Month: September 2019
The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings will meet in Los Angeles on Friday night for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Before Game 4, when the Rangers avoided the sweep, I said that simple probability was not on the Rangers’ side after they fell behind 3-0. Even if we assumed they were evenly matched with LA, New York had just a 6.1 percent chance of winning four consecutive games before the Kings could win one.Now that the Rangers have a win under their belt, their chances are better — improving to about 11.1 percent (if we again assume the teams are evenly matched). But the odds are still long: New York still needs to beat Los Angeles three times in a row, including two games on the road.We were wondering, though, if the sequence of wins and losses matters in a 3-1 series. For instance, by winning Game 4 and snapping a three-game Kings winning streak, do the Rangers have more momentum than, say, a team that won Game 1 and proceeded to lose three straight?The simplistic way of looking at this question would be to count the number of times each possible four-game sequence (e.g. LLLW, LLWL, LWLL, WLLL) occurred, and to determine how many times playoff team down 3-1 ended up winning the series after each sequence. From 1968-2013, here are those numbers:This seems to suggest the Rangers picked the worst possible sequence of wins and losses for a team down 3-1. But, of course, selection bias could be rearing its ugly head here: Teams trailing 3-1 that won in Game 1 or Game 2 are more likely to have been at home for the first two games of the series (historically, the NHL has used a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the majority of its playoff series). This doesn’t confer any special advantage — there’s no format under which teams would have more home games than their opponent through the first four games of a series — but it does tell us they were seeded higher, meaning they had the better record and were probably the better team. All else being equal, those are the types of teams you’d expect to come back more.Here’s what happens if we restrict to looking at teams that started the series on the road:The difference between teams like the Rangers — who lost the first three games of the series but won Game 4 — and teams that lost the first two games, won Game 3 and lost Game 4 is negligible after we remove teams that were on the road in Games 3 and 4. In that sense, the sequencing of the Rangers’ home wins and losses thus far doesn’t matter.However, there remains a rather large effect for teams down 3-1 who managed to get their win on the road, especially in Game 1. Teams who take Game 1 in the other team’s building and then proceed to lose three straight tend to win the series at a rate more than three times that of teams who trail 3-1 via any other sequence of events. Even in a relatively small sample of series, this is a statistically significant result.The question is, why? We’ve removed the bias of including teams that were at home for Games 1 and 2, so this sample strictly deals with teams who, for seeding reasons, did not have home-ice advantage (and were therefore less likely to be the better team). And all still had to win three consecutive games, including two more on the road. My only hypothesis is that it must matter for a team to show it is capable of beating the opponent on the road early in the series. But it’s possible I’m missing a theory, so please leave yours in the comments below.At any rate, those numbers aren’t of much consequence to the Rangers, because they didn’t get their win in Los Angeles. The history of teams trailing 3-1 offers little hope for teams whose lone win came at home, as New York’s has.
Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s episode (July 26, 2017), FiveThirtyEight sports editor Geoff Foster joins Kate and Neil for his inaugural appearance on the podcast. He helps us break down how the current collective bargaining agreement in the NFL is screwing over rookie players — despite the fact that they’ve been found to contribute half of all NFL value. Next, we’re joined by The Undefeated’s Jerry Bembry to discuss the site’s 50 Greatest Black Athletes list, which is currently counting down 10 new players each week until Aug. 8. We chat about the methodology behind the SurveyMonkey-compiled list, the difficulties of comparing athletes across sports and some of the list’s biggest surprises — and snubs.Here are links to the things we discussed during the show:Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman originally wrote on how the NFL is cheating rookies out of millions of dollars.Chase Stuart looked at the stats behind this for FootballPerspective.com.In early July, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins lamented how much bigger NBA free-agent contracts are than those in the NFL.The Undefeated is currently releasing a list of the 50 Greatest Black Athletes of All Time.For more of Jerry Bembry’s thoughts as the list progresses, you can follow him on Twitter. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Embed Code
In layman’s terms, the Nets have essentially adopted the same offensive principles as the analytically friendly Houston Rockets, coached by Atkinson mentor Mike D’Antoni. (Fitting that these clubs combined for an NBA-record 106 3-point attempts in a game last week.) Russell, who leads starting ball-handlers with 61.5 pick and rolls per 100 plays, will run you around screens all day, and he and his Brooklyn teammates generally avoid midrange shots, instead probing for much higher-percentage looks. No NBA team has driven to the basket more than the Nets, and this would mark the third consecutive season that Brooklyn ranks in the top 10 in free-throw rate.Defensively, the story is much the same. The Nets have excelled at forcing opponents to walk the analytics plank, ranking among the top five in 2016-17, 2017-18 and again this season in terms of how often they coax teams into longer midrange 2-pointers. When teams are fortunate enough to get to the basket, they’re often met by 20-year-old Jarrett Allen, a big man who has erased some of the game’s biggest names at the rim while sometimes playing a one-man zone. The Nets also rank near the top of the NBA in boxing out, to finish those defensive possessions.That combination — continuing to take the most efficient shots possible on offense while taking those same shots away on the other end — has been the NBA equivalent of Andy Dufresne’s rock hammer in “The Shawshank Redemption.” The team’s strategy and talent, combined with its newfound maturation in the clutch, have finally set it free.Brooklyn basically looked shackled at the ends of games last year and at the start of this season. Whether it was inexperience, consistently bad whistles or a combination of the two, the Nets were managing to find new, devastating ways to lose close contests each night.But even that’s changed of late. The Nets, who were a dismal 4-10 in clutch situations as of Dec. 1, have since gone 11-4 in those same scenarios.One noteworthy shift there is rooted in Russell and Dinwiddie’s ability to coexist during the hot streak — something that had consistently backfired from a net-rating standpoint over the past two seasons. (Their ability to play together, or lack thereof, will be worth watching because of the decision the Nets have to make about the future of Russell, who’s a restricted free agent this summer. Yet it looks like Russell will have the show to himself, as Dinwiddie, who just signed a three-year, $34 million extension, could miss considerable time with a torn ligament in his thumb.) But other elements also stand out. Joe Harris is one of the NBA’s best perimeter shooters. Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs was a great find and is a fluid scorer at 6-foot-9.While the Nets are clearly ascending, they still have their issues, too.Brooklyn has one of the highest turnover rates in the league. The Nets can occasionally find themselves with matchup problems against teams with floor-spacing bigs because of how Allen anchors himself to the paint on defense. The lack of pressure on pick-and-roll ball-handlers hurts their ability to force turnovers. For how well the team gets to the stripe, Russell, its leading scorer, takes fewer free throws than any other volume shooter in the NBA.1This includes any player taking at least 15 field-goal attempts per game. Injuries have nagged Brooklyn all year, and while it’s fair to expect a boost from players if and when they return — especially from LeVert — key players’ roles may have to shrink to accommodate everyone once they’re back. And the Nets, who have enjoyed one of the easiest slates so far, will be thoroughly tested by their upcoming schedule — especially from mid-March to the end of the season.There’s a reason we hear so much about the Nets eventually landing a player like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. Aside from the fact that they’re one of few big-market teams that seemingly has a direction, a blank-enough canvas (in terms of not having a star) and cap space to make something happen, they also would become an instant contender by adding someone of that caliber. Again, the decision on Russell could complicate that. Yet the reality is that getting past the second round likely requires more than this current cast, even at full strength.For the time being, though, it has been eye-opening to watch the 22-year-old Russell play this well since the turn of the new year, a span in which he’s averaged 24 points and nearly eight assists on 49 percent shooting from the floor, along with his rainbow-arc triples falling at a 44 percent clip.While he’ll never possess the sort of bounce that some of his counterparts have, the former No. 2 overall pick has leveraged the threat of his pull-up jumper into being able to beat defenders to certain spots. When he senses defenders on his hip, he’ll often make use of ball fakes to buy himself more space before shooting.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Russell.mp400:0000:0001:22Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.He’s been more consistent with the ball during that window, too, passing teammates open while logging a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2019 — up from 2-to-1 earlier this season and much better than his career ratio of 1.5-to-1 coming into the 2018-19 campaign.Certain elements of Russell’s offensive run lately, much like the team’s overall, are going to come back down to earth at some point. But with how hellish things have been in Brooklyn for much of the past five years, and with how sound the team’s strategy has been in digging out of that trench, Russell, the Nets and their fans all have ample reason to be enjoying this — even if they aren’t exactly sure what comes next.Check out our latest NBA predictions. For more than four years, the Brooklyn Nets had been more or less irrelevant on a national scale. Whenever the team came up in a larger conversation, it was usually to discuss how one of its first-round picks — dealt in that infamous trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — was benefiting another franchise that got to reap the draft payoff. You have to go back to 2013-14, a full season after the Nets left New Jersey for Brooklyn, to find the last time they finished .500.All of which makes the Nets — winners of five straight and co-owners of the NBA’s best record over the past month and a half — so compelling. At 26-23, the team is currently holding a playoff position in sixth place in the East. Coach Kenny Atkinson, again, is finding enormous success with his point guards, including D’Angelo Russell, who’s in contention for an All-Star spot. And the club, which in early December was mired in an eight-game skid and couldn’t hold late-game leads, is all of a sudden unbeatable in the clutch. And this is after Brooklyn lost perhaps its best all-around player, Caris LeVert, to a brutal long-term injury.But underneath all that past losing — and there was a lot of it, given that this team has had three consecutive seasons with fewer than 30 wins — there were several road signs that the Nets were tapping into an array of good strategies to begin a turnaround.Much of that was rooted in ideology and experimentation, necessities because of how bare the draft-pick cupboard was for a while. The team had to take some creative steps (read: accept salary dumps) in a bid to get some talent on its roster. And the club’s front office, led by Sean Marks, had to identify talent that was being ignored or undervalued, like guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and trust its own ability to help develop players like him into everyday rotation pieces.The hiring of Atkinson, a longtime NBA assistant, was a key catalyst. Well before the wins started outnumbering the losses, and before there was enough talent to expect playoff berths, the 51-year-old quickly began changing the team’s shot profile on both ends of the floor.During the 2015-16 campaign, a year before he came on, the Nets ranked 26th out of 30 in quantified Shot Quality, which measures the likelihood of shots going in, if taken by an average NBA player, according to stat database Second Spectrum. The club completely overhauled that at the start of Atkinson’s tenure, though, as Brooklyn finished fifth and fourth in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively. And this season, the Nets rank ninth in the metric.
102002Buccaneers356297232010Packers482674 Few champs have had as much draft talent as the EaglesAverage draft value on roster (weighted by approximate value) for Super Bowl champions since 1993 Draft value is determined by the expected value of the pick where the player was selected, based on AV.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 71993Cowboys574198202001Patriots483381 4199449ers6736103172005Steelers562783 21993Cowboys12.0152015Broncos8.4 YearTeamOLDLTOTAL 21996Packers5550105152016Patriots494190 72002Buccaneers10.3202008Steelers7.2 82013Seahawks475198212007Giants403878 YearTeamWeighted Draft 132014Patriots543993 At long last, the Philadelphia Eagles are finally world champions, after knocking off the New England Patriots in a shootout of historic proportions. Like most Pats Super Bowls, its outcome came down to the wire, as unheralded backup QB Nick Foles ultimately outgunned Tom Brady to win MVP honors. Philly fans celebrated in the only way they knew how: They danced atop cars, scaled lampposts, ran naked through the streets and generally lost their minds in a night of jubilant mayhem. No matter who you were rooting for, it was a lot to process.What might have been forgotten Sunday night, though, was just how far the team had come in such a short period of time. A little over two years ago, the Eagles were in a state of disarray after a series of failed personnel moves by former coach/GM Chip Kelly. They’d sputtered to a disappointing 6-9 record before Kelly was fired in 2015, and were staring at a roster stocked with far too many overpaid veterans. It seemed like it might take a while to restock the team with enough talent to contend again.But once-and-future personnel honcho Howie Roseman moved quickly to erase Kelly’s miscues. He ditched DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso and Sam Bradford — the cornerstones of Kelly’s madcap offseason plans of a year before — and used some of the spoils to eventually pick up receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Jay Ajayi. And although he traded up in the draft (usually a no-no) to grab franchise QB Carson Wentz — a gamble that so far has panned out extremely well, at least until Wentz went down with an ACL tear in Week 14 — Roseman also made a smart, low-risk play to bring Foles back to Philly as an insurance policy.Needless to say, the repair job paid big dividends. And the Eagles’ Super Bowl team might provide a new (old) blueprint for future championship rosters, built as it was by stockpiling raw talent and amassing powerful offensive and defensive lines.In addition to extending talented players already on the roster, Roseman admitted that one of his strategies while rebuilding the Eagles was to go after highly drafted players who washed out with other clubs. “Those guys, being drafted that high, they obviously have traits in their body that you can bring out with the right coaching system,” Roseman told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. According to Chase Stuart’s system of measuring the amount of draft value on a roster (weighted by each player’s approximate value), the Eagles had more impact players who were high draft picks than any Super Bowl winner since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens — and they ranked sixth-best among champs during the free-agency era.1Since 1993. Uses Pro-Football-Reference.com’s positional designations, which are incomplete for players who did not start or were primarily backups.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 41995Cowboys10.5172009Saints7.7 5199449ers10.3182001Patriots7.6 132010Packers8.7 122005Steelers8.8252013Seahawks6.1 32000Ravens11.1161996Packers8.4 The Eagles were built along the trenchesTotal approximate value (AV) contributed by offensive and defensive lines for Super Bowl champions, 1993-2017 AV FROM … AV FROM … 102003Patriots9.0231998Broncos6.7 112006Colts9.0242016Patriots6.7 Much of that talent was concentrated up front, where six of the team’s nine starters on the offensive and defensive lines were taken in the first two rounds of the draft (and a seventh, Brandon Brooks, was drafted in the third round). By concentrating on the big guys in the trenches, Roseman built a team whose strengths resembled those of the champions of a different age, such as the 49ers, Cowboys and Packers teams that dominated early in the salary-cap era.Between its offense and defense, Philly got 101 total points of approximate value out of its linemen this season, including 62 from the quintet of Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Brooks. The last Super Bowl winner that got more combined approximate value from its offensive and defensive lines were those 2000 Baltimore Ravens again. And here, too, Philly was only bested by a handful of champs: 52017Eagles5744101182003Patriots424082 32000Ravens4361104162004Patriots563389 11999Rams6253115142006Colts662490 91997Broncos554297222008Steelers423274 61995Cowboys613899192011Giants443882 81997Broncos9.4212014Patriots6.8 122009Saints623193252015Broncos352762 11999Rams12.8142007Giants8.6 92011Giants9.2222004Patriots6.8 YearTeamWeighted Draft YearTeamOLDLTOTAL 62017Eagles10.3192012Ravens7.4 111998Broncos593695242012Ravens403272 Given those powerful lines and a talented array of skill-position players who saved their best production for the games that mattered most — Ajayi, Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Corey Clement and Torrey Smith all put up more scrimmage yards per game in the playoffs than in the regular season — it makes sense that Foles was in a position to thrive during his magical postseason run. Losing Wentz to injury was a major blow, but this roster might have been uniquely equipped to adapt to and overcome that loss.That was a testament to how quickly and effectively Roseman overhauled the Eagles in the wake of the Chip Kelly era. It wasn’t very long ago that Philly’s first-ever Super Bowl crown seemed like a pipe dream — but with the help of some shrewd roster shuffling, it became a reality.
In a game both coaches described as a “good result,” one would expect a hard-fought draw. That was not the case in the first Major League Soccer game of 2010 for the Columbus Crew and Toronto F.C.In front of 13,536 fans at Crew Stadium, the Crew extended its unbeaten streak against rival Toronto to nine games and started the season with a 2-0 victory.In MLS, opening day is usually a mystery. Teams begin to see what players should be on the field to help their quest for the playoffs and MLS Cup in November. The Crew, though, playing a similar lineup to the one it used last year for the home-opener against Toronto, managed to maintain much of the roster that has finished with the league’s best record each of the last two seasons.The game started off slowly, with the Crew dominating the majority of the possession. It finally paid off in the 29th minute. After midfielder Eddie Gaven suffered a tough foul near the sideline, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, former league and finals MVP and set piece wizard, took the free kick that met the head of central defender Andy Iro and found the back of the net. Iro was starting in place of two-time reigning Defender of the Year Chad Marshall.The game opened up after the first goal. Both keepers were forced into action before halftime, with Schelotto nearly slotting home a poor back pass by Ty Harden, and O’Brian White of Toronto forcing Crew keeper William Hesmer into a finger-tip save that kept the Crew’s advantage going into halftime.Looking to use the speed of wide midfielder Robbie Rogers, the Crew got into the Toronto box several times in the second half, but was unable to capitalize on its chances. Central midfielder Adam Moffat had what was probably the best chance of the afternoon to double the Crew’s advantage when he found himself one-on-one with Toronto keeper Stefan Frei. But his shot rolled meekly into Frei’s arms, and Moffat was left to rue the chance that was.The physical play typical of a rivalry game between the Crew and Toronto was on display in the second half, with a few stoppages for players that had gone down and multiple fouls being called on both teams. Crew head coach Robert Warzycha called the game “a battle,” saying, “both teams played hard” looking for the win.It wasn’t until the 86th minute that the Crew controversially doubled its lead and sent the passionate fans in the Nordecke, the Crew’s supporter section, into a frenzy. After the referee signaled advantage for the Crew on a foul against Gaven, Danny O’Rourke, playing out of position at left back, slid to beat Frei on a 50-50 ball.This time there was no foul called, and the ball was poorly cleared by Nick Garcia of Toronto, falling to Schelotto, who curled the shot into the open net from outside the 18-yard box as Frei remained down.It was Schelotto’s fifth goal in his last three appearances for the Crew, dating back to last year’s playoffs and the CONCACAF Champions League match against Toluca F.C. of Mexico earlier this year.“Toronto is a difficult team to play,” Warzycha said. “They have a new coach and some new faces … but three points at home and a first win is good.”
Miller did, however, set up Hyde’s score with a crucial first-down run in the overtime period, and Meyer credited Miller for the run after the game. “I liked the way the offense just went in and attacked it (in overtime),” Meyer said. “(Hyde) got a big run, Braxton Miller ran like Braxton Miller. We got him in some space and then we pounded it in there.” Then the defense stepped in when Wisconsin, again playing before a crowd that had been muzzled by a Buckeyes’ score, took the ball in the overtime. The Badgers ran four plays, and no more. In his first game back since sustaining an injury in the Oct. 6 game against Nebraska, OSU redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino stopped Ball for a 2-yard loss on third down. Sabino tallied six tackles in his return. Then Bryant, who finished with five tackles, stepped in front of Phillips’ 4th-down pass, deflecting it to end the game. Bryant was not made available for comment after the game. OSU sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said the team accomplished its goals on defense. “We knew what they wanted to do and we had gone over in practice a lot of time the things that they do, things that they run,” Roby said. Roby also said he knew how the game would end if the offense gave the Buckeyes a lead. “We knew that if our offense scored,” he said, “then we were gonna win.” “The Game” between OSU and Michigan next Saturday is scheduled for a noon kickoff at Ohio Stadium. MADISON, Wis. – The dream is still alive for Ohio State football. The No. 6-ranked Buckeyes withstood a late rally by the Wisconsin Badgers and senior running back Montee Ball’s furious pursuit of NCAA history to stay undefeated with a 21-14 overtime win at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. OSU junior running back Carlos Hyde scored the eventual game-winning touchdown in the overtime period and Buckeyes senior defensive end John Simon tied an OSU single-game record with four sacks in the game to deny the hosts. OSU (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) will host rival Michigan (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten) at Ohio Stadium next Saturday. The Wolverines defeated Iowa, 42-17, in their final home game of the 2012 season. “I’m honored to be the coach of an 11-0 Ohio State Buckeye team, especially one that’s very deserving,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said after the game. We played great defense in a great environment and their offense, to keep (Ball) somewhat in check, I thought our defense did a fantastic job.” OSU hushed the Camp Randall faithful in the first half, taking a 7-0 lead on a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown by junior receiver Corey Brown late in the first quarter. Hyde added a 12-yard touchdown run on the Buckeyes’ next possession. Ball halved the Badgers’ deficit on a second-quarter touchdown run, the 78th of his career. The score tied Ball with former Miami (Ohio) running back Travis Prentice for the NCAA career record for touchdowns. The run was befitting of the moment – Ball loped through the OSU defense, shedding tackles before plopping down in the end zone in front of his peers in the student section. Ball would finish the night with 191 yards on the ground, but his Senior Day celebration came to a screeching halt in the closing minutes of the game. Wisconsin tied the contest, but Ball barely factored in the play. His time to score, which would have set the NCAA career touchdown record, came with just less than three minutes to play. On 4th down from the 1-yard line, Ball took a handoff and leapt for the goal line. OSU sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier met the ball with his head, forcing a fumble that was recovered by OSU junior safety Christian Bryant. “Once (Ball) jumped, I knew I was going to jump,” Shazier said. “Whatever was in my face, I hit it. It could have been him. It could been anyone.” Stunned silence swept across Camp Randall. Ball said his teammates and coaches encouraged him after the game despite falling short of setting the NCAA career touchdown record in his final home game as a collegian. “They just told me, ‘good game. Keep your head up. We all tried,” Ball said, “‘and no matter what, we’re all behind you.’” The silence was momentary. OSU punted the ball back to Wisconsin, which marched back down the field to tie the game with eight seconds remaining in regulation. Badgers redshirt senior quarterback Curt Phillips found redshirt junior tight end Jacob Peterson for the game-tying score. But then came overtime, where Hyde took the ball when OSU opened the first overtime period and scored on a 2-yard run. The Buckeyes defense then denied the Badgers – Bryant was there to break up a 4th-down pass by Phillips. The Buckeyes’ bench erupted and rushed the field. They will have the opportunity to play for the sixth undefeated season in program history, and what would be an undeniable achievement any year, but especially in light of the team’s postseason ban. With the win, the Buckeyes clinch the outright Big Ten Conference Leaders Division championship – the players wore commemorative shirts in the locker room after the game. Wisconsin is on pace for a third-place finish in the division, but will represent the Leaders side of the conference in the Dec. 1 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. The division’s second-place team, Penn State, is also banned from postseason play. OSU’s defense held the Badgers to 360 yard of total offense, most of which belonged to Ball and the Wisconsin ground attack, which racked up 206 yards on 56 attempts. Phillips led a Wisconsin passing attack that accumulated 154 yards. He was 14-of-27 passing in the contest. The Badgers’ offense threatened throughout the second half, but the same cannot be said of the Buckeyes, which gained only 85 yards and collected a single first down in the second half. It could also be said of OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller that, for the first time all season, his impact on the game was minimal. He was 10-of-18 passing for a pedestrian 97 yards. On the ground, Miller totaled 48 yards and did not score.
Then-New Orleans Saints tackle Thomas Welch (60) works against then-St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) in the first quarter during exhibition action on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The Saints won, 26-24.Credit: Courtesy of MCTMichael Sam has made it perfectly clear that he just wants to be treated like any other football player. He likely felt the world was ready to have an openly gay player in the NFL, so he made his huge announcement.I agree that most of the world is ready.Unfortunately, national sports media outlets such as ESPN are part of that world and they are not ready.First of all, let me clearly state that I am not writing to say anything bad about Sam. I think it was incredibly brave of him to be a pioneer for more athletes — and people anywhere — to feel comfortable and be true to themselves. He has handled the vast amount of attention an announcement like that is sure to get in this day and age extremely well from day one.But with that sort of attention comes page views and television ratings, and that’s where the national media start to lose their heads.In July, former NFL coach Tony Dungy told The Tampa Tribune he would have steered clear of Sam in the NFL Draft.“I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy said. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”The national media exploded, with articles brandishing Dungy as homophobic and calling him intolerant for not wanting the “distraction” of having Sam on his team.The thing is, though, those articles bashing Dungy’s comments completely validated them.See, Dungy was not saying that he wouldn’t want Sam on his team because of his sexual orientation. In fact, he made it clear that he was not saying that.Dungy wanted to avoid the media circus that surrounds a player who is prevalent in the public image, especially one who was only a seventh-round pick and didn’t make the St. Louis Rams’ final roster.You know, the kind of media circus that leads to someone’s comments being taken completely out of context and causing that person to be branded a homophobe. The same kind of media circus that had Sam’s NFL future in doubt until it was reported on Tuesday that he would undergo a medical and sign with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday. Even if Sam does make the Dallas practice squad — which ESPN reported is the Cowboys’ plan — there is no guarantee he will play a down in the NFL.The way ESPN and other outlets have covered Sam since he publicly announced he is gay does make me question how ready for this day they really were.For Sam to be just another football player, as I certainly hope he can and will be, more has to happen than just him being able to comfortably take a shower with his teammates.To be just another football player, ESPN has to not feel the desire to publish a story about Sam’s post-practice cleaning.Numerous football players get cut during and at the conclusion of training camp and the preseason. Can you guess which player’s release ESPN sent out a breaking news alert about? And then another about how he cleared waivers?It really doesn’t matter if Sam is a benchwarmer, a star or never gets to play a snap in the NFL.He came out, handled it with bravery and class, and showed that a man who has a boyfriend can still line up across from the offense just the same as a straight man can.What the media have shown are that they are determined to work so hard to convince everyone that a gay man can be “just another player” that they are turning him into a sort of sideshow attraction. If he were just another player, each preseason sack he registers wouldn’t be a breaking news story.I am positive the world is ready for openly gay athletes.I’m just not sure the media are.
More than 1,000 babies a year could be saved every year under “ground-breaking” plans to reduce stillbirths, Jeremy Hunt has said, warning that too many women are being robbed of the “magical moment” of parenthood.The Health Secretary said Britain needed to do far more to improve monitoring of women in labour in order to tackle its “shocking” place in international league tables.Promising extra funding for safety training, and new ratings of maternity services, Mr Hunt said the UK had higher rates of stillbirth than Poland, Croatia and Estonia.“We are in the bottom third of a global league table of 164 countries for progress on reduction of stillbirths,” he warned, in a speech in London. Last week, a report by the Care Quality Commission found that 37 per cent of maternity services were “inadequate” or “require improvement”.In November a national study found half of stillbirths occurred after women contacted maternity units because they were fearful that their baby’s movements had slowed, changed or stopped.In almost all such cases units failed to properly investigate the warnings, while others botched their attempts to monitor the baby. Announcing a new fast-track compensation scheme for those affected by maternity blunders, he said a more open culture was needed so tragic failings were not covered up, only to be repeated.“We need to make the NHS the world’s largest learning organisation – so that the precious time of doctors and midwives is spent focused on mothers and babies, not lawyers and courts,” he said.Describing the “magical moments” when his three children were born, he contrasted his experiences with the parents bereaved by the Morecambe Bay maternity scandal, where at least 11 babies died.“Each recounted how medical notes or records had been tampered with or described how instead of honesty and willingness to learn from what went wrong they encountered a wall of obfuscation and denial,” he said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. More than 1,000 lives could be saved if every NHS trust could match the performance of the best in this country, the Health Secretary said.Mr Hunt said training programmes in Bristol had resulted in a halving in the number of babies starved of oxygen.If changes were achieved nationally, it would mean 100 fewer severe birth injuries annually, saving the NHS £2.8bn a decade, he said. If the rest of the country matched progress in West Midlands, it would mean at least 1,000 fewer stillbirths each year.Mr Hunt said midwives needed to do more to listen and act when concerns were raised by mothers-to-be. ‘It is very positive that the Government will be listening to disabled people and their parents on how the NHS can better support families when serious issues do occur during birth’James Taylor, disability charity Scope Baby Joshua Titcombe died after hospital staff failed to provide antibiotics for an infection Under the current negligence system, it takes an average of almost 12 years for families to see a resolution to their case.The new voluntary scheme, based on a model used in Sweden, also aim to reduce the amount spent on lawyers.Since 2004/5, the value of claims against NHS maternity units for brain damage and cerebral palsy has risen from £354m to £990m, official figures show.The cases – often linked with a failure to monitor babies’ heart rates, to detect risks of oxygen starvation – fuelled maternity negligence claims of more than £1.2bn in 2015/16.In total, almost 1,100 maternity claims were lodged last year, official figures show.The most expensive involve cases of brain damage and cerebral palsy, where round-the-clock support is often required for life.The amount spent settling cases rose by 30 per cent, last year, reaching £509.3m.Meanwhile, overall NHS spending on claimants’ lawyers rose by 43 per cent to £418m, data from the NHS Litigation Authority shows. Under the new plans, parents with a maternity claim would be able to join a voluntary “rapid resolution and redress” scheme.Their case would be assessed by investigators working independently from the hospital where errors occurred, who would question NHS staff and parents and look at medical records.Their findings would be presented to a panel of legal and medical experts who would decide whether compensation is warranted and arrange for payments to be made.Sweden has seen the number of avoidable birth injuries halve since it introduced the scheme. Britain has one of the highest levels for stillbirths in the Western world Credit:Dominic Lipinksi/PA ‘By learning from proven methods in countries like Sweden, we hope to achieve a dramatic reduction in the number of tragedies where babies are lost or injured for life’Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary The Government hopes the scheme – which would assess around 500 cases a year – will help dismantle what it sees as a “litigation culture”.The plans will also see the creation of an NHS Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, modelled on systems used by the airline industry, which will make maternity its first focus, and £8m funding for safety training.The plans, which will go to public consultation, will not “lock” claimants into the scheme, meaning parents could still launch a legal case against the NHS trust if they were not satisfied with recommendations of their review. The plans will also see new maternity ratings comparing hospitals, and extra funding for training and safety pilots.
For London and the southeast only 80 per cent of passengers were very, or fairly satisfied overall – a fall of two per cent since Autumn 2015.Only 77 per cent of passengers on Southeastern, which serves routes from Kent and Sussex into London, are satisfied with its services overall, and just 73 per cent are satisfied with services on Thameslink, which runs from Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, sussex and Kent into the capital.But the rail operator with the worst level of passenger satisfaction was Southern, with just 65 per cent.This follows a series of crippling strikes on the network by guards and drivers protesting against the planned introduction of driver only operated trains.The dispute has seen hundreds of trains cancelled and delayed in recent months, causing widespread inconvenience for passengers.Mr Smith added: “As passenger numbers rise, parts of the rail network will remain brittle until welcome improvements are in place and working.“Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Network Rail must continue to collaborate to produce a more robust timetable. Passengers need a better balance between peak and off-peak services, reliability and capacity.”More than 29,000 passengers were polled for the Transport Focus Autumn 2016 report.It showed the only area where levels of satisfaction among passengers had risen was with facilities and services at stations, such as cafes, the availability of shelter and seating, along with toilets on trains. Passengers boarding the Gatwick Express at London’s Victoria Station, January 2017Credit:Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock Passenger struggling with limited services during recent industrial action on Southern rail, January 2017Credit:Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock The rail operators admitted their services were not as good as they should be and sais new investment would deliver improvements for passengers.Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said: “We know we must do better.”We’re sorry when customers don’t get the service they expect, including those affected by strikes. Everyone in the railway is working hard to make train journeys better from start to finish.”After decades of under-investment and with passenger numbers soaring to 4.5 million a day on thousands more trains, the railway is full in many places.”Rail companies are working together to deliver more than £50 billion of improvements, including more than 5,500 new train carriages, to tackle congestion and make journeys faster, more comfortable and more reliable. While we build the bigger, better railway the country needs there will be some disruption.” The timetable for rail services on the busiest commuter lines is “a work of fiction”, leading to the lowest levels of passenger satisfaction for a decade.The damning verdict came as new figures showed that passenger satisfaction with overall services nationally has fallen to 81 per cent from 83 per cent last year, the worst result since 2007 – when overall satisfaction was also at just 81 per cent.Satisfaction with the punctuality and reliability of services is even lower, falling by five per cent since Autumn 2015 to 73 per cent, according to the independent passenger watchdog.Passenger satisfaction is particularly low on the key commuter services in the southeast, where thousands of people depend on rail to get into London.Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, which carried out the survey of passenger satisfaction, said: “The results around the country are disappointing. Scottish passengers and those travelling in peak hours in London and the South East are bearing the brunt of poor performance.“The timetable on parts of the London and South East’s railway can be a work of fiction which passengers cannot rely on.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Show more Proposals put forward by Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, which are currently under public consultation recognise that developing the next generation of food and farming technology could reduce the impact of pests and diseases and improve the UK’s competitiveness. The ABC has called on the Government to use Brexit and the reset of agricultural policy to take advantage of ground-breaking technologies that have previously been blocked at EU level.It said the use of gene editing and GM technology in the UK, post Brexit, could help British farming flourish. Two thirds of young people support the use of drones in livestock farmingCredit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images The advent of genetically modified crops caused a scandal in the 1990s.But the younger generation is largely relaxed about eating GM foods, new research has shown, as farmers called for a post-Brexit technology revolution.Two thirds of under-30s believe technology is a good thing for farming and support futuristic farming techniques, according to a survey.Only 20 per cent of millennials expressed concerns about the benefits of gene editing or genetically modifying crops, despite decades of opposition and media warnings.The poll of more than 1,600 18 to 30-year-olds, carried out for the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), also found that around two thirds of young people support the use of drones in livestock farming to count sheep and in arable farming to assess, monitor and spray crops.A similar number also supports the use of innovations such as unmanned aerial vehicles to improve crop security and yields while only one in five object to the use of self-driving tractors on farms. Mark Buckingham, chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: “We are delighted to see young people embrace technology as part of the future of farming.“Using cutting edge technology and growing techniques will enable the UK to deal with the serious challenges of keeping our farmers competitive, maintaining a safe, affordable food supply, and protecting our natural environment.“With Brexit on the horizon, techniques such as editing individual genes in crops to make them more resistant to diseases are going to be essential to help British farmers and scientists lead the world in agri-science.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.