TIME College Sports

Yet Another Heisman Hopeful Runs Afoul of the NCAA’s Unfair System

Vanderbilt v Georgia
Georgia running back Todd Gurley (right) stiff-arms Torren McGaster of Vanderbilt on October 4, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. Mike Zarrilli—Getty Images

The University of Georgia's Todd Gurley has been suspended after reportedly being accused of accepting money for autographs. What exactly did he do wrong here?

Another year, another Heisman contender’s season interrupted by stupidity.

In 2013, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel–then the defending Heisman trophy winner–became embroiled in a cash-for-autographs controversy. The National Collegiate Athletics Association and Texas A&M said “there was no evidence” that Manziel “received money in exchange for autographs,” but Manziel was still suspended, for the first half of A&M’s opener, for an “inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs.”

The Johnny Football contretemps was a flash point in the longstanding debate about whether college athletes deserve a fairer share of the expanding revenues flowing into college sports. Love him or hate him, why shouldn’t a player who was bringing in millions for Texas A&M be able to receive autograph money if someone wanted to give it to him? What Manziel was allegedly doing was hardly illegal, except in the weird world of college sports.

Turns out, Manziel didn’t get railroaded. After sitting out that first half, he had every opportunity to compete again for the Heisman (though he lost out to Florida State’s Jameis Winston, even after an excellent 2013 season). Looks like University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley won’t be as lucky. Georgia has suspended Gurley indefinitely; SI.com reported that “a person confirmed to Georgia’s compliance office this week he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 items on campus in Athens, Ga., one day this spring. The person claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but neither the photo nor the video showed money changing hands.”

(MORE: TIME Cover – It’s Time To Pay College Athletes)

Gurley is a Heisman hopeful. Through Georgia’s first five games, the junior had rushed for 773 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Georgia is ranked 13th in the AP college football poll: the Bulldogs play at Missouri, ranked 23rd, tomorrow. Not only is Gurley a Heisman candidate, but the Bulldogs still have national championships hopes. So Gurley’s success, and the possible once-in-a-lifetime success of his teammates, are now in jeopardy because he may have received $400. Georgia’s football team generates $77.6 million in revenues, and $51.3 million in profit, according to federal data.

The whole system angers Chris Burnette, who finished his career as a Georgia offensive lineman last season and is now working as a financial planner in Atlanta while finishing his MBA. He vented his frustration on Twitter last night:

Burnette, a vocal supporter of compensation for athletes during his Georgia playing days, sounded exasperated when reached by phone. He says he’s not angry at Georgia, and has no firsthand knowledge of any violations Gurley may or may not have committed. “It’s just so frustrating,” says Burnette. “If a student creates an app, no one is telling him he can’t do something because he’s paid for his talents. For these rules to just apply to athletes, it’s almost un-American, really.” Burnette calls Gurley a “stand-up” guy who would “never do anything malicious.”

“I mean, something has to change,” Burnette said.

Luckily, momentum is shifting towards a fairer system. And cases like those of Gurley and Manziel—stars under fire for breaking rules that defy common fairness—can only help speed things up. Everyone involved deserves better.

(MORE: The Long And Winding Road To Paying College Players)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIME

Why You Can’t Find the Baseball Playoff Game on TV

Baseball Matt Carpenter
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter hits an RBI single during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee on Sept. 7, 2014. Morry Gash—AP

Big events, like the final games of the Major League season, are moving to harder-to-find cable networks. And cost of your cable bill is only getting biggger

At a Bay Area retirement community this past Monday, a group of elderly baseball fans gathered in a room to watch their San Francisco Giants take on the Washington Nationals in the National League playoffs. One problem: the game was nowhere to be found on the TV. The MLB Network, a league-owned cable outlet that requires a special subscription in many areas, was airing the game. The old folks were out of luck, until a worker called the cable company for a quick fix. “An associate and I were able to negotiate a deal (probably not such a good one) to get the game and the channel instantly,” a worker at the retirement community told the San Francisco Chronicle, “for an additional $18/month.”

These retirees weren’t alone: the Chronicle reported that its sports desk fielded over 150 calls from fans trying to find a playoff game on TV. The migration of sports programming away from free TV is nothing new. But now even the crown jewels are on cable. For the first time ever, the bulk of baseball’s two league championship series will air on cable channels. TBS will carry the American League Championship Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals, which starts Friday; Fox Sports 1, the network Rupert Murdoch launched in August 2013 to compete with ESPN, will handle Games 2-5, and Game 7, of the National Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, which starts on Saturday. The Fox network will broadcast Game 1 and Game 6.

The baseball playoffs have moved way down the dial. I, for one, never thought I’d be watching a league championship series on Channel 99, home of Fox Sports 1 in my New York City neighborhood.

TBS broadcast the Final Four national semifinal games last season, will do so again this coming season, and will add the title game in 2016. The Super Bowl still rotates between CBS, NBC, and Fox: the Super Bowl of college football, the championship game of the new College Football Playoff, will be on ESPN. The sports cable boom isn’t going anywhere: on Monday, the NBA announced that it extended its rights deal with ESPN and TNT through the 2024-2025 season. These networks will pay the NBA a combined $2.66 billion a year, almost triple what they pay in the current contract.

Such lucrative agreements fatten the wallets of players and owners. But they do consumers no favors; they’re driving up the cost of cable. An FCC study shows that the average monthly cable bill for expanded basic service grew 30%, to $64.41 between 2008 and 2013. According to SNL Kagan, a media research firm, sports networks account for 40% of the fees that operators pay cable network to carry their programming.

Operators pass those costs along to consumers, while building in some margin for themselves. So if ESPN and TNT are tripling their investment in the NBA until 2025, they’re going to charge operators more to finance this investment, further spiking your bill. According to SNL Kagan data, ESPN and TNT are already the two most expensive national basic cable networks: operators pay an average of $6.04 per month per subscriber to carry ESPN, and $1.44 per month for TNT. That’s right: ESPN can command a price that’s three-times as high as the second most-expensive national basic cable channel. Four of the top-10 most expensive basic cable networks are sports channels (ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1). Two others — TNT and TBS — feature high-profile sports content like the NBA regular season and playoffs, the baseball playoffs, and March Madness. (Disney Channel, Fox News, USA, and Nickelodeon round out the Top 10, according to SNL Kagan).

In some areas, the regional sports networks are among the most expensive for operators to carry. For example Fox Sports North, which serves Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other states, costs $4.67 per subscriber per month. Comcast SportsNet Washington (DC) costs $4.60 per month. NESN, in New England, costs $4.22. The rates dwarf the top-tier, non-ESPN basic cable nets like TNT ($1.44), CNN ($0.61), MTV ($0.47) and AMC ($0.39). The network that shows Minnesota Twins games is nearly 12 times more expensive than the one that airs “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

Over the past five years, ESPN’s carriage fees have jumped 48%. NFL Network fees are up 100%. CNN’s have spiked 22%; fees for Lifetime Television are up 18%. Two forces have driven — and will continue to drive — the accelerated growth in sports cable prices.

First, sports remain DVR-proof. You can record a great TV show, and catch up to it later while fast-forwarding the commercials. (Just stay away from spoilers.) A great sporting event is perishable: going back three days later to watch a Super Bowl just doesn’t make much sense. “Sports is an anomaly,” says Derek Baine, research director at SNL Kagan. “People watch it live.” So ESPN and other sports networks can still attract advertisers, and this ad revenue allows these networks to keep upping the ante for sports rights.

Second, blame Murdoch. If the Fox chairman is going to mount a serious run at ESPN, Fox Sports 1 needs big events. This year’s NLCS, in many respects, is a dress rehearsal. Murdoch’s presence alone made ESPN and TNT pay a premium for the NBA; the networks knew that if they didn’t ante up, Fox would likely swoop in. Fox Sports 1 and other new outlets like NBCSN (NBC Sports Network) increase competition for rights, which create bidding wars that drive up cable bills.

The more expensive monthly bills may not be a bad deal for avid sports fans. For less than $10.00 per month, ESPN comes out to pennies on the hour. But if you don’t want sports, you’re getting rooked. Since cable companies bundle channel packages, you have to pay premiums for ESPN and other sports networks in order to get the stuff you want. Sen. John McCain has pushed for “a la carte” cable — just pay for the channels you know you’ll watch. He won’t get his way any time soon though. The cable industry is fine with their bundled revenues, thank you. The sports boom is just too good. No matter how it costs you.

 

 

TIME College Sports

The Long and Winding Road to Paying College Players

The man who helped win free agency for NFL and NBA players is seeking the same for college athletes

Over the past few months, the movement to pay college players has gained unprecedented momentum. In August, a federal judge ruled that college football and basketball players can earn a share of licensing revenues from the use of their name, image, and likeness. (The NCAA has since appealed the ruling.) An athlete can access these funds, which will be placed in a trust, when he or she has graduated or left the school. Schools can cap the pay, but the minimum cap is $5,000 per year.

This verdict in the so-called “O’Bannon” case – a former UCLA hoops star filed a lawsuit in 2009 after realizing he wasn’t being compensated for his likeness being used in a college basketball video game – came a few days after the NCAA voted to let schools in the Big 5 power conferences – the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC – have autonomy to write their own rules. These schools are prepared to give all their athletes a stipend that covers the full cost of attendance, which amounts to anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 above the value of their athletic scholarships.

In March, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board said that football players from Northwestern University could form a union, since these students act as employees of the school. Northwestern appealed the decision; the NLRB’s national office has yet to rule on the appeal. One just-released paper, to be published in the Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal, argues that the players should win.

(MORE: TIME Cover Story — It’s Time To Pay College Athletes)

However, an even bigger threat to the amateur model looms ahead: the lawyer who helped win free agency for NFL and NBA players is seeking the same open market for college athletes. Jeffrey Kessler, a partner at the Winston & Strawn law firm, filed an anti-trust lawsuit in March that could fundamentally alter college sports. The O’Bannon suit was limited to intellectual property rights: could athletes profit from their names, images, and likeness?

“We’re aiming to enjoin the restrictions placed on Division 1 basketball and major college football players from being compensated for their services, given the huge amount of revenue generated from these sports,” says Kessler, one of the top sports labor attorneys in the country. “What will be decided is whether it’s legal to have a rule that schools cannot compensate athletes at all.”

Kessler’s case won’t go to trial until fall of 2015, at the earliest. If he prevails, the courts may force the NCAA to adopt a true pay-for-play system, which the organization has long dreaded. The mechanics of paying players — do you just pay the football and men’s basketball players, and no one else? Should there be any limits? — are daunting. But the O’Bannon ruling sets some strong precedent for Kessler. The judge in that case, Claudia Wilken, may not have torpedoed the college sports model with her ruling. But she seems to invite someone else to do so.

Her opinion condemns the NCAA, and knocks down some of the most common justifications for limiting compensation for athletes to the value of the scholarship. “The evidence … demonstrates that student-athletes are harmed by the price-fixing agreement among FBS football and Division 1 basketball schools,” Wilken writes.

“It is also not clear why paying student-athletes would be any more problematic for campus relations than paying other students who provide services to the university, such as members of the student government or school newspaper,” Wilken writes in another section.

(MORE: College Athletes Need To Unionize, Now)

There’s nothing amateur about college sports. Conferences own their own television networks. Schools switched conferences to capture more revenues. Coaches salaries have skyrocketed: Newsday just reported that the average compensation for coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the top tier of college football schools – is $1.75 million per year. That number has spiked nearly 75% over the past seven years. Athletes deserve their fair share.

Kessler picked the right time to mount a challenge. “There’s a growing recognition from the courts, the public, the fans, and even the schools that the current system is fundamentally unfair,” says Kessler. “We think change is coming.”

 

TIME Football

Another High School Football Player Dies After Injury

Equipment sits on a football practice field near the main entrance for Shoreham-Wading River High School on Oct. 2, 2014, in Shoreham, N.Y.
Equipment sits on a football practice field near the main entrance for Shoreham-Wading River High School on Oct. 2, 2014, in Shoreham, N.Y. Kathy Kmonicek—AP

Tom Cutinella, 16, collapsed after a collision in a game. He's the third high school football player to die in a week

Tragedy has struck a high school football field — again. Tom Cutinella, a 16-year-old junior from Shoreham-Wading River High School in Suffolk County, N.Y., died after suffering an injury in Wednesday’s game between Shoreham-Wading River and John Glenn High School in Elwood, N.Y. Steven R. Cohen, superintendent of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, told reporters Cutinella’s fatal injury was the result of a “freak football play” where there was “typical contact.”

Cohen said Cutinella suffered a head injury; Newsday reported it occurred after he “blocked an opponent for a teammate.” School officials said Cutinella stood up after the play, then collapsed. The injury occurred at 6 p.m., police say: Cutinella was rushed to a hospital, and pronounced dead Wednesday night. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office told TIME that it has yet to perform an autopsy on Cutinella. Daniel Holtzman, principal of Shoreham-Wading River High School, said Cutinella was nice, well-rounded, and an “amazing student.”

ESPN says that in the last week alone, three high school football players have died. One other death, like Cutinella’s, happened after a collision. The third player died after collapsing in pre-game warm-ups. As TIME noted in a recent cover story, eight people died playing football in 2013, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. That was the highest toll since 2001; all eight were high school players.

This latest incident is another stark reminder of the risks of high school football. Despite these deaths and heightened awareness of the dangers of concussions, high school football participation has held steady: it’s down just 1.12% since the 2007-2008 school year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Participation for kids ages 6 to 12, however, has dropped 26.5% between 2007 and 2013, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

On Thursday afternoon, around 1,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Cutinella’s honor at the Shoreham-Wading River field. As Newsday describes it:

Cutinella’s No. 54 was up in lights on the scoreboard, and at the 50-yard line white candlelights were set up to form the number of the linebacker and guard…When his Wildcats teammates lined up as if for a football play, they left a spot empty for Cutinella, 16, and players began talking about the student they admired.

“He always went out of his way to make you smile,” one player said.

 

TIME Athletes

Dull Derek Jeter’s New Site Could Actually Be Cool

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
Derek Jeter speaks to the media following his last career game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 28, 2014 in Boston. Jim Rogash—Getty Images

That didn't take long. Three days into retirement, the Yankee great launches a media business. Here's hoping it's more interesting than he's been.

Oh, so that was it. For 20 years, Derek Jeter was one of the most boring athlete interviews in history. We now know why: he was apparently saving the good stuff for retirement — and he’d like to make a little money off it to boot.

Just three days into his post-baseball life, Jeter has stolen some attention from this year’s postseason with the announcement that he’s now the “founding publisher” of a new website, The Players’ Tribune. The conceit: a site where athletes can connect directly with fans, unfiltered, presumably at more than the 140 characters than Twitter currently offers.

“The Players’ Tribune aims to provide unique insight into the daily sports conversation and to publish first-person stories directly from athletes,” says a brief mission statement on the site. “From video to podcasts to player polls and written pieces, The Tribune will strive to be “The Voice of the Game.”

“I’m not a robot,” Jeter writes in an introductory note. So why did he often come across as one? “I realize I’ve been guarded. I learned early on in New York, the toughest media environment in sports, that just because a reporter asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer. I attribute much of my success in New York to my ability to understand and avoid unnecessary distractions. I do think fans deserve more than “no comments” or “I don’t knows.” Those simple answers have always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted. I have a unique perspective. Many of you saw me after that final home game, when the enormity of the moment hit me . . . We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.”

The irony of Derek Jeter, distruster of media, starting a media business is outright comical. (My colleague Jack Dickey nails it here on Twitter). Jeter’s pitch is that the site has “no filter.” But don’t expect real honesty here. Twitter already works too well for that. The reason athletes tend to spout their true feelings — which they often wind up regretting — on Twitter is that Twitter doesn’t give people time to think. The whole operation — the 140-character limits, the endless chatter on your timeline — thrives on quick outbursts. Athletes aren’t going to thoughtfully air grievances with teammates on Derek Jeter’s website, which will apparently be staffed with editors. The editorial process will slow things down, and discourage spontaneity. It gives publicists time to get involved. Readers don’t want glorified press releases.

A certain type of story, however, does offer a win-win proposition to both athletes and fans. Athletes like talking about their craft. And sports geeks like reading about it. If Derek Jeter offers deep insight into how he pulled off all those jump throws, for example, that’s safe stuff for him — nothing remotely controversial about it. And readers benefit. Baseball lovers would eat it up. Parents can share Jeter’s tips with their kids.

(Quick: what are the two most-viewed video clips on TIME’s YouTube channel? Number one — by over a million views — Kobe Bryant offering hoops tips. Number two: Novak Djokovic explaining his serve and giving other insights on his game.)

So I, for one, look forward to seeing what Jeter cooks up. And if it takes a boring athlete to make an athlete-bylined website compelling, so be it. And who isn’t ready for more Jeter right now anyway?

TIME NFL

Are NFL Head Injuries Causing Domestic Violence?

Jovan Belcher, in September 2012.
Jovan Belcher, in September 2012. Kansas City Star—MCT/Getty Images

A report shows that Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend before taking his own life in 2012, probably had football-related brain trauma. A link between the NFL's most troubling issues is far from implausible

Another football “what if” was just answered. In December 2012, after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before fatally shooting himself in the head in the team parking lot, you couldn’t help but wonder: could head injuries associated with football have contributed to this horrible act? Aggression and lack of impulse control are known symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease that had ravaged the brains of over 30 deceased NFL players. A few of them had committed suicide.

Still, you had to approach the question gently, because casually linking the game to Belcher’s actions was irresponsible. Belcher also had “no long concussion history,” the Chiefs said at the time. There was no evidence that he had brain damage.

Until now. Far too often over the past few years, football’s worst fears are confirmed. According to a neuropathological report prepared in the wrongful death lawsuit that lawyers for Belcher’s daughter have filed against the Chiefs, Belcher’s brain showed signs of damage “fully consistent with the pathological presentation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) as it is reported in the medical literature.” For example, the research — conducted by Dr. Piotr Kozlowski, dean of research and professor of pathology at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City — says that Belcher had clumps of tau protein in “the 7 out of 7 sections of the right (4 sections) and the left (3 sections) of the hippocampi.” A buildup of abnormal tau levels can cause nerve cell damage in the brain.

Belcher’s body was exhumed a year after his death; his brain showed “severe decomposition,” according to the report. Researchers can only diagnose CTE posthumously. “The quality and quantity are compromised because there was some breakdown of the brain after death and due to the gunshot,” says Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health and NFL Neurological Center, who examined Kozlowski’s report at TIME’s request. “But I don’t see any reason to doubt this reading of CTE.”

Belcher is not the first athlete with signs of CTE to act violently. Chris Benoit, a former pro wrestler, killed his wife and son before committing suicide in 2007. The family of Paul Oliver, a former safety for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, sued the NFL, the Chargers, the Saints and several helmet manufacturers after Oliver’s 2013 suicide. In an upcoming episode of HBO’s Real Sports, Oliver’s wife Chelsea talks about how her husband abused her. She says he pushed her, kicked her, pulled her hair, and threw her against the wall. One time, she says he dragged her up and down stairs. HBO asked Chelsea if she felt like her life was in jeopardy. “As time went on, I starting thinking about that, yes,” she said. Both Oliver and Benoit had CTE.

After these tragedies, all “what ifs” are on the table. It’s more than fair to ask if the NFL’s two most troubling issues, domestic violence and head trauma, are linked.”You can’t say those brown spots on Jovan Belcher’s brain caused him to do what he did,” says Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the NorthShore University HealthSystem outside of Chicago, who has extensively studied football brain injuries. “But are those brown spots tell-tale signs of a brain injury that influences behavior? With every case like this, we keep upping the ante.”

Even if players haven’t fully developed CTE, or haven’t suffered obvious concussions, they still may be at risk. “The frontal lobe of the brain often jostles around during head contact in football games,” says Gandy. “And the frontal lobe has an inhibiting effect that helps control behavior. Damage to the frontal lobe can compromise the inhibiting effect, and cause mood swings, even violence. You simply can’t exclude the possibility that frontal lobe damage is linked to damaging behavior.”

Scientists are starting to identifying possible ways to spot at-risk players while they’re still alive. Gandy injected a radioactive chemical that sticks to tau into a former NFL player who has suffered cognitive decline: a PET scan picked up the tau buildup, showing pathology consistent with CTE. “We’re still early in our experience, but at a minimum, we can signal to people that they might clinically be showing signs of CTE,” Gandy says. His team just published this neuroimaging technique in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Bailes has also been working on a PET scanning method to spot CTE in living patients, in conjunction with UCLA researchers. He anticipates expanding it to NorthShore. “While it’s been rewarding to do work on tau,” says Bailes, “it’s gets a little tiring diagnosing patients when they’re already dead.”

 

TIME major league baseball

Baseball’s Derek Jeter Problem

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees smiles prior to a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 22, 2014. Mike Stobe—Getty Images

What will happen when the sport's most recognized and admired player leaves the game?

The New York Yankees have a Derek Jeter problem. Sure, the endless pomp surrounding Jeter’s retirement has kept a lot of people watching a team that won’t make the playoffs. But during his long goodbye, Jeter simply hasn’t produced. Entering Wednesday’s game, Jeter was hitting .255 – a full 55 points below his career average. His .615 on-base percentage (OPS) is the second-lowest of his career, ahead of only his .542 clip during last year’s injury induced abbreviated 17-game campaign. Jeter has hit a home run in 0.6% of his plate appearances; excluding his brief call-up in 1995, when he did not hit a home run in his 51 plate appearances, Jeter’s prior low was a 1.3% home run percentage in 1997. So in this category, it has been his weakest year, by two. He has drawn a walk in 5.6% of his plate appearances, another career low.

Outside the batter’s box, Jeter’s struggles as a shortstop have long been documented. And they’ve continued this season. According to the analytics, he’s below-average at his position.

In the public’s imagination, Jeter — who will play his last home game as a Yankee on Thursday night — is one of the greatest clutch hitters of all-time. But on Tuesday night, with the Yankees barely hanging on to the mathematical miracle they would have needed to make the post-season, Mighty Jeter struck out, with the tying run was on first, to end the game. It was a fitting summation of the season.

The Derek Jeter problem extends to all of baseball. Despite his shaky last-season performance, Jeter is still the most familiar, marketable, beloved player in the game. And right now, the sport has no one to replace him.

That love was on full display a few Sundays ago, during Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium. Three-plus hours before the start of New York’s game against the Kansas City Royals – which the Yanks lost 2-0 – dozens of Yankees fans milled about. Joe Talnagi, 21, was asked what he was going to do during all this pre-game down time. “Probably cry,” said Talnagi, a college student from New Jersey. “Number 2” patches graced bottles of wine resting on the locker room chairs of all his Yankee teammates, the Yankee uniforms, and the flags atop the stadium. They were painted onto the field, along the first- and third-base lines. Jeter’s former teammate Jorge Posada showed up, and called Jeter the greatest Yankee of all-time. Michael Jordan was the surprise guest, and said Jeter is an “idol to me.”

Jeter’s fans, teammates, and buddies aren’t the only ones who idolize him. According to Q Scores Company, among active athletes recognized by more than half the U.S. population, Jeter owns the second-highest “Q score” – a general favorability rating – trailing only Peyton Manning. The bad news: no other baseball player ranks in the top 15. “Baseball players aren’t even on the national radar for the general population,” says Henry Schafer, an executive vice president at Q Scores. “They’re just not out there like players from other sports.”

Baseball has become a more regionalized game, a series of thriving fiefdoms with little national cultural connection. Thanks to lucrative local television deals, stable attendance, and smart digital investments by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the game’s overall revenues have grown. The sport is in fine economic health. But fans are getting older. The game is getting slower and slower, which hurts its appeal among younger viewers. Rarely is a regular season game appointment television. There’s just too much competition. A quarter century ago, NBC offered a “Game of the Week” on Saturdays. Now, the network offers Premier League soccer, a hipper product, on its cable channels. European soccer over baseball once seemed like a ridiculous proposition. Not anymore.

How did Jeter, who played 20 seasons in New York, won five World Series rings and has 3,461 hits–sixth-best of all time–break through? “Being able to accomplish all that, for that long a period of time, in a major market is highly unusual,” says Schafer. “The Yankees are both loved and hated across the country, but what’s surprising is he rises above it. He’s a likeable individual, and he’s respected.”

For 20 years, no personal scandal has interrupted the Jeter narrative: he’s a winner, a leader, a guy who plays the game “the right way.” During the Jeter ceremony, if any fans played a “right way” drinking game during the dozens of between-inning personalized messages that former teammates, opponents, New York sports legends like Joe Namath and random big names like Kenny Chesney and Matt Lauer delivered on the video board, they were sloshed before the seventh-inning stretch.

“He’s pretty much the face of baseball,” says Schafer. “There’s going to be a big void. It’s going to be like when the NBA was trying to find the next Michael Jordan. Baseball is going to have a very tough time finding the next Derek Jeter.” On Schafer’s list, there is one other active baseball player that more than half of the general population recognizes.

It’s A-Rod.

TIME NFL

Roger Goodell Is the Committee Commissioner

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell News Conference
National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference on Sept. 19, 2014 inside the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. Alex Goodlett—Getty Images

Answers were hard to find during Roger Goodell's eagerly awaited press conference. But there will be a committee

You hoped for something different, but in these kind of settings, Roger Goodell has always been a master of empty words. His annual state-of-the-NFL address press conference, at the Super Bowl, is always worth skipping. Things got moved up a bit this year, thanks to the heat Goodell has faced over the NFL’s handling of recent domestic abuse cases. And the main takeaway from Goodell’s frantically awaited press conference Friday—which was only held after Goodell’s nine-day silence in the midst of the NFL’s worst PR worst crisis in years became utterly indefensible—was that a committee would figure things out.

Ah yes, the committee, the task force, the best way to buy time. The committee itself won’t even be in place, probably, until right before the Super Bowl. That committee, Goodell said, would re-write the NFL’s personal conduct policy—which he himself instituted after becoming commissioner in 2007. Everything is on the table, Goodell said. Maybe he’ll give up some of the judge and jury power the owners granted him, after they wanted to punish misbehaving players to clean up the NFL’s image. And ironically, that very same policy—because of the maddening inconsistencies in its execution—is tarnishing it.

Yes, the NFL’s funding of the domestic violence hotline, as one example, is going to help a lot of people. That shouldn’t be taken lightly. But why now? If the NFL really cared about domestic violence, this kind of donation would have been made years ago. But no, it comes only after a horrifying tape of a star running back punching a woman becomes public. So you can’t talk about getting it right, about being a societal leader, when such moves, though noble and important, are a response. When they’re defense. The NFL can’t hold itself as a “microcosm of society,” as Goodell said, when most of society isn’t bashing heads every week. The league did the same things with concussions, and funded research and restricted return-to-play only after the league was being sued. Heads have been banging together for years. Why now?

Goodell promised transparency and accountability, but punted the most sensitive Ray Rice questions over to the “independent” investigation former FBI head Robert Mueller will lead to figure out who knew what and when. If the personal conduct policy is going to be reworked, it needs to be codified. What exactly triggers punishment? An arrest? An indictment? A conviction?

Tune in after the Super Bowl. In the meantime, tune in Sunday, as so many people surely will. No amount of bad press has stopped the NFL’s financial windfalls. No committee is needed for that.

TIME Football

Football’s Ultimate Cost: The Chad Stover Story

The Stover family never expected that their son wouldn't walk off the field

It was halloween night, and the Tipton Cardinals needed a tackle. trailing 27-18 in the opening round of the Missouri high school playoffs, a stop here—on first down and 10 with less than seven minutes to play—would help keep Tipton’s fading season alive.

As the running back took the Handoff and sprinted right, Tipton’s Chad Stover, a 16-year-old defensive back, dove at his legs with arms outstretched. Chad’s head collided with the runner’s right thigh as the back dodged the tackle to gain another few yards. Chad went down, and his helmet smacked into the ground.

Chad wobbled to his feet, and after a time-out, he jogged to the sideline. twice, a Tipton assistant coach asked if he felt well enough to return to the game. twice, Chad said he was good. He went back in, and Tipton huddled up. “Something’s wrong,” Chad told a teammate before lining up for the play. Suddenly, his legs turned soft.

“When he walked out the door to play football that day, it didn’t cross my mind that i wouldn’t see him come off that field,” Chad’s mother, Amy, says nearly eight months later. “it just didn’t.”

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