Patriot Alfonzo Dennard Found Guilty of Assault

New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was found guilty on Wednesday of assaulting a police officer in Lincoln, Neb., last year.The jury did not take long to find Dennard guilty of the felony charge and a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. The only relief for the former Nebraska Cornhusker was that he was acquitted of third-degree assault against another man, according to Lancaster County attorney Joe Kelly.Dennard is facing up to five years in prison for the assault on the officer and up to a year for resisting arrest, Kelly said. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 11.Dennard was arrested on April 21 shortly after 2 a.m. outside a bar in Lincoln. In the police report, officers stated they witnessed Dennard in a verbal altercation with another person who appeared to be spiraling out of control before they had to be separated by other civilians.Officers approached the crowd and instructed Dennard twice to leave the area. When Dennard was walking away, a police officer observed him punch another man, according to the affidavit.Officer Ben Kopsa ran over to Dennard and informed him he was under arrest and attempted to place him in handcuffs. According to multiple officers, Dennard pulled away and punched Kopsa in the face.Dennard admitted at trial that he may have resisted arrest, but adamantly denied punching Kopsa.His arrest came five days before the 2012 NFL draft. Dennard was a standout defensive back for Nebraska. He was the 2011 Big Ten defensive back of the year. Before his arrest, he was projected as a second- or third-round pick. Ultimately, he fell to the seventh round, where the Patriots took him.In his rookie season with the Patriots he had 35 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble.Dennard is free on bond, but is disappointed in the jury’s verdict.“We’re disappointed that he was convicted, but that’s the jury’s verdict,” Dennard’s attorney, Terry Dougherty, told the Associated Press. “Now we need to turn our attention to the sentencing phase of the trial.”For now, Kelly said he did not know if his office would push the judge to sentence Dennard to prison time. read more

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We Built A Polling Model … For The Baseball Hall Of Fame

Andy Pettitte6.6+2.08.67.7 Curt Schilling74.2-20.054.263.0 Excludes candidates who have received zero votes on public ballots.*The adjustment factor is derived from historical differences between public and private ballots.Source: Ryan Thibodaux’s Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker Billy Wagner15.9+0.716.716.3 Omar Vizquel36.8+8.144.941.3 We analyze elections here at FiveThirtyEight, and we’re not about to miss one — even if it takes place in the world of baseball. On Tuesday, the Hall of Fame’s full Class of 2019 will be announced, and Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and more than 30 other former players will find out if they will join a list of immortals in baseball’s most exclusive club.Hopefuls earn a spot in the Hall if they’re named on at least 75 percent of ballots cast by typically around 400 voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.1Specifically, those who have covered baseball for at least 10 of the last 20 years. Each Hall voter can pick up to 10 candidates listed on the ballot. (If not, they roll over to next year’s ballot — unless they get fewer than 5 percent of the vote or have been on the ballot for 10 years.) We already have some idea of what percentage to expect for each player, thanks to the efforts of Ryan Thibodaux. Thibodaux is the exit pollster of the baseball world: He and his team of “interns” scour the internet for voters who have made their Hall of Fame ballots public before the full results are announced. Thibodaux tallies them all up on his online Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker — like the first few precincts to report on election night — to give us partial election results weeks in advance.The problem is, as experienced election-watchers know, the early returns may not be representative of the whole electorate. It turns out that the public vote is consistently higher than the actual vote for some players and lower for others. In pollster lingo, this is because of sampling bias. Voters who are more likely to publish their ballots in advance are those more likely to be on Twitter (the main medium for sharing ballots) and vote a certain way. As the table below demonstrates, players who are favored by the sabermetric crowd (for example, Tim Raines and Mike Mussina) or tied to performance-enhancing drugs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens) historically are overrepresented on public ballots, while players perceived as “clean” (Fred McGriff) or whose cases rely on traditional statistics like saves or Gold Glove Awards (Omar Vizquel, Lee Smith) do better on private ballots. Rivera, Halladay and Martinez will likely make the HallForecasted results for the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame election, combining 182 already public ballots and an estimated 230 remaining ballots whose projected vote shares reflect the historical voting bias of private ballots Positive numbers mean the player did better on private ballots than public ballots; negative numbers mean the player did better on public ballots than private ballots.*Eventually elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.Source: Ryan Thibodaux’s Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker Players projected to fall short Fred McGriff36.3+8.644.941.1 Tim Raines*-10.7-6.4—-8.5 Edgar Martinez-7.7-16.6-16.8-13.7 Jeff Kent15.4+2.117.516.6 Roger Clemens-10.5-20.6-16.9-16.0 Curt Schilling-15.2-13.7-22.0-17.0 Jeff Bagwell*-11.8-3.1—-7.4 Lance Berkman1.1+0.31.41.3 Manny Ramirez26.9-1.125.926.3 Trevor Hoffman*+7.2+3.0+3.2+4.5 Roger Clemens73.6-17.855.863.7 I’m projecting that three players will surpass the 75 percent threshold required for election. Let’s start with the player who has waited the longest to get here: Seattle Mariners hitting machine Edgar Martinez, who is eligible for election for the 10th and final time.3In 2014, the Hall of Fame announced that players would lapse off the ballot after 10 years, not 15 as in the past. Martinez is currently pulling 90.7 percent of the public vote, but — perhaps because of anti-designated-hitter bias — he is one of the candidates who always see precipitous drops from the exit polls to final results. Still, I’m expecting him to win 73.9 percent of the votes that have yet to be revealed, giving him an overall total of 81.3 percent.With a projected 92.6 percent of the vote, fearsome starting pitcher Roy Halladay also looks assured of election. This is the first time Halladay — who tragically died in a plane crash in 2017 — has appeared on the ballot. That means he has no vote history to go off, so my model treats him (and other first-time candidates) a little differently. First, I calculate which returning candidate’s support is most highly correlated with the new candidate’s support. For Halladay, this was Mike Mussina, which makes sense — both are starting pitchers who fall short of the traditional Hall of Fame standard (300 wins) but have strong peripheral stats. Then I estimate the new candidate’s support among private ballots assuming that correlation will hold steady. For example, so far in public ballots, Halladay has won 96.6 percent of voters who also voted for Mussina but only 81.8 percent of voters who didn’t vote for Mussina. I applied those same percentages to the projected number of private ballots with and without Mussina.Mariano Rivera — indisputably the best closer of all time — rounds out this group.4Harold Baines and Lee Smith were chosen for Hall induction late last year as part of an alternative election process. Currently, I’m projecting him to get a round 100 percent of the vote, which would make him the first unanimous selection in Hall of Fame history. However, I freely admit that candidacies like Rivera’s — another first-time candidate — are a blind spot for the model. With no public “no” votes on Rivera, he correlates equally poorly with every returning candidate.5The same is true for candidates with no public “yes” votes, like Kevin Youkilis. I don’t issue projections for these “just happy to be nominated” candidates. Therefore, our best option is to look at how other closers, like Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith, have fared — and if there is one ironclad rule for the public-private differentials, it’s that closers do even better with private voters than they do with public ones. You can’t do better than 100 percent, obviously, so Rivera’s adjustment factor is simply zero.The most interesting finding belongs to a candidate who isn’t currently projected to make the Hall: Mussina. Although his name has been checked on 81.9 percent of ballots revealed so far, he historically has performed about 16 points worse among private voters. At the current ratio of public-to-private ballots, that computes to a final vote share of 73.0 percent — just 2 points shy of election. But if there’s one thing you should have learned from reading FiveThirtyEight, it’s that polling errors of 2 points happen all the time, so Mussina could definitely still pull this out. Even if Mussina doesn’t make it this year, though, he’s a cinch to get in eventually, as he has four years of eligibility remaining.No other candidates are particularly close to being elected, according to my projections, although that doesn’t mean their forecasted vote shares aren’t interesting. If you just take Thibodaux’s tracker as gospel, you might think Barry Bonds (73.1 percent of public ballots) and Roger Clemens (73.6 percent) are knocking on the door. But the two superstars, both rumored to have been heavy steroid users, are virtually guaranteed to bomb with private voters. Their projected percentages in the low 60s are only incremental improvements from their 2018 vote shares, creating genuine suspense over whether they will be elected before their window of opportunity expires in 2022. On the other hand, Larry Walker is forecasted to finish at 62.2 percent, which would be a 28.1-point improvement over last year — a record. Amazingly, that would mean the ex-Rockies outfielder, whose candidacy seemed stuck in purgatory just last year, would have a real shot at election in 2020, his final year on the ballot.Finally, the exit polls imply that a few candidates — including Andruw Jones and Andy Pettitte — are in danger of falling off the ballot entirely. But my model thinks they’ll live to be voted upon another day. Last year, Jones won private ballots at twice the rate that he won public ballots, and first-time candidate Pettitte’s support is negatively correlated with Martinez’s support, implying that he’ll gain on private ballots as well. The only candidates I’m expecting to drop off are those whose support in Thibodaux’s tracker is so limited that it would take a miracle among private ballots to save them. Sorry, Michael Young, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Miguel Tejada. Sammy Sosa13.2-5.37.910.2 Andruw Jones8.2+5.013.311.0 Mike Mussina-14.0-16.5-15.8-15.4 Mike Mussina81.9%-16.065.9%73.0% Omar Vizquel——+8.1+8.1 Roy Halladay94.0-2.491.692.6 Todd Helton19.2+6.025.322.6 Vladimir Guerrero*—-1.3-4.5-2.9 Scott Rolen20.9-3.717.118.8 Larry Walker67.0-8.658.462.2 Mariano Rivera100.0%0.0100.0%100.0% Michael Young1.6%+0.11.7%1.7% Lee Smith+10.9+8.3—+9.6 Player201620172018Average Players projected to be eliminated from future ballots Fred McGriff+3.8+13.0+7.2+8.0 Miguel Tejada1.10.01.11.1 Players likely to make the Hall% of Public BallotsAdjustment Factor*Estimated % of Private BallotsProjected Final Vote Barry Bonds-13.2-23.8-19.2-18.8 Gary Sheffield13.2+1.314.513.9 Public ballots overestimate some Hall of Fame candidatesThe difference between a player’s vote share on private ballots and his vote share on public ballots at the time of the Hall of Fame announcement, for select candidates For the past several years, I’ve used these public-private differentials to project the final results of the Hall balloting. For every returning player, I calculate an “adjustment factor” based on whether he has historically over- or underperformed his “polls.”2Specifically, the adjustment factor is an average of each player’s last two public-private differentials, with his 2018 differential weighted 75 percent and his 2017 differential weighted 25 percent. If you’ve followed my projections in the past, you might notice that this is different from how I used to calculate adjustment factors, which was a straight average of the player’s last three differentials. After conducting an autopsy of last year’s projections, I found that this weighted two-year average has historically been more accurate. Then I add or subtract the adjustment factor to or from the player’s public vote share in Thibodaux’s tracker to get the player’s estimated vote share among private voters. Then, I simply combine the two vote shares proportionally (based on what percentage of the estimated total vote has been made public thus far) to arrive at the player’s final projection. (There’s a different adjustment for first-time candidates — more on that later.)Below are this year’s projections as of Jan. 16, with 182 ballots revealed out of an estimated 412 expected to be cast. (Dozens more are likely to be made public before the announcement, so for real-time updates to the forecast, follow me on Twitter.) Roy Oswalt1.1+0.21.31.2 Edgar Martinez90.7-16.773.981.3 Barry Bonds73.1-20.452.761.7 Larry Walker+2.4-3.1-10.5-3.7 read more

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The NYC TickerTape Parade Belongs To The US Womens Soccer Team Now

A ticker-tape parade through lower Manhattan is pretty much the quintessential homecoming for American heroes. So it’s fitting that the conquering U.S. women’s soccer team — which won the World Cup on Sunday — will get its second parade in four years down New York City’s “Canyon of Heroes” on Wednesday morning. That’s an appropriate honor after one of the most dominating performances we’ve ever seen in all of sports history.Today’s ticker-tape parades in NYC go almost exclusively to teams like the one Megan Rapinoe led to championship glory. Including the past two parades, both earned by the women’s soccer players, sports heroes have gotten 11 of the past 12 parades in New York over a span of 25 years. (The only exception was in 1998, when 77-year-old John Glenn and the rest of the space shuttle Discovery crew were honored.) But that wasn’t always the case. Although about 18 percent of the 196 NYC ticker-tape parades in Wikipedia’s database have commemorated sports accomplishments over the years, that ranks a distant third behind parades thrown for important heads of state (38 percent) and military figures (20 percent). Before sports went on its recent tear, it made up only 13 percent of ticker-tape parades, or roughly the same share as went to famous (nonastronaut) adventurers such as pilot Amelia Earhart and explorer Richard Byrd.Here’s a look at all 196 New York ticker-tape parades in our data set, broken down by year and type: When we plot out the whole history of these parades, a few things jump out:Sports is everything now. Athletes have always gotten some share of parade glory, but there have been as many sports parades in the past 25 years as in the nearly 40 years prior, even as the overall rate of parades has dropped dramatically.11.8 per year from 1954 to 1994; 0.5 per year from 1994 to 2019. And while you might think that a New York championship parade requires a New York-based team to win — which hasn’t happened much since the Yankees’ last dynasty ended in 20002Since then, three New York teams have won titles: The 2007 and 2011 Giants in football and the 2009 Yankees in baseball. (Sorry, New Jersey Devils. Your celebrations tend to come in parking lots.) — the city has also been known to throw a big party for Olympians, successful national teams like the USWNT and even individuals like Sammy Sosa (yes, really) after the Dominican-born outfielder hit 66 home runs and helped provide relief for victims of Hurricane Georges in 1998.They sure loved their parades in the 1950s and 1960s. Nearly half (48 percent) of all the parades on the list happened during the 1950s and ’60s alone. Along with the celebration of sports — baseball in its NYC heyday, plus great individual athletes such as Althea Gibson and Ben Hogan — it was the perfect moment for visiting dignitaries (50 heads of state got parades) and war heroes (21 military parades) to get honored in the wake of World War II. And then came the advent of the space program, which spawned numerous astronaut parades after the accomplishments of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The space race represented a peak of sorts for ticker-tape parades; astronauts would be celebrated eight times from 1962 to 1971, and the end of the Apollo program in 1972 coincided with a sharp decline in the number of parades held. (The city’s near-bankruptcy in 1975 didn’t help matters either.)The 1920s and 1930s were a prime time for adventurers. The first great period of parade activity ramped up around the start of the 1920s, not long after the end of World War I. At first, the honorees were what you’d expect — dignitaries from abroad, military leaders, heroic sea rescuers, etc. But by the middle of the decade, parades began to more frequently honor expeditions like trips to the North Pole and trans-Atlantic flights. From 1926 through 1938, more ticker-tape parades were devoted to adventurous accomplishments (19 total) than all other reasons combined (18).There have been some bizarre excuses to throw parades over the years. If you go through the list of parades, you’re guaranteed to have at least one moment of, “Wait, why?” A few of our favorite weird commemorations included … Aimé Tschiffely, the Swiss-Argentine professor who embarked on a solo horse ride from Buenos Aires to New York; Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, a pilot who accidentally flew to Ireland (instead of California) from New York;3Check out the early prototype New York Post troll headline for Corrigan’s parade coverage. the 48 European journalists who went on an “American discovery” flight around the U.S. in 1949; the Order of the Knights of Pythias, a secret society that got its own parade in 1955; pianist Van Cliburn, who won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958; separate parades, two weeks apart, for both the first woman to swim the English Channel and the first mother to swim the English Channel; Marquis Jacques de Dampierre, who got a 1930 parade because his long-dead ancestor happened to be Revolutionary War hero Lafayette; and Connie Mack, who was honored in New York for managing a Philadelphia baseball team for 50 years. If you are interested in reading more about NYC’s history with unnecessary parades, Splinter’s David Matthews wrote on the topic before the USWNT parade four years ago.These things are rare now. If you’re in the New York City area Wednesday and have a chance to attend the U.S. women’s team’s parade, you should probably check it out. These massive ticker-tape celebrations used to happen several times per year, but now we’re lucky if we get one every three or four years. And if anyone on this list deserves the acclaim, it’s this American team. Amid a backdrop of calls for equal pay, this is only the 12th Canyon of Heroes parade devoted entirely to women. Before the USWNT’s 2015 parade, it had been 55 years since a woman was the sole focus of a ticker-tape parade. Now the U.S. women have earned each of the past two. That’s a remarkable accomplishment — and one worth a massive celebration in lower Manhattan. From ABC News: read more

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Thoroughbreds Are Running as Fast as They Can

On Saturday, 19 thoroughbreds will once again be off, running in the 140th Kentucky Derby. The Derby calls itself “the greatest two minutes in sport” because that’s more or less how long it takes to win the race, and that hasn’t changed in decades. Since 1949, the time it takes thoroughbreds to run around the 1.25-mile track has averaged 2:02.25, and no winning race time has deviated by more than 3 seconds from this long-term average.Mark Denny, who studies biomechanics at Stanford University, wrote a 2008 paper that asked, “Are there absolute limits to the speed at which animals can run?” He looked at the statistics of the fastest times each year for the Triple Crown horse races (which include the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in addition to the Kentucky Derby), three premier greyhound races in England, and elite men’s and women’s athletics at distances of 100 meters to the marathon.The data reflected remarkable achievements by the fastest horses, dogs and people. Denny fit the data with a statistical model, and then used extreme value theory (since the data was about the best in each sport) to calculate a maximum speed limit.1Extreme value analysis is a subfield of statistics that seeks to model the probabilities of very rare events. It has been widely applied in contexts such as estimates of flood potential and equity risk. Some race times, like the Kentucky Derby’s, have plateaued, while others are still improving, like the men’s 100-meter race. This approach suggests that the fastest time possible for a human in a 100-meter race is 9.48 seconds. Usain Bolt’s world-record time is only 0.10 seconds from the limit.2A statistical approach is not the only possible way to estimate how fast runners can run. One evaluation of Bolt’s world-record 100m in the journal Significance found enough opportunities for improvement to argue that Bolt could run faster than Denny’s 9.48 limit.Denny says his approach tells us “that speed has its limits, but not what accounts for those limits.” There are, however, a few possible explanations for why thoroughbreds may have already hit those limits but humans, for the most part, have not yet plateaued.One possibility, advanced by Denny and others, is that thoroughbred race times may have leveled off because the narrow genetic diversity of racehorses limits the genetic diversity in the pool of potential thoroughbred champions. Modern thoroughbreds are descendants of a small number of horses (less than 30 in the 18th century), and 95 percent are thought to trace their ancestry to a single horse, The Darley Arabian. Today, there are fewer than 25,000 thoroughbreds born each year in the United States. Compare that with the more than 7 billion people worldwide.3The Triple Crown horse races are limited to 3-year-old horses, so each horse can run these races only once. Humans can race at any age, and in as many races as they like. The size of the human population may simply lead to a greater number of potential athletes with extreme speed.And humans could be even faster if we didn’t engage in any other athletic pursuit aside from racing. David Epstein wrote in his book “The Sports Gene” that while it’s unclear whether speed is innate or nurtured, one important reason for Jamaican athletes’ success in short-distance races is that in their country, “every kid is made to try sprinting at some point.” In the United States, at least, many of the fastest runners are lost to other sports, and thus never have a chance to reach their potential as runners. Epstein cites Trindon Holliday, now a kick returner for the New York Giants, who in college outran future Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix at 100 meters at the 2007 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Who knows how fast Holliday might have become as a full-time professional sprinter? Humans who race also have many opportunities to train, specialize, experiment and innovate. Those efforts are apparently still bearing fruit in some track and field events.Even if racehorses aren’t getting faster in general, assuming random variation in the speed of the very fastest horses would mean that we haven’t yet seen the fastest horse. Denny’s calculations suggest that the current Kentucky Derby record time of 1:59.40 in 1973, held by the legendary Triple Crown-winner Secretariat, could be beaten by as much as 1.5 seconds.4Or, in horse terms, about 11 lengths. But theory and reality are different things. Denny concludes that Secretariat “may represent a good approximation of the ultimate individual thoroughbred.”Of course, any extrapolation from observed statistics are based on important assumptions, and Denny admits that his are, too. On the one hand, he concludes the data from the Triple Crown races indicates that “the process of selective breeding of thoroughbreds (as practiced in the U.S.) is incapable of producing a substantially faster horse.” But breeding practices could change, Denny notes, and perhaps greater genetic diversity in horse breeding would create thoroughbreds with faster potential speeds.Going even further, it’s also possible that a horse could be genetically engineered to run faster. Horse racing has already taken a step in this direction via the cloning of thoroughbreds. The acceptability of cloning racehorses has been controversial for more than a decade, and in 2007 the international body that oversees horse racing banned cloned thoroughbreds (and, of note, cloned jockeys as well) from international competition. But in 2012 the ban was lifted, apparently for horses only. Imagine a future Kentucky Derby with the participation of cloned replicas of Secretariat, Sea Biscuit and Man ‘O War. Or even a race with identical cloned thoroughbreds in multiple lanes, to showcase the trainers’ and jockeys’ efforts.So to return to Denny’s research question, “Are there absolute limits to the speed at which animals can run?” The answer is yes. A more important question: How far are we willing to go to reset these limits? “The greatest one minute and 50 seconds in sports” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as smoothly. read more

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Tennis Has A Big ThreeAndAHalf

We wrote Monday that the Big Four of men’s tennis — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — dominate the sport despite the seemingly seismic upsets at the U.S. Open on Saturday. Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic upset Djokovic and Federer, respectively, in semifinals and will play the final Monday. But Djokovic, Nadal and Federer remain far ahead of those two upstarts and other younger challengers in the rankings.Murray, though, is a different story. He hasn’t reached a final in 14 months. He’ll fall out of the Top 10 if Cilic wins Monday.Murray has always been a bit of a different story — an awkward fit in the Big Four. It’s often seemed like a Big Three and Murray. The other three each have at least seven Grand Slam titles and have been ranked No. 1 for more than 100 weeks each. Murray has two Grand Slam titles and peaked at No. 2.Murray’s overall record at the biggest tournaments makes him mostly worthy of his Big Four status, but it also establishes how far behind the other members he is. Despite repeatedly and unfortunately having to face them, Murray trails only those three players in career success, among anyone whose Grand Slam career began in the past quarter-century.We compiled annual results for 19 players at the four Grand Slams and the nine Masters tournaments, the 13 events where nearly all the top players compete, pulling data from Tennis Abstract. Then we calculated the number of ranking points each player earned at those tournaments — using the current point distributions — and divided by the maximum number of points each could have earned. So, for example, to earn 100 percent of possible points, a player would have to sweep all 13 tournaments. We prorated this year’s numbers and split the 800 additional points Monday’s winner will earn between Cilic and Nishikori.Our 19 players are the Big Four, the second line of five players mentioned in the companion article — Cilic, Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, Ernests Gulbis and Milos Raonic — and their contemporary Juan Martin del Potro, and the nine non-Big Four male players who reached the No. 1 ranking and started playing Grand Slam tournaments in 1990 or later (1990 is when the Masters events began, under a different name): Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Gustavo Kuerten, Marat Safin, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Carlos Moya, Marcelo Rios and Patrick Rafter.What’s striking about Murray is how much his curve is dwarfed by those of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic — and yet how much his curve towers over almost everyone else’s. His peak season, in 2011, is better than the best season of each of the non-Big Four players we studied. Even Murray’s fifth-best season, in 2010, is better than the best season of four former top-ranked players: Roddick, Moya, Rafter and Kafelnikov. Or, if “better” isn’t appropriate for a season that doesn’t include a Grand Slam title, then Murray’s season in which he had the fifth-highest weighted average level at big tournaments was more consistently good than the career best years for four players who reached the No. 1 ranking.We concluded our earlier piece by saying the second line and del Potro should aspire to match Murray. That’s no small achievement — and it could be big enough to reach the No. 1 ranking he’ll probably never attain, because these younger players are less likely to have to contend with the likes of Federer and Nadal for the entirety of their careers. read more

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Chelseas Historically Awful Start

After Saturday’s game, Football Twitter was both amused and bemused: If you stuck a rolling £10 bet on every Chelsea league defeat this season, you’d be £309,760 richer. pic.twitter.com/t4D5nzgutA— Généraux (@skizz__) November 7, 2015 Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea…It’s the defending Premier League champion, but Chelsea’s campaign this season would make Scott Walker proud. The team’s nightmarish season continued Saturday, with a 1-0 loss to mid-table football club Stoke City. Chelsea now sits 16th out of 20 in the standings, after winning the league title decisively last season. Emblematically, Chelsea played Saturday’s game without its outspoken manager, José Mourinho, who was banned from the premises following an “expletive-laden rant” at a referee last month.There have been rumors of players’ unhappiness with Mourinho’s management style, of a locker-room revolt, and even that some players would rather lose than win a game for the manager. Others, like Chelsea captain John Terry, laid blame at the feet of the players — striker Diego Costa has struggled, for example — rather than the coaches, as well as chalking up some of the poor start to bad luck. And a few Chelsea stars — Costa, Terry, Branislav Ivanović, Cesc Fàbregas — are getting on in years, and perhaps fatigue is setting in.Chelsea has lost seven of its 12 opening Premier League games — including the last three straight — and drawn two. That’s bad enough to make history. Since the very first English top-flight season in 1888, no defending champion has lost more than half of its opening 12 games. Ten times the defending champion has lost six out of its opening 12 — the first being Everton in 1891, the last Blackburn Rovers in 1995.1The data used in this article was assembled by one of the authors, James, and is available here.The only rival to this year’s Chelsea team since 1888 is the 1961-62 champion Ipswich Town. Ipswich started the season after its championship with two wins, four draws and six defeats, or 10 points under the current standings system, compared to Chelsea’s 11 points this season. (Since 1981, wins have been worth three points, draws one and losses zero. Prior to this, wins were worth two, but for comparison’s sake we’ve include those seasons as if they were worth three.) Here’s a look at the seasons of all the defending champs since World War II. Chelsea is averaging less than one point per game. Last season it averaged 2.3. This is the team’s worst start since 1978 — a season after which they were relegated.2The bottom three teams in the standings at the end of the season are relegated — demoted, essentially — to the second-tier Football League Championship. The top three teams from the second tier are promoted to take their place.Of the 60 seasons that Chelsea has played in the top tier, only four have begun with a worse record than this year. In those four seasons, the team has not finished higher than 16th and has finished at the bottom twice. Twice before, Chelsea started with an identical record to this year. In 1973-74 they finished 17th, but Chelsea fans will be hoping that Mourinho’s team can recover like the 1953-54 version, which finished in eighth place. Here’s a look at all previous Chelsea top-flight seasons. Finding Chelsea in PL table is tougher than finding Nemo— SemperFiUnited (@SemperFiUnited) November 7, 2015 Mercifully, Chelsea now has a bit of a break from league action. Its next game, the 13th of the 38-game season, will be on Nov. 21 against another middling side, Norwich City. Chelsea will need to make a great deal more history, and of a happier kind, to return to the top of the standings, and will have to buck its current form just to stay in the Premier League. The team is only three points above the dreaded relegation zone. It’s played in the top flight of English football every season since 1989, winning four titles in that time. read more

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Ohio State womens basketball prepares for another elite team No 1 Connecticut

OSU then-junior guard Cait Craft attempts to drive past Iowa freshman guard Whitney Jennings during a game on Feb. 21 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 100-82. Credit: Lantern file photoThe No. 6 Ohio State women’s basketball team (0-1) is set to welcome top-ranked Connecticut to the Schottenstein Center on Monday with the Buckeyes looking to dethrone the Huskies, winners of the last three national championships.OSU’s battle against the nation’s No. 1 team comes just three days after the Buckeyes lost to No. 2 South Carolina 88-80 despite sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell’s 36-point outburst. The Gamecocks used their myriad of talented post players to get second-chance points and take over the game down the stretch. “We really got stagnant offensively at the end of the game and didn’t generate enough quality shots,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “Probably more importantly, we didn’t keep them off the glass.”In order for the Buckeyes to have a chance against Connecticut, McGuff said he understands his team must compete with the defending champions on the boards and neutralize them in the interior.“Well, Connecticut’s unbelieveable. They’ve got a great team, they’ve got great players, they’re well-coach, they’re No. 1 in the country for a reason,” McGuff said.The Huskies are led by senior forward Breanna Stewart, a two-time AP player of the year winner and the first three-time Final Four most outstanding performer in NCAA history. Stewart, standing 6-foot-4, averaged 17.6 points to go along with 7.8 rebounds last season. This year, Stewart looks to win her fourth national championship and, before the season, was joined by her teammate, senior guard and UConn’s offensive facilitator Moriah Jefferson, as a preseason AP All-American. While OSU’s roster boasts talented players from top to bottom, only Mitchell was honored as a McDonald’s All-American exiting high school. Connecticut boasts six such players receiving the award in high school.Two seasons ago, in McGuff’s first year as OSU’s head coach, the Buckeyes hosted Connecticut, falling 70-49. However, only two players — Alston and senior guard Cait Craft — remain from that team.“They’re the same type of team, they push the ball in transition, they have a lot of talent back. And when you think of UConn, all you think of is the huge tradition that they have,” Craft said. “But, we’re a whole different team than we were my sophomore year. The makeup of our team is different, our style of play is different.”The aura of Geno Auriemma’s HuskiesUConn coach Geno Auriemma’s legend precedes himself. The 2006 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee has won 10 NCAA championships, two Olympic gold medals, 21 regular-season conference championships and 20 postseason conference championships. The foul-mouthed, Italian-born Auriemma has not coached a team that did not make the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament since 1993.“If (UConn) could walk in here with different jerseys, maybe it would be a little different,” McGuff said. “But I do think they obviously have an aura about them and they’ve earned that.”Auriemma’s UConn teams often beat opponents before even stepping on the court. For 40 minutes, the Huskies will push the pace, never taking a second for their opponents to take a breath even when their lead seems insurmountable. The Huskies played two exhibition games in the preseason, romping Lubbock Christian 95-39 and decimating Vanguard 98-18, holding their opponents to 17.9 and 11.5 percent field-goal rates, respectively.“They’re a good team, it doesn’t matter that they’re playing away from home. They’re going to go on mini runs throughout the game, but you just can’t fold when you do that,” Craft said.On top of their ability, McGuff said what makes the Huskies much more difficult to beat is the way they respond to pressure.“They also have a little bit of a target on their back. Everyone wants to take their best shot against them and that’s the thing I think is most impressive. They handle that so well,” McGuff said.National exposureMonday’s contest against UCOnn will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 5:30 as part of ESPN’s tip-off marathon. This exposure allows McGuff to sell his program to recruits and allow his team a stage on which to compete when the lights are brightest. “I’m excited. I think Ohio State, our fans and our community have been yearning for something like this, to have great teams play here and for this to be a great environment,” McGuff said. “I’m happy for our players too, that’s why they’ve come to Ohio State.” read more

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NFL Week 3 guide to fantasy football

Play ‘Em Darren McFadden: DMC is quieting his critics after producing two terrific performances. Last week against the Rams, McFadden had a career-high 30 carries for 145 yards. The Raiders’ offense will continue to be on his shoulders until Michael Bush returns from a thumb injury. Look for the former Razorback to run hog wild against an Arizona Cardinals’ defense, which allowed 186 total yards and three touchdowns to Atlanta backup Jason Snelling last week. LeSean McCoy: Philadelphia coach Andy Reid announced Tuesday that Michael Vick will start this Sunday. That’s good news for McCoy owners because with Vick starting, McCoy rushed for 132 yards and scored three touchdowns last week against Detroit. Expect McCoy to respond well against a Jacksonville defense that has surrendered at least one rushing touchdown to an opposing running back in each game. Pierre Thomas: Thomas’ stock rose when Reggie Bush broke his right fibula. That means Thomas will have a bigger role in the Saints’ offense and should see the majority of the goal-line touches. Look for Thomas to build on the 18 carries for 46 yards and eight catches for 57 yards he amassed last week, especially against a Falcons’ group that is ranked 26th in rushing defense. Bench ‘Em Felix Jones and Marion Barber: Let’s face it, the Cowboys’ running game is non-existent. Last week, Jones and Barber combined for a total of 38 yards. Shonn Greene: LaDainian Tomlinson appears to be the better back in New York, outgaining Greene 102 to 60 in total offense against New England. The timeshare will continue, so keep Greene on the bench. Ronnie Brown: Brown is suffering because of the Dolphins’ poor passing game and it will show against the Jets. In Brown’s last game against New York, he totaled 11 carries for 27 yards. DeAngelo Williams: It’s crazy to consider benching your top-tier running back, but it’s hard to trust Williams, who managed just 54 yards against a weak Tampa Bay defense. Add rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen starting could make things get ugly. Wide Receivers My job is to help fantasy football owners set their rosters on players who I believe are worth using or avoiding for that particular week. It will be based on matchups, a player’s upside and past performances. I will make a case for each player, but ultimately it’s the owner’s decision. Quarterbacks Play ‘Em Donovan McNabb: McNabb looked crisp against Houston on Sunday, completing 28 of 38 passes for 426 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Look for more success from the Redskins’ quarterback this week against the Rams, who rank 28th in total yards allowed. The last time McNabb played St. Louis, he completed 21 of 33 passes for 361 yards with three touchdowns. Brett Favre: In the first two weeks, Favre has put up a total of 12 points in standard scoring leagues. Those numbers could have been caused by his ankle or his receiving corps. Whatever the case, look for Favre to bounce back this week against the Lions. In 30 games against Detroit, he’s averaged 263 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and receiver Percy Harvin, if healthy, are quality options as well in this favorable matchup. Michael Vick: Last week, Vick took full advantage of the starting job by throwing for 284 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Vick looks poised for another big outing against a Jacksonville defense that is 29th in total yards allowed. Bench ‘Em Jay Cutler: Cutler has thrived in Mike Martz’s offense, throwing five touchdowns and one interception, but against a Packers’ unit that ranks second in fantasy team defense, I would advise sitting the Chicago quarterback. Buffalo’s Trent Edwards felt the wrath of Green Bay last week, throwing for 102 yards and two interceptions. Kyle Orton: Orton is in the same boat as McNabb, being a matchup quarterback. However, this week’s game against the Colts is not in his favor. The Colts have been dominant against the pass, allowing Matt Schaub and Eli Manning to get eight and 13 points, respectively. Look for the Broncos, led by Knowshon Moreno, to establish the run like the Texans and Giants did. Running Backs Play ‘Em Austin Collie: You could make a case that Collie is now the third option in the Colts’ passing game, surpassing Pierre Garcon. Collie has scored a touchdown in each of his first two games, including 25 yards and a touchdown Sunday night against the Giants. Collie is a good flex play this week against a Denver defense that he recorded three receptions for 39 yards and a score against last year. Santana Moss: Moss gets a favorable matchup this week against the Rams, who routinely give up big plays. Moss should be able to build on his 10 catches for 89 yards against the Texans last week. Bench ‘Em Mike Wallace: Many believed Wallace could have a breakout season, but he might have to wait until Ben Roethlisberger returns from his suspension. Both Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich are banged up, so Charlie Batch will start. Wallace had two receptions for 25 yards against the Titans. Don’t expect more than 50 yards from him this week. Dwayne Bowe: The Chiefs are 2-0, but their offense, led by quarterback Matt Cassel, is struggling. As a result, Bowe’s numbers are suffering, as he has totaled just five catches for 58 yards. The 49ers’ pass defense kept the Saints in check, so look for the Chiefs to use Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster to ignite the offense. read more

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Buckeyes move up one spot in BCS rankings still trail Wisconsin in

Ohio State used a fourth-quarter rally to escape Iowa with a victory Saturday and, as a result, the Buckeyes moved up one spot to No. 8 in the latest BCS rankings. Nebraska, which lost to Texas A&M, fell to No. 15 from No. 8, allowing OSU to creep closer to No. 7 Wisconsin. The Badgers hold the inside track on an invite to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin, OSU and Michigan State are tied for first in the Big Ten with just one conference loss. In the event of a three-way tie at the end of the regular season, conference rules state that the tiebreaker goes to the team ranked highest in the BCS. Oklahoma State moved up to No. 9 from No. 10 and Michigan State jumped Alabama to sneak into the top 10. The Spartans were ranked No. 12 last week. The rest of the top 10 remained intact. Oregon, Auburn and TCU stayed at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, after all three teams had a bye week. Boise State remained at No. 4, LSU stayed at No. 5 and Stanford held at No. 6. Wisconsin hosts Northwestern on Saturday, while the Buckeyes play rival Michigan at Ohio Stadium. read more

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