Remembering Al: Vitt on Al Davis


Remembering Al: Vitt on Al Davis

Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said a trip to Oakland this week brought back memories of longtime Raiders owner Al Davis.

Vitt and suspended Saints coach Sean Payton made a point last year of visiting Davis in his suite before an exhibition game about two months before Davis died. But it was Vitt's first meeting with Davis 30 years earlier that still resonates.

Vitt had just been fired as Colts strength and quality control coach in 1981 and went to the NFL combine looking for work. He ran into Davis in the locker room during player weigh-ins and introduced himself.

``I go up to him, I say, `Hey, coach, my name is Joe Vitt. I'm only 26 years old, but I've been in the league three years. I was the strength coach, I was the quality control coach, I gave out the tickets on the plane. I told him all the wonderful accomplishments I had over my three-year-period with the Baltimore Colts,''' Vitt recalled.

``He looked me in the eye and said, `Son, when I was 26 years old I was the commissioner of the AFL.' I crawled out of the locker room. And he never forgot that, and I never forgot that.''

Davis actually didn't become commissioner until he was 34 and was a college assistant at The Citadel when he was 26.


MANNING'S SLIDE: Peyton Manning has caught a lot of grief for his ungainliness at Carolina last Sunday when he didn't kick his cleats up high enough on a feet-first slide after a 6-yard scramble.

His left cleat got stuck in the grass and he rolled awkwardly to the ground in the second quarter of Denver's 36-14 win over the Panthers.

Linemen Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin, tight end Jacob Tamme and running back Ronnie Hillman surrounded him immediately. But their concern was quickly assuaged when Manning bounced up, straightened out his left knee brace and returned to the huddle.


It was something they all had a good laugh over later on.

As the seconds ticked away, rookie cornerback Omar Bolden sat on the bench next to Manning and told the four-time MVP, ``You know, after we get this `dub,' we're talking about that slide.''

``I hear ya,'' Manning replied. ``Fair game.''

Manning said he caught plenty of guff from teammates.

``It's not even worth explaining what happened. It looked bad, and the fact that my knee brace got caught, nobody wants to hear that,'' Manning said. ``It is what it is, as they say, and it's right there on film. I'm very aware that it's fair game for criticism and ridicule. I have plenty thick enough skin to handle it.''

One teammate who stayed away from the fray was wide receiver Eric Decker, who was the fall guy last month after tripping on his way to a sure touchdown when nobody was near him.

``He probably does not have the grounds yet,'' Manning said. ``But (Dan) Koppen and Omar Bolden, a rookie, it's fair game. Believe me, it's not pretty.''

The ribbing nor the slide.


TUNED OUT TO THURSDAY: George Wilson has no issue playing an occasional game on Thursday night. Just don't ask the Buffalo Bills safety if he's ever watched any of the weeknight, prime-time games since the NFL made it a regular part of its schedule.

``I don't have the NFL Network,'' he said days before Buffalo's victory against Miami on Thursday night. ``So this is all new to me.''

Wilson explained that his cable provider, Time-Warner, didn't carry the NFL Network. He then said he wasn't aware when informed the NFL reached a deal two months ago to have Time-Warner carry the network.

``Well, obviously, it must cost extra to get it, because it's not in your normal cable package, so I don't have it,'' he said.

Wilson, the Bills' NFL Players Association representative, can understand the reason the league has made Thursday night games a mainstay despite the short break players have between games.

``The league is trying to boost its viewership and commercial opportunities,'' Wilson said. ``It's tough, but this is what we signed up for. This is what the job calls for, and we're not going to make any gripes or complaints about it.''


WAITING HIS TURN: Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright was inactive for the first nine games, but the fourth-round draft pick from Arkansas made quite the impact in his debut.

Filling in at the slot position for injured star Percy Harvin, Wright caught a 54-yard pass from Christian Ponder on Minnesota's first possession to set up his own short touchdown reception from Ponder. Wright was open for another potential score later in the game, too, when Ponder tripped at the beginning of his backpedal and fell down for a sack.

Randy Moss is the only Vikings rookie to catch two touchdown passes in his first NFL game.

``I'm glad I was able to help the team,'' Wright said. ``I'm glad the coaches gave me the chance to be able to help the team. And hopefully they continue to give me the opportunity.''

Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn't guarantee that because Harvin is expected to return after the team's bye week, but Wright's speed clearly helped give what had been a lagging passing game a small boost.

``There are ways we can get that done if we want both of them on the field,'' Frazier said.

Wright actually dropped the same long pass on a post pattern in practice last Friday, and he was discouraged the Vikings might not call that play in the game. But he bounced back.

``I have high hopes for myself, and I set my personal goals really high,'' Wright said. ``And I know I'm capable of going out and playing good football.''


NO MORE HOLES: A.J. Green won't be giving any more scouting reports.

Cincinnati's Pro Bowl receiver created a stir in New York a week ago when he told a radio station that the Giants ``have a lot of holes'' in their defense. Turned out he was right. Green caught a 56-yard touchdown pass on the fifth play of the game, and the Bengals pulled away to a 31-13 win.

The low-key Green was surprised his observation became big news in New York. He won't make that mistake again. Asked about an upcoming game in Kansas City, he refused to make the same comparison.

``No, no, definitely no holes in their defense,'' Green said.

Green and some of the Bengals' other young players are learning that an off-the-cuff remark can have a long shelf life in the NFL. Quarterback Andy Dalton learned from Green's experience that it's important to be careful in choosing his words.

Asked about the Chiefs' defense being vulnerable to big plays this season, Dalton said, ``I wouldn't say they're vulnerable. I think guys are finding holes and finding windows that they're able to get in, and guys are making big plays.''

He paused to think about how his words might play in the media, then clarified: ``I'm not saying there's holes in the defense.''


AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Arnie Stapleton and Dave Campbell, and Sports Writers Steven Wine, John Wawrow, Josh Dubow and Joe Kay contributed to this story.


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Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast March 12: The business of the NCAA Tournament

Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast March 12: The business of the NCAA Tournament

with Jamie Swimmer & Jesse Leeds Grant

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

  1. From top seed Virginia to final picks Arizona State and Syracuse, it feels as though everyone involved in March Madness is on the bubble this year. As noted by the AP and elsewhere, college basketball is in trouble. When the brackets were revealed on Selection Sunday, Kansas, Villanova, and Xavier joined Virginia as Number 1 seeds. But those teams, along with the other 64 contenders, will play against the backdrop of an NCAA investigation in which bribes and payoffs made bigger headlines than no-look passes and buzzer beaters. The tourney begins Tuesday with play-in games featuring UCLA and St. Bonaventure, then kicks into full swing Thursday and Friday at eight regional sites around the U.S. Shortly after the April 2 championship game in San Antonio, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will likely deliver recommendations from an investigation triggered by an FBI probe that led to charges last fall against coaches, agents, shoe company employees, and others. No fewer than 12 tournament teams have been named by either the FBI or media investigations that allege coaches and others have directed payments and improper benefits to recruits and players – breaking rules that define both the NCAA and the "student-athletes" who created the $1.06 billion in revenue the NCAA earned in its 2017 fiscal year.
  2. In all, the NCAA landed nearly $1.1 billion in annual revenue during the 2017 fiscal year, according to an audited financial statement released by the association last Wednesday. According to USA Today, that number marks the first time in NCAA history that it has surpassed the $1 billion threshold, with the statement also showing more than $956 million in expenses in the 2017 fiscal year alongside $105 million in profit. The rise in revenue came as a result of increases from TV and marketing fees in addition to investment income and increased revenue from championship events, according to the report. Television rights packages with tournament broadcast partners CBS and Turner accounted for more than $800 million of its revenue. That $800 million figure and the $8 billion the networks have agreed to pay to broadcast the tourney through 2032 also gives March Madness announcers some incentive to not mention the FBI investigation during courtside broadcasts.
  3. As the NCAA tournament prepares to tip off this week, the NBA is likewise "preparing to get involved again with elite high school basketball players," according to ESPN and other sources. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and "several of his top advisers have been engaged in listening tours and information-gathering missions with an array of stakeholders for months." That has included formal meetings with the NBPA about "adjusting the so-called 'one-and-done' age-limit rule." A plan is "expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school." It would ultimately "open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary.” Another benefit of the new NBA plan? It would undoubtedly cut down on the under the table payments and improper benefits being alleged in the current FBI investigation of NCAA coaches and players, as the top-tier recruits who stand to receive such compensation will likely forego college altogether, returning the college basketball environment to the “amateurs.”
  4. During this year’s tournament, NCAA March Madness Live will offer fans multiple ways to engage with live coverage for all 67 games of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. March Madness Live will run across 16 platforms this year – the most in the product’s history. In addition, the digital platform will introduce a new Fast Break feature offering continuous live streaming coverage throughout the first round of the NCAA Tournament, presented by AT&T and Lowe’s. The offering will include live streaming whip-around coverage of every tournament game during the first two full days of tournament action, switching from game-to-game with live look-ins, quick turnaround highlights, and commentary on behalf of all the games. NCAA March Madness Live will also continue to offer select NCAA Tournament games in virtual reality this year. Every year, as the dollar signs get bigger, the digital stakes get higher. And what happens around the digital brackets often slides over to other sports. The Madness spreads.
  5. With March Madness upon us, the personal finance website WalletHub has released its NCAA Tournament Stats and Facts infographic as well as its report on 2018’s Best Cities for College Basketball Fans. To find 2018’s top spots for NCAA hoops, WalletHub crunched the numbers on more than 280 U.S. cities using nine key metrics. They range from the number of teams per city and the winning percentage of each to stadium capacity and social-media engagement. The survey identified the best cities for college basketball fans as #1 Chapel Hill, NC; #2 Lawrence, KS; #3 Los Angeles, CA; #4 Durham, NC; and #5 Lexington, KY. WalletHub also noted that the $8.98 million salary paid to college basketball’s highest paid coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, compared very favorably to the $1.4 million combined for Duke’s president and the North Carolina governor, and that the difference between the average NBA rookie’s salary ($2.36 million) and a D1 men’s basketball scholarship for a year ($130,000) is a factor of 18x. Get those brackets filled out before Thursday, and let the unofficial U.S. hoops holiday begin.
  6. This year’s NCAA March Madness Music Festival – presented by the NCAA, Turner Live Events, and official NCAA Corporate Champions AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One – will take place at Hemisfair in San Antonio as part of this year’s NCAA Final Four celebration. The three-day free music festival features Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons, and additional performers will be announced in the coming weeks. The festival opens on March 30 with the AT&T Block Party, while Imagine Dragons take the stage on March 31 as the Coca-Cola Music headliner. Maroon 5 then headlines the Capital One JamFest on April 1. Even with a mega sporting event as big as March Madness and its crowning Final Four weekend, organizers and sponsors alike are ever-cognizant of the need to keep fans entertained with wall-to-wall shoulder programming, even when the on-court attraction is as good as its going to get all year.
  7. Woods-stock is back. Tiger Woods moved to 149th in the Official World Ranking, up from 388, and won $572,000 in prize money with his (tied for) second place finish in the Valspar Championship. And when it comes to picking up a check, according to GolfWorld there's no state he'd rather be in than Florida. Woods has now earned $20,553,868 in the Sunshine State, or slightly more than 20% of the $100 million he's made in the U.S. Ohio ($16,335,145) ranks second on the list and California comes in third ($16,057,684), followed by Georgia (those four green jackets help) at $13,372,311. After three PGA starts so far this season and plenty of fist pumps and power shots that remind golf fans of the Woods of old, it feels like this might be the year that Woods can finally bring his magic back to the sport. Golf fans seem to agree, as ticket prices have skyrocketed in recent days for those who want to watch Tiger compete in the Masters for just the second time since 2013. According to, the average price of a single-day ticket at Augusta this year is a whopping $2,948.42 on secondary markets. Compare that to $2,592.91 for last year’s Masters. A renewed Tiger Mania has effectively increased the price of entry at Augusta National by 20%. And we’re still four weeks, and several tourneys, away.
  8. Jimmy Pitaro beat out at least five internal candidates to become ESPN’s eighth and newest president. Pitaro, who headed up Disney’s consumer products and interactive media group since 2016, will report directly to Disney Chair and CEO Bob Iger. Pitaro replaces John Skipper, who resigned in December citing a substance abuse problem. Former ESPN President George Bodenheimer took over as interim president for a 90-day period while Iger interviewed for a permanent replacement. Iger picked Pitaro over internal candidates including ESPN Exec VP/Affiliate Sales and Marketing Justin Connolly, Exec VP/Content Connor Schell, Exec VP/Programming and Scheduling Burke Magnus, Exec VP/International Russell Wolff, and others. Iger was reportedly swayed that Pitaro’s background in digital media, sports, and consumer products would be a good fit for a sports media company trying to navigate a new media world. One of the first tasks on Pitaro's to-do list will be overseeing the launch of ESPN+, coming later this spring. He will also need to focus on looming sports rights renewals: ESPN’s MLB and NFL deals end in 2021.
  9. Need data to prove that the U.S. is in fact the biggest international sports market? Here’s some more food for thought for new ESPN honcho Jimmy Pitaro. According to a newly-released global industry survey, the worldwide sports media rights market is valued at $49.5 billion. American sports rights holders take in 36% ($18 billion) of that total, with the NFL ($7.3 billion), NBA ($3.9 billion) and MLB ($3.4 billion) regarded as three of the four most valuable sports media properties in the world. The English Premier League ($4.5 billion) is the only non-U.S. based sports media property generating more than $3 billion per year in revenue. For reference purposes, the Champions League, La Liga and Serie A bring in $2.2 billion, $1.9 billion, and $1.5 billion, respectively. Major shifts in sports consumer preferences and tastes, as well as the NFL’s recent troubles, will likely cause Pitaro to more closely evaluate opportunities outside of U.S. borders for ESPN.
  10. Here’s even more food for ESPN thought: mass audience reach, long believed to be an assumed advantage of the largest TV networks, is proving to be a myth. In 2018, marketers and agency executives at all levels are rating Facebook, Amazon, and Google/YouTube as more valuable at delivering on that goal than broadcasting and lead cable network groups. The trio’s market dominance is being driven by their ability to share detailed metrics against specific KPIs identified by marketers and their agencies. A new survey of over 1,200 U.S. brand marketers and agency executives, conducted by Jack Myers Tomorrow Today for Media Village, revealed that 80% of respondents rated the three online companies as very valuable for reach delivery, compared to 61% who rated the four leading broadcast networks as valuable. While ESPN was not named in the survey, the continuing mass migration to social and digital media is the impetus behind sports networks’ large-scale investment in proprietary social/digital platforms, and a major reason the Twitters and Facebooks of our world can now land Big Four sports media rights – a notion that would have been laughable even a handful of years ago.
  11. And in that vein, just examined how Instagram "conquered the NBA." While soccer "still reigns supreme worldwide, the NBA is Instagram’s shining star domestically." The NBA’s official account "has 27 million followers -- nearly doubling the NFL’s 10.9 million and MLB’s 4 million combined -- and totaled a whopping 3.7 billion video views on the platform last year." LeBron James "leads all U.S. athletes with 35.7 million followers, dwarfing Tom Brady’s 3.9 million." And the Warriors "lead all team accounts with 8 million followers." As new basketball stars and NBA prospects arise during the NCAA tournament, it will be instructive to see how many new Instagram followers they gain alongside points, assists, and rebounds.
  12. Churchill Downs, Inc. has announced it will acquire casinos in Pennsylvania and Mississippi, as it prepares to capitalize on legalized sports betting. The company will buy the Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, PA (for $178.9 million) and the Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi (for $50.6 million), from current owner Eldorado Resorts. Both Pennsylvania and Mississippi have passed sports betting legislation that would change their laws, should the U.S. Supreme Court rule in favor. Churchill Downs also owns brick-and-mortar casinos in Illinois, Kentucky, and Louisiana -- three other states actively working towards sports betting legalization. While Presque Isle Downs & Casino is among the lowest revenue-generating casinos in Pennsylvania, it is a significant acquisition for Churchill Downs. Pennsylvania recently legalized online gambling and the law passed covers mobile wagering on sporting events when permitted by federal law. While land-based casinos are profitable, mobile sports betting really has Churchill Downs excited. TwinSpires, the company’s online horse betting platform, accounted for $256.7 million in 2017 revenue. You can assume the company will look to quickly turn their database of users betting on the ponies into mainstream sports gamblers.
  13. In Miami, the new MLS ownership group inches closer to its stadium site. According to the Miami Herald, David Beckham and Jorge Mas met this week with Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez about building an MLS stadium on the city-owned Melreese Country Club, "floating a 180-acre alternative" near Miami International Airport. Mas and his brother Jose have discussed with Gonzalez "how the Melreese park could mesh with the Mas ambitions for a sprawling soccer complex." Gonzalez is entertaining the "possibility of renting at least a sizable portion of Miami’s largest park and a public 18-hole golf course to a for-profit soccer stadium and commercial complex." Miami has always been a hotbed of public-private investment – much of which has deserved a raised eyebrow or two – and the new proposed mixed-use soccer stadium is only the most recent footnote in that grand tradition.
  14. The NHL and NHLPA, in conjunction with Live Nation, announced dates, local start times, locations and ticketing information for the 2018 NHL Global Series and the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge. In January, the NHL announced that the Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, and Winnipeg Jets will play regular-season games in Europe as part of the slate. The Oilers and Devils will play their 2018-2019 season-opening game against each other in Gothenburg, Sweden on October 6, while the Panthers and Jets will face off in a pair of regular-season games in Helsinki, Finland on November 1-2. Prior to the New Jersey-Edmonton season-opening matchup, the Devils and Oilers will complete their training camps in Europe and will each play in an exhibition match as part of the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge. Even though we didn’t get to see NHL players complete in the Olympics this year, the Global Series Challenge gives hockey fans around the world a taste of the NHL – and allows the league, rather than the IOC, to control the schedule and the accompanying revenue.
  15. Elsewhere in Olympic-land, the IOC has laid out an overview of 25 recommendations from its Gender Equality Review Project, in a move to “focus on changing the conversation about women in sport holistically – from participation to representation and decision-making.” According to Cynopsis Sports, the recommendations cover five key areas – sport, portrayal, funding, governance, and human resources.  “We are certain that, through the implementation of the 25 IOC Gender Equality Recommendations, we as the Olympic Movement – athletes, officials, commissions, federations and executives – can take real steps to enact effective change together,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “It is not just the right thing to do. It is in the interest of us all – the fans, the families, and every girl and woman who has been able to fully realize her dreams through athletic participation.” A fitting way for the IOC to celebrate last week’s International Women’s Day, and the rest of March, which is Women’s History Month.





Tech Top 5


  1. Levy Restaurants tests robot cooks in sport venues. Levy Restaurants, in collaboration with California technology startup Miso Robotics, is developing a robotic chef capable of cooking in commercial kitchens such as sports venues. The artificial kitchen assistant, named Flippy in its initial pilot testing, is an industrial robotic arm that uses a combination of cameras, artificial intelligence, thermal scanners, and lasers to know when to turn burgers and remove them from the grill, complete deep-frying cycles, or chop vegetables. The robotic arm is capable of instantly receiving digital orders, starting food on a grill or fryer, monitoring precise food temperatures during cooking, removing that food, and then alerting humans when it’s time to finish and serve items. The robot can even change spatulas from one for raw food to one for cooked food to ensure compliance with safety regulations. “We’ve essentially built a third hand for overworked chefs,” said David Zito, Miso Robotics co-founder and chief executive. The technology is set to debut this summer at Dodger Stadium, at a popular food stand at the ballpark offering fried chicken. That installation will be followed by one at L.A.’s Staples Center this fall, and a broader rollout over the next two years across Levy’s portfolio of sports and entertainment clients.
  2. Social media features NCAA March Madness selection show. Ahead of this year’s 2018 NCAA March Madness Selection Show, Turner Sports and CBS Sports produced a special four-hour Social Madness social media preshow, running exclusively on official March Madness handles across YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook along with and Bleacher Report. March Madness Selection Countdown will showcase fan-created content from schools and teams that have earned automatic bids to this year’s 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship via conference championships, in addition to those seeking at-large bids. The key for the joint CBS-Turner tournament has always been to evolve and innovate all aspects of how it is broadcast, beginning with moving the tournament to four different channels in 2011 and expanding regularly to different online and social platforms. The more aggressive move to social in 2018 represents the next generation of March Madness Selection Show expansion.
  3. Real Madrid launches VR channel.  Fans of Real Madrid will now be able to watch Cristiano Ronaldo score goals and give exciting locker room speeches in virtual reality on their TVs thanks to a partnership between La Liga and Dream VR, which creates a dedicated channel for VR content watchable on mobile devices. The channel will allow Real Madrid fans around the world to access exclusive videos from the club, including 360-degree content. Dream VR developed the new channel through its own application, which can be accessed via iOS and Android mobile devices and various virtual reality platforms. The Dream VR app is also available through Samsung Smart TV and Apple TV platforms, with plans to extend their reach to other sports teams in the near future. Real Madrid's commitment to this new initiative, which launched last Monday and will offer new content each month, is set to enable the club's millions of followers throughout the world to enjoy exclusive 360° content.
  4. Kevin Durant joins wearable technology company as investor. Whoop, the wearable company that partnered with the NFL Players Association last year to track player strain and recovery, has secured a $25 million Series C funding round led by UAE71 Capital with participation from the NFLPA, Kevin Durant via the Durant Company, and NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. "In the process of fundraising you meet people and get introduced to one another," Whoop co-founder and CEO Will Ahmed said when asked how he met UAE71. “They’ve worked with other products in the past and we were excited by their point of view of expanding internationally.” Founded out of the Harvard iLab in 2012, Whoop uses the wristbands to track data about an athlete's sleep schedule, "strain" during workouts, and recovery afterwards. The company has now raised about $50 million in total. Whoop wristbands have been approved for in-game use by Major League Baseball, and the company is working toward similar arrangements with the NFL and the NBA.
  5. Rep The Squad jersey rental adds MLB jerseys. Rep the Squad announced the addition of MLB jerseys to its marketplace, as well as a new trade-in program that aims to reduce the amount of counterfeit items. The Seattle-based jersey rental service now offers Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers jerseys, with more MLB teams to be added later this year. Rep the Squad uses a Netflix-like model, charging customers $19.95 per month to receive selected jerseys in the mail, one at a time. When you’re done wearing one, you can return it and receive a different jersey as long as you maintain your subscription. The company launched last year with NFL jerseys, and added NBA jerseys in November. It aims to attract new customers by offering membership discounts for used jerseys fans already own, including counterfeit items. After signing up for the trade-in program, members will receive a free subscription for one month after sending in their old jersey. Rep the Squad has raised $2.5 million from top venture capital firms, along with current and former pro athletes such as Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Russell Okung, and Edgar Martinez.




Power of Sports 5

  1. Tom Brady gets a buzz cut for charity and raises $6.5 million. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady just got a buzz cut for a cancer research institute. Brady was the mystery guest at last Thursday's "Saving by Shaving" annual fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Brady showed off his new look on Instagram after his long, brown hair was shaved down with a razor. Granite Telecommunications holds the event at its headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts. The company pledged to give over $5 million to the cancer institute if 1,000 people shaved their heads or beards. Granite Telecomm says 1,200 people participated this year, and it will contribute $6.5 million for its fifth annual event. "It's great to see you guys out here. I know you're doing great work and I know we are going to continue to do the same," Brady told the crowd. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker stood beside Brady. "It's a great statement about him as well as a great statement about how much people appreciate the chance to do this on behalf of such a great cause," Baker said. Saving by Shaving has raised close to $15 million in four years.
  2. Rich Eisen runs 40-yard dash for charity. Every year, Rich Eisen steps onto the starting block at the NFL Combine and runs a 40-yard dash, with the NFL Network anchor using the platform to benefit St. Jude Children's Hospital. This marks the 14th consecutive year that Eisen has run a televised 40. He posted his best time in 2016, when he ran a 5.94. That’s the second time in all these years that Eisen has managed to get below six seconds. This raises money for a wonderful cause, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. St. Jude’s provides treatment and care to children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, and they never turn away a patient based on their ability to pay. Families do not receive any bill from St. Jude’s when their child receives treatment there. The NFL Network will contribute $25,000 this year to St. Jude’s on behalf of Run Rich Run. AT&T Audience Network, Courtyard by Marriott, and Under Armour also pledged $25,000 each to St. Jude’s as part of this initiative, for a total of $100,000. “I’m touched and honored by the chance to do anything on behalf of St. Jude and the terrific partners of Run Rich Run who support it,” Eisen said, “If only any of that could make me run faster.”
  3. Washington Capitals support TAPS. Courage Caps, the Washington Capitals’ team-issued branded hats and T-shirts, went on sale last week, in partnership with Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation and the Washington Capitals. This season's Courage Caps campaign is sponsored by Telos Corporation, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). For the seventh-consecutive season, TAPS is the beneficiary of Courage Caps. TAPS is a nonprofit organization that provides comfort and care for anyone grieving the death of someone who died while serving in the military. Funds raised will help TAPS provide peer-based emotional support, regional seminars for adults, good grief camps for children, casework assistance, grief and trauma resources, and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for bereaved military families. To launch the 2017-18 campaign, Caps players John Carlson, Taylor ChorneyMatt NiskanenBrooks Orpik, and T.J. Oshie hosted nearly 150 children and adults who have found healing through TAPS for a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on February 10.
  4. Houston Texans announce #TexansCare Volunteer Day. The Houston Texans announced their annual #TexansCare Volunteer Day. The annual event will be held this year on April 28 and offers Texans fans the opportunity to volunteer around the city of Houston alongside the Texans Cheerleaders, TORO, Texans staff, and their favorite Texans players. This year, the Texans will offer volunteer support at the YMCA of Greater Houston and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston. Volunteers at the Houston Texans YMCA will participate in projects such as mulching, pressure washing, building structures, and assembling kits for families affected by Hurricane Harvey. These projects will create a fresh look for the space where children learn and grow, and assist in strengthening the community. Volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club - Havard location will help with the upkeep of this facility. The projects for this site consist of repainting outdoor areas, landscaping, deep cleaning, and repairing equipment. Completing these projects will provide the Boys & Girls Club with much-needed services and will encourage participation in club activities by area youth.
  5. Former NFL punter to play in charity game for 9/11 victims. The Washington Wild Things, an independent minor league baseball team in Pennsylvania, announced that former NFL punter Pat McAfee will play in a Wild Things game this season as part of a promotion that benefits a veterans' charity. The 30-year-old McAfee retired after the 2016 NFL season to join media company Barstool Sports, which announced the promotion for the June 21 Wild Things game. According to a team release, McAfee will be in the starting lineup, playing right field for Washington before batting and coaching first base in his pro baseball debut against the Traverse City Beach Bums. Fans attending the game also will receive a free T-shirt, with $1 draft beer available. The Wild Things said half of all proceeds from the game will benefit the "It's About the Warrior Foundation," a post-9/11 veterans organization that assists and empowers all Tri-State area post-9/11 veterans and their families via various programs. "I'm very grateful that the Washington Wild Things are willing to have a great time with some promotion while raising money for an incredible cause," McAfee said. "(One-dollar) pints, a free T-shirt and a chance that I die from getting hit by a pitch from a professional pitcher is quite a recipe for an incredible time."

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Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

As a fellow NBA head coach, Scott Brooks understands what Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers is going through. As his former teammate, Ramon Sessions knows how tough Lue is.

Both members of the Wizards shared their reactions after Monday's practice to the news Lue is stepping away from the Cavs to deal with a health issue. Both expressed hope Lue will not be out long as the NBA continues its trek towards the playoffs.

"All of our thoughts are with him," Brooks said. "You hope that it's nothing serious. Health is the most important [thing]. The game is secondary."


"Prayers out to T-Lue," said Sessions, who played with Lue in Milwaukee. "It's one of those things where you've gotta take care of yourself at the end of the day. Him stepping away is the best thing."

Lue's illness has been a mystery to doctors, according to a statement he released on the Cavaliers' website. He has dealt with chest pains and other symptoms while also struggling to sleep. The hope is that having time off will allow him to get the rest he needs.


Brooks knows firsthand how difficult it is to get sleep during the regular season as a coach.

"You just have to figure out ways to get your rest. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you think after a good win you can have a good night's rest or sometimes it's the opposite. It's just hard to get rest. You're traveling in different timezones. You are emotional after games. You eat late. There are a lot of factors that go into it. We don't have a set schedule every night. I have a good staff and I rely on them," he said.

Lue, 40, will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim. The Cavs happen to be in a tight playoff race with the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference battling for position.

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