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Notre Dame, Alabama arrive for BCS title game

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Notre Dame, Alabama arrive for BCS title game

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Brian Kelly walked off the tarmac, hopped aboard one of Notre Dame's team buses that bore his image on the side and grinned broadly as he sat in the driver's seat.

Soon, the Notre Dame coach will know if his team - or Alabama - will finish college football's season in that proverbial spot.

The top-ranked Fighting Irish landed in South Florida on Wednesday, not long before the arrival of the second-ranked Crimson Tide. The teams meet Monday night to decide the BCS championship, a matchup that was set more than a month ago, the hype growing with each day.

``Going to play the national championship game in Miami, it's not like any trip that they've had before,'' Kelly said. ``It's not like any trip that I've had before. And so there was an anticipation that when we got on the buses to the airport that they were really excited about this trip. It's something that you dream about when you play this game and when you coach this game.''

For Notre Dame - at least for this current batch of Fighting Irish - this is all new, as one of the game's most storied programs has not won the national title since the 1988 season. For Alabama, the hubbub that goes with the BCS title game is familiar, as the Tide is trying to win its second straight crown and third in four years.

And for Alabama coach Nick Saban, it was a return to his former home. Saban coached the Miami Dolphins before going to the Crimson Tide, famously saying toward the end of his tenure in South Florida that he wasn't ``going to be the Alabama coach.''

He was hired by the Tide not long afterward.

Yet on Wednesday, Saban - first off the Alabama plane - was greeted like a visiting dignitary, with about a dozen TV cameras and twice that many reporters on hand to record the event.

``It's great to be back in South Florida,'' he said. ``It's the first time we've been to the Orange Bowl. I'm sure these people here are going to do a great job of providing tremendous hospitality for our players and our entire family.''

Grand welcomes were executed for both teams, including water cannon sprays over their planes and greetings from local officials and members of the Orange Bowl Committee. Notre Dame landed in Fort Lauderdale, Alabama in Miami, the teams about equidistant from Sun Life Stadium - the site of Monday's showdown for the title.

Police escorts awaited the bus caravans, and all players were getting a gift bag that some started digging through immediately, even before leaving the airport.

``It's `Rudy' vs. `Forrest Gump,''' Notre Dame wide receiver Robby Toma said, referring to the still-popular films that featured the Irish and the Tide. ``Both very storied programs, a bunch of national championships and we're excited to compete with the best because that's how you become the best.''

And work is left in both Notre Dame's and Alabama's quest to finish at No. 1. Both teams are set to return to the practice field on Thursday, with workouts scheduled throughout the remainder of the week.

``We've got to do a little work this week,'' Kelly said. ``But we feel good about our preparation.''

Dozens of players, coaches and guests on the Notre Dame flight took photos of the mass of reporters, Broward Sheriff's officers and fans when they deplaned, a few carrying video cameras and a couple even tossed oranges - a nod to the Orange Bowl Committee - from one hand to another.

Kelly said Notre Dame will find ways to mix fun and relaxation with the element of it being a business trip as well.

``All the people that were looking out the window were pretty much amazed to see the kind of draw that this game has,'' Kelly said.

On the Alabama side, All-American center Barrett Jones wore a walking boot to protect the left foot he sprained during the SEC championship but said he was ready to go. Reserve offensive lineman Arie Koundjio had to be treated for dehydration when the plane landed, and tight end Harrison Jones did not travel with the team for what Saban called medical reasons. He's expected to arrive Thursday.

The other Tide players seemed focused.

``We want to reach this point,'' said defensive lineman Damion Square, who was recruited by Notre Dame. ``To be here is great, but we have to finish the job.''

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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