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►  Puck Dynasty: Penguins in historic company after Cup triumph

The salary cap was a passion project for Mario Lemieux, the owner, when the NHL wrestled with it during the 2004-05 lockout even though he knows it would have been something Mario Lemieux, the player, would have fought to the bitter end.

“We couldn’t compete with the (New York) Rangers and LA and the big markets and Chicago and Detroit,“ the Pittsburgh Penguins Hall of Famer-turned-chairman recalled.

So Lemieux pushed for the cap during the NHL’s lost winter, well aware the ripple effects would include a rise in league parity at the potential expense of the dynasties that have been a part of the league since it started awarding the Stanley Cup nearly a century ago.

The math was easy for Lemieux. Better to have 30ish solvent and competitive clubs than just a handful.

“The salary cap gave us a chance to spend to the cap and be on level playing fields with the other teams,“ he said.

The cap has proven to be more of a speed bump than a road block for the Penguins. The proof was all around Lemieux as he spoke on the ice at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night after the Penguins nudged past the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final to become the first team in 19 years and the first of the salary cap era to win back-to-back titles.

“It’s hard to win the Cups as we’ve found over the last 10-12 years,“ Lemieux said.

Just not impossible.

The Penguins flew home to Pittsburgh on Monday with the Cup in their possession for the third time in nine years. A downtown parade is scheduled for Wednesday, a party that’s on the verge of becoming a rite of late spring.

Pittsburgh has done it by investing heavily in their core group and finding the right complement of players and staff around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to make it work.

“I always say best organization, amazing team,“ Malkin said. “We have great chance win every year.“

That’s not how it’s supposed to work nowadays. Championship windows are supposed to be narrower with the cap in place, not wider. Sure, Chicago has won it three times in six seasons in the cap era but the Blackhawks were forced to blow it up after 2010. The Kings won it all in 2012 and 2014, and are now in the process of starting over.

Not Pittsburgh. The Penguins have more Cup appearances (four), playoff wins (90) and regular-season victories (467) over the last decade than any team in the NHL. And it’s not really that close. While Crosby is loath to talk about his “legacy” — he won’t turn 30 until August — the way he describes the only franchise he’s ever known sounds an awful lot like a “dynasty.“

“Your goal is to win every year and our team just had a collection of guys that knew how to win, knew how to find ways,“ Crosby said after picking up his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Having a coach with an ability to challenge his stars without alienating them and a general manager with a knack for finding the right pieces helps. When GM Jim Rutherford replaced Ray Shero in the summer of 2014, he raised eyebrows when he said he only planned to be in the job a couple of years.

Funny, nobody’s asking how much longer the 68-year-old is sticking around anymore. He gave coach Mike Sullivan the blunt directive to cut through the noise when he hired him to replace Mike Johnston in December 2015. The former grinder with 54 goals in 709 career NHL games turned out to be the perfect conduit to get the Penguins to play fast and, to borrow Sullivan’s pet phrase, “play the right way.“

The Penguins are right up against the salary cap annually but they also don’t overpay their stars. Considering their value to the team both Crosby ($8.7 million) and Malkin ($9.5 million) are bargains. They’re not the only ones.

Rookie Jake Guentzel (NHL rookie playoff record-tying 21 points), Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson all found themselves playing vital roles alongside Pittsburgh’s cornerstones at some point during the postseason. None of them had a cap hit of more than $675,000.

No wonder Malkin is hardly in the mood to put his career into perspective. He’ll turn 31 next month. He, Phil Kessel and Letang are all under contract through 2022. Crosby until 2025.

“I think we still play together long time and maybe when we retire think about it,“ Malkin said. “We’re still young, still hungry and of course we want more.“

If Malkin and Crosby can stay healthy, Pittsburgh will certainly be right there. Oddsmakers made them the early favorite for a three-peat, something that hasn’t been done since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980-83, a full year before Lemieux made his NHL debut and nearly a half decade before Malkin and Crosby were born.

There will be turnover. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s handing off of the Cup to Matt Murray was a symbolic passing of the torch. Fleury will almost certainly play elsewhere next season and defenseman Justin Schultz is a restricted free agent but may have played himself into a contract too rich for the Penguins to match.

Rutherford and Sullivan will get to work trying to fit the pieces together again. Their franchise cornerstone will take a brief breather this summer, maybe go fishing back home in Nova Scotia and then start pointing toward next season.

“You have a small window to play and to have a career, and I feel fortunate,“ Crosby said. “I also understand how difficult it is. So you just want to try to make the best of it.“

Over and over and over again if you can.

►  Rafael Nadal Just Did What No Other Player Has Done

Rafael Nadal won his record 10th French Open title Sunday, beating No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in straight sets as he continued his career-long dominance on clay courts. That he won his 10th French Open is no small stat, notes the AP: That is more than any man or woman has won at any major tournament in the nearly half-century professional era. It took the fourth-seeded Nadal just over two hours to win 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, with the Spaniard sealing it on his second match point when Wawrinka sliced a backhand volley into the net. Nadal did not drop a set all tournament on his way to his 15th Grand Slam title overall. Only Roger Federer has more, with 18, notes the Washington Post, which christens the 31-year-old Nadal the “king of clay.“

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►  LeBron James’ Home Vandalized With Racial Slur

A Los Angeles home owned by LeBron James was vandalized Wednesday morning, the n-word spray-painted on its front gate, according to TMZ. Los Angeles police confirmed the vandalism to USA Today, though the spokesperson didn’t offer specifics on what racial slur was used. The Cleveland Cavaliers player, whose primary home during the NBA season is in Ohio, was not at the Brentwood home at the time, and TMZ says it “does not appear he lives there on any regular basis.“ Property management has already covered over the racial slur, and police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

►  Stanley Cup Catfish-Tosser Had a Very Elaborate Plan

Prosecutors are dropping charges filed against a Tennessee man for throwing a catfish onto the rink in Pittsburgh during the opening of the Stanley Cup Final, reports the AP. Thirty-six-year-old Jacob Waddell was charged in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County with disorderly conduct, possessing instruments of crime, and disrupting meetings or processions after tossing the dead fish over the glass surrounding the rink Monday night during the Nashville Predators-Pittsburgh Penguins game. District Attorney Stephen Zappala said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Waddell’s actions “do not rise to the level of criminal charges,“ so the charges “will be withdrawn in a timely manner.“

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry had called for the charges to be “quickly dismissed.“ Waddell called himself “a dumb redneck with a bad idea” in a conversation with Nashville radio station WGFX-FM. Sports Illustrated has the whole convoluted story of how Waddell got the fish into the arena, which included driving it 600 miles with the rotting critter in a cooler doused in cologne. His initial plan hit a snag: “I tried putting it in my boot but the head was too damn big,“ Waddell said. “No matter how much I ran it over with the truck, the head was too damn big.“ Hence, the fish’s mangled appearance. He eventually hid it between layers of underwear.

►  Who Beat Out LeBron for Most Famous Athlete

Tom Brady who? The all-star NFL quarterback might be a household name in the US, but he doesn’t even make the top 20 of ESPN’s list of the most famous athletes in the world, reports the Boston Herald. The 10 most well-known athletes, based on social media followers, endorsement money, and internet search popularity:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo
  2. LeBron James
  3. Lionel Messi
  4. Roger Federer
  5. Phil Mickelson
  6. Neymar
  7. Usain Bolt
  8. Kevin Durant
  9. Rafael Nadal
  10. Tiger Woods

Click to see the highest-ranking female athlete.

►  Soccer Legend’s Body Goes Missing in Brazil

What happened to Garrincha’s body? That’s what Brazilians are asking after the soccer great’s remains went missing. The one-named, two-time World Cup champ’s family revealed the odd disappearance on Tuesday, telling O Globo via the BBC that Garrincha’s body may have been lost during an exhumation, though nobody knows for sure. A cousin says per ESPN FC the remains were removed from a grave in a cemetery near Rio 10 years ago, after another family member was buried there. Garrincha’s bones were supposed to be transferred to a niche, but cemetery officials concede they have no idea if that ever happened. “It’s very upsetting not knowing where he is,“ says daughter Rosangela Santos.

Cemeteries in Brazil are typically divided into two parts, one with tombs and another with concrete niches set like drawers into walls, per the BBC. Two tombs carry Garrincha’s name: the original grave where he was laid to rest in 1983, and a second one constructed in 1985 and marked with an obelisk. If the family agrees, Mage Mayor Rafael Tubarao says he’ll order an exhumation of the graves and DNA tests of any bones. Garrincha, a nickname meaning “little wren” in Brazil’s Portuguese dialect, is widely revered as the nation’s greatest dribbler of all time. As one of Pele’s teammates, he helped the soccer-crazed nation clinch the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. He died at the age of 49 after years of heavy drinking.

►  ‘We’re Sorry,‘ Say Mets After Mascot Flips off Fans

Mr. Met has had it up to here, it seems. The much-loved mascot is out of job after he flipped the bird to fans on Wednesday, the Daily News reports. The gesture summed up the frustration of Mets fans who’ve watched their World Series dreams dwindle during a troubled season. The incident unfolded during a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers as Mr. Met was walking off Citi Field in Queens. Raising a white glove, the round-faced one displayed a single digit. Captured and tweeted by a fast-fingered fan named Anthony De Lucia, per the Washington Post, the video went viral. Although shouting can be heard, De Lucia tweeted that he and his friends “didn’t even say a word” and were “reaching over for a high five,“ when the mascot spun around and made Mets history.

Although some argued the four-fingered mascot really doesn’t have a middle digit to flip, the gesture was too much for Mets managers, who quickly canned Mr. Met. (The AP reports that more than one person dons the costume.) “We apologize for the inappropriate action of this employee,“ the team said in a statement. “We do not condone this type of behavior. We are dealing with this matter internally.“ Funny enough, the pudgy-handed salute came on the 53rd anniversary of Mr. Met’s debut as mascot. The team website notes that Mr. Met “can gesture in 12 different languages” and leads “all active Major League mascots in high fours.“ The Post notes the Mets have had an injury-wracked season with off-field embarrassments—like a photo tweeted by the Mets that showed a sex toy in a player’s locker.

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►  Canadian Hockey Fans Sing ‘Star-Spangled Banner,‘ Go Viral

Even amidst the fiercest sports rivalries, Canadians don’t betray the stereotype of being incredibly nice. According to Fox News, country singer Brett Kissel asked our neighbors to the north at Rogers Place, the Edmonton Oilers’ home base, to help him out when his mic failed during the American national anthem before a playoff match against the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night. The Oilers fans, known for belting out their own anthem, “O Canada,“ filled the rafters with a bellowing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.“

The NHL posted footage of the sing-a-long to its official Twitter page; the post had garnered more than 40,000 likes at the time of this article’s posting. “As it turns out, sometimes a glitch can produce a great moment,“ says Oilers coach Todd McLellan, per The Ducks ended up besting the Oilers in a 6-3 win at Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round Series, where the Oilers are ahead 2-1.

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►  Hockey Linesman Knocked to Ice Sues Player for Millions

An NHL linesman who hasn’t been able to work since he was knocked to the ice from behind by Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman last year is suing the player and the team for $7.5 million. Wideman cross-checked Don Henderson as he was returning to the bench during a game against the Nashville Predators on Jan 27, 2016, CTV reports. Wideman said afterward that it was unintentional and he felt “awful” about it. He received a 20-game suspension, the second-longest in NHL history for an attack on an official, though it was later reduced to 10 games by arbitrators.

In a lawsuit filed in Calgary, Henderson claims he suffered a concussion from being “violently struck,“ along with injuries to his head, neck, shoulder, and right knee, reports TSN. He says he has also suffered depression and still hasn’t been cleared to return to the ice. The linesman, who is suing for medical expenses and loss of future earnings, says that before the hit, he had officiated at more than 1,200 NHL games without missing a single one due to injury.

►  Attorney, Authorities Battle Over Aaron Hernandez’s Brain

Aaron Hernandez’s brain is being turned over to his family after his lawyer accused authorities in Massachusetts of “illegally” keeping it from them, NBC News reports. According to Reuters, the former NFL player’s family plans to donate his brain to the CTE center at Boston University, where it will be used for research. They also want to know if Hernandez had CTE and if that could explain his violent behavior, the Washington Post reports. CTE, which is caused by repeated blows to the head, can only be diagnosed after death. It can cause aggression, dementia, and more while also making sufferers more likely to take their own life.

Hernandez killed himself in his prison cell while serving a life sentence for murdering an acquaintance in 2013. He was acquitted in an unrelated double murder less than a week ago. Authorities had turned Hernandez’s body over to his family but held onto his brain. Hernandez’s attorney, Jose Baez, accused authorities of keeping the brain to destroy evidence, but the district attorney’s office says they needed to hold onto the brain until the chief state medical examiner made an official ruling on Hernandez’s death. Now that asphyxiation by hanging has been confirmed, the brain is being turned over to the family.

►  Hernandez Left 3 Suicide Notes

Though a prison official initially said Aaron Hernandez left no suicide note, three notes were in fact found in his cell at Massachusetts’ Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, reports the Boston Globe. A statement from Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. confirmed the handwritten notes were found next to a Bible in the cell following his death, ruled a suicide by the state medical examiner on Thursday. But a rep for Early wouldn’t say to whom they had been written. Sources tell TMZ that one was addressed to the general public. However, sources tell CBS Boston that there was a note each for Hernandez’s mother, fiancee, and 4-year-old daughter, reading, “I love you and please don’t cry.“

The investigation has found Hernandez was alone in his cell when he used a bed sheet to hang himself sometime after 8pm Tuesday, the last time he was checked by guards before being found dead around 3am. A lawyer for Hernandez says the former NFLer spoke to his fiancee on the phone until 8pm. The corrections officer who found Hernandez has apparently been “detached with pay” after admitting to missing a 2am check, per CBS Boston. It reports cardboard had been stuffed into the door tracks of Hernandez’s cell and the floor made slick with soapy water, apparently to impede corrections officers. Hernandez had also written John 3:16 on his forehead and wall of his cell. Sources say he also carved an unknown word in his arm. There were no signs of a struggle, per Early’s statement.

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►  Why U.S. Women May Ditch Hockey World Championships

Meghan Duggan isn’t even 30 and she’s already won six world championships with the US women’s hockey team—and yet she says her team can’t get living-wage paychecks that would put them on par with male colleagues. “That’s why our team is taking a stand,“ she tells USA Today. That stand: not showing for the IIHF’s World Championships, starting in Michigan on March 31. The players’ issues spur from the fact they’ve been trying to nail down a four-year contract with USA Hockey for over a year, to no avail. Currently, players have individual contracts with the hockey group that offer them $1,000 per month during the half-year training period leading up to the Olympics. The women also receive a stipend from the US Olympic Committee when they go to the World Championships, as well as paid-for expenses during the Olympics and a bonus depending on how they medal.

But the women say they need enough to cover them during non-Olympic years, as they don’t have an NHL paycheck to fall back on like the guys—and since they’re still expected to train full time and compete during those years, ESPN notes. USA Hockey President Jim Smith says the group is there to support the players, not employ them. The organization says other “incentives” could bring a player’s salary close to $85,000 during an Olympic year, but the women argue that’s only if they win gold and that the lion’s share of the money comes from the US Olympic Committee. The New York Times says other than a boycott or waiting it out, the women’s only other recourse may be an EEOC complaint. USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean tells USA Today the group will find other players to compete in the championships if the women pull out, which they say they will if there’s not “significant progress” in negotiations, per their statement at SB Nation.

►  USA Gymnastics Prez Steps Down Amid Sex Abuse Scandal

Steve Penny resigned as president of USA Gymnastics on Thursday following intensified pressure on the organization for its handling of sex abuse cases, the AP reports. The resignation came a week after the US Olympic Committee’s board recommended to USA Gymnastics chairman Paul Parilla that Penny should step down. Penny offered his resignation during a previously scheduled board meeting on Thursday. “My decision to step aside as CEO is solely to support the best interests of USA Gymnastics at this time,“ Penny said in a statement. USOC chairman Larry Probst said the move “will hopefully allow USA Gymnastics to shift its attention to the future with a secure environment for its athletes and continued success in competition.“

Penny joined USA Gymnastics in 1999 and was named the organization’s president in 2005, overseeing one of the greatest runs in Olympic history. But the program’s healthy, winning image took a serious hit in recent months following an investigation by the Indianapolis Star that portrayed USA Gymnastics as slow to act when it came to addressing allegations of sexual abuse by a team doctor and coaches at member gyms across the country. Former team doctor Larry Nassar is being sued in federal court by 69 women and girls who allege abuse. “The board believes this change in leadership will help USA Gymnastics face its current challenges and implement solutions to move the organization forward in promoting a safe environment for its athletes at all levels,“ Parilla said in a statement.

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►  1st Major American Sports Org Bans Kneeling During Anthem

US Soccer is, by all appearances, the first major American sports organization to ban kneeling during the national anthem, Deadspin reports. US Soccer first addressed the issue last September after Megan Rapinoe took a knee in protest during the national anthem prior to a match. Rapinoe said she was kneeling in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and marginalized groups, specifically the LGBT community. “We have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag,“ the league said in a statement following Rapinoe’s protest.

Despite no other US Soccer player, including Rapinoe, appearing to kneel since then, the organization decided to go a step further. ESPN reports a new rule was approved by the US Soccer board of directors in February and revealed Saturday during the organization’s general meeting in Hawaii. Fox Sports’ Stuart Holden tweeted a photo of the new rule, which states all national team players must “stand respectfully” during the anthem. That covers kneeling, as well as turning one’s back on the flag and other potentially disrespectful actions, according to Fox Sports. The rule doesn’t specify any punishment for kneelers, and US Soccer president Sunil Gulati says consequences will be figured out if/when necessary.

►  Use of Actual Penguins at NHL Game Rankles PETA

The zoo calls it an “enrichment experience” for penguins, but PETA thinks it amounts to “shy animals terrorized.“ Such is the controversy over the NHL’s decision to put live penguins on the ice before a rare outdoor game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. In a letter to the team, the animal rights group says the creatures were clearly uncomfortable in front of the large crowd, especially when fireworks went off, reports the Pittsburgh Gazette. (This video of that moment was making the rounds.) PETA says it was “stressful” for the sensitive animals to be “hauled around” and “used as props,“ per the New York Times. Nope, says the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, which the penguins call home.

“The penguins who attended the Winter Classic are some of the same penguins that participate in our weekend Penguins on Parade event,“ says the zoo, and thus they are used to crowds. Yes, they were startled by the fireworks, but “were back to normal and exploring and playing” in a matter of seconds. Nevertheless, PETA asked the team to never put live animals on the ice again. The team didn’t comment, and the league, which was in charge of the show, referred reporters back to the zoo’s response. PETA has been pushing for the end of all live-animal mascots, and the Times notes that LSU, for example, will no longer bring its tiger mascot to the football stadium on game days.

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►  Ex-NHL Brawler, Now a Coach, Allegedy Punches Teen in Game

When he played for the Buffalo Sabres, Andrew Peters had one clear role: that of a tough-guy enforcer who was quick to fight. Now he’s retired as a player and coaching teens—and in hot water over a hockey brawl. Peters has been suspended as head coach of the Junior Sabres after a video emerged that appears to show him punching or shoving a player from the opposing team during a melee, reports the Buffalo News. The video isn’t crystal clear, however, and the AP reports that Peters has told team officials that he slipped while trying to get the player away from the bench. The teen fell to the ice, though he got up immediately. It could get worse for the 36-year-old Peters: Buffalo police are investigating.

“We are very disappointed in the series of events that unfolded during the (15-and-under) Buffalo Junior Sabres game on Saturday,“ said Buffalo Junior Sabres President Kevyn Adams in a statement. Peters, he added, will remain on suspension until the matter is resolved. During his radio show Monday morning—it’s called The Instigators—Peters said he could not discuss the altercation, but added that he didn’t do a good job of communicating to his team that fighting in youth sports is “unacceptable,“ per WKBW. In six NHL seasons, the winger had only 7 points but 650 penalty minutes—though he once told the Buffalo News that while he disliked fighting, he viewed it as a “necessary evil” to keep his job.

►  Soccer Fans’ Mistake Just Cost Their Own Team $50K

Fans of a British soccer club in the Premier League may need to take their zeal down a notch after an incident over the weekend that reportedly ended up costing their own team nearly $50,000, reports the Telegraph. Crystal Palace devotees determined to make a literal mark on rival team Middlesbrough the night before the two teams faced off descended early Saturday upon what they believed to be the Middlesbrough bus parked at a hotel in a London suburb. The vandals spray-painted “Crystal Palace FC” on the side of the vehicle in red, white, and blue—a move that did little but serve as an ownership tag, because the bus was actually Crystal Palace’s.

A groundsman for the CP team grumbled about the incident on Twitter in a now-private tweet, noting, “£40,000 worth of damage on our coach thinking it was the Boro coach. Nice one!“ The Sun notes that the hotel where the bus was parked, near Crystal Palace’s home stadium, is often frequented by visiting soccer teams. Despite an assertion by Sky Sports that the vehicle was on loan to Middlesbrough from Crystal Palace because they’d flown to the match, the BBC reports that was not the case. The Guardian notes the CP team had to arrange for another bus to take the players to their Middlesbrough matchup, which they won 1-0. A Crystal Palace rep says the cops have been notified.

►  Transgender Teen’s Wrestling Win Courts Controversy

The outcry started building after Mack Beggs started winning match after match in Texas’ high school wrestling tournament—and once the 17-year-old from Trinity High School in Euless clinched the championship Saturday, the controversy reached its peak. NBC News reports that the junior won to “cheers and jeers,“ the jeers from people who weren’t happy that Mack—a transgender student who was born female and is now transitioning to male—was competing in the girls’ 110-pound weight class due to state league rules, which require athletes to compete per the gender listed on one’s birth certificate. This despite the fact that Mack identifies as male (and prefers wrestling boys), opponents dropped out of matches beforehand, and one parent attempted to stop him from competing against girls.

Mack, who finished the season 57-0, per the AP, takes testosterone as part of his transition, and the league permits it as a “valid medical use,“ the Dallas Morning News reports. Parents of other wrestlers are irked by that, claiming the treatments give Mack an unfair edge. Jim Baudhuin, the parent who tried to keep Mack from the girls’ tourney, says he doesn’t blame the teen for the situation—“she’s being forced into that position,“ he tells the AP, referring to Mack as a girl—but the league and the school superintendents who voted for the birth certificate rule. Destiny Dominguez, a 102-pound state champ who has wrestled Mack before, shrugs off the hubbub, telling the Morning News matches are more about “mentality,“ not about brute strength, and that she’s never had a problem facing Mack. In a statement, Mack said he wished the focus was on his “hard work” and teammates.

►  A Boy Collapsed on a Soccer Field. His Mom Saved His Life

Jose Agredano was on the field for his final JV soccer game of the season earlier this month when his parents, watching from the stands in Watsonville, Calif., noticed something was wrong. They ran to their 16-year-old son, who had been hit by a ball, as he collapsed and stopped breathing. His mom, Dr. Gina Agredano, jumped into action, doing CPR on her boy for three minutes until an on-site defibrillator was brought over to shock and re-start Jose’s heart. “I said to myself we were not going to die today,“ Gina Agredano tells the Mercury News. The ball had struck Jose on the left side of his chest, stopping his heart in what is called an impact-induced cardiac arrest.

A doctor who treated Jose at the hospital after his ordeal explains that such events are possible when something hits the left side of a person’s chest at just the right time in the electrical cardiac cycle, between heartbeats. “Had it not been for the CPR and defibrillator, Jose would’ve died,“ she says. Jose—who managed to pass the ball before collapsing, per the Benito Link, and at first thought he’d just had the wind knocked out of him, per KTVU—is expected to make a full recovery with no long-term damage. His reaction when he woke up in the ambulance? “I was really happy to be alive, but kind of upset because I wanted to keep playing.“

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►  Cam Newton Sued for Allegedly Partying Too Hard

Apparently Cam Newton shied away from that Super Bowl fumble because he was (allegedly) saving his body for partying. TMZ reports a lawsuit filed against the Carolina Panthers quarterback by the manager of a luxury hotel rental company claims he did nearly $100,000 in damage to an $11 million Beverly Hills mansion he rented in the wake of the Super Bowl. Despite agreeing to a no-partying policy, Newton allegedly held numerous parties during the 61 days he rented the house, breaking a fridge, causing water damage to the floors, destroying a $32,000 rug, and more. The rental company is looking to recoup damages plus the two months of rent it claims it lost while fixing the damage. The Panthers haven’t commented on the lawsuit, according to the Charlotte Observer.

►  Young Red Wings Fan Gets Photobombed From Penalty Box

One man’s penalty box is another man’s photo shoot. The AP reports Steve Ott and Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings used their ref-mandated timeouts during Sunday’s preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks to surreptitiously pose for a photo with a 4-year-old fan. The Red Wings posted the photo to Instagram, saying little Lylah Almas was “hit with the classic Ott, Larkin penalty box photobomb.“ Lylah’s mom says she didn’t even realize the players were smiling in the background until later. CBS Sports points out the smiles were a rare sight for the penalty box, where players are usually a bit crankier to find themselves.

►  College Marching Band Takes a Knee, Station Won’t Air Game

In what its parent company’s CEO is calling a “protest to a protest,“ ESPN affiliate radio station 101.1 FM (WFAY) is turning its back on broadcasting East Carolina University’s football game Saturday against South Florida after members of the ECU marching band took a knee during the national anthem last weekend to protest oppression of black people, Mediaite reports. “Roughly a dozen band members disgraced themselves on the football field this past weekend,“ Jeff Andrulonis, head of parent company Colonial Media, said in a statement shared by a local sports anchor. “They’re college students and it’s about time they get an education on the concept that their actions have consequences.“

Andrulonis claims that every ECU football sponsor he’s spoken to so far thinks the band’s protest that continued what Colin Kaepernick began was “shameful” and that “a message needs to be sent.“ He also says he supports the band members’ constitutional right to free speech and that they could’ve protested before the game, “but that would have required them to wake up early.“ ESPN has responded to the incident in a statement sent to Sports Illustrated, noting, “100.1 FM is an affiliate that carries some ESPN Radio national programming. Local programming decisions, however, are strictly in their purview.“ (For the Win calls the refusal “ridiculous.“)

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►  Longhorn Leap: Texas in AP Top 25 for 1st time under Strong

Texas is ranked for the first time under coach Charlie Strong, coming in at No. 11 in the latest Associated Press college football rankings after a rousing opening victory against Notre Dame.

The last time the Longhorns were ranked was November 2013, Mack Brown’s last as coach.

No. 10 Wisconsin also made a big jump into the Top 25 after beating LSU. The Tigers and Fighting Irish were among seven ranked teams that lost during the first weekend of the season.

Alabama is still No. 1. The Crimson Tide picked up 21 first-place votes to total 54 after its 52-6 victory against Southern California. Clemson remained No. 2. Florida State moved up to No. 3. Ohio State is No. 4 and Michigan is No. 5. Houston is No. 6.

Here’s a look at this week’s poll:


• Wisconsin, which beat LSU 16-14 at Lambeau Field, matched a record for the best season debut in the Top 25 with its No. 10 ranking. Arizona also went from unranked to No. 10 in 2014 after the Wildcats won at Oregon.

• Texas A&M is in at No. 20 after beating UCLA, then No. 16, in overtime.

• Miami slipped in at No. 25.


• USC, UCLA and North Carolina dropped out after loses.

• Florida, which was No. 25, fell out after beating Massachusetts 24-7.


• No. 6 Houston and No. 9 Georgia had the biggest jumps for preseason ranked teams. Each moved up nine spots after victories over ranked teams.


• LSU fell from No. 5 to No. 21. The 16-spot drop is the fourth largest in poll history.

• No. 14 Oklahoma dropped 11 spots from No. 3 after losing 33-23 to Houston

• No. 17 Tennessee, No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 19 Mississippi all fell eight spots. The Volunteers dropped after an overtime victory against Appalachian State.


• No. 6 Houston has its highest ranking since November 4, 1990 (No. 3).

• No. 8 Washington has its highest rank since November 4, 2001 (No. 8).


SEC — 6

Big Ten — 5

Big 12 — 5

ACC — 4

Pac 12 — 3

American — 1

Independent — 1


None. This will definitely not be regarded as the greatest second weekend of the college football season ever.

►  How West Virginia’s 19 first-timers performed against Mizzou

The Lunch loves new faces, and we saw 19 of them against Missouri. Here’s the list of first-timers for West Virginia from Saturday:

Antonio Crawford (team-high eight tackles, one breakup)
Maurice Fleming (started, one red-zone tackle)

Kyzir White (seven solo tackles)
Justin Crawford (101 yards rushing, TD on 21 carries)
Mike Daniels (used in dime package)

Redshirt sophomores
Toyous Avery (four tackles)
Billy Kinney (five punts for 45.4 average)

Redshirt freshmen
Colton McKivitz (70-plus plays in relief of Yodny Cajuste)
Chris Chugunov (0-of-2 passing, one interception)
Adam Shuler (six tackles, forced fumble)
David Long (four tackles)
Alec Shriner (second-team nose tackle)
Stone Wolfley
Jordan Adams
Rob Dowdy

True freshmen
Kennedy McKoy (no touches)
Reese Donahue (one tackle)
Adam Hensley
Zach Sandwisch (one tackle)

A few freshmen who Dana Holgorsen projected to use this season did not see the field but may against Youngstown State: Receivers Marcus Simms and Steven Smothers, safeties Dylan Tonkery and Jovanni Stewart, and running back Martell Petteway.

Holgorsen also said Josh Sills “will be up here playing some ball with us” after being promoted from the scout team—a direct reaction to Cajuste’s injury.

►  Holgorsen cracks on red-zone stalls: ‘We did do a hell of a lot better’ than Missouri

For his weekly news conference, coach Dana Holgorsen typically brings to the podium a cheat sheet on West Virginia’s upcoming opponent.

Tuesday he also came armed with statistics from last Saturday’s 26-11 win over Missouri, in which his offense made five red-zone trips and produced only one touchdown.

“The famous red-zone question,” Holgorsen joked. “We averaged 3.7 yards a trip. They averaged 1.3. So we won by 2.28.”

While West Virginia settled for four chip-shot field goals, Missouri also penetrated the 20 five times and fared worse—coming away empty on three possessions. That gave the Mountaineers a 19-11 edge in red-zone scoring.

“The good news from the head coach perspective is we did do a hell of a lot better than they did, which is the main reason why we won,” Holgorsen said.

Elated to be 1-0 yet realistic about the kind of outputs required in the high-scoring Big 12, he’s not advocating West Virginia sustain a 20-percent success rate down close.

“That’s not going to be good enough moving forward,” he said. “Our goal is 50 percent touchdowns in the red zone.”

Along with citing himself for a few belated play-calls, Holgorsen suggested Skyler Howard needs to complete more passes in compressed spaces. The senior finished 2-of-5 passing in the red zone for 7 yards, and overthrew a wide-open Ka’Raun White to negate what would have been a 15-yard touchdown.

“I just missed on that one,” said Howard, who nonetheless posted the third-highest completion percentage in 16 career starts, finishing 23-of-35 passing for 253 yards.

West Virginia’s field-goal drives ended at Missouri 2, 5, 9 and 15-yard lines, consuming an average of 10.5 plays.

“I studied it hard and I don’t regret any of the calls that we made,” Holgorsen said. “We have to execute better.”

►  USA Hockey Coach: Sit for the Anthem, Get Benched

John Tortorella says he sees coaching Team USA hockey as helping his country—and he will not tolerate players failing to stand for the anthem. “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,“ he tells ESPN’s Linda Cohn. Tortorella, who will return to coaching the Columbus Blue Jackets after this year’s World Cup, has a son who is an Army Ranger serving in the Middle East, CBS reports.

Serving in the military “by far dwarfs what we do,“ but “with my son over there—this might sound selfish—I want to team up with him and help my country. I get pretty caught up in representing my country,“ Tortorella tells the Columbus Dispatch. “There’s nothing like it.“ The World Cup takes place in Toronto from September 17 to October 01 and CBS notes that the anthem protocol leaves little room for Colin Kaepernick-style pre-game protests: National anthems will not be played before World Cup games, though it’s not clear what the protocol will be for Team USA’s three pre-tournament exhibition games.

►  Auto racing glance for Thursday, September 08, 2016



Site: Richmond, Virginia.

Schedule: Friday, practice (7 a.m., NBCSN), practice (9 a.m., NBCSN), qualifying, (2:45 p.m., NBCSN); Saturday, race, 4:30 p.m., NBCSN.

Track: Richmond International Raceway (oval, 0.75 miles)

Race distance: 300 miles, 400 laps.

Last year: Matt Kenseth held off Kyle Busch and pole winner Joey Logano to win the fall event at Richmond.

Last race: Martin Truex Jr. cemented his status a legitimate Chase contender with a dominant win at Darlington.

Fast facts: NASCAR officials said that the cars of Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman failed post-race inspection late Sunday night. Both finished in the top 10, and Newman is currently just outside the top 16 in the Chase. ... Tony Stewart met with officials after Darlington to discuss an on-track incident between he and Brian Scott, but Stewart said later that it was a “happy visit.“

Next race: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, Sept. 18, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Illinois.




Site: Richmond, Virginia.

Schedule: Friday, practice (5 a.m., NBCSN), qualifying (1:15 p.m.), race, 4:30 p.m., NBCSN

Track: Richmond International Raceway (oval, 0.75 miles).

Race distance: (187.8 miles, 250 laps)

Last year: Chase Elliott picked up his only series win of 2015.

Last race: Elliott Sadler beat Denny Hamlin for his first career win at Darlington Speedway, which he dedicated to team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will miss the rest of the NASCAR season because of concussion symptoms.

Fast facts: Matt Tifft ran his first test laps this week since undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor in early July. ... Despite winning three races, a high for a series regular, Erik Jones sits just sixth in the point race. Jones has failed to finish three races, while Sadler, the series leader, has run every event clean.

Next race: Drive for Safety 300, Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Illinois.



Last week: John Nemechek beat Cole Custer. Custer tackled Nemechek to the ground in frustration afterward.

Next race: American Ethanol E15 225, Sept. 16, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Illinois.



Last week: Scott Dixon won at Watkins Glen, his second victory of the season. Will Power, who is second in the standings, crashed out of the race but has been cleared for the season finale at Sonoma next week. He and points leader Simon Pagenaud are the only contenders for the series championship.

Next race: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sept. 18, Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, California.



Last week: Nico Rosberg beat teammate Lewis Hamilton by 15 seconds in Italy, closing within two points of Hamilton in the point standings.

Next race: Singapore Grand Prix, Sept. 18, Singapore.



Last week: Tony Schumacher won for a record 10th time at Indianapolis and for the 82nd time in his career.

Next race: Ninth Annual Carolina Nationals, Sept. 16-18, zMax Dragway, Concord, North Carolina.



WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday-Saturday, Gold Cup Race of Champions, Silver Dollar Speedway, Chico, California.


In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Hockey Great Gordie Howe Dead at 88

Hockey legend Gordie Howe is dead at age 88, the Detroit Red Wings confirmed to CBS Detroit Friday. His son, Marty Howe, tells CNN he died Friday morning. Howe, a Hockey Hall of Famer and six-time NHL MVP, had an incredible career that led to his nickname, “Mr. Hockey”: He started playing for the Red Wings in 1946 and won four Stanley Cups with them. He retired in 1971, but two years later started playing for the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros—with his two sons. He retired again in 1980, but in 1997, he played one last time for the IHL’s Detroit Vipers. He scored 801 goals during his 26 years in the NHL; his all-time leading scorer record in the NHL was eventually broken by Wayne Gretzky.

Howe suffered a serious stroke in 2014, eventually traveling with his family to Mexico for a stem cell treatment that, they said, helped him recover. But the Los Angeles Times reports he later suffered several other strokes, had also endured spinal surgery, and suffered from dementia over the past few years. Even so, in March, he celebrated his 88th birthday at Joe Louis Arena with an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. “When it comes to who was the best hockey player ever, don’t even go there with me,“ fellow hockey great Bobby Orr said of Howe in 2003. “There is no question that Gordie is the best of all time.“

►  Man’s Steph Curry Tweet Gets Him Fired

A Cleveland Cavaliers fan apparently trying to get under the skin of the NBA’s MVP instead ended up losing his job. The 21-year-old sister of Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors tweeted Wednesday morning that Curry’s whole family was heading to Cleveland to watch him play in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, per the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s when Moe Wahdan got, well, vulgar. “You and your family get the f—- out of Cleveland,“ he wrote, per Complex. He went on to call Curry’s 3-year-old daughter a slur, and while the tweet is partially blacked out, sites are using the shortcut of “f——t a—“ to describe it.

A bitter exchange followed, shared by a Warriors fan site, and it didn’t take long for users to identify Wahdan and his employer. A user quickly tagged the Holton-Wise Property Group in a tweet about Wahdan’s tweet, and the company announced an hour later that he’d been fired. “We do not condone or tolerate hate speech of any kind, let alone hate speech that is directed towards a child,“ it said. Wahdan, at least, thinks he got the last laugh. “I’ll be in another real estate office by tomorrow,“ he tweeted, adding, “I lost my job but they lost the game. Who really lost here?“

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