Football on Field

Alabama’s DeVonta Smith Wins Heisman Trophy 

DeVonta Smith had a killer season playing as wide receiver for Alabama’s Crimson Tide, so much so that he has been rewarded with this year’s Heisman Trophy. Up against fellow teammate Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and Florida’s Kyle Trask – all phenomenal players who had amazing seasons even though they had to endure playing a season in the middle of a global pandemic – Smith’s win of the trophy was thought to be a relatively unanimous, and unexpected,  decision. 

Smith received a total of 1,856 points, giving him a comfortable lead over Lawrence, who won second place with 1,187 points; Jones received 1,130 points and Trask 737. After Smith was announced the winner he spoke with some press to thank his teammates and praise them for helping him have such a successful season. He also wanted to offer some inspiration for any young football fans who may be watching at home:

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“To all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest: just keep pushing because I’m not the biggest. I’ve been doubted a lot just because of my size. And really it just comes down to if you put your mind to it then you can do it.”

Smith’s win is actually quite unexpected in the realm of college football. Before this season Smith was always a good player, but never one that really stood out when compared to his fellow teammates. The last time he made college football headlines was his freshman year when he caught a pass from Tua Tagovailoa during overtime, securing Alabama with a national title win against Georgia for the 2017 season. 

Even at the beginning of his senior year season, Smith was initially overshadowed by teammates Jones, running back Najee Harris and fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle. However, when Waddle was injured back in October during a game, Smith had to take on the role of being the go-to receiver for his team. Within the three games that followed Waddle’s injury Smith caught 27 passes for 518 yards and eight touchdowns. 

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However it was the way that Smith carried this success streak into the end of the season that secured him with the Heisman Trophy. In the game against LSU Smith carried out 231 yards and three touchdowns, and when he gave his team two touchdowns in the SEC title game against Florida, securing their unbeaten streak, voters knew that Smith was the one who should receive the trophy this year. 

In total, Smith had 1,511 receiving yards by the end of the season and 17 touchdown catches in the regular season. He’s only the seventh player in history to receive the award without primarily playing the season as the quarterback or running back; he’s the first receiver this century to receive the trophy as well. 

Overall, Smith played an amazing season as Alabama’s wide receiver, but he remained humble when accepting the trophy and praised his teammates for remaining so strong within his four years at Alabama: “I thank my teammates, with team success comes individual success so without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today, winning this award.”

Coronavirus Vaccine in Doctors Hands

NBA Commissioner Claims League Won’t ‘Jump The Line’ For Covid-19 Vaccines 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver claimed this Monday that players and staff members of the league won’t be “jumping the line” to get Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the individuals that are set to receive them first. Silver was speaking with ESPN on a conference call when he made the statement, stating that players in the league, and any sports league, are pretty low priority in terms of individuals who should be vaccinated within the first rounds of distribution. 

“For the most part, because our players are so young and healthy without some sort of comorbidity, they will not be a high priority for vaccinations. There are some other members of the NBA community working on court who are older and will have a higher priority to get the vaccine,” Silver explained, adding that instead the NBA will spend their time urging individuals who can get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

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“We will likely be part of some public service campaigns, we already talked to the CDC about that, encouraging people to get vaccinated when it is appropriate. But up until then, we will just be watching and waiting.”

The NBA is still set to kick off the 2020-21 season this Tuesday and will conduct the scheduled 72-game regular season as planned. The Covid-19 pandemic is still raging out of control in America, and without the same bubble method that the league used for the playoffs, however, there’s no telling how long the season will actually last in a normal context. More than 50 players for the NBA have already tested positive throughout their training camps during preseason. 

The Food and Drug Administration has now approved of two different vaccines for the fight against Covid-19. Both vaccines have begun distribution throughout the nation; President-Elect Joe Biden received his vaccine publicly on Monday morning. 

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Silver went on to explain how even if they wanted to, the league has no power in terms of enforcing their players to get vaccinated. Still, he doesn’t believe that will be a major point of contention, as most players are ready to get back into jam-packed arenas and are willing to get vaccinated whenever they can. 

“As time goes on, I think more people will recognize the importance of getting vaccinated and, again, not just for themselves, this is a conversation we’ve already begun with some members of the NBA community.” 

“I think part of it will be a public information campaign, and I’m also hoping that as more people get vaccinated it increases the public’s confidence in the vaccine and the testing protocols they’ve undergone thus far in order for the government to in essence verify it is safe. But for young, healthy people, while it’s still an incredibly serious disease, they tend to do better than older people, or people with underlying conditions. So, for our players, the reason to get vaccinated may not be to protect themselves. It may be to protect their parents, their grandparents and other members of the community,” Silver continued.” 

For now, only time will tell when major sports leagues in America will be able to return to a full sense of normalcy; just like the rest of the world. Players and staffers in the meantime will be using their platforms to encourage fans to follow all proper health and safety procedures, as well as get vaccinated when the time allows so we all can join together and enjoy basketball once again when the time comes.

Basketball Court

NBA And Microsoft Team Up To Bring Fans Courtside Virtually

As professional competitive sports in America slowly make their way back to our television screens, many are unsettled by the sight of their favorite teams playing in front of empty crowds. Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, all mass gatherings have been put to a halt, prompting all sports to essentially shut down. Now, sports are able to exist again, just in a much more condolences fashion. 

The NBA has heard their fans and as they gear up to restart the 2020 season on July 30th, they came to the agreement with tech-giant Microsoft that fans needed to be present at every game, just in a much safer and distanced way. Microsoft and the NBA announced this week that it would be using new technology to project more that 300 basketball fans onto 17-foot tall video screens that will be courtside during all games. 

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The fans will be able to interact with each other as well, allowing them to feel like they’re really sitting next to a bunch of other fans during the live games. Sara Zuckert is the NBA’s head of next generation telecasting, and recently spoke with the media about this new fan experience. 

“Our goal is to create an enjoyable and immersive experience where fans can engage with each other and maintain a sense of community as we restart the season under these unique and challenging circumstances.”

The specific feature from the Microsoft team is known as “together mode” and it was initially released in the beginning of July as a feature for remote workers to make meetings more engaging, allowing everyone to “focus on other people’s faces and body language, making it easier to pick up on non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction.” 

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Microsoft claims that Together Mode uses AI technology to put all video chat participants in the same setting by giving everyone a shared background. The company claims this makes it easier for everyone to feel as though they’re in the same space as one another. In this case, that space will be a basketball arena, and the NBA claims that the chosen fans will be able to impact visual effects within the arenas themselves through “virtual cheering” and different graphics and animations to motivate the players. 

As we know, the NBA is using the “bubble strategy” to resume their season and protect all players and NBA staff members from potential Covid-19 infection. 22 teams are projected to play a total of 88 games, after which 16 will move on to the playoffs. Once eight teams remain, friends and families will be able to join and watch in person on the sidelines. 

Major League Baseball is looking into similar technologies to bring the same level of fan-energy to their arenas as they continue with their recently restarted 2020 season. As of right now the MLB is offering their fans the ability to buy cardboard cutouts of themselves to place in the stands for a more visually appealing game. 

Initial pictures of the new NBA fan format has a lot of individuals online criticizing the “dystopian” aspect of having what looks like a giant zoom meeting going on during basketball games, however, during uncertain times finding new ways to enjoy normal past times is what we all have to adjust to.

Basketball Hoop

NBA Players Have Mixed Reactions To Being In Disney World Bubble

NBA players have been in the Walt Disney World “bubble” for almost a week now and many of them are less than enthused to be living in an isolated hotel in preparation for the 2020 season. Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, for example, made an Instagram post after being in the bubble for less than 24 hours that showed a picture of what looked like uncooked chicken. He captioned the post “This ain’t it, I’m about to starve out here in Orlando,” setting the tone for many other players’ reactions to being locked away and isolated from the world. 

The league is set to fully relaunch on July 30th, but many players are arriving early for pre-season/ to remain isolated for two weeks ahead of the season to make sure they’re healthy enough to play. The first game is set to be between the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans. All players must receive two negative Covid-19 results that are 24 hours apart before they’ll be able to leave their hotel rooms. 

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NBA spokesperson Michael Bass recently spoke to the media about the specifics of the living conditions within the bubble as time progresses:

“After clearing quarantine, players will also have access to various restaurants on campus and delivery options to choose from … There is never a shortage of food options – players can always request additional food by speaking with their team nutritionists.”

Many players besides Harrell have also been documenting their Disney Hotel journeys upon arrival. Some have shared more positive sentiments, showing off their stellar views and elaborate room setups, but for the most part, the posts have seemed relatively negative. Many players have been adamant about the lack of quality food and Wi-Fi making it difficult to contact their loved ones back home. 

One of the most viral posts came from Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyrus Jones who posted a photo of a dead cockroach in his room, along with a plate of food many have been describing as “airplane quality.” 

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These posts emulate a massive conflict that all major sports league players are facing in the coming months. Is the sacrifice to provide professional sports entertainment to the public in the middle of a global health crisis really worth it? Many have made the comparison to television and movie studios in Hollywood shutting down all production indefinitely to the major leagues, claiming that professional sports require the same level of person-to-person interaction as recording a scene for a TV show, so why are they continuing to play? Disney World is also located in Florida, which has become one of the world’s new epicenters for the virus. 

Major League Soccer kicked off their season this past week, but has also had two teams pull out of the season after players tested positive for Covid-19. The separation of players and the world within these bubbles is also taking a psychological toll on players already, as many will likely not be able to see their loved ones again for at least 50 days depending on how the season progresses and if there’s any new case numbers within the bubble. 

In the bubble, players are required to remain isolated, will be tested daily for the coronavirus, and policies such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing are still required.

Baseball on Mound

MLB’s Ian Desmond Opts Out Of 2020 Season With Powerful Message On Racial Justice

Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond is opting out of playing the upcoming shortened MLB season amid coronavirus concerns and the national movement for racial justice in America. Desmond recently made a statement on his Instagram in which he detailed how racism has impacted him in his personal life, and within the professional sports world as well. Desmond believes that the MLB needs to have just as much of a confrontation with racism as the rest of the country. 

Desmond has been playing for MLB for 11-years and has been playing for the Rockies for the past three seasons as a part of a $70 million five-year contract. In his Instagram statement, he claimed to be inspired to speak out and use his platform to discuss his experiences with racism after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. In his post, he detailed how much of his life has been shaped by systemic racism. 

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He recalled how in grade school the administration held a meeting for white families to tell them that Desmond and his sister would be enrolling. He then went on to discuss how his high school team often chanted “white power” ahead of games, which brought him into his experiences within MLB. 

“When I reflect on it [MLB career], I find myself seeing those same boxes. The golden rules of baseball — don’t have fun, don’t pimp home runs, don’t play with character. Those are white rules. Don’t do anything fancy. Take it down a notch. Keep it all in the box.”

He recounted hearing multiple racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes in clubhouses and discussed how there are very little black managers and players in MLB; an issue Desmond doesn’t personally believe anyone is actively trying to fix within the industry. 

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Desmond knowingly forgoed his salary by opting out of the season, and MLB has fully supported his decision, as they’ve been fairly back-and-forth about restarting the season in general. Desmond, however, claimed that he will still be spending the season on a baseball field, just with some smaller players. He’ll be working with his hometowns Little League players to get the teams “back on track” for the summer. 

“With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now.  Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.”

Desmond is not alone in opting out of playing the upcoming shortened MLB season, which is projected to resume on July 23rd. Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross recently gave statements through their managers that they wouldn’t be playing, along with Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed pitcher Mike Leake. All players also claimed that family played an obvious major role in their decision. 

As previously mentioned the 2020 MLB season is set to begin on July 23rd or 24th and will last for 60 games.

Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving Among Players Refusing To Play 2020 NBA Season Amid Covid-19 And Social Justice Movements

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is leading a player movement to skip the NBA’s restart of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic and multiple protests regarding issues of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.