For the second time in three years, Mookie Betts has won free tacos for America.
Taco Bell’s annual “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion has been a great success through the years, setting Twitter ablaze anticipating the first stolen base of the World Series – which earns everyone a free Doritos Locos taco.
The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder stole second base in the fifth inning of Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, two years after his steal in the 2018 World Series triggered the freebie. Betts was then a member of the Boston Red Sox, facing the Dodgers.
An inning earlier, fans – and the announcers – thought the tacos were in the bag when the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor slid safely ahead of a tag into second base. However, it was deemed a wild pitch rather than a stolen base.
Betts would go on to swipe third base in the inning as the lead runner in a double steal with Corey Seager. With that, the Dodgers became the first team to steal three bases in an inning of a World Series game since 1912.
The free tacos will be available in restaurants on Oct. 28.
ARLINGTON, Texas – To be clear, the Dodgers brought Mookie Betts to Los Angeles – and ensured he’d stay by guaranteeing him $365 million – to win a World Series. Singular, for now.
After all, it’s been 32 years since the Dodgers won the last game of the season, and for a club that won its division eight consecutive years but seemed to miss a certain something to get it over the top, importing Betts from Boston seemed the closest thing to buying October certainty.
First things first, right?
Yet after his return to the World Series with his new club, the notion of the Dodgers taking semi-permanent residence in the Fall Classic has an appeal that extends beyond Los Angeles.
Simply, baseball’s biggest stage is better with Betts on it.
In a mere two-inning stretch of Game 1 Tuesday night, Betts wreaked enough havoc on the Tampa Bay Rays to set a new standard of power and speed in World Series history.
WORLD SERIES: Everything goes Dodgers’ way in Game 1 win
TACOS: Betts’ steal wins everyone free Taco Bell
In a game that fans from almost every worldview agree has gotten too stationary, too static, too reliant on the impressive but motionless act of hitting the ball over the fence, Betts showed the world he can play any kind of game you want.
And, most important to him, Betts proved the difference in winning a ballgame – a crucial ballgame– by hitting the Tampa Bay Rays with a 1-2 punch of his skillset, turning a one-run game into an 8-3 Dodgers romp.
It moved Betts a step closer to his second championship in three years – his Red Sox beat these Dodgers in 2018 – and his teammates, save for reliever Joe Kelly, toward their first World Series title, ever.
This two-way street between Betts and his new Dodgers teammates practically floods with gratitude when Betts uplifts them all.
“We’re so lucky to have him on our team,” said center fielder Cody Bellinger, who snapped a scoreless tie with a home run and later robbed another. “Superstar guy, superstar talent, but he continues to do the little things right, which you can always learn from.”
Game 1 brought little and big things alike from No. 50.
With the Dodgers clinging to a 2-1 lead in the fifth, Betts drew a leadoff walk against Rays starter Tyler Glasnow and stole second, prompting Glasnow to walk NLCS MVP Corey Seager.
The havoc was just beginning.
Twice, Betts prompted Glasnow to spin toward second to keep him honest.
Betts and Seager staged a double steal anyway, the second time in these playoffs they teamed up on such a heist to key a big inning.
The Rays brought the infield in, and third baseman Joey Wendle stayed close to the bag, crimping Betts’ primary lead.
But in a perfect bit of baserunning, he grabbed several feet of real estate with his secondary lead and burst toward the plate on Max Muncy’s routine grounder to first. Yandy Diaz made a quick and adequate throw home, but Betts was already by catcher Mike Zunino with a headfirst slide.
Six pitches later, Will Smith’s RBI single scored Seager, Glasnow was driven from the game, all of it stemming from four isolated acts of verve and athleticism.
And in an era when stolen bases are frowned upon, lest they infringe on sluggers’ rights to strike out with impunity, it was an increasingly rare sequence of derring-do.
“Stolen bases are a thing for me,” says Betts, who stole a career-high 30 in his MVP season of 2018. “It’s how I create runs, create havoc on the bases.
“When I get on base, I’m just trying to touch home. And how I get there is how I get there.”
His next trip was a little smoother.
The beauty of Betts is, he can exhibit patience and work a walk and bedevil a pitcher one inning, then ambush the next by driving the first pitch the opposite way, into the seats. And so he jumped reliever Josh Fleming leading off the sixth, taking Fleming’s first pitch out to right field, sparking a two-run rally that pushed the Dodgers lead to 8-1.
Tear up the record books: Betts became the first player in World Series history to hit a home run, steal two bases and score two runs in a single game.
Heck, he only needed two innings to do it.
“Mookie’s pretty special,” says Game 1 starter and winner Clayton Kershaw. “He does things on a baseball field that a lot of other people can’t do, and he does it consistently, which separates him from a lot of people.”
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While the drive-by fan marvels at Mookie in isolation – such as his three straight games of stunning, game-turning catches in the Dodgers’ NL Championship Series triumph – his teammates and Betts himself revel in the mundane.
See the grind and appreciate, they say.
Betts says he reached that conclusion in 2016, when he hit 31 home runs and led the AL in total bases but still finished runner-up to Mike Trout in the MVP race. He figured the ceiling wasn’t much higher.
So trying to match it, over and over again, was the mindset.
“I knew it would be tough for me to repeat that or get better,” he says, “so I just told myself I just have to be consistent. The greats are driving in runs constantly, walking constantly. Be good at all aspects of the game all the time.”
And lo, he did get better, leading the AL in batting, slugging and runs scored in his 2018 MVP season. The pandemic shortened his Dodgers debut to just 55 games, but at 28, he’s still firmly in his prime.
And just three victories short of another World Series title, this one from the NL side of the bracket, and stemming largely from his actions this postseason.
Betts has not let his guard down this off-season, relatively taciturn amid the Dodgers’ exuberance, save for a giddy reaction to one of his NLCS defensive robberies.
And so when when he was asked which of his game-turning trips around the bases he liked, whether he preferred scoring runs or driving them in, his response was appropriate.
“I like winning,” he said. “You can’t do just one. You have to do both.”
Or, better yet, everything.
Ex-Texas Tech women’s basketball coach files lawsuit against school, says firing was result of discrimination
Former Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday saying her termination in August was a result of discrimination.
The lawsuit, which does not seek a specified amount for damages, alleges counts of breach of contract, fraud, fraudulent inducement, defamation and sex discrimination in violation of the right to equal protection under the United States Constitution and in violation of Title IX.
Stollings was hired as head coach in 2018 under a contract that went through 2024.
According to the lawsuit, Stollings was guaranteed an annual base salary of $300,000, running from April 1 to March 31 of each year. She was also entitled to up to $500,000 in fees for “Outside Athletics Related Income (Rights Fees)” and “Supplemental Compensation,” ranging from $10,000 for the student-athletes on her team maintaining a Team GPA over 2.65, to $100,000 for a National Championship Game win.
However, she was fired in August shortly after the publication of a USA TODAY investigation that quoted former players who complained of mistreatment and abuse in their exit interviews.
The lawsuit states the article included “multiple unsubstantiated claims and factual misrepresentations regarding the Lady Raiders and Coach Stollings, almost entirely from transferring student-athletes and largely echoing the explanations that transferring team members used to try to obtain immediate eligibility at another institution.”
According to the lawsuit, negative exit interviews were a common tactic among transferring players to immediately gain eligibility to play for another school.
“In short, a transferring student-athlete essentially is forced to provide negative feedback in order to receive NCAA approval to play immediately for another institution,” the lawsuit states.
In fact, the suit states the university investigated the claims and officials told Stollings the complaints were determined to be unfounded, the lawsuit states. Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt assured her she had the school’s full support.
The lawsuit states that as head coach Stollings employed “fair and reasonable” coaching methods to turn around an underperforming team despite the lack of support from the university.
“Coach Stollings provided a balanced approach designed to bring out the best in the Lady Raiders,” the lawsuit states. “As the head of the Lady Raiders, Coach Stollings advocated on behalf of her players for equitable funding and resources. Texas Tech ignored these requests.”
However, the lawsuit states administrators, specifically Hocutt, were pressured to fire her as a result of the negative publicity from the USA TODAY article.
More:Texas Tech AD Hocutt said there were ‘no flags’ raised when hiring Stollings
“Mr. Hocutt became afraid that his own position was at risk and began looking to deflect blame,” the lawsuit states.
She said she was told that her actions were determined to be “Objectionable Behavior,” which meant she could be fired under her contract. “Additionally, President (Lawrence) Schovanec has determined that this Objectionable Behavior cannot be cured,” the lawsuit states.
After Stollings’ firing, the lawsuit states Hocutt defamed her in a news conference in which he said that she “had let these girls down,” failed to provide the coaching the team needed and failed to provide a “healthy environment of wellbeing” for the Lady Raiders.
“Mr. Hocutt knew that Coach Stollings had worked tirelessly to support the Lady Raiders and help them succeed, that this statement directly contradicted the findings of the internal reviews and that almost the entire remaining student athletes on the Lady Raiders contradicted Mr. Hocutt’s malicious, reckless and false statement,” the lawsuit states.
Stollings is also seeking a declaratory judgment that Hocutt’s statements were malicious, knowingly reckless and false, and injured her personal and professional reputation and exposed her to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and financial injury, and impeach her honesty, integrity, virtue and reputation.
Among the grounds for breach of contract include representations made to her during contract negotiations that the women’s basketball team would be treated equally.
“Mr. Hocutt and the other Texas Tech officials and representatives knew these statements were false, and Coach Stollings and the Lady Raiders have not been treated in a manner equivalent to the men’s basketball program and its coach and do not and have never received treatment and support equivalent to the men’s basketball program and its coach,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit used the teams’ 2019 expenses as an example of the disparity in the treatment of the school’s men’s and women’s sports programs. The women’s basketball team has a total expense of about $4.9 million that year, which was about $5 million less than the men’s team.
“There is no non-discriminatory explanation for why the men’s basketball team received nearly three times the amount of funding the Lady Raiders received,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that Stollings’ termination was another example of the school’s discrimination against gay people.
“Defendants also discriminated against Coach Stollings – and others – because she was a member of the gay and lesbian community employed by Texas Tech in the Athletics Department,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit highlighted former men’s basketball head coach Billy Gillespie. It states Gillespie’s resignation in 2012 for health reasons was a part of a coverup for numerous players’ complaints of mistreatment throughout the year.
“Defendants discriminated against Coach Stollings because of her sex (female) by subjecting her to disparate treatment as compared to similarly situated male coaches, including but not limited to coaches of male sports teams, and terminating her employment because of sex,” the lawsuit states.
Texas Tech officials did not immediately provide a comment when contacted by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ahead of a World Series capping the pandemic-shortened season, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes to keep two of this year’s innovations: expanded playoffs and starting extra innings with runners on second base.
“People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes. And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive,” Manfred said Tuesday during an interview with The Associated Press.
Manfred said the 30 teams combined for $3 billion in operating losses due the coronavirus pandemic, which caused all 898 regular-season games to be played in empty ballparks without fans.
After opening day was delayed from March 26 to July 23, MLB and the players’ association agreed to expand the number of teams in the playoffs from 10 to 16. Even before the pandemic, Manfred advocated a future expansion of the playoffs to 14 teams.
“I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format,” Manfred said. “I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”
With the added runner rule, the longest of 68 games of 10 innings or longer were a pair of 13-inning contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”
Union head Tony Clark said it was too soon to commit to changes for 2021. The sport’s labor contract runs through 2021, and the union’s agreement is needed to alter the 2021 structure.
“We made a number of one-year changes this season under unique circumstances,” Clark wrote in an email to the AP. “We are gathering feedback from players and we’ll bring that to the league at the appropriate time. Obviously, protecting health and safety will remain among several important considerations as those talks unfold.”
Manfred is concerned about whether fans will be allowed to attend games next season.
“We understand what happens with fans is going to be a product of what happens with the virus, what decisions public health authorities make in terms of mass gatherings,” he said. “It is a huge issue for us in terms of the economics of the game. The losses that I referred to earlier were basically in stone when we started the season because we knew about 40% of our revenue is gate-related and we knew we weren’t going to have it.”
“The clubs have done a really good job locally and we tried to do a good job centrally,” he added. “The liquidity is sufficient to get us through 2020. I think if we’re faced with limited activity next year and the kind of losses that we suffered this year, again, it will become more of a problem.”
Manfred was pleased with the rule he pushed for forcing pitchers to face a minimum of three batters or to finish the half inning.
“There’s nothing about what happened this year that has changed, not only in my mind, but anybody in the game’s mind about it, and I think that’s here to stay,” he said.
He would not say whether he favors keeping the expansion of the designated hitter to the National League, citing the need to bargain on the topic with the players’ union. The expansion of active rosters from 26 to 28 players was specific to the stop of spring training in March and resumption in the summer.
Manfred also did not draw conclusions about the average time of a nine-inning game, which increased to a record 3 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds, up from 3:05:35 last year. The cause likely was tied to expanded rosters and increased pitching changes.
He also thought it was difficult to analyze whether the drop in the major league batting average to .245, its lowest since 1968, was cyclical or an anomaly,
“What people are telling me about kind of every measure for this year in terms of statistics is that 60 (games) is just not a great sample size and you shouldn’t really put too much weight on it,” he said.
Management and the union battled publicly through the spring, with players demanding prorated pay for the shortened season that had been agreed to in March as part of a deal that included salary advances. They dared Manfred to unilaterally issue the regular-season schedule, which he did, then bargained and reached agreements on expanded playoffs and a bubble for the last three rounds of the postseason.
“We got a lot of important things done this year with the union,” Manfred said. “We had the problems early, Tony was active not only in helping to strengthen protocols, but in encouraging players to adhere to the protocols. And the negotiation over the bubble was not an easy thing. It involved further changes for players, dislocations for players.”
While 45 regular-season games were postponed for COVID-19-related reasons, many involving the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, just two were not made up. Teams refused the union’s requests to play a longer regular season that would go deeper into the autumn.
“We did not want to extend the season beyond Oct. 27. Just think about it, put it in some perspective, if we were still playing in the regular season, just 15 games a day in different cities, given where the virus is right now, it would be a really, really difficult situation, and then still having to get through the playoffs in November. Given what everybody’s saying about the virus, the trends we’re seeing, it was crucial that we stick to that Oct. 27.”
He also said the lack of doubleheaders in the original schedule turned out to be key.
Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger learned his lesson from celebration injury, adapts after World Series home run
ARLINGTON, Texas – Cody Bellinger powered up, and then played footsies.
The Dodgers center fielder ended the National League Championship Series with a go-ahead home run in Game 7, and then kick-started Game 1 of the World Series with a two-run home run to break a scoreless tie with the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth inning Tuesday night.
In between, he suffered a shoulder dislocation celebrating his Game 7 blast, a forearm bash shared with teammate Kike’ Hernandez jarring his right shoulder out of place for the umpteenth time in his athletic career.
Bellinger had the medical team ease it back into place so he could finish Game 7, and he was fitted with a brace, he said Monday.
So when he turned around a 98-mph Tyler Glasnow fastball in Game 1, depositing it into the Dodger bullpen, Bellinger circled the bases and pointed toward the ground.
Then, he tapped toes with every teammate in his path, preserving his shoulder and also his dignity (Hey, it looked cool).
“The toe-tap, I think I’ll continue to do that,” Bellinger said after the game. “Maybe my whole career, who knows?”
It was the eighth career postseason home run for the 2019 NL MVP who’s playing in his third World Series at the age of 25.
A private jet, the crimson “A” of the University of Alabama painted on its tail, lifted off from Tuscaloosa, Ala., around daybreak Saturday with extraordinary cargo: cellular debris collected from the nose of Nick Saban, the football coach.
Three days earlier, Saban had announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, still in isolation hours before second-ranked Alabama was to play third-ranked Georgia, Saban knew the specimen aboard the plane was his diagnostic lifeline to the sideline. If a laboratory in Mobile, Ala., reported that the sample was negative for the virus, Saban, who had asserted that he had no symptoms and had repeatedly tested negative after his initial result, would be allowed to leave isolation a week early and coach in the prime-time game.
And so it was. Hours after a final negative result — and with no small help from a rule change that Southeastern Conference leaders approved six days before the positive test that shocked Alabama — millions of people watched on television as Saban led the Crimson Tide to a 41-24 victory.
The episode underscored two aspects of the response to the virus: Even the most rigorous tests — in this case a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., widely considered the gold standard of infectious disease diagnostics — can falter. And, more than seven months into the nation’s coronavirus crisis, access to testing remains inconsistent, except among America’s elite.
While tests remain scarce in many communities, and too expensive to allow some leagues and universities to compete this fall, they have more than once helped break a prominent figure out of isolation.
“It’s a reminder of the stark disparity between the haves and have-nots,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Alabama’s football program is clearly one of the haves. Anchored by one of the most celebrated brands in college football — the university claims 17 national championships, including five during Saban’s tenure, now in its 14th season — Alabama’s athletic department is among the country’s wealthiest. Bryant-Denny Stadium just had a $107 million renovation, and Saban is to earn more than $9 million for this season.
As the pandemic has strained athletic finances on campuses nationwide, it has, in some ways, put Alabama’s resources and football obsession on greater display. The SEC, for instance, requires its football teams to be tested at least three times a week under a protocol that hinges almost entirely on P.C.R. testing, one of the most accurate and expensive techniques on the market. But Alabama opted for daily screenings of its football players and coaches.
Early last Wednesday afternoon, Saban learned that one of his P.C.R. tests, which had been processed at a local laboratory, had come back positive. He headed home, oversaw practice via Zoom and held a news conference from afar, saying he had been “very surprised” by the result. (Alabama declined to comment beyond Saban’s public remarks and the statements the athletic program issued last week.)
With the case count around the football complex low — only Saban and the university’s athletic director tested positive, according to Alabama — and Saban an evangelist for masks and physical distancing, people in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere wondered whether that Wednesday test was flawed.
P.C.R.-based tests for the virus hunt for specific stretches of genetic material, which they can copy repeatedly until their targets reach detectable levels. That makes it easy to identify the virus, even when it is scarce, and difficult to mistake something else for the pathogen. But as with any procedure, mistakes are possible.
Differences in the way the test samples are handled, processed and analyzed can upend results. Pressure to speed up the turnaround time for results could also make it harder to keep machines running in tiptop shape, or to ensure consistency from test to test.
“The most likely culprit was probably some sort of contamination,” possibly from a nearby sample that came from someone who actually had the virus, said Sarah Jung, the scientific director of clinical microbiology at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “This is detecting things we can’t see. That makes it all the more difficult.”
Mishaps are also bound to happen during a flood of tests. Alabama’s athletic department has said little about its testing throughout the pandemic, but the football program is administering at least 120 screenings a day, Saban suggested on ESPN on Saturday. The SEC’s 14 athletic programs are collectively running thousands of P.C.R. tests every week.
“It’s a game of numbers,” Dr. Jung said. “I’m not saying it’s inevitable, but when groups like this test a lot, the chances for a situation like this to occur increase.”
Even under ideal circumstances, the best products will occasionally fail, Dr. Jha said.
“There is not something that is 100 percent perfect,” he said. “That’s why you do confirmatory tests.”
Alabama swiftly began its investigation into Saban’s positive result. There were medical reasons to try to confirm the result, but urgent football ones, too.
Less than a week before Saban said he had tested positive, the SEC’s chancellors and presidents had approved an update to the league’s medical protocols. Under the new policy, an asymptomatic person like Saban who tested positive for the virus could take another P.C.R. test within 24 hours. If that test yielded a negative result, the person could take two more P.C.R. tests, each separated by 24 hours. If all three results were negative, the player, coach or staff member could return to athletics.
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Words to Know About Testing
Confused by the terms about coronavirus testing? Let us help:
Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can recognize and attach precisely to specific kinds of viruses, bacteria, or other invaders.Antibody test/serology test: A test that detects antibodies specific to the coronavirus. Antibodies begin to appear in the blood about a week after the coronavirus has infected the body. Because antibodies take so long to develop, an antibody test can’t reliably diagnose an ongoing infection. But it can identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past.Antigen test: This test detects bits of coronavirus proteins called antigens. Antigen tests are fast, taking as little as five minutes, but are less accurate than tests that detect genetic material from the virus.Coronavirus: Any virus that belongs to the Orthocoronavirinae family of viruses. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2. Covid-19: The disease caused by the new coronavirus. The name is short for coronavirus disease 2019.Isolation and quarantine: Isolation is the separation of people who know they are sick with a contagious disease from those who are not sick. Quarantine refers to restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a virus.Nasopharyngeal swab: A long, flexible stick, tipped with a soft swab, that is inserted deep into the nose to get samples from the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat. Samples for coronavirus tests can also be collected with swabs that do not go as deep into the nose — sometimes called nasal swabs — or oral or throat swabs.Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR): Scientists use PCR to make millions of copies of genetic material in a sample. Tests that use PCR enable researchers to detect the coronavirus even when it is scarce.Viral load: The amount of virus in a person’s body. In people infected by the coronavirus, the viral load may peak before they start to show symptoms, if symptoms appear at all.
It is unusual to administer a follow-up screening after someone tests positive by P.C.R., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that such a result send an asymptomatic person into isolation for 10 days.
But in the weeks before Saban’s test, the conference had an experience with a false positive involving a soccer player at Texas A&M, Sports Illustrated reported. And the league’s medical experts had also begun to worry about the potential public health effects of an unchecked false positive: a person’s being dropped from routine testing and perhaps acquiring a sense of invincibility that they could no longer contract the virus — potential fodder for an outbreak, should that person be exposed.
“The repercussions for that false positive aren’t just for that athlete,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist at Louisiana State University and a member of the SEC’s medical task force. “It puts the entire team at risk.”
Still, Dr. O’Neal said she had worried about endorsing a protocol that “debunks a test result.”
“There’s so much attention around the validity of these tests, and for us who work in health care, just convincing patients to trust us and trust getting tested has become a struggle,” she said. “We don’t want to give the perception that we don’t believe these tests.”
The tipping point, she recalled in an interview Tuesday, had been “the increased awareness that false positives do occur.”
Despite the slight variances of the SEC’s new protocol from others’ guidelines, outside experts said that a lone positive result among so many negative P.C.R. tests was almost certainly inaccurate.
Rules made clear that Saban could not coach, even from home, if he had the virus. If Alabama wanted Saban in charge against Georgia, the new approach was its only option. And even if the plan worked, it would not be clear until sometime Saturday, the day of a game long seen as one to shape the race toward the College Football Playoff.
Less than 24 hours after the positive result, Saban took the first of the three SEC-sanctioned tests he would need to pass to exit isolation.
His first formal follow-up tests, conducted around 7 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, showed negative results, as did two other P.C.R. tests that Alabama ordered “out of an abundance of caution” at another lab. Alabama announced the first SEC test’s results, and ESPN reported the findings of the second as it broadcast from Alabama’s stadium on Saturday morning.
Word had already begun to circulate through the SEC that Saban might prove eligible to coach.
Driving the last specimen to Mobile would have taken more than three hours on game day, potentially stripping Saban of precious time with his team. So Alabama athletics turned to its speediest option: its jet.
Before noon in Tuscaloosa, with the Crimson Tide Foundation’s plane already long gone from Mobile, the decisive report arrived.
Saban headed to work.
This article is part of our latest Fine Arts & Exhibits special report, which focuses on how art endures and inspires, even in the darkest of times.
The new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs does not distinguish between winners or losers; the athletes who earned medals and enduring public adoration at the Games receive the same recognition as those who went home empty-handed.
The museum is more interested in honoring the determination it takes just to make the team, that quality the Olympic ice skater Peggy Fleming sums up simply as “having the guts and the mental strength” to compete on behalf of your country when the whole world is watching.
“It’s so big, and you’re so distracted, and you’re there to get the job done,” she said. “It’s a very different nerve level. And that’s true for every athlete.”
So, the rhinestone-studded, chartreuse skating dress Ms. Fleming’s mother made for her gold-winning moment in Grenoble, France, in 1968 sits in a glass case at the museum right next to the bobsled suit Steven Holcomb wore to Vancouver in 2010, and just a few artifacts away from the hockey glove Pat Sapp used to block pucks in 2002 in Salt Lake. The acclaimed and the sometimes-forgotten get equal billing.
And so, that same logic follows, do the Paralympians. While most Americans — and television networks and cereal companies — pay far greater attention to the Olympics than the Paralympics, this museum fully integrates them under the assumption that a wheelchair basketball player trains just as hard as any other basketball player. The only categories separating the spotlights on individual sports are summer and winter.
ImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York TimesImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York TimesImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York Times
“What I love about the museum is that it does not just celebrate the high achievement of athletes, but it also looks at the journey,” said the Paralympian John Register, who competed in swimming in 1996 and returned for track and field in 2000, earning a silver medal in the long jump. His prosthetic leg and running shoe are on display.
What this museum is selling, according to Christopher Liedel, the museum’s chief executive, is motivation.
“I want every kid to come in here and say, ‘I can be my own best person,’ whether it’s in sports or in something else, by looking at these examples of athletes who worked hard,” he said.
The museum, which opened July 30, frames its stories of triumph over adversity in dramatic terms, starting with its location on the edge of downtown with Pikes Peak soaring into the sky behind it. The building design aims high as well and was developed by the architect Benjamin Gilmartin, a partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York design studio known for its work on the High Line on the West Side of Manhattan and the Broad museum in Los Angeles.
ImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York Times
Mr. Gilmartin was inspired by the scenery and the subject matter, he said, and wanted to create a building with world-class aspirations of its own. The 60,000 square-foot museum’s main structure, which features tapered walls and a folded roof, appears to be in constant motion, pushing itself up off the ground and then “pinwheeling and twisting and ascending in its expression,” as the architect describes it, “almost reeling up to take flight.”
Early design concepts compared the building’s layout to the movement of a discus thrower, starting low to the ground and gaining momentum through circular revolutions before releasing energy into the air.
Adding to the structure’s dynamism is its exterior cladding, which consists of 9,000 panels of reflective, anodized aluminum installed in a diamond pattern. Each sheet is angled about one-inch above the sheet next to it, creating small shadow lines that change constantly with the daylight.
ImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York TimesImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York TimesImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York Times
“We think of it as being a skin over the bones of the space inside, or a garment that’s skintight, like an Olympic uniform, and something that’s highly engineered,” Mr. Gilmartin said.
The museum’s other notable attribute is its high level of accessibility. The architects borrowed inspiration from the Guggenheim Museum, which invites visitors to take an elevator to the top floor and then descend along ramps as they explore galleries. There are no steps up or down, and the goal is to eliminate any differences in the museum experience among people with varying physical abilities.
That idea drives every element in the museum. It combines static displays of things like Olympic torches and medals going back to the first modern games in 1896 with high-tech, interactive opportunities to learn about everything from advances in sneaker technology to the evolution of prosthetic limbs to the ways Olympic officials are able to test and catch athletes who dope.
Upon entering, each visitor is given a badge attached to a lanyard and then guided to a nearby kiosk to register any special needs, such as enlarged type, audio versions of text or reduced sensory triggers. As visitors proceed through the museum and arrive at exhibits, sensors recognize their badges and customize displays automatically. There is no need to adjust things along the way.
ImageCredit…Elliot Ross for The New York Times
Accommodations are the norm. Ramps are low-grade and extra wide to fit two wheelchairs at the same time. Sign language interpreters appear in the corner of videos. Cane guards double as benches in the building’s spacious atrium. In one gallery, where visitors can try out different sports using modified equipment, archers can tell if they are aiming at the target’s center by listening to the speed between audible beeps. Those attempting the luge know if they hit the walls on their run by feeling a subtle vibration in their sleds.
The museum’s exhibition designer, Gallagher & Associates, based in Washington, D.C., used athletes across the board as consultants, and many were conveniently on-hand. Colorado Springs is home to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the steward of the American team, as well as the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, where athletes ready themselves to compete. The nonprofit museum operates separately from those organizations, which have licensed it to use “Olympic” in its name.
By and large, the $91 million project is a local effort, supported by the Colorado Springs business community, which hopes the museum will be a catalyst for tourism and bring excitement to a formerly industrial part of the city that is ripe for redevelopment.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro positioned a circular plaza in front of the building, creating an amphitheater, which uses the museum’s front steps as seating and where live sports and other events will be staged.
Looming in the background of it all is Pikes Peak, which Ms. Fleming, who lives in the area, believed brought the real and symbolic ideas the museum embodied full circle. It reminds her of Mount Olympus, where the Games, and their ideals of rewarding the greatest of human effort, got their start.
“The Olympic dream has always been about going up a big hill to achieve what you want,” she said. “And so this is a perfect place for this.”
More Than a Vote, the collective of athletes headlined by the basketball star LeBron James, on Wednesday will introduce its final political push before Election Day, a rapid response and advertisement operation meant to combat the spread of misinformation among younger Black voters.
The initiative, which is a collaboration with the political group Win Black and includes some celebrity partners, will seek to educate younger Black voters on how to spot false political statements spreading on social media. The goal is to provide advice that culminates in young people making a plan to vote — either by absentee ballot or in person.
Called “Under Review,” the effort will be featured on Snapchat through Election Day, and will include videos from celebrities and activists like Desus and Mero, Jemele Hill and the athletes involved in More Than a Vote.
It comes after the group has invested in recruiting more than 40,000 poll workers, helping formerly incarcerated people regain their voting rights and aiding the push for N.B.A. arenas to be converted into polling locations.
In a statement, the co-founders of Win Black said the videos would take on political misinformation targeted at suppressing the Black vote, a problem that federal agencies identified in the 2016 presidential election.
“Harmful disinformation is being weaponized to block the voices and votes of Black Americans — but we have the power to stop it,” said the co-founders, Andre Banks and Ashley Bryant. “Through this partnership, Under Review will urgently flood the zone with the facts we need to counter the targeted attacks coming from bad actors at home and abroad.”
In a phone interview with The New York Times, Mr. James discussed the importance of voting, and how he sees his evolving role as both an athlete and a social activist. Mr. James, who as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers recently won his fourth N.B.A. championship, framed off-the-court activism as a key part of how he views his legacy.
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These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
The latest push from More Than a Vote is about combating misinformation targeted at Black voters. Why that was something you all wanted to get involved with?
It’s simple. We believe that Black people, our community, we’ve been pushed away from our civic duty. We’ve been fed misinformation for many years.
And I’m in a position where I can educate people and, through More Than a Vote, educate people on how important this movement is, and how important their civic duty is. Not only to empower themselves, but to give back to their community as well.
It’s something that we’re very passionate about — that I’m very passionate about. I’m happy and honored that I can have these athletes and these influencers and the people that want to be engaged with me as well.
Each of More Than a Vote’s issues has been targeted at Black communities. Why is that racial lens important to your political involvement?
It’s authentic to who I am. I come from the Black community. I understand my Black people and what we go through on a day-to-day basis. I understand that we’ve not been given a lot of information along the course of time, and I understand how important our vote is.
I listen to my kids in my hometown of Akron, Ohio, I listen to my kids in my I Promise School, and one of the things that we always talk about is how we don’t get a lot of information, or we feel that we’re not appreciated, or we feel that our vote does not count.
So, you know, not only am I trying to to engage with my kids at an early age — third, fourth, fifth graders — but also the ones that also have the opportunity to vote now: the 18-year-olds, the 22-year-olds, the 25-year-olds, the 40-year-olds.
Election 2020 ›
Updated Oct. 21, 2020, 5:12 a.m. ETObama, in his first appearance on the campaign trail, will rally voters in Philadelphia.College students aren’t on campus. Their missing votes could make a difference.North Carolina can accept absentee ballots up to Nov. 12, a court rules.
Because a lot of us just thought our vote doesn’t count: That’s what they’ve been taught, that’s how they’ve been educated, that how they’ve always felt. They’ve felt kind of institutionalized. But I want give them the right information, I want them to know how important they can be.
Last election cycle, you campaigned for Hillary Clinton in Ohio. This time, you’ve focused more on issues rather than an individual candidate. Can you explain to me the thinking behind that shift?
I don’t want to say it’s a shift. It’s just what needed to be done at this point in time.
We’ve been talking about voter suppression, we’ve been talking about police brutality, systemic racism. We’ve had so many things going on, and voter suppression in our communities happens to be at the forefront. So that’s something we wanted to educate our people on.
What is most important to you come Election Day? Is it greater participation from Black voters? Is it the removal of President Trump, who I know you’ve had some back-and-forth with?
I define success by our people going out and voting.
You know, there’s so many stats out there, you can see it every time. Who didn’t vote? What counties didn’t vote? What communities didn’t vote? And a lot of that has had to do with our Black people. So, hopefully, we can get them out and educated and let them understand how important this moment is.
I don’t go back and forth with anybody. And I damn sure won’t go back and forth with that guy. But we want better, we want change in our community. We always talk about, “We want change,” and now we have the opportunity to do that.
The N.B.A. had a work stoppage this summer after the shooting of Jacob Blake. When you look back at that fraught moment for the league, a political one also, how do you think it handled it?
I think they handled it great. And the great thing is the partnership. The understanding — I don’t even want to just say understanding — them listening to us. They listened to the players.
Like I said, we want change. To be able to have action and to have change, that’s what is important to us.
This is not where you were at the beginning of your career, in terms of off-the-court activism. How did you transition from LeBron James the basketball player to embracing your role as a social leader?
We all have moments in our lives where we know who we are and we know what we’re about.
And it’s about growth. I’ve grown over the course of my career. I’ve grown over the course of being an 18-year-old kid that came into the league in 2003, to a 35-year-old man that’s a husband and a father of three kids.
I’ve grown to know who I am and what I stand for. And it’s not just about me, it’s about my people. That’s why I’m leading the charge.
Thank you and congratulations on championship ring No. 4.
With their deeply-talented roster, sack-happy style and early-season success, the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers conjure grainy, romanticized images of the team’s 1970s glory days: quarterbacks fleeing their defense in terror and opponents driven facemask-first into the dirt, while foundry workers cheer them from smoky tap rooms and John Facenda narrates over a cinematic soundtrack.
It’s tempting — and incredibly premature — to draw parallels between the current unbeaten Steelers and their Steel Curtain predecessors: T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree walloping quarterbacks like Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene; Minkah Fitzpatrick as turnover-hungry Mel Blount; James Conner hammering out yardage like Franco Harris; Juju Smith-Schuster and the rookie sensation Chase Claypool channeling the graceful Lynn Swann and the physical John Stallworth; and Ben Roethlisberger orchestrating the havoc like the wily Terry Bradshaw.
But just as Pittsburgh is decades removed from being a sooty mill town (the tap rooms are now brew pubs, the pierogies possibly stuffed with braised short rib or spinach-and-mushrooms), the 2020 Steelers (5-0) cannot quite claim direct lineage from the teams that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. This year’s roster does, however, validate the Steelers’ traditionalist franchise-building philosophy and represents a welcome return to the team’s roots.
ImageCredit…Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
In a league where organizations replace regimes like they are toner cartridges, the Steelers have changed head coaches only twice in the last 51 years. Mike Tomlin has coached the Steelers since 2007. General manager Kevin Colbert has been at his post since 2000. The team’s strict budget practices — contracts are rarely extended before their final year, and big-money acquisitions are rare — have been in place for decades. The Steelers still deploy a variation of the base defense that Chuck Noll installed in 1983. Even the team’s uniforms have barely changed since 1968.
That commitment to continuity has paid off. The Steelers have not endured a losing season since 2003. They have reached the playoffs 18 times and the Super Bowl four times since 1992. Bill Cowher’s perennial contenders of the mid-1990s (led by defenders like Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson and Greg Lloyd) and the Cowher/Tomlin Super Bowl teams of 2005 and 2008 (Roethlisberger, defenders Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, old-school weapons like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward), all bore clear resemblances to the 1970s-era champions.
When the Steelers strayed from their traditional template in the mid-2010s, with running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown joining Roethlisberger as the team’s marquee performers, it nearly tore the franchise apart.
The Steelers reached the playoffs in every season from 2014 through 2017 with a high-scoring offense (they finished in the top 10 in scoring all four years), a less-than-spectacular defense (10th or lower in fewest points allowed three times) and an ever-increasing, uncharacteristic flair for melodrama. The 2018 team started the season 7-2-1 but then lost four of its last six games to miss the playoffs, collapsing beneath the soap opera story lines of Bell’s yearlong contract holdout and Brown’s behind-the-scenes histrionics.
ImageCredit…Joe Sargent/Getty Images
The organization allowed Bell to sign with the Jets at the start of the 2019 off-season and traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders so he could pursue Batman villainy elsewhere. When Roethlisberger sustained a major elbow injury in the second game of the 2019 season, it appeared to signal a tidy end to an era. With their superstars injured or dispersed, surely it was time for the Steelers to replace Tomlin (who appeared to have a substitute teacher’s command of the locker room) and plunge into a rebuilding cycle with a new quarterback.
Instead, the Steelers went in the opposite direction, extending Tomlin’s contract before the 2019 season began, then trading away their 2020 first-round draft pick for Fitzpatrick instead of earmarking it to select Roethlisberger’s replacement. The trade was widely criticized, but the Fitzpatrick-Watt-Dupree defense produced 54 sacks and 20 interceptions, and the Steelers remained in the playoff chase until the final week of the season despite an injury-ravaged offense.
The Steelers’ refusal to strip-mine the roster and start over is now paying off. The 38-year-old Roethlisberger has only looked slightly creaky since his return; he is also noticeably slimmer than the chunky bouncer who waddled onto the field in the late 2010s. Roethlisberger has spread 11 touchdown passes through five games among newcomers (Claypool), holdovers from the Real Steelers of Allegheny County era (Smith-Shuster), and youngsters who made the most of the 2019 gap year (Dionte Johnson, James Washington).
ImageCredit…Justin Berl/Associated Press
The Steelers defense, meanwhile, leads the N.F.L. with 24 sacks and allows only 3.3 yards per running play. And with Bell recently released from Jets purgatory and Brown best left as the topic of a different sort of essay, the Steelers are free of both tabloid fodder and regrets.
So while the Super Bowl plans and Steel Curtain comparisons should at least wait until after the Steelers face the 5-0 Tennessee Titans and the 5-1 Baltimore Ravens over the next two weeks, there are good reasons they inspire 8-track flashbacks. The Steelers are throwbacks to an era of longer attention spans and slower news cycles, when granting the quarterback and the coach an extra year made sense and instant-gratification roster decisions did not. They have built a young nucleus without “rebuilding,” developed rising stars instead of overpaying and created a more exciting team than they fielded in the Bell-Brown era without compromising.
The 2020 Steelers are so old-fashioned that they are now retro chic. It’s a look that really suits them.
For many of us, the outdoors serve as a refuge — a place to gather (at a social distance, of course) and live some sort of normalcy as the pandemic continues to disrupt society.
Then there is the artist Tyrrell Winston, who has spent years scouring the outside world to gather the material he has made integral to his work. Winston’s pieces are typically made with objects he finds outside — most commonly, flattened basketballs and cigarette butts.
“When I’m walking down the street, I’m seeing art materials,” Winston said during a recent Zoom interview. “It’s literally, ‘What can I use or what can I look at that I have never seen before?’”
Winston, 35, is based in New York City and has no formal art training, but he has made a career out of combining his two loves — basketball and art — to create compelling three-dimensional works. He said he was currently constructing something for Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers: a piece of 168 flattened basketballs. (Gilbert had commissioned two other pieces by Winston that are outside the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, where the Cavaliers play.)
Once Winston finishes this piece, it will be the largest artwork of flattened basketballs collected by an N.B.A. owner, supplanting one that belongs to Michael Rubin, a Philadelphia 76ers co-owner, who has a Winston piece made of 105 basketballs.
The flattened basketballs used to come from Winston’s travels through Manhattan and Brooklyn. A used basketball, he said, tells its own story. “And I do not have to ascribe, put words with it, and it becomes abstract in that way,” he said. “I want my work to mean many things to many people. There is no one definitive meaning.”
ImageCredit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
Now, Winston has graffiti artists sourcing balls for him in California, upstate New York, Florida, Texas and other parts of the United States. They often come from train tracks, Winston said, a common home for basketballs. Or junk shops. Estate sales. Any place. They just have to be used.
“Weather is my favorite assistant, and that’s just something I have no desire to try to figure out how to manipulate or that I want to, because the ethos of the work is about all of these touches that are not mine,” he said.
One reason Winston started using found pieces for his art was that he had $150,000 in college debt when he graduated from Wagner College with an arts administration major during the recession in 2008. He did not have money to buy materials, and on top of that, he didn’t know how to paint. But he knew he wanted to be an artist, especially after attending a Dada exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
Two of Winston’s biggest influences are Marcel Duchamp, the French artist who died in 1968, and David Hammons, an American artist. They pioneered “found art” pieces — although in very different ways. Duchamp was a father of Dadaism, an avant-garde art movement of the early 20th century that aimed to be “anti-art.” He dabbled in the whimsy and the outward rejection of conventional art, as in his piece “Fountain,” a urinal he signed “R. Mutt,” considered one of the most notable artworks of the 20th century. In the latter half of the 20th century, Hammons constructed several vivid commentaries on being Black in America through pieces made from hair on the floor in barbershops, from sweatshirts and from constructing basketball hoops several stories high, among many others.
ImageCredit…Brittainy Newman for The New York TimesImageCredit…Brittainy Newman for The New York TimesImageCredit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
Sports are a clear influence on Winston’s art, even aside from flattened basketballs and used nets — another common material for him. He grew up a Los Angeles Clippers fan in Orange County, Calif. One of his pieces, 2019’s “Don’t Forget to Floss,” has a used basketball rim on top of a stool. It is a direct homage to Duchamp, who did the same with a bicycle wheel in one of his early works. Winston’s latest exhibit is a digital display with the gallery Library Street Collective in Detroit. Sports fans will find many of the pieces familiar and possibly sacrilegious, depending on one’s point of view.
Winston, whose work has been displayed all over the world, takes on a sports-obsessed society, particularly the hype surrounding sports memorabilia. Here is a look at some of the pieces on display.
ImageCredit…Courtesy of Tyrrell Winston and Library Street Collective
In this series of paintings, Winston recreates the signatures of some of the most famous athletes in history — painting their autographs over and over in a series called “Punishment Paintings.” Among the athletes whose autographs Winston recreates are Michael Jordan, Pete Rose, Muhammad Ali and Mickey Mantle. He suggests that their level of fame is a form of “punishment” in itself, because society does not allow them to be flawed.
“I want people to ask, ‘Why have I chosen these people?’” Winston said, adding, “We have commodified some of these athletes and we look at them as immortal and put an unfair expectation on them sometimes.”
But Winston said that the punishment of fame isn’t the only kind of punishment he is concerned with. There is also the physical.
“So when I say, ‘Punishment Paintings,’ too, it’s the training and the mental endurance that these people that we put on these pedestals have to endure,” Winston said.
ImageCredit…Courtesy of Tyrrell Winston and Library Street Collective
This is one that hard-core sports fans may find surprising. Winston simply takes pieces of valuable, authenticated, signed memorabilia — such as a Jordan-autographed basketball and a Rose-signed baseball — and puts his own John Hancock on them, a purposeful act of desecration.
The act is a homage in itself. Winston likened it to one by Robert Rauschenberg, the influential American artist who, like Duchamp, specialized in turning artistic expectations on their head. Rauschenberg once took a valuable drawing by Willem de Kooning, another 20th-century giant of American art who popularized Abstract Expressionism, and erased it with de Kooning’s permission. He put the blank piece of paper on display in 1953. Even as one of Rauschenberg’s most daring pieces, to take a valuable drawing and perform an act of what some would consider destruction, it did not create a public sensation until the 1960s.
To Winston, the signing of the Jordan ball is a tribute in itself. But he has an analogy that basketball fans today may more readily recognize as an explanation for this piece of work.
“It is Iverson crossing over Jordan his rookie year and hitting that shot,” Winston said. “I like to have those parallels. This is a moment in our history, but it’s also an athletic accomplishment. And me doing that Jordan ball, I mean, I’ll tell you, man, I was so nervous. It’s because of the respect and the admiration that I have for Michael Jordan as a basketball player. And I still think my signature looks kind of funny on it because I have so much respect.”