Ohtani still slugging in the final days of a remarkable year
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Friday, September 28
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani could have shut it down already. He could have wrapped up his singular rookie season with the Los Angeles Angels and proceeded straight to the Tommy John surgery looming for him next week.
Instead, Ohtani is still slugging away in the eighth inning of a sparsely attended night game in the final days of September between two teams that won’t get anywhere near the playoffs this year.
He is facing Texas’ Chris Martin, his teammate last season in Japan. Ohtani pounces on a pitch up in the zone and drives it the opposite way, flashing the all-fields power that still stuns.
His shoot hits the top of the left field wall and bounds into the bullpen. The tie-breaking homer is his 22nd of the year, matching his best pro total with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
“You’ve seen him get progressively better as the season has gone on,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “This experience is invaluable to him — to be able to finish strong, see as much pitching as he can, log it and be ready for next year to swing the bat.”
Ohtani’s patient, almost ascetic approach to baseball has been evident ever since he agreed to join the Angels last winter. In doing so, he passed up untold millions that he could have made by waiting a couple of years in Japan, instead hurrying stateside to begin the long process of mastering the big leagues as a pitcher and a hitter.
So it was no surprise to his teammates and coaches when he decided to keep hitting until October, even after he realized his pitching elbow would require surgery . It’s also no surprise that he plans to hit throughout next season without giving up on his long-term plan to be a two-way player.
The 24-year-old is focused on the long view, but every small step along the path is vital.
“I think the way I finish the season is really important to me, whether it’s good or bad,” Ohtani said. “Because I know what to work on during the off-season. This time I was able to finish strong, so it was a really good feeling.”
Ohtani heads into the Angels’ final three games of 2018 batting .283 with 22 homers, 59 RBIs and a .930 OPS in just 355 plate appearances. Before he felt pain in his pitching elbow in early June, he had 63 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA in just 10 starts of tantalizing quality.
Despite the arm injury that ended his pitching efforts and kept him from batting for most of June, Ohtani is a top contender for the AL Rookie of the Year award. Voters must evaluate Ohtani’s unique talents next to the more conventional hitting prowess of New York Yankees sluggers Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres.
Ohtani’s persistence has proven to be one of his greatest strengths — and that isn’t always the case with athletes of his prodigious gifts.
When he took a two-month break from pitching, he struggled at the plate to start July — but then batted .328 in August with six homers and 18 RBIs. After his return to the mound in early September went poorly and left him facing the inevitability of Tommy John, Ohtani improbably racked up four homers and 10 RBIs in his first four games back at the plate.
The Angels attribute that resilience to Ohtani’s mental toughness, which is a key complement to his unique skills.
“He’s got a great makeup,” Scioscia said. “I think he understands the separation of pitching and hitting. He’s able to take that batting helmet off and put that pitcher’s cap on and go pitch when he’s going to pitch, and when he’s hitting, he’s focused on hitting. He just wants to play baseball, whatever he can do. So I know he’s looking forward to pitching, but I think it’s an easy sideways step for him to become just a hitter. He just loves to play the game.”
Away from the field, Ohtani appears to be settled smoothly in Orange County with his new club. While he doesn’t speak in public without Ippei Mazuhara, his translator and constant companion at Angel Stadium, he clearly understands much more English than he did in April — and more Spanish, as evidenced in his spirited recent rendition of “Despacito” on the team bus.
Ohtani is finishing this season batting cleanup as the Angels’ designated hitter, and he’s likely to resume that role in 2019. While the Angels remain firmly committed to supporting Ohtani’s two-way skills, everyone around the club is eager to see what Ohtani can accomplish while he’s largely focused on just one side of his two-way game.
“The thing about Shohei is he’s got the potential to do it all, and he’s committed to getting there,” Scioscia said. “It’s not often you see that combination in a guy, and he’s got it all.”
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Is it immoral to watch football?
September 28, 2018
Francisco Javier López Frías
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University
Cesar R. Torres
Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education, The College at Brockport, State University of New York
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
For a large swath of Americans, fall means football. But, as in previous years, this season’s football has been mired in controversy.
Most notable of these has been the Colin Kaepernick case. Kaepernick has accused the NFL of colluding to keep him off the field because of his protests against racism, police brutality and racial inequality during the playing of the national anthem. A recent ruling has granted him a full hearing in the dispute.
And this hasn’t been the only controversy. Scientific findings have shown that regular practice of football increases the risk of brain diseases. Allegations regarding the intrinsic violent nature of the game and an increasing commercialization of the sport have been the subject of recent headlines as well.
For fans who consider the sport from an ethical perspective, all these issues raise a question: Is watching football morally problematic?
At its core, football demands skill and tactical acumen. Indeed, as philosopher Alexis C. Michalos said more than four decades ago,
“There’s something admirable about the performance of an excellent running back, a scrambling quarterback or a defensive player with the knack of being in the right place at the right time. Anyone who has tried to match such performances must admire them.”
However, in the way it is currently practiced, football is seriously dangerous for players.
Repetitive brain trauma makes football players highly vulnerable to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurogenerative disease. A 2017 study found that 99 percent of deceased NFL players who had donated their brains to scientific research suffered from this disease.
In addition, football players suffer the most injuries among athletes. A study of the injury rates among high school student-athletes estimated that the injury rate for football was twice that of soccer or basketball.
Culture of violence?
In his blistering 1991 poem “American Football,” British writer Harold Pinter, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in literature, depicts the sport as “deliberately” violent. Aimed at satirizing the violent character of the Gulf War, Pinter portrays war and football as being intimately connected.
As scholars who study the ethics of sport, we would argue that while football does require the use of bodily force, it is not that football is inherently violent. Sport philosopher Jim Parry, for example, contests this claim by defining violence as involving “intentional hurt or injury to others.”
It is not inherent violence but a culture of violence around the sport that is troubling.
Nate Jackson, a former football player, describes in his 2013 memoir, “Slow Getting Up,” that for most of his colleagues, the main rewards of the sport relate to violence. For instance, one of the main lessons players must learn to be successful is “decide what you’re going to do and do it violently.”
Similarly, Don DeLillo compellingly captured the rhetoric and ethos of violence surrounding football in his 1972 novel “End Zone.” Gary, the book’s running-back narrator, describes football in militaristic language that resembles warfare.
Furthermore, far from being ideologically neutral, some commentators argue football appeals to conservative values. Registered Republicans have been found more likely to be NFL fans than registered Democrats. Perhaps this could explain President Donald Trump’s denunciation of players who decided not to stand for the pregame national anthem.
More about money?
As for its commercialization, consider the following: In the last decade, the NFL has raked in billions in lucrative broadcasting rights deals. Verizon paid over US$2 billion for five years for the right to stream NFL games across its digital platforms.
It is true, as philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre contends, social practices need institutions to flourish. In turn, institutions require financial resources to accomplish that goal. The problem, however, comes when institutions pursue those resources at the expense of the very virtues and values that define those practices.
In the case of football, it could be argued that the form and skills that make it appealing are now a model for revenue generation. In doing so, its inherent virtues and values have been deemphasized, in favor of market values.
As Michael Oriard, a former football player and historian, contends, the story of NFL football “is necessarily about money, lots of money. Professional football has always been about money.” The commercial aspect has become even more prominent as a result of its commodification as a television product.
These days the litany of television commercial breaks has not only negatively impacted the length and pace of games but also driven fans’ attention away from football. Indeed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the league worried about the impact of commercials in the flow and pace of the game.
What are the ethics?
Historians point out that the Super Bowl is America’s largest shared cultural experience. It could be argued that football fans learn to speak and shape their national identity by, among other things, engaging in the sport. Football, in other words, embodies and reveals the main values of the culture, playing a key role in shaping the way in which Americans imagine their common national identity.
Considering all the morally problematic aspects surrounding football, it is worth asking: Is this the kind of social practice around which Americans should imagine and build their national identity?
Editor’s note: This piece is part of our series on ethical questions arising from everyday life. We would welcome your suggestions. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To me, the most immoral problem is the NCAA. I see no other reason than greed that prevents schools and NCAA to cooperate together to establish trust funds, CTE health screenings for every player and student allowances based on performance principles. These players could be paid something like a minimum wage per game with a healthcare grant if injured, and a percentage of TV revenue going into trusts for players, and for top-echelon program medical staffs.As to the violence, I consider it a built-in fact of real life. It is certainly not glorified on the field anymore, like I witnessed in 60’s-70’s. But as a player, my attitude is that it is an essential principle of the game. It is pitiful to witness injury, but a team response to the calculated threat of danger is thrilling for players like me. Baseball and soccer don’t offer the same adrenaline and aggression outlet.
I played high school football for 5 years and had 2 concussions, a broken rib and bumps and bruises. I went skiing twice and got a concussion, a broken ankle and a strained knee ligament. That said, it’s hard to believe that football helmets can’t be redesigned to avoid long term brain damage.
South Sudanese football: colonial legacy sheds light on present day fortunes
September 25, 2018
Assistant Professor of History and African Studies, Pennsylvania State University
Christopher Tounsel’s research for JEAS article was supported by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (Multi-Country Fellowship), Social Science Research Council and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Predoctoral Research Grant, the Pennsylvania State University (including African Studies Travel Grant), and several grants from the University of Michigan (Department of Afroamerican and African Studies’ African Studies Initiative Research Grant, the African Studies Center’s Research, Language, Travel Grant, the African Studies Center, the Rackham Graduate School’s International Research Award, and Rackham Graduate Student Travel Grant).
Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan seceded from Sudan to become the world’s newest nation. That weekend, its new national football team played a match in the capital Juba. Within months, the Confederation of African Football granted the squad provisional membership, and in July 2013 President Salva Kiir named the team Bright Star. Emphasising the importance of unity as a necessary element for national development, Kiir opined that sports should be encouraged to promote that goal.
While the team may be in its adolescence, Sudanese football is a vestige of the country’s colonial past stretching between 1899 and 1956 in what was known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. My recently published journal article explores this history, and examines how the game was linked with various ethnic, religious and political projects.
South Sudan has been through a tumultuous time since 2011 independence. Understanding the game’s early influences can help shed light on the current context. These insights are as enlightening as they are discouraging.
Football in colonial Sudan
In the early 20th century, football in what is today Sudan was played at Khartoum’s elite Gordon Memorial College. Gordon played annual matches against the Khartoum Military School. Sudan’s oldest football stadium was built in Atbara in 1927, and the Sudan Football Association was established in the 1930s. The number of clubs quickly rose from 36 in the 1936-1937 season to 103 in 1945-1946.
In Southern Sudan, the growth of football was linked with Christian missionaries who entered the South in the early 1900s following the destruction of the Mahdist regime. Football was played at the Church Missionary Society’s first Southern mission site at Malek and at Yei, where African and non-African participants competed.
The Nugent missionary school was the king of Southern football during the colonial years. An elite and multi-ethnic intermediate school, the pitch became a site where inter-ethnic competition was encouraged.
Sudan, still jointly ruled at this point by Britain and Egypt, joined FIFA in 1948. This was years ahead of its independence – which came in 1956 – and membership in the United Nations and Arab League. Six years later it discussed a plan with Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Africa for an African confederation during the FIFA Congress in Bern.
Sudan’s early independence years were marred by civil war between Southern rebels and the Northern-based government. Political power had been centred in Khartoum during the colonial era. During the early independence years the government sought to fashion the country as an Arab and Islamic state. Southerners rebelled and a state of war persisted until 1972.
Interestingly enough, the war years corresponded with the golden age of Sudanese football. Sudan hosted the first African Nations Cup, were runners-up in 1959 and 1963, and won it all against Ghana in 1970.
Post-independence Sudan and Football’s Possible Meaning
Conflict resumed in 1983 following President Jafaar Nimeiri’s decision to institute Sharia throughout the country. While the John Garang-led Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army/Movement led the war against Khartoum, Southerners were also embroiled in internal ethnic conflict. The most infamous of these conflicts occurred between the largest ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended formal hostilities and a referendum ushered in independence for the South. But ethnic factionalism persisted and erupted into a new civil conflict in December 2013. The main combatants were groups loyal to Riek Machar (a Nuer) and President Kiir (a Dinka). After a host of failed cessation agreements, both men recently agreed to a new peace agreement that reinstates Machar as vice president.
To what extent, then, has football shaped the present context? How might Sudan’s footballing past inform South Sudan’s present and future?
Sport as a unifier
One easy answer is that the sport will be a much-needed unifier. At the multi-ethnic Nugent School, the pitch was a space in which people from varying ethnicities could compete in the same space, according to the same rules, with the same objectives in mind.
The national team’s composition and the encouragement of a national league with players, fans, and officials of diverse ethnicities could convey the important political message that unity is possible in one of Africa’s most fragmented states.
But Sudanese football history also suggests that expectations should be tempered. Nugent School football wasn’t always peaceful. One contentious match between Azande and Dinka squads saw a British referee line both teams up and inflict corporal punishment to encourage them to behave. In addition, although players of multiple ethnicities competed with one another, the teams were still divided along ethnic lines.
Despite this, it’s useful to consider that the Sudanese national team during its early post-colonial years enjoyed great success despite the regional maelstrom then wracking the country. This shows that winning on the pitch did not reflect unity or success off the pitch.
African football’s political capital
In today’s Southern Sudanese political climate, success in the next African Cup of Nations or — if one can dare to dream — qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup may wield more symbolic importance than anything else. If the last 30 years are any indication, it will not make Machar and Kiir any more likely to put aside their personal and political differences; differences that have so often resulted in bloodshed.
And yet, there are obvious examples of sport’s capacity to rally African nations together (if at least temporarily). The ‘Invictus’ rugby team during Mandela’s presidency, the stoppage in Ivory Coast’s civil war during its team’s World Cup run, and the recent election of Liberian football legend George Weah as president are some examples that speak to African football’s political capital.
Whether the Bright Star comes to represent a shining light for the young, war-torn nation remains to be seen.
Chiefs accustomed to big leads, making it easy to ease up
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, September 27
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs scored a touchdown every time they had the ball in the first half last Sunday, racing out to such a big lead against San Francisco that there was virtually no chance that the 49ers could come back.
They still made it a little bit interesting.
Both of those have become common themes three games into the season: The Chiefs have established early leads against everybody they’ve faced, then seemingly let up on the gas just a little bit.
Part of that is circumstance, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, but part of it is human nature. It’s simply a bit more difficult to remain on the razor’s edge, as you might be when the game is hanging in the balance, than when you have a 35-7 lead as they had last week against San Francisco.
“You have a tendency (to let up) and you have to fight that on both sides of the ball,” Reid said. “Whether it’s dropping a ball on a third down play when you have an opportunity to convert. Whether it’s easing back just a step and then the ball is completed in front of you, or you’re either late on breaking it up or missing a tackle, that sort of thing. That’s human nature.
“But you have to fight that sort of thing,” Reid continued. “We’re a young football team and so you have to learn that. You got to power through that and learn as you go how to finish.”
In the very next breath, Reid pointed out that the Chiefs have still won each of their games, and none of them have necessarily been nail-biters.
The closest thing to that came in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers rallied from 21-0 down to tie the game at halftime, then fell behind 42-30 early in the fourth quarter before a touchdown in the final minutes produced the final 42-37 margin.
The Chiefs led the Chargers 14-3 early in their opener, and 31-12 heading into the fourth quarter, before getting outscored 16-7 down the stretch. The result was still a 38-28 victory.
They wound up beating San Francisco 38-27, despite their offense managing just a field goal in the second half, when the Chiefs began leaning on running back Kareem Hunt to put the game away.
“When you’re ahead by that much early in the game, most teams play more bend-don’t-break,” said Broncos coach Vance Joseph, whose team will try to solve the Chiefs’ offensive riddle Monday night.
“They’ve been good in the red zone. They’re great on third down. They’re first in the league on third downs,” he said. “As far as takeaways, they’ve been great over the last three years taking the ball away. That’s their formula: score points, bend-don’t-break on defense, take the ball away.”
Those early leads have been especially important with a first-year starter in Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. He hasn’t had to produce a late-game comeback, or operate from behind at all, and so far that’s produced a record-setting stretch of games in which he’s thrown 13 touchdown passes.
As a team, the Chiefs have outscored opponents 49-6 in the first quarter.
“It’s not just their offense. Their defense has only give up six points,” Joseph said. “It’s their entire team. It’s going to be a challenge to start fast, play great defense and for our offense to score some points. … It’s a challenge, but again, we’re looking forward to it.”
Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz acknowledged Thursday that another quick start is even more important than usual against Denver. If the Broncos manage to get a lead, their defense — and star linebacker Von Miller in particular — can “pin their ears back and make things difficult,” he said.
“It’s a stressful week,” Schwartz added.
Stress? That’s something the Chiefs haven’t had to deal with too much this season.
Notes: Outside linebacker Dee Ford was held out of practice Thursday after hurting his groin against the 49ers, though it’s possible he could play Monday night. “He’s actually doing very well right now so we’re optimistic,” Reid said. “It could be a day, a couple days. We’ll see how it goes.” … Linebacker Terrance Smith (shin bruise) also missed practice along with safety Eric Berry (heel), who has been out since camp.
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