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Orange Bowl ends difficult season for FSU's Manuel

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Orange Bowl ends difficult season for FSU's Manuel

MIAMI (AP) When quarterback EJ Manuel takes the Orange Bowl field Tuesday for his final game at Florida State, his mother will be home in Virginia, recovering from her final round of chemotherapy to treat breast cancer.

The turn of the calendar marks the end of an emotional year for the family. Jackie Manuel was diagnosed shortly before the season, and for EJ, trying to win games became a welcome diversion rather than his primary concern.

More than ever, football also became something to celebrate. Many of EJ's relatives - his mom included - will gather at his grandmother's house in Virginia Beach to whoop it up as they watch the No. 13-ranked Seminoles play No. 16 Northern Illinois.

And for a few hours, at least, he'll try not to worry about his mother.

``I'll be locked in on my last game as a collegiate player,'' Manuel said. ``My mom wants that. This is what you work for. I'm not going to allow our team to fall short.''

The Seminoles (11-2) have followed Manuel's lead all season. He endured his worst game last month against Florida, committing four turnovers in a 37-26 loss. He reached the end zone only once in the Seminoles' other defeat, a 17-16 loss to North Carolina State. But in Florida State's victories, he threw 20 touchdown passes with only six interceptions.

The Florida game took place on Parents' Day in Tallahassee, and Jackie Manuel made the 12-hour drive to attend. Watching Mom and Dad walk onto the field before the game, EJ was overcome with emotion.

``For her to come down and support me for my last home game at Florida State meant the world to me,'' he said. ``That's why I couldn't really hold back. I was definitely tearing up. I was like, `EJ, stop crying.' But I couldn't hold it back.''

He declined to blame the heart-tugging occasion for the way he played, however.

``It just happened to be one of those days,'' he said.

Regardless, Manuel won admiration from his teammates and coaches for the way he has performed this season.

``It has been a tough year for him,'' offensive coordinator James Coley said. ``Whenever you see someone near and dear to you struggling with an illness, especially at a young age, it's tough. But he persevered through it.''

In more ways than one, this has not been the senior year Manuel anticipated. The Seminoles expected to wind up in Miami, but in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7, not in the Orange Bowl against a Northern Illinois team derided by some as an unworthy opponent.

However, Manuel said he's happy with his season. After all, he threw for 3,101 yards to lead an offense that averaged 7.01 yards per play, which tied for first in the nation. He helped the Seminoles earn their first BCS bowl berth in seven years.

``I wish we could have been here a week later for the national championship,'' Manuel said. ``But it didn't work out that way. We won our conference and had a great season, and I'm proud of the things I've accomplished here at Florida State.''

Northern Illinois defensive end Sean Progar, who has 8 1/2 sacks this season, said the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Manuel will challenge the Huskies like no other quarterback they've faced.

``He'll definitely be the best, just because of everything he can do, throwing and running,'' Progar said. ``He's a big guy. He's not going to go down lightly. He's going to look to throw first, but he will scramble, and he's good at it.''

Manuel has a chance to become only the second quarterback to go 4-0 in bowl games, joining West Virginia's Pat White. A year ago he led Florida State to an 18-14 victory in the Champs Bowl over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who haven't lost since. He ranks third among Seminoles QBs with 24 career victories.

``His legacy will be that he's a winner,'' Coley said. ``He's a competitor, he's a fighter, and his teammates love the guy. They'll run through a wall for him.''

They also respect the way he has coped with his mom's illness. Only recently did he begin to discuss the matter publicly, and he has done so with grace and candor.

``He's a guy you want to be like,'' receiver Rodney Smith said.

Manuel and his family are encouraged about the prognosis for his mother, who turned 49 Thursday. She has responded well to chemotherapy and will undergo surgery in about a month.

``Once something like this happens to somebody you're close to, it hits home,'' Manuel said. ``It opened my eyes to a lot of things. But she's doing well. That is the thing that has helped me out the most.''

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Lars Eller intends to leave bubble for the birth of his second child

Lars Eller intends to leave bubble for the birth of his second child

The disruption to the NHL season because of the coronavirus has affected more than just the postseason. For Lars Eller, it will mean having to leave the team in order to be with his family for the birth of his second child.

The 2020 postseason is scheduled to begin Aug. 1. Eller's wife is due on Aug. 8, the same day as the Capitals' third round robin game. Obviously that means unless she delivers early, the baby will be born after Eller has left for Toronto.

Eller, however, expressed Tuesday that he intends to be with his family when the baby is born.

"We're working on making the necessary arrangements so I can be for the birth and come back to the bubble after that," Eller said.

When the whole point of the bubble is to isolate the players and limit their contact with the outside world in order to keep them from contracting the coronavirus, obviously this will present some challenges.

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Eller, however, is hardly the only player who is facing this dilemma. The season pause means several players who thought they were going to have an offseason baby now will be having their new additions during the postseason. While the NHL and NHL Players' Association were negotiating the health and safety protocols for the league's return to play plan, family access became one of the major talking points. It's hard to maintain a bubble if you also allow family members in, but players did not want to be away from their families for several months. Certain rules were written in that would allow players to leave the bubble and return if necessary and those are the rules Eller is now trying to figure out so he can rejoin the team after his baby is born.

"You're going to have to take a lot of precautions for when you leave," Eller said. "Depending on how you travel and you travel back and forth and who you're going to be in contact with and so on, I'll have to serve some time inside the bubble and test a number of times before I can join my teammates again and play games. We're working on trying to figure out how we do that the best possible way."

Players did have the option of opting out of the playoffs, but Eller elected not to take that option. For him, trying to win a second Stanley Cup is still a priority, it's just not more important than his family.

"We're going to have a new addition to our family here in a couple weeks," Eller said. "I don't know when it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. But at the same time, I want to be with my team and also committed to that and want to win another Cup."

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There's an impressive list of names reportedly joining Bradley Beal in bid to buy the New York Mets

There's an impressive list of names reportedly joining Bradley Beal in bid to buy the New York Mets

Apparently, the New York Mets are popular.

In a group that looks more like some sort of ESPY's afterparty guest list, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal is reportedly joined by names such as Super Bowl LIV champ Travis Kelce, NFL Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray, former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas, current Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, oh, and some people named Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez in a bid to buy the Mets. 

That's quite an eclectic group. 

They've already submitted their initial bid of $1.7 billion, according to the New York Post. Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen has reportedly made a top bid so far of $2 billion. The report says Mets COO Jeff Wilpon would prefer to sell to the "J-Rod" led group if its offer is close to the best bid at the end of the auction. Both have apparently already put up $300 million of their own money towards the potential purchase.

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According to ESPN, the group is awaiting word from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on what will happen next. 

Really the more pressing question though has to be how they all came together. Who would've thought Mason Plumlee and J-Lo would go into business together. Or Beal and Kelce. 

Either way, it's a story that continues to gain traction, and clearly has the star power to make for an interesting future for the Mets organization should the deal go through.  

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