We often hear about the NFL’s dominance in the mindshare of sports fans, and it’s hard to argue with the facts and figures floating around to support this notion. Pro football has been No. 1 in the annual Harris Poll survey of Americans’ favorite sports for three consecutive decades, and the NFL’s television ratings routinely trounce those of other sports. But, curiously, I was fooling around with Google Trends, and there is at least one area in which the NFL is not crushing the opposition: Google searches.The NFL is trailing the NBA by about 5 percent since Google’s Trends search data became available in 2004.There are a lot of factors that can cloud these results, including the possibility that not all search terms are being correctly attributed to each league. This is a particular issue for “football,” which is, as you probably know, what everyone outside the U.S. calls soccer. Recent improvements to Trends make this issue less problematic, but it’s still worth mentioning.The numbers also include worldwide searches; the NBA has a large global presence (particularly in Asia), and Google is, by definition, biased toward countries with a greater number of Internet users. For what it’s worth, the NFL is still tops by quite a bit within the U.S.Even so, it’s an interesting data point about the relative global reach of America’s biggest sports leagues. If we look at things from an international perspective, the NFL is not the behemoth it usually appears to be stateside.
Under a rare clear London sky, Allyson Felix shot around the track in the 200-meter race like a woman determined to not have a third failure in the event of her life.With 40 meters remaining to cover before the finish line – and the elusive Olympic gold medal – Felix burst pass Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to glory.The disheartening results of previous Olympics mattered not. The gold was hers, and she left no doubt about it, either, winning by .21 seconds.Felix won the race in 21.88 seconds, topping Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who won the 100 four nights earlier and Team USA’s Carmelita Jeter, who added a bronze to go with her silver in the 100 meters.One more spot back was Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown, who defeated Felix in the Athens and Beijing Games and was trying to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event in three consecutive Olympics.It was the third-place tie in 100-meter qualifying at U.S. trials last month that hovered over Felix’s run-up to these Olympics — forcing her to defend herself off the track for the first time in an otherwise-pristine career.Her tie with Jeneba Tarmoh for the third and final spot in the 100 forced USA Track and Field officials to scramble for a solution. One possibility was a coin flip; instead, they settled on a run-off. But Tarmoh begged off. Felix, never a serious medal contender for the 100, had to defend her decision not to give up the spot, and she went on to finish fifth.“Everyone just expected me to give up this spot, because I think lots of people … know me and they know that I’m seen as this very nice girl,” Felix said with a chuckle a few days before the start of track and field in London. “But it’s not just about me.”On this night, finally, it was.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both lost their opening-round matches in eight-man, match play field in the World Golf Finals in Turkey.The hope was that they would breeze through the field and meet in the ultimate head-to-head encounter for the $1.3 million first-place money. They will meet, but it will be on Wednesday with a lot less money at stake.Didn’t happen. Matt Kuchar easily handled McIlroy by six shots, while Woods fell to South African Charl Schwartzel by one shot at the Sultan course in Antalya.In the other group of the medal match-play format, a sort of continuation of the European dominance in the Ryder Cup took place. Lee Westwood beat American beat Webb Simpson by one shot and Justin Rose handled Hunter Mahan by four strokes.McIlroy and Woods – ranked No. 1 and No. 2 – face each other Wednesday in the last of their three group matches, but both could already be eliminated by then. The top two in each group will advance to the semifinals.In Wednesday’s morning matches, McIlroy will face Schwartzel and Woods will play Kuchar.Woods and Schwartzel were all-square going to the 18th when the American went into a greenside bunker and finished with a bogey.“It came right down to the wire, but I can’t believe how far that second shot flew into the back bunker and that was the match,” Woods said. “It means now that I have to play ‘Kooch’ and try and win that match before facing Rory in the afternoon.”McIlroy unraveled against Kuchar with a triple bogey at the 15th hole and double bogeys at 16 and 17.”I hit a drive into the trees on 15 and lost a bit of confidence,” McIlroy said. ”I need to win both of my matches tomorrow if I am to advance. I just struggled for a bit of motivation out there, so I need to go out and concentrate on both of my matches tomorrow.”Kuchar, after taking a bogey at the first, birdied the next two holes and was never behind.”I just thought I had to play mistake-free, and hopefully Rory wouldn’t get too hot,” the American said. ”There we are all-square with four to go, he hits it right and makes triple bogey, and I go three up with three to go and I think both of us lost a little interest at that point.”The event allows players to wear shorts, and Westwood, Schwartzel, Mahan and Kuchar chose to do so. All but Mahan won their matches. Westwood wore a red shirt and white shorts in tribute to his favorite soccer club, Nottingham Forest.Kuchar said he was happy to wear shorts again. He spent the week after the Ryder Cup loss to the European with his family in Greece.”Being able to come to an event like this that is a little more relaxed is just great to be able to throw shorts on,” he said.
ATLANTA – A man died after he fell approximately 65 feet from an upper level of Atlanta’s Turner Field during a Braves-Phillies game Monday.According to Atlanta police reports, at approximately 8:55 p.m., the unidentified man fell from the at the stadium and landed in a secure parking lot.Initial reports indicate that the fall appeared to be accidental and that it is too early to tell if alcohol played a factor. During the initial stages of the investigation police are questioning eyewitnesses to evaluate how the incident occurred.The game was scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m., but heavy rains pushed back the start time nearly two hours. The man fell during the rain delay.This is the second death from a fall to occur at an Atlanta sporting event over the last year. On Aug. 31, 2012, a Tennessee fan fell 45 feet to his death at the Georgia Dome during a football game between North Carolina State and Tennessee.
Cleveland Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin shined in Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills setting a Browns’ franchise record with 179 yards on punt returns in the 37-24 victory over Buffalo at FirstEnergy Stadium.Late in the second quarter, the Buffalo Bills were punted to the Cleveland Browns after a solid defensive performance from the Browns. Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin caught the ball and ran for 79 yards to score the touchdown. Benjamin was not shy showcasing his speed andelusiveness. He was able to run to the complete opposite side of the field and still get to the end zone to give the Browns the lead before halftime.“Travis was huge out there, man,” teammate Josh Gordon said. “We’ve never really even seen a guy who’s that fast and little. It’s great to have him on our team. He’s a builder for our offense, a huge, pivotal guy.”
After just six seasons and at just 26 years old, running back Rashard Mendenhall retired from the NFL. He spent five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one with the Arizona Cardinals. He’s quitting football with his health and mind intact. Here are his reasons, in his words:“I decided not to hold a press conference because I didn’t want to have to say things that were cliché. I’ve done enough of that since I’ve been playing football. I actually didn’t really plan on saying anything about my retirement at all. I just kind of wanted to disappear. The fact that I was done playing would’ve been clear once some time had passed, and I hadn’t signed back with the Cardinals or any other team. Maybe people would’ve thought I couldn’t get another job. Either way, I was okay with the idea of fading to black, and my legacy becoming, ‘Whatever happened to that dude Rashard Mendenhall? He was pretty good for a few years, then he just vanished.’“The truth is, I don’t really think my walking away is that big of deal. For me it’s saying, ‘Football was pretty cool, but I don’t want to play anymore. I want to travel the world and write!’ However, as I told the people around me that I wasn’t planning on signing again, there was a surprising amount of shock and bewilderment.“‘Why would you stop now? You’re only 26 years old! You’re just going to walk away from millions of dollars? Is your knee fully healed? You had a pretty good year last year,’ etc. After the initial shock response and realization that I’m not kidding, the question that would continue to arise is: Why?“‘Why do you want to stop playing football at 26?’“Honestly, I’ve really enjoyed my time in the NFL and have had tons of fun.“I feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve been to two Super Bowls; made a bunch of money; had a lot of success; traveled all over the country and overseas; met some really cool people; made lasting relationships; had the opportunity to give back to causes close to my heart; and have been able to share my experiences and wisdom with friends, family and people all over the world. Not to mention all the fun I had goofing around at work day after day with my teammates! I’m thankful that I can walk away at this time and smile over my six years in the NFL, and 17 total seasons of football — dating back to when I started pee-wee ball at Niles West in 1997, when I was 10. These experiences are all a part of me, and will remain in my heart no matter what I do, or where I go.“Along with the joyful experiences I had, came many trials. In my last piece, ‘The Vision,’ I wrote about traversing through dark and dangerous waters, working to attain peace and refuge. That intense journey described my personal life in the NFL. Journeying through those waters symbolized living a private life in the public eye. Imagine having a job where you’re always on duty, and can never fully relax or you just may drown. Having to fight through waves and currents of praise and criticism, but mostly hate. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been called a ‘dumb nigger.’ There is a bold coarseness you receive from non-supporters that seems to only exist on the Internet. However, even if you try to avoid these things completely — because I’ve tried — somehow they still reach you. If not first-hand, then through friends and loved ones who take to heart all that they read and hear. I’m not a terribly sensitive person, so this stuff never really bothered me. That was until I realized that it actually had an impact my career. Over my career, I would learn that everything people say behind these computer and smartphones actually shape the perception of you — the brand, the athlete and the person. Go figure!“What was more difficult for me to grasp was the way that the business of entertainment had really shifted the game and the sport of football in the NFL. The culture of football now is very different from the one I grew up with. When I came up, teammates fought together for wins and got respect for the fight. The player who gave the ball to the referee after a touchdown was commended; the one who played through injury was tough; the role of the blocking tight end was acknowledged; running backs who picked up blitzing linebackers showed heart; and the story of the game was told through the tape, and not the stats alone. That was my model of football.“Today, game-day cameras follow the most popular players on teams; guys who dance after touchdowns are extolled on Dancing With the Starters; games are analyzed and brought to fans without any use of coaches tape; practice non-participants are reported throughout the week for predicted fantasy value; and success and failure for skill players is measured solely in stats and fantasy points. This is a very different model of football than the one I grew up with. My older brother coaches football at the high-school and youth level. One day he called me and said, ‘These kids don’t want to work hard. All they wanna do is look cool, celebrate after plays, and get more followers on Instagram!’ I told him that they might actually have it figured out.“Over my career, because of my interests in dance, art and literature, my very calm demeanor, and my apparent lack of interest in sporting events on my Twitter page, people in the sporting world have sometimes questioned whether or not I love the game of football. I do. I always have. I am an athlete and a competitor. The only people who question that are the people who do not see how hard I work and how diligently I prepare to be great — week after week, season after season. I take those things very seriously. I’ve always been a professional. But I am not an entertainer. I never have been. Playing that role was never easy for me. The box deemed for professional athletes is a very small box. My wings spread a lot further than the acceptable athletic stereotypes and conformity was never a strong point of mine. My focus has always been on becoming a better me, not a second-rate somebody else. Sometimes I would suffer because of it, but every time I learned a lesson from it. And I’ll carry those lessons with me for the rest of my life.“So when they ask me why I want to leave the NFL at the age of 26, I tell them that I’ve greatly enjoyed my time, but I no longer wish to put my body at risk for the sake of entertainment. I think about the rest of my life and I want to live it with much quality. And physically, I am grateful that I can walk away feeling as good as I did when I stepped into it.“As for the question of what will I do now, with an entire life in front of me? I say to that, I will LIVE! I plan to live in a way that I never have before, and that is freely, able to fully be me, without the expectation of representing any league, club, shield or city. I do have a plan going forward, but I will admit that I do not know how things will totally shape out. That is the beauty of it! I look forward to chasing my desires and passions without restriction, and to sharing them with anyone who wants to come along with me! And I’ll start with writing!”
DeMarcus Cousin Timberwolves (Kimani Okearah)NBA player DeMarcus Cousins offered to pay for the funeral of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, who was killed by Sacramento police.The former Sacramento Kings star reportedly reached out to Clark’s family to offer and pay for funeral expenses, a source confirmed to ESPN.Clark was gunned down by officers on Sunday in his grandmother’s backyard. The police mistook his cellphone for a weapon and reportedly released at least 20 shots at the unarmed victim. Clark’s family initially set up a GoFundMe page on Monday to raise money for the victim’s funeral costs according to Sacramento Bee. The 22-year-old’s family is demanding justice, along with many city protesters.Cousins’ kind gesture to the family of Stephon Clark came after protesters delayed a “Kings” game against the visiting Atlanta Hawks for about 20 minutes, ESPN reports.The NBA star is known for his generous acts and funded the funeral of Jaulon “JJ” Clavo, a local football player who perished in a shooting in 2015. He also hosted free basketball camps and bought a new scoreboard for Sacramento High School’s basketball gym.The now “Pelicans” basketball player was given the NBA’s first “NBA Cares Community Assist Award” for his charitable achievements in Sacramento; New Orleans; Mobile, Alabama and South Africa last October. He spent seven seasons with the Sacramento Kings and considers the city his “home.”
13Stanford def. Notre Dame43.435.7+7.7 13Auburn def. Alabama37.732.3+5.3 PENN STATE WIN % BY OUTCOME 11Rutgers99.996.3+3.6 10Michigan State99.4%79.2%+20.1 Which of Penn State’s games holds the most weight?PSU’s remaining 2017 matchups by the impact they have on the team’s playoff chances 10NC State def. Clemson41.530.6+10.9 WKOPPONENTMAKES PLAYOFFDOESN’T MAKE PLAYOFFDIFF. 11Miami (FL) def. Notre Dame42.035.2+6.8 13Michigan def. Ohio State35.419.2+16.3 WKRESULTMAKES PLAYOFFDOESN’T MAKE PLAYOFFDIFF. PROBABILITY BY PENN STATE OUTCOME Where they need help: As if losing to the Buckeyes wasn’t enough, Penn State fans now need to keep a close eye on every Ohio State game from here out. Because the teams share a division and because OSU now holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over Penn State, Ohio State will need to lose twice in conference play to give PSU a shot at winning the East. That’s not very likely; our model gives Ohio State a 44 percent chance of winning every remaining regular-season game, much less winning at least three of four. But OSU’s best chances to lose will come in its games at Iowa this weekend and at Michigan on Nov. 25, so those are also Penn State’s highest-leverage games left in the season (aside from the Lions’ own matchup against Michigan State on Saturday). The other games that need to go right for the Nittany LionsNon-Penn State matchups that have the biggest impact on the team’s playoff chances Each week in this space, we examine all the things a certain contending team needs to have happen in order for it to make the College Football Playoff. This week, we look at the Penn State Nittany Lions, who suffered their first loss of the season Saturday after a fourth-quarter collapse on the road against Ohio State.Current situation: Undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country, Penn State had a clear playoff path laid out in front of it — provided it could beat the Buckeyes, that is, in what was the program’s biggest game since the late 1990s. The Nittany Lions scored on the game’s first play and held control for three quarters, but Ohio State kept chipping away at PSU’s lead late, capping off a 19-3 fourth-quarter run with a go-ahead touchdown pass from which Penn State never recovered. Now ranked seventh in the first edition of the CFP committee rankings, the Lions have only a 14 percent chance of making the playoff, according to the FiveThirtyEight model.What the Lions can do: Because the loss came relatively late in the season, it left Penn State without much time to rebuild its playoff status. Even if the Lions win the rest of their games, our model gives them only a 20 percent chance of making the playoff. One important factor driving that number is a lack of opportunities for another signature win down the season’s final stretch: According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Penn State’s future strength of schedule ranks just 67th in the country — easily the worst among the top 15 teams in the country by FPI. The only ranked team remaining on Penn State’s schedule (assuming it doesn’t go to the Big Ten championship) is Michigan State — and if PSU beats Michigan State, the Spartans will surely lose their ranking, which is currently only No. 24. With this weak slate of remaining games, it will be difficult for the Lions to impress the committee solely with their performance on the field before season’s end.Even so, here are the most important games left in the regular season for Penn State, based on the biggest difference in winning percentages between our simulations where the Lions make the playoff and ones where they don’t: Differences may not add up because of rounding. 11Michigan State def. Ohio State16.17.0+9.1 10Iowa def. Ohio State34.1%12.7%+21.5 Of course, it’s also possible that the committee could slot in both Penn State and Ohio State come selection day. (In 28 percent of simulations where the Lions make the CFP, the Buckeyes are also in, making OSU Penn State’s fourth-most-likely playoff “companion” behind Alabama, Georgia and Clemson.) But the chance of two Big Ten teams making the playoff is pretty remote; our model gives it an 8.3 percent probability of happening, mainly because it would require some major shakeups elsewhere in the country — most likely losses by Clemson, Washington, Notre Dame and/or one of the Big 12 front-runners — to clear space. And although the most common combination among those multiple-Big Ten-playoff-team universes features Penn State and Ohio State making the playoff together (47 percent of the times that two Big Ten teams make it), our model assigns a 27 percent chance to a scenario where Ohio State and Wisconsin are the Big Ten picks, and the Nittany Lions are left out.1And in 22 of our 20,000 simulations — or 0.1 percent of the time — three Big Ten teams somehow make the playoff.But maybe that’s also an area where the model doesn’t have enough information yet. If Wisconsin and OSU are on a collision course in the Big Ten championship (and they appear to be), then those Badger-Buckeye universes would mean that the committee selected a conference title-game loser for a playoff spot. That may not be very realistic: In 12 chances over three seasons, only once — Ohio State in 2016 — did the real-life committee pick a team that didn’t win its conference (and those Buckeyes didn’t lose their championship game but rather missed it entirely on a tiebreaker).That should give Penn State hope that its current odds are being slightly understated by our model — that if they just keep winning and get a little lucky, the Lions could slip in as a second Big Ten playoff bid at the very least. Then again, if college football’s playoff era has proven nothing else, it’s that the committee might do something we’ve never seen before. We’ll see whether that works in Penn State’s favor or not.Check out our latest college football predictions. Also, see what it will take for Notre Dame, Clemson, Washington and Oklahoma to still make the playoff. 13Georgia Tech def. Georgia29.522.9+6.6 13South Carolina def. Clemson27.521.2+6.3 13Maryland99.688.8+10.8 12Nebraska99.892.4+7.4 Based on two sets of simulations: one where the team makes the playoff and one where it doesn’t. Differences may not add up exactly because of rounding. 11Stanford def. Washington46.440.7+5.7
Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Nov. 8, 2017), Neil and Kyle break down the news that the Phoenix Suns have agreed to trade Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks. We also get into what exactly is going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers — and just how their latest woes may affect their playoff chances. Next, Baxter Holmes joins for a discussion of ESPN’s “schedule alert” project, which identifies games that NBA teams are likely to lose because of the punishing 82-game schedule. Plus, a significant digit on the Detroit Pistons.Here are links to what we discussed this week:LeBron can’t do it all alone, writes Kyle.Baxter Holmes’s schedule alert project.Neil investigates the Detroit Pistons’ new, improved habits on offense. FiveThirtyEight Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. Neil, Kyle and Chris are previewing the NBA playoffs in a special two-for-one edition of the podcast. On Friday’s show (April 13, 2018), they break down the first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference, where the Toronto Raptors are embarking on their journey as the No. 1 seed while the Cleveland Cavaliers are the betting favorites. (For The Lab’s discussion of the Western Conference, check out the April 12 show.)Here are links to what the podcast discussed this week:Keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.Neil wrote a preview of the playoffs’ sleepers, favorites and best first-round matchups. Embed Code By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed