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    Friday Sports

    05/29/2020

    NFL teams can now designate three players to return from Injured Reserve, an increase from the 2019 limit of two. It"s part of the new rules the league announced Thursday as part of the league's Annual Spring Meeting, which was attended virtually this year by NFL owners. The Vikings placed six players on Injured Reserve during the 2019 season, but only one - wide receiver Josh Doctson - returned to the active roster. Other rule changes were also approved by owners include…scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul are now subject to automatic replay review, while defenseless player protection on kick and punt returns was also expanded. Also, teams now cannot manipulate the game clock with multiple dead-ball fouls, a loophole in the rule book that numerous teams utilized late in games in 2019. Perhaps the most-buzzworthy proposal was tabled, as owners decided they needed more information on a 4th-and-15 scenario that was suggested as an alternative to the onside kick. In this situation, a scoring team team could choose to attempt a 4th-and-15 at their own 25-yard line. If successful, they would keep possession as if they had recovered an onside kick.Teams could try that scenario a maximum of twice per game, regardless if they were trailing on the scoreboard or not. If the try failed, the opposing team would then take over at the 25-yard line. The NFL changed its kickoff rules in 2018 and stated that only five players are allowed on each side of the ball. This has limited teams from overloading one side of the ball to try and recover an onside kick. According to ESPN NFL reporter Kevin Seifert, teams recovered 10.5 percent of onside kicks in 2018 and 2019, down from 16.3 percent before that.

    NASCAR's return to racing finally ended with a Cup victory for Chase Elliott. Elliott raced to his first win of the season Thursday night in the rain-delayed event at Charlotte Motor Speedway to close a wild 12 days for NASCAR. The event, postponed Wednesday night, was the fourth Cup race since the series resumed racing May 17. Elliott had two frustrating losses in that span. Elliott reeled in Kevin Harvick with 27 laps remaining and closed out the victory. Elliott also won the Truck Series race Tuesday night at Charlotte to give him a pair of victories in a four-race stretch at the track located just a few minutes away from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters. Denny Hamlin finished second in a Toyota with three crew members sitting at home under suspension for an infraction Sunday night. Ryan Blaney was third in a Ford. The rescheduled Thursday event was disrupted by lightning and rain for nearly 75 minutes after 30 laps had been completed. NASCAR next goes to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on Sunday for a fifth Cup race in 15 days as the series attempts to reschedule eight events in a busy stretch of racing through Southern states.

    Iowa and other universities are still hoping to play football at full stadiums this fall. Athletic director Gary Barta said Thursday that Iowa is planning to have unrestricted crowds at Kinnick Stadium, where last fall it averaged 65,557 for games, 20th most in the FBS or division 1. Iowa also is modeling for reduced-capacity crowds, depending on guidelines from the state, the CDC and other agencies relating to the pandemic. If Iowa has reduced-capacity crowds for football, Barta said season-ticket holders, priority points holders and students will be admitted first. Iowa had about 48,000 season-ticket holders in 2019, and renewal rates for 2020 are around 75%. Barta said he speaks daily with other Big Ten athletic directors and said all of the league's members are preparing for full football seasons with crowds, while also recognizing that no decisions about the season have been finalized. Iowa is set to bring back athletes to campus in phases next month, beginning with football players on June 8, men's and women's basketball players on June 15, and athletes in other sports later in the month. Athletes can take part in voluntary activities in June, and required activities won't begin until at least July 1. Barta said any Iowa athletes who don't want to train or compete because of COVID-19 concerns will not face any repercussions with their status or scholarships. Barta said Iowa will be prepared for positive COVID-19 tests and has protocols in place to prevent outbreaks.

    The Madden franchise will continue to be a part of the gaming universe for at least the next six years. NFL owners on Thursday approved an extension of their deal with Electronic Arts, continuing a relationship that has existed for 30 years. It was also recently approved by the NFL Players Association. The current contract was set to expire after the 2021 season. The extension means that EA Sports will continue to be the league's exclusive publisher of football simulation games through 2026. EA Sports executive vice president Cam Weber said the two sides had been talking for months. Many wondered what the future of the relationship might be after 2K Sports signed an agreement with the NFL in March to produce non-simulation games. The current edition of Madden has seen a 30% increase in unique players. According to Electronic Arts, more than 330 million hours of the game have been played since it was released last August. The company also has seen large increases in game play during the past couple of months as people have been confined to their homes because of the pandemic, with many tournaments taking place among friends and on television. Madden NFL 21 will come out in early August with the first looks at the game coming next week. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was last year's cover athlete. Baltimore quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson said in April that he would be on the cover this year, but EA Sports has not made an announcement.

    Jay Paul

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    Thursday Sports

    05/28/2020

    Two days after a black Minnesota man died at the hands of police, the University of Minnesota announced it will sever its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department. School president Joan Gabel made the announcement Wednesday night in a letter that was sent to students, faculty and staff members, writing that the university will no longer use local officers to assist at major events, including Gophers football games. George Floyd died in police custody. A bystander's video showed a white officer kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd's neck. Two other Minneapolis officers held Floyd down, while a fourth officer stood nearby and interacted with bystanders who pleaded with the officers to get off Floyd. All four officers involved in the incident were fired Tuesday. On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey demanded criminal charges for the officers. Gabel said she has directed U of M school officials to "no longer contract with the Minneapolis Police Department" for large on-campus events, including football games. She also said the school will cut ties with the MPD for "specialized services" such as "K-9 explosive detection units.” At Gopher football games, Minneapolis police often have a strong presence as they accompany the university's police force.

    Major League Baseball drew the ire of the players' union Tuesday with an economic proposal that called for a significant cut in salaries that would affect all players and particularly the game's highest paid. The long-awaited plan, the first volley in an expected back-and-forth that will determine whether baseball returns in 2020, proposed a marginal salary structure in which the lowest-paid players would receive close to a full share of their prorated salary and the game's stars receive far less than expected. Players immediately bristled at the proposal, which includes an 82-game schedule that would begin in early July after a 21-day spring training, sources familiar with the plan said. Teams would play three exhibition games in the final week before starting a regular season that would finish Sept. 27. The union is expected to reject the plan and counter in the coming days with a proposal that could include a longer season. For the league to get a full three weeks of spring training before an early July start date, an agreement would need to be struck in early June.

    Turner Sports said the Sunday telecast of "The Match: Champions for Charity" with Tiger, Phil, Tom and Peyton attracted an average of 5.8 million viewers across four of its networks. Turner says it was the most-watched golf telecast in cable TV history. Phil Mickelson says he would like to see "The Match" become an annual event showcasing guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan or Tony Romo and Patrick Mahomes who are all good golfers, elite talents and have great personalities. Or you could have someone who loves the game and is competitive but is really entertaining like Larry David and Bill Murray."

    Rain washed out the Cup Series race Wednesday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race was rescheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. The starting order for the second Cup race at Charlotte this week was set based on the finishing order of the Coca-Cola 600, but with an inversion. Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman will start from the pole, while Coca-Cola 600 winner Brad Keselowski will start 20th. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson will start last because his car was disqualified in postrace inspection after he finished second.

    WNBA players will receive their first paychecks on time June 1 despite the season not starting yet, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert. The league was to launch its 24th season Friday, but it has been delayed indefinitely by the pandemic. The players have year-round health care benefits, which were extended to rookies starting May 1. The Minnesota Lynx and Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve have set their roster ahead of the 2020 season by placing forward Jessica Shepard on the team"s full season suspended list. The 2020 Lynx roster returns seven players from the 2019 roster, including Lexie Brown, Bridget Carleton, Karima Christmas-Kelly, reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier, Damiris Dantas, Sylvia Fowles, and Odyssey Sims. This year"s roster additionally includes Cecilia Zandalasini, who last played with the Lynx during the 2018 season. The 2019 roster features three new faces highlighted by offseason acquisitions Kayla Alexander, Rachel Banham and Shenise Johnson. Joining the veteran acquisitions are rookies Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (1st round, 6th overall) and Crystal Dangerfield (2nd round, 16th overall).

    Jay Paul

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    Humpday Sports

    05/26/2020

    The NHL will abandon the rest of the regular season and go straight into the playoffs with 24 teams instead of the normal 16 if it is able to resume play, according to commissioner Gary Bettman who said the goal is to hold an 82-game season in 2020-21. Of course the players and the NHL have agreed on a format but the NHL Players' Association has not actually approved any actual return to finish the season. The league and the players association also have to figure out health and safety protocols and solve other issues, including where to play. The games would be held inside empty arenas at two hub cities, where players, staff and others would be housed during the season restart. Originally, the NHL was seeking four different hubs, but logistics and a refocusing on the 24-team, conference format narrowed that to two.. Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh are bring considered. The hubs would have secure arenas, hotels and practice facilities, and there would be aggressive COVID-19 testing and protocols at each site. Commissioner Bettman also spelled out plans for the NHL draft lottery, which will determine the top three picks in the draft. The seven teams that are not in the play-in round and the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round are eligible to win the draft lottery.

    The NBA season, the idea of 30 teams returning for the resumption of the season in Orlando has lost momentum, but it still has a significant lobby. Not one owner or GM is explicitly telling anyone they don't want to play this season. But there are enough players on enough bad teams who've shared the idea that they don't see the value in several weeks of camp and quarantines to play five to eight regular-season games with no playoff potential. The NBA believes it has time to deliberate and discuss the matter. In fact, there's a possibility the first games played in Orlando could be in August.

    Major League Baseball has proposed cutting the salaries of the highest-paid players in baseball, with the lowest-paid players taking smaller cuts from their full prorated shares, in its first economic proposal to the MLB Players Association. Sources said the highest-paid players would receive less than 40% of their full season salaries. But players don"t want to give more money back to the owners after a March agreement that they believe guarantees them a full prorated share of their salaries. Under that deal, players would receive slightly more than 50% of their agreed-upon salary over an 82-game season. MLB has disputed that agreement, believing that the language calls for a good-faith negotiation if games start without fans in the stands, which they would in early July under this deal.

    It"s not often you see a player decommit from the Minnesota Gophers football program but that is exactly what happened Monday as 2021 Gophers commit Albert Regis, a defensive line recruit, decommitted from the Gophers less than 24 hours after the Gophers received two new 2021 commits. Regis, from La Porte (TX) High School, originally committed to the Gophers on April 29th over the likes of Tennessee, Baylor, TCU, and others. He"s been gaining major steam on the national recruiting trail lately. Many who follow football recruiting closely, were seeing signs of a possible decommitment over the last week, when he started taking Minnesota recruiting pictures and bio"s off of social media. But coach P.J Fleck will try to find a way to make Regis reconsider his decision. Sam Jackson, another 2021 recruit, has committed twice to the Gophers, after needing time to confirm the Twin Cities as the place he wanted to be. Could Albert do the same? I wouldn"t put it past the coach that gets his players to get in the boat and row.

    With no minor league baseball games to be played, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are getting creative and diving into the hospitality business. The Blue Wahoos are the Class AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins that plays in the Southern League. Their stadium Blue Wahoo Stadium, starts at $1,500 a night (plus fees) on AirBandB. Up to 10 guests can stay at the stadium, with four bunk beds and a pair of queen sized beds available in rooms adjacent to the clubhouse. Visitors will have full access to the stadium, including the batting cages. Per the listing, "guests are welcome to hit from home plate, play catch in the outfield, run the bases, enjoy a picnic in the outfield, or find other creative uses for the field!" The clubhouse features "four leather couches, two flat screen TVs, a ping pong table, padded chairs and two large tables. Two bathrooms with showers are connected directly to the clubhouse." There are two more flat screens and a kitchenette in the bedroom. A Blue Wahoos staff member will remain on site throughout the stay to answer questions and provide security. The Blue Wahoos are co-owned by professional golfer Bubba Watson.

    Jay Paul

    Click here for audio

       

       

    Tuesday Sports

    05/25/2020

    Iowa is the only state that plays their high school baseball and softball seasons in May, June and July. This year is no exception with Governor Reynolds approving play. Schools will start practices next Monday with games getting underway on June 15th. Of course the games scheduled up to June 15 are lost. Most schools will play 15 regular season games leading up to district and state tournaments. As you might imagine with the pandemic things will look a bit different this season. Players can use dugouts only for games; during practices they must line up along the fence at least 6 feet apart. They are also encouraged to use their own equipment, such as bats and helmets, as much as possible. They can"t drink out of shared coolers. Schools must limit the use of bleachers for fans. Concession stands will be closed. Coaches must sanitize equipment before and after games and practice. Players are encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer. Coaches must ban spitting. Players will be encouraged not to touch their faces, something pitchers in both sports commonly do. Coaches may submit lineup cards before games electronically instead of meeting at home plate with umpires before the games.

    NASCAR suspended three critical crew members for Denny Hamlin's team because a piece of tungsten fell off his car on the pace lap before the Coca-Cola 600. The tungsten is required to meet minimum weight requirements on the car and the NASCAR rule book states that if it is separated at any point it is an automatic four-race suspension for the crew chief, car chief and engineer. Chris Gabehart, the crew chief, was suspended through June 10 along with car chief Brandon Griffeth and engineer Scott Simmons. Joe Gibbs Racing said it would not appeal the penalty and already had roster replacements for Wednesday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sam McAulay will be the crew chief, while Eric Phillips will be car chief and Scott Eldridge the engineer. The piece of ballast added to the car weighs 35 pounds and costs $1,877 from the supplier. It fell off the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota before the start of Sunday's race and Hamlin went to pit road for additional weight to be added back to the car. He didn't join the race until eight laps had been completed. He rallied to a 29th-place finish in the 40-car field.

    The NFL is planning for the best-case scenario when the season returns this fall including packed stadiums. Executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said the league is planning “to have full stadiums until the medical community tells us otherwise. Now remember we're talking about August, September. So there's a lot that can happen here. So we're planning for full stadiums. We also know that we have to plan for half stadiums, three-quarters. So we're planning for all of these different scenarios.” The NFL has been impacted by the spread of COVID-19 but not nearly as much as others in the sports community, which have seen entire seasons be suspended or canceled. Aside from a virtual draft and offseason training programs, the NFL has been able to maintain a level of normalcy during the pandemic. Just last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave all 32 organizations the go-ahead for limited reopenings of their training facilities as long as it is permitted by the state and local municipalities. Coaching staff and all players except those undergoing injury rehabilitation are barred from the facilities in the first phase of the league's plan. Several teams have opted out of reopening for the time being while others don"t have the option just yet.

    Jay Paul

    Click here for audio

       

       

    Memorial Day Sports

    05/25/2020

    Rain filled the South Florida air on Sunday, threatening to make a mess of The Match: Champions for Charity at Medalist Golf Club. But four sporting icons didn't let bad weather dampen what turned out to be an exciting, fun-filled exhibition that raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief efforts while highlighting the ups and downs of competitive golf. Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning prevailed 1 up over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in Hobe Sound, Florida, but the outcome never really mattered. Mickelson trash-talked, as did announcer Charles Barkley. Justin Thomas, the No. 4 player in the world, dished some dirt and offered some barbs while serving as an on-course reporter. Celebrities called in and offered challenge donations. Ultimately, after $10 million was pledged by the four players and Warner Media prior to the match, another $10 million was raised over the course of the afternoon via online and text donations and other pledges. Once the players got going, there was some excellent banter and good golf. All of the players were outfitted with custom golf carts, with cameras focused on their faces and microphones available for questions from the announcers. Woods got off a good shot at Mickelson when he was told to mark his ball on a green and quipped: "Do you want me to mark it with one of my U.S. Open medals?'' Woods has won the tournament three times; Mickelson, infamously, has six runner-ups in the championship but no victories. Manning was the most talkative, and Barkley had no problem dishing out as much abuse as possible.

    Brad Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson losing streak to 102 races, holding off the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday in the Coca-Cola 600. Keselowski started in the back of the field, worked his way to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway and gambled in not pitting when caution stopped Chase Elliott from winning with two laps remaining. Elliott pitted and Keselowski led a train of eight cars that stayed on the track. He lined up in front of Alex Bowman on the inside line with Johnson - retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season - on the bottom ahead of Keselowski teammate Ryan Blaney. It is the first win for Keselowski this season, his first Coca-Cola 600 victory and the first win at this event for Ford since 2002. Johnson had to settle for second in a Chevrolet, while Elliott rallied to third. The Sunday before Memorial Day is a supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar. The pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1's schedule and, like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend. A rain delay of nearly 90 minutes during the first stage of the race pushed the finish into Monday, but it still ended up just fine for Penske, the owner of Keselowski's car.

    The NBA has entered into exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about resuming its season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, in late July. It remains unclear whether the NBA will play the remainder of its regular season or proceed directly to the playoffs. But the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with three arenas and ample hotel accommodations, would allow the league to restart play while limiting outside exposure. The NBA has a board of governors call set for next Friday, which is expected to provide additional details for teams on a timetable and plan to proceed with the season. Teams are expecting the league to instruct them to start recalling players to their markets around June 1. The NBA is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the 2019-20 season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities and a two-to-three-week formal training camp. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, many NBA owners, executives and NBPA elders believe commissioner Adam Silver will greenlight the return to play in June - with games expected to resume sometime before the end of July.

    The National Hockey League Players' Association executive board voted to approve a 24-team, conference-based playoff format for a potential restart of the 2019-20 NHL season this summer. Under the plan, the top four seeds in each conference, as determined by their standings points percentage when the regular season was paused on March 12, would receive byes through a round of best-of-five play-in series featuring seeds 5 through 12. Those play-in series would determine which teams advance to a traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff bracket, which would have seven-game series. The next step is the NHL signing off on the NHLPA's approved format. A joint announcement on the format could come in the next few days. The NHL is expected to move forward on announcing plans for the NHL draft lottery and the draft itself after this playoff format is announced. It has not been determined when and how players will be able to return to their training facilities. Approval of the playoff format shouldn't be confused with the players' formal approval of the season restarting. It addresses only the structure of the postseason if teams return to the ice. There are still major issues on which the players and NHL have to find common ground, including where the games will be played and how players will be tested for COVID-19. Those top four teams in each conference won't sit idly by. The format calls for these teams to face one another to remain sharp ahead of the next round of the playoffs - which had been a concern from the players. The top four teams would essentially play some form of a round-robin tournament that would potentially reseed them before the round of 16. The Minnesota Wild are the 10th seed in the Western conference and will open the postseason at Vancouver in a best of 5 series.

    Jay Paul

    Click here for audio

       

       

    Memorial Day Sports

    05/25/2020

    Rain filled the South Florida air on Sunday, threatening to make a mess of The Match: Champions for Charity at Medalist Golf Club. But four sporting icons didn't let bad weather dampen what turned out to be an exciting, fun-filled exhibition that raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief efforts while highlighting the ups and downs of competitive golf. Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning prevailed 1 up over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in Hobe Sound, Florida, but the outcome never really mattered. Mickelson trash-talked, as did announcer Charles Barkley. Justin Thomas, the No. 4 player in the world, dished some dirt and offered some barbs while serving as an on-course reporter. Celebrities called in and offered challenge donations. Ultimately, after $10 million was pledged by the four players and Warner Media prior to the match, another $10 million was raised over the course of the afternoon via online and text donations and other pledges. Once the players got going, there was some excellent banter and good golf. All of the players were outfitted with custom golf carts, with cameras focused on their faces and microphones available for questions from the announcers. Woods got off a good shot at Mickelson when he was told to mark his ball on a green and quipped: "Do you want me to mark it with one of my U.S. Open medals?'' Woods has won the tournament three times; Mickelson, infamously, has six runner-ups in the championship but no victories. Manning was the most talkative, and Barkley had no problem dishing out as much abuse as possible.

    Brad Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson losing streak to 102 races, holding off the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday in the Coca-Cola 600. Keselowski started in the back of the field, worked his way to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway and gambled in not pitting when caution stopped Chase Elliott from winning with two laps remaining. Elliott pitted and Keselowski led a train of eight cars that stayed on the track. He lined up in front of Alex Bowman on the inside line with Johnson - retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season - on the bottom ahead of Keselowski teammate Ryan Blaney. It is the first win for Keselowski this season, his first Coca-Cola 600 victory and the first win at this event for Ford since 2002. Johnson had to settle for second in a Chevrolet, while Elliott rallied to third. The Sunday before Memorial Day is a supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar. The pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1's schedule and, like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend. A rain delay of nearly 90 minutes during the first stage of the race pushed the finish into Monday, but it still ended up just fine for Penske, the owner of Keselowski's car.

    The NBA has entered into exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about resuming its season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, in late July. It remains unclear whether the NBA will play the remainder of its regular season or proceed directly to the playoffs. But the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with three arenas and ample hotel accommodations, would allow the league to restart play while limiting outside exposure. The NBA has a board of governors call set for next Friday, which is expected to provide additional details for teams on a timetable and plan to proceed with the season. Teams are expecting the league to instruct them to start recalling players to their markets around June 1. The NBA is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the 2019-20 season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities and a two-to-three-week formal training camp. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, many NBA owners, executives and NBPA elders believe commissioner Adam Silver will greenlight the return to play in June - with games expected to resume sometime before the end of July.

    The National Hockey League Players' Association executive board voted to approve a 24-team, conference-based playoff format for a potential restart of the 2019-20 NHL season this summer. Under the plan, the top four seeds in each conference, as determined by their standings points percentage when the regular season was paused on March 12, would receive byes through a round of best-of-five play-in series featuring seeds 5 through 12. Those play-in series would determine which teams advance to a traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff bracket, which would have seven-game series. The next step is the NHL signing off on the NHLPA's approved format. A joint announcement on the format could come in the next few days. The NHL is expected to move forward on announcing plans for the NHL draft lottery and the draft itself after this playoff format is announced. It has not been determined when and how players will be able to return to their training facilities. Approval of the playoff format shouldn't be confused with the players' formal approval of the season restarting. It addresses only the structure of the postseason if teams return to the ice. There are still major issues on which the players and NHL have to find common ground, including where the games will be played and how players will be tested for COVID-19. Those top four teams in each conference won't sit idly by. The format calls for these teams to face one another to remain sharp ahead of the next round of the playoffs - which had been a concern from the players. The top four teams would essentially play some form of a round-robin tournament that would potentially reseed them before the round of 16. The Minnesota Wild are the 10th seed in the Western conference and will open the postseason at Vancouver in a best of 5 series.

    Jay Paul

    Click here for audio

       

       

    Weekend Sports

    05/23/2020

    Despite the state of Iowa allowing summer baseball and softball to be played, at least one school district will not be taking the field. The Belmond-Klemme school board voted Thursday to cancel summer sports despite the green light because Wright County has seen an uptick in recent days in positive coronavirus cases. As of Friday morning, the county had 77 positive cases. Teams can begin practice June 1 and games can begin June 15 and Power 96 sports is planning to be there for the Lake Mills and Northwood Kensett home games for both softball and baseball.

    The Big Ten is not expected to make a league-wide announcement on athletes returning to campus, leaving the decision to individual schools. The conference will defer to NCAA rulings and guidelines with each campus, state and local area. Illinois on Friday announced detailed plans for its athletes to return for voluntary activities beginning in mid-June. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters earlier this week that its athletes would begin returning to campus June 8th pending university approval. The Big Ten presidents will meet June 7 and discuss the fall sports season and other major topics. Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, in a videoconference with reporters Friday, said other Big Ten schools are putting together similar plans for athletes to return for voluntary activities in June. The conference, meanwhile, canceled its Big Ten Football Media Days, which was scheduled to take place July 22-23 in Chicago. The league is looking at alternate dates and format for the 49th annual kickoff luncheon, which includes autograph signings and other events with fans.

    Two of golf's greats and two football legends will tee it up, as Tiger Woods teams up with Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in an 18-hole match to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts on Memorial Day Caesars Sportsbook opened Tiger and Manning as the -175 favorites over Mickelson and Brady (+155) on May 11.

    The Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday gave management a wide-ranging response to a proposed set of protocols for a season to be played during the pandemic. Management had presented the union and the 30 teams the proposed draft on May 15. The union said Thursday it addressed: protections for high-risk players, access to pre- and postgame therapies, testing frequency, protocols for positive tests, in-stadium medical personnel and sanitization procedures. Players viewed many of the concepts in the original draft as over-the-top, such as arriving in uniform at the ballparks, a prohibition on players leaving without team permission and a ban on guests other than immediate family members. Players also objected to a ban on the use of showers and hydrotherapy. The union wants more frequent testing than management's proposed "multiple times per week." MLB is expected to make an economic proposal to the union within a few days. MLB hopes to start the season by early July.

    NASCAR races for the 3rd time in eight days, back in action Sunday at 5 from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

    DRIVER PTS WINS PB

    1. J Logano 224 2 -

    2. D Hamlin 201 2 23

    3. K Harvick 258 1 -34

    4. A Bowman 219 1 5

    5. C Elliott 192 0 32

    Jay Paul

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    Thursday Sports

    05/20/2020

    Denny Hamlin won NASCAR's first Wednesday race since 1984 when rain stopped the event with 20 laps remaining at Darlington Raceway. The Daytona 500 winner was out front but out of fresh tires and trying to hang on when he got unintended help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The reigning Cup champion caused Chase Elliott to crash eight laps earlier to bring out the caution. A furious Elliott waited for Busch on the apron of the track and flipped Busch the bird as he passed. As NASCAR cleaned the track, it started to rain and the cars were called to pit road under red-flag. After the race Busch immediately copped to the error saying, "There's no question I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap.” Meanwhile, a fox was scampering across the deserted track. It was a 1-2 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. Hamlin has won three times at Darlington and has two wins this season. The start of NASCAR's second race back during the coronavirus pandemic was moved up an hour because of poor weather, but that was then delayed nearly 90 minutes because it rained most of the day. NASCAR has an ambitious return plan of 20 races spanning its three national series between last Sunday's return and June 21. Spectators are not expected to be permitted to any of the events in this span. They"ll make the 2 hour drive to Charlotte for Sundays coca cola 600 at 5 our time and then a 310 mile race there Wednesday.

    The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to allow voluntary on-campus athletic activities to resume in football and men's and women's baske?tball, starting June 1. After the pandemic forced the shutdown of sports across the country, the council banned all on-campus athletic activities. That moratorium was set to expire May 31. On Wednesday, the NCAA revealed the decision, and its ensuing conditions, after a virtual meeting, while also saying the status of additional sports will be determined at another time, via electronic vote. Already, athletic directors are making plans to have athletes return to campus. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said on a teleconference Wednesday that the school would allow voluntary workouts to resume on June 8, pending university approval. Later Wednesday, Wyoming announced it will allow football and basketball players back on campus starting June 1, with proper conditions in place. Wyoming is allowing only a limited number to return, and those returning must complete a 14-day quarantine and take a coronavirus test before being allowed into any facility. They school will also provide masks and have frequent sanitizing procedures. SEC athletic directors are expected to meet with health experts on Thursday and then give a recommendation to university presidents and chancellors about whether they should begin a phased reopening or extend the moratorium on in-person, on-campus workouts. Other conferences, including the Big Ten and Big 12 are lining up similar calls. When student-athletes do return, they will find a new normal. Athletics officials are expected to lay out protocols to try and maintain a safe return, including small workout groups, maintaining social distancing, constant wiping down of equipment and the use of masks inside facility buildings. Many schools are making plans for a deep clean of their facilities before athletes return.

    Voluntary player workouts will be permitted inside the Minnesota Timberwolves practice facility starting Thursday morning. As with other NBA facilities that are reopening, Mayo Clinic Square will follow strict rules during the pandemic. Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said star center Karl-Anthony Towns has been "incredible through this whole process" despite the death of his mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, due to complications from the coronavirus on April 13. The Timberwolves plan to have a handful of players who are eligible to take part in Thursday's workouts. All precautions are being taken for players and staff to remain as healthy as possible, including a 45-minute workout limit, one coach and one player on the floor at a time with a 12-foot social distance, and masks being worn at all times, except for when players are on the floor. Dr. Robby Sikka, the Wolves' vice president of basketball performance and technology, said Tuesday that the team and the Mayo Clinic are spearheading a leaguewide study that aims to establish what percentage of NBA players, coaches, executives and staff have developed antibodies to the virus.

    Some players are hoping for tweaks to MLB's recent health-protocols proposal as discussions continue about how to safely restart during the coronavirus pandemic. Mostly, players want to know whether some in-stadium and clubhouse restrictions can be loosened based on the plan to frequently test players and staff for the virus. MLB's protocols inside team facilities call for major changes to previously normal routines. From no spitting - or even showering - allowed at the field, to no use of recovery equipment - such as hydrotherapy pools and cryotherapy chambers - many aspects of day-to-day life would change. Even team buffets could be banned. the crux of these players' argument: If everyone who will have contact with the players has tested negative - including the players themselves - why all the protocols? They argue the virus can't spread where it doesn't exist. Jessica Metcalf, an expert in infectious disease dynamics at Princeton University, explained that a risk remains because the tests are not perfect. Experts also say using the least invasive and quickest testing methods could bring false results. While some believe the in-stadium protocols will be tough to maintain, others are worried about the off-the-field regulations. The league is hoping for near-isolation on the road, but that might not be feasible. More than one agent expressed concerns about clients in their 20s.

    Jay Paul

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    Mid Week Sports

    05/20/2020

    Albert Lea High School athletic director Paul Durbahn announced the hiring of Paul Dunn as Tiger head football coach and as a social studies teacher at the high school. Dunn was head coach in Springfield, Minnesota for 18 seasons and had a record of 125-72. That"s a 63% winning percentage and an average yearly record of 7-4. He led the Springfield Tigers to the class A state championship in 2005, one of four trips to state fir Dunn"s teams. Dunn graduated from St. Ansgar high school where as a senior his team went undefeated and won the state title and he played for three undefeated Augustana college, Illinois football teams that won three national championships.

    After multiple board meetings over the past two months, the Southern Plains Football League, including the Albert Lea Grizzlies, made the decision to cancel its 2020 season due to the pandemic.

    NFL owners approved new measures Tuesday aimed at improving diversity in coach and front-office hiring, but they stopped short of approving a resolution that would have rewarded minority hiring with draft-pick compensation. The owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams' third-round draft picks by six or 10 spots if they hired a minority candidate for vacant GM or head-coaching openings, as well as other compensation for hiring minority candidates for such positions as quarterbacks coach. But on Tuesday's conference call - which took the place of the league's annual in-person May owners meeting - the resolutions involving draft-pick compensation were tabled, meaning no vote was taken and the proposals could be considered at a later date. The tabling of the draft-pick resolution often indicates that it did not have enough support to pass at this time, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that was not the case this time. The owners did, however, approve several new measures they hope will improve what they acknowledge has become an unacceptable record of minority hiring in positions of team leadership. For example, Teams will now be required to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job. Previously, the Rooney Rule had required teams to interview only one minority candidate for head coach and none for coordinator. The NFL changed its anti-tampering policy to relax the rules that have allowed teams to deny assistant coaches and executives the opportunity to interview for jobs with other organizations.

    At 5 O"Clock tonight Nascar races st Darlington again. This time a 500 miler as Nascar tries to fit 36 races into a smaller window by racing twice a week at some tracks. Kevin Harvick won a 400 mile race at Darlington this past Sunday.

    This date in history

    1948- Joe DiMaggio (New York Yankees) hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. It was the second time he hit for the cycle.

    1984- Roger Clemens got his first victory.

    1988- Mike Schmidt hit his 535th home run to move into 8th place on the all-time list.

    1991- Jeff Reardon got his 300th career save. He got 103 of them in a Twins uniform and also recorded the last three outs, and got the save, in game 7 of the 1987 world series against St Louis.

    1995– Twins outfielder Marty Cordova tied a rookie record when he recorded home runs in 5 consecutive games.

    2006- Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants) tied Babe Ruth for second place with his 714th career home run.

    2015- The NFL announced that extra points would be kicked from the 15-yard line starting with the 2015 season.

    Jay Paul

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    Tuesday Sports

    05/19/2020

    The Minnesota Twins signed injured left-hander Rich Hill in December with the expectation he"d miss a large part of the season. That was before the pandemic though so now the Twins might get a full season (or a full shortened season) out of Hill. The 40-year-old, who"s still recovering from the primary revision surgery said, “(I"ve) been able to make the most out of the situation so I"m right where I should be as far as rehab progression-wise, so if we do have a season, I should be ready to go when we kick off something of a spring training.”That means the Twins could get an entire season out of a hurler who has been one of the most effective starters in the majors on a per-inning basis since his out-of-nowhere breakout in 2015. Dating back to then, Hill has combined for a 2.91 ERA with 10.67 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9 in 466 1/3 frames as a member of the Red Sox, Athletics and Dodgers.

    The NHL has narrowed its list of potential venues to eight or nine sites that can accommodate "a dozen or so teams in one location" if the league resumes play this summer after pausing because of the pandemic.

    According to sources, roughly 15 markets submitted proposals to the NHL to become a hub city, including Las Vegas, Minnesota, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that fans have been "overwhelmingly" supportive of seeing a Stanley Cup being awarded in 2020, "because people have an emotional investment in this season already.” Bettman noted that in centralized locations, the NHL would likely play multiple games per day without fans. The league also needs ample hotel space and the ability to regularly test players and staffers. The NHL is sensitive to ethical concerns of procuring tests - especially the perception that the league is taking them away from the public. Last week, MLB reached a deal with a testing lab in Utah. The lab would provide coronavirus tests for roughly 3,000 baseball players and support staff but also provide thousands of tests to the public. In recent days, the NHL has shifted its focus to a 24-team field, which would include bubble teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks <https://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/chi/chicago-blackhawks> and Montreal Canadiens <https://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/mtl/montreal-canadiens>. The NHL and NHLPA's jointly appointed Return to Play Committee - which includes executives from both sides, as well as a handful of high-profile players - convened twice last week and kept communicating over the weekend. An un-named person on the committee said that he is "optimistic" they will be able to announce something soon. Bettman noted that there are other obstacles to returning to play, including the fact that 17% of players are currently outside of North America and would need to return. Many borders remain closed, including the U.S. and Canadian border, which is closed for nonessential business.

    Players are likely to be banned from using saliva to shine the ball by the International Cricket Council when the sport resumes after the coronavirus pandemic, but the application of sweat will still be allowed.

    The governing body's cricket committee heard medical advice that suggests it is highly unlikely coronavirus can be transmitted through sweat, but there is an elevated risk through saliva.

    NFL engineers and sports-equipment company Oakley are testing prototypes of modified facemasks that might contain surgical or N95 material, the NFL Players Association's medical director Thom Mayer said "there will probably be a recommendation" that the NFL use such masks to protect players from the coronavirus <https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/28871525/coronavirus-cancellations-reactions-sports> when the league returns to play. Mayer said he isn't sure exactly how the modifications would look, but he acknowledged that it is realistic to think the new designs could cover a player's entire facemask and that the engineers are working on everything such a design might entail. Oakley has experience designing durable eyeglasses that don't fog up for use by the military, Mayer said. Mayer also advised players who might have elevated risk factors to be aware of doing everything possible to prevent exposure to the coronavirus.

    The NBA's draft lottery won't take place today in Chicago as originally planned, but whenever it does happen, it is likely to look the same as it did last year. Since play was suspended March 11 teams at the top of the standings have been curious about the league restarting because they are in pursuit of a championship. For teams at the bottom of the standings, like the Timberwolves, the focus has been on what the lottery will look like. Although some will inevitably grumble about the order being determined by an incomplete regular season, the belief among several executives is that the lottery will remain as scheduled before the pandemic. Executives brought up several potential reasons that the lottery wouldn't be tweaked because of the unusual circumstances in which the league finds itself. One is the fact that every team in the league has played somewhere between 63 and 67 games - or more than 75% of its season, a representative sample. The teams with the worst three records, currently Golden State, Cleveland and Minnesota, are given 14% odds of winning the top pick, and the teams fourth through 13th in the lottery have their odds of moving up increased. In addition to the lottery, representatives from all 30 teams were scheduled to be in Chicago this week for the NBA's annual combine for draft prospects, an event that draws hundreds of people from around the league, as well as prospects and agents, for a week of scrimmages, medical testing and interviews. Although the league indefinitely postponed the combine, it is still moving forward with hopes of holding it at some point later this year. Last week, it sent a memo to teams asking them to vote for up to 70 players from a list of potential invites to the combine, just as they have in the past. Although the NBA draft hasn't been pushed back yet, the expectation is that regardless of what the league winds up doing, the draft will not be held next month. That will give the NBA more time to figure out the best way to hold the combine - if it is possible - later this year.

    Jay Paul

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    Monday Sports

    05/17/2020

    Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris has signed his franchise tender. By signing the tender, Harris will be paid a guaranteed salary of $11,441,000 for the 2020 season. Harris and the Vikings have until the July 15 deadline to agree to a long-term contract. Harris, who turns 29 on June 4, tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions during his breakout campaign in 2019 and totaled nine over the past two seasons, including a pick against Drew Brees in Minnesota's wild-card playoff victory in New Orleans on Jan. 5. The safety first saw his way onto the field via special teams and became a starter at safety opposite Harrison Smith in 2018, when injuries to Andrew Sendajo paved the way for Harris' opportunity. Harris entered the NFL in 2015 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Virginia. Injuries at the end of his college career and subsequent shoulder and hand surgeries limited what he could do physically early on in Minnesota. Times and dates have been set for all Vikings 2020 preseason contests. Minnesota is scheduled to open the 60th preseason in franchise history by hosting Houston at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. The Vikings will then visit Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 21 before heading to Cleveland for a nationally televised contest with the Browns at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30. Minnesota will close the exhibition slate by hosting Seattle at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3.

    Major League Baseball's ambitious return-to-play plans during the pandemic include processing upward of 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, overhauling stadiums and in-game settings to encourage social distancing, and rigorous rules intended to prevent against the spread of COVID-19. That would require a staggering amount of effort to complete before the league's hopeful mid-June return to facilities and early-July Opening Day. For now, it covers testing, travel, in-stadium adjustments, on-field changes and a wide array of other issues. Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still being negotiated. Players and other team personnel not participating in the game would sit in the stands, separated by at least 6 feet. They would apply the same distancing standards to the national anthem. High-fives, fist bumps and hugs would be prohibited under the plan, as would spitting, tobacco use and chewing sunflower seeds. Fielders would be "encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner'' between pitches. First- and third-base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires, and players should not socialize with opponents. A ball will be thrown away after it is touched by multiple players, and throwing the ball around the infield will be discouraged. Pitchers would have their own set of baseballs to throw during bullpen sessions, and personnel who rub baseballs with mud for the umpires must use gloves. Players would be discouraged from showering at stadiums after games and would not be allowed to take taxis or use ride-sharing apps on the road. Those who test positive would be immediately quarantined. The return from a positive test would require two negative tests, no symptoms and a go-ahead from team medical personnel. Players would be required to wear masks everywhere except on the field and during strenuous activities. Their activities outside the stadium would change, too, particularly on the road, where they would not be allowed to leave the hotel to eat at restaurants.

    The grandstands at Darlington were completely empty. There wasn't a single tailgate inside the track. Everyone wore face coverings - some with the team logos, others opting for plain disposable medical masks. It was nothing close to the corporate sponsorship, pomp and patriotic traveling circus that symbolizes NASCAR. But when the engines fired following a 10-week layoff during the pandemic, it turned into a regular old race. Kevin Harvick beat Alex Bowman to win NASCAR's first race back, a spectacle closely watched to see if the largest racing series in the United States could successfully get back to work. Teams were required to submit rosters in advance with only 16 members allotted per car. Names were on a list at a checkpoint at the end of a gravel road just off Harry Byrd Highway and everyone who passed through had their temperature checked and logged before they could enter. NASCAR did not have to turn anyone away, and all 40 drivers were cleared to race. NASCAR has declined to do COVID-19 testing to ensure those tests go to those in need. Alex Bowman, who signed a one-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports on Saturday, was second. Kurt Busch, winner of the closest finish in Darlington history, was 3rd. It was the 50th career victory for Harvick, in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. A previous winner at Darlington, Harvick led 159 of the 293 laps. Harvick tied Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 12th on NASCAR's all-time wins listNASCAR's elite Cup Series next races Wednesday night at Darlington, which is hosting three events in four days before the sport shifts to Charlotte.

    Rory McIlroy delivered the winning shot Sunday as live golf returned to television for a Skins game that revealed plenty of rust and raised more than $5 million for COVID-19 relief funds. McIlroy and Dustin Johnson who had not won a skin since the sixth hole, had a chance to win the final six skins worth $1.1 million on the final hole at Seminole in the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition. Both missed and they returned to the par-3 17th for a closest-to-the-pin contest. From a forward tee at 120 yards, Matthew Wolf was 18 feet below the hole. His partner, Rickie Fowler missed the green. Johnson found a bunker. Down to the last shot, McIlroy barely stayed on the shelf left of the pin, measured at 13 feet. The final carryover gave McIlroy and Johnson $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation. Fowler, who made seven birdies, and Wolff made $1.15 million for the CDC Foundation. Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian with big game and plenty of swagger, earned $450,000 toward relief funds by having the longest drives on two par 5s - 356 yards on No. 2 and 368 yards on No. 14. Fowler's seven birdies were worth $270,000 in a separate fund from Farmers Insurance, while McIlroy made four birdies worth $150,000 and Wolff had three birdies for $135,000. Johnson, who showed the most rust, had one birdie for $25,000. Next up is another exhibition match on May 24 down the road at Medalist, where Tiger Woods plays when home. Woods and Peyton Manning will face Phil Mickleson and Tom Brady in a match billed as "Champions for Charity" that will raise $10 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. The real show is to return on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. The tour has said it will not allow fans for at least a month, and perhaps longer depending on it goes. Players will have access to charter flights and a designated hotel.

    Jay Paul

    Click here for audio

       

       

    Monday Sports

    05/17/2020

    Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris has signed his franchise tender. By signing the tender, Harris will be paid a guaranteed salary of $11,441,000 for the 2020 season. Harris and the Vikings have until the July 15 deadline to agree to a long-term contract. Harris, who turns 29 on June 4, tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions during his breakout campaign in 2019 and totaled nine over the past two seasons, including a pick against Drew Brees in Minnesota's wild-card playoff victory in New Orleans on Jan. 5. The safety first saw his way onto the field via special teams and became a starter at safety opposite Harrison Smith in 2018, when injuries to Andrew Sendajo paved the way for Harris' opportunity. Harris entered the NFL in 2015 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Virginia. Injuries at the end of his college career and subsequent shoulder and hand surgeries limited what he could do physically early on in Minnesota. Times and dates have been set for all Vikings 2020 preseason contests. Minnesota is scheduled to open the 60th preseason in franchise history by hosting Houston at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. The Vikings will then visit Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 21 before heading to Cleveland for a nationally televised contest with the Browns at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30. Minnesota will close the exhibition slate by hosting Seattle at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3.

    Major League Baseball's ambitious return-to-play plans during the pandemic include processing upward of 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, overhauling stadiums and in-game settings to encourage social distancing, and rigorous rules intended to prevent against the spread of COVID-19. That would require a staggering amount of effort to complete before the league's hopeful mid-June return to facilities and early-July Opening Day. For now, it covers testing, travel, in-stadium adjustments, on-field changes and a wide array of other issues. Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still being negotiated. Players and other team personnel not participating in the game would sit in the stands, separated by at least 6 feet. They would apply the same distancing standards to the national anthem. High-fives, fist bumps and hugs would be prohibited under the plan, as would spitting, tobacco use and chewing sunflower seeds. Fielders would be "encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner'' between pitches. First- and third-base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires, and players should not socialize with opponents. A ball will be thrown away after it is touched by multiple players, and throwing the ball around the infield will be discouraged. Pitchers would have their own set of baseballs to throw during bullpen sessions, and personnel who rub baseballs with mud for the umpires must use gloves. Players would be discouraged from showering at stadiums after games and would not be allowed to take taxis or use ride-sharing apps on the road. Those who test positive would be immediately quarantined. The return from a positive test would require two negative tests, no symptoms and a go-ahead from team medical personnel. Players would be required to wear masks everywhere except on the field and during strenuous activities. Their activities outside the stadium would change, too, particularly on the road, where they would not be allowed to leave the hotel to eat at restaurants.

    The grandstands at Darlington were completely empty. There wasn't a single tailgate inside the track. Everyone wore face coverings - some with the team logos, others opting for plain disposable medical masks. It was nothing close to the corporate sponsorship, pomp and patriotic traveling circus that symbolizes NASCAR. But when the engines fired following a 10-week layoff during the pandemic, it turned into a regular old race. Kevin Harvick beat Alex Bowman to win NASCAR's first race back, a spectacle closely watched to see if the largest racing series in the United States could successfully get back to work. Teams were required to submit rosters in advance with only 16 members allotted per car. Names were on a list at a checkpoint at the end of a gravel road just off Harry Byrd Highway and everyone who passed through had their temperature checked and logged before they could enter. NASCAR did not have to turn anyone away, and all 40 drivers were cleared to race. NASCAR has declined to do COVID-19 testing to ensure those tests go to those in need. Alex Bowman, who signed a one-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports on Saturday, was second. Kurt Busch, winner of the closest finish in Darlington history, was 3rd. It was the 50th career victory for Harvick, in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. A previous winner at Darlington, Harvick led 159 of the 293 laps. Harvick tied Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 12th on NASCAR's all-time wins listNASCAR's elite Cup Series next races Wednesday night at Darlington, which is hosting three events in four days before the sport shifts to Charlotte.

    Rory McIlroy delivered the winning shot Sunday as live golf returned to television for a Skins game that revealed plenty of rust and raised more than $5 million for COVID-19 relief funds. McIlroy and Dustin Johnson who had not won a skin since the sixth hole, had a chance to win the final six skins worth $1.1 million on the final hole at Seminole in the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition. Both missed and they returned to the par-3 17th for a closest-to-the-pin contest. From a forward tee at 120 yards, Matthew Wolf was 18 feet below the hole. His partner, Rickie Fowler missed the green. Johnson found a bunker. Down to the last shot, McIlroy barely stayed on the shelf left of the pin, measured at 13 feet. The final carryover gave McIlroy and Johnson $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation. Fowler, who made seven birdies, and Wolff made $1.15 million for the CDC Foundation. Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian with big game and plenty of swagger, earned $450,000 toward relief funds by having the longest drives on two par 5s - 356 yards on No. 2 and 368 yards on No. 14. Fowler's seven birdies were worth $270,000 in a separate fund from Farmers Insurance, while McIlroy made four birdies worth $150,000 and Wolff had three birdies for $135,000. Johnson, who showed the most rust, had one birdie for $25,000. Next up is another exhibition match on May 24 down the road at Medalist, where Tiger Woods plays when home. Woods and Peyton Manning will face Phil Mickleson and Tom Brady in a match billed as "Champions for Charity" that will raise $10 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. The real show is to return on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. The tour has said it will not allow fans for at least a month, and perhaps longer depending on it goes. Players will have access to charter flights and a designated hotel.

    Jay Paul

    Click here for audio

       

       

    Weekend Sports

    05/16/2020

    The NFL is considering improving draft picks for teams that hire minority candidates as head coaches or general managers. Under the proposal, aimed at fixing diversity problems league-wide, a team could improve its third-round draft selection by up to 16 picks - going up 10 spots for hiring a minority candidate as general manager or an equivalent-level position and six spots for hiring a minority head coach. The proposal is expected to be addressed during Tuesday's virtual meeting with team owners. The proposal would need 24 of 32 votes in favor in order to pass. Also, losing minority candidates to other teams would earn draft capital - a third-round compensatory pick for a minority candidate leaving to become a head coach or general manager and a fifth-round compensatory pick to the former team for a coordinator hire. Among other diversity-related items being proposed Tuesday: removing a rule that allows teams to block assistant coaches from interviewing for other teams' coordinator positions, requiring multiple interviews of minority candidates for head-coaching positions, and expanding the Rooney Rule to include coordinator positions. The Tuesday meetings also will include medical updates on reopening team facilities, according to a source. A memo from commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday said teams could begin reopening facilities Tuesday, provided they meet a pre-established set of protocols and have permission under state and local regulations.

    The pilot flying Kobe Bryant and seven others to a youth basketball tournament did not have alcohol or drugs in his system, and all nine sustained immediately fatal injuries when their helicopter slammed into a hillside outside Los Angeles in January, according to autopsies released Friday. The reports by the Los Angeles County coroner's office provide a clinical but unvarnished look at just how brutal the crash was, describing broken bones, dismembered body parts and a stench of fuel on what remained of clothing that burned. Bryant had to be identified by his fingerprints after his body was found in the dirt outside the wreckage of the chopper. On January 26th the group, including one of his daughter's coaches and two of her teammates, encountered thick fog in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Zobayan, an experienced pilot who often flew Bryant, climbed sharply and had nearly succeeded in breaking through the clouds when the craft took an abrupt left turn and plunged into the grassy, oak-studded hills below. When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 184 mph and descending at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute. The impact caused a crater and scattered debris over an area the size of a football field in the Calabasas hills. Flames engulfed the wreckage, but burns on the bodies were determined to have occurred after death. Bryant's body was found on one side of the wreckage, and his daughter's was found in a ravine on the opposite side. The only drug in Bryant's system was Ritalin, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. A final report is not expected for months. Kobe"s widow Vanessa filed a lengthy lawsuit alleging that Zobayan was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight. She also has filed a claim, against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after deputies allegedly shared unauthorized photos of the crash site.

    Major League Baseball plans to hold the 2020 MLB Draft remotely. As of now, teams are not allowed to have draft rooms and will do all drafting via video conference. That could change as the draft date approaches. Day 1 of the draft will be June 10 at 6 PM and include the first round (37 picks). Rounds 2-5 (123 picks) will begin at 4p.m. the following day.

    After that, teams can sign an unlimited number of players for up to $20,000. Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson and Vanderbilt second baseman Austin Martin are the consensus top two prospects in this draft.

    NBA teams withheld more than $30 million from player paychecks on Friday, as players received their first salary reduction since the league and union agreed to a plan to temporarely cut pay by 25%. But six of the NBA's top 10 earners this season have already been paid in full and did not see a pay decrease Friday. Their salary reductions will come out of their advances for the 2020-21 season on Oct. 1 or beginning with their Nov. 15 paychecks. If the league cancels the remainder of the regular season and jumps right into the playoffs, players likely will see the 25% paycheck reduction increase as high as 40%. If the league cancels the entire season, including the postseason, players are projected to lose more than $1 billion in total salary.

    NASCAR is back in action Sunday (3:30 pm ET) at Darlington Raceway. It's been nine weeks since drivers turned laps during a live competition, with Darlington the first stop on a modified schedule that seeks to complete a full season by November. NASCAR has implemented format changes that will minimize the time spent at the track. Notably, the starting order has been set by a random draw based on owner points, as there will be no practice or qualifying preceding the race.

    Jay Paul

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    Friday Sports

    05/14/2020

    The 2020 North American Hockey League season unofficially began this week with the NAHL Supplemental Draft where the Austin Bruins selected three players including forward Jackson McCarthy, goaltender Hudson Hodges, and defenseman Ben Dexheimer. 17 year old defenseman Jackson McCarthy was taken18th overall. At 6-foot-2, 201-pounds, McCarthy is a big-bodied defenseman the Bruins will need to replace players that were lost this offseason like Josef Mysak, Jed Pietila, Chase Pilawski, and Jaden Shields. Then the Bruins went to the crease selecting goaltender Hudson Hodges out of Moorhead, MN, with the 32nd overall pick. the 18 year old goalie has spent the last three seasons with Moorhead HS The 6-foot-2, 174-pound netminder was the Frank Brimsek Award winner for the 2019-20 season which is handed out to the best goaltender in Minnesota State High School Hockey. For the third and final pick of the day, the Bruins went back to the blue-line selecting Ben Dexheimer out of Edina, MN. He"s a 17 year old defensemen who for the past two seasons played for the Blake School where he totaled 41 points in 49 games. Up next for the Bruins, the 2020 NAHL Entry Draft on July 21st. Bruins main-camp is scheduled to be held from July 28 to 31. Season tickets for the Bruins are available and on-sale right now. For more information or to register quickly and easily, head to the Bruins on-line registration form by visiting austinbruins.com/season-tickets

    Brad Keselowski celebrated his first pole win of the season - and perhaps the most memorable of his career - from afar. After waiting nearly a full hour Thursday evening, the Team Penske driver watched NASCAR's chief scorer, Kyle McKinney, finally pluck the No. 1 ball out of a random draw - giving the 2012 series champion the top starting position when the Cup season resumes Sunday at Darlington Raceway. Series officials split the drivers into three groups of 12 based on points, filling spots 1-12, 13-24 and 25-36 with a random draw. Without qualifications, practice runs or fans, those cars will line up on one of NASCAR's most prestigious tracks for the first major race since March. Ryan Newman will make his first start since a scary crash at the season-opening Daytona 500 and will start 21st. Two-time Daytona 500 winner and 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth will return after coming out of retirement to replace the fired Kyle Larson. He drew the No. 12 slot. Series officials say they have expanded the schedule to include 20 races between Sunday and late June - nine in the elite Cup Series.

    Wilson will begin manufacturing game balls for the NBA again starting with the 2021-22 season. Next season will be Spalding's 37th and final season in that role for the NBA. Wilson, the NBA's original manufacturer, will also provide game balls for the WNBA, the G League and, when it begins, the Basketball Africa League. The WNBA will switch to the Wilson ball in 2022. Leather used for the basketballs will continue to come from the same provider, and the new balls will keep the same eight-panel configuration and performance specifications as the ones currently used. NBA players will also have a role in approving, developing and refining the new ball.

    Jay Paul

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    Thursday Sports

    05/14/2020

    Joint practices have taken place twice in training camp during Mike Zimmer's tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. He has his concerns about holding any more. The Vikings have back-to-back road games in the preseason at Cincinnati and Cleveland. Zimmer said the pandemic, forced teams to alter their offseason program, the coach received interest from a couple of teams wanting to arrange practices together in the preseason. But that's a time when Zimmer wants to be focused on his team. In 2018, Minnesota hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two years prior, the Vikings traveled to Cincinnati, both leading up to preseason games, so Zimmer speaks from experience. NFL facilities remain closed indefinitely with no concrete date set for reopening as stay-at-home orders vary from state to state. Zimmer and his son, Adam, the Vikings' co-defensive coordinator, are spending their time quarantining together at the head coach's ranch in Kentucky.

    The NCAA announced Wednesday that it has extended indefinitely the deadline for college basketball players to withdraw from the NBA draft and retain their college eligibility amid the pandemic. The deadline was June 3, but Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball, said in a statement that it will be extended "with the health and well-being of our student-athletes in mind, along with their ability to make the most informed decisions during this uncertain time."

    Gavitt said in his statement that a new withdrawal date will be set once the league determines a timeline for the 2020 pre-draft process. The NBA has already postponed the draft combine, which gives potential draftees the opportunity to work out for teams in a group setting. The traditional deadline for withdrawing from the draft and maintaining college eligibility is 10 days after the combine. On May 1, the NBA board of governors voted to postpone the combine and the draft lottery, both set for May in Chicago. The league hasn't yet voted to delay the NBA draft set for June 25, but there is an increasing belief that it's just a matter of time before that happens. The league is still working on a plan for a potential resumption of play this season.

    With NASCAR set to resume racing with four Cup Series events starting this weekend, officials announced three races at other tracks that were being replaced in the 2020 schedule. The Chicagoland race, set for June 21, was reassigned to Darlington this Sunday; the Richmond spring race on April 19 will be replaced by the May 20 Darlington race; and the June 14 Sonoma race is now the May 27 Charlotte race. The Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 at Charlotte is keeping its traditional spot on Memorial Day weekend. NASCAR has said it still plans to run a full 36-race Cup Series season in 2020, and there has been a tentative schedule plan for June and beyond, made up primarily of classic Southeastern racetracks that are within easy driving distance of most teams' headquarters in the Charlotte area.

    Jay Paul

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    05/14/2020

    Joint practices have taken place twice in training camp during Mike Zimmer's tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. He has his concerns about holding any more. The Vikings have back-to-back road games in the preseason at Cincinnati and Cleveland. Zimmer said the pandemic, forced teams to alter their offseason program, the coach received interest from a couple of teams wanting to arrange practices together in the preseason. But that's a time when Zimmer wants to be focused on his team. In 2018, Minnesota hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two years prior, the Vikings traveled to Cincinnati, both leading up to preseason games, so Zimmer speaks from experience. NFL facilities remain closed indefinitely with no concrete date set for reopening as stay-at-home orders vary from state to state. Zimmer and his son, Adam, the Vikings' co-defensive coordinator, are spending their time quarantining together at the head coach's ranch in Kentucky.

    The NCAA announced Wednesday that it has extended indefinitely the deadline for college basketball players to withdraw from the NBA draft and retain their college eligibility amid the pandemic. The deadline was June 3, but Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball, said in a statement that it will be extended "with the health and well-being of our student-athletes in mind, along with their ability to make the most informed decisions during this uncertain time."

    Gavitt said in his statement that a new withdrawal date will be set once the league determines a timeline for the 2020 pre-draft process. The NBA has already postponed the draft combine, which gives potential draftees the opportunity to work out for teams in a group setting. The traditional deadline for withdrawing from the draft and maintaining college eligibility is 10 days after the combine. On May 1, the NBA board of governors voted to postpone the combine and the draft lottery, both set for May in Chicago. The league hasn't yet voted to delay the NBA draft set for June 25, but there is an increasing belief that it's just a matter of time before that happens. The league is still working on a plan for a potential resumption of play this season.

    With NASCAR set to resume racing with four Cup Series events starting this weekend, officials announced three races at other tracks that were being replaced in the 2020 schedule. The Chicagoland race, set for June 21, was reassigned to Darlington this Sunday; the Richmond spring race on April 19 will be replaced by the May 20 Darlington race; and the June 14 Sonoma race is now the May 27 Charlotte race. The Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 at Charlotte is keeping its traditional spot on Memorial Day weekend. NASCAR has said it still plans to run a full 36-race Cup Series season in 2020, and there has been a tentative schedule plan for June and beyond, made up primarily of classic Southeastern racetracks that are within easy driving distance of most teams' headquarters in the Charlotte area.

    Jay Paul

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    Tuesday Sports

    05/12/2020

    Major League Baseball owners approved a proposal that commissioner Rob Manfred plans to present to players today on a return-to-play scenario that aims to have baseball back in home stadiums by early July. Money is at the heart of the return. Owners, worried about big financial losses with fan-free stadiums, agreed in a conference call Monday afternoon to a plan that includes a 50-50 revenue split with the players. The MLBPA is almost certain to reject that element of the proposal and counter that a March agreement between the parties guaranteed players a prorated portion of their salaries depending on the number of games played. The ability to strike a financial deal could mean the difference between a baseball season and one that is canceled. Among the other vital points included in the proposal:

    1. An expansion of playoff teams from 10 to 14

    2. An 82-game season

    3. The use of home stadiums in areas that have local and state governmental approval

    4. A so-called spring training 2.0 that begins in June with a season set for early July

    5. A universal designated hitter

    6. Geographical schedules, in which teams play only in-division opponents and interleague opponents in a similar area (American League Central teams play only AL Central and National League Central teams). A 30-man roster with a taxi squad that would have upward of 50 players available. The season could start on Fourth of July weekend with games around the country in home stadiums. The intradivision-heavy schedule would be to limit travel - with teams possibly traveling by bus to nearby cities. Spring training likely would not include any games, as teams could get ready for the season at their home stadiums. The 50 playeJay Paulrs available would be a mixture of major leaguers and top minor league players, with the minor league season in jeopardy.

    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the consensus favorite to win the NFL MVP Award, with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on his heels. At Caesars Sportsbook, Mahomes is 4-1 to win what would be his second regular-season MVP award in the past three years. Jackson, last season's MVP, is 13-2 to win the award again this year at Caesars. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is next at 9-1, followed by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at 12-1. Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey at 40-1, has the shortest odds of any non-quarterback. The last non-quarterback to win the award was then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2012. Overall, 16 running backs have won the Associated Press NFL MVP, compared to 42 quarterbacks. No receiver has won the award. The NFL has had a run of long-shot MVPs, with four of the past five award-winners each having odds longer than 30-1, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Jackson won last year's award after being 40-1 in the preseason, and Mahomes was 35-1 to start the year when he won the 2018 MVP.

    Former NFL defensive line coaching great John Teerlinck has died at the age of 69. He coached for the Vikings from 1992 to 1994. Helping develop some of the NFL's best pass-rushers was a staple of Teerlinck's during his 23-year coaching career that included being a part of six teams and helping three of those teams win a Super Bowl. Thirty-one of the players Teerlinck coached were selected to the Pro Bowl. Teerlinck coached seven players - Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Chris Doleman, John Randle, Kevin Greene, Bubba Baker and Neil Smith - who had at least 100 sacks in their careers. Randle, Doleman and Greene are part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Randle, who finished his career with 137.5 sacks, had Teerlinck present him during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2010. Teerlinck started his coaching career at Iowa Lakes Community College in 1977 while also working at Eastern Illinois and Illinois before getting his first NFL job with the Cleveland Browns in 1989.

    Jay Paul

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    Monday Sports

    05/10/2020

    The Minnesota American Legion Baseball season has been cancelled for the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. American Legion Baseball programs across the country have shut down, resulting in team insurance being unavailable through the national Legion Baseball program. The national level last month canceled the American Legion World Series planned for August, and the national program announced last Friday it would provide no national-level support. With 357 teams signed up for 2020, Minnesota American Legion Baseball is the largest among the 50 states. Participation in Minnesota American Legion Baseball dates back 98 seasons to 1923, with the first state tournament in Mankato in 1926. But 2020 has broken a run that saw Minnesota as among only three states with that continuous string of tournaments.

    MLB is expected to make its first formal proposal to the union, likely on Tuesday, on how it envisions the season could be played. The most likely proposal would have spring training 2.0 start in June and last three weeks, with a 78-82-game season opening in early July. There are those in the game who are still holding out for 100 games with more doubleheaders, fewer off-days and even pushing the regular season into October. There would be expanded playoffs, no minor league feeder system for this year and enlarged rosters. Canada currently has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country so the Toronto Blue Jays would have to likely play its games in its spring home in Dunedin, Florida. MLB still has to demonstrate to the Players Association that it has a plan to keep players safe from the coronavirus. One way is to have 6 game series in each city, allowing a team to complete its season series against a club in that park and not have to travel back to that same site. MLB likely will propose the playoff system it was hoping to implement for 2022, which would expand from 10 to 14 teams with first-round byes for the teams with the best record in each league, the other division winners and one wild card would get to pick their opponent among the remaining playoff teams in the first round.

    , so I started trying to check them. Game changer.”

    Jay Paul

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    Mothers Day Sports

    05/10/2020

    The Minnesota American Legion Baseball Committee has canceled the 2020 season out of concerns for safety of players, coaches, umpires, fans and volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director of Minnesota American Legion Baseball Randy Schaub of Danube. “As much as we wanted to play this year, we cannot take chances with the players, coaches and fans.” American Legion Baseball programs across the country have shut down, resulting in team insurance being unavailable through the national Legion Baseball program. The national level last month cancelled the American Legion World Series planned for August, and the national program announced Friday, May 8, it would provide no national-level support. With 366 teams fielded in 2019 and 357 team signed up for 2020, Minnesota American Legion Baseball is the largest among the 50 states. Participation in Minnesota American Legion Baseball dates back to 1923, and the first state tournament was held in Mankato 1926. It has been held every year since then, and Minnesota was among only three states with that continuous string of tournaments. 2020 has broken that run.

    MLB is expected to make its first formal proposal to the union, likely on Tuesday, on how it envisions a season could be played, featuring roughly an 80-game regular season and teams playing exclusively in their regions. Commissioner Rob Manfred will hold a conference call with the 30 control people from the teams Monday to run through what is going to be presented to the union. The most likely proposal would have spring training 2.0 start in June and last three weeks, with a 78-82-game season opening in early July. There are those in the game who are still holding out for 100 games with more doubleheaders, fewer off-days and perhaps pushing the regular season into October, but one source described that as “a very optimistic, everything going right” scenario. There would be expanded playoffs, no minor league feeder system for this year and enlarged rosters. Canada currently has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country so the Toronto Blue Jays would have to likely play its games in its spring home in Dunedin, Florida. MLB still has to demonstrate to the Players Association that it has a plan to keep players safe from the coronavirus. In this proposal players would still have to travel by bus or plane and be housed in hotels. One way to minimize the travel is the potential to have series of as many as six games, allowing a team to complete its season series against a club in that park and not have to travel back to that same site. MLB likely will propose the playoff system it was hoping to implement for 2022, which would expand from 10 to 14 teams, allowing — among other items — first-round byes for the teams with the best record in each league, the other division winners and one wild card to pick their opponent and a first round with best-of-three series all played in the team with the best record"s home stadium.

    Denny Hamlin closed NASCAR's iRacing Series with a victory at a simulation of throwback North Wilkesboro Speedway. The Daytona 500 winner was instrumental in organizing his fellow Cup drivers for the invitational series that started after the series was suspended. Hamlin, who races barefoot on a top-of-the-line simulator, won the opening iRacing event on March 22. To win at North Wilkesboro on Saturday, Hamlin on four fresh tires chased down leader Ross Chastain and nudged him out of the way. Chastain retaliated by hitting Hamlin's car after the checkered flag. Hamlin closed the iRacing Series with two wins in seven races. William Byron led the series with three victories but did not compete Saturday. NASCAR is scheduled to resume racing next Sunday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, where the series will compete without spectators. NASCAR closed out its virtual series at North Wilkesboro Speedway, an original venue on NASCAR's schedule in 1949 that was abandoned after the 1996 season as NASCAR began to expand outside its southern footprint. NASCAR quickly pivoted from real racing when its season was suspended March 13 during the pandemic to the virtual platform. Its broadcasts set several esports viewing records for broadcast partner Fox, but the novelty wore off after Bubba Wallace was fired by a sponsor for rage-quitting a race and then Kyle Larson used a racial slur while on the platform Easter Sunday. He was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for the incident.

    Jay Paul

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    Fishing Opener

    05/09/2020

    As thousands of Minnesotans prepare to take to the lakes for Saturday's fishing opener, the Minnesota DNR has released guidelines for how to fish while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mother"s Day is Sunday, May 13, and fishing opener weekend doubles as Take a Mom Fishing Weekend. Mothers who are residents of Minnesota can fish without a license from Saturday, May 12, to Sunday, May 13. Fishing is allowed only for species that have open fishing seasons. There has been a huge rise in the number of fishing licenses being bought because, well, there are fewer recreational pursuits available during the Stay at Home order. With big numbers expected to hit the water and cast their lines for walleye, bass and northerns, the DNR has some advice that anglers should be aware of before heading out. The big one? Staying close–ish to home. A key tenet of the social distancing guidelines is that people don't venture too far afield, particularly to areas where there are fewer healthcare resources. Don't know what "close to home" means? This is what the DNR suggest to use as the criteria:

    No overnight stays.

    Bring all needed supplies with you.

    Only go as far as you can travel and return on a single tank of gas or single charge for EV drivers.

    The DNR is advising people to limit their trips to grocery stores and gas stations in rural areas, given that it increases the potential of transmission to local residents who use the same services. The fishing guidelines come in addition to the boating season guidelines, which state you should only boat with those in your household, and keep six foot distance from other boats at all times. You should also give those ahead of you plenty of time to launch or load their boat before approaching, and be prepared for water access sites to be different this year, with DNR-managed accesses not having had any spring maintenance, while courtesy docks won't be in place in some locations. The DNR is also advising people to buy their fishing licenses online to avoid crowding at license agents.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;

    Jay Paul

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    Friday Sports

    05/08/2020

    The 60th campaign in Minnesota Vikings franchise history will get underway at noon Sunday, Sept. 13 against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The border rivals have met to open six previous seasons, but this will be the first time that Green Bay has visited Minnesota on Kickoff Weekend. The Vikings have won all four home openers at the Bank. Minnesota is scheduled for just two prime-time games in 2020, including a Sunday Night Football contest at - you guessed it - Seattle in Week 5. The Vikings second prime-time matchup will be on Monday Night Football against the Bears at Soldier Field on Nov. 16. Minnesota also has a late afternoon game, starting with a 3:25 kickoff against the Cowboys Week 11. Minnesota will play in New Orleans at 3:30 Christmas Day, which is on a Friday this year. Minnesota has a Week 7 bye. After the Packer season opener the purple return home to host the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 and then head to Houston to face Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's former team in Week 4. The Falcons will visit the Vikings in Week 6 for a noon kickoff before the bye week. Coming out of the bye, Minnesota will play three consecutive games against NFC North opponents, visiting the Packers and hosting the Lions before facing the Bears in Chicago. Another date fans may want to circle on the calendar is Dec. 13, when the Vikings travel to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski with their new team.

    If the NFL needs scheduling help that science cannot provide for the pandemic and delays to the season's start eventually become necessary, sources around the league indicated that the Super Bowl could be pushed back by weeks or even a couple of months, potentially, while not having to make significant matchup changes to the regular-season schedule. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell warned teams on Wednesday in a memo sent to team presidents and executives that he doesn't want anyone engaging in any hypotheticals about the coming season. But he can't stop me from engaging in hypotheticals. Say the start of the season had to be pushed back four weeks -then the NFL simply could push the Super Bowl back four weeks. It then could take regular-season Weeks 1 through 4 and turn them into, essentially, regular-season Weeks 18, 19, 20 and 21. The league plans to open the season on Thursday night, Sept. 10, with defending champion Kansas City at home vs The Houston Texans.

    Jay Paul

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    Wednesday Sports

    05/05/2020

    For many, Minnesota's fishing opener is the beginning of summer—a day that roughly half a million anglers eagerly await each year. The fishing opener is sacred in Minnesota, especially for walleye anglers. For serious or even halfway-serious anglers in Minnesota, staying off the lake on the opener is a recipe for heartbreak, like a 10-year-old staying home on Halloween. Minnesota is the third most-popular inland fishing destination in the country. There are approximately 1.5 million licensed anglers in Minnesota, second only to the state of Alaska in resident fishing participation. The fishing opener usually corresponds with Mother"s Day. To keep the peace in fishing families, our state legislature passed the “Take a Mom Fishing Weekend” law in 1989, allowing Minnesota mothers to fish without a license on opening weekend. This year"s Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener was supposed to be May 7-10 in Otter Tail County, but has been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. In a state where walleye is king, many Minnesota anglers think of it as the walleye opener. But Saturday is the season opener for a number of species that reside in Minnesota waters, including northern pike, trout, and—in some areas of the state—bass. The season for sunfish, crappies, perch, channel catfish and a few less popular species is always open. For more information on fishing in Minnesota dial up mndnr.gov/fishing "http://mndnr.gov/fishing" on the interwebs.

    Baseball will be different this year and there is really no way around it. Divisions will be altered, the schedule will be shortened, and empty ballparks will become the new normal. While these changes are a necessity, MLB could use the current situation to permanently implement other changes and there are going to be more than a handful of fans upset with any alteration to the fabric of the game. Realigned divisions with intermingling leagues will probably result in all teams using a designated hitter this year. MLB has been talking about a universal DH for a while now. Also MLB is going to want to find ways to recoup some of the revenue from games lost in 2020, and expanding the postseason is one way to accomplish that goal. Every major sport has more playoff teams than the 10 qualifiers in MLB. The NBA and NHL each have 16 teams that qualify for postseason play while the NFL currently has 14 qualifiers. There could be a possibility to change to the NFL format. The top four teams have a first-round bye which increases the incentive for winning the division. And how about a nuetral site world series? They"re talking about it. Although for Twins fans, it would be hard to imagine the 1987 or 1991 World Series not taking place under the Metrodome"s Teflon roof. Minnesota"s home field advantage was real with noise levels reaching the decibel level of some fighter jets. The Twins never lost a World Series game in the Dome and one can imagine the team might not have two titles without their home field advantage.

    While planning to play a full regular-season schedule, the NFL has formulated a ticket refund plan for canceled games or those held without fans. In a memo sent to the 32 teams by commissioner Roger Goodell and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, a uniform baseline for full refunds on any tickets purchased directly from the clubs was prepared. Goodell wrote that "all clubs will have in place a policy under which, if a game is cancelled, or is played under conditions that prohibit fans from attending, anyone purchasing a ticket directly from the club (i.e., season tickets, group sales and/or partial season plans) will have the option of either receiving a full refund or applying the amount paid toward a future ticket purchase directly from the club." As for the secondary market, the league received pledges from Ticketmaster and SeatGeek to make full refunds available for all ticket sales within no more than 30 days of cancellation. StubHub, however, will do so only where required by state law. Each team will communicate directly with its fans over the next few days with specific details on potential refunds. The NFL ereleases the 2020 schedule Thursday night at 7. Sept. 10th is opening day with the first full weekend of games on Sept. 13-14.

    It was a year ago May 2nd that Gerson Rosas took over as the Minnesota Timberwolves decision-maker, since then only Karl Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie remain on the roster. For the wolves, not much will change if the season is played out or not. As of now, the Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers all have a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.. Minnesota can"t have worse than the seventh pick.

    1. 14%

    2. 13.4%

    3. 12.7%

    4. 12%

    5. 14.8%

    6. 26%

    7. 7%

    The Timberwolves also own Brooklyn"s pick, which would be the 16th pick if the season ended today. Minnesota"s second-round pick is 33rd overall. With those three picks, the Timberwolves have the most value in the draft, and it's not even close. What will Rosas do in the draft? He could use the top 7 pick and the 16th pick to trade for another star to pair with Towns and DeAngelo Russell. He trade back or keep all the picks. Either way it looks like the Wolves will be as busy at the draft as…the Minnesota Vikings were at theirs. The NBA draft lottery is set for May 19th and the draft itself is scheduled for June 25th.

    Jay Paul

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    Tuesday Sports

    05/04/2020

    Yesterday I said NFL teams have to sign top 10 first round picks to four year deals with a fifth year option. Actually ALL first round draft picks get the 4 year deal with a 5th year option possibility. For top-10 picks, the fifth-year option is equal to the salary of the league's transition tender during the player's fourth season. ... Beyond the initial 10 selections, the fifth-year option is the average of the third- to 25th-highest-paid players at the same position. I feel better now.

    The NFL will release its 2020 regular-season schedule Thursday night at 7. The 2020 schedule will not include international games because of the pandemic. Those games, two at Wembley Stadium that were to be hosted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, two at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to be hosted by the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins, and one in Mexico City to be hosted by the Arizona Cardinals will be played at U.S. stadiums instead. League spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed last week that the full 17-game schedule will be released - including a Sept. 10 opener and the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to keep buildings closed until every state in which a team resides lifts its stay-at-home mandate. Teams are conducting organized team activities virtually.

    You"ve probably heard that Don Shula, the long time Miami Dolphins head coach and before that Baltimore Colts head man, died at age 90 Monday. The winningest head coach in the history of the NFL. I would hope so he coached for 33 years! That got me to thinking about Bud Grant, the winningest Minnesota Vikings coach. He will turn 93 on May 20th. Gotta be the oldest nfl head coach ever.

    A majority of sports fans surveyed by ESPN said they are in favor of watching televised sports without fans rather than waiting for sports to resume only when fans can be in attendance. 65% were in favor of sports returning even if fans can't be in the stands. That approval number grew to 76% when participants were asked if they support the return of sports without fans in the stands if players were kept in hotels and their contact with others was closely monitored. 88% of study participants who consider themselves avid sports fans said they plan to watch as much sports as they can.

    ESPN ranked all 115 world series and the three Twins appearances did very well.

    The 56th best world series is the 1987 Twins win over the St Louis Cardinals in seven games. The home team won every game in this series, a fitting conclusion to a season in which the Twins went 56-25 at home (a .691 winning percentage) and 29-52 on the road (.358).

    The 32nd best world series ever is the 1965 Dodgers win over the Twins in seven games. Remembered for two things. One is Sandy Koufax sitting out Game 1 for Yom Kippur, an incredible statement of the "it's just a game" truth we all strive to keep in mind. The other is Koufax's pitching in Games 2, 5 and 7: one earned run allowed in 24 innings, with 29 strikeouts and a shutout in the clinching Game 7.

    And the 1991 Twins win over the Atlanta Braves in seven games is the second best world series ever. Tom Kelly wanting to pull Jack Morris before the 10th inning of Game 7. Morris saying no way and Kelly consulted the pitching coach Dick Such, who said Morris might as well keep going. Kelly said, “OK, It's just a game." And the only series to beat it was 1975: Reds over Red Sox in seven.

    A short training clip of Mike Tyson recently went viral, and according to the man who was catching the former champ's punches, the iconic heavyweight still has some fight left in him at age 53. Trainer Rafael Cordeiro said, "He hasn't hit mitts for almost 10 years. So I didn't expect to see what I saw. I saw a guy with the same speed, same power as guys 31 or 22 years old. Their sessions range between 60 and 90 minutes, with Tyson doing his physical conditioning with another coach. At this stage they are between five and seven rounds on the mitts, with Tyson starting off slowly, then building momentum as he gets revved up. Cordeiro said he believes that within six months Tyson could make a successful comeback as a boxer. Where this goes, nobody except Tyson himself has any idea. But wouldn"t it be something go see him make a comeback?

    Jay Paul

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    Monday Sports

    05/03/2020

    A trio of former teammates whose lockers lined up at Boise State will now share a locker room in Minnesota. After drafting running back Alexander Mattison in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Vikings added another pair of Broncos last weekend by drafting tackle Ezra Cleveland (58th overall) and signing defensive tackle David Moa as an undrafted free agent. And they're not the only ones with friendly ties on the team. Because the Vikings have five former Oregon Ducks on their roster. Minnesota drafted wide receiver Dillon Mitchell in the seventh round last year, in December signed running back Tony Brooks-James to the practice squad and in January inked receiver Bralon An to a futures contract. Then they drafted Troy Dye, their lone linebacker selection of the draft, in the fourth round. Tackle Brady Aiello joined the team shortly thereafter as one of their 12 undrafted free agents. And last but not least, two of the Vikings rookies share not only an alma mater but also a last name. After drafting Baylor defensive tackle James Lynch 130th overall on Saturday, Minnesota added Bears linebacker Blake Lynch as an undrafted free agent. Blake mentioned another unique tie to Vikings cornerback Kris Boyd, whom he played with at Gilmer High School (Texas). He and James also teamed with fifth-round draft pick Harrison Hand at Baylor before Hand transferred to Temple.

    The top ten draft picks in the NFL generally make more money than other players. The lower draft picks get shorter contracts with very little if any money guaranteed. But teams have to sign top 10 first round picks to four year deals with a fifth year option. The player makes the average of the top 10 players in the league at their position in that 5th year or the team could sign them to a long term, big money deal with lots of guaranteed money. This coming season half of the top ten first round picks from 4 years ago are not getting their 5th year option from teams this summer and will become free agents after their fourth year this season. That includes 2nd overall pick QB Mitchell Trubiski of Chicago, 3rd overall pick. DL Soloman Thomas of San Francisco, 4th overall pick Leonard Fournette of Jacksonville, 5th overall pick. Wide receiver Corey Davis of Tennessee and 9th overall pick, receiver John Ross of Cincinnati. The Vikings didn"t have a first round pick that year but chose running back Dalvin Cook in the 2nd round. He"s entering his 4th season and without an extension will become a free agent after this season.

    The NHL and NBA could face another hurdle if the league decides to continue the 2019-20 season in the near future - getting non-Canadian resident players across the border to join their teams. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that players would - at a minimum - need to follow quarantine protocols if they were to arrive in Canada while the border remains closed due to the pandemic. Trudeau said, "Certainly at a strict minimum, anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner.

    The Swiss hockey federation says it won't seek to host the 2021 men's world championship after losing this year's event because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 championship had been due to start next week in Zurich and Lausanne. It was canceled in March. Swiss officials said they had talks with the International Ice Hockey Federation and 2021 worlds co-hosts Belarus and Latvia about Switzerland taking its turn next year. That has now been ruled out. The Swiss federation says the financial risks were too great and there is no guarantee the coronavirus outbreak will allow the next championship in May 2021. Switzerland hopes to host again in the coming years, but the IIHF has already allocated world championships through 2025.

    Jay Paul

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    Sunday Sports

    05/03/2020

    Charlatan romped to victory by six lengths in the first division of the Arkansas Derby, and Nadal won the second division, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a sweep on Saturday when the Kentucky Derby was postponed. The 146th Kentucky Derby usually would have dominated the first Saturday in May, but it was pushed back to Sept. 5 by the pandemic. Instead, 18 3-year-olds ran in two divisions of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, each worth $500,000. Each race was worth 170 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, including 100 to the winners. It was the first time since 1960 that the race was split. No fans were allowed because of the pandemic on a day that would have been the biggest of the season at Oaklawn.

    Secretariat, the 1973 triple crown winner, won a virtual Kentucky Derby against 12 fellow Triple Crown winners. The 1¼-mile race featuring computer-generated imagery was held Saturday, the same day the 146th Derby had been scheduled, until it was postponed by the pandemic. Secretariat was the 7-2 favorite, although there was no wagering. Instead, fans selecting the winning horse online were entered to win a VIP experience at the Derby this fall. Churchill Downs pledged to match $1 million in fan donations to COVID-19 relief. A virtual Seattle Slew, who won the 1977 Triple Crown, led much of the way until being overtaken down the stretch. Citation, the 1948 Triple Crown champion, finished second. Seattle Slew was third. Affirmed, the 1978 champion, was fourth, followed by American Pharoah. Also in the race were 1946 champion Assault, 1919 champion Sir Barton, 1930 champion Gallant Fox, 1937 champion War Admiral, 1941 champion Whirlaway, 1943 champion Count Fleet, 2018 champion Justify and 1935 champion Omaha.

    The NFL will release its 2020 schedule late next week without any major changes including a Sept. 10 opener, the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 and visions of fans in the stands. The league has evaluated contingency plans should the pandemic intensify, working in conjunction with the NFL Players Association and medical experts on a set of protocols. One of those contingencies is delaying the season until mid-October. Empty stadiums and no bye weeks have long been discussed. One option not on the table is gathering players at a centralized location to execute a season. The NBA and Major League Baseball have discussed playing at a neutral site such as Walt Disney World, Las Vegas or Arizona, but the NFL doesn't plan to do that.

    The sudden disappearance of sports will erase at least $12 billion in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs, an economic catastrophe that will more than double if the college football and NFL schedules are wiped out this fall by the pandemic. The numbers include everything from the price of a ticket and a hot dog to the money you spend taking your daughter to an out-of-state soccer tournament. For example, the crisis stands to wipe out more than $3.25 billion that fans would have spent on pro sports. It would erase nearly $371 million in wages - approximately 20 million hours - for ticket takers, beer vendors and other stadium and arena employees. At least $2.2 billion of national TV revenue would be lost, as well as up to $2.4 billion in tourism related to youth sports.

    Jay Paul

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