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World Cup: No Russian? No Problem. There’s an app for that

The Free Press WV

Randall Garcia and his wife were on a bus in the Russian city of Samara when a local resident stared at the couple and pointed his phone at them. The screen read: “Good luck Costa Rica!”

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Neymar may be the stars of the World Cup. But Google Translate has been the Most Valuable Player for many fans to leap over the language barrier in Russia. They have used the mobile app version to order food, change money and meet new people, especially in cities like Samara, where most people only speak Russian.

“Google Translate has been a fundamental tool,” Garcia said, wearing the red jersey of Costa Rica’s national team.

“In a country where people are going out of their way to try to understand us, it’s key,” he said. “We thought there was going to be a language barrier, but it wasn’t like that.”

Before hundreds of thousands of fans descended on Russia, many of them studied phrases or took lessons to learn the basics of the language and the Cyrillic alphabet in time for the tournament that kicked off on June 14.

“It’s really hard, My partner has been learning a little bit of Russian, but other than that we use Google Translate,” said Ruth Morris from Queensland, Australia. She who wore a yellow t-shirt in the colors of the national team emblazoned with green kangaroos that read: “Aussie, Aussie Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!”

The day that she arrived to Moscow with her husband, they struck up conversation with a group of local residents at a bar.

“We managed to communicate and make friends using a mix of Google Translate, sign language and - piba!” Brian Mckinley said, using the Russian word for beer.

These days, one scene has been repeated thousands of times in cities across Russia: A person types a sentence on a phone or taps into the microphone and waits until the other one reads it or hears the words, nods, and responds.

“In many ways Google Translate is remarkable. If your intent is to have basic straightforward communication, then Google Translate can serve you adequately,” said Andrew Cohen, professor emeritus in second language studies from the University of Minnesota.

Cohen has been using Google translate to assist him with Mandarin Chinese, his 13th language. But he said the offerings are sometimes wrong.

“There are several reasons for this: One is that GT does not have a brain and so it really cannot deal effectively with connotations of word meanings, nor with various collocations of words with other words,” he said. Then, there’s the issue of pragmatics, since it can’t interpret the intentions of the person trying to communicate.

It “may have considerable difficulty translating humor, sarcasm, subtle forms of criticism, curses, apologies so that they work, even requests in a way that they are appropriately mitigated rather than bossy sounding,” he said.

“This is where Google Translate still has lots of work to do.”

Translate was launched in 2006 and has grown into one of Google’s most popular services with more than 500 million monthly users and more than 100 billion words translated each day, according to the company. Russian is one of the most used out of more than 100 languages that range from Afrikaans to Yiddish. They can be used on websites, with speech recognition and as an app on mobile phones, even if there is no connection. Others use one of its features to recognize and translate the writing on billboards, menus and street signs.

“The Russian Cyrillic is unlike any word in our alphabet,” said Marilyn Mattos, 30, a Colombian fan who wore earrings in the yellow, blue and red colors of the national flag.

“But we used Google Translator to take pictures, select the text and translate it into Spanish without a problem.”

It has even been used to break the ice between journalists and players. During a recent press conference with Antoine Griezmann that only allowed questions in French, a Spanish journalist put the microphone on his phone and used Google Translate to ask, drawing a wide grin from the French striker who plays professionally in Madrid and speaks Spanish.

And it has also been used for safety tips to reduce accidents. Marat Gurjan, a 15-year-old lifeguard whose favorite player is Neymar, uses the app to help communicate on a Volga River beach.

“The World Cup is a great honor,” the screen on his phone read in English after he typed a sentence in Russian. “For our country, and especially for Samara.”

USA! USA! Wait, We Didn’t Make The World Cup?

The Free Press WV

U.S. Men’s National Team great Landon Donovan tells “PodcastOne Sports Now” co-host Jim Litke as the tournament begins that without the U.S. team in the World Cup, he’s rooting for Mexico and fellow CONCACAF members Costa Rica and Panama.

But the leading scorer and most-capped player ever to don a U.S. jersey also worries that the failure to qualify could mean a generation of American kids may decide not give soccer a second look.

Also on the show: co-host Tim Dahlberg joins Litke and Associated Press golf writer Doug Fergsuon to preview the U.S. Open golf tournament and tries to answer the question on everyone’s mind — how will Tiger Woods fare? On the menu: scavenging the food stands at Heathrow airport.

U.S. jury set to resume deliberations in FIFA bribery case

The Free Press WV

After convicting two former South American soccer officials of bribery, a U.S. jury is set to return to court on Tuesday to decide the fate of a third official charged in the FIFA scandal.

Jurors found Juan Napout, of Paraguay, and Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil, guilty on multiple conspiracy charges after a week of deliberations in federal court in Brooklyn. But they told U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen that they were divided over a verdict for Manuel Burga, of Peru, on his single racketeering charge. Chen told them to come back and try again after the holiday weekend.

The judge immediately jailed Marin, 85, and Napout, 59, agreeing with prosecutors that if left free, the men had enough connections and wealth to flee the U.S. to avoid prison terms, which she said could be more than 10 years on the top charge alone.

Burga, 60, the former president of Peru’s soccer federation, was allowed to remain free on bail pending the outcome of his case. His lawyer, Bruce Udolf, said his client was hopeful that the jury would clear him.

Marin, Burga and Napout had been arrested in 2015. Prosecutors accused them of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen seeking to lock up lucrative media rights or influence hosting rights for the World Cup and other major tournaments controlled by FIFA.

The three were among more than 40 people and entities in the world of global soccer charged in the U.S. in connection with an investigation that uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. Many of the other defendants pleaded guilty.

During the trial, the defense argued that the men were innocent bystanders framed by untrustworthy cooperators angling for leniency in their own cases. Burga’s lawyer claimed there was no proof he took bribes.

“I would submit to you that never has more been made of less evidence,“ Udolf said.

Burga got some unwanted attention early in the trial when prosecutors claimed he unnerved the government’s star witness, a former marketing executive from Argentina, Alejandro Burzaco, by directing a threatening gesture at him — running his fingers across his throat in a slicing motion. The lawyer claimed his client was merely scratching his throat, but the judge took the incident seriously enough to tighten Burga’s house arrest conditions.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  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.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Peyton Manning to retire after 18 seasons in the NFL

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Peyton Manning surveyed the landscape of his brilliant career and called one last audible. He’s retiring a champion.

A month after Denver’s triumph in Super Bowl 50, Manning informed John Elway he is following his lead and riding off into that orange sunset just like the Broncos’ boss did 17 years ago after winning his second Super Bowl.

Just shy of 40, Manning will forgo $19 million and a 19th season in the NFL, where he served as both a throwback and a transformer during a glittering career bookmarked by an unprecedented five MVP awards and dozens of passing records.

“Peyton was a player that guys wanted to play with,“ Elway said. “That made us better as a team and I’m thrilled that we were able to win a championship in his final year.“

The Broncos scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday.

Manning leaves the league he helped popularize to supersize status as its all-time leading passer and winningest starting quarterback, the only one in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two franchises.

His first came in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. The Colts gave up on him after a series of neck surgeries forced Manning to miss all of the 2011 season and left him without feeling in the fingertips of his right hand.

A rare superstar quarterback on the open market in 2012, Manning resettled in Denver, where, despite a right arm weakened by nerve damage, he went 50-15 with his fifth MVP award and two trips to the Super Bowl in four seasons.

So, defensive coordinators, you can breathe a little easier today: Manning will no longer be on the docket to wreck your game plans and ruin your designs on a title.

There will be no more showdowns matching skills with Tom Brady or wits with Bill Belichick — against whom he was just 6-11 but 3-2 in AFC championships.

With no more defenses to dissect, the face of the league since the turn of this century no longer has to be buried in an iPad all day, nor will he have to submerge his battered body for hours in a cold tub in a labor of love.

“I get asked a lot about my legacy,“ Manning said before the Super Bowl. “For me, it’s being a good teammate, having the respect of my teammates, having the respect of the coaches and players. That’s important to me. I am not taking this for granted. I just love football.“

The 18th season for No. 18 was by far his most trying on the field. He had to adjust to new coach Gary Kubiak’s run-based offense, to unrelenting health issues and to questions about his character on his way to winning his second Super Bowl.

Manning, whose dry wit and star power has made him a staple of commercials and late-night television for nearly two decades, saw his squeaky-clean image take a beating as the final pages were flipped on his storied career.

The NFL is investigating allegations that human growth hormone was shipped to his home in his wife’s name following an Al Jazeera report that Manning dismissed as “garbage.“ And in a new lawsuit filed last month. Manning was cited as an example of a hostile environment for women at the University of Tennessee for his alleged harassment of a female trainer in 1996.

A torn ligament in his left foot hampered Manning all the way back to August. It led to his worst statistical season and sidelined him for six weeks before that fairy tale finish in Santa Clara, California, when his defense carried him across the finish line.

Constantly harassed, never quite comfortable — sort of the way the whole season played out — Manning walked away with his second NFL title after Denver’s defense, with seven sacks and four takeaways, all but handed him the Lombardi Trophy in a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

“He had to do several things different this year,“ said his dad, Archie, a former star quarterback himself. “Had to take off during the season, which he’d never done before. He ran the scout team, which I don’t think he’d ever done, and he dressed out as a backup, which he’d never done.“

Manning also had to play the role of game manager for the first time during Denver’s defense-fueled run to the title. “I’m just glad I was on the same team as our defense,“ he said.

Although his teammates said his speech on the eve of the game felt very much like a goodbye, Manning didn’t call it his “last rodeo” right away, saying he needed time to reflect.

Denver gained only 194 yards against the Panthers, the fewest for a victorious team in a Super Bowl, and Manning had but 13 completions for 141 yards. Thanks to a defense led by game MVP Von Miller, however, Manning became the oldest quarterback to win a championship, a year older than Elway was when he won his second Super Bowl in 1999 before walking away.

Manning, who revealed at the Super Bowl that he faces a hip replacement in retirement, finished in a tie with Brett Favre for most regular-season wins with 186. His victory in Super Bowl 50 was his 14th in the postseason, one more than Favre, making him the NFL’s only 200-win quarterback.

“There’s no question that his work ethic is what made him into one of the great quarterbacks of all time,“ Elway said. “All the film study Peyton did and the process that he went through with game planning and understanding what the other teams did was second to none.“

Almost from his pro debut in 1998, Manning was a pioneer in the way he deciphered defenses and directed play at the line of scrimmage. Envision him pacing from tackle to tackle, pointing and hollering, as he became a model for every quarterback who’s come along since. Manning not only was at the vanguard of the aerial fireworks shows that light up today’s scoreboards and big-screen TVs, he was the mastermind of it.

“I think from the sense of quarterbacks, he’s been fast-paced, no-huddle, dynamic offense, score a lot of points, and score quickly,“ said his brother, Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner himself, for the Giants. “Now you see that more. More teams are doing it. The Colts kind of started that trend and did it well for a long time.“

So did the Broncos, for whom Manning threw 140 of his NFL-high 539 TD passes, including a record 55 in 2013.

Manning was never the best athlete, but his off-the-charts preparation and other-worldly memory recall made him rise above the rest, suggested teammate DeMarcus Ware.

“He beat you mentally,“ said Ware, who came to Denver two years ago for the chance to play with Manning. “That was his guide: Physically you might be faster than me, you might be more athletic than me, but I’m going to outsmart you every time.“

Manning’s retirement allows the Broncos to focus on re-signing his longtime backup, Brock Osweiler, who went 5-2 in his place.

“There’s not a day that’s gone by since I’ve been in the league,“ Osweiler said, “that I haven’t learned something from Peyton.“

Manning relinquishes the game he loves secure in having left an indelible imprint on America’s most popular sport.

“He was on the forefront of basically a revolution in the way offenses are run in the National Football League,“ Joe Theismann said recently. “His footprint was bigger than just the cities he played in. He transformed the position. The style of offense that he ran in Indianapolis was revolutionary and nobody ever figured out how to stop it there — or in Denver.

“The only thing that’s basically slowed Peyton Manning down was Father Time.“


►  Brandi Chastain Will Donate Her Brain for Concussion Study

Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick gave the United States the 1999 Women’s World Cup title, has pledged her brain for concussion research. The 47-year-old Chastain announced her donation to the Massachusetts-based Concussion Legacy Foundation on Thursday. Upon her death, her brain will go to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a joint project with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University School of Medicine. “It is really about: How I can help impact soccer beyond scoring a goal in 1999 in the World Cup final. Can I do something more to leave soccer in a better place than it was when I began this wonderful journey with this game?“ she said.

Researchers are studying the postmortem human brain and spinal cord tissue in hopes of diagnosing and treating chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative condition caused by a blow or blows to the head. Of the 307 brains in the bank, just seven are from women and none has been found to have CTE. “We currently know so little about how gender influences outcome after trauma,“ said Dr. Ann McKee, director of the brain bank program. “Her pledge marks an important step to expand our knowledge in this critical area.“ Chastain, who played for the US national team from 1988-2004, isn’t sure she’s had concussions, but suspects she has had at least a couple.


►  Great-Grandpa’s Old Paper Bag Hid $1M Find

Relatives considered tossing the torn paper bag they found in the southern home of their late great-grandfather earlier this year. It’s a good thing they didn’t: Buried beneath old postcards and papers was one of the biggest discoveries of rare baseball cards ever. On Wednesday, memorabilia expert Joe Orlando confirmed the seven cards featuring Hall of Famer Ty Cobb are from a 1909-1911 American Tobacco Company set and worth “well into the seven figures,“ reports NBC News. Only 15 were previously known to exist. “Finding one of these cards is news,“ Orlando tweeted. “Finding seven in one shot is ridiculous.“


►  Wrestler: Cancel Championship, I Got Herpes From Mat

Days after he competed in a February wrestling tourney, Blake Flovin began exhibiting odd symptoms: He started itching, got a rash, and “the left sides of my face by my lymph nodes started to swell,“ the high school student tells KTVU. His father likened the 17-year-old’s face to that of the “elephant man.“ Turns out Blake had contracted herpes gladiatorum, or “mat herpes,“ a highly contagious, lifelong virus that wrestlers have come down with before, either from skin-to-skin contact or from the mat itself, per the San Jose Mercury News. Now Blake has come forward to try to stop this weekend’s California state championships. Health protocols were apparently not strictly carried out at the tournament where Blake believes he contracted the virus: Female wrestlers received only “cursory” skin checks and the on-site boys bathroom is said to be notoriously unsanitary.

But the California Interscholastic Federation says it’s not postponing the championship, noting everything’s soundly in place to stop anyone else from getting the virus. “We are confident that our practices, along with an exhaustive medical review of this particular situation, ensure that there is no justification for concern,“ the director for the group says, per the News. Despite not being able to stop the championship from proceeding, Blake says the one good thing that’s come out of all of this is the response he’s received since making his news public. “I’ve gotten a lot of supportive comments—100%,“ Blake says, with his dad adding, “He said to me, ‘Dad, it’s unbelievable. I haven’t gotten one negative response.‘“

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Partying Knicks Player Lost $750K

“I don’t want to talk about it,“ is the reaction one might expect of someone who’s unexpectedly found himself with $750,000 less on his hands, and this is indeed the sentiment of New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams. Williams was out celebrating a team victory with friends early Saturday, reports the New York Post, when he met up with two women in the Meatpacking District. The 24-year-old invited them back to his place in Tribeca to continue the party, and party they did—according to Williams and law enforcement, the women danced right out the baller’s door with a Louis Vuitton suitcase crammed with some three-quarters of a million dollars in jewelry. The Post notes that there may be a trend of women preying on bling-laden guys at clubs in the Big Apple, and Deadspin adds that Williams has been anything but shy about his shiny, pricey objects on social media. Says Williams, “it’s still up in the air.“


►  FIFA Stunner: Defiant Blatter Banned 8 Years

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each banned for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee on Monday in a stunning removal of world soccer’s most powerful leaders. FIFA President Blatter and his one-time protege Platini were kicked out of the sport for conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA in a $2 million payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland. In a defiant news conference shortly after the verdict was announced, Blatter said he would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, insisting he had done nothing wrong. “I will fight,“ Blatter said. “I will fight until the end.“ His last words on leaving the conference were “I’ll be back.“

Blatter’s FIFA career is ending in disgrace after more than 17 years as president and 40 years in total with the governing body. FIFA’s ethics judges decided that Blatter and Platini broke ethics rules on conflicts of interest, breach of loyalty, and offering or receiving gifts. Both denied wrongdoing in 2011 when Platini took $2 million of FIFA money approved by Blatter as uncontracted salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1999-2002. In Monday’s verdict, Blatter was fined $50,250 and Platini $80,400. “I regret, but I am not ashamed,“ said Blatter. “I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football.“

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  How Tiger Told His Kids About What Happened

Unlike the person who flew a giant “CHEATER” banner over Tiger Woods’ head as he played in the US Open in June, the pro golfer and his ex-wife have made their peace with the infidelity that helped break up their marriage in 2009 (the two divorced in 2010). In an interview with Time right before his 40th birthday at the end of the month, Woods says ex Elin Nordegren is now “one of my best friends” and explains that the “fantastic” relationship they now enjoy is due to their two kids, 8-year-old Sam and 6-year-old Charlie.

“We’ve worked so hard at co-parenting,“ he says. “I’ve taken the initiative with the kids, and told them up front, “Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof … is because Daddy made some mistakes.“ He goes on to say that he’d rather the kids hear it from him instead of finding out from friends or the Internet. “We’re all human,“ he says he tells his kids. “We all make mistakes. But look what happened at the end of it. Look at how great you are. You have two loving parents that love you no matter what.“ Read the full Time interview with Woods, who also talks about his “fantastic” former relationship with Lindsey Vonn. (Vonn also still has much love for her ex.)


►  Budget Woes, Polluted Waterways Plague Rio Olympics

As Brazil suffers through its worst recession in 25 years, organizers of the 2016 Olympics set to take place in Rio de Janeiro in August are cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of their budget, Bloomberg Business reports. “It will be painful from now on,” Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada tells Bloomberg. And the athletes competing in the games will feel most of that pain. Cost-saving measures being considered include:

  • Making athletes pay for air conditioning in dorm rooms
  • Cutting back on stadium backdrops
  • Eliminating fancy cars and gourmet food for VIPs
  • Cutting back on cleaning services
  • Eliminating TVs in individual rooms
Two-time Olympic runner Nick Symmonds tells Bloomberg that such cuts will “cheapen the games.” Without adequate food and accommodations, he says, athletes won’t be able to compete at their highest level and “bring the A-plus product” spectators expect.

 

Further, Bloomberg notes some are concerned that cost-cutting measures will create an unbalanced playing field. Athletes from poor countries will be at a disadvantage because they cannot afford better accommodations, while those from wealthier countries can. NBA players on the USA Basketball team, for instance, opt for plush hotels as opposed to staying at the Olympic Village. Being short on money isn’t the only problem plaguing Rio 2016. Tests commissioned by the Associated Press found that Rio’s waterways are consistently high in viral counts, creating a risk for athletes competing in sailing, rowing, and canoeing events. “If we saw those levels here in the United States on beaches, officials would likely close those beaches,“ expert Kristina Mena tells the AP.


►  U.S. Indicts 16 More in FIFA Corruption Probe

Five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee were among 16 additional men indicted on corruption charges Thursday as part of US prosecutors’ widening investigation into soccer corruption. The indictment takes down an entire generation of soccer leaders in South America, a bedrock of FIFA and World Cup history. “The betrayal of trust set forth here is outrageous,“ US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “The scale of corruption alleged herein is unconscionable.“ Led away by Swiss federal police in a pre-dawn raid at a Zurich hotel were Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, president of the South American confederation, and Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, head of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body.

Ricardo Teixeira, a former Brazilian federation head, also was indicted. In addition, former CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and former executive committee member Luis Bedoya were among those whose guilty pleas were unsealed. Eleven current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee have now been charged in the investigation, which alleges hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. “The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus,“ Lynch said.


►  Tony Stewart getting new crew chief for final season in ’16

KANNAPOLIS, NC — Tony Stewart will have a new crew chief for his final season in NASCAR.

Stewart-Haas Racing said Monday that Michael Bugarewicz has been promoted from race engineer for Kevin Harvick’s team to crew chief for Stewart.

Bugarewicz replaces Chad Johnson, who last week left to crew chief Kyle Larson for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Stewart is retiring at the end of next season.

SHR also said Billy Scott has been named crew chief for Danica Patrick. He is most recently been a crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing. Scott replaces Daniel Knost, who was promoted to a senior leadership position managing vehicle dynamics.

World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Women’s soccer enjoying its World Cup bump

PORTLAND, OR — Nowhere could the World Cup bump in women’s soccer be more apparent than in Portland, Oregon, where more than 21,000 fans watched a National Women’s Soccer League rivalry match between the Thorns and the Seattle Reign.

It was the second-largest stand-alone crowd ever to watch a professional women’s league game in the United States. And while soccer-crazy Portland usually attracts big crowds for the hometown Thorns, the rest of the league is also seeing a surge in interest.

The NWSL is loving the attention.

“The last few weeks have been really, really nice for all of us,“ NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “But there’s more hard work. It continues to be a business we work very hard at every day. So it’s not going to be a panacea. You have to work hard at growth.“

The U.S. women’s national team, whose players are allocated throughout the NWSL, defeated Japan 5-2 earlier this month in the title match at the World Cup, which was played across six Canadian cities. It was the team’s third World Cup title, most of any nation.

The players have since returned to their club teams and to crowds eager to see the American victors.

The NWSL is in its third season and is in a crucial period because no other women’s league in the United States has been able to last very long. Both forerunners, the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) each folded within the three-year mark.

The league has attracted major sponsors, including Nike and, this season, Coppertone. In late June, the NWSL and FOX Sports announced an agreement to broadcast 10 league games this season. Three regular-season matches, three playoff matches and the championship will be shown on FOX Sports 1.

But it’s the fans that have been making a difference in the past couple of weeks.

The Thorns set the league’s attendance record on Wednesday night with a sellout crowd of 21,144 for a match against the rival Seattle Reign at Providence Park.

The record for a stand-alone professional women’s soccer match in the United States was set in 2001, when 34,148 watched the Washington Freedom defeat the Bay Area CyberRays 1-0 at RFK Stadium. Mia Hamm starred for the Freedom while Brandi Chastain led the CyberRays.

While other women’s pro matches have drawn more than the Thorns did Wednesday night, those were double-headers held in conjunction with men’s games.

The Thorns lead the league in attendance by a wide margin, averaging 13,769 fans a game this season. Wednesday night’s match marked the fourth time the crowd has gone over 16,000 at the downtown stadium, which is also home to Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers.

Other teams also have seen a spike in attendance.

The Washington Spirit drew a club record 5,413 fans to Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the Reign at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The same day, the Chicago Red Stars played to a 1-1 draw with Boston before a record 3,560 fans at Benedictine University.

A record 13,025 fans turned out at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston for the Dash match against the Red Stars. U.S. stars Carli Lloyd, Meghan Klingenberg and Morgan Brian were honored but didn’t play.

“I think people just totally got attached to this World Cup in a different way than they have and it was so close to home,“ U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said about the bump. “That was such a huge thing to have American fans know they can go watch these players in their own cities for the rest of the season. Hopefully the bounce isn’t coming down, it’s just continuing to go up.“

The WUSA was founded in 2000, hoping to capitalize on the U.S. national team’s victory in the 1999 World Cup, but the league folded in 2003. The WPS played from 2010-2012 but had insurmountable internal organization and financial issues.

The NWSL has always maintained that it is better positioned to succeed because of its association with the North American soccer federations — the United States, Canada and Mexico — which pay the salaries of their national team players to help keep costs down.

Thorns coach Paul Riley said the real benefits of the World Cup probably won’t be seen until next year — in season ticket sales.

“We’re an anomaly when it comes to that. But you know, with Boston, Chicago, these places that have a huge boost right now, can they deliver season tickets? I know all the teams are working hard to get it done,“ Riley said. “Our job is to entertain. Our job is to put teams out that people want to come pay money to watch, and put them in suitable stadiums for people to watch. I think that’s the next step for everybody and hopefully they can do that, the whole league.“

Plush agreed there’s more work ahead. The league, which right now has nine teams, could expand, possibly even next season.

The NWSL could also get another bump next season from the 2016 Olympics.

“The health of the league is good. It’s exactly where we expected to be and where we wanted to be in the third year,“ Plush said. “I think it’s important for people to understand the context as a startup business. We’re 2½ years in. Certainly the product is compelling, but we have the challenges and issues any business has. That said, we are rigorously planning for Year 4 and we have all the confidence in Year 5 and Year 6.“

World Soccer (Football)

The Gilmer Free Press

►  U.S. top of FIFA rankings after winning Women’s World Cup

ZURICH — The United States has returned to the top of the FIFA women’s rankings after winning the World Cup.

The U.S. toppled Germany after beating Japan 5-2 in Sunday’s final in Vancouver to collect the top prize in women’s soccer for the first time in 16 years.

Germany finished fourth in Canada after losing to England in the third-place game.

England moved up a place to fifth, behind France and Japan, after its best Women’s World Cup showing.

Women’s World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Barack Obama calls USWNT following World Cup championship

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