TIME Baseball

Little League Sensation Mo’ne Davis Benched After Giving Up 3 Runs

Little League World Series - Nevada v Pennsylvania
Mo'ne Davis of Pennsylvania pitches during the first inning of the United States division game at the Little League World Series tournament on August 20, 2014 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Rob Carr/Getty Images

But don’t count her out just yet

Blame it on the pressure of the Little League series, an overnight media blitz or on the Sports Illustrated cover jinx: Mo’ne Davis, star of this year’s Little League World Series, was pulled from Wednesday’s game after allowing three runs against Las Vegas’ Mountain Ridge, ABC News reports.

In the end, Davis’ Taney Dragons suffered a crushing 8-1 blow. While Las Vegas advances to the championship finals, Pennsylvania’s Taney will have to beat Jackie Robinson West on Thursday in an elimination game that will determine who faces off against Las Vegas.

Davis became the first girl to throw a shut out in the Little League World Series and was the first Little League player ever to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, ABC News said.

Superstitious fans are likely to blame Davis’ setback on the curse of the Sports Illustrated cover. Last week’s honor went to Ohio State’s Braxton Miller — but the university announced on Tuesday he’ll miss out on the upcoming season because of a shoulder injury. Tom Brady’s 2008 injury and 2012 loss to the New York Giants came just weeks after gracing the cover of the magazine.

Davis will be eligible to pitch on Saturday if her team advances to the final.

[ABC News]

TIME major league baseball

MLB Upholds First Team Protest in 28 Years in Giants Versus Cubs Game

Chicago Cubs ground crew members struggle to get the tarp on the field as rain falls during the fifth inning of the Chicago Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on August 19, 2014 in Chicago.
Chicago Cubs ground crew members struggle to get the tarp on the field as rain falls during the fifth inning of the Chicago Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on August 19, 2014 in Chicago. Brian Kersey—Getty Images

The Cubs can't even tarp a field, it seems

After protesting that the Chicago Cubs didn’t tarp the field properly in a 2-0 rain-inducing loss Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants were allowed by Major League Baseball Wednesday night to finish the game Thursday. The heavy fifteen minutes of rain had stopped the game after four and a half innings, and the Cubs were declared the winners only after a 4 hour and 34 minute delay.

It was the first time in 28 years that Major League Baseball upheld a team’s protest, USA Today reports.

The Giants had asked the MLB to forfeit the game, but the League decided that the groundskeepers had worked “diligently” enough to reschedule it. The League’s investigation found that the Cubs failed “to properly wrap and spool the tarp after its last use,” rendering the ground crew unable to complete the job.

The teams had looked into suspending the game on Tuesday, but since the tarp was manual and not mechanical in nature, the officials had to call the game or wait until the field became playable, according to ESPN.

You can find the MLB’s entire ruling here.

TIME Auto Racing

Tony Stewart to Miss Third Consecutive NASCAR Race

Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, N.Y on August 8, 2014.
Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, N.Y on August 8, 2014. Derik Hamilton—AP

Since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a race in upstate New York on August 9

Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will not participate in this weekend’s Bristol Motor Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday, marking the third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup race he has missed since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a race in upstate New York on August 9.

Stewart could face criminal charges for Ward’s death, who had exited his vehicle after Stewart clipped his car and sent it crashing into the wall. After exiting his car, Ward wandered onto the track and tried to flag down Stewart, but was struck by Stewart’s fast-moving vehicle as the driver lapped back around.

Jeff Burton will replace Stewart for the second straight week. Burton took the number 14 car for Saturday’s Michigan International Speedway race.

NASCAR announced new rules on Friday to protect the safety of its drivers, requiring that “at no time” should a driver or crew member approach another moving vehicle or the racing surface after an on-track incident that prohibits the car from moving forward.

TIME NFL

5 Best Reactions to the NFL’s ‘Pay-to-Play’ Superbowl Halftime Scheme

Based on no scientific rubric at all

+ READ ARTICLE

The National Football League is planning to introduce at least one significant change to its halftime show at the Superbowl: in order to perform, superstar acts will pay for the privilege.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the league is considering three acts for its next halftime extravaganza in early 2015: Katy Perry, Rihanna and Coldplay. But unlike in previous years, these performers have been asked to shill out dough in the form of post-Super Bowl tour income or another “financial contribution.”

The news was not received well in some quarters, but some met it with more humor than others. And so, we bring you: the 6 best reactions on Twitter to the NFL’s new “pay to play” scheme, based on no scientific rubric at all and entirely on this writer’s whim.

 

TIME Basketball

Watch Steve Ballmer’s Volcanic Enthusiasm Erupt at Clippers Conference

The explosion actually ranks pretty low on the richter scale of Ballmer blow-ups

+ READ ARTICLE

The Los Angeles Clippers’ cheerleaders better watch their backs, because the team’s new owner, Steve Ballmer, has enough pep to rival the squad.

Ballmer took the stage screaming during a Monday night press conference at the Staples Center, unleashing just a taste of what Microsoft employees have known for years: That this guy is a walking pom pom. On the scale of Ballmer blow-ups that periodically crop up on YouTube, his Monday night performance was relatively restrained.Ballmer in all of his glory is a sight to behold:

 

TIME Baseball

Why Can’t Girls Play Baseball?

Mo'ne Davis
Philadelphia's Mo'ne Davis drives in a run with a single to right field off Pearland pitcher Clayton Broeder during the first inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. Gene J. Puskar—AP

Mo'ne Davis is the star of the Little League World Series. But odds are, she won't even play baseball in high school. Girls should have more opportunities to take part in the national pastime.

Be sure to watch Sports Illustrated cover girl Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old pitching sensation from Philadelphia who on Friday became the first girl to throw a shutout at the Little League World Series, while you can. Because if her baseball career follows that of most girls who love the sport, it will be over by high school.

For young girls playing sports like basketball, soccer, and lacrosse, there’s a traditional path to high school success: girls’ teams. In these sports, and others, athletes can even earn a college scholarship. But baseball, America’s pastime, is a strange exception. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is not aware of a single school-sponsored girls’ baseball team anywhere in the United States.

Sure, girls can play softball in high school and college. But while softball does have bats and bases and other similarities to baseball — consider it baseball’s close cousin — it’s a still a fundamentally different game.

“We’re fighting a culture that’s decided that softball is an equivalent sport to baseball,” says Justine Sigeal, founder of Baseball For All, a non-profit that provides opportunities for girls and women to play the sport. “If softball and baseball were equivalent, imagine changing [Major League Baseball] to softball. It’s a ridiculous idea.”

Siegal says there are 100,000 girls playing youth baseball. But according the most recent participation survey from the NHFS, only 1,259 girls played high school baseball during the 2012-2013 academic year — and all of them were competing against boys. “We know that 99,000 girls didn’t just lose their passion for playing baseball,” says Siegal. “Girls are not encouraged to play baseball. And if you tell a girl she’s not encouraged to play baseball, what else won’t she be encouraged to do?”

Just 0.27% of high school baseball players are girls, per NHFS data. Some of them do succeed against boys, and if an exceptional talent like Davis — who is slated to pitch on Wednesday night, in the U.S. semifinal — does decide to stick with the sport in high school, she certainly could keep thriving. But she’d be the exception. “So many girls are bullied off of teams,” says Siegal. “Sometimes it’s the players, but mostly it’s coaches and other parents doing the damage. Usually it’s the adults.”

Sarah Hudek, who just finished her junior year pitching for the varsity at George Ranch High School in Richmond, Texas, near Houston, get more stares than anything. “But I’m used to them now,” she says. “It used to bother me more when I was younger.” When she’s warming up at games, she can still see an occasional opponent laughing. “That just puts me in a good mindset,” says Hudek. “Get on the field with me, and see what you think after.”

On August 15, the lefty Hudek, whose best pitch is a change-up, announced a verbal commitment to play baseball at Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana. “I love watching the kids go back to the dugout after she gets them out, and seeing the ribbing they get,” says Greg Kobza, Hudek’s high school coach. “It gets in their head, and really gives us an advantage.”

Throughout their careers, female baseball players are asked when they are switching to softball. “The question is more obnoxious than it is hostile,” says Dean Dinnebeil, whose daughter, Sara Tobias, is entering Berkeley Carroll High School, in New York City, this fall. She plans to join the baseball team there. Though many girls enjoy softball, others just prefer baseball’s longer bases, bigger fields, and smaller ball. Pitchers in particular often don’t want to switch, since they’ve spent years mastering a skill set. “Throwing underhand is very different from throwing overhand,” says Sara, 14. “When I was younger, a lot of girls were switching to softball, but I liked Little League baseball, and the boys were nice to me. I saw no reason to switch.”

Imagine a basketball player spending her entire life learning how to shoot one way, and being told that if she wanted to play for her high school team, she’d have to learn to shoot underhand because that’s how the girl’s game is played. If she didn’t, she’d have to compete against the bigger, stronger boys, diminishing her odds of success. Sounds absurd. But that’s essentially the choice many baseball players have to make. “I tried pitching softball, and it felt terrible,” says Hudek. “I’m more at home on the mound. It’s my natural place.”

In baseball, girls do have a better chance at succeeding against boys than they would in, say, basketball or soccer, since baseball is much less physical than these other games. Sure, a girl is much less likely than a boy to smack a 450-foot home run or throw 90 miles-per-hour. But if a girl has good location and movement on her pitches, or can make solid contact, or has a good glove, she can still be effective on the baseball field.

And if girls really want to level the playing field, they can do what Chelsea Baker did — learn to throw a knuckleball. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 6’3,” 225-pound dude or a 5’4″, 125-lb gal like Baker, who is going into her senior year at Durant High School in Plant City, Florida: if you can make that slow ball flutter, you can get people out. Baker went 3-0 during her junior season, with a 0.74 ERA. In June, the Tampa Bay Rays invited her to throw batting practice before a game. She gave a couple of guys fits.

At Durant, Baker changes in the boys’ locker room, but has her own storage room–with her name on the door–to give her the appropriate privacy. “I walk out, and I’m right there with everybody,” says Baker. “Inside, I have a mirror and stuff with hangers. They set it up nice, I like it a lot. I have a lot more room with my stuff than they do.”

Yes, girls can compete with boys on the baseball field. Still, many players would prefer traditional opportunities in high school — on all-girls teams. “It’s kind of frustrating,” says Kelsie Whitmore, a center fielder and pitcher who will be a junior at Temecula (Calif.) Valley High School this year. She plans on playing for the varsity. “There are teams for different genders in every other sport, but not for baseball.”

“It would just be easier,” says Hudek, who changes in the softball locker room at George Ranch. “As much as they try to make you feel like one of the guys, you can’t really be. You miss out on the locker room bonding.”

If there were girls teams, however, these players would surely miss bothering the boys. “Sometimes you get these rude kids, they get to the plate, and you just know that they think I’m nothing, that it’s stupid that I’m out there,” says Baker, the knuckleballer. “And my catcher goes ‘shut up, dude, she’s going to strike out you out.’ And then I do it. That’s got to be the best feeling in the world.”

TIME College football

Oklahoma University Suspends Running Back Over Misdemeanor Charge

Oklahoma Mixon Football
Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon leaves Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla., after being arraigned on misdemeanor assault charges Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Jay Chilton—AP

Freshman Joe Mixon allegedly punched a woman in the face

The Oklahoma University football program has suspended running back Joe Mixon for the entire season after he pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, the team announced on Twitter Monday. “He will be excluded from all team activities, including being removed from the team roster,” the statement read.

The freshman was charged on Friday with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching a woman in the face. Mixon, a top recruit, could receive up to a year in prison if convicted.

A fellow Oklahoma student, 20-year-old Amelia Rae, told police that Mixon knocked her unconscious and broke four bones in her face, according to the incident report. Mixon’s lawyer maintains he was protecting himself from “a very intoxicated and troubled young woman,” according to ESPN.

The school said that under appropriate conditions, Mixon will be able to continue as a student, and could still be eligible for financial aid.

TIME Big Picture

Meet Levi’s Stadium, the Most High-Tech Sports Venue Yet

Levi's Stadium
A general view during a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Most people have heard of smartphones, smart cars and smart homes. Say hello to the smart stadium.

Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, Levi’s Stadium — home to the San Francisco 49ers — is now the most high-tech stadium anywhere in the world.

It’s in the center of the tech universe, of course, so it’s only natural that 49ers management decided to devote a significant sum of money to building high-tech infrastructure. The stadium will allow all 70,000+ fans to connect to Wi-Fi and 4G networks to take advantage of personalized services, making the event experience more enjoyable.

I had the privilege of attending the inaugural event at Levi’s Stadium, where the San Jose Earthquakes took on the Seattle Sounders in an MLS league game. About 49,000 people attended that event, well below the stadium’s 70,000+ seat capacity, so the game served as a dry run to work out some of the kinks. I also attended the first NFL game to be played in the stadium: the Denver Broncos came to town to help the 49ers christen the stadium in a preseason game on Aug 17. The first regular-season NFL game will be held there on Sept 14, and will serve as the official grand opening of the stadium.

Turning Downtime Into Screen Time

What I discovered from these two experiences is that the 49ers’ stadium is indeed the most tech-advanced stadium in the world, using technology to make the fan experience much richer and more entertaining. Al Guido, the COO of the 49ers, told me that one challenge that’s been an issue in the NFL is that the amount of action that takes place in a football game only about amounts to about 15 minutes. People want access to things like stats, replays and other media when live play isn’t taking place.

During that downtime, the 49ers organization wanted to deliver all types of new ways to enjoy the game, turning to technology to deliver it through a connected experience. According to Mr. Guido, “The 49ers wanted to transform the in-stadium fan experience and make it possible to see the action live but still have the similar features that a fan has at home while watching the game on TV.”

Cables, Routers and Bandwidth Aplenty

So how did the 49ers and their tech partners achieve the goal of enhancing the fan experience by harnessing technology for this purpose?

According to Dan Williams, the VP of technology for Levi’s Stadium, they laid out 400 miles of cabling, 70 miles of which are just dedicated to connecting the 1,200 distributed antenna systems that serve the Wi-Fi routers that are placed to serve every 100 seats throughout the stadium. Levi’s Stadium features a backbone of 40 gigabits per second of available bandwidth, easily scalable to accomodate event attendance, which is 40 times more Internet bandwidth capacity than any known U.S. stadium, and four times greater than the standard for NFL stadiums that’s been mandated by the league to be in place by 2015.

Levi's Stadium Router
Access points are spread throughout the stadium every 100 seats, serving up wireless Internet service to fans during the games Ben Bajarin for TIME
Levi's Stadium Repeater
Repeaters placed throughout Levi’s Stadium pass Internet service along from section to section Ben Bajarin for TIME

The stadium also has about 1,700 high-tech beacons. Using the latest version of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, these beacons can be used to give people pinpoint directions to their seats as well as to any other place in the stadium. They can also be used to send them alerts about specials from concession stands and other promotions from time to time.

Tech Partnerships

One of the companies that contributed to the overall strategy and execution of some the stadium’s high-tech features is Sony. Sony’s technology is at the center of the stadium’s control room, which manages all of the video for the over 2,000 Sony TVs that have been placed around the venue, as well as the 70 4K TVs found in most of the suites and the two giant LED displays in each end zone.

When I asked Mike Fasulo, the president and COO of Sony Electronics, about his company’s involvement in the new Levi’s Stadium, he told me, “Our partnership with the San Francisco 49ers and the new Levi’s Stadium goes well beyond technology and products. This is truly a one-of-a-kind fan experience, with the world’s greatest showcase of 4K technology from the best of Sony’s professional and consumer products. For every event, every fan will be immersed in the pinnacle of entertainment and technology to enhance their experience.”

Other major sponsors from the tech world include Intel, SAP, Yahoo and Brocade.

An App to Tie It All Together

There’s also a Levi’s Stadium smartphone and tablet app, which offers the following features:

  • The app can guide people to the parking lot entrance closest to their seats, and then once inside, guide them to their actual seats.
  • Fans can watch up to four replays at a time during the game, seeing the exact replays shown by the studio as if they were watching at home on their TV. A fan can actually watch the game live on this app as well. They can also get stats and other info related to the game via this app.
  • It can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest lines, which I predict will become the most used feature at any game.
  • Fans can connect either by Wi-Fi or to one of the 4G networks from the major carriers. Each of the big telecom networks has expanded its antenna service to enhance its customers’ wireless connections within the stadium.
  • Fans can order food and drink from any seat in the stadium and it will be delivered directly to their seats. People also have the option of ordering food from their seats and going to an express line at the concession stands to pick up their food in person, too.

The painstaking attention to tech detail that the 49ers and its partners have integrated into Levi’s Stadium is sure to be the envy of NFL stadiums throughout the U.S. For the time being, it’s the gold standard in high-tech stadiums and one that’s sure to be copied by many sports facilities around the world.

The Valley Advantage

However, I suspect that by being in the heart of Silicon Valley, this stadium may keep the lead in high-tech wizardry for some time. Keep in mind that the tech companies partnered with the 49ers on Levi’s Stadium because it also provided them a showcase for their technology. As Sony’s Fasulo stated above, it provided the company with a major showcase for its 4K professional and consumer products. Intel loves the fact that all of the servers that are used to power the networks show off the power of Intel processors, and Brocade’s networking technology is showcased as a world- class solution.

Silicon Valley is also the center of tech innovation. As people in the industry continue to create new technologies that can be used to enhance the sports experience, where do you think they will take it first? Since the 49ers have already shown a commitment to using technology for delivering the ultimate in-stadium fan experience, the organization will most likely be open to all sorts of new technology to help it deliver an even greater experience in the future. Think of this symbiotic relationship between Silicon Valley’s tech companies and the 49ers as home field advantage for both.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the pioneering efforts of the 49ers to make Levi’s Stadium a truly smart stadium will force other NFL stadiums to follow the team’s lead, striving to make all of their stadiums smarter. It will also serve as a potential blueprint for other sports stadiums around the world. Being in Silicon Valley does have its advantages, though: With the kinds of tech sponsors and partners that are in its back yard, I suspect that Levi’s Stadium will continue to get smarter and smarter.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME tennis

2013 Champ Nadal Out of U.S. Open With Wrist Injury

Rafael Nadal will not defend his title at the U.S. Open because of an injured right wrist.

Nadal and the tournament announced his withdrawal Monday, a week before the year’s last Grand Slam tournament begins.

The 27-year-old Spaniard was hurt July 29 while practicing on his home island of Mallorca ahead of the North American hard-court circuit. The next day, Nadal said he had been told by doctors to wear a cast on his wrist for two to three weeks, but he hoped to be able to return in time for the U.S. Open.

The second-ranked Nadal plays left-handed, but he uses a two-handed backhand.

It’s only the fourth time in the Open era, which began in 1968, that the reigning U.S. Open men’s champion is not in the field.

TIME College football

Notre Dame Benches 4 Football Players Over Cheating Charges

The players are suspected of submitting papers that others had written for them

Officials at the University of Notre Dame are investigating four members of the school’s football team for suspected academic dishonesty, the school announced Friday. The players, who helped the team win the 2012 Bowl Championship Series, will not be allowed to attend practice or play in games for an unspecified period of time.

“Young people sometimes make bad decisions, but our job is to hold them accountable,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, the school’s president, in press conference.

Evidence of the cheating, which consisted of submitting classwork that had been written by others, emerged on July 29, and the school’s general counsel initiated an investigation, according to a press release.

“We’re going to have this investigation go wherever it leads us, and we’re going to be thorough,” said Jack Swarbrick, director of athletics at Notre Dame.

Jenkins said the investigation is still ongoing and that the school would initiate a committee to consider the allegations in accordance with the school’s honor code. There is no evidence that any of the coaching staff or academic personnel knew about the alleged misconduct, he said.

Notre Dame’s football team has fared well in recent years. The four players in question played on the 2012 team that made it to the BCS national championship. Jenkins said that the NCAA has been notified of the investigation, and said that it is possible that the school will vacate its wins during past competition as the players would have been ineligible under NCAA rules due to their academic dishonesty.

Notre Dame’s opening home game against Rice is scheduled for August 30th.

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