted to an easy win. Still, Liverpool had to finish the job in the second leg. Very similarly, Salah and Mane scored within 5 minutes of each other to punch Liverpool’s ticket to the quarter-finals. These two players are among the top 10 best in the world when they’re on, they just have to play their best more often. RB Leipzig should be very disappointed in themselves, as they could not have picked a better time to play Liverpool yet were thoroughly outplayed. In the first leg the two goals were due to mistakes on defense, specifically Marcel Sabitzer and Dayot Upamecano. They barely made Liverpool keeper Alisson work in either leg. Now, Leipzig will look to win the German DFB Pokal and maybe catch Bayern in the Bundesliga, though that’s unlikely. Liverpool will march on to the quarter-finals but it is hard to really predict how far they can go at this moment in time. We’ll have to wait to see who they’ll play and what state they’re in come the next round. In the meantime, they have to drastically improve their league form or they won’t be in this competition again next year.

Real Madrid vs Atalanta 

Real Madrid and Atalanta are two teams of completely different sizes. Real Madrid are a European giant, the most successful team in the history of the Champions League by far, with 13 titles (almost doubling any other team). Atalanta are the underdogs but have been punching above their weight in the last few years. The expectation was for Real Madrid to win, but Atalanta did have a chance. They came so close to making the semifinals last year and were looking to make a similar run again this year. The first leg had a questionable red card in the 17th minute against Atalanta’s Remo Freuler. From there, Real Madrid had almost all of the possession and in the 86th minute they finally broke through with a beautiful Ferland Mendy goal. This gave them a 1-0 lead going back to Spain. Atalanta actually started the second game reasonably well but it all went out the window when Atalanta’s goalkeeper, Marco Sportiello, gifted Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema the opening goal. Real Madrid were up by two goals and were in complete control. In the 56th minute, Real Madrid’s captain Sergio Ramos converted a penalty to put the series to bed. Luis Muriel would grab a consolation goal on a beautiful free-kick for Atalanta in the 83rd minute– though it was quickly canceled out by super-sub Marco Asensio’s goal one minute later on only his second touch of the match. Real Madrid march on and should never be counted out in this competition. The fairytale story ends for Atalanta this year in the Champions League but they will now focus on getting top 4 in their league to get back to the UCL and also look ahead to the Coppa Italia final vs. Juventus, which will be one of the biggest games in the club’s history. They have only ever won the Coppa Italiana once, so perhaps this loss is only setting up a major victory.

Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid have had a great start to their season, sitting at the top of La Liga. On the other hand, Chelsea have had a very up-and-down season, which started with the firing of manager Frank Lampard. Since then, Thomas Tuchel has taken over and righted the ship, particularly on the defensive end. As for this matchup, it was a tough one to predict,  as Chelsea came into this in great form and Atletico, despite their great start domestically, have dropped some games as of late. In the first leg Atletico came out flat, with Chelsea taking most of the possession in what was ultimately quite a boring game. The difference was a phenomenal bicycle kick goal by Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud, which was initially ruled offside, but eventually was awarded as it had touched an Atletico defender on the way. Chelsea went into the second leg up 1-0. In the second leg, Atletico’s task became a lot harder when Hakim Ziyech converted a beautiful counter-attack for Chelsea in the 34th minute. Down 1-0 at half-time and 2-0 on aggregate, Atletico Madrid’s likelihood of coming back was almost zero, given how Chelsea had only conceded two goals in their previous 12 games. Chelsea would hang on for the victory, and would get an extra goal in the final minutes to complete a dominant performance against Atletico over the two legs. A great start for Thomas Tuchel, whilst Diego Simeone’s Atletico crash out of the Champions League once again. Atletico’s season will now depend fully on if they can win La Liga for the first time since 2014.

Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach

Coming into this match, Manchester City were clear favorites to win, being on a 10 game winning streak and the top of the Premier League, while Borussia Monchengladbach were struggling in the Bundesliga, currently sitting in 7th. The first leg was played in Hungary’s Puskas Arena, a neutral site due to the aforementioned COVID regulations. Manchester City had a quick start with a goal by Bernardo Silva in the 29th minute of the first leg. Later in the 2nd half, Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City scored a goal in the 65th minute, and the leg finished with the English side up 2-0. Borussia had trouble completing passes and getting up the field to score a goal. This could be due to the announcement of their coach, Marco Rose, leaving for their German rivals Borussia Dortmund after two years of rebuilding, which was quite a backstabbing. In the second leg, Manchester City got a pair of early goals in the 12th and 18th minute by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, respectively. Borussia could not get going on the attack, having only 30% possession and only 400 passes compared to Manchester City’s 850 passes and 70% possession. Manchester City advanced on with an aggregate score of 4-0, with Borussia receiving their 10th straight loss. Very dominant win for Manchester City, who continue their amazing form. They are probably one of the top two favorites (with Bayern Munich) to win this competition. Maybe this is finally their year.

Bayern Munich vs Lazio

This was probably the least interesting of all the matchups. Bayern Munich were going to win without a doubt, as they were the defending Champions League winners, whereas Lazio had the worst defense of the 16 knockout stage teams. The first leg was played in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, home of Lazio. Bayern started off with a quick goal in the 9th minute by Robert Lewandowski, with Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane following up with 2 goals in the 24th and 42nd minute. In the 47th minute, Francesco Acerbi of Lazio scored an own goal, giving Bayern a 4-0 lead, though that was quickly remedied by a Joaquin Correa goal two minutes later. The rest of the game was relatively quiet and ended 4-1. The second leg was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Bayern got another early lead through a Robert Lewandowski penalty kick. They got a second goal in the 73rd minute through Eric Choupo-Moting, and while Lazio scored late in the 82nd minute, there was no upset here. While the games were a bit disappointing, the result was not shocking. In the end, Bayern advanced to the quarterfinals on an aggregate score of 6-2.

The Round of 16 games are now over, with some upsets but ultimately the majority of the bigger teams going through to the quarter-finals. Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Porto, Liverpool, Chelsea and PSG will advance. Next time, we’ll be previewing the next round.

The NBA 2020 Finals

By Alexandra El Mcardle

It is March 11th. In the middle of one of the most highly anticipated NBA seasons of all time, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID-19. He had only tested before the game for precautionary reasons, as no one had expected any cases. The Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game that night was postponed, and Utah said they would be working with the CDC to take necessary steps forward.  

But it didn’t matter. The NBA shut down that same day, a sudden suspension on the 2019-2020 season. People in the media said it was Gobert who “shut down the NBA”, when really, it was just his positive test that opened the eyes of the players and teams to the severity of the pandemic. 

In the months following, as most of us experienced, the country went into lockdown.  Families quarantined at home, social distancing was enforced when public interaction was necessary, and masks became required in stores and public and general.  With most people stuck at home, many wondered when sports would return.

Fast forward to the end of June, where word was spreading that a bubble was being built at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida, where rumor had it the rest of the NBA season was going to be played. Once the rumors were confirmed, the process was explained. 22 teams, with their full roster and staff, would travel to the bubble, where they would quarantine together for two weeks before the rest of the season would take place.  There would be daily testing for everyone there, and masks would be required around the complex and inside the arenas.  

Then suddenly, the nation was taken over by the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and racism, sparked by the brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers. We saw NBA players speaking out on social media, and some participated in nationwide protests. 

As the season quickly approached, many players wondered if this was the right time to go in the bubble. However, many players felt they could make just as big of an impact there as they could anywhere else and decided they would return on certain conditions. Power forward Jerami Grant of the Denver Nuggets said that “The consensus was that we could come down here and use our platform to bring awareness to important issues… I thought I could do more here than back home.” 

They took on their own forms of protest within the bubble by wearing warm-up shirts with “Black Lives Matter” across the chest, and were allowed to replace their last name on the back of their jersey with one of a few permitted phrases relating to the movement. Teams also knelt during the national anthem in a form of protest and locked arms to show their unified support of the movement.

The season returned on July 30th, 2020. Each of the teams in the bubble would have eight “regular season” games before the highly anticipated NBA playoffs would begin. Surprisingly, there were no positive cases of the Coronavirus in the bubble. However, some players did end up leaving the complex for other reasons and therefore had to quarantine again and potentially miss games.  

The NBA playoffs began on August 17th, and the playoff format of past years remained the same. There would be three inter-conference rounds before the Finals that October.  The only difference was the tight scheduling. Teams would be playing every other day, which gave them a much shorter break between games compared to other years.  

After weeks of fast-paced and close playoff games, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat advanced to the Finals after defeating the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics in their respective conference finals. The first game of the Finals itself was a blowout, with the Lakers, led by All-Stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis, winning 116-98. Many thought this was how the series could be expected to play out, but they underestimated Miami. After losing Game 2 to the Lakers as well, the Heat pulled through with a big win in Game 3 after some of their star players, namely Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, had their hard work pay off.

LA and Miami traded wins in Games 4 and 5, leading to a pivotal Game 6.  The Lakers ended up winning the game and the NBA Finals and became the 2019-2020 Champions on October 11th in one of the most unique seasons in basketball history.

There is no question the players participating in the bubble worked harder and sacrificed more than anyone ever had any other year.  However, that does not mean lovers of the sport have not questioned the process and sparked controversies along the way.  

The first thing that seemed to upset fans was that out of the 30 teams in the NBA, only 22 went to the bubble. Sure, they chose the teams with the best records to compete for the championship. However many of the teams excluded were expected to make a playoff push later on. Teams such as the New York Knicks were anticipated to win enough games towards the end of the season to at least snatch a low seat in the playoffs, but they never got the chance since they were not invited to finish the season. This was eventually accepted by most fans, as it was acknowledged that sacrifices had to be made for this bubble to work. 

One of the biggest arguments pertaining to this season is whether the Los Angeles  Lakers deserved to win this championship. Not in the sense of whether the team was good enough to win, but whether it was easier for them to win under the format the 2019-20 season presented. 

Some felt that without the fans in the stands, or the hostility that comes with away game crowds, the entire environment of the Finals was not as competitive as it should have been. Although the NBA did filter in canned sounds of cheers and chants and had fans video calling into the court, some believed it was not nearly as crazy as a typical playoff atmosphere. 

However,  making statements like these would undermine the entire ending of the 2020 season. It is important to remember everything the NBA players, especially the champion Lakers, had to overcome to make this season successful. They cut their break between games in half during the playoffs, and were separated from their families for more than 3 months. They fought for racial justice on and off the court. They worked hard through one of the most challenging times our country has ever been faced with. They knew the risks, but they also knew how much they loved the game and how much it would mean to their city. While stuck at home in isolation, it made fans feel like they were a part of something. 

We all witnessed history last season, and we have seen nothing less from the 2020-2021 season since it kicked off on December 22nd.

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2880465-rudy-gobert-reportedly-tests-positive-for-coronavirus

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/29/rudy-gobert-coronavirus-nba-return/

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/30055011/everything-happened-nba-bubble

https://www.gq.com/story/nba-bubble-courts-2020

https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nba/news/nba-bubble-rules-teams-schedule-orlando/zhap66a9hcwq1khmcex3ggabo

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/13/us/nba-players-break-campus-bubble-trnd/index.html

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2895295-2020-nba-playoffs-tentative-start-dates-for-play-in-finals-more-reported

https://theundefeated.com/features/how-the-nba-social-justice-efforts-dominated-the-season/ 
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/sports/basketball/covid-nba-unrest-season.html

Champions League Knockout Stage Preview

By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt

The matchups for the Round of 16 of the Champions League were released on December 14th, and they’re listed here. 

(Teams in bold will play their home leg first, then the teams underlined will play their home leg second)

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Lazio vs Bayern
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
Porto vs Juventus
Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
Sevilla vs Dortmund
Atalanta vs Real Madrid

Now, let’s break the matchups down before they begin on February 18th:

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City

This is an interesting matchup strategically, as it’s a showdown between counter-attacking (Borussia Monchengladbach) and possession play (Manchester City) football. Borussia’s style of play is rather defensive, relying on absorbing pressure from the attacking team and counter attacking quickly down the flanks, hence their 4-2-3-1 formation. Manchester City is the opposite, with a possession-heavy game that relies on short and quick passes, as well as heavy pressing. Manchester City could use this heavy pressure to overload Borussia’s defense and create chances through the middle. Borussia, on the other hand, could continue using their game plan that has been working really well for them: absorbing the opponent’s heavy pressure and counterattack swiftly. Both teams are struggling in their respective domestic leagues, both in 8th place on their tables, good for around the middle of the pack. Borussia has also faced more difficult opposition, beating Bayern Munich in the Germany’s top pro league, the Bundesliga, 3-2 on January 10th. This will be an interesting matchup, but we predict Borussia will take their home win 2-0, after which Manchester City will come back home and win 3-1. The conceded away goals will hurt Manchester City and they’ll lose out to Borussia on that tiebreaker. Borussia will prevail utilizing their play style that got them this far, and with their Coach Marco Rose’s heavy defensive game, they have a good shot at upsetting Manchester City. 

Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea

This is a great matchup that won’t disappoint, with two great managers in Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid vs Frank Lampard of Chelsea, playing defensive and offensive football respectively. Atletico Madrid’s play style is defensive, with a 4-4-2 formation. Luis Suarez and Diego Costa make up the bulk of their offense, with midfielders like Saúl and Koke supporting them. They are a possession-heavy, defensive team similar to Borussia. They also play wide to open the field up for the wingers on attack to create a temporary 4-2-4 formation. Chelsea, on the other hand, are a more offensive team who rely on their speed and offensive capabilities on the wings, specifically with Ben Chilwell and Reece James. They line up in a 3-4-3, with Kante dropping back into a center back role. Werner, Ziyech, and Pulisic go up front and have Havertz and Kovacic in support. Atletico is playing at home first, and because of Simeone’s genius, we predict they will take a 3-0 win. They will then travel to Stamford Bridge, where defense will prevail and Chelsea will win 2-1, but lose on aggregate to the advancing Atletico Madrid. 

Leipzig vs Liverpool

Another interesting matchup where two attack-centric teams go head to head. Leipzig are off of two fabulous wins where they scored 7 goals, while Liverpool are coming off a loss and draw. While Liverpool finished strongly with a record of 4-1-1, they are weakened by injuries to their defense, losing Van Dijk, Matip, Joe Gomez, all three of their best center backs. Leipzig, on the other hand, have revamped their offense, with Angelino, Haidara, Sabitzer, Szoboszlai, Olmo, Kluivert, and Poulsen, all of which will surely threaten Liverpool’s already weak defense. Leipzig plays at home first, so they’ll take an easy 2-0 win but at their home, Liverpool will prevail and win 3-0. The series would end in a 3-2 aggregate, with Liverpool advancing on. 

Lazio vs Bayern Munich

This matchup is less interesting than the other for 6 main reasons: 1. Bayern Munich is off of an incredible run to the Champions League title. 2. Bayern’s attack, led by Lewandowski and Muller, is unstoppable, scoring 18 goals in 6 games. 3. Bayern’s defense is outstanding, conceding only 5 goals in 6 matches. 4. They have the experience: Lazio joined the Champions League for the first time in 13 years this season. 5. Lazio has done absolutely terribly for being one of the clubs in the top 5 European leagues. 6. Lazio’s defense is terrible and often loses leads quickly or fails to impress like most of the big teams. Let’s get this prediction out of the way. Lazio will play at home first and will draw 2-2. Then to the Allianz Arena in Munich, Bayern will win 4-1 to end the series with a 6-3 aggregate lead to advance on.

FC Barcelona vs Paris St. Germain

This, on paper, is the best matchup of the lot. We have Barcelona, who have struggled domestically this year but were on track to win their Champions League group until they got absolutely smoked by Ronaldo and Juventus in their home stadium. Now, they have to face Paris-Saint Germain in a far harder draw than what would’ve been Porto. PSG, in contrast, looked at one point like they were going out after losing to Manchester United and Leipzig before turning around and winning their final 3 games to win their group. But it is probably the hardest team they could’ve faced. Still, we would give PSG the slight edge, based on the current state Barcelona are in. The big storyline in this one is PSG star Neymar against his former club. He’s currently dealing with an ankle injury but hopefully looks to be back for this one. PSG have also just sacked former manager Thomas Tuchel and hired ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pocchetino. He did a good job at Tottenham and it will be interesting to see how he does in this matchup, given that the Champions League is all that matters for PSG. PSG won the Ligue 1 and made the Champions League final last year but failed at the final hurdle, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich. They will be hungry to get back to the final and win it this time. Barcelona’s boss Ronald Koeman is under a lot of pressure, and we think that if he loses this tie he will get fired. It could go either way, but we think PSG will edge it out, 3-2 on aggregate. But never count out Barcelona– at least while they still have Lionel Messi. 

Atalanta vs Real Madrid

In this clash, we have the dark horse from Bergamo, Italy, in Atalanta, and the European heavyweights in Real Madrid. This matchup should be interesting to see. On one hand, we have an Atalanta team who are capable of beating anybody with their attacking style under manager Gian Piero Gasperini. They proved this by beating Roma 4-1, crushing Sassuolo 5-1 this past weekend, and beating Liverpool 2-0 at their home stadium of Anfield. Their risky style of play can go wrong though, like their other matchup against Liverpool, a 5-0 loss at home. Real Madrid has had a weird season but has been in better form as of late. Real will be the heavy favorites in this matchup, but it would not shock me to see Atalanta go through. Real only barely got out of their group, leaving it to the last matchday where they got a clutch 2-0 win vs Borussia. Atalanta also advanced at the last matchday, winning 1-0 away at Ajax. Overall, look out for tons of goals as both defenses have been shipping a lot of goals. We expect Real to beat Atalanta 5-4 on aggregate. 

Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund

This tie is probably the hardest one to predict given how each team has been playing. Sevilla won the Europa League and finished 4th in La Liga last year, making it a successful first season for manager Julien Lopetegui. This year, however, they have been quite average domestically and got smashed 4-0 at home against Chelsea in this year’s group stage. Still, they are usually a force in Europe and the signing of ex-Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic will be huge for the experience and morale of the team. Dortmund, on the other hand, has been infuriating to watch. At times they play beautiful football, beating teams by 4 or 5 goals. Other times they lose games they should win. This season alone they have lost 2-0 to Augsburg, 2-1 to Koln, 5-1 to Stuttgart and 2-1 to Union Berlin, all teams that should be fighting to avoid relegation. They also lost in this very round of the Champions League for the past two seasons. These poor results have made Dortmund sack manager Lucien Favre, hiring Edin Terzic in the interim. It is so hard to say how they will be playing by the time this fixture arrives. But Dortmund has a lot of potential, and they have better players than Sevilla. For this reason, we will say they will scrape by, specifically by an aggregate score of 4-3. 

Porto vs Juventus

Finally, we have Porto and Juventus. Juventus was in an easy group and they managed to top it, in large part because of a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou, Barcelona’s Stadium. Porto went through as runners-up to Manchester City in their group, playing pretty well. In this clash Juventus should be the huge favorites, not just because they have Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world, but because they have more quality and depth than Porto in almost every position. Porto will have to rely on a solid defense, led by ex-Real Madrid center back Pepe, and will need to score goals with their attack of Mehdi Tahremi, Mousa Marega and Felipe Anderson. They will have to play nearly perfect to win. Juventus have won the last 9 Serie A titles, and even though they have been inconsistent this season and even though they got upset in the Round of 16 last season against Lyon, we think they have the experience to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

THE NBA BUBBLE : A Major Win Among The Losses

By Griffin Feather

The NBA is back just a few short months since the end of the one-of-a-kind end to the 2020 season. This rapid turnaround, like most things during the pandemic, is unprecedented in major league sports and poses all kinds of questions about the health and safety of the players. But one thing that has gone unchallenged as we look back at the end of the NBA season is this: the NBA bubble of the 2019-2020 season in Orlando was an incredible success; a truly good story in the midst of many terrible ones. Not only did it provide people with a welcome distraction during the monotony of the pandemic, but it also created a sense of normalcy for fans of the game. For many basketball fans like myself, having these games available was one of the best escapes from the toll of lockdown. But what made it work? This simple question is one worth looking into if we want to see more sports leagues return as well and safely as they can. 

The reason the bubble can be deemed as a success amid so many terrible outcomes is that there were  zero coronavirus cases reported during its entire run. That’s right– zero. Not many organizations or corporations can claim such a miraculous number. Perhaps even more remarkable than that is how the league valued the health and safety of their players. For one, they had daily and organized coronavirus tests for all of the players. This was an essential medical safeguard required for participation in the bubble. If anyone tested positive, all the games would be cancelled. I suspect the reason none of the players tested positive was due to the tight restrictions mandated by the NBA, and, with few exceptions, the cooperation of the players and teams. No player was allowed to leave the bubble, a rule making life difficult for players with families, but it was the first rule to ensure safe play. Once they arrived, they stayed for the duration of their season. This meant that everyone stayed sealed off from society beyond their enclosed NBA world, making it much harder to contract the virus. This was a challenge mentally, emotionally and even physically for the players, as it was an unfamiliar and lonely lifestyle. They were not able to see their loved ones, and didn’t have the freedom they normally would. 

That said, there were uspides to the new world they inhabited. Players were able to enjoy time getting to know other players who would usually be far away in different cities. I learned about a lot of bonds created in the bubble experiment, a little gift in a time when most people felt alone. In a comprehensive GQ article on the bubble by Taylor Rooks, I learned that Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers got to spend time with Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers. They talked about their experiences in the league and how their own bubble situations were going. Stories like these showed friendships forged among previous strangers, an unusual thing to happen for people in a pandemic. Additionally, players were able to catch up with members of their old franchises, as well as their former coaches. DeMar DeRozan talked with Masai Ujiri, general manager of his old team, the Raptors, and it makes me wonder what other connections may have been created or reborn in this strange setting. 

It also seemed to me that the bubble strengthened individual team bonds. Since they were all living together in this bizarre, high-end summer camp, they had a lot more time to get to know each other. Yet, however great all of these fun and gossipy pieces of the scene were, they were far from the very best thing to come out of the bubble. The goal of the league and commissioner Adam Silver was a certain thing above all else: keep the players one hundred percent healthy and focused on their game. The league implemented protocols and routines related only to basketball and safety, and to their immense credit, it worked. 

However, the league now faces a new challenge. This challenge will be the start of the new season, already going strong. There is no more NBA bubble. It was likely an impossible sell to get players to return to bubble life after a mere two-month offseason, so the league went in a different direction. The players will no longer be constantly monitored by the NBA in the way they were in Orlando. This also means they will no longer be isolated and will have some of the freedoms they previously lacked. They will get to see who they want and when they want– within reason– without the monitoring of the NBA. This could become a huge problem, because they will also be traveling city to city instead of staying in one place. The spread of the virus will be much easier in this non-isolated setting. A basketball analyst from the New York Times said, “They will not be playing once a week, as teams do in the NFL. They will not be playing a sport with baked-in social distancing, a la Major League Baseball. They will be playing a game teeming with contact and face-to-face interactions – and, unlike football, baseball and soccer, they will be doing it indoors.” Worth noting too is that the NCAA’s college basketball tournament has just been announced to be fully hosted by Indiana, in, you guessed it, a bubble. For now, I can only hope things in the NBA remain as they did last season: safe, fun, competitive, virus-free, and the best escape from pandemic gloom that I can think of. Long live the NBA, in the bubble or out. 

Being a Girl In Sports and the Ongoing Fight Against Feminine Stereotypes

By Isabella Argote

Imagine being a girl who has played sports her whole life. You love everything about being a part of a team, from the thrill of your first match, to the adrenaline rush and broad smile you get when your team wins. But when you look around, excited to share your victory with your peers, there’s no one at your game. In class the next day, you’re talking with your fellow classmates, sharing something about the game you’ve cherished and played for years. “You play sports?” they ask somewhat incredulously, “Really?” For some reason, they can’t seem to get it through their heads that someone who looks like you could even be capable of kicking or throwing a ball, let alone be passionate about it.  

Up2Us Sports is a non-profit organization based in New York City. They recruit, support and train coaches to serve as mentors to youth living in low-income areas who participate in sports activities run by Up2Us Sports member programs across the country. On October 29th, Up2Us Sports held a webinar as part of its Young Voices Series, which featured five teens from Up2Us Sports member program Oakland Lacrosse. These five student-athletes shared their experiences in the world of sports from the perspective of teenage girls. 

The girls began the virtual conversation by talking about gender stereotypes, and how these stereotypes have shaped them as athletes and women. From when they were little girls and played pick up games with boys at their school during recess or on weekends, the girls recounted how the boys would be laughed at for being beat by a girl. The girls also recalled how they were often told, “Wow, you’re good at basketball…for a girl.” At first, the girls said, the statements sounded like compliments. However, the more they reflected, the clearer it became that these comments were not complimentary at all, they were sexist and an example of just how early in life boys and girls are conditioned to believe in such insidious stereotypes. After all, why should boys be made to feel ashamed of losing to a talented girl? And why should anyone be surprised by the fact that a girl is great at sports?

The girls then went on to talk about how society has led girls to believe they shouldn’t play sports because sports aren’t “feminine.” The participants noted that they had heard female classmates exclaim that they didn’t want to be stronger, or have more muscles than their boyfriends. To be desirable, girls should be weak, or at least less powerful than their male counterparts. The girls also talked about the fact that as they got older, their enthusiasm to beat the guys, slowly dissipated. They became less focused on defining their experiences through a focus on boys. The girls on the call admitted that at one point, all of them had wanted to join their respective high school’s football teams but that they were either laughed at or discouraged, and were told they would never make it because they were too “small,” and would be crushed.

They then went on to discuss some of the differences in the sports experience for boys and girls. For instance, men’s teams at their schools generally tend to get more attention, while very few people show up to support the girls. This lack of enthusiasm from others often further discourages more girls from trying new sports out, because no one wants to be a part of something that is shoved into a corner and shut in the dark. They also pointed out the differences in uniforms. Two of the girls mentioned that they had wanted to be on the volleyball team, but weren’t comfortable with the amount of skin that they had to show. Even in girl’s lacrosse, a lot of teams require girls to wear skirts. Girls are running hundreds of yards, trying to pull their skirts down as they rise.

Finally, they addressed some other differences between boy’s and girl’s lacrosse. When a lot of them joined the team, they had been excited about getting to tackle their opponents. But girls lacrosse does not allow tackling, and one girl said that it’s really easy for them to rack up fouls when they play, because the slightest push is seen as too aggressive. Girls don’t even get to wear padding, yet guys’ uniforms are so full of extra equipment to protect them from the rougher version of the game.

In the end, while the amazing student-athletes from Oakland Lacrosse painted a picture of an ongoing struggle for equity in sports and in life, I felt  hopeful after this important conversation.  After all, with young women like these in the world, there is no doubt that we will continue to progress, not just in sports but in life.  

Champions League Group Stage Recap

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The group stage of the Champions League has officially come to an end. The 16 teams that will go on to the Round of 16 are set, and the 8 third-place teams that will head to the Europa League (the second tier of European champion soccer) are set as well. Everything is set to go for February, where the Round of 16 games will occur. In these games, each team has a turn to play at home, meaning 2 games per group. The winner of either more games or the scorer of more goals advances to the next round. The group stage was very interesting, with huge upsets, Cinderella stories, and an improbable ending. Here, we will be reviewing how the Group Stage went for every club and what went right or wrong. 

Groups A-D (Diego):

FINAL TABLE: Group A

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Bayern Munich165-1-0+1318/5
2Atletico Madrid92-3-1-17/8
3RB Salzburg41-1-4-710/17
4Lokomotiv Moscow30-3-3-55/10

The expectation for this group was that Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid would go through, and there were no surprises in that department. Bayern are the current treble winners, winning the league, domestic cup, and Champions League and are the favorites to repeat as the winners of the Champions League. They absolutely stormed through this group, including a very impressive 4-0 win against Atletico Madrid. Last year, they were the only team in Champions League history to win every single game. That won’t happen again, as they dropped the second game to Atletico but it was a game that didn’t matter, as they were so good that they had already won the group in 4 games! Atletico Madrid actually struggled to advance, losing the aforementioned 4-0 game to Bayern and drawing twice with Lokomotiv Moscow. But in the last game vs RB Salzburg, they won 2-0 to go through. American coach Jesse March’s RB Salzburg are a thrilling side to watch, and they played very well despite not managing to move on. Despite what the score lines might say, they played well vs Bayern Munich both times. 3rd place is a decent achievement for them, and I’m excited to see them in the Europa League. Last and definitely least, Lokomotiv Moscow did have some decent moments, such as two draws vs. Atletico, but they don’t have a good enough squad to compete with these teams, and they finished in 4th.

FINAL TABLE: Group B

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Real Madrid103-1-2+211/9
2Borussia Monchengladbach82-2-2+716/9
3Shakhtar Donetsk82-2-2-75/12
4Inter Milan61-3-2-27/9

This group was absolute madness, as detailed in Lucien’s article about how it was a perfect storm. First, there was Shakhtar Donetsk, who shocked the world by beating Real Madrid 3-2 in Madrid despite having over 10 players missing with COVID-19, and then beat them again 2-0 in an insane series. They also got two draws against Inter Milan. But all of that was for nothing, as they got crushed by a combined 10 goal against Borussia Monchengladbach and crashed into the Europa League. Monchengladbach surprisingly went through, in large part because of those two games. They also tied once vs Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Inter Milan were a huge disappointment in this group. Not only did they not qualify but they finished in 4th. Their only hope to advance was beating Shakhtar Donetsk, But they couldn’t do it. They drew 0-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk. Finally, we have Real Madrid, who had one of the craziest group stages I have ever seen. They lost twice to Shakhtar, as mentioned before, but won twice vs Inter Milan. They tied Monchengladbach the first time in the last minute, so entering the last matchday they needed a win to advance. Somewhat surprisingly, they won comfortably vs Monchengladbach and somehow won this surprisingly crazy group. 

FINAL TABLE: Group C

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Manchester City165-1-0+1213/1
2Porto134-1-1+710/3
3Olympiacos31-0-5-82/10
4Olympique Marseille31-0-5-112/13

In this group, Manchester City, as expected, dominated the competition. They won 5 out of their 6 games, with their only blemish being a 0-0 draw with Porto which was enough to clinch top spot in the group. Porto also went through without much of a problem, smashing Marseille and Olympiacos in all 4 of their games against them. The latter two sides really didn’t have much to offer. Marseille in particular were really disappointing, only scoring 2 goals and going 1-0-5. Olympiacos gets third place and a Europa League spot due to goal differential.

FINAL TABLE: Group D

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Liverpool134-1-1+710/3
2Atalanta113-2-1+210/8
3Ajax72-1-307/7
4Midtjylland20-2-4-94/13

When this draw was made, the biggest question of this group was who would go through between Ajax and Atalanta. Liverpool were the big favorites to win the group, let alone advance, and they did so comfortably despite having many injuries. New side Midtjylland were in the Champions League for the first time in their history and were naturally huge underdogs in every game they played. They did reasonably well by getting two draws, but still got 4th in the group. As was suspected, it came down to the final matchday between Atalanta and Ajax, where Atalanta won 1-0. Gasperini’s Atalanta will progress and will try to repeat some of last year’s magic, where they nearly made the semifinals. Ajax will drop down to the Europa League for the second year in a row, and I think they have a good shot at winning it. 

Groups E-H (Lucien):

FINAL TABLE: Group E

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Chelsea144-2-01214/2
2Sevilla134-1-119/8
3Krasnodar51-2-3-56/11
4Rennes10-1-5-83/11

Here we have Group E, a rather easy group for both European Giants Sevilla and Chelsea, no surprises here. That said, Sevilla’s defense is an issue, and it shows. Sevilla conceded 8 goals in just 6 matches, which in the grand scheme of football, isn’t a lot. But half of those goals were against Chelsea, where they got hammered 4-0 at home. Their offense is also shaky. But this is classic Sevilla, they show less than what they really are, and other teams know this. Sevilla will be no pushover, especially after their incredible run last year in the Europa League, winning the whole thing against Inter Milan. In some way or another, they’ll manage to do well. Now to Chelsea. They stocked up on players this Champions League campaign, and can go far as one of the strongest teams in the league. Last year’s loss to Bayern is in the past. Their defense is 100 times better, and their offense now has an identity. With Krasnodar, they’ve been expected to crash out completely. But they made it to Europa league, so good for them. Finally Rennes, as debutantes of the Champions League, there’s no surprise they got hammered by every team they faced. Extremely poor showing from them, especially for a team who came third in Ligue 1, the top tier of French football. Everything went wrong.

FINAL TABLE: Group F

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Dortmund134-1-1712/5
2Lazio102-4-0411/7
3Club Brugge82-2-2-28/10
4Zenit 10-1-5-94/13

Just like Group E, no surprises here. Dortmund’s offense and defense are stronger than ever, and they will be contenders this year if Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland can keep form. Lazio are not as strong as many thought they were. Their offense is strong, with Ciro Immobile, Milinkovic Savic, and Luis Alberto leading the reins, but their defense is an issue, conceding 7 goals to their opponent, leading to their staggering 4 draws. Club Brugge almost ran away with an upset against Lazio to go on to the Round of 16, but are now in the Europa League, where they are most certainly one of the stronger teams. A few more pieces on defense and they will be a true force to be reckoned with. Lastly, and most disappointingly, let’s talk about Zenit St. Petersburg. Zenit are the strongest team in the Russian Premier League, and they have a well rounded team. However, their attack stalled and their defense was no match for the likes of Lazio nor Dortmund. It’s disappointing that they couldn’t even make the Europa League.

FINAL TABLE: Group G

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Juventus155-0-11014/4
2Barcelona155-0-11116/5
3Dynamo Kyiv41-1-4-94/13
4Ferencvaros10-1-5-125/17

Still no surprises here. Both of this group’s giants, Juventus and Barcelona, have gone through with minimal issues. Both have good defenses and fantastic offenses, even for a Barcelona team who is struggling in the League. Dynamo Kyiv barely scraped together 4 points but it was enough for Europa League. As for Ferencvaros…  no comment.

FINAL TABLE: Group H

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Paris Saint-Germain124-0-2713/6
2RB Leipzig124-0-2-111/12
3Manchester United93-0-3510/5
4Basaksehir31-0-5-117/18

Finally, Group H. Considered by many to be the real “Group of Death” this year, it came down to the last game of the stage. RB Leipzig had to beat Manchester United to advance on, and Paris Saint-Germain breezed through Basaksehir. Leipzig prevailed once again, coming back from a 5-0 loss at Old Trafford to shock Manchester United, reach the 2nd place spot, and go on to the knockout stage. Manchester United could have made an improbable run to the round of 16 but yet again, disaster struck. They lost 3 straight games and bounced out on their way to the Europa League. Istanbul Basaksehir could have ran away with a win against RB Leipzig, but faltered because of their incompetence to close out games whilst holding a lead. They can potentially build on this in the future but for now, they should focus on their domestic league. 

The history of “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco”

By Sammy Bovitz 

“Steal a Base, Steal a Taco.” Somehow, over the last few years, this statement in a Taco Bell advertisement has ingrained itself within our culture. And yet, there is no historical analysis of this yearly event. Let’s change that.

What taco are we even getting?

In essence, the “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion follows one core rule: If someone steals a base during the World Series, the entire United States will get a free taco from Taco Bell, and the player who did the deed is labeled a “Taco Hero.” Now, the particular kind of taco has changed over the years. For the first three years of the promotion (2007-8, 2012), it was simply a standard taco. But when Taco Bell returned with the promotion in 2015, they realized they could leverage it to promote a specific item. So they decided to give America free “AM Crunchwraps,” which now appear to be called Breakfast Crunchwraps. After another hiatus, Taco Bell returned in 2016 with what has been the staple ever since: the Doritos Locos Taco. It’s an objectively incredible name. 

Stealing tacos, by the numbers

With his stealing of second base this year, Mookie Betts became the greatest taco-stealer of all time. He’s the only one to have ever won free tacos for America twice. Since the ad campaign has only been run nine times, I don’t have many insights to offer you. Still, there are a few. Every single time, the base in question has been second. What’s more, the team that contains the Taco Hero is 7-2 in the years the promotion has been in effect. They could’ve been 8-1 if not for a Game 7 loss to the Cubs suffered by Taco Hero Francisco Lindor of Cleveland. There are no other particularly interesting trends, and I could’ve just ended this report here.

But I have way too much time on my hands. So I’ve scored every World Series from 1970-2020 acting like Taco Bell had an ongoing promotion in all of them.

50 years of tacos

If Taco Bell had been running “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco” for 50 years (never thought I’d say that sentence), Mookie Betts would not be the only two-time Taco Hero. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and 4x All-Star Chuck Knoblauch would join him in this artificial cheese-flavored pantheon in this scenario. Not only that, a whopping 34 of the 48 unique base-stealers were All-Stars, with 9 of them being Hall of Famers.  It’s also interesting that there wasn’t a huge correlation between taco earnings and the result of the actual Series, with the taco hero’s team going 27-23 total. Another interesting tidbit is that if free tacos were around, only two of the bases that granted them would be third base, and there’s even one instance where the first stolen base of the Series was a double steal of second and third! Note that if you aren’t excited by this, I do not blame you, but I’m a nerd and this is what I love.

It’s also interesting the number of elite pitchers that have given America free tacos. 28 of the 49 unique pitchers were All-Stars, including a Hall of Fame-level class of guys like Jack Morris, Catfish Hunter, Burt Hooton, and the only one to give up hypothetical free tacos twice in Greg Maddux. These pitchers are all legends and it’s fascinating to see that they’ve given up stolen bases so quickly. Finally, of the 43 unique catchers who weren’t able to stop an avalanche of tacos, 23 of them were All-Stars, including some of the greatest catchers of all time like Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk, and Thurman Munson. It may just be that World Series-level players play on World Series-level teams, but it’s still amazing that if free tacos existed for 50 years, some of the best players of those times would’ve been a part of the moments that granted them.

How many lifetimes?

Finally, Taco Bell has estimated that they’ve given out around $10 million in free tacos thus far. Judging by the base price of a Doritos Locos Taco- $2.29– one can estimate that about 4.36 million tacos could be given out each year. If someone were to eat a Doritos Locos Taco three meals a day and survive, the free ones given out through 2020 would be plenty. Judging by the average US male life expectancy of 78.54 years, the free tacos that have actually been given out could last someone nearly 50.7 lifetimes. The math’s a bit shaky, but the idea of a free taco given out because of the World Series could generate 50.7 lifetimes’ worth of food in just nine years is positively insane.

Champions League Group B is a Perfect Storm

By Lucien Betancourt

Champions League football is back and the group stages are in full swing, where exciting upsets and disappointing performances abound! In case you don’t know, the Champions League is a European football league where the top clubs in every league that is a part of UEFA (or, Union of European Football Associations) play in a tournament where four teams are divided into eight groups. The top two teams of each group go on to the knockout stage and compete for the Champions League trophy. Currently, the group stages are in their three-week break until matchday four starts again on November 24th. As of now, multiple groups have two clear favorites to advance on to the Knockout Stage. However, some groups have been competitive amongst three of the four teams. These are labeled as “Groups of Death,” or groups where there are really strong teams throughout. In these groups, any team may take the top spot. Every point, every goal scored and conceded, every chance created, and every shot on goal matters. One such group is a competition between Group B, which is arguably the most heated of the groups. As of this writing, the group is as follows:

Group BW-D-LPoints
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-2-05
Shakhtar Donetsk1-1-14
Real Madrid1-1-14
Internazionale Milan (Inter Milan)0-2-12

Notice that all four teams are within three points of each other. Each of these teams in the group has unique styles of play and tactics to try and counter each other, which has led to intense competition among these four teams. Every team is capable of topping the group or at least finishing in the top two. Now, for the statistical outcomes for each team’s chances to reach the knockout stage, I’ll be looking at each team’s overall possession, goals scored/goals against, shots on goal/shots on target, and passes completed. I’ll also be analyzing every team’s theoretical outcomes for the next three games using these statistics, as well as their chances at the Champions League trophy.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Joining the Champions League for the first time since 2016, they have put on a show, beating Group B favorites Real Madrid and Internazionale (or Inter) Milan. They also shocked Shakhtar Donetsk with a 6-0 battering of a team that was good enough to beat Real Madrid. With 10 goals scored and 4 goals conceded, they boast the 2nd best offense in the league after their Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich. With 384.66 passes per game out of 496 passes attempted, a 40.33% possession rate, and 77.53% completion rate, their attack works well on counterattacks and quick pass plays from their defensive third to the midfield and wings of the offensive third. With their favorable 4-2-3-1 formation (two defenders, two center defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders, and a lone forward), they rely on a defensive game that scores goals with little possession. This gives them the advantage in the offensive third as the opposing team presses high, while the defenders give ground. Their chance of going through to the knockout stage in this Group of Death is relatively high at 73% because of their playstyle perfectly countering their opponents and forcing draws and wins against them. Their chance of winning the Champions League, however, is low, at a mere 24%. They have the capabilities to exploit gaps in these weaker European giants but they are little to no match for teams such as FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, or Juventus. Those teams have a well-rounded offensive and midfield play that know how to counter this exploit with a dominant defense that knows how to deal with these types of plays. Even though some of these giants are missing key players, they have adequate subs to fill in that specific role and the knockout stage doesn’t start until January, so they’ll be ready to go.

Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar Donetsk are regulars in the Champions League. Their winning of the Ukrainian Premier League for the past six years has given them an automatic placement in the group stage during that span. They have had experience facing tough European giants such as Manchester City, so they prove to entertain as underdogs. This year was no different. In the first game of the season, they upset Real Madrid in their home stadium 3-2. What made it even more incredible was how many of their starters were out on injury or sick leave, so the B-team faced and beat Real Madrid for them. They then hosted Inter Milan and drew 0-0. Unfortunately, their Cinderella story met its match against Borussia Monchengladbach, where their returning starters were crushed 6-0 at home. Alassane Plea scored a hat trick and their defense was torn apart by Borussia’s unique style of football that favors counter-attacks. Despite what their goals scored/conceded ratio of ⅜ might say, they are otherwise pretty impressive. They have an 85.2% passing completion rate, completing 439.66 passes per game out of 516 attempts per game, and have a 45.66% average possession rate. They depend on possession to win games, as most of theirs lies in the midfield third. This can also be the reason for why their playstyle didn’t work against Borussia. With this loss, Shakhtar Donetsk’s chance of going to the knockout stage is at just 40%, not just because of their loss to Borussia, but also because Real Madrid is back at full strength. They also don’t have the flexibility to adapt to new play styles on the fly so they will likely falter against Borussia again. Their chance to win the Champions League is almost non-existent, at 6%

Real Madrid

Real Madrid are common favorites for the Champions League throne, as they are one of the largest teams in the world and are the current champions of La Liga, the highest tier of Spanish soccer. They were favorites to top Group B this year, but the start to their campaign was a terrible one. They lost 3-2 to the aforementioned injury-plagued Shakhtar Donetsk team and fell to the bottom of Group B. Across their last three games, they’ve had a combined total of both 7 goals scored and conceded, which is a perfect 1:1 ratio but not good by their standards. They have had a total of 1,871 passes completed of 2,158 attempts and an 85.53% completion rate. They have also had an average of 60.33% possession across their games, boasting the highest possession rate in the group. Their playstyle is fairly standard, passing from the back and using the wing-backs as wide midfielders to slowly move the ball up the field. This tactic usually works against teams that try to control the midfield, such as Inter Milan. But this tactic was nullified by Shakhtar Donetsk’s hard-nosed defensive mentality as well as Borussia Monchengladbach’s shallow play and counterattack focus. Their failure is also due to how Sergio Ramos, their key center back, was out injured for their first game, which was a loss. His impact was shown when they played Inter Milan on matchday three, where they escaped with a win and three points. Their failures are also due to their incapabilities to adapt to new players on the fly, as well as their already weakened defense that is missing Ramos, Varane, and Carvajal, their three starting defenders, among other key players, to injury. With this, their chance of advancing to the knockout stage is also relatively low at 45%, just a bit higher than Shakhtar Donetsk’s because of goal differential. Their chance of winning the Champions League is around 30%, and I’d put it at 32% if they get to full strength by January. If not, they will struggle and be eliminated.

Inter Milan

Inter Milan came in as second place in Serie A behind the champion Juventus. They had high hopes of going far in the Champions League but as of matchday three, they are the most disappointing team in the group. Being favorites alongside Real Madrid, they were expected to go on to the knockout stage. But now, their hope of even making it is grim. With only two points and a goals scored/conceded ratio of ⅘, they are performing poorly, especially when they are expected to be an elite club. They have 1452 passes completed out of 1745 attempts, with an 82.63% completion rate. They also have an average possession of 53.66% across their three games. Inter Milan’s playstyle is midfield-heavy, as they play in a 3-5-2 formation, with the midfield creating a W formation and the wide midfielders dropping back as wing-backs or going up as wingers. This, along with coach Antonio Conte’s poor choices in the midfield, are the major causes for their failures. While the 3-5-2 formation works against teams with a hard defensive line, it doesn’t work against teams like Shakhtar Donetsk or Borussia Monchengladbach, who use long crosses to exploit Inter’s weak back 3. Not only that, their defenders are slow and lack that vital wing-back role to counter this exploit. Other than that, their offense has been decent, at the very least better than their subpar defense and midfield. Their chance to advance is low at 27% due to the strength of the group. They will either finish last in their group or perhaps head to the Europa League, the second tier of European football. Their chance to win the overall tournament, like Shakhtar Donetsk, is extremely low at 2%. 

Conclusion

There are still three more games to be played to reach match day six on December 9th. On that day, the standings would be set in stone, along with knockout stage and Europa League spots. There’s still plenty of time for teams to turn things around. Some may rise, some may fall, but for Group B, it will be a matter of who scores the most goals and concedes the least. Whatever happens, this group will end in a thriller.

The Dodgers have (finally) won the World Series. Now what?

By Sammy Bovitz

I’ve been a Los Angeles Dodgers fan since I was three years old. And while there are certainly teams that suffer more, the baseball universe seems like it’s been out to get me since 2011. That was the year that Clayton Kershaw won his first Cy Young award and Matt Kemp finished second in MVP– though he should have finished first– and yet, the Dodgers missed the playoffs. And since 2013, the Dodgers have won the NL West title every year. Yet they always blew it. 2013 saw Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw collapse while the Dodgers lineup was shut down by some guy named Michael Wacha. In 2014, NL MVP Clayton Kershaw had a comfortable 2-0 lead, only to blow it with a 3-run seventh, as our rival Giants won their third championship in 5 years. In 2015, 30-year old Daniel Murphy absolutely exploded and we lost to the Mets of all teams. 2016 saw a National League Championship Series that had Clayton Kershaw blow it with only 2 more wins needed to reach the World Series. 

But 2017 felt different,  the Dodgers won 104 games and were the best team in all of baseball. They made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series, where just one win gets them the title Dodgers fans had been waiting for since 1988. Yet midseason trade acquisition Yu Darvish blew it and the opposing Astros won the World Series. Now we know that the Astros were cheating throughout the season and postseason to win it, which added more pain to this 2020 season. Not to mention a thorough loss to the Boston Red Sox in 5 games in the 2018 World Series, or a Division Series loss to the eventual World Series champion, last year’s Nationals, who beat– you guessed it– the Astros. The Dodgers have been contenders for years, but the heartbreak fans feel has been real– and 2020 looked to be more of the same. Most of the 2019 core looked to return, and that core looked like a championship-winning core. But there was no reason to believe the year was going to be any different.

And then the Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts, the second-best player in all of baseball. Of course, a life-altering pandemic delayed the season by a few months, but when the time finally came to fight for, ahem, a “piece of metal,” the Dodgers were ready. They dominated in the regular season, winning 43 of their total 60 games. In baseball, games are grouped into series of 2, 3, or 4. It is normal for even the best of teams to lose tons of these series. The Dodgers lost one all regular season, and Mookie Betts looked incredible. Corey Seager had an MVP level year, and Clayton Kershaw was still brilliant… and yet there were still doubts. 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger regressed, Justin Turner’s age began to show, and Walker Buehler, while still good, did not match the brilliance of his 2019 campaign as a starting pitcher. Not only that, the challenging San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, and Houston Astros were all waiting in the wings to battle the Dodgers in the playoffs, which had been expanded for this bizarre baseball season. 

The Dodgers, despite being the number one seed and having the best record in baseball, had to play 10 games in 13 days against the Padres and Braves, and that was only after having to play an extra series against the Brewers. The Dodgers almost blew it against the Braves, as they went down 3-1 in the series. Dodgers fans immediately had their thoughts go to a dark place. But LA came back to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. Now, despite the Rays being the number 1 seed in their league, they didn’t seem like too much of a threat going into the playoffs. But then, Randy Arozarena had possibly the greatest hitting postseason of all time: I was scared. The Dodgers almost blew it again, with a Game 4 heartbreak that felt both eerily familiar and terribly painful. In Game 6, the Dodgers were being shut down by 2019 Cy Young winner Blake Snell, and it seemed like LA may have had to go to another Game 7. But then the Rays took him out of the game, and the Dodgers pounded the bullpen for 3 runs to win the World Series. I am very happy, but now we need to discuss several things that have come up in the aftermath of the weirdest baseball postseason of the century. 


First of all, the fact that removing Snell from the game was the only way the Dodgers could have won the Series is wrong. I do agree that it was a terrible decision by manager Kevin Cash, but let’s consider that this perfectly aligns with Cash’s strategy all postseason in terms of how he conserves his starters while emptying his bullpen. Not only that, the Dodgers had the better Series, and won 4 games to the Rays’ 2. But that’s the fan in me, so let’s move past that. 

Next is the subject of Mookie Betts. Was he worth 12 years and $365 million dollars? Well, if my reaction was anything to go by, his Game 6 homer was absolutely priceless. 

Third was the controversy of veteran leader Justin Turner testing positive for COVID-19 and then running back out on the field to celebrate with his teammates. This was dumb and sets a terrible example. But there’s a reason MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was booed to the heavens when he said this season has been “challenging for all of us.” The MLB’s statement on Wednesday was a farce, and while I’m not excusing Turner, I am certainly not placing the blame squarely on him. Major League Baseball didn’t use a bubble system like the NBA and let in tens of thousands of fans to watch the World Series in the middle of a pandemic. 

But now let’s be pragmatic and answer a common question: where do the Dodgers go from here? I’m extremely excited that one of my teams has finally won a championship after all this suffering, but Mookie Betts says they aren’t done. I wish I completely agreed, but looking at this team tells a different story. This winter, Justin Turner, utility player Kike Hernandez, key reliever Blake Treinen, and slugger Joc Pederson are all free agents and could all easily go elsewhere, depleting the Dodgers’ depth. Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Walker Buehler are all getting older and will all enter unrestricted free agency. Each of them knows they deserve and will receive tens of millions on the open market, and while the Dodgers are rich, they don’t have unlimited money. I am ridiculously happy for Clayton Kershaw, but he’ll turn 33 before the 2021 season begins. His worst years are better than most pitchers’ best years, but injury concerns means he’ll only be able to pitch as a number two starter for so much longer. Sure, Mookie will still be around– and as long as we have him, we’ve got a shot at the postseason– but the team around him might become real shaky real fast. 2021 is the last year where most of this core looks to be sticking around. Luckily, the Dodgers have a top-class minor league system and they are brilliant at finding diamonds in the rough. Ask Turner himself, who may not even be in the majors right now if not for what the Dodgers have done to his swing. The Dodgers will still be around, and should at least win the division for a little while longer. But the question of what’s next is now going to hang over the coming seasons, and I’m both excited and terrified to find out. 

A 2020 MLB Season Preview, as told by mascots – Part 2

By Sammy Bovitz

This season is (hopefully) getting closer and closer. This article is going to continue to break down the 2020 MLB season from the perspective of our furry friends– this mascots. This is part 2–the National League. 

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Baxter the Bobcat is feeling a bit better. The Diamondbacks have gone through a rough patch as of late, but signing pitcher Madison Bumgarner certainly helps. In addition, infielder Ketel Marte has been a revelation, and was considered by many as a possible MVP candidate. Third, the Diamondbacks’ horrible-looking uniforms were cleaned up by Nike this offseason to ensure the Diamondbacks could actually look okay when they play well. 

Atlanta Braves:

Blooper is feeling ready. The Braves, starring outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., are finally ready to contend. They did lose third baseman Josh Donaldson, but added slugger Marcell Ozuna and locked up reliever Will Smith to a long-term contract. This team has nearly no holes, and it will be exciting to see how Blooper and company take on the league this year. 

Chicago Cubs:

Clark is feeling great. Yeah, he’s so great! Everything’s normal and good!  If you couldn’t tell, Clark is a bit nervous. The Cubs hired a new manager in David Ross, who famously retired after winning the championship with them as a catcher in 2016. This seems like a very desperate move for a team that is clearly no longer in its prime. Much of the championship core has declined, not because of age but merely in skill, and trade rumors now swirl around Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who 5 years ago seemed like they would win multiple championships together in Chicago. 

Cincinnati Reds: 

Mr. Red is feeling like no one is noticing how cool he is. This team has talent, but they always lose. Their pitching always seems to improve slightly, and their lineup looks great on paper, but somehow this team can’t break through and reach the playoffs. Mr. Red is getting frustrated and wants to find a solution to this problem. 

Colorado Rockies:

Dinger the Dinosaur is feeling prehistoric. The high elevation of Coors Field carrying the team to home runs and wins is still a lingering storyline. The Rockies continue to have no pitching and now star third baseman Nolan Arenado is mad. Dinger really wants this to turn around, and fast. 

Los Angeles Dodgers:

The Dodgers fanbase is feeling heartbroken but hopeful.  The 2017 World Series was one of the most heartbreaking, amazing, and infuriating times for the Dodgers fanbase. But now, insult has been added to injury. The Astros were stealing signs the whole time. They were still a good team that season, but who knows what would’ve happened had Houston not cheated? Major League Baseball acted cowardly, only taking away a couple draft picks and fining the team. Dodgers fans don’t want the 2017 championship given to them retroactively, but they surely don’t want to keep it in Houston. Moreover, the Dodgers offseason has been terrib—

Sorry, I’m getting word the Dodgers have traded for Mookie Betts, one of the best players in all of baseball, giving up nothing vitally important. Things just got real in LA. 

Miami Marlins:

Billy the Marlin is feeling like the odd one out. The NBA has a contender for Miami in Jimmy Butler’s exciting Heat team. The Dolphins of the NFL are terrible, but there’s hope that this will all be worth it to get a franchise QB like Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. The rest of the National League East teams all have hope. This all makes Billy the Marlin feel alone. His team is bad, and it has no apparent savior on the way. It’s a tough life for Billy. 

Milwaukee Brewers: 

Bernie Brewer is feeling just fine. The Brewers have a pretty solid team. They still have not fixed their pitching problem, but 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich is still going strong as this team’s enduring sign of hope. Also, it should be mentioned that the Brewers finally brought back one of the greatest logos of all time to be their full-time primary logo: the iconic ball-in-glove that also shows the team’s initials. If you’ve never seen the logo, enjoy seeing it for the first time below. You only get to see it for the first time once. 

New York Mets:

Mr. Met is feeling like he can’t get his hopes up. The Mets have improved, that much is for sure. Star pitcher Jacob deGrom, and sluggers Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil are three legitimate All-Stars to get your hopes up around. But as Mr. Met has learned, it’s never that simple in Queens. This team has gone through injury and collapsed faster than you can say “Yoenis Cespedes.” Mr. Met has to be cautiously optimistic to keep up with this team, and that’s what he’s been doing. 

Philadelphia Phillies: 

The Philly Phanatic is feeling a bit underpaid. After last offseason, where $400 million in contracts were shelled out, the Phanatic got excited. Yet his team didn’t make the playoffs. He is one of the most iconic mascots on Earth, and if all these players are being paid so much to lose, why shouldn’t he be rewarded for sticking with them? He wants a larger contract… and an agent. 

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Pirate Parrot is feeling cheap. The Pirates are almost devoid of any talent or recognizable names. Their payroll is among the lowest in the league and they don’t seem to have a ton of prospects coming in. Their predicament is very similar to the Tigers, but, unlike the Tigers, the Pirates’ owner does not want to spend on any players, instead preferring to trade them. Therefore, the Pirate Parrot has to sit and watch as his team walks the plank.

San Diego Padres: 

Swinging Friar is feeling loved again. After years of mediocre play and generic uniforms, the Padres brought back the beloved brown and yellow combination just in time for Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer to continue to rise the ranks of the NL West. Too bad the two will be making a combined $480 million over the duration of their contracts, meaning the team has almost no financial flexibility. 

San Francisco Giants:

Lou Seal is feeling nostalgic. In 5 years, his friends won 3 championships. Whatever happened to those? With a terrible team and weak minor league prospects, Lou Seal’s team won’t reach championship heights for a long time.

St. Louis Cardinals: 

Fredbird is feeling okay. Losing Marcell Ozuna to the Braves hurts. Of course it does. But the Cardinals’ solid foundation means they will be just fine. Besides, the Cardinals locked up the real star of their team, Paul Goldschmidt, to an extension in 2019. They’ll be fine, right? Right? 

Washington Nationals: 

Screech is feeling like a true champion. His team won the 2019 World Series fair and square. While this feathered friend is sad about his buddy Anthony Rendon moving to LA, he’s happy he was a part of a championship team. Screech doesn’t want to just fly into the sunset, though. He likes this whole championship thing, and wants to do it again. 

Who will take the crown in 2020 and make their mascot proud? We’re going to find out… in about 6 months… or longer?

A 2020 MLB Season Preview, as told by mascots – Part 1

By Sammy Bovitz

Major League Baseball games are a lot of fun, and one of the most fun aspects of gameday experience are the mascots. They are everywhere, but they are especially prevalent in MLB, where 28 out of the league’s 30 teams have mascots. In this MLB Season Preview, we will check in on the mascots and see how they are feeling about their current teams. Note that for the Yankees and Dodgers, who do not have mascots, we will discuss their fanbases instead. Also, the Rally Monkey is not the Angels’ official mascot, but we’re going to include him for the sake of this piece. This is part 1–the American League. 

Boston Red Sox:

Wally the Green Monster is feeling upset. He’s been so happy for a while. His team won the 2018 World Series, sending him into another frenzy of happiness that every sports fan knows or dreams about. He even got to celebrate with his new little sister, Tessie! Then the 2019 season started and he was very sad. His team was losing and wasn’t going to make the playoffs. They even fired Wally’s good buddy and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, who was responsible for putting together the team that won! He was so sad, and once the offseason started, things somehow got worse. His other good buddy, right fielder Mookie Betts, was rumored to be getting traded, and his team was under investigation for cheating to win the World Series! Then, Mookie actually did get traded, and not only that, he went to the Dodgers, the team they beat to win in 2018! Even worse, they traded solid pitcher David Price, too, another one of Wally’s friends! Wally is now very upset, and hopes his team can make it up by having a strong 2020 season.

Baltimore Orioles:

The Oriole Bird is feeling honored.  Forget how bad his team has been lately. He’s going to be inducted this summer into the brand-new Mascot Hall of Fame! He is so excited, yet humbled by the honor.

Chicago White Sox: 

Southpaw is feeling on the rise. The White Sox had a fantastic offseason, signing catcher Yasmani Grandal, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, and pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel. This team is certainly much better for these moves, and their younger prospects are starting to mature. The question is whether it will be enough to sneak into the playoffs. 

Cleveland:

Slider is feeling relieved. Despite incessant (and frankly annoying) rumors that Slider’s best friend Francisco Lindor would get traded, both Lindor and Cleveland have reassured the baseball world that he is not going anywhere. Pitcher Corey Kluber did leave, but he’s been on the decline and, with a division that has two horrible teams, Cleveland should be fine and contend for a playoff spot all the same. 

Detroit Tigers:

Paws is feeling depressed. The Tigers are not good. They are paying a declining, 37-year old Miguel Cabrera 30 million dollars this year. They have very few promising prospects, and they still have a random assortment of veterans signed to short-term contracts. They have no direction and no plan, and it’s honestly sad. Paws understands this, but still holds out hope for the future, as any mascot should. 

Houston Astros: 

Orbit is feeling guilty. His team has been found guilty of a scandal. The Astros stole signs in order to win the 2017 World Series. This is terrible, and Orbit should have noticed. He feels horrible for letting this happen under his nose. He will only truly feel redeemed if his team wins the World Series fair and square. 

Los Angeles Angels:

The Rally Monkey is feeling excited. Even though the Angels still have not addressed their prominent pitching problem, they did sign marquee free agent Anthony Rendon to a 7-year contract, finally pairing Mike Trout with another star in his (and Rendon’s) prime years.

Kansas City Royals:

Sluggerr is feeling like a new mascot. He has a new boss by the name of John Sherman, and the change couldn’t have come at a better time as Kansas City continues its rebuild. Sluggerr will certainly change a bit, as will almost everything. That’s what happens when a new owner comes around– small changes so a sense of identity is felt around the new owner. The team is still bad for now, though. 

Minnesota Twins:

T.C. Bear is feeling like he’s almost there. The Twins once again have a deadly lineup and solid array of pitchers, yet the doubts for this team still arise. T.C. Bear, being a beary biased bear, still can’t really understand why.  

New York Yankees:

The Yankees fanbase is feeling pretty gosh-darn good right now. Their team won free agency, signing star pitcher Gerrit Cole to a ridiculous 9 year, $324 million contract, filling their biggest need and then some. They are now a true World Series contender once again. 

Oakland Athletics: 

Stomper is feeling lonely. After the departure of the Raiders to Las Vegas, the A’s are the only pro sports team left in Oakland. He only has his buddies on the A’s to talk to. I feel bad for the elephant, he just wants to keep his friends home.

Seattle Mariners: 

The Mariner Moose is feeling impatient. His team has not been to the playoffs since 2001, and that is something he just cannot accept. The rebuild continues, but the Moose is starting to get riled up. 

Tampa Bay Rays:

Raymond is feeling like he doesn’t have a real home. He loves his team, but does not like his current home at Tropicana Field. The dome is weird and not very comfy. He wants to stay in Tampa Bay, though, because that’s his hometown. However, there’s now a potential deal that may make the Rays play half their home games in Montreal! Raymond is super conflicted and really just wants to be comfy and root for his team. Unfortunately for the blue guy, that’s not really happening right now.  It should still be noted that, despite everything, the Rays have some real potential this year to do damage in the AL East.

Texas Rangers: 

Rangers Captain is feeling so fresh and cool and stuff. The Rangers once again have a new-look stadium, uniforms, and team, but no one seems to really care. It’s sad, because the Rangers Captain loves when things are shaken up. That’s how he was born in the first place. He’s excited for this shiny new stadium, new gear to try on, and new friends to make, but he wants someone to be excited with him! 

Toronto Blue Jays:

Ace is feeling like he’s no longer the only ace in town. Blue Jays fans haven’t had that much to cheer for as of late, but their signing of Hyun-Jin Ryu changed that. Ace’s new buddy had a brilliant 2019 season for the Dodgers, going 14-5 with an earned run average of 2.32. The Blue Jays may not quite be contenders yet, but this is a definite step in the right direction. 

Part 2 will come out tomorrow. Until then, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Coronavirus and the 2020 Olympics: A Breakdown

By Sammy Bovitz

The coronavirus outbreak has already become an existential issue in the sports world. The NBA season has been suspended indefinitely, the NHL season may soon follow, the MLB season has been delayed, and March Madness will not be played, among other sporting events. With those in mind, let’s turn to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Tokyo, while not extremely close to the original outbreak in Wuhan, China, is still much closer to the source than the United States. So, what’s going to happen? Let’s examine what has been said and spread through rumors. Before we begin, a kind reminder to wash your hands regularly, cover your nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing, and try not to touch your face with unclean hands. 

First, any cancellation of the Olympic games would have to come directly from the International Olympic Committee, which released a statement on March 3rd. In the statement, the committee disclosed they had a meeting regarding a briefing on the situation, followed by a discussion on what to do. They also revealed they had set up a task force in mid-February in conjunction with the city of Tokyo and the World Health Organization to respond to the situation. They announced that, for the moment, the Games would still go on until further notice, but things could very well be adjusted to ensure a safe and secure Games. They closed their statement by encouraging all athletes to continue to prepare. For context, the last time the Olympics were cancelled was in 1944 due to World War II, so a cancellation now would be a dire reflection of the severity of this viral outbreak.

However, don’t think the Games are good to go just yet. The IOC’s longest-serving member, Dick Pound, told the Associated Press that if the WHO advises that the Games cannot go on, they will be cancelled. The Games are currently scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 9, and that may prove to be too early to hold them. However, he closed by saying to athletes that “As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo. All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”

Another question that has been raised is that of a potential Olympic relocation. In February, London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey said that the city could easily use their venues from 2012 if a move due to coronavirus was necessary. Bailey urged the IOC to  “seriously consider how London could stand ready to host the Olympics should the need arise.” Current mayor Sadiq Khan, through a spokesperson, said London was willing to “step up to the plate” to replace Tokyo as the Games’ host. Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike criticized these comments as inappropriate. For context, Tokyo, the Olympic Committee, sponsors, and others have spent billions of dollars in preparation for these Olympics and to have them moved would be difficult to say the least, both financially and logistically.  

However, financial questions may no longer be the top priority, as in a span of 48 hours after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s diagnosis, health has been shown to be the real priority at hand.

Take a deep breath: most of the NCAA’s annual revenue comes from the insanity and TV coverage of March Madness, which has been cancelled. Major League Baseball has delayed its season start by at least 2 weeks and cancelled Spring Training. The National Hockey League is suspended indefinitely, the National Basketball Association is suspended for at least a month, as is Major League Soccer. The BNP Paribas Open, known to many as ‘the fifth [Grand] Slam’ of tennis, has been cancelled, and the entire men’s tour has been suspended for six weeks. The Players Championship, a PGA tournament long considered to be one of the most important tournaments which is not a major, has been cancelled, as have all tournaments until the Masters, which is now being postponed as well. The XFL, whose new iteration is barely a month old, has been suspended indefinitely. The Champions, Premier, and Europa Leagues, arguably the three most intensely followed leagues in international soccer, have suspended operations. The Boston Marathon has been postponed until September. Formula 1 has postponed its season opener. Even the status of the Kentucky Derby, not scheduled until May 2, is up in the air. The coronavirus has essentially cancelled the sports world for at least two weeks, and likely longer (not to mention Broadway and several highly anticipated films, among other things). The real question is not if, but when, the IOC will have to re-evaluate the situation. It should be noted, again, that these Games are not until July and the disease could be contained before then. 

The International Olympic Committee has said the status of the Games will be announced by the end of May. Until then, we can only guess what their decision is. Will they cancel or postpone the Games which can only be held in the summer? Will they move them to an eager London? Or will they push on against the trend of every sports league shuttering its doors temporarily?

The Rapid Ascension and Sudden Decline of NFL Running Backs

By Sammy Bovitz

I remember watching Todd Gurley in 2017. He was incredible, consistently putting up a brilliant performance and making defenses across the league fearful of his talent. He was a legitimate candidate for the 2017 MVP, and some still believe he should’ve won it. His expertise was rewarded in July of 2018 with a 4 year, $57.5 million extension, and many commended the deal as well worth the price tag. 

Just a year and a half after the extension, Gurley is no longer considered in the elite tier of running backs. So what happened? Gurley developed arthritis in his knee before the 2018 season ended. This injury derailed perhaps his entire career, as this year he is no longer the dominant, feared player  as he was for the last two years. Sadly, this is not a unique story. Running backs only average about 2.57 years in their career, the shortest average span of any position in the physically taxing NFL. This means the running backs considered to be the best in the league are rapidly changing. 

Rushing yards, which measures the yards a player gains when running the football, isn’t exactly the most telling stat, but it can be used here to illustrate this point. From 2010 to 2018, there were 7 different rushing yard leaders. The only ones to have multiple crowns were Adrian Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott. In 2019, it looks like we’ll have a new champion again, with Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, and Derrick Henry in the top 3, none of whom have ever won a rushing yards title. In fact, only 3 people have won multiple titles this century: Peterson, Elliott, and LaDainian Tomlinson. This is a very telling sign that the title of best running back varies greatly from year to year, or minute by minute if you go by the name of Skip Bayless. 

Let’s look at a stat that’s a bit more subjective. Fantasy football is a hugely popular game in which no one knows what they are doing no matter how many 1,000-page guides they read. This isn’t an attack on fantasy “experts”, but there are injuries and so many unpredictable factors that you simply are not able to predict before the season starts and the games begin. No one predicts accurately when the 6th round guy out of Purdue rushes for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, it is usually very clear who the best football player for fantasy is each year, and they thus are always taken with the first overall pick. I looked at the average first overall pick from each year of the 2010s, and here is that list: 

2010- Chris Johnson, running back, Tennessee

2011- Adrian Peterson, running back, Minnesota

2012- Arian Foster, running back, Houston

2013- Peterson

2014- LeSean McCoy, running back, Philadelphia

2015- Peterson

2016- Antonio Brown, wide receiver, Pittsburgh

2017- David Johnson, running back, Arizona

2018- Todd Gurley, running back, Los Angeles

2019- Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas

Obviously Peterson is the exception, not the rule. All of these no.1 picks’ status have changed. Chris Johnson, Arian Foster, and Antonio Brown are all out of the league. Gurley had the aforementioned arthritis in his knees. David Johnson got knocked out with an injury minutes into his no.1 fantasy pick season, and is no longer even a top-5 running back. Even Peterson is now bouncing around the league, now playing for the lowly Washington. Elliott is still a great running back but it appears Saquon Barkley will take the top fantasy spot next year after his dominance continued without the sophomore slump some predicted. 

The pattern I’m noticing here tells me my theory is correct: Injuries, retirements, and improvements of younger running backs make the position of top running back hard to hold for a long time. But I don’t just want to sit back and pretend that I’m a football genius, so I wanted to do two more things first. I went back and looked at the rushing yards leaders by season again, and when I looked beyond the 21st century, I noticed that guys like Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, OJ Simpson, and Emmitt Smith won the rushing yards crown many times. Is there something I’m missing? Was it somehow easier to get yards back then as opposed to now, or were there simply less good running backs? I wasn’t sure, so I wanted to look at one last stat: how many running backs are in the league at a time, and graphed 35 years of NFL running backs. Maybe the secret of Barry Sanders and Jim Brown was simply a process of elimination. Perhaps they were the only good running backs of their time. It took a long time, but I did it. 

Chart by Sammy Bovitz

Two things here. One, it is heavily apparent that I will never get a girlfriend. Two, look at this graph! It’s fascinating. It mostly flatlines for the entire graph except for two jumps. I thought there was some complicated reason for this involving running backs, but it was much simpler than I thought. 

The first year in the graph is 1969. The AFL-NFL merger took place in 1970, leading to more teams in the NFL. This of course means a gigantic jump in running backs, from 95 to 158. The graph mostly hovers around there until 1987, where it jumps to 300. This was only because of the large-scale NFL strike, causing the league to find and play many replacement players, including running backs. Other than that, the number of running backs hover from around 160 to 190, without many years with more or less running backs. 

But that still doesn’t answer my question of why running backs like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders were able to sustain their rushing crowns for so long. Why were they able to continue to dominate then when now, in an age of prime athletic health and medical achievement, no one can keep a rushing yards crown for longer than two years? That’s a question I could not figure out. This mission has not succeeded, but that honestly wasn’t too far from unexpected. NFL running backs are not an exact science, and will likely stay that way as the NFL continues to evolve and change. 

An Analysis of Sports Pages and The New York Times

By Sammy Bovitz

When I first moved to New York City, I was a kid accustomed to reading the LA Times sports page. It was so well done. Bill Plaschke led a crew of great sportswriters, and I slowly started to compile a list in my head of what makes a great sports page or website. In no particular order, here are those factors… 

  1. A great lead writer. This writer is elite at their job and is a motivating factor for readers to choose that page. Examples of this are Plaschke, Bill Simmons (when he was still writing columns for ESPN), Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, et cetera. Headliner writers like these are a draw unto themselves because they can be counted on to write a fantastic front page article even when the rest of the page isn’t on their A-game. 
  2. Great local and national writing alike. Other national sports sections or websites, such as the Athletic or ESPN, have great local, on-the-scene beat reporters. ESPN and the Athletic hire the very best to cover each individual team. The LA Times has fantastic local writers to cover local pro teams, like the Dodgers, and even dedicates time to college and high school sports as well. But there should still be plenty of articles that do a good job taking a big-picture look at leagues as a whole or writing feature stories that are not necessarily local once in a while. 
  3. Going outside the world of sports in a purposeful way. Sports sections should expand their vision beyond the sports world, but you absolutely cannot write articles like that just for the sake of saying you’ve done it.  Stories that explore the politics of the sports industry are important; for example, the Fair Pay to Play Act or NBA-China stand-off. You can’t travel to a remote country and interview a bunch of kids about sports just for the sake of saying “See? We’re not just a sports page!” Stories that go beyond sports, like all stories, must serve a purpose. 
  4. Commitment by the people at the top. Yes, not everyone reads the sports section, but the community who does is fairly large and wants the company to be as committed to writing the page as they are reading it. Regardless of whether  the company is sports-based or not. 
  5. Dedicated season previews. The LA Times does this brilliantly whenever baseball, basketball, or football season rolls around. A few articles on the local teams, a couple stories for national coverage and predictions, and a couple features on the most interesting storylines.  

I could go on, but those are the most essential features. A couple of elite writers, great local and national coverage, going beyond sports correctly, commitment by the people at the top, a few great season previews, and you have what you need for a successful sports section. 

Now let’s run down the Times’ problems with all five…

  1. The Times prides itself on only hiring the very best, ,  but they have few quality sports news writers. I’ve never seen a byline in the Times that makes me think that the article is a must-read. Plaschke did that for me in the LA Times, and Ken Rosenthal does that for me now in the Athletic. The Times doesn’t have the one elite talent that I turn the page  for every day, and that’s a shame. Like I said, they pride themselves on having the very best writers in the world. They have good writers, sure, but not the very best. 
  2. The local coverage of the Times lacks quantity and quality. I read the Times’ sports page for three years and the local game stories that I’ve read, whether about the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, or whoever, have been lacking. The art of the game story is dying, sure, but the Times doesn’t do it well when they do write game stories. They’re clearly not prioritized on the page. Some days, I’ve watched a local game, found it fascinating, and wanted to hear a local take on it from a reputable newspaper, such as the Times.The next day, the game story would simply not be there. It is of course great to have feature stories, but you should still make sure to cover the interesting local games when they occur. Even when they have covered said games, though, they’ve often been too short and have a fairly bare-bones format. Some basic stats, a game summary, a couple quotes, and perhaps a bit of analysis.. National coverage is perhaps worse. Rarely have I seen a well done story on an NBA Finals game or a World Series matchup from the past few years in The Times. The Super Bowl was always sufficiently covered, but it’s the biggest event in America. If you don’t cover it, you’re not a sports page, so I never gave the Times too much credit for their coverage there. I didn’t see many national stories throughout the regular seasons of popular sport either. This lack of national coverage of popular sports was a big reason why I just stopped reading the page. 
  3. Going beyond sports correctly, a test the Times fails in an even more embarrassing fashion than the previous two. The Times have perfected the art of the sports story that goes beyond sports in a meaningless way. I’ve read so many articles on the dogs at Iditarod or the charitable foundation that a player has started in their home country in a sprawling Times cover story. I’m not opposed to these articles, but in the Times they’re all mind-numbingly boring and far too long. A fantastic example of an article like this that was well done was a Sports Illustrated story on Masai Ujiri giving back to his community. Ujiri tells his story to Andrew Sharp in an article that stays on track and tells his story in an in-depth and interesting way without feeling too long. The reader simply reads the story and doesn’t get bored or confused, two things the Times fails to execute. The Times’ handling of sports stories that go beyond sports are fine, mainly because the Times excels at topics that are not sports. These articles are often not assigned to sportswriters and often sideline the sport entirely, trying to make a point about the other topic the issue covers instead. This isn’t indefensible, as these are not just sports stories, but you cannot forget the roots of any story. The Times do this when a story that goes beyond sports comes up. They’ve sometimes even hidden these stories in the main section and completely neglect to mention the article’s existence in the sports section.  Even when the stories were well thought out, I still preferred reading the superior articles on ESPN, the Athletic, Sports Illustrated, the LA Times, the Ringer, and even SB Nation, among others. If the Times cannot match the sports journalistic standards of the blogs and websites they claim to be above, they are not above them.
  4.  Commitment. This is another problem for the Times. The Times is simply not committed to its sports page. I don’t really need to go into this too much, but on weekdays the sports page is fairly short and hidden inside the business page. Even on weekends, when the section stands alone, it’s still fairly short. The sports page is one of their last priorities. That’s not unjustifiable, but you can clearly tell their lack of caring due to the short sections they put out daily, and it leads to sports fans, such as myself, feeling unengaged and dissatisfied.  
  5. Season previews. This is probably the least important out of the five, but the Times doesn’t check this box either. There’s usually a couple local stories and maybe a couple national stories, but the sports page doesn’t really treat season starts as big events, which is ridiculous considering its job is to inform the reader about the most important and interesting sports stories. The LA Times usually has sprawling special sections covering major sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB) locally and nationally.  

Simply put, the New York Times sports page is bad. It checks zero of the five boxes on my list. I read the sports page for three years and was so infuriated with the page’s quality that I had to stop reading it. Now, I get my sports news from ESPN, the Athletic, Sports Illustrated, the Ringer, SB Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and a few others. Let’s see how the pages I just listed stack up to the Times in terms of my list…

ESPN: 5 out of 5. They have a couple elite writers at the top of their game, local and national coverage alike,go beyond sports correctly, are committed, and have fantastic season previews. I don’t read articles on there as much as I used to, but it’s still the biggest sports page out there. 

The Athletic: 5 out of 5. They are the gold standard, in my opinion, of in-depth sportswriting. The 5 dollar per month subscription allows them to hire the very best sportswriters. Bonus points for their podcast network, which adds to their treasure trove of national and local coverage for their wide array of coverage, even motorsports and local WNBA teams are covered. 

Sports Illustrated: 4 out of 5. Sports Illustrated’s new parent company is not as committed as I’d like, but other than that they pass this test with flying colors. They’ve been successfully covering sports for over 60 years for a reason. 

The Ringer: 5 out of 5. Not exclusively a sports site (it also covers pop culture), but Bill Simmons’ media venture is fantastic in its sports coverage, and its culture and farther-reaching sports stories are great too. I don’t love their lack of MLB coverage, but honestly that’s my one gripe with the site. 

SB Nation: 5 out of 5. Bonus points for having the best sports content creator of all time in Jon Bois. Even if you are not a sports fan, his videos for the site are top quality and painstakingly researched. All are worth a watch, but the one I’d recommend is a two-part video called The Bob Emergency. For over 100 minutes, he recounts the very best of 150 years of athletes with the first name Bob. It’s incredible and much deeper than one would think.

Los Angeles Times: 4.5 out of 5. I’m taking a half-point off here because they don’t have the best farther-reaching coverage (i.e. non-sports stories). Other than that, I’m just as happy reading their page at 14 years old as I was when I was 8. 

The New York Times got a zero out of 5 in comparison to publications some believe they are above. The arguments that they are not as focused on sports as these other ones make sense until you get to the LA Times, which is clearly not a sports page. It is an entire, several-topic newspaper. 

My solution for the Times? Start over. Hire a new editor of the page to make radical and creative changes to the way things are done, including unique platforms to tell sports stories (podcasting, videos, etc.). Hire a bunch of new, young sportswriters (keep a few of the current ones, but only a few).  My staff for the Times would look like this:

  • The aforementioned editor. One writer each for the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, and Nets. A hockey writer and a soccer writer, to cover both local and national news. 
  • A national team of about 3 people each to cover national baseball, basketball, and football news, including the NCAA (9 total, 3 per sport). These people should be able to do both in-depth stories and game stories, as well as all coming together for season previews. You can also use local writers and have them as a part of this team in addition to their local role, but not as a part of the 9. 
  • A writer or two to analyze the business and political side of sports, in order to better understand stories that are far-reaching beyond the sports world. This writer should also be able to write about sports media.
  • A wild card writer to write bizarre or off-the-beaten path stories in a weird column that is not published every day, giving time for the stories to take shape and be edited thoroughly.
  • Finally, a marquee writer that has already been established as elite. Take or discover someone and turn him into the face of your section. The Times should find their Bill Plaschke or Ken Rosenthal to truly make the page come together. 

The Times sports page needs to change for the better before I consider reading it again. In the meantime, I will sit back and read one of the many sports sections or websites that are easily superior.

A Victory Lost in the Pool: Alaskan Girl Disqualified for ‘Inappropriate’ Suit

By Cali Morrison Carss

This past December, the state of Alaska held its high school girls state championships for swimming. Breckynn Willis, a star swimmer for Diamond High School, swam the 100 fly event and won her heat, her section of the race. This would add a number of points to her team’s overall score and place her high in the state rankings. However, neither of those things happened. An official watching the race disqualified Brecklynn Willis because of her swimsuit, as the official said, “not fitting her properly.” On the record, Willis never won and her time didn’t count. Her coaches have since described both Willis and her younger sister, who also swims, as “curvy” girls who would have stood out because of their body shape. Her sister, their mother said has also had problems with the same official. Although the decision has since been overturned due to the public outrage, the fact that it ever happened raises eyebrows at the current policies against girls’ clothing in swimming and the outdated perception of swimsuit design.

Many officials and coaches have backed the argument that this is not only an issue of sexism, but one of racism as well, given that the sisters are mixed-race. A coach a West High School in Anchorage, Alaska who was at the meet wrote a post about the disqualification, saying, “They [the sisters] are being targeted not because they are wearing their suits to be scandalous, thus inspiring immorality among other young people, but rather because their ample hips, tiny waists, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates.” This point is further emphasized by other coaches, including Willis’ who note that the suits would naturally fit the girl’s body type differently and shouldn’t be a breach of the rules, nor a reason to disqualify her. The same coach, Lauren Langford, continued her post talking about the parents she’s seen oppose the girls, some saying “that for the sake of their sons, the mothers of these young ladies should cover up their daughters.” That standard becomes even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that swimsuit aren’t meant to cover much. Especially racing suits which are streamlined in order to aid in speed, like the one Willis was wearing.

This event has now brought the diagram of an ‘appropriate’ girls swimsuit that officials use to judge suits and the one Willis’ suit was most likely compared to into question. The diagram the National Federation of State High School Association uses to determine an appropriate suit for girls doesn’t even look like the suits made and worn now. As a swimmer myself, I have found myself comparing the suits my friends and I wear to practice, as well as our team suits. We all have swimsuits from a popular girls swimsuit website called Jolyn. Their suits are good quality and comfortable, but they don’t look much like the diagram presented by swimming officials. The diagram is ineffective for judging new suits because that is simply not how they are made anymore. Suits are higher cut now and racing suits are more streamlined. The one Willis was wearing is nearly identical to a suit any female swimmer would wear. The standard for girls swimsuits in this instance is clearly impossible to live up to. It’s inevitable that a suit will shift when racing and no one is going to stop in the middle of a race to fix it. 

The official calling the DQ wasn’t thinking about the way swimsuits can fit different body types or the possibility of the suit moving after Willis dove into the water. And while the decision has since been determined as discriminatory based on the Anchorage School District’s investigation, this official while not be decertified because of the issue. 

These rules unfairly target girls solely based on their bodies in a situation where they can’t control what happens. When her suit shifted, she wasn’t in a place to focus on and fix that. She was racing. Unfair standards like these tell girls that in order to compete, their suits must fit over their bodies in one specific way. When, in this day and age, we know that having one diagram of how a swimsuit should fit is not realistic or sensible. This issue gets concerning because it could discourage young girls who will see these stories and pictures and know that their suits simply don’t fit their bodies like “they should”. It can easily build up an internalized expectation for young female swimmers. It’s a pressure enforced by the officials behind the sport, whether intended or not, that makes girls scrutinize their bodies based on the rules set by the sport they love.

A Cerealized 2019-20 NBA Season Preview

By Sammy Bovitz

This is not your typical NBA Preview. I’ll make that clear from the start. I chose to describe each NBA team as a cereal for two reasons: one, I think it’d be interesting to see NBA teams in a fresh perspective and two, I’m hungry. 

The Atlanta Hawks are Peanut Butter Toast Crunch. 

The Atlanta Hawks seek to replicate the great model of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the Denver Nuggets. They are trying to build their team around sharpshooting point guard, Trae You, and versatile power forward, John Collins. It hasn’t worked to the same effect as it has for the Denver Nuggets, but there is hope for its future; just like there’s hope Peanut Butter Crunch. 

The Boston Celtics are Lucky Charms. 

Lucky Charms are known for their sweet marshmallows that so many kids can’t get enough of. Unfortunately, Lucky charms aren’t just marshmallows.

In translation to the Celtics, the team’s marshmallows are Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Enes Kanter. They are the best players on the team, but they are not the whole team. The rest of the cereal: Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Robert Williams, and Semi Ojeleye, will never match the marshmallows. The Celtics are a great team, much like Lucky Charms is a great cereal, but the team’s overall makeup leaves the non-marshmallows as a problem. Essentially, the Celtics don’t have enough pieces off the bench and would be in trouble if two or more of their marshmallows players became injured, forcing the rest of the cereal into larger roles. 

The Brooklyn Nets are Reese’s Puffs. 

The Brooklyn Nets, much like Reese’s Puffs, is new to the NBA, but is finally becoming mainstream and has a real shot at winning the championship. The signings of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, and Wilson Chandler, as well as the drafting of Nicolas Claxton, show that this team is now firmly on the map and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. This team will just be plain old fun, much like eating a cereal based on Reese’s. 

The Charlotte Hornets are Sour Patch Kids Cereal. 

Both The Charlotte Hornets and Sour Patch Kids Cereal are horrible on paper and horrible in practice. I’d talk about young, exciting small forward Miles Bridges and his potential, but this would ruin the analogy. 

The Chicago Bulls are Honeycomb.

Much like Honeycomb cereal, the Bulls have seen better days. They were at their height in the 80s and 90s, but have now become one of the worst teams in the NBA. In 2017, Honeycomb cereal’s recipe was changed and the response was almost entirely negative. Similarly In 2017, the Bulls changed their formula by trading away Jimmy Butler, signing Cristiano Felicio to an awful contract, and waiving both Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. However, they did get two good young pieces: Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. Since its 2017 flop, Honeycomb is trying to revert back to its original formula and win back fans. The Bulls’ reset and building around LaVine and Markkanen is their way of trying to win back fans and make Chicago basketball-crazy once again.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are Honey Nut Cheerios. 

The honey here is power forward Kevin Love. While Cleveland is far from a good basketball team, Kevin Love is someone fans can root for and be a fan of long term. Love has just signed a 5-year extension that begins this year. Love helps keep Cavalier fans hopeful for the future of the team, as the soon to be drafted young stars will have  a versatile veteran to help lead them into battle.

The Dallas Mavericks are Special K. 

The K here stands for Kristaps Porzingis, a very special K indeed. Porzingis is a special player, and his being there is the element that the Mavericks need to contend. Luka Doncic is also a fantastic player, of course. But the Mavericks needed a second star to make this team work, so they traded for a very special K that could make this team the most special in a future NBA season. In other words, the team that wins a championship. 

The Denver Nuggets are Cinnamon Toast Crunch. 

This team has inspired many other teams in the NBA, much like Cinnamon Toast Crunch has inspired many spin-offs . The Denver Nuggets have a young, solid shooting point guard, Jamal Murray and a strong big man, Nikola Jokic. However, this team has the most talent at those positions, especially at center. Last year, Jokic averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. That is ridiculous for a center, and it’s now been fully acknowledged.  NBA general managers voted him the very best center in the NBA. John Collins and Marvin Bagley III are good, sure, but neither of them can hold a candle to Jokic’s elite talent.

The Detroit Pistons are Chex.

Like Chex, the Detroit Pistons are a bit outdated and overrated. For a long time, having an offense centered around one or two good big men with no presence on the perimeter worked. But, the age of three-pointers began and one-dimensional big men soon became a thing of the past. The Pistons did not get this memo, as they continue to build around Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. For a while, Chex’s 82 year-old formula worked, but now they are not nearly as mainstream and popular as they once were. Same with the formula of sticking to  one-dimensional big men. Sure, an offense built around a center can work (see Denver, Minnesota, and Philly), but those centers are versatile players. Griffin and Drummond are not, or at least not to the extent that other centers are.  

The Golden State Warriors are Cocoa Krispies. 

Below I will explain why the Spurs are Rice Krispies, which connects to why the Warriors are Cocoa Krispies. Rice Krispies is a tried-and-true formula that’s great but often does not get altered. The Spurs were a machine of dominance, a tried-and-true model that does not get replicated or upgraded. Cocoa Krispies improved upon the Rice Krispies model and made it more fun. The Warriors did the exact same thing, and like the Krispies family, their run of dominance may not be done yet with the addition of new guard D’Angelo Russell. 

The Houston Rockets are Apple Jacks. 

A cereal that’s probably overrated, just like the Houston Rockets. Sure, point guard Russell Westbrook and shooting guard James Harden will be a tandem with a fantastic ceiling, but probably won’t reach said ceiling. Apple Jacks are limited because the concept of apple-flavored cereal can only get you so far. The Rockets are likewise limited by the fact that they have two stars used to having the ball in their hands all the time, which is  their strategy to contend for a championship in today’s NBA. Like Apple Jacks, the Rockets won’t quite get to that point, especially with their current model.  

The Indiana Pacers are Corn Flakes. 

Unlike the Bucks, who have one element setting it apart in the frost, the Pacers do not have the Star to make them championship contenders. The Pacers have a collection of solid pieces, but with Victor Oladipo out, this team doesn’t have a star that can lead them. Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis cannot lead this team. They need Oladipo, and with him out, this team becomes simple and bland, just like Corn Flakes. 

The L.A. Clippers are Fruity Pebbles, and the L.A. Lakers are Cocoa Pebbles. 

Some of you may have seen this analogy coming. The biggest team vs. team debate in L.A. this year will constantly be that of who is superior: the L.A. Clippers or the L.A. Lakers . Similarly, the Fruity Pebbles vs. Cocoa Pebbles has been a big debate among cereal enthusiasts. The Clippers and Lakers both have two central stars, and while some argue the Clippers are better on defense or are deeper, others argue the Lakers’ offensive potential outweighs all of that. Either way, this is a debate that will have relatively even sides and no clear resolution. Just like the Fruity vs. Cocoa Pebbles debate. Only time will tell which cereal or team reigns supreme. 

The Memphis Grizzlies are Multigrain Cheerios. 

Similar to the Cavaliers, the Grizzlies have sweetened and upgraded the Knicks’ old, no longer good formula. This team could also be another Cinnamon Toast Crunch derivative, but, besides the fact that I already used both on other teams, this team also doesn’t have the pieces to be close to contention quite yet, just like Multigrain Cheerios. The cereal is good, but it isn’t for everyone and definitely isn’t one of the best. The Grizzlies need time, then they will step into a Toast Crunch slot.

The Miami Heat are Frosted Mini Wheats.

The frost in Frosted Mini Wheats isn’t the thing that  elevates it to the next level, It’s what keeps it from falling apart. Jimmy Butler is the one thing, the one star, that Miami has to keep it from a lottery berth. There are solid pieces around him (Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic), but it’s Butler that keeps this team from the lottery. This was by design, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good design. Not in the slightest.

The Milwaukee Bucks are Frosted Flakes.

The Milwaukee Bucks are extremely good, but take away one crucial element and this team  doesn’t work as well. Giannis Antentokounmpo is the reason this team works, and while the flakes around him are solid and helpful, he is what brings the team to its elite and championship contending status. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves are Cap’N Crunch. 

This team needs a captain, a leader, in order to start its climb to the Western Conference ladder. Karl-Anthony Towns is that captain that can lead this team by dominating each and every night. Look for him to be a sleeper MVP candidate. 

The New Orleans Pelicans are Oreo O’s. 

Oreo O’s are relatively new on the scene, with a good concept, but people are unsure of its execution and whether their strategy will actually work and be good. The Pelicans should be sweet and excite people of their potential. The jury is out, just like with Oreo O’s, about whether it works and whether it will work. Eventually, the perception of both the cereal and the team will be finalized. 

The New York Knicks are Cheerios. 

A team that’s seen better days.This squad has memories of the past and remembers a time when the Knicks were both great and loved. But they’re simply not great nor loved, and it showed this summer when all major free agents passed on them. 

Cheerios are the same way. When you ask older generations about Cheerios, they’ll probably have fond memories about them. But if you asked a member of a younger generation or cereal free agent (a term which here means they are undecided on what cereal they want to eat regularly), Cheerios wouldn’t be their first choice. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder are Weetabix. 

Weetabix is a cereal that comes in blocks and only becomes individual pieces of cereal when milk is added. It needs someone to assemble it. The Thunder are the same way. Sure, point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has lots of potential and the Thunder got a ridiculous number of picks from the Clippers, but they need to assemble those draft picks, along with their own, to create a functional team. GM Sam Presti needs to add the milk to this team and assemble it. Over time, this young, talented team could eventually become  a contender. 

The Orlando Magic are Life. 

Most of the time, we forget this cereal exists. The Magic are the exact same way. If you’re an NBA fan, think about how many times you’ve talked about the Magic this past year. If the answer is a lot, you’re a real Magic fan. If not, you’re a fan of basically any other NBA team. 

This is about the cereal Life, not actual life. Thought I’d just throw that out there. 

The Philadelphia 76ers are Froot Loops.

A team that’s great, but one that may be a bit too much for its own good. The Sixers’ gigantic lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Joel Embiid is great, but lacks a sharpshooter like the one they had before in JJ Redick. It will likely be a great season for them but the team’s four tall, driving and/or post scoring players in the starting lineup may be too much for the team to handle. Just like eating Froot Loops on more than an occasional basis. They need to tone everything down just a bit for this team to work and win a championship.

The Phoenix Suns are Gorilla Munch. 

This is another one where I cheated a little bit. The Suns’ mascot, for some reason, is a gorilla. 

The Portland Trail Blazers are Oatmeal Squares. 

A cereal and team that’s very underappreciated. Oatmeal Squares is a cereal that is subtle in its sweetness. The Trail Blazers’ strategy for using Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, orchestrated by Terry Stotts, is a feat of subtle, simple genius. There is barely any time where one of the two is not on the floor. When they’re together, they dominate. When only one is on the court, that person leads the offense. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic outline, and it works to perfection. It worked especially well last year during a showdown with the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 

The Sacramento Kings are French Toast Crunch.

The Sacramento Kings are another team that’s a version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but is much more successful than Peanut Butter Toast Crunch. The Fox-Bagley pairing is one of tremendous potential and they could even sneak into the playoffs this year. I made the Kings the more successful Cinnamon Toast Crunch derivative for a reason- they are and will be more successful in the future. 

The San Antonio Spurs are Rice Krispies. 

Much like Cocoa Krispies we’re an upgraded version of the old formula of Rice Krispies, the Warriors used the Spurs’ method for consistent success and improved upon it. Currently, Rice Krispies and the Spurs are not as good or as classic as they once were. The Spurs’ once-beautiful offense has been ruined by the midrange-heavy games of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldrige. No more Kawhi, no more Tony Parker, no more Manu Ginobili, and, of course, no more Tim Duncan. The analogy still holds up, though. A cereal and team that’s past its prime and has been upgraded (see the Warriors).  

The Toronto Raptors are Wheaties. 

Wheaties is the breakfast of champions, though the Raptors probably won’t be Wheaties by this time next year. 

The Utah Jazz are Raisin Bran. 

Much like Raisin Bran, the Jazz are an underrated team. Donovan Mitchell and Co. got a huge boost this summer with the addition of point guard Mike Conley to run this offense. If I haven’t said it 1000 times, I’ll say it again. It cannot be overstated how much of an upgrade Conley is over Ricky Rubio, who simply couldn’t distribute the ball or make plays, two things Conley’s excellent at. The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic also adds another underrated weapon to this sneakily good offense. Losing Derrick Favors hurts, but this team’s offense will be good enough with the addition of Mike Conley  . Their defense, in this case being the bran, is not as strong, but still gets the job done. Don’t be surprised if the Jazz make a deep run in this gauntlet of a Western Conference. 

The Washington Wizards are Cookie Crisp.                                                                        

Forget the Sixers, this team is way too sweet for its own good. Not in the sense of talent, though. In the sense of contracts. In the 2022-2023 season, the player options of John Wall and Bradley Beal combine for $84,629,060. That is absolutely ridiculous for a team that most think won’t even make the playoffs. 

To all, enjoy the NBA season, and maybe grab a bowl of your team’s cereal to enjoy along the way. May the best cereal win. 

Bridging the Gap: The Fight for Equal Pay in American Women’s Soccer (and Why it Matters)


By Mira-Rose Kingsbury Lee

In 2015, the US women’s soccer team won their third FIFA World Cup, scoring 5 goals against Germany in the final for a decisive victory.

The game broke records- it was watched by 26.7 million viewers, becoming the most-viewed soccer game in US history. But it was a celebration marked by disquiet.

For years, there had been objections from the women’s team surrounding the gender pay gap in American soccer. According to Sports Illustrated, “The [US women’s team] is paid almost four times less than the [US men’s team], despite producing nearly $20 million in revenues for U.S. Soccer in 2015.” The problem isn’t exclusive to the top tier of women’s soccer- players in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) often are paid barely above minimum wage for a full season of training and playing. The pay ceiling for an NWSL player is only $37,800. For reference, the average salary for a male soccer player in Major League Soccer (MLS) is $300,000.

    But the point is not to compare- as Carli Lloyd, star player for the USWNT, wrote: “Our beef is not with the men’s national team; we love those guys, and we support those guys. It’s with the federation, and its history of treating us as if we should be happy that we are professional players and not working in the kitchen or scrubbing the locker room.”

    The hostile environment toward advancement in women’s sports makes it difficult for young women to play professionally. As Beacon soccer player Ariel Portnoy says, the pay gap is “ridiculous, and totally unfair.” Most importantly, it dissuades women from playing soccer professionally, because it’s so difficult to make a living off of the relatively low salary, and the chances of becoming a professional player are incredibly small. Of the 388,000 girls who play soccer in high school, only 27,000 play in college. Of those 27,000, only 180 players go professional in America, and play in the NWSL. Some of those players are paid as little as $15,000 for a full six-month season of training, practicing, and playing games. That low income discourages girls from striving to play professionally, and robs the field of talent.

Carli Lloyd summed it up nicely when she wrote, “[the USWNT is] totally determined to right the unfairness in our field, not just for ourselves but for the young players coming up behind us.”

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/colehaan/2018/10/08/changemakers-reboot-wearables-for-the-future-of-health/#169a6b787c3e

https://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2016/04/06/uswnt-us-soccer-wage-discrimination-revenue-unequal-pay

https://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2016/03/31/uswnt-eeoc-wage-discrimination-equal-pay

http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-professional-athletics

World Series or Not, the Yankees Still had a Remarkable Season

By Andrew Najjar & Adrian Flynn                        

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On October 9th, the New York Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs in a best of five Division Series by the Boston Red Sox, three games to one. They got notoriously blown out in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium 16-1, and then were edged out in Game 4 by a score of 4-3. Many fans were disappointed, and some even called for manager Aaron Boone’s firing. However, despite the early exit from the postseason, the Yankees still had a remarkable 2018 season.

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Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances recently stated, “If we don’t win… it’s not a great year for us.” Is this really true? The Yankees still have a stacked, young roster. The Yankees bullpen was second to nobody. The Yankees broke MLB records and several franchise records. The 2018 Yankees hold the record for most home runs in a single season, recording 267 homeruns.

A year ago, the team wrapped up the 2017 season with a record of 91-71 and had an away record of 40-41, their overall record ranked 8th best among all MLB teams. This record secured them the number 1 seed in the wild card game and home field advantage against the Minnesota Twins. Though, the Yankees played in the wild card game against the Oakland A’s this postseason, the Bombers managed to improve their overall record to 100-62 and improve their away record to 47-34, their overall record ranked 3rd best among all MLB teams. They managed to boost their record up by nine games. The last time the Yankees had a 100 plus win season was back in 2009, of course the Yankees went onto defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series that year.

After the Yankees lost to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS, the Yankees organization understood that only a few more additional pieces were needed to create a championship team. With that said, the Yankees made notable offseason moves. The Bombers added the big bat of Giancarlo Stanton, who had a fantastic year for the Miami Marlins in 2017. He batted .286, tagged 59 home runs, and batted in 132 RBI’s, all of which led him to win National League MVP. The addition of Stanton had Yankee fans buzzing. With Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees looked invincible.

After the addition of Stanton, the Yankees made a surprising move in the firing of manager Joe Girardi. Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008-2017, lead the Yankees to a World Series win and overlooked multiple winning seasons. The Yankees went further than people anticipated in the 2017 postseason, which some thought were clear indications that Girardi would remain the manager. However, after losing to Astros, the organization believed a change was needed.

The Yankees went out and scooped up Aaron Boone, an ex-player, to manage. Boone came into his position with immense pressure, as the expectations of the Yankees were through the roof. Boone, just like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, was a rookie. A few questionable pitching decisions in the ALDS against the Red Sox should not eliminate the success he had as a rookie manager in the eyes of Yankee fans.  

In Boone’s first season as the Yankees manager, the team managed to record 100 wins and finished third overall in the entire league. The Yankees have one of the youngest rosters in the MLB. In fact, the Yankees had 2 rookies and 2 sophomores in their starting lineup. Additionally, the Yankees ace Luis Severino is only 24 years old. With such a young team, much guidance is needed and Boone secured a trust between him and his players in just one season. Even though Boone couldn’t bring the Yankees their 28th championship this year, he still managed to establish a new identity for the Yankees. Boone has set the bar extremely high for the 2019 season and has made it clear that the Yankees will be back for another run at the World Series.

This season, however, was also plagued by injuries to many of the Yankees starters. The starting catcher, Gary Sanchez, only played 89 games due to a groin injury that was re-aggravated in July and had a major impact on his defense and speed. He briefly came back to form in Game 2 of the Division Series, hitting two home runs at Fenway, but his season average of .186 still is a marker of his injury. The current pride of the Yankees, right fielder Aaron Judge, was hit by pitch on July 26th and fractured a bone in his wrist, resulting in him missing almost two months of games in the latter half of the season. Shortstop Didi Gregorius, who won AL Player of the Month in April, also missed some playing time after he tore some cartilage in his right wrist sliding into home plate on September 22nd. Luckily, his injury was not as serious as was thought, and he was able to return for the playoffs, albeit a little rusty. Flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to left knee tendinitis on August 22nd, and even when he came back he was not at 100%. Additionally, infielder Gleyber Torres and outfielder Aaron Hicks missed a few games here and there while dealing with muscle tightness. As with all injuries in sports, it’s impossible to say what could’ve been if they didn’t happen. However, it is not controversial to say that with all of these players being healthy, the Yankees could’ve been a stronger ballclub.

The nature of the New York Yankees as a team that defines success solely in championships will require that they improve for the 2019 season. Right now, the Yankees are looking to acquire a few starting pitchers to deepen their rotation and possibly add on a few more utility players to strengthen their bench. With these additions, the few weaknesses that the team has will be addressed. This is a team that has many positive takeaways to build from in 2019. This is just the start of a new generation of Bombers. A World Series isn’t won overnight or by one player or one manager, it is won by a team of brilliant players and coaches; the Yankees have all of these. The bar has been set and now is not a time to focus on what was lost, but on what was gained this past season.

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Pay for Play: The Saga of Accused Basketball Coach Sean Miller

By Andrew Najjar
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The 2017-18 NCAA Men’s basketball season has become about a lot more than just the game of basketball. It is now apparent that college coaches have been paying high school students to join their teams. Even coaches of very successful teams, like those of Michigan State and the University of Arizona, have been caught in the act despite being well-aware of violating the league’s rules. The no-pay-for-play policy being violated was established with the creation of the NCAA; while student athletes can receive scholarships for their college tuition, it is illegal to pay them for their playing. One guilty coach stands on particularly thin ice: Sean Miller.

Last February, University of Arizona coach Sean Miller was accused of paying players such as Deandre Ayton, a future 1st round NBA draft pick, to attend the school. During discussions between Sean Miller and Arizona sports agent Christian Dawkins, FBI wiretaps intercepted multiple conversations in which Miller discussed a $100,000 payment to ensure star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats. The calls between Miller and Dawkins lasted around 3,000 hours. It looked unlikely that Miller could survive these allegations. With the Pac-12 right around the corner and the NCAA tournament shortly after, upcoming games would prove extremely interesting for the Wildcats.

As Miller faced serious consequences for his actions, the team struggled to refocus and play ball. The Wildcast were not at ease, and interior team chemistry seemed absent. Under pressure, Miller didn’t coach the basketball team in their February 24th game against conference rival Oregon. Instead, Miller stayed at his Tucson home during the game and throughout the next day. Arizona noted Miller’s absence was in the “best interests of the University and the basketball program.” Yet the troubled Wildcats suffered a 98-93 overtime loss.

Once Miller sat out the game against Oregon, it looked as if his time as head coach was over. On February 26th, Miller and his lawyers met with University officials. University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins thoroughly questioned Miller, whose future with the University was uncertain.The next day, Tuesday February 27th, Miller’s lawyers entered negotiations with  University lawyers. The two sides discussed Miller’s potential to continue coaching. As the night fell, there was serious doubt that Miller would be Arizona’s head coach in the Wildcats’ next game, when they would have to battle Stanford for a Pac-12 title.

While Miller’s position was up in the air, Arizona star shooting guard Allonzo Trier tested positive on a drug test for the second time. Shortly after the test was run, the NCAA suspended Trier for two games and banned him from the NCAA Tournament, leaving the Wildcats in even more trouble.

As conversations between Miller’s lawyers and the University officials continued, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins met with Arizona’s team to discuss Miller’s state. The players vouched strongly for Miller, and Robbins told the team that he would invest in bringing Miller back. With the support and influence of Robbins, Miller became optimistic.

Soon, Miller and the University of Arizona had reached an agreement for him to return as head coach for the remainder of the season. The school announced a press conference later that day where Miller restated his claim that he did not pay players to join the program. The University Board of Regents met in Phoenix only a few hours later, and Robbins announced that the school did not have any real reason to believe that Miller’s allegations were accurate. Robbins then announced that he and the school would stand in Miller’s corner and keep him as head coach.

With Miller in a good place and Trier’s two game suspension over, officials having lifted his ban from the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats were back on their feet. On the same Thursday that Miller and Trier made their return, Arizona went head to head with Stanford for the Pac-12 championship. Miller and the Wildcats went on to defeat Stanford 75-67 and claim their 7th Pac-12 title. With another Pac 12- title and a national rank of 19th, the Wildcats managed to earn a number 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Media soon started letting Miller off the hook. New findings showed that superstar center Deandre Ayton had already committed to Arizona before the call between Miller and Dawkins took place. As Miller’s future with the school and potentially coaching were still up in the air, he held a press conference and again denied the allegations against him. Miller and the Wildcats played their first and last game game of the NCAA tournament March Madness on March 15th. They were victims of a massive upset. The Number 13th seed, University of Buffalo, wiped out the Wildcats with a final score of 89-68, as Buffalo punched their ticket to a round of 32.

Post-defeat, the University of Arizona continues to struggle with its troubled basketball program and recover from its seasonal drama. The FBI’s investigation is far from over into the exposed corruption within the NCAA, creating uncertainty around the future of college basketball.

The Giants Must Change to Win their Next Season

By Andrew Najjar

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Despite their much-improved 2016-17 performance, the New York Giants did not stand tall in their latest season. The Giants finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 11-5 and they managed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The team chemistry was amazing all around, enabling the team’s success. Ben Mcadoo, the team’s new head coach, had a season to remember. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL. The Giants’ defense was the bedrock of the team, ranked one of the best in the NFL in the 2016-17 season–not to mention the achievements of the two defensive pro-bowlers, safety Landon Collins and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Defense was nicknamed “NYPD” for New York Pass Defense. The Giants’ defensive line were impenetrable which made it nearly impossible for opposing teams to run the ball. As for the offense, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and future hall of fame quarterback Eli Manning were a lethal duo. Even rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard had a great starting season. All was going well until the breakdown of the offensive line, which began the fall of the Big Blue.

Ranked one of the worst in the league, the Giants’ offensive line received criticism throughout the season. The offensive line squad did not have good chemistry and frustrations among team members grew. Second year Left Tackle Ereck Flowers was atrocious: in the 2016-17 season, he was responsible for 7 of the 21 sacks, which resulted in a total loss of 56 yards. Ereck Flowers was the biggest issue of the offensive line, adding twelve penalties to his name and accruing a loss of 102 yards. The Giants could also never run the ball efficiently. Finishing with one of the worst ranks in the NFL, quarterback Eli Manning had roughly 1.5-2 seconds in the pocket, which was the league average in 3. Eli Manning would get sacked about once every game and it destroyed his ability to deliver for his team. While, the Giants still had an exceptional 2016-17 season, the poor offensive line remained an enormous problem as the team moved through the 2017 off-season and into the 2017-18 season.

As the Giants wrapped up the 2016-17 season with a 38-13 playoff loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the number one question going into the off-season was how to improve the offensive line. Soon, the Giants picked up some free agents. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Geno Smith were signed from the Jets. As the NFL draft came along, the Giants still did not sign any good offensive line men–only washed-up, old players. The Giants ended up taking tight end Evan Engram from Ole Miss. A tight end was much needed for the team. Evan Engram was extremely versatile and had great hands. In the third round, the team drafted quarterback Davis Webb out of Cal and for unknown reasons, he did not set foot on the field for the entire year. On the sixth and final round of drafting, the Giants picked Adam Bisnowaty out of Pittsburgh, who turned out to be far from a show-stopper.

With the off season winding down, pre-season was right around the corner. Fans had high expectations for the new season after finishing 11-5 the season before, hoping to see the explosive Brandon Marshall make an immediate impact. However, the Giants’ offensive line remained the same.

Concluding, in 2-2 pre-season, the offensive line still seemed unprepared for what was to come. Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had an ankle injury and was forced to miss the first two games of the regular season. As the Giants moved into the regular season with their heads in the clouds, they had to square off against their division rival, the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants managed to put up only 3 points as they took a tragic loss to Dallas with a final score of 19-3. The defense looked solid but again, did not hold up. The Giants’ offensive line gave Eli Manning no time and the offense was nowhere to be found on the field. Unfortunately, the pain did not stop there. The Giants went on to lose the following four games. Despite having Odell Beckham Jr. back, they still had huge struggles. The whole NFL was shocked by one of the worst starts in franchise history with a record of 0-5. On top of the 0-5 start, during week 4 against the L.A Chargers, Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a broken ankle. Newly-signed Brandon Marshall also went down with an ankle injury. Both injuries ended the seasons for the top two wide receivers for the Giants. Meanwhile, receiver Sterling Shepard was battling injuries all season long.  

Eli Manning, facing pressure, hit all too quickly; he had no time to throw the ball and no one solid to throw it too. However, the Giants finally picked up a win against the Denver Broncos to improve to a 1-5 record. Finishing with an overall record of 3-13, the team had the second worst record in the 2017-18 season. The Giants finished the regular season with 5,208 total yards and averaged about 15 points a game, ranking second to last in the NFL. The Giants offensive rank was 28th in the league. Eli Manning once again had roughly 1.5 seconds to throw the ball. Overall, he was sacked 34 times in the 2017 season.

Throughout the Giants’ horrendous season, the locker room chemistry was lacking. As week 11 rolled around, the Giants were only 2-9 and head coach Ben Mcadoo believed a change was needed. Quarterback Eli Manning had started 210 consecutive games, the second most amount of all time. However, coach Mcadoo ended up benching Eli and ending the streak, leaving Geno Smith to step in. The Giants went on to lose the game; fans were shocked. No one, including other NFL players, could believe that Eli Manning was not starting. After two Super Bowls and quality time on the field, he had been benched. L.A Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers stated, “Benching Eli was pathetic.” In truth, Eli Manning’s absence from the field was not the real problem for the Giants. The team was dismantled and lacked motivation to play. Coach Mcadoo and general manager Jerry Reese both ended up getting fired not only for what they did to Eli but for failing to energize the team.  

As the Giants move into the off season, they must make several changes to improve their performance. The Giants must fix the defensive line and improve the offense, building a healthy and collaborative team. Hopefully, the Giants will prevail and come out ready to rock next season.

Unequal Play: Experiencing Gender Inequality in the Athletic World

By Ruby Paarlberg

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“Equal pay for equal play.”  -Carli Lloyd, Olympic Medalist & Soccer Player

Have you ever attended a women’s sporting event? Have you ever watched women’s sports on television? The answer is probably no. Sports inequality is a phenomenon that is often neglected.

Peering in from the outside of Modell’s Sporting Goods, I see male mannequins line the windows and an onslaught of posters advertising mostly men’s clothing. If I look more closely, I can make out one small poster of a woman. Once inside, I only find more disparity in gender representation. Behind a display of three male mannequins wearing Nike shorts and shirts are two female mannequins in similar outfits. This entrance into Modell’s can be overwhelming as a teenage girl, being suddenly surrounded by men’s apparel. Only a small part of the store is divided between kid’s clothing and women’s clothing. There is an abundance of male sweatshirts, while the female section has a much narrower selection. The same can be said for the shoe section, where the selection and prices for women’s and men’s shoes differ substantially.

Upon first glance, I see that there are four rows of men’s shoes and two rows of women’s shoes. While women are offered two kinds of Nike running shoes, men are offered five. This phenomenon also presents itself in the shoes’ prices. For example, the Nike Zoom running shoes for women cost $109.99, while the Nike Zoom running shoes for men cost $99.99. The shoes are the exact same style and brand, different only in color. Nonetheless, the women’s pair of shoes is ten dollars more expensive than the men’s. This is just one example of the inequality women face in the sports world.

Earlier this year, I had to order a uniform for my club team, Gjoa. The club did not even offer the women’s option because it was more expensive. When I purchased the women’s shorts elsewhere, I found that they were $5.08 more than the men’s: the men’s squadra17 soccer shorts were $16.98, while the women’s squadra17 soccer shorts were $22. The shorts for men and women are identical, yet women are forced to pay more for the proper attire.   

Gender inequality in sports is not limited to stores like Modell’s; it can be seen here at Beacon. A Beacon student, Etta Gold, notes how “more [students] go to boys’ soccer games than girls’ soccer games, even if the girls have a home game on a Friday.” Whether women are given a more limited selection for apparel, a more expensive shoe, or fewer spectators at their sports games, the gap between the treatment of male athletes and female athletes remains abundantly clear.  

At one soccer practice, my friends and I were talking about how excited we were to watch the women’s United States National team play their first World Cup game. When we asked our coach if he was going to watch the game, he responded, “I don’t like to watch women’s soccer. It’s too slow.” The women on the national team were my role models and my coach’s disparaging words were unforgettable. That we were a girls’ team undermined his respect for our strength, perseverance, and toughness. This not only upset me, but changed my perspective as I realized that my admiration for women’s sports teams did not reflect in many people.

In the words of Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the women’s United States National team, men “get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.” Sports inequality is an omnipresent problem. So students, go out and support the Beacon girls’ sports teams! Help bridge the gap.

Women’s Sportswear                                                 Men’s Sportswear

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