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Thinking Out Loud: Why can’t other women’s basketball teams keep up with UConn?

04.01.16 at 5:52 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how many April Fools must we endure this year.

— Is he an April Fool? The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessey is simply a fire-starter. I happen to enjoy his work, however, because of his ability to tweak the sports public consciousness around here almost at will. That’s impressive. Especially when he can do it on a national level, like this week.

— But his innocuous tweet on the UConn women’s basketball team being “bad” for the rest of the sport? Frankly, it was funny. I understand the thought process, however. But here’s what few are talking about as the “real story”: Exactly why is it that no other program seems to be able to keep up with the Huskies juggernaut? It’s not that UConn is knocking everyone else down, it’s that no one is capable of rising to its present level.

— That, above almost anything else, is why Geno Auriemma’s work as coach is nearly incomparable, except for legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. Auriemma’s prowess may have more to do with selling his program to the women’s game’s best players than it is with X’s and O’s on the floor. And he’s not bad there, either.

— I would argue that few looked at those 1960s-’70s UCLA teams like they look at UConn’s dominance today for one major reason: media proliferation. No one covered the men’s game back then like it is covered today. We didn’t have 24-hour sports channels. There was no Internet. We were lucky to get the final on network TV! Had we had the kind of scrutiny then as we do today, I’ll wager the Wizard of Westwood and his program would have had its detractors, too.

— UConn’s inexorable march to and through the madness was watchable, only in that the curiosity factor crept in for me. Could anyone mount a challenge? Could anyone give Goliath a game? Those are storylines beyond whether or not you actually “like” watching women’s basketball, or not. And I do love a good storyline.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Ed Cooley, Geno Auriemma, Kris Dunn

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Yankees lefty Andrew Miller plans to pitch on despite broken right wrist

04.01.16 at 8:22 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NHL: Bruins at Blues, 8 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Celtics at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (CSNNE, ESPN)
NBA: Cavaliers at Hawks, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: CBI finals, Morehead State at Nevada, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
MLB preseason: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, at Montreal, 7:05 p.m. (NESN, MLB Network; WEEI-FM)
MLB preseason: Brewers at Astros, 2:10 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB preseason: Athletics at Giants, 10:15 p.m. (MLB Network)


— Yankees reliever Andrew Miller is downplaying the severity of his broken right wrist, as the left-hander says he plans to pitch through the injury.

“It’s my right hand. I don’t really need it,” the former Red Sox hurler said. “I don’t see any reason I can’t work around it unless for some reason the doctor tells me I have to protect it for some reason that we don’t foresee. I plan to be able to manipulate my glove around it and not really worry about it.”

Added Miller: “I’m not that concerned about it. I think I can work around it when it comes to fielding the ball, catching the ball from the catcher. Catching the ball in play, I guess maybe a hard comebacker or something like that if I’d need more protection. We’ll see what the options are. I’m not too concerned. It’s my right hand.”

Miller was injured when he was hit by a line drive in Wednesday’s spring training game against the Braves.

“It hurt pretty bad,” Miller said. “It got me pretty square, I could tell. It was at least going to be a pretty good bruise. I think all things considered, it couldn’t be a better spot. I’ll survive.”

Miller is slated to visit a hand specialist Friday, and if he doesn’t get the go-ahead to pitch, he won’t be happy.

“I’d probably find another doctor,” Miller said. “I can’t imagine not playing because of something on my right hand.”

Keeping Miller in the bullpen would be a big help to the team, as new closer Aroldis Chapman will miss the first month of the season due to his league-issued suspension, so Miller is expected to reprise his closing role from last season in the interim. Manager Joe Girardi, for one, appreciates Miller’s approach.

“Winning and helping his teammates; that’s what he cares about,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen that in the year that we’ve had him. His attitude toward Chapman coming in and just the way he’s gone about his business. He cares about winning.”

Meanwhile, fellow reliever Brian Mitchell is not as optimistic. He broke his left big toe while covering first base in the same game. He will see a specialist Monday to determine if he’ll need surgery.

“It’s crazy,” said Mitchell, who was wearing a walking boot on his left foot Thursday. “I’m not trying to be too roller coaster right now. Just have to roll with it. It’s just a bump in the road and we’ll get past it, hopefully quicker than later.”

— The U.S. Soccer federation defended itself from an accusation that it does not fairly compensate women’s soccer players, shortly after five U.S. women’s national team players filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“We are leaders in developing the game, and we’re going to continue to do that and take a leadership role on the women’s side of the game,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. “We are committed to working with the players’ association to address some of the issues they’ve raised and getting an agreement done starting in January of 2017. I’m confident that will happen.”

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell booed by home fans, feels ‘as sick as possible’ for alienating teammates

03.31.16 at 8:25 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NBA: Celtics at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Bulls at Rockets, 7 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Clippers at Thunder, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: NIT championship, Valparaiso vs. George Washington, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB preseason: Cardinals at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB preseason: Mets at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. (MLB Network)


— One day after the Lakers’ inner turmoil became public, rookie D’Angelo Russell apologized in a news conference before Wednesday’s game against the Heat.

Russell, who secretly taped teammate Nick Young talking about his relationships with women but said he did not intend for the video to go public, reportedly has been iced out by his teammates since the incident and said feels terrible about how it went down.

“I feel as sick as possible,” Russell told reporters. “I’ve been asked that question 110 times, and my answer is my feelings stay the same. I wish I could make things better right away, but I can’t.”

The 20-year-old said he “cherished” his friendship with the veteran Young, and, “For me to have an incident like this come up and put it in jeopardy is not what I was intending to do. … I reached out to [Young], let him know my apologies. I don’t know if they were accepted. I wouldn’t blame him.”

Lakers fans booed Russell during pregame introductions and in the opening minutes, and some fans shouted, “Snitch!” and “Traitor!”

“I can’t really show my face anywhere without people hating me right now,” Russell said after the game, a rare Lakers win. “I don’t know. I try to handle it the right way and remember why I’m here, which is to play basketball.”

In a separate press conference, Young, who is engaged to rapper Iggy Azalea, said he did not want to discuss his personal life.

“I think it’s best that me and D’Angelo handle the situation we have in a private manner, outside the media,” Young said. “I think it’s something we really do need to sit down and talk about. That’s about it. What happened is what happened. We’ve got to work on it.”

Kobe Bryant said after the game that Russell can survive once the hard feelings subside.

“I had a chance to talk to him earlier today. All I can do is just do my best Yoda impersonations and give him that kind of sage advice, I guess. One day pass, this shall — or something like that,” Bryant said. “Adversity is always tough, especially with a group of young guys. There’s always light, even when it’s the darkest. Even when you can’t see it at all.”

Some former players were less optimistic about Russell’s future in Los Angeles.

“That’s lower than low,” said former NBA forward Antonio Davis, now an ESPN NBA analyst. “It says so much about [Russell]. I think it might get so bad that he’s going to have to be traded. If I’m on that team, I’m not playing with him. It would literally be hard for me to sit in the locker room with him.”

— Right-hander Andrew Miller, expected to be a key part of the Yankees’ highly regarded bullpen, broke his left wrist when he was struck by a line drive during Wednesday’s spring training game.

Miller immediately walked off the field after getting hit, throwing his hat in frustration before he entered the dugout.

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Read More: Andrew Miller, D'Angelo Russell, Jose Reyes, Nick Young

Mets ace Matt Harvey to start opener after passing blood clot in bladder

03.30.16 at 10:21 am ET
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Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

After a slight scare, Mets fans can rest easy. Ace right-hander Matt Harvey will not miss any time after passing a blood clot in his bladder and is on track to take the mound in Sunday night’s season opener at Kansas City.

Harvey first noticed something was wrong on Sunday, when he felt pain and discomfort that only grew worse throughout the night.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Harvey told reporters Tuesday. “I was having trouble using the restroom and, obviously, any time there’s discoloration in your urine, it’s not a great feeling. So I didn’t know what was going on with my stomach, but we had some tests yesterday and everything is fine now.”

After alerting the team of what he was experiencing, he wound up in the hospital instead of in Jupiter, Florida, for the Mets’ spring training game against the Cardinals. After a day of testing and procedures, however, he appears to be back pain-free.

“I guess it started with a bladder infection that created a blood clot in the bladder,” Harvey said. “Passed it yesterday. It wasn’t a great first day of my 27th birthday, but I cleared that and we had a little procedure done this morning just to go in and check the bladder, and everything was clear. I’m cleared to go, cleared to do some minor activities today, and then we’ll be back to normal tomorrow.”

For the Mets, not losing Harvey for any extended time is a relief to say the least. He led the team to the World Series last season after posting a record of 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts.

Team captain David Wright was happy to hear the news Tuesday, after the team was tight-lipped the day before regarding particulars of the situation.

“Obviously from a personal standpoint it’s a relief because you want to see guys in good health,” Wright said. “You never want to see anything else. And then from a baseball standpoint it’s good news as well. Good news on all fronts. Should be ready to roll, and glad it’s basically a non-issue.”

Read More: Matt Harvey, New York Mets,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Lakers’ internal strife hits new low as teammates reportedly isolate rookie D’Angelo Russell

03.30.16 at 8:22 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NBA: Hawks at Raptors, 7:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
NBA: Heat at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
College basketball: CBI finals, Morehead State at Nevada, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Vegas 16 championship, Old Dominion vs. Oakland, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)
High school basketball: McDonald’s All-American Game, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Capitals at Flyers, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
MLB preseason: Red Sox at Pirates, 1:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB preseason: White Sox at Reds, 4:05 p.m. (MLB Network)


— This Lakers season is supposed to be remembered as Kobe Bryant’s farewell, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss the team’s internal strife.

On Tuesday it was revealed that guard D’Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, is being isolated by his teammates after an incident in which he asked teammate Nick Young about his sexual exploits while secretly taping the conversation.

A video surfaced of Russell taping Young, who is engaged to rapper Iggy Azalea, and the resulting tension reportedly played a role in the team’s embarrassing 48-point loss to the Jazz on Monday night, tied for the most lopsided loss in franchise history.

“It’s bad,” a source told ESPN. “It’s about as bad as it can get. There were trust issues already. Now there’s no trust.”

Said another source: “This was a prank gone wrong and a mistake by [Russell], and he has to be held accountable, but I would hope he isn’t overly criticized for it.”

Russell was heralded as a future superstar when he was drafted after one year at Ohio State, but he was moved to the bench after starting the team’s first 20 games. He has battled maturity issues all season.

“He’s such a kid,” coach Byron Scott said in February. “I told him the other day ‘You’re 19, but sometimes I think you’re 14.’ ”

Russell is averaging 13.1 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds while playing 27.5 minutes per game.

The Lakers are 15-59, second only to the 76ers for the worst record in the NBA.

— Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith appears likely to for a suspension after he swung his stick at Wild center Charlie Coyle’s face in the first period of Tuesday’s game.

Keith was lying on the ice after a check from Coyle when he responded with a one-handed swing that nailed Coyle and drew blood. Keith was given a five-minute major and a match penalty for intent to injure, which means he is automatically suspended until the league reviews the incident.

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Read More: D'Angelo Russell, Duncan Keith, Montrezl Harrell,

Despite denials, NHL officials discussed links between fighting, concussions in 2011 emails

03.29.16 at 8:58 am ET
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Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman

In a 2011 email exchange recently unsealed in court, several NHL officials discussed a connection between fighting and concussions. The messages were sent in a group that included league commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and former head of player safety Brendan Shanahan.

The findings are in direct conflict with statements made by the league during an ongoing lawsuit filed by several ex-NHL players. Following the death of three players in 2011 which were all attributed to health issues, league officials discussed the state of fighting in hockey.

“An interesting question is whether being an NHL fighter does this to you (I don’t believe so) or whether a certain type of person (who wouldn’t otherwise be skilled enough to be an NHL player) gravitates to this job (I believe more likely),” Bettman wrote.

“I tend to think its a little bit of both,” Daly wrote back. “Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies.”

What these league officials acknowledged in private, they never have admitted publicly. These recent findings certainly are not a good look for the NHL as it faces a very serious lawsuit.

“I believe the fighting and possible concussions could aggravate a condition,” Bettman wrote. “But if you think about the tragedies there were probably certain predispositions.”

One former NHL player, Derek Boogaard, died after overdosing on prescription pain killers he was given by team doctors and medical staff. His family is fighting the NHL in a wrongful death suit. Some of the messages revealed in these documents comment on the use of such pills.

“This is not the same role as it was in the ’80s and ’90s,” Shanahan wrote. “Fighters used to aspire to become regular players. Train and practice to move from 4th line to 3rd. Now they train and practice becoming more fearsome fighters. They used to take alcohol and cocaine to cope. (Kordic) Now they take pills. Pills to sleep. Pills to wake up. Pills to ease the pain. Pills to amp up. Getting them online.”

The class-action lawsuit against the NHL is ongoing at the United States District Court in Minneapolis.

Read More: Derek Boogaard, Gary Bettman, NHL,

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Mets ace Matt Harvey sidelined with ‘mysterious’ medical issue

03.29.16 at 8:15 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NHL: Bruins at Devils, 7 p.m. (NESN)
NHL: Avalanche at Blues, 8:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
NBA: Rockets at Cavaliers, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Wizards at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: championship, UC Irvine at Columbia, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: NIT semifinals, BYU vs. Valparaiso, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: NIT semifinals, George Washington vs. San Diego State, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Vegas 16 semifinals, Old Dominion vs. UC Santa Barbara, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Vegas 16 semifinals, Oakland vs. East Tennessee State, 11:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
MLB preseason: Yankees at Phillies, 1:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB preseason: Athletics at Cubs, 4:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB preseason: Giants at Royals, 9:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
Soccer: World Cup qualifying, Guatemala at United States, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: U-23 Olympic qualifying, Colombia at United States, 9:20 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Exhibition, Italy at Germany, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Exhibition, Netherlands at England, 3 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: World Cup qualifying, Canada at Mexico, 10:20 p.m. (FS1)


Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

— The Mets’ hopes of repeating as National League champions took a hit Monday when the team announced that ace right-hander Matt Harvey has been sidelined by an undisclosed medical issue. On the positive side, the Mets said it’s not related to his surgically repaired right elbow. However, the team’s lack of information has raised more concerns.

“I wouldn’t assume anything until we hear from the doctors,” manager Terry Collins said, adding: “It’s mysterious, but I’m not at liberty to discuss it right now.”

Harvey was pulled from his Grapefruit League start Tuesday after team medical personnel alerted the front office of an issue.

“It came up [Monday] morning,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “There will be follow-up tests and consultations over the next couple of days.”

The secrecy reportedly is due to the fact that it’s non-baseball related, and to respect Harvey’s privacy.

Harvey, who went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 2015 and was named Comeback Player of the Year after missing all of 2014 while rehabbing after his shoulder surgery, had been slated to pitch in the team’s opener April 3, a rematch with last season’s World Series champion Royals, but that now is in doubt.

“It’s hard to say right now,” Collins said. “Don’t know just yet. Certainly what I do know, we’re very lucky to have the pitching we’ve got.

“In case he can’t go, we’ll have somebody else ready.”

Added Alderson: “I understand Opening Day is not too far away. We are dealing with tomorrow. We should know something tomorrow or the next day. For right now, he’s not pitching [Tuesday]. That’s where the story ends.”

— The UConn women’s basketball team advanced to its ninth straight Final Four with an 86-65 victory over Texas on Monday night, as a national discussion continued about whether the Huskies’ dominance is bad for the sport.

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Read More: Geno Auriemma, Jon Jones, Matt Harvey,

Monday’s Morning Mashup: UConn coach Geno Auriemma dismisses criticism for dominance from Dan Shaughnessy

03.28.16 at 8:15 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NBA: Celtics at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (CSNNE, NBA TV)
NBA: Hawks at Bulls, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
College basketball: CBI finals, Nevada at Morehead State, 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Vegas 16, Tennessee Tech vs. Old Dominion, 3 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Vegas 16, UC Santa Barbara vs. Northern Illinois, 5:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Vegas 16, Oakland vs. Towson, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Vegas 16, Louisiana Tech vs. East Tennessee State, 11:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
NHL: Sabres at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
NHL: Kings at Sharks, 10 p.m. (NBCSN)
MLB preseason: Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB preseason: White Sox at Rockies, 4:10 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB preseason: Rangers at Dodgers, 10:05 p.m. (MLB Network)


— UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma found himself defending his team’s success Sunday as the Huskies close in on a fourth straight NCAA championship while riding a 72-game winning streak.

As UConn prepares for Monday’s Elite Eight game against Texas, Auriemma commented on Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy’s assertion that the Huskies “are killing [the] women’s game” due to their dominance, and that he would not watch because of it.

“Don’t watch,” Auriemma responded. “Don’t watch. Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to watch. So don’t watch, and don’t write about it. Spend your time on things that you think are important. If you don’t think this is important, don’t pay any attention to it. The fact that you have to comment on it? Says something about you, doesn’t it?

“We are what we are. We are what we are. You know? We do what we do. We do what we do. When Tiger [Woods] was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf. Actually, he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. And they did. And now there’s a lot more great golfers because of Tiger.

“There’s a lot better writers than Dan Shaughnessy. But that doesn’t mean he’s bad for the game.”

Auriemma said he’s become used to such criticism.

“We don’t appreciate people for how good they are and what a good job they do — we always have to compare it to something,” he said. “It’s only in women’s basketball. It’s the only sport where that happens. The only sport. Day in, day out, year in, year out, we’re faced with those questions and those comparisons.”

— Rajon Rondo has fond memories of his time in Boston. His stint in Dallas, however, did not go so well. And he hasn’t forgotten it.

After the Kings cruised to a 133-111 victory over the fading Mavericks on Sunday, Rondo said he wouldn’t mind if Dallas joined Sacramento in missing out on a playoff berth.

“Yeah, I want them to get their plane ticket as soon as we get ours,” said Rondo, who had 11 points and 11 assists Sunday. “So any time we can help, that’s what I try to get these guys [on the Kings] to focus on.”

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Read More: Dan Shaughnessy, Geno Auriemma, Jason Heyward, rajon rondo

Thinking Out Loud: Defending national champion Providence hockey set to begin another run in NCAAs

03.25.16 at 6:19 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how we became mesmerized by “bracketology.”

— The Providence hockey team’s No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament isn’t the surprise, even though the Friars lost in the Hockey East semis to UMass-Lowell. Boston College getting the 2 seed and potentially facing PC in Worcester is the surprise. The Eagles have been high in the national rankings all season and were deserving of their own top spot.

— How about this nugget? Six Friars are among the top-10 active leaders in NCAA Tournament scoring. That means you’re experienced, deep and talented. Three must-haves if you are to win it all.

— It’s always a compliment when your coach is mentioned for other jobs. Nate Leaman’s name has been mentioned with the opening at Wisconsin, a one-time hockey power looking to regain some lost luster. Just wondering here, but would he be more likely to make a move if the Friars repeat as national champs? Would he need another mountain to climb? Just sayin’.

— So, Notre Dame? Moving to the weaker Big Ten in hockey for travel and expense purposes, or because Hockey East kicks your a**? How about both? Let’s be truthful.

— It’s hard to put a bow around Providence’s basketball season. Twenty-four wins is a sign of success, absolutely. Being ranked as high as eighth nationally was great PR for the program, even though this team may never have been quite that good in reality. Three straight NCAA appearances, however, is the true sign of success these days. Finally winning a game in the tourney is another. The bar has just been set a bit higher.

— No doubt in my mind that Kris Dunn is one of the best athletes to ever wear the black and white on the court. Maybe he’s the best athlete. The Friars have been blessed with extraordinary basketball players through the years, but athletes? Based on what these eyes have seen over three decades, not one of those players — maybe except Eric Murdock, possibly God Shammgod or John Linehan — could keep Dunn in front of them.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Jamie Dixon, Kris Dunn, Nate Leaman

Friday’s Morning Mashup: New York Times exposes NFL concussion study’s faulty data, rebuts league’s criticism with facts

03.25.16 at 8:43 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NBA: Hornets at Pistons, 7:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
College basketball: NCAA Tournament, Iowa State vs. Virginia, 7:10 p.m. (CBS)
College basketball: NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame, 7:27 p.m. (TBS)
College basketball: NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga vs. Syracuse, 9:40 p.m. (CBS)
College basketball: NCAA Tournament, Indiana vs. North Carolina, 9:57 p.m. (TBS)
MLB preseason: Pirates at Red Sox, 6:05 p.m. (NESN)
MLB preseason: Cardinals at Mets, 1:10 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB preseason: Angels at Athletics, 4:05 p.m. (MLB Network)


— After The New York Times reported that the NFL used faulty data in its study of concussions between 1996 and 2001, the NFL fired back, calling it a “sensationalized story” that was “contradicted by clear facts.” The only problem is, The New York Times showed that the NFL’s own evidence proved that the paper had the facts correct.

The Times story reported that the NFL’s study neglected more than 100 diagnosed concussions that were reported by teams. For example, the study indicated the Cowboys had no concussions during that span, even though quarterback Troy Aikman was listed on the injury report with a concussion four times between 1997 and 2000. This obviously skewed the data — which the NFL long held up in its defense.

The NFL countered Thursday by noting, “The studies never claimed to be based on every concussion that was reported of that occurred.” Responded the Times: “The studies and peer-review statements did, in fact, claim that.”

The league insisted that “reporting [concussions] was strongly encourage by the league but not mandated, as documents provided to the Times showed.” Responded the Times: “At least one of the papers said it was, in fact, mandated.”

A member of the NFL’s concussion committee, Dr. Joseph Wackerle, insisted he was not aware of the omitted data, telling the Times: “If somebody made a human error or somebody assumed the data was absolutely correct and didn’t question it, well, we screwed up. If we found it wasn’t accurate and still used it, that’s not a screw-up; that’s a lie.”

The Times story also notes that the league used some of the same lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who defended Big Tobacco, including lawyer Dorothy C. Mitchell.

The NFL responded by running a smokescreen, accusing the Times of claiming that the league worked directly with Big Tobacco. Responded the Times: “Our article did not claim that.”

As if it wasn’t bad enough that the league was exposed for what has to be at least considered incredible incompetence — if not a blatant disregard for the truth — this back-and-forth took place on the same day former Patriots fullback Kevin Turner died at the age of 46 from ALS.

Turner was one of the most vocal advocates for former players who sued the league, claiming the NFL hid the dangers of head injuries from them. He supported the settlement the players reached with the league in 2013. The settlement remains tied up in the courts, as some ex-players objected to some of the restrictions and appealed.

— In another case of bad timing, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians jumped headfirst into the controversy regarding football and long-term health effects, expressing his frustration with parents who prevent their kids from playing youth football.

“Our game is great. People that say, ‘I won’t let my son play it’ are fools,” he told Sports Illustrated’s MMQB website from the NFL owners’ meetings.

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Read More: Bruce Arians, Kevin Turner, Yoenis Cespedes,