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Back in Top 25, Cowboys seek more growth

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Back in Top 25, Cowboys seek more growth

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Now that Oklahoma State is back in the Top 25 for the first time in five years, the 24th-ranked Cowboys want to show they really belong.

For top scorer Le'Bryan Nash, that means playing the very best no matter who happens to be the opponent.

The Cowboys (8-1) are going through a rare six-game home stand that ends with a much-anticipated New Year's Eve game against No. 14 Gonzaga. The challenge for coach Travis Ford been maintaining focus up until then.

There's been even more chatter about the Gonzaga game - one of the highest-profile nonconference opponents to play at Gallagher-Iba Arena in years - following the announcement that booster Boone Pickens had agreed to pay for all of the remaining tickets to be given away free.

``It was getting a lot of notoriety what Mr. Pickens did for us and things like that, which is wonderful and great, but everybody's been wanting to talk about that,'' Ford said. ``That game seems so far away right now, it's unbelievable.''

Instead, Ford is concerned with practices that haven't been as productive as he would like because Brian Williams and Marek Soucek are both out with injuries. The roster previously had been thinned by several players transferring and Darrell Williams' departure following his conviction on felony counts of rape by instrumentation and sexual battery.

As a result, there have been growing pains with some ugly basketball in stretches during victories against overmatched opponents.

``We can sit here and talk about it, make excuses for it, and that's basically what I'm sitting here doing,'' Ford said. ``We would rather play games. Our practices, we just don't have a whole lot of bodies. We're not getting a whole lot done at practice. We're really not.''

Ford said most of the Cowboys' development has come in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 sessions. When the real games come along, Oklahoma State has had to learn to bring its A-game, even against inferior competition. A big lull led to an 11-0 run by Missouri State to start the second half, and Central Arkansas opened its game by taking a 22-11 before Ford woke his team up during a timeout.

``That's one of my weaknesses in my game. I play to the level of my competition,'' said Nash, who's averaging 16.6 points. ``It happened earlier on this year, playing guys like Tennessee and N.C. State. I've been better about it now, and I can play how I want to play. I just have to keep telling myself to play hard and go out there to get the win.

``I let the game come to me and let my teammates give the ball to me in good situations where I can get a good shot off. When you play together, good things will happen for you.''

Ford said he tries to coach his players as though every game is championship-caliber. But he understands that it's human nature to not play at such a high level every minute of every game.

``He's right. I'm glad he admits it,'' Ford said. ``They say your first thing to correcting a problem is admitting it.''

Nash drifted in and out last season, when he was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He'd follow a magnificent game with a dud, showing promise clouded by inconsistency. He has tried to force himself to remain aggressive this season, setting a goal of being among the best at earning free throws.

``When he's getting to the foul line, I know he's playing his best,'' Ford said. ``All I have to do is look at that stat, if he's getting to the foul line, then he's doing what we're asking him to do.''

If that approach rubs off on Nash's teammates, it's only for the better as Oklahoma State tries to get back to being a regular in the NCAA tournament and the Top 25. Both have been elusive in the years since Eddie Sutton left. But with Nash and fellow McDonald's All-American Marcus Smart, the Cowboys have their best talent yet under Ford.

``When you looked at their caliber of players, the talent level, you can tell it's a lot higher now than it was before,'' Central Arkansas coach Corliss Williamson said. ``The young men they have now are taller, stronger and I think their basketball IQ is really high.''

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Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will prevent fans from attending Nationals games during the 2020 season and it appears will also cost them an annual offseason tradition.

The Nationals announced Wednesday their plans to cancel Winterfest 2021. The convention was originally scheduled for January 2021.

"Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Winterfest 2021, which was scheduled to be held in January," the team said in a statement. "We know how important this event is to our fans. That said, we look forward to offering a variety of alternative opportunities for our community to come together to celebrate our team."

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Details regarding the alternative opportunities are unknown as of this writing. 

In the meantime, Washington will continue to play its 2020 season without fans. They are 4-5 entering a series with the Orioles Friday and had to take four days off after the Marlins experienced a COVID-19 outbreak within their clubhouse and the Nats' series with Miami was postponed. 

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Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Warriors.

Case for: Washington Warriors

When it comes to the Washington Football Team, developing a new brand has as much to do with separating itself from the previous identity as it does creating a new one.

While the team’s previous moniker provided a sense of pride and joy to some people, it was considered derogatory by others. Those offended by the name had expressed resentment for decades before the team finally decided to take action this summer. But the team only did so after its bottomline was at risk of taking a hit by corporate sponsors threatening to end their relationships with the team.

If Washington wants people to take its rebrand seriously and view it as more than a money-saving play, the team will need to completely distance itself from Native American imagery. That being considered, is Warriors a good choice as the replacement name? It depends, says Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

“It depends on which direction you go with it,” Derdenger said. “I’ve read things that they want to keep the feather and go in that direction as opposed to a military warrior, more of the Indian warrior. And if they do it the latter, they’re completely missing the mark on why they’re changing their name.”

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This conundrum highlights the different things that have to be considered when undergoing a name change. It isn’t just the name; it’s also the logo, the branding on team gear and uniforms, the stadium atmosphere, the fan experience, and so much more. If the team was able to rebrand itself as the Warriors without singling out a specific race or group of people, the name could work. The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association have a great brand and don’t use human imagery at all, going with the Bay Bridge as their primary logo.

Matt White, president of WHITE64, pointed to Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder's background in advertising and branding as a reason he thinks the team could pull it off.

“I think what you have to do is, do it in a thoughtful, logical manner, where you’re hiring a firm, which he has relationships with that can really do a great job,” White said.

The option for thoughtful branding exists in a way for "Warriors" that it doesn’t for a name like "Braves." Some fans had tossed around the latter as an option because of its history as the Washington franchise’s original name for one season in 1932, when the team was still located in Boston. But that’s a piece of history most fans likely forgot, if they ever knew it. And a Brave, by definition, is specifically a Native American warrior. The name doesn’t allow for a change in branding the same way Warriors does.

“The Cleveland Indians are already being asked to change their name. The Atlanta Braves apparently are even being looked at with that,” White said. “And again, there’s gotta be a solution that doesn’t offend somebody but that can still capture the spirit.”

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That's where Warriors could be used, like Braves, to appease the base of fans who never wanted to part with the old moniker. However, Brad Nierenberg, the CEO of RedPeg Marketing, thinks choosing that name is also a choice to please those particular fans over the people who want to see a clean break. 

“If you’re gonna stay close with the Redskins, I think you’re gonna be staying with a fan base that ... you’re gonna placate the challenge to changing the name, then the Warriors and Braves are gonna be that next step,” Nierenberg said.

“I think there’s gonna be people saying they didn’t go far enough. That’s my gut.”

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This is where everything else that accompanies the name change becomes so vital. Because while it’s likely true everyone won’t be happy with Warriors, it’s possible to win over a few more people with the proper branding and imagery.

"The logo is then going to be the key part,” Derdenger said. “And what that logo will look like and how it connects back to the military warrior.

“I can’t right now see in my head what a Warriors logo looks like. ... But they have to go away from the connection to the Native Americans.”

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