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Marc Savard details dark battle with head trauma in chilling Players’ Tribune essay

05.16.17 at 11:50 am ET
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Marc Savard’s life changed forever on March 7, 2010, when Penguins forward Matt Cooke blindsided him with a head shot. After missing roughly two months, he returned to the ice for the playoffs that season, scoring a game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Bruins’ series against the Flyers. But then he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and missed the first 23 games of the 2010-11 campaign. His career ended that January, when he suffered another concussion after taking a hit from Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick.

Savard opened up about his ongoing battle with head trauma in a chilling Players’ Tribune essay published Tuesday. In it, he talks about how he lived a “reverse lifestyle” after the Cooke hit, staying in bed all day and not waking until 11:00 p.m., when he would watch TV on mute with the brightness turned down. Though he says he never thought about taking his own life, his psychologist considered him to be suicidal.

“I don’t say that to be dramatic, or to make anyone feel sorry for me. It’s simply the truth. I was in a very dark place, and I think it’s a place that a lot of people struggling with postconcussion syndrome get to,” he writes.

Despite this feeling of despair, Savard was determined to return to the ice. The 13-year NHL veteran explains how hockey was the only thing he knew in his life, and he couldn’t imagine going on without it. This desire prompted Savard to return for the 2010 playoffs, where he played the entirety of the Bruins’ seven-game series against the Flyers even though he had “nothing left in the tank.”

That offseason, Savard says his symptoms worsened.

“I had headaches almost every day,” he writes. “The darkness was back. At that point, I was considering retirement. I skipped training camp that year to rest and reassess. The ironic thing was that the specialist I was seeing was located in Pittsburgh. So I had to keep going back to the scene of the crime every few weeks to get evaluated.”

Savard returned 23 games into the 2010-11 season before suffering his second major concussion in as many years against Colorado. At that point, with his team racing towards its first Stanley Cup win since 1972, Savard was forced to recognize he’ll never play hockey again. Though he was happy for his teammates, he says the dark cycle of behavior returned.

“One night, it got really bad,” he says. “I felt like I was having a heart attack. My wife ended up taking me to the E.R. They ran some tests and told me that everything was totally normal. But when I went home, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that something was seriously wrong. The next morning, I got up and was sick to my stomach. I went to see another doctor, and he told me what was actually going on.”

In addition to pulsating headaches, Savard experienced crippling panic attacks. He still battles anxiety to this day. But even though hockey almost brought him to his death, Savard says he still loves the game.

Every time someone looks at the Stanley Cup, for the rest of history, they will see a name engraved along with the rest of the 2010–11 Boston Bruins,” he writes.

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ESPN announces new weekday lineup, led by Mike Greenberg’s morning variety show

05.16.17 at 10:42 am ET
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ESPN continues to shake things up. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN continues to shake things up. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

For several months, there have been rumors about a big shakeup coming to ESPN’s weekday lineup. Those reports were confirmed Tuesday at the network’s annual Upfront event.

ESPN president John Skipper announced Mike Greenberg, who recently signed a new contract that will pay him a reported $6.5 million per year, will host his own variety show from 7:00-10:00 a.m. EST. The program, along with all other lineup changes, will begin in January. Trey Wingo will take Greenberg’s spot alongside Mike Golic on “Mike & Mike,” and the two will be joined by Mike Golic Jr. from 6:00-7:00 a.m.

“First Take” will remain in its 10:00-noon time slot, and a show hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre will air from noon-1:00 p.m. ESPN’s block of afternoon program will remain the same.

The success of this lineup largely depends on Greenberg’s New York City-based show, which will feature several co-hosts and guests. It was originally rumored that Sage Steele would join Greenberg, but ESPN announced Monday she’ll be hosting “SportsCenter: AM” weekday mornings on ESPN 2, beginning in late August.

Given all of the options for morning television, including partisan cable news programs drawing record numbers in the Trump era, it’s difficult to see where Greenberg will find his niche. While the affable anchor’s inoffensive style meshes well with a certain percentage of people, the networks  –– CBS, ABC and NBC –– already have the market cornered on breezy morning talk. It’s unlikely Greenberg’s show will be highlight-based, considering ESPN 2 will be airing a more traditional “SportsCenter” during that time slot.

Jones and Torre are rising stars at the WorldWide Leader, but they both subscribe to the same progressive worldview. It’s easy to see the program becoming an echo chamber.

Ratings for ESPN’s studio programs are on the decline, and while changing viewing habits are to blame for some of the drop-off, the quality of the shows must be looked at, too. “SC:6″ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith has received the brunt of criticism, with Yahoo Finance writer Daniel Roberts noting recently that roughly half of the 3,000 comments on a story about ESPN layoffs were people advocating for their firing. Since March, the show’s audience is down an average of 12.6 percent compared to last year’s 6:00 p.m. “SportsCenter.”

In a memo, ESPN management seems to grant commentators more leeway to talk about polarizing social issues. But as of now, none of these new shows feature hosts with divergent viewpoints or new faces. It seems to be a reshuffling of the deck chairs more than anything else.

After undergoing mass layoffs last month, it’s clear ESPN is invested in this new weekday lineup. The network is going more towards opinion, but it’s uncertain if these shows, outside of “First Take,” will provide much in terms of debate.

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Terry Francona won’t stop publicly trolling Kevin Cash

05.16.17 at 8:15 am ET
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Notorious prankster Terry Francona is at it again. And he’s doubling down on victim Kevin Cash.

Cash, manager of the Rays and former Red Sox backup-catcher under Francona, has been the butt of many Francona jokes, including a mural outside Cash’s office reading, “Legends of the Game” next to Cash’s face, but lately Francona has made them a little more public.

Last season, Francona put this troll job up on the scoreboard:

The Rays are in Cleveland this week and Francona couldn’t miss this opportunity to continue his one-sided prank war:

Cash has yet to respond and has nothing but kind words for Francona.

“We do have a great friendship and I respect him a lot. I’m very appreciative for everything he has helped me with along my career,” Cash said. “I’ve learned a lot from him. We talk quite a bit, and he just has always been a tremendous sounding board in baseball, outside of baseball, and I’m very grateful for our relationship.”

But Francona knows to sleep with one eye open.

“He hasn’t [pranked me],” Francona said. “Believe me, he could. I think he knows it. I think fortunately in this situation, I’m sort of like the big brother of the two. Where I can kind of take advantage of it a little bit. I’m sure at some point he’ll get tired of it and do something. I don’t care. I don’t have any feelings. I don’t care.”

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: David Ortiz tells Mike Francesa he never used steroids; Wizards fan knocks out Celtics fan during Game 7

05.16.17 at 8:13 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Tuesday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

NY Yankees at Kansas City, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Boston at St. Louis, 8:15 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
NBA: NBA Draft Lottery, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: San Antonio at Golden State, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Anaheim at Nashville, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)


— David Ortiz made an appearance on WFAN on Monday afternoon to talk with Mike Francesa about his new autobiography, Papi: My Story, which he wrote with WEEI’s Michael Holley. When the conversation turned to Ortiz’s career, Francesa asked Ortiz if he ever used steroids.

“Never. That wasn’t my purpose. I was a guy that I worked extremely hard to get better,” Ortiz said.  “I keep on saying to people that I got more drug testing than anybody ever has in baseball, and I never failed one.”

It was reported in 2004 Ortiz and 109 other players failed PED tests six years earlier. The tests were supposed to be anonymous.

“It was just a rumor on the street,” Ortiz said. “Nobody ever came to me and told me, ‘This is what you tested positive for.’ … And you saw what the commissioner say: ‘This was inconclusive.’ I mean, it was their word against mine basically.”

Francesa then asked him about Manny Ramirez and Ramirez’s 2009 suspension for violating the league’s PED policy.

“Manny’s last name is Ramirez. My one is Ortiz,” Ortiz said. “So if Manny go out there and kill somebody, should I be guilty?”

Francesa also asked Ortiz about his favorite Yankee Stadium memory, called him Pedro by mistake and asked what Ortiz thinks about his steroid uncertainty keeping him out of the Hall of Fame.

“That’s something that I can’t control. What I can control is what I was able to do in the field,” Ortiz said. “Being in the Hall of Fame one day, it’ll be an honor for me and my family and all my fans, you know what I’m saying. But that’s something that I can’t really control. I can’t vote for myself. I did what I was supposed to do. And honestly, I tell you, I never used the steroids.”

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On Dr. Phil, Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee expresses doubt about his suicide, murder conviction & reported gang ties

05.15.17 at 5:24 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez's fiancee says she doesn't think he committed suicide. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee says she doesn’t think he committed suicide. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee says she’s skeptical about the disgraced ex-NFL star’s suicide and whether he wrote the handwritten note found in his prison cell that was addressed to her. She also contends he didn’t kill Odin Lloyd in 2013.

In part one of her interview with Dr. Phil, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez said she thought it was a “hoax” when prison officials told her Hernandez had hanged himself. She said she was devastated when she heard the news, considering their last conversation was upbeat and positive.

“I don’t know what to believe, to be honest with you,” she said. “It’s just not the Aaron that I know. I think that if he would’ve done something like this, he would’ve been at his worst. It was looking so bright. We were going up a ladder, in a sense. I haven’t been able to grasp any of it yet.”

Though Jenkins-Hernandez said she doesn’t think her husband killed himself, she didn’t expound on alternative explanations for his death. When asked about the letter left to her, she explained why she harbors doubts about whether Hernandez had written it.

“I thought it was a note of love,” she said. “I did see that it was addressed to ‘Shay’ instead of ‘babe’ or ‘bae,’ the way he would refer [to me]. I thought that was a little odd to me. As far as the content, he seemed to be his loving self.

“It screamed love, but it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t intimate. There were some odd parts where it just didn’t make sense. It wasn’t clicking in my head as far as what he may have been thinking. It was very short. I wanted more. I wanted him to explain. I was very confused. I can read it over and over again, and I’m still at the same place where I read it. I don’t feel like there’s any progression.”

Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell April 19 at Souza Baranowski Correction Center in Shirley, five days after he was acquitted of double-murder charges. He was still serving a life sentence for the Lloyd shooting, but was appealing the verdict. A judge vacated his conviction last week, citing a seldom used Massachusetts law.

Jenkins-Hernandez admits her fiancee may have been in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” but says he wasn’t a gang member and didn’t commit murder. Then again, she also admitted that she didn’t ask many questions about his social life.

“Everyone has their own choice in friends. He didn’t have the best choice in some friends, but that doesn’t make him a bad person,” she said. “As far as the relationships he had with outsiders, I don’t necessarily know too much about that. I invited everyone into the home that he brought there. I was never rude.

“Honestly, I never hung around with them. So it’s more or less that you cook and make food for everyone. You make sure they’re comfortable. And then I would kind of go and do my own thing. I wouldn’t say I felt uncomfortable in my home. I separated myself.”


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ESPN announces big changes to ‘SportsCenter’

05.15.17 at 2:28 pm ET
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Mar 2, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; General view of an ESPN broadcast microphone before the game between the Stanford Cardinal against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN will unleash a brand new 11:00 p.m. “SportsCenter” June 5. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Change is sweeping through ESPN.

Less than one month after undergoing mass layoffs, the WorldWide Leader announced Monday it’s making major alterations to the “SportsCenter” franchise. Amidst sagging TV ratings, the highlight-based program will make a strong digital push, launching “SportsCenter Right Now,” a short video update that will appear multiple times per hour on ESPN’s app and homepage. The segments, which will begin in August, will also air twice hourly during the network’s daytime programming.

In addition to the renewed digital focus, ESPN will also shuffle around several signature personalities. Veteran anchors Kenny Mayne, John Anderson, Steve Levy and the recently re-signed John Buccigross will host a daily 11:00 p.m. “SportsCenter,” leading into Scott Van Pelt’s midnight airing. The arrangement will start June 5.

Sage Steele will also make her rumored move to mornings, hosting “SportsCenter: AM” from 7-10 a.m. EST Monday-Thursday. The program will air seven days per week, with Jay Harris, Kevin Negandhi, Randy Scott, Elle Duncan and Matt Barrie joining Steele at the anchor desk. Steele, who came under fire in January for calling out those who were protesting President Donald Trump’s travel ban, was removed recently from “NBA Countdown.”

Mike Greenberg’s morning variety show wasn’t mentioned in the press release, but is still expected to hit the airwaves at some point in the future.

ESPN says it won’t make any changes to the 6:00 p.m. “SportsCenter” with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, despite mixed reviews and tumbling viewership.

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Antonio Cromartie’s wife is pregnant with his 14th child

05.15.17 at 2:00 pm ET
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Antonio Cromartie is expected to have his 14th child. ( John Munson/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports)

Antonio Cromartie is expected to have his 14th child. ( John Munson/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports)

Even a vasectomy can’t stop Antonio Cromartie’s potent sperm.

The NFL cornerback’s wife announced on Instagram Monday she’s pregnant with his 14th kid. This will be the sixth child Terricka Cromartie has given birth to.

“In the up an coming CROMARTIE DRAFT of 2017, with the 6th OverAll Pick. Will the Cromartie’s Draft a Boy or a Girl. J6 coming soon,” she writes.

Cromartie, who pays more than $300,000 per year in child support, underwent a vasectomy in early 2016. Shortly thereafter, his wife said she was pregnant with twins. Vasectomies are effective 99.85 percent of the time.

“It was shocking news for the both of us,” Terricka Cromartie said at the time, via the New York Daily News. “It took me awhile to process it, but Antonio stood firm and was saying, ‘It’s God’s will.’ And he’s been excited the whole time.”

Cromartie’s penchant for impregnating women first came to the forefront during the 2010 season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” when the former Jets star appeared to struggle naming all of his children. He blamed the show’s producers for staging the footage.

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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Former MLB umpire, Worcester native Steve Palermo dies; Social media reaction to Derek Jeter’s number retirement

05.15.17 at 9:39 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Monday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

Houston at Miami, 7:10 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: LA Dodgers at San Francisco, 10 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA: Washington at Boston, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NHL: Ottawa at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)


— Former MLB umpire Steve Palermo died of cancer on Sunday at the age of 67.

Palermo was born in Worcester and raised in Oxford, but made his home in Kansas City. He began his major league umpiring career in 1976 and went on to work an All-Star game, multiple playoffs and the 1983 World Series.

His career was cut short in 1991 when he was shot trying to break up a robbery. While eating at a restaurant in Dallas, two members of the waitstaff were mugged after leaving work. Palermo chased the robbers and was shot and left paralyzed from the waist down.

He was told he would never walk again. However, he worked at his rehabilitation and was able to throw out the first pitch of the 1991 World Series opening game.

Palermo then served as a major league supervisor of umpires.

He won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 1994.

Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement following Palermo’s passing: “Steve Palermo was a great umpire, a gifted communicator and a widely respected baseball official, known in our sport for his leadership and courage. He had an exceptional impact on both his fellow Major League Umpires and baseball fans, who benefited from his ability to explain the rules of our game.”

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Thinking Out Loud: Trying to figure out these Red Sox

05.13.17 at 9:39 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud while wondering whatever happened to Harvey’s Wallbangers?

– It seemed strange for the Red Sox to have been back in Milwaukee this week, for the first time in 13 years. Yes, the Brewers used to be an American League team, once-upon-a-time. Sure seems as if they still hit like one, based on the pitching performances I watched this week.

– Perhaps Craig Kimbrel, if he really has this “pitching in Boston thing” figured out, could show the rest of the bullpen how it’s supposed to work? Throw hard, get strikes, get outs. It’s a simple game, really.

– Funny that John Farrell was a pitching coach, but no one can seem to keep Red Sox starters from poor starts – they lead the league in runs allowed in the first inning.

– Starting pitching – once thought to be a strong suit for this team – has a 4.32 ERA at midweek, which is 13th out of 15 AL teams. Defense? 29th out of 30 big league teams – only Oakland is worse. And if David Price’s return (along with that of Pablo Sandoval) is your answer for improvement, football season can’t get here fast enough.

– If you’re keeping score, Brewers 1, Red Sox 0 in the “who won the Tyler Thornburg-for-Travis Shaw trade.” And they’re about to put up a crooked number in the next inning.

– Weather permitting, Price makes his first rehab start this weekend in Pawtucket, Sunday afternoon. If it goes well, the band wagon fills up again. If it doesn’t, Farrell might want to start getting his resume in order, and brush up on his job search skills.

– Don’t look now, but those are the Yankees in first place in the American League East. Since when have the Yankees ever snuck up on any alleged front-runners?

– It does appear, however, they may be sneaking up on their own fans. A mere 25,566 showed up for a May 1 home game, a 7-1 loss to Toronto. The attendance set a new, record low at the “new” Yankee Stadium.

– He may still be the Yankees’ “daddy,” but I loved this line from Pedro Martinez on the Orioles’ Manny Machado taking out Dustin Pedroia at second base a couple of weeks ago: “I would have hit him square in the ribs. And if I didn’t, I would try another one.″ In my best Bob Lobel – why can’t we get players like that?

– Erstwhile Red Sox chicken-and-beer connoisseur Josh Beckett is now a broadcaster. Yup, you heard me right. Beckett, who seemed to hate every microphone he ever saw while in Boston, works a 20-game package for the Houston Astros on Root Sports Houston. And I thought turkeys couldn’t fly.

– Loved this line from Beckett recently in the Houston Chronicle, about what he’ll try to accomplish as an analyst – “I’ll try to bring some humility to the game.” Uh, wut? Why is it that athletes always seem to become smarter after they retire? Stupid is as stupid does.

– I was saddened to see the news of longtime Red Sox scout Sam Mele passing away recently. Mele was 95, and had an unbelievable career as a player, coach, manager and talent scout. He was the Minnesota Twins’ first-ever manager in 1961 when the team moved from Washington, and later joined the Red Sox organization where he stayed on for almost another 30 years before finally retiring.

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ESPN is dedicating its weekend to worshipping Derek Jeter

05.12.17 at 3:51 pm ET
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Derek Jeter's number will be retired this weekend.  (Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s number this weekend. (Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Few events will ever be more insufferable than the season-long Derek Jeter retirement tour the Yankees put everyone through three years ago. But the build up to his number retirement ceremony may come close.

The Yankees are placing Jeter’s No. 2 in Monument Park Sunday, along with 23 other franchise greats. The ceremony will take place prior to their Sunday night contest against the Astros on ESPN, which will provide coverage every step of the way. Check out the nauseating weekend rundown of programming, courtesy of Awful Announcing:

Friday: will promote the top 10 moments of Jeter’s career

Saturday: ESPN’s Yankees beat reporter, Andrew Marchand, will produce a piece on the only single-digit number the Yankees haven’t retired, No. 0.

Sunday Morning: “SportsCenter” anchor Sarina Morales will be live at Yankee Stadium starting at 8:00 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon: ESPN will air a “SportsCenter” special devoted to Jeter’s career at 3:00 p.m.

Sunday Pre-Game: A special 6:00 p.m. edition of “Baseball Tonight” will feature a live look-in at the number retirement ceremony. Clips from Karl Ravech’s interview with Jeter will air.

Sunday Night Baseball: There will likely be plenty of Jeter ass-kissing. Former Yankees skipper Joe Torre will sit in the booth as well.

Jeter, of course, is one of the greatest shortstops of all-time and won five champions with the Yankees. He deserves to be lauded for his greatness. But there’s a fine line between adulation and hero worship. And much like the coverage he received during his career, ESPN seems poised to cross the line this weekend.

But at least there won’t be a fake Aretha Franklin serenading him with “RE2PECT” –– we think.

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