It’s been 13 months since Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested and charged with assaulting his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino, and six months since video of the attack went viral. The incident — and the NFL’s mishandling of it — dominated sports headlines for weeks. But while the Rice case brought new attention to domestic violence and sexual assault involving athletes, those problems didn’t begin with Rice, and they haven’t ended there. A database maintained by USA Today lists at least 94 incidents in which NFL players have been arrested for domestic violence or sexual assault. That list doesn’t include former Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, who is widely expected to be selected first in the NFL draft later this spring, despite accusations that he raped a fellow student. (Winston was never charged with a crime; a New York Times story last year found evidence that the investigation was “flawed.”) And the problem goes far beyond professional football: Athletes at all levels in virtually every sport have faced similar accusations.On Friday, SXsports — the sports-focused offshoot of the long-running South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas — hosted an hourlong discussion on sexual assault and domestic violence in sports. The panel, which I moderated and helped to organize, featured three people with different perspectives on the issue:Katie Hnida, a former placekicker for the University of New Mexico, in 2003 became the first woman to score in a Division I-A men’s college football game. She later went public with her story of being harassed and raped by teammates at the University of Colorado, where she first played.Jane Randel is the co-founder of No More, a coalition aiming to raise awareness and engage bystanders in ending domestic violence and sexual assault. No More has partnered with the NFL, and Randel is currently serving as a consultant to the league in its anti-violence efforts.Don McPherson was an all-American quarterback at the University of Syracuse, where he led the Orange to an undefeated record in 1987. He later played in the NFL and the Canadian Football League. Since retiring from football, he has dedicated his life to social justice causes, particularly ending violence against women.At the start of our discussion, I noted that the cases involving Rice, Winston and others are only anecdotes. Even the USA Today database only gives raw numbers of incidents involving NFL players — it doesn’t tell us anything about whether violence against women is a bigger problem in the league or in sports than it is in society at large. (My colleague Benjamin Morris tried to fill that void back in July when he found that NFL players are arrested on domestic violence charges at a far higher rate than would be expected based on their age and income.)Numerous studies have tried to perform a more rigorous analysis, and many have found evidence of a link between athletics and violence. But it’s hard to find definitive proof: Domestic and sexual violence are notoriously underreported, and data on perpetrators is even more sparse than information on victims. That forces most researchers to conduct research using surveys, often with sample sizes too small to allow them to draw strong conclusions about the causes of violence.In the absence of better data, I asked McPherson whether he thought there was a connection between sports culture and violence against women. He said yes — but that sports also has an opportunity to help reduce violence by confronting narrow definitions of masculinity.Hnida said locker rooms don’t have to be hostile environments for women. At the University of New Mexico, she said, there was a culture of respect that started at the top. At the University of Colorado, by contrast, she said she “felt like I was more of an object, that I was not actually a person.”The title of our panel was “Can Sports Help End a Culture of Violence?” I asked Randel what she thought the answer was — could sports not just address its own problems but also help have an impact in society at large? She said yes, explaining that sports offers an enormous platform from which to reach men and boys.But McPherson said we won’t make much progress fighting violence against women — either in sports or beyond it — until we start talking honestly about who the perpetrators are: men. The numbers back that up. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 99 percent of rapes and nearly 95 percent of sexual assaults against women are committed by men. Men also commit the vast majority of stalking offenses against women.After the Ray Rice incident, the NFL partnered with No More, which produced a much-discussed PSA that ran during the Super Bowl. The success of that ad — it’s been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube — shows the reach of the NFL and other sports leagues. But I asked Randel how she could be sure No More was making a difference and not just providing public relations cover for the NFL.Hnida closed the panel with a message to the leagues, the media and sports fans: “Keep talking.”
81994Knicks+8.1 Best defensive rating relative to NBA average, single seasons since 1950-51 11964Celtics+10.8 YEARTEAMRELATIVE DEFENSE 32004Spurs+8.8 122016Spurs+7.4 21965Celtics+9.5 61962Celtics+8.5 Defensive rating is points allowed per 100 possessionsSource: BASKETBALL-REFERENCE 71993Knicks+8.3 91961Celtics+7.6 51963Celtics+8.5 112004Pistons+7.5 101962Lakers+7.6 42008Celtics+8.6 In terms of points allowed per 100 possessions, San Antonio gave up just 99.0, which was 12th-best in NBA history and 7.4 points better than the league average. In other words, reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard is leading a unit in hailing range of the string of ’60s-era Celtics teams led by Bill Russell, and right there with the teams that fill out the top 10 all time.Given the Spurs’ dominance this season, it’s no surprise that Durant and Westbrook have never faced a defense like San Antonio’s in their playoff careers. Coming into this series, the toughest D that either has faced belonged to the 2013 Memphis Grizzlies (whose 100.3 defensive rating was 5.6 points/100 better than league average), but that defense gave up 1.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than the 2016 Spurs — more than the difference between the third-ranked Pacers and 10th-ranked Cavs this season. After a less-than-exciting first round in the playoffs, NBA fans can look forward, finally, to sinking their teeth into an epic Spurs-Thunder matchup in round two. OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the best offensive talents in the game, and they’re facing down a 67-win Spurs team with a historically great defense. If there’s good news for the Thunder, however, it’s that Westbrook and Durant have scored just as efficiently against tough defenses in the playoffs as they have against weaker ones. And it may be because of their collective ability to knock down difficult shots.Durant, for instance, frequently knocks down shots few other players can consistently make. As a result, he ranks as the NBA’s third-best shotmaker1For players attempting 500 shots or more in the 2015-16 season. according to quantified shot quality (qSQ), a new SportVU-based statistic that measures the difficulty of each shot by accounting for where the shot was taken, the proximity of the defender and other variables. As a team, the Thunder were the fourth-best shot-making squad, adjusted for the quality of their looks. They don’t always take good shots — as an out-of-control Dion Waiters drive, or a pull-up three-pointer by Westbrook attests — but they’re still better than most at making them.The Spurs are the opposite: Their defense is predicated on forcing opponents to take bad shots. As a team, San Antonio ranked as the second-best defense, behind Charlotte, in terms of suppressing their opponents’ qSQ. Part of this is due to Leonard’s relentless perimeter defense; wily veterans such as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker also offset their waning athleticism with smart positioning to cut off easy paths to the basket.However, the Spurs’ problem is that they only have one Leonard to put on OKC’s two elite scorers. During the regular season, when Leonard matched up against Durant on defense, KD scored 38 points per 100 team possessions; but when Kawhi guarded Westbrook, he held him to only 25 points per 100 team possessions. If Westbrook faces Danny Green or Tony Parker instead, his scoring rate rises to 48 and 33 per 100 team possessions, respectively. So despite San Antonio’s dominant D, individual defensive matchups will be worth keeping an eye on.Whomever Leonard and Westbrook eventually match up against, this series is also notable for both players’ emergence as superstars over the past few seasons. According to Basketball-Reference’s Box Plus-Minus metric — which estimates a player’s contribution to his team’s scoring margin while on the floor — Leonard and Westbrook rank as Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, during the playoffs (sandwiched in between is poor Chris Paul), after ranking fourth and second (amidst Steph Curry and LeBron James) during the regular season. With Paul and Curry on ice,2Curry may return later in the playoffs. there’s an easy case to be made that this Spurs-Thunder series features two of the three best players remaining in these playoffs — and that’s without even considering Durant’s place among the league’s elite.It’s just one of the many twists adding intrigue to what should be a must-watch series. We knew the Western Conference’s second round would offer some of the best matchups of the entire playoffs, and Spurs-Thunder is shaping up to be the best of them all.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
CARMELO is back! As my colleague Nate Silver detailed Thursday, we’re issuing our second set of NBA player career forecasts; you can find the latest batch of projections here. For those unfamiliar with CARMELO,1Which, as a complete coincidence, stands for Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization. it’s an algorithm that uses the career arcs of similar historical players to predict what’s in store for today’s stars, journeymen and scrubs.I want to dig into what CARMELO predicts for 2016-17, but first let’s look back at the best — and worst — moments of the projection’s rookie season. To help isolate its biggest hits and misses, I gathered wins above replacement2WAR can be calculated by multiplying a player’s Box Plus/Minus by the percentage of his team’s minutes he played and then multiplying that by 2.2. data for the 435 players who both played in the NBA in 2015-16 and were issued a CARMELO forecast last fall. Here’s a simple histogram of the differences in WAR between what was predicted and what transpired on the court: Kawhi LeonardSF2515.810.55.010.8 Marcus SmartPG188.8.131.52.3 R. Westbrook27OKC2449+7.312.72750+10.018.3+5.6 Kyle LowryPG3014.59.43.810.8 Anthony Davis22NO2568+6.311.82164+2.25.1-6.7 What CARMELO got wrong in 2015-16 K. Towns20MIN1859-0.21.82627+2.86.8+5.0 James HardenSG2719.514.28.011.6 M. Smart2.55.1+2.6K. Durant14.110.9-3.2 Russell WestbrookPG28184.108.40.206.8 Paul George25IND2074+2.45.12819+4.510.1+5.0 Marcin Gortat31WSH1889+1.63.82256+1.24.0+0.2 Chris PaulPG3114.910.33.411.5 T. Evans1.63.8+2.2C. Paul13.110.3-2.9 Anthony DavisPF23220.127.116.11.8 That’s a pretty good list! Nic Batum, for instance, was coming off of a down year by the conventional metrics, but CARMELO predicted he’d bounce back to something more like his old form. It also predicted that Tim Duncan, at age 39, would play at a high level, and that lottery pick Frank Kaminsky would underwhelm.So, now that we’ve assessed CARMELO’s debut season, what can it tell us going forward? Here are the players our system thinks will see the biggest improvements (or declines) by WAR in 2016-17: PLAYERAGETMMINUTES+/-WARMINUTES+/-WARDIFF Draymond GreenPF2618.104.22.1680.2 Nicolas Batum27CHA2435+2.05.42448+2.05.5+0.1 Patrick Patterson26TOR1841+1.53.62020+1.03.3-0.3 DeAndre JordanC2813.98.02.911.0 Draymond Green25GS2189+4.68.02808+5.812.1+4.1 Lavoy Allen26IND1201+0.31.51599-0.61.3-0.2 Among players who were issued a forecast and played in the NBA in 2015-16.Source: Basketball-Reference.com Luis Scola35TOR1052-1.30.41636-1.20.7+0.3 Stephen CurryPG2820.522.214.171.124 Marvin Williams29CHA1568+0.01.82338+2.75.9+4.2 Kemba WalkerPG26126.96.36.199.6 FORECASTACTUAL What CARMELO got less wrong in 2015-16 Arron Afflalo30NY1952-2.5-0.52371-2.4-0.4+0.1 By WAR, the biggest miss on CARMELO’s résumé was also the game’s biggest star: Stephen Curry. It wasn’t that the algorithm thought Curry would be bad — CARMELO predicted that he’d be the game’s most valuable player in 2015-16 — but the projection didn’t foresee the quantum leap his game would take the season after he’d already established himself as league MVP. Outlier performances are outliers for a reason; most players would regress to the mean after posting one of the top 50 seasons in modern NBA history, not one-up themselves with a campaign ranking in the top 10. Obviously, Curry isn’t “most players.”Similarly, CARMELO knew Kyle Lowry and Russell Westbrook were good, but it didn’t bank on them being quite so good. The numbers also didn’t see Kemba Walker’s breakout performance coming, or that Karl-Anthony Towns would be one of the best rookies in modern history. And it was taken completely by surprise when Anthony Davis — CARMELO’s pick as the game’s most valuable franchise player — turned in a historically disappointing season.Davis, who was less than 100 percent for much of the season, brings us to the bumps and bruises — or worse — that players have to deal with. Injuries are notoriously difficult to predict, and since playing time and performance are so fundamentally intertwined, many of the players on the list above saw various ailments rob them of both minutes and per-minute production. Joakim Noah and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, for instance, missed most of the season with injuries, and they weren’t themselves when they did suit up.And it goes without saying that CARMELO knows little about the personal-life problems of mere humans. That’s why it — like me — was so utterly, woefully wrong about Ty Lawson’s disastrous 2015-16 season.Things weren’t all bad for CARMELO’s inaugural season, though. Here are the players — among those who played at least 1,500 minutes — for whom the projected WAR totals most closely matched the player’s output in 2015-16: Frank Kaminsky22CHA1272-1.40.41708-1.20.7+0.2 FORECASTACTUAL Jimmy Butler26CHI2688+3.68.32474+4.08.1-0.2 Goran Dragic29MIA2169+1.13.72363+0.73.5-0.2 About 55 percent of the players finished with a WAR total within a win (plus or minus) of what CARMELO predicted; that grows to 80 percent if we look for players who fell within two wins of their WAR forecast. It’s tough to say how that compares to other projection systems, since there aren’t many alternatives available in the public domain, but in a vacuum that doesn’t seem like an awful rookie showing, particularly since CARMELO’s errors appear to be roughly symmetrical along the shape of a bell curve — meaning it isn’t systematically biased toward over- or undervaluing players.CARMELO wasn’t perfect, though. Here were its biggest misses, high and low, of 2015-16: BIGGEST IMPROVEMENTSBIGGEST DECLINES D. Russell0.32.7+2.5R. Westbrook18.315.2-3.1 Jae Crowder25BOS1364+0.51.92308+2.86.2+4.3 Since CARMELO uses previous seasons to inform its projections, along with a heavy dose of regression to the mean, there’s some crossover between the lists of its 2015-16 misses and its 2016-17 improvements or declines. Curry, Lowry and company can’t possibly be that dominant two years in a row, right? We’ll see; projection systems are conservative by nature, always abiding by the law of averages, and an explosive individual performance represents a rebellion against that law. Maybe some of the names on the right-hand list will buck the odds and make history again; maybe they won’t. The left-hand list, however, is the one to keep an eye on — these are largely young players the projection expects to make big improvements, as well as a few veterans (Davis, Blake Griffin, Tyreke Evans) that it expects to bounce back.On that note, here’s a list based on pure volatility — the players for whom CARMELO projects the biggest range between what could reasonably be termed their best-case (90th percentile) and worst-case (10th percentile) outcomes next season: Karl-Anthony TownsC2188.8.131.520.4 Kemba Walker25CHA2452+1.34.42885+4.09.7+5.2 Blake Griffin26LAC2581+3.98.51170+3.33.5-5.0 D. Cunningham28NO1360-1.20.61971-1.20.9+0.2 CARMELO’s most volatile players of 2016-17 WAR CARMELO’s most (and least) improved players for 2016-17 Tim Duncan39SA1652+3.55.11536+4.15.3+0.2 Among players who were issued a forecast and played 1,500 NBA minutes in 2015-16.Source: Basketball-Reference.com Tyson Chandler33PHX2045+3.25.91618-0.51.3-4.6 Kyle Lowry29TOR2307+3.57.02851+6.813.9+6.8 Kyrie Irving23CLE2743+3.38.01667+1.63.3-4.7 Jeff Teague27ATL2072+0.52.82255+0.32.9+0.0 A. Davis5.08.8+3.7S. Curry21.716.1-5.6 Kristaps PorzingisPF2184.108.40.206.5 Brandon Knight24PHX2337-0.61.81870-0.31.8-0.1 Dwight Howard30HOU1920+1.13.32280+0.63.3+0.0 PLAYERPOSITIONAGEBEST CASEMEANWORST CASERANGE (+/-) B. Griffin3.45.9+2.4K. Leonard13.610.5-3.1 Andre Iguodala32GS1735+1.93.71732+1.63.5-0.2 PLAYER2016 WAR2017 WARCHANGEPLAYER2016 WAR2017 WARCHANGE Among players who will not be rookies in 2016-17. E. Mudiay-2.6-0.3+2.4P. George10.17.2-2.9 E. Payton0.83.4+2.6A. Horford8.95.7-3.2 Damian LillardPG26220.127.116.111.1 Shane Larkin23BKN1654-2.1-0.11751-2.2-0.2-0.2 Joakim Noah30CHI2160+3.06.0635+1.91.3-4.7 K. Irving3.36.2+2.8K. Lowry13.99.4-4.5 Naturally, young players such as Towns, Davis, Kristaps Porzingis and No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons will have wider variation in potential outcomes because we have less of a sample from which to draw their projections. But some veterans are also highly volatile because their comparable-player lists contain both stars and duds. From here out, James Harden could have the career arc of a Kobe Bryant (who stuck around in the league forever) or a Steve Francis (who was great early in his career but was out of the league by age 31).That’s the beauty of the NBA — we never truly know what will happen. But with CARMELO’s help, we have a slightly better idea than we would otherwise.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO NBA player projections. John WallPG2613.28.02.610.7 M. Kidd-Gilchrist22CHA2260+1.54.4205-1.40.0-4.4 Jerami Grant21PHI1656-0.71.22066-1.30.9-0.3 A. Wiggins-0.22.6+2.8P. Millsap10.77.3-3.4 Gordon HaywardSF2611.26.82.09.2 T.J. McConnell23PHI387-2.8-0.21606-2.10.0+0.2 Jimmy ButlerSG2718.104.22.168.2 LeBron JamesSF3216.322.214.171.124 K. Porzingis2.45.5+3.1L. James16.711.5-5.2 Elfrid Payton21ORL2404+2.35.72145-1.30.9-4.8 PLAYERAGETEAMMINUTES+/-WARMINUTES+/-WARDIFF Ty Lawson28—2442+1.34.41411-4.6-2.0-6.4 Al Horford29ATL2063+2.34.92631+4.19.0+4.1 Enes Kanter23OKC1824-2.00.01721-1.70.2+0.2 Paul Millsap30ATL2149+3.26.22647+5.310.8+4.6 Markieff Morris26—2073+1.13.61629-2.8-0.7-4.3 Ben SimmonsPF209.14.1-0.19.2 Paul MillsapPF3112.27.33.09.1 Derrick Favors24UTA2195+2.35.31983+2.75.1-0.2 Stephen Curry27GS2608+8.214.72700+12.521.6+6.8
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) A local sports hero, a New York real estate developer and a well-known architect are teaming up to build a soccer stadium in Haiti’s notorious Cite Soleil, hoping to revive the seaside shantytown known throughout the hemisphere for its extreme poverty and gang battles.Foreign investors in Haiti have largely directed their efforts at rebuilding from a devastating 2010 earthquake, focusing their funds on Port-au-Prince and the overlapping cities that make up the capital and the country’s sleepy coastlines.But ex-Haiti soccer star Robert ”Boby” Duval has masterminded the $5 million stadium project, which he says will address problems that predate the 2010 disaster. Developer Delos LLC and architect Carlos Zapata are working with him on the project in a slum on the outskirts of the capital, full of tin shacks and open sewage canals formerly shunned by investors, avoided by diplomats and at one point considered so dangerous that U.N. peacekeepers would only enter it in armored vehicles.”Cite Soleil was destroyed way before the earthquake,” said Duval. ”This stadium is going to clean up Cite Soleil…. and I’m betting on it.”The 12,000-seat stadium will be called the ”Phoenix Stadium,” referring to hopes that the shantytown will rise up.The organizers also hope the stadium, scheduled to break ground within six months and due to be built by the end of 2013, will bring an initial 500 jobs and inject commerce into Cite Soleil, where politicians have long gone so far as to pay gang leaders to stir up trouble.The arena will also host concerts and serve as a cultural center to foster a sense of community.Duval said it will also serve as the home to a new soccer league for some 350 players, independent of the Haitian Federation of Soccer.For the past 18 years, Duval has run the L’Athletique D’Haiti sports program from a field at the northeastern edge of Cite Soleil, giving some of Haiti’s poorest children life skills through sports. Some 2,000 youths participate in the program, which has been featured along with Duval in Sports Illustrated and ESPN.Duval said the introduction of a second soccer division will raise the quality of Haiti’s national league while providing a future for his budding professionals.”Let me do my own thing so my kids can make some money,” Duval said at his nonprofit sports academy.Federation officials didn’t return calls seeking comment.The current league and smaller clubs play their home games at the only official stadium in Haiti’s capital, the Stade Sylvio Castor in downtown Port-au-Prince. Until last summer, Its parking lot was used as a makeshift settlement for several hundred people displaced by the earthquake until city authorities paid some of them to leave even if they had no place to go. League organizers wanted to reclaim the stadium to resume matches.The bulk of the new stadium’s financing will be provided by Delos, corporations and individual donors. The land, 12 acres in all, was donated by a banker, Duval said.On a recent Thursday morning, dozens of youths sprinted across several adjacent fields in pursuit of a soccer ball at L’Athletique D’Haiti. Just outside the cinderblock wall, a police officer waved cars past a checkpoint, his face masked so that gang leaders wouldn’t recognize him.”I can’t wait for the day that the (stadium) arrives,” 17-year-old student Jean-Gilles Fritznel said as he leaned against a goal post. ”I will have a hard time sleeping the night before, waiting for the sunlight to see it.”The director of a neighborhood youth program welcomed Duval’s project and hopes it will change the culture of violence in the shanty.”Soccer players will be role models,” said 38-year-old Olerch Alexis. ”The youths will want to play soccer instead of pick up guns.”To read the entire story by Trenton Daniel, go to Yahoo
It is sad that a story that resonated and inspired so many has been imploded by so few. When Little League baseball—little league!—can be compromised by adults with their own agenda, it’s as clear an indication as any of the corruption that engulfs us.Kids playing a kid’s game has gone political, controversial and, yes, racial, with the kids the ultimate losers in all the machinations by self-serving, jealous and timid adults.Not just the Jackie Robinson West players who had their U.S. Championship rescinded on the heels of allegations that kids who did not live in the implicit district were playing on the team. But there will be other kids who will lose, too.In the world we live in, when Black people achieve something significant, they still often are trailblazers setting the path for others to follow their journey.Think the next all-Black team that dominates in little league baseball won’t be vetted beyond non-Black teams because of this fiasco? Of course, they will.This isn’t about race; it’s about reality. Want to shield your vision from what has happened time and again in corporate American or newsrooms or apartment leasing offices, go ahead. Some of us set the stage for others to follow, and if one goes awry, the decision-makers (Caucasians) heavily consider that misstep before granting another African-American an opportunity.Indeed, Black people often rue the conduct of other Black people. Say, for instance, Charles Barkley says something dumb, as he is wont to do. Many of us shudder, understanding that while Barkley does not represent us, his words and views inevitably will in some way be used against us.That phenomenon makes this little league baseball scandal that much more disheartening and significant.Even Jesse Jackson has come out from his seeming retirement to chime in on behalf of his fellow Chicagoans. “This is persecution. This is not right, it’s unnecessary. And it’s not fair,” Jackson said the other day at a press conference.He may be right. This whole drama started when a mostly white team from Chicago called authorities to say the Jackie Robinson West squad had players on its roster that did not live in the district. This also, it is important to note, was after the JRW team beat the brakes off that mostly white team, 43-2. And this came after JRW had captured the nation with a Little League World Series run that was marked by immense talent and admirable grace.Now, a city known for corruption in politics, has this on its ledger, too. And it’s the kids who are pained the most.“Little League says that they teach character and they teach courage. Well, this isn’t an act of courage and this sure isn’t an act of character. Brandon Green and his teammates, they earned the championship win and we will not stop until justice is done,” said Venisa Green, mother of JRW player Brandon Green.Renown Catholic priest Michael Pfleger said the words: “You need to reverse this unless you’re going to go after all 16 teams. This is a racist attack and racist at the foot of this, and there’s no way I’ll back off from that, none whatsoever.”The argument that every team has players living outside the designated zones does not make what JRW is alleged to have done right. But it sure is interesting that Evergreen Park, the whistleblowers on JRW, had at least one player from outside its area on its team in 2011. Renee Cannon-Young said her son, Jacoby, was recruited to play in Evergreen Park’s Little League, despite living on Chicago’s South Side.“The paperwork was filled out for me,” Cannon-Young said. “I was told that although he was not a resident of Evergreen Park, they were going to fix that so that he could play. Just use another address, and he would be able to play.”When Cannon-Young learned of Evergreen Park’s ratting out JRW, she screamed hypocrisy.So serious is this that Chicago mayor Raham Emanuel put it on his radar. He supports the team holding on to its championship. “Every home run was real,” he said. “Every great catch was real. The passion they brought from Chicago to Williamsport was real. And the character they showed on and off the field was real.”In vacating the title, Emanuel said, “You have turned (the youths) into the perpetrators when they are the victims. You know what they have done for Chicago, and let’s face it, you know what they’ve done for your tournament.”Jackie Robinson West player Brandon Green added: “We work hard all year long. And we went down there to play baseball and we weren’t involved in anything that could’ve caused us to be stripped of our championship.”This weekend, Rainbow PUSH (yes, it’s still around) plans to have a rally for the devastated and embarrassed players, to remind them that they are still champions, if not on paper any longer. Hovering above the occasion will be this truth: Adults who are supposed to be responsible let down the kids they are charged to protect.
Junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson (4) takes a swing during a game against Bethune-Cookman. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State baseball team swept the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats over the course of the weekend, extending the Buckeyes’ season-high winning streak to seven games. The Scarlet and Gray (19-7-1) were powered by strong pitching from junior lefty Tanner Tully in the series-opening 6-2 win, a career day from senior shortstop Craig Nennig during Saturday’s 11-2 victory, and an overpowering 15 hits for a 13-5 win on Sunday.OSU has been red hot, winning 12 of its last 13 games dating back to the 8-7 win over UNLV in Las Vegas on March 15. OSU coach Greg Beals said he really likes what he’s seen from his team over that stretch of play. “The key today was getting a win and finishing out the home stretch in a very good fashion,” Beals said. “A good ball club needs to take care of business at home, and now we need to go on the road and keep the win streak alive.”Game 1 Tully set the tone early for the Buckeyes, overpowering the Wildcats throughout his career-high 8.0 innings of work on a blustery day in Columbus. The Buckeye offense broke through in the fifth inning with three runs to provide Tully with all the run support he needed to earn his fourth win of the season. Tully (4-1) struck out three, walked one and only allowed two runs in his seventh appearance of the year, lowering his ERA to 2.53.Beals said Tully’s performance was big for OSU because it allowed the bullpen to remain fresh for the rest of the series after being used heavily in the two midweek games against the Ohio Bobcats and Toledo Rockets. The Buckeyes were led offensively by junior catcher Jalen Washington and junior center fielder Troy Montgomery. Washington went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and Montgomery went 1-for-4 with an RBI double, two stolen bases and a run scored in the game.Game 2 The weather played a huge role in the second game of the series, seeing sunshine, rain, snow and heavy winds that eclipsed 30 miles an hour. But Nennig wouldn’t let the bad weather hold the Buckeyes back as the Wrightstown, Wisconsin, native had a career day at the plate. Nennig went 3-for-4, including a three-run home run in the second inning to get the party started for the Buckeyes. His six RBIs accounted for more than half of OSU’s runs in the 11-2 victory. He fell a double short of hitting for the cycle. Senior pitcher Daulton Mosbarger picked up his first win of the season after his 2.2 innings of scoreless work. Redshirt sophomore pitcher Adam Niemeyer, who started the game for OSU, earned a no-decision for the fourth time this year after leaving the game in the fifth inning after pulling his hamstring, Beals said. With the weather being the way it was, Beals said the coaches “just didn’t want to push it at all.”“Hopefully it’s not too bad and (Niemeyer) is able to take his start next weekend,” he said. Game 3OSU continued to pour it on in the final game of the series, pounding Bethune-Cookman for 15 hits en route to the 13-5 victory. Senior pitcher John Havird (2-1) picked up the win for OSU after allowing two runs on four hits and a walk during his 5.0 innings of work. OSU’s offense across the board had a stellar day. Eight of the nine starters recorded a hit. But redshirt junior right fielder Jacob Bosiokovic and senior second baseman L Grant Davis perhaps had the best outings for the Scarlet and Gray. Bosiokovic went 3-for-4, including his Big Ten-leading ninth home run of the season. Davis went 2-for-5 with a career-high 4 RBIs, three of which came on a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning. Even though OSU put up 30 runs over the weekend, Davis said the Buckeyes still haven’t reached their true potential.“We haven’t really been clicking as a lineup, as a whole,” Davis said. “There’s been certain parts that have been picking each other up throughout each game. I think that if we can figure it out, in terms of getting everyone clicking and everyone putting good swings on the ball, it’s very, very scary what this team is capable of.”OSU is next scheduled to head to Kent, Ohio, on Tuesday for a matchup with Kent State. It begins a four-game road swing that ends with three games over the weekend against the Maryland Terrapins from Friday through Sunday. Edward Sutelan contributed to this story.
When David Lighty stepped onto campus in 2006, he was part of a high-profile freshman class. Now, as a fifth-year senior, Lighty sees some similarities between his class and this year’s freshmen. “With the class they have coming in and the number they have coming in, it’s pretty much just like my freshman year,” Lighty said. “It’s happening all over again.” Deemed the “Super Six,” this year’s freshman class is drawing comparisons to the class of ‘06. That year, then-freshmen Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook and Lighty helped the Buckeyes to a National Championship appearance. The hype that surrounded Oden and company is again in Columbus. Coach Thad Matta compared Oden, Conley Jr. and Cook to this freshman class, because many of them have played more than 200 games together throughout high school and Amateur Athletic Union basketball. That familiarity showed and will likely help this year’s class in the early going. This class also allows Matta to have more depth than last year’s six- or seven-man rotation. “One of the coaches said to me the other day, ‘It’s exciting that all 10 guys get along on the court,’” Matta said. “And that’s the exciting thing. I think we can have a deeper bench.” In the 2006-07 season, the Buckeyes went nine deep, which proved beneficial in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. There are even more similarities when comparing the individual players of each class. Oden was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, a McDonald’s All-American and won a state championship his senior year in high school. Freshman Deshaun Thomas earned the same honors playing at Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne, Ind. But Thomas isn’t the most hyped player in his class. That honor goes to fellow All-American Jared Sullinger. Regarded as one of the premiere freshman in the country, Sullinger is arguably the most high-profile freshmen in Columbus since Oden. Thomas might be more comparable to Cook in his ability to create instant offense. Lighty said Thomas is a great shooter and has the ability to take the ball into the post and score. Although it’s not clear if Thomas will work more at forward or guard for the Buckeyes, he has demonstrated his ability to light up the scoreboard. Point guard Aaron Craft was one of Sullinger’s AAU teammates, like Conley Jr. and Oden were. Matta said he likes what he’s seen from the freshman ball handler. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a freshman come to camp more ready to go physically than he was,” Matta said. “One of the things we’ve asked him to do was work on his ability to knock down shots, and he’s shown his ability to do that. We’ve always liked his defense.” With the classes showing many similarities, there are expectations to match. But that doesn’t seem to bother Lighty and his teammates. “I started off with a national championship” appearance, Lighty said. “So hopefully we can end that way.”
With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Ohio State men’s hockey team has little time to make a push for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament. OSU is currently the ninth seed with the top five seeds receiving a first round bye. “It’s crunch time,” senior forward C.J. Severyn said. “These last four games could mean life or death for us.” OSU coach Mark Osiecki said he likes the way his team is playing, though it lost six of its last seven games. He said he thinks the team hasn’t gotten the puck to slide its way. “That’s the hard thing,” he said. “We don’t have that puck luck.” Osiecki said it has been the same for his team all year. The pucks don’t seem to go its way, but he said that’s something the team has to overcome. “You’ve got to have great will,” he said. “You’ve got to have a relentless part of your game.” Though Osiecki said he thinks his team has been playing well, he said it’s not where the players expected to be at the beginning of the season. “I’m not sure if it’s where we want to be,” he said, “but we’re certainly better.” Four of the six losses — all of which were conference games — have been by two goals or fewer, so the team is usually within a couple of plays of winning. “We’ve got to play a full 60 minutes of Buckeye hockey,” Severyn said. “That’s where we’re going to get our wins.” The Buckeyes have two home series, of two games apiece, to round out the regular season: one against Lake Superior State and one against Ferris State. This weekend’s series against Lake Superior State is senior weekend, a time when the senior players reflect on their four years — especially this one — at OSU. One of the things the seniors have had to adjust to is a coaching change. Osiecki is in his first year as the men’s hockey coach, and it has been a transition for the seniors who had a different coach the previous three seasons. “It’s a hard thing to go through as a senior,” forward Kyle Reed said, “but I’m happy with it.” The Buckeyes (14-15-2, 9-13-2) have played well at home this season, going 7-5-1, and will look to continue to do that this weekend against Lake Superior State (10-12-8, 8-9-7). The games are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink.
It was a down year for the Buckeye fall sports teams, with no Big Ten championships won by any squad. However, the teams secured five NCAA tournament bids this season with women’s volleyball still in contention. Women’s field hockey and men’s soccer ended the regular season with the best conference success, narrowly missing out on first place and securing second in the Big Ten. Despite the overall lack of championship success, the Buckeyes earned several high individual honors and each team had its own season highlights. Men’s soccer For the first time since 2006, the Ohio State men’s soccer team was not a part of the NCAA tournament. Junior midfielder Chris Hegngi and senior defender David Tiemstra headlined a list of eight OSU players who received Big Ten awards; Hegngi and Tiemstra were named the conference’s best offensive and defensive player, respectively. Tiemstra and Hegngi were named First-Team All-Big Ten while senior forward Parnell Hegngi, junior midfielder Austin McAnena and junior goalkeeper Matt Lampson earned second-team honors. The Buckeyes finished with an overall 10-7-2 record, 4-2 in the Big Ten, placing second behind Northwestern. After losing to Northwestern on Oct. 9, a regular season conference championship seemed unlikely as the team sat at 7-5-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference. Coach John Bluem said the game was “one of the worst performances by an OSU team in (his) 15 years here.” The team responded, going 3-0-1 in its next four contests to put itself in a position to win the title in its final regular season game. OSU was not up to the task as they fell to Indiana on the road, 1-0. “It was certainly a disappointment to come away without a win and not win the championship outright,” Bluem said in a press release. “But it was definitely a difficult task at hand.” OSU had won the Big Ten tournament the last four years, but the team was defeated by Penn State in the first round of the tournament, ending its season. Women’s soccer At first glance the OSU women’s soccer team’s final regular season record of 10-8-1 and subsequent first-round loss in the Big Ten tournament doesn’t seem like anything too special. However, it was a couple of program milestones and an unlikely run in the NCAA tournament that made the 2011 season memorable. The Buckeyes received a bid to the national tournament, albeit one the team and coach Lori Walker did not expect to receive, and collected upset victories against Tennessee and Milwaukee to advance to the Sweet Sixteen to play Duke, the top-seeded team in the region. OSU led the Blue Devils, 1-0, at halftime, but two second-half goals by Duke ended the Buckeyes’ tournament run. “This team found a second life and made something of it,” Walker said following the loss. “We always said we wanted to advance until we met a team that is playing better than us … I give credit to our seniors for leading us to be here and we’ve got nothing to be disappointed about.” The 2011 senior class tied last year’s class as the winningest four-year group in program history with 51 victories. The Buckeyes also recorded program win No. 200 on Sept. 23 at home against Illinois. Field Hockey The field hockey team ended its 2011 campaign with a 12-9 overall record and 4-2 mark in conference play. By losing to Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the team overcame its semifinal loss in the conference tournament to make the big dance in three consecutive seasons. This was the Buckeyes’ seventh appearance in the tournament, while six of them have been under 16-year head coach Anne Wilkinson. The team was led by captain and First-Team All-Big Ten honoree Jenn Sciulli while forwards Berta Queralt, Danica Deckard and midfielder Paula Pastor-Pitarque were named Second-Team All-Big Ten selections. The team strongly depended on its defense in many of its games. Goaltender and captain Ally Tunitis notched four shutouts on the season and now holds the single-season wins record for OSU goalkeepers. The season was far from a failure due to the girls’ most notable win against No. 11 Michigan when they won, 2-1, in a thriller to kick off conference play. Tunitis described the win as the “most meaningful moment of the season.” Women’s volleyball The women’s volleyball team has yet to finish its season, as it will be making its way to Florida, Saturday and Sunday, for the Gainesville Regional to face the winner of Illinois and Marquette in the Sweet 16. The team finished its regular season with an overall record of 21-14 and a conference record of 9-11. The Buckeyes’ rollercoaster ride of a season sparked surprise at their tournament run, but a win over No. 14 Tennessee on Friday kept the girls’ season hopes alive. Junior Mari Hole was the only Buckeye named a First-Team All-Big Ten honoree while Kelli Barhorst was named a Sportsmanship Award honoree. Men’s cross-country The OSU men’s cross-country team was without its No. 1 runner for most of the 2011 season. For most teams, losing a top runner would spell doom, but for the Buckeyes this season, it did not. OSU qualified for the 2011 NCAA National Championships in Terra Haute, Ind., and finished 23rd out of 31 teams on Nov. 21 to conclude its season. The National Championship appearance was the third in five years for head coach Robert Gary and the Buckeyes. Redshirt senior Jake Edwards, OSU’s top runner coming at the beginning of the year, suffered a hamstring injury at the Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 30 and missed the rest of the season. Led by junior Donny Roys and redshirt senior Taylor Williams, the Buckeyes were resilient. Two weeks after losing Edwards, OSU ran at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Oct. 14. Among a field featuring 20 of the top 30 programs in the nation, the Buckeyes finished 17th. The men went on to finish fifth at both the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 30 and NCAA Great Lakes Regionals on Nov. 12, and received an at-large berth to the NCAA National Championships. Roys and Williams paced the way for the Buckeyes at the National Championship meet, placing 95th and 100th, respectively. Gary said the 2011 season was one of his all-time favorites. “I would have to say … (the 2011 team) was my third favorite team ever to have,” he said. Women’s cross-country The 2011 OSU women’s cross-country season has assistant coach Chris Neal optimistic for 2012. The Buckeyes sent two runners to the 2011 NCAA National Championships in Terra Haute, Ind., on Nov. 21 as individual qualifiers, and finished sixth at the NCAA Great Lakes Regionals on Nov. 12. Four of OSU’s top-five runners will return in 2012. “(This season) is definitely a building block going forward,” Neal said. Jordan Jennewine, the team’s lone senior, along with junior Tori Brink and freshman Nicole Hilton, led the Buckeyes this season. A first-place finish at the Mountaineer Open in Boone, N.C., on Sept. 16 by both Jennewine and OSU as a team, started off the season on a high point. Following a disappointing 38th-place finish at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Oct. 14, the Buckeyes failed to impress at the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 30, placing ninth as a team. OSU sixth-place finish at the regional meet didn’t earn the team a bid to the NCAA National Championships, but Brink and Hilton were individual selections. Brink and Hilton ran well again at the National Championship, finishing near the top half of the field in 120th and 142nd place. Golf The OSU men’s golf team’s opened its autumn slate on a high note with its second consecutive and 19th team title overall in the 15-team Marshall Invitational, with senior Alex Redfield claiming the individual title. The Buckeyes hit a bit of a rough patch after that, finishing in a tie for 10th out of 15 teams in the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational from Sept. 16-18 and earning a last-place 11th in a rain-shortened Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational on Sept. 27. As the host team of the Jack Nicklaus Invitational from Oct. 10-11, OSU finished second out a field of 12 teams, placing higher than four Top 25 ranked teams. The Buckeyes concluded the season with a last-place performance in the 15-team Isleworth Collegiate Invitational from Oct. 23-25. The OSU women’s golf team finished in third-place or better in all four autumn tournaments in which it played. The Buckeyes opened the season with a runner-up performance in the 12-team Mary Fossum Invitational from Sept. 16-17 and recorded a third-place finish out of 15 teams in the Windy City Invitational from Oct. 3-4. In the Lady Northern Invitational from Oct. 10-11, on the same course that the 2012 Big Ten championship will be played this spring, OSU finished second out of 12 teams. The Buckeyes concluded their fall slate by finishing third out of 18 teams in the Landfall Tradition from Oct. 28-30. Both OSU golf teams will resume play in February.
Although they will never make a single play on the field or the court, sports information directors (SIDs) make the headlines for almost every game. A SID provides information to media and fans, which can include working on media guides, updating a team’s Twitter feed and updating live statistics during games, said SID and assistant director of athletics communications at OSU Brett Rybak. “You’re kind of the intermediary between the media and the team,” said Rybak. “We’ll set up interviews and release information to various media outlets after games.” Rybak, in his third year with OSU, worked in the sports information department while he was an undergraduate at Otterbein University. During his senior year at Otterbein, Rybak was a student intern in the OSU athletics communications. In 2012, Rybak worked as the SID for OSU women’s soccer, baseball, women’s gymnastics, rifle and pistol teams as well as helped with men’s basketball and football. For those who work in media, like former Lantern editor-in-chief Zack Meisel, a SID is the middle-man between student-athletes and the media. “It’s a unique role and a critical one in sports,” said Meisel, who currently works for MLB.com. “There’s always going to be that separation between players and reporters. The SIDs are the ones who will set everything up, make sure the media has what it needs and at the same time makes sure that the players have the privacy and security they need because you can’t just go directly to a player for something.” Meisel said OSU’s system, which has many directors covering multiple sports, works well. “If you’re going to be a reporter and cover Ohio State, it obviously helps to get to know the SIDs a little bit,” Meisel said. “When I started out, I introduced myself to as many as I could, just to avoid potential snags.” Another former Buckeye sportswriter said he had mostly positive experiences with SIDs, but journalists must be wary of the information they give. “You just have to be careful as a journalist not to fall into a trap of where you’re taking everything they feed you,” said Grant Freking, a sportswriter for the Greenfield Daily Reporter in Greenfield, Ind. “They’re not going to give you the story; they’re going to give you what you ask for. You can’t just rely on them or expect them to go above and beyond for you. You accept what they give you and have to ask for something else in return so you can get that extra layer.” Rybak said he tries to maintain a good working relationship with not only the media, but the teams as well. “I think it’s a professional relationship of mutual respect,” Rybak said of the coaches and athletes. “They know what I have to do and I know what they have to do. For them, the most important thing is playing the game and stuff like that. So you take that into account, but I have to get my job done as well.” Since the SIDs work closely with sports teams each season, the players and coaches form relationships with them and have their own opinions of the SIDs. “Well, (Rybak) means a lot to me,” said OSU baseball coach Greg Beals. “He helps coordinate all these (media-related) activities and stuff that goes on. I’m a baseball guy. I’d prefer to be out there on the field in uniform instead of in front of cameras. He helps coordinate that.” Beals said Rybak also collects information and statistics the team finds useful. “The other thing is that I’m a numbers guy,” Beals said. “So he makes sure we get the stats and I have all the information I need to crunch my special numbers and do some things for our players. I like to motivate them with different numbers than just batting average and that stuff.” Both journalists and coaches agreed that SIDs play important roles for their respective jobs during games. Rybak said it’s tough work, but that it can be rewarding. “Fifteen-hour days aren’t out of the question, that’s for sure,” Rybak said. “It’s definitely not easy, but it has its rewards as well. I’d be paying attention to sports anyways, so why not make a career out of it? I get to pay attention to sports every day. On top of that, you get to get stories out of the student-athletes. I’d say that’s the most rewarding part of it.”