For the last 15 years, Nigeria has wallowed in soccer mediocrity — an ignoble plight for the most populous country on a continent that covets the sport. That changed Sunday when the Super Eagles won the Africa Cup of Nations, defeating Burkina Faso, 1-0.The win touched off an enormous celebration in Lagos, where thousands of delirious fans had gathered to watch the final moments of the tournament at Teslim Balogun Stadium.“We went there, we conquered,” a man who called himself Baba Daniel said to the Associated Press. “We fly; we are an eagle.”Once, Nigeria was a soccer stalwart. However, it turned quickly and badly for the Super Eagles. They have gone 13 years without a victory in the World Cup. It did not even qualify for the 2006 tournament. It was so bad that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said he would not allow his country’s national teams to compete because of their substandard results.But FIFA, the sport’s governing body, said it would ban the team over political interference, and Jonathan acquiesced just before the deadline. Then there was a quartet of federation officials charged with corruption after allegations they embezzled money from the team’s tournament funds in South Africa. In short, it was a mess.All that made the win Sunday that much more significant.“President Jonathan urges all Nigerians to imbibe the positive lessons of the Super Eagles’ success because the fulfillment of the country’s immense potentials for greatness will be more speedily attained if more Nigerians resolve to emulate the team’s exemplary unity,” Jonathan said in a statement as Nigeria captured its third African Cup of Nations.“I don’t know how to just express myself,” Daniel said to the AP, “but I’m so flabbergasted. I’m so happy.”The win was a reprieve, if only briefly, from that country’s struggles through a bloody Islamic insurgency, debilitating poverty, sparse electricity and other spirit-stifling challenges.“I’m a proud Nigerian,” fan Cynthia Ejimnkeonye said to the AP. “I love this country with my last blood.”
The most anticipated matchup of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs might be the Atlanta Falcons’ No. 1 scoring offense against the Seattle Seahawks’ No. 3 scoring defense. But the game between the two teams may be decided when the ball is in Russell Wilson’s hand.When the two met in Week 6, the Seahawks edged the Falcons in Seattle, 26-24. But both teams have played a lot of football since then, and though Wilson has already led the Seahawks to eight playoff wins in his young career, he might not have enough talent around him to go into the Georgia Dome on Saturday and end the Falcons’ season.The most obvious change to either team has been the Seahawks’ loss of safety Earl Thomas; his five-year Pro Bowl streak ended when he missed five of the Seahawks’ last six regular-season games with injuries. With him patrolling the backfield, the Seahawks allowed just 16.4 points per game. In the Seahawks’ five regular-season games without him, opponents averaged 22.4 points, including 34 points in a home capitulation to the already-eliminated Arizona Cardinals.But as much as the Seahawks have missed Thomas, it is their offense that has struggled with explosiveness and consistency all season. The 26-6 final score of last week’s wild card game against the Detroit Lions might make it look as though the Seahawks are back to business as usual. But going into the fourth quarter the score was just 10-6.While the Seahawks’ offensive line earned praise for its dominant run-blocking performance against Detroit, it also allowed slumping Lions pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah to register two sacks, as many as he tallied throughout the regular season. The Seahawks will have a much tougher task on Saturday when they face the Falcons’ Vic Beasley, who had 15.5 sacks in the regular season.Tailback Thomas Rawls set a franchise playoff rushing record against the Lions, but going into the rematch with the Falcons there’s little depth behind him. Christine Michael, the Seahawks’ top rusher in the first Atlanta game, now plays for the Green Bay Packers. Head coach Pete Carroll told reporters that C.J. Procise, who has been out since Week 11 with a shoulder injury, will be a game-time decision; fifth-round rookie Alex Collins would be the only option behind Rawls if Procise can’t go.Between Michael, tailback C.J. Spiller and receiver/returner Tyler Lockett, 43 percent of the Seahawks’ 333 total yards in Week 6 were produced by players no longer on the Seahawks active roster, and the Falcons still outgained them 362-333 in that game. Wilson targeted wideouts on just 43.2 percent of his attempts; according to Pro Football Reference’s charting, he attempted only two passes deeper than 14 yards all day. He threw no touchdowns.The lack of deep passing that day was partly by design, to keep opposing pass-rushers off the banged-up Wilson.“We’ve been careful in how we would expose Russ,” head coach Pete Carroll later told the team’s official site. “He was begging us to do more and all that, but we were trying to do the right thing by him, and he was doing phenomenal things just to play for the last two months.” But Wilson’s adjusted yards-per-attempt didn’t increase meaningfully after that interview.Though three rushing touchdowns got Seattle the points they needed to win in Week 6, they might not have happened if the Falcons hadn’t set them up: Ryan’s sack-fumble on his own nine-yard line led to the game’s first score; his interception near midfield set up the last one.Even then, it almost wasn’t enough. The Seahawks’ final go-ahead field goal still left Ryan and company with a 1:57 to drive for a game-winning score; a controversial fourth-down no-call sent them packing:Since that play, however, the Falcons spent the season improving — and proving themselves the better team.In Football Outsiders’ Weighted DVOA, which prioritizes recent performance, the Falcons are the No. 4-ranked overall team at 19.8 percent; the Seahawks are ranked 14th at 4.7 percent. While the Seahawks’ offense ranked 17th in both season-long (-2.7 percent) and weighted (-2.1 percent) DVOA, the Falcons’ defense rises from 27th (8.1 percent) to 22nd (5.6 percent) when recent games are more heavily weighted.Now Wilson will have go on the road and score more points against the improved Falcons than Ryan can score against the Seahawks’ struggling defense.Check out our latest NFL playoff predictions.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Martin Brodeur, who retired Tuesday, is a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, having backstopped the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cups while setting the all-time record for most goaltending victories. He was also arguably the best puck-handling goaltender ever, inspiring subsequent goalies to leave the crease so often the NHL instituted new rules to curtail the activity. In the mainstream view, Brodeur’s legacy will be that of the consummate winner and innovator.Brodeur’s statistical legacy, however, has always been more complicated. Although he excelled in traditional goaltending categories like wins and goals-against average, his career also coincided with the advent of more sophisticated hockey analysis. For instance, Brodeur led the NHL in wins nine times, and finished in the top five on five other occasions — but suddenly it made less sense to credit the goaltender for the entire quality of his team. Brodeur had the second-lowest goals-against average of his era, but that number needed to be adjusted for the quality of his defenders (he faced the league’s second-lowest rate of shots per minute). And all that fancy puck-handling? Turns out it barely matters, if at all.One of the first analytical hockey blogs I can remember was called “Brodeur Is A Fraud.” Clickbait-y title? Sure. But behind it was a crusade for statistical thinking that mirrored the early efforts of sabermetricians in baseball. Brodeur took on outsize importance to the author (eventually revealed to be a Canadian accountant named Philip Myrland) because he was symbolic, a stand-in for all of the players overrated by traditional numbers. Brodeur was the flashpoint where conventional wisdom abutted hockey’s burgeoning analytics movement.So, with the benefit of further statistical advances, where does Brodeur stand? According to Tom Tango’s wins above replacement (WAR) method, Brodeur rates as the fourth-most valuable goalie since 1983-84, when the league officially began tracking save percentage.A lot of that is attributable to Brodeur’s durability. As Cam Charron wrote, Brodeur wasn’t a whole lot better than average at stopping pucks on a per-shot basis, but he did it for an extremely long time. Brodeur has 59.5 career WAR; a completely average goalie would have posted almost exactly half that — 30.0 WAR (which itself would rank 17th since 1984) — if he’d played as much as Brodeur did. By comparison, a league-average net-minder would have just 28 percent of Patrick Roy’s WAR total, and 23 percent of Dominik Hasek’s, if he matched their playing time.This is not necessarily a knock on Brodeur. Perhaps more advanced metrics don’t view him as favorably as his high win total seems to warrant, but they also recognize the long-term value of consistent quality (he was above-average every season but two between 1993-94 and 2009-10) at a position where excellence is so difficult to maintain.
There was a time when Ramon Sessions could shoot, pass and score well enough to offset some of his incompetence on defense. Sadly, those days are long gone. CARMELO calls for Sessions to not only play ruinous defense, but also to significantly hurt his team on offense when in the game. The result is a negative wins above replacement projection, drifting toward zero (presumably when teams realize how awful Sessions is). It wasn’t long ago that Nene was one of the game’s premier big men. That time is over. He never could stay healthy, even in his prime, so the relatively low number of minutes CARMELO projects for Nene isn’t a surprise. But his lack of per-minute offensive effectiveness is a recent development, fueled in part by drastic downgrades in shooting efficiency and foul-drawing, to go with worsening rates of offensive rebounding and turnovers. What started as a slightly negative trend upon his arrival in Washington has become a legitimate concern, and CARMELO thinks 2015-16 will be the final season in which Nene’s defensive skills outweigh his disintegrating offense. We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here. Washington certainly has the top-end young talent to someday move beyond .500 land. Our long-term forecast1Judging from CARMELO-projected wins above replacement over the next six seasons. ranks three Wizards among the top 100 NBA players in projected future value: John Wall (10th), Bradley Beal (20th) and Otto Porter Jr. (77th). But for now, the Wiz are biding their time in the middle of the NBA pack — and that may not be as bad a strategy as it once seemed, particularly in the perennially weak Eastern Conference.You can find projections for all the Wizards (and the rest of the NBA) in our interactive, but here’s what CARMELO thinks about Washington’s key players in 2015-16: For two years running, the Washington Wizards have epitomized a “solid team,” averaging 45 wins with a pair of second-round playoff exits. It used to be argued — including by yours truly — that such status was undesirable, since those kinds of teams seldom find a springboard to greater things. In fact, teams stuck around .500 get doubly punished in the NBA: They have little chance of winning a title, yet are also unlikely to acquire a franchise player in the draft.But the unexpected rise of clubs such as the Atlanta Hawks, who last season won 60 games after years spent posting near-.500 records, gives hope to others trying to build from the middle. And for what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO thinks the middle is exactly where the Wizards will be again. (I do mean “exactly,” too — our projections call for them to finish 41-41 in 2015-16.) Having moved past the knee injury that cost him half the 2012-13 season, John Wall keeps getting better and better. Three years ago, the improvement was on offense; seemingly all at once, Wall boosted his assist rate, slashed his turnovers and started shooting more efficiently, all despite carrying a bigger offensive burden. Then, last season, Wall transformed into one of the league’s best defensive point guards, without sacrificing his offensive output. As a result, CARMELO thinks Wall will be a top 10 NBA player over the next six seasons — though it also bears mentioning that his top comps tended to produce only a few more great seasons before entering long and steady declines. Read more:All our NBA player projectionsAll our 2015-16 NBA Previews The 3-and-D wing is an underrated species of NBA player — or at least it was until very recently. But even among that group, Jared Dudley is often overlooked. Sure, Dudley seldom scores, shoots almost nothing but jumpers, doesn’t rebound and wasn’t obviously good on defense until last season (his only campaign spent with the defensive-minded Bucks). But CARMELO thinks those solid defensive metrics were mostly legit, which gives Dudley real 3-and-D value when combined with his tendency to let fly from downtown on offense. Then again, CARMELO also links Dudley to a bunch of guys whose offensive skills eroded not long after they turned 30. CARMELO giveth, and CARMELO taketh away. After a breakout 2014-15 campaign, what can Bradley Beal do for an encore? Quite a bit, if you ask CARMELO. Our projections see Beal continuing to develop his offensive game, cranking out a steady stream of 5-WAR seasons2For reference’s sake, think of a player roughly as valuable as Greg Monroe, Ty Lawson or Luol Deng was last season. for the foreseeable future. What might keep Beal from reaching the truly elite class of wings, though, is his defense — as was the case with many of his top comparables, Beal hasn’t convinced CARMELO that he can ever be much more than an average contributor at that end of the court. Somewhat quietly, Marcin Gortat has ranked among the NBA’s top 10 or so centers over the past five seasons. What’s driving his value? Mainly it’s an unusual combination of durability, rebounding, defense and efficient finishing around the basket. But it’s no coincidence that many of his comps are relics of a bygone age of big men — Gortat plays the way most centers did a generation ago. And at age 31, he’s reached the stage of his career at which those players started to deteriorate. Don’t be surprised if Washington needs to search for Gortat’s successor soon. It’s to Kris Humphries’s credit that he turned around what had been a sub-replacement-level career through six NBA seasons and has become a functional NBA player in the five years since. He has plenty of limitations — particularly on offense — and his presence as one of Washington’s key bench players speaks volumes about the Wizards’ overall lack of depth, but he can be counted on to grab rebounds, play decent defense and stretch the floor a little with the threat of mid-range jumpers. After a completely dreadful rookie season in 2013-14, Otto Porter Jr. was one of the NBA’s most-improved players last season. CARMELO thinks he can build on those gains and maintain an above-average level of play for many years to come, even if he never really provides much in the way of scoring punch. Porter’s a great argument for why versatility is so important in a wing prospect: When the ability to create shots doesn’t translate to the pros, a well-rounded game can provide a nice fallback. In Porter’s case, he does enough positive things on defense and the glass to compensate for a microscopic assist percentage and comparatively small usage rate.
The Ohio State men’s basketball team took over the No. 1 ranking in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ and Associated Press Top 25 polls, released this afternoon. Now the Buckeyes (18-0, 5-0 Big Ten) just hope their reign lasts longer than the OSU football team’s did. Off to their best start since beginning the 1961-62 campaign 22-0, the Buckeyes play seven of their next 10 games against ranked opponents. OSU earned 28 of 31 first-place votes in the coaches poll and 49 of 65 top votes in the AP. The OSU football team held the nation’s No. 1 ranking for one week in mid-October before losing at Wisconsin, 31-18, and falling in the polls. Also today, point guard Aaron Craft earned the nod as Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week. Craft scored a career-high 19 points in the Buckeyes’ 69-66 win over Penn State on Saturday. OSU has swept the award through the first 10 weeks of the season, with forward Jared Sullinger winning eight times and forward Deshaun Thomas once. Sullinger is a National Player of the Year candidate, averaging 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, both team highs.
Frequent trips to the trio of recreational facilities on campus with Jesse Owens in the title might have led students to forget the significance behind the man who not only left a legacy at Ohio State, but across the United States and the world. This weekend, the OSU Men’s and Women’s Track and Field teams will compete in the Jesse Owens Track Classic, an event that holds a special meaning to the Buckeyes. “This is one of the biggest meets for us,” said senior sprinter Thomas Murdaugh. “It’s something that we all look forward to because it is the Jesse Owens Classic, and to be able to run at the meet dedicated to the greatest athlete of all-time, it’s always a big deal for us.” Owens gained international fame when he became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympics during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. The Jesse Owens Award was named after him to honor his career, and is the highest accolade in U.S. track and field, awarded to the year’s best track and field athlete. But before Owens was an Olympic hero and international track and field icon, he was an OSU student. Owens enrolled at OSU in October of 1933 at the age of 20. In addition to track and classes, he worked part-time as a freight elevator operator at the State House to help pay his tuition. OSU did not offer Owens a scholarship. During the 1930’s, the U.S. was in a state of racial tension, and the OSU community was no exception. Owens was not permitted to live on campus with the white students because of his race; he instead resided off campus with several other African-American students. No restaurant along High Street would serve African-Americans, and when Owens traveled with the team, he often had to eat in separate restaurants. Despite facing segregation and setbacks, Owens proved to be one of the greatest athletes in the history of OSU and the world. On May 25, 1935, during the Big Ten Finals in Ann Arbor, Mich., in what some call the greatest single-day performance in athletic history, Owens accomplished in 45 minutes what some athletes never achieve their entire career: three world records and a tie for a fourth. Men’s interim coach Ed Beathea said the Buckeyes strive to exemplify the university Owens once competed for and think the meet named in his honor is important for his team. “I think this weekend … should remind us of how significant Jesse Owens was and his performances were to track and field, to Ohio State and to the country,” Beathea said. “I think you always feel like you want to go out there and make sure you’re prepared to run your best, and that your efforts are everything that you have, so that you’re a good representation of the place where Jesse Owens ran.” Owens’ life off the track consisted of several business and personal ventures, including travels to India, Philippines, Malaysia and The Ivory Coast, where he lead running clinics and promoted economic and political freedoms of the U.S. Owens was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974, and two years later President Gerald Ford presented Owens with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. government according to OSU archives. Owens died March 31, 1980, at the age of 66. In April 2011, OSU unveiled a statue of Owens at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in honor of achievements. Women’s track and field coach Karen Dennis said Owen’s life can send a message not only to athletes, but to all who are inspired by Owen’s story. “I think that he represents the epitome of greatness in track and field; as a human being, his humanity, his unselfishness and as well as his major accomplishments in his track and field. So we are all inspired by Jesse Owens. For our young people to run in the Jesse Owens relays, I think it gives them an opportunity to remember the challenges that he had, as well as how great he became despite challenges,” Dennis said. “I think that’s what we really have to do in athletics is that we have to continue to do our best, no matter what the challenge is that each of us individually face.” The Jesse Owens Classic will kick off competition Friday in the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at 4 p.m. with the women’s javelin and men’s discus. The meet will continue Saturday with events starting at 10:30 a.m. Men’s coach Robert Gary has left the university according to an OSU spokesperson. Beathea will coach the team in his place.
MADISON, Wis. – They came, they saw and, yes, they conquered for all of Camp Randall Stadium to see. The dream of a perfect season – Ohio State’s first since 2002 – is still alive after the Buckeyes stonewalled Wisconsin in overtime, 21-14, in Madison, Wis., Saturday. But not without a scare. Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball, who tied the NCAA record for career-rushing touchdowns, did all he could to ensure that his final exit from Camp Randall was a victorious one. He and the Badgers came awfully close, nearly dashing No. 4 OSU’s hopes of running the table in a year guaranteed to end Nov. 24 against Michigan. NCAA sanctions stemming from 2010’s “Tattoo-Gate” scandal have forfeited the Buckeyes’ prospects at a Big Ten Championship or bowl game. In their place, the vision of a 12-0 campaign became the only tangible spoil to glean from a championship-caliber year with nothing to actually show for it. Against Wisconsin, an undefeated season – a mission that’s seemed possible since a 63-38 statement win against Nebraska – might’ve never been so mired. That, though, is hardly a novel concept – Camp Randall’s long been a graveyard of past summits at perfection for the Buckeyes. In 2010, then-No. 1 and undefeated Buckeyes were rolled, 31-18, in Madison against an inspired Badgers team. Seven years earlier, in 2003, Wisconsin shattered the Buckeyes’ 19-game win streak and toppled the defending national champions, 17-10. This time? Things were different – even against a gritty Wisconsin team determined to salvage its last home tilt of the season. Under the direction of first-year coach Urban Meyer, OSU ransacked Camp Randall’s house of horrors. And redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said all of Madison got to see. “You just go into someone else’s home, in front of their fans, their moms, their girlfriends, sisters, and we just wanna dominate them,” he said. “I mean, what’s better than that? Going into someone’s house and taking everything they own and they can’t do nothing about it.” To the victors go the spoils, right? It’s a mentality, Roby said, that Meyer preaches. “I mean we pride ourselves on that gladiator mentality,” he said. It seemed to be evident Saturday some 500 miles away from Columbus. While it might be “crazy,” Roby said the Buckeyes play better in foreign venues than in the familiar confines of Ohio Stadium. “I feel like you see that when we play away games. We play way better than we do at home,” he said. “I mean, that’s just the mode this team is on right now, that’s just our thing this year.” Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier said the Buckeyes thrive in places like Camp Randall. “I love playing at Ohio Stadium but I feel that we do almost even better when we’re away and playing in big atmospheres and gladiator-type environments,” said Shazier, who recorded 12 tackles and a forced fumble against the Badgers. And while OSU’s overtime triumph against the Badgers isn’t exactly the Greeks conquering Troy, its resume suggests that Roby and Shazier’s notion has some realness to it. In 2011, a year that saw OSU finish 6-7, the Buckeyes lost four of five road contests to the likes of Miami, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. This season, OSU secured wins away from home against Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and now Wisconsin. The difference? It could be a number of things but, Meyer is arguably the variable that’s turned OSU from road kill into road warriors. “We have a saying, and I just shared it with them,” Meyer said. “A team that refuses to be beat, won’t be beat.” At least so far, that’s been the case for Meyer and the 11-0 Buckeyes. OSU will take its last shot at perfection against Michigan Saturday at noon at the Horseshoe.
PASADENA, Calif. — Redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell remembers the quarterback room when offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day first arrived, the four quarterbacks Ohio State had on its roster to choose from: J.T. Barrett, Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and himself. After Barrett left, Martell used both Haskins and Burrow as examples, saying the latter spent one summer with LSU and became its starting quarterback for the 2018 season after his development with the Buckeyes. “It just kind of shows what we had and still have in our quarterback room,” Martell said. Martell believes, like the other three quarterbacks in that particular room, no matter whether it was for Ohio State or not, it’s his turn to add to the legacy of that room after his two seasons of development. Martell said Sunday he will not transfer from Ohio State, even with rumors swirling around the Buckeyes obtaining former five-star quarterback Justin Fields, who announced he would transfer after his first season at Georgia. Day, the incoming Ohio State head coach, would not confirm the speculation, saying the interest level to play at Ohio State, with the help of the performances Haskins has had this season, is as high as he thinks it has ever been. But, to put it simply, Martell is not scared of losing the starting job to Fields. “Why would I leave for someone who hasn’t put in a single second into this program?” Martell said. “I put two years of literally working my ass off into something that I have been waiting for and dreaming of having my whole life. To just run away from somebody who hasn’t put a single second into workouts anything like that and doesn’t know what the program is all about, there’s not a chance.” Martell is not naive. If Haskins departs, there will be one spot in the Ohio State quarterback room for the taking, one alongside Martell, freshman Matthew Baldwin and junior Chris Chugunov. But Martell also knows what situation that particular quarterback, whether its Fields or now, is coming into. “Somebody has to come in and it’s going to take awhile for them to learn the offense. I’m just telling you, it’s not easy. It doesn’t matter where you came from or what you’ve done,” Martell said. “Coach Day brings an NFL-level playbook to our offense and it’s difficult. It’s not something that you can just walk in and three months in, you think that, ‘I’m rolling now.’ It’s not that easy, I promise you.” Many thought, with Martell’s resume coming into Ohio State, starting three seasons at quarterback for Bishop Gorman, going 15-0 as the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior, that it would be easy for him to leave, eager to get on the field at the collegiate level as quickly as possible. Martell is that competitor, saying that he wants to get on the field, to show what he can do with the Ohio State offense. However, he said his want and drive to play quarterback for Ohio State, to play for his teammates overpowered all of that. “There’s been times where I’ve had to look at it like how long am I actually going to sit here and wait around before I go and get my chance, but at the end of the day, I had to sit there and the reason why I have never left this school after everything I have done and all the work that I have put in is because I love my teammates,” Martell said. “My whole team knows that. That’s why I am still here at this point because there are probably a ton of other schools I could be staring for right now, just look like what Joe did.” Day understands what Martell has gone through this season, but that he has taken advantage of the opportunities he has been given. “I think he’s been very good. I think he understands the game plan like he always does.” Day said. “It’s hard when you’re not playing to constantly do a good job preparing. Even though you’re not getting on the field. It can be frustrating at times, but he’s done an excellent job this year.” While Day served as the interim head coach and head coach Urban Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the season, Martell said that was when he began to rotate with the first-team offense, getting some time to mold into what he expects to be next season. And through this, a confidence and a relationship between a quarterback and his position coach continued to grow. “I don’t think there is any doubt that coach Day has a pretty good level of confidence in me,” Martell said. “Coach Day knows what I can do and has seen how far I have come. he has a lot of confidence in me and I have obviously a ton of trust in him. He’s a great coach.” Day’s philosophy as an offensive coordinator and as an incoming head coach has been to match the identity of the offense of the offense with the best qualities of the personnel of the players utilized. Expecting to be at the helm of this offense, Martell said he does not expect much to be changed, saying a lot of the aspects of the passing game and the zone read will remain like it was with Haskins. Martell was actually pleased with the run-pass option Ohio State ran with Haskins, something he said he had been able to grow from. “We are reading the linebackers this year which I was actually really happy about because that’s one thing I had to work on which I have gotten really good at now is the R.P.O. blocking up front, throwing off a backer, which I have gotten really good at just through this year because that’s what we have done with Dwayne,” Martell said. “Now I feel comfortable doing pretty much anything in our offense.” The zone-read offense and run-pass option is something Martell said he has been comfortable with, something that comes naturally: To use his athleticism to go and make plays, something he said will return to the Ohio State offense. Martell has shown that in some cases this season, playing in three of the first four games for Ohio State, completing all 10 of his pass attempts against Rutgers on Sept. 8 for 121 yards, adding 95 yards on the ground and scoring two touchdowns. But, even with glimpses of what Martell could do, he thinks opponents have not scratched the surface of what he has the potential to do. “Just going in there, running a couple plays and not really having the ability to show everything that I want, it’s difficult that I had to do that. But I told coach Day and coach Meyer that I would do anything for this team. I told them that in the middle of the year, I said, ‘Whatever this team needs, I’ll go do it,’” Martell said. “But now, at this point, when I go out there, I am going to go out there and put on a show.” Martell has viewed himself as an underdog his entire life, but he has significant goals for himself while at Ohio State. At this point, none of them are for individual stardom: it’s winning games, it’s a national championship. Those are the goals Ohio State has as well. For the team to get to that point, Martell feels like he should be behind center, not Fields. And if Haskins leaves, that’s what he thinks will happen. “I will,” Martell said when asked if he will be the starting quarterback next fall. “I am 100 percent sure on that.”
“We don’t even know if the [previous] owners know his real age, he could have any story.”People who work at the cattery contacted the number on his microchip, but never received a response.Luckily, they have found a home for him if he does not get claimed by the end of the month.Michelle Do Carmo, clinic manager, said: “For older cats we look for a quiet home where they can relax and enjoy his retirement – somewhere a bit more chilled out and quiet”. “Banjo must have used up all of his nine lives by now,” centre manager Beverly Leavy said. “He is such a charming, sweet old man, he is eating well and enjoying life in the cattery.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. An abandoned cat, Banjo, is believed to be Britain’s oldest feline.He was found surviving alone by RSPCA Southall Cattery, who were shocked by how old he appeared to be.They believe he is 27 – which would make him the oldest cat in Britain and 125 in human years.His rescuers don’t know why he was abandoned, as he was microchipped in 1991, but it is remarkable he survived on the streets at such an advanced age. They are now trying to find him a home so he can have a comfortable retirement. She didn’t know why someone would abandon such an elderly cat.”It could be a number of reasons, as everyone has got different backgrounds”, she said.”Most of the time it’s money issues or they’ve got evicted or are moving home.” The cattery has contacted Guinness Book of Records to confirm he is indeed the oldest cat in Britain.Aneel Odhwani, the animal care assistant who has been looking after Banjo, said: “He’s friendly and laid back, very undemanding. He loves his food and he loves being groomed – the ideal cat to rehome,”We’ve had people asking on our Facebook page, ‘How do you know old old he is? Because he looks so young!’
The question has been tested in the courts after the English Bridge Union, the body which oversees the popular card game, launched a judicial review in an attempt to overturn Sport England’s ruling. Leeds West MP Rachel ReevesCredit:London Chess Classic/Lennart Ootes The group has been calling on the government to redefine the cerebral game, claiming that because chess is deemed merely a mental activity – and not a sport – hundreds of UK clubs and tournaments are being strangled by a requirement to pay VAT.But in a letter presented to the All Party Political Group on chess it was revealed a request by health minister David Mowat MP to have chess recognised as a sport and made VAT exempt was unceremoniously turned down. The EBU eventually lost after Mr Justice Mostyn said sport has to have a “physical component” but are seeking leave to appeal that ruling and a court date is set for January.In August the Telegraph revealed how the world’s biggest chess competition, The Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge, was locked in a long-running dispute with HMRC over VAT charges.The competition, which has launched the careers of several professional players and sees 45,000 children in 1,200 schools take part each year, faced being wound up after its organiser, International Master Mike Basman, was bankrupted at the High Court in London over a £300,000 tax bill.It was eventually saved in October when a group headed by the former England international Sarah Longson stepped in.Wednesday’s Lords Vs Commons match in the Palace of Westminster saw the lower house exert its dominance over the chamber with Mr Mowat and Labour’s former UK u14 girls champion Rachel Reeves among the victors.The players were joined by several of the world’s top players, including in-form US star Wesley So, who are in the UK for the prestigious London Chess Classic tournament at Kensington Olympia. However FIDE’s latest attempt to get chess included in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo was rejected in August.The changing fortunes of England’s chess teamThe UK has a strong history in the game. The world’s oldest tournament takes place on British shores at Hastings in Sussex and London boasts the world’s oldest chess venue, Simpson’s-in-the-Strand.In its 1980s heyday the England team, boasting grandmasters like a young Nigel Short, Tony Miles and Jon Speelman, finished runners-up to the mighty Soviet Union three times in the game’s top team competition, the Chess Olympiad.However, British players are struggling on the world stage with currently just one grandmaster flying the flag in the top 20, Cornishman Michael Adams.The next highest is Short, who fought for the world championship title against Garry Kasparov 25 years ago, at 63 in the world.Neither can be considered spring chickens: Adams is still a force at 45 and Short, a veteran of the 80s teams, is 51.Behind them there are several talents including grandmasters David Howell, Luke McShane and Gawain Jones but none have so far threatened the world’s top 10.England did manage a creditable ninth place in the last Olympiad, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in September, but the conveyor belt appears to be drying up. Reclining in a smoking room armchair during the golden age of Parliament, perhaps with a glass tumbler in hand, Gladstonians and Parnellites were often found settling their differences over a cigar and a spot of chess.But now, a century and a half on and with the House of Commons chess circle long since defunct, the classic adversarial game has returned to the Palace of Westminster – and brought with it a battle of its own making.Convening this week to resurrect the annual Lords Vs Commons match, a cross-party group set up to promote the game was told a ministerial row is brewing over the future of chess in England that is not, it must be said, exactly black or white. Mr Mowat wrote to minister for sport Tracey Crouch arguing it is unfair that coaching, participation and tournament entries attract the 20 per cent levy while other more physical activities do not. GM and chess commentator Maurice AshleyCredit:London Chess Classic/Lennart Ootes “It is worth reminding ourselves why the International Olympic Committee and over 100 countries recognise chess as a sport.”It is simply discriminatory. If we are not a physical sport, then ergo we must be a mindsport.”Currently Sport England, the body that handles government and Lottery funding, recognises around 100 sports but refuses to include chess or other “mindsports” such as bridge or the ancient Chinese game go. Malcolm Pein, chief executive of the Chess in Schools and Communities charity and organiser of the London Chess Classic tournament, told the group: “The trouble is we are nowhere. Maurice Ashley, the US-based grandmaster and commentator, was also at the event. Delighted to have been part of the @HouseofCommons chess team which beat @UKHouseofLords 3-1 pic.twitter.com/KQkGHvvSRh— David Mowat MP (@mowat4ws) December 14, 2016 When asked afterwards what his reaction was, Mr Mowat refused to comment saying simply: “I’m very keen that chess is recognised fully in the UK.”The chess fans in Westminster however remain undetered. They have now decided to change tack and call on Miss Crouch to create a new definition of “mindsport” to give chess the VAT exemption sports like football and rugby enjoy. In response, Miss Crouch wrote back saying flatly that a classification of chess as a sport would not comply with the Council of Europe’s Sports Charter (1972) because it is not “physical”.She said: “Although the sports councils are currently reviewing elements of the recognition process, they do not intend to move away from the Council of Europe’s definition of a sport. “As chess is not a physical activity, it is not under consideration for recognition as a sport.”This is not how the APPG see it. “If chess is not physical how on earth do they think we moves the pieces,” quipped Dominic Lawson, the journalist who is also president of the English Chess Federation. Speaking about the decline in British chess, he said: “It is somewhat surprising that it is not happening given the work of the charity Chess in Schools & Communities.”I think that what you need is to make that connection between the schools programme and the professional level. Schools programmes can be wildly successful, the same thing happened in the States, you have a wildly successful schools programme but you are not producing any players from that group.”The strong players in the States that are coming up are actually home-schooled who are not involved in the public school system at all.”Chess is funny, it’s almost like the luck of the draw in some places. You think of Norway and Magnus – they didn’t produce Magnus, Magnus was just born and there goes Norway.”Professional sport, unless it has a whole structure that goes with is from elementary school, middle school, to high school and university, that farm system is what makes sports successful. I think the Russians had it, but unless that’s the structure in your country it doesn’t work.”On the international level FIDE, the game’s governing body, is recognised as member of the IOC, and its president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been talking up the chances of chess being included in the Olympics for nearly 20 years. American grandmaster Wesley So taking on England’s Luke McShaneCredit:London Chess Classic/Lennart Ootes “We are not defined as either a sport or an art so we can attract no funding and we have to pay VAT.”He added: “Chess and other strategy games are a positive alternative to ‘shoot ‘em up’ games where adrenaline may be high but the intellectual content is often low.””Chess is the world’s most enduring game, 1500 years old, which challenges the finest minds in the world. It is not recognised as a sport in the UK and receives no public funding. The Lords Vs Commons chess match in Westminster’s River RoomCredit:London Chess Classic/Lennart Ootes Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.