TIME Professional Wrestling

WWE Legend ‘The Ultimate Warrior’ Dead at 54

After making multiple appearances at WWE events over the weekend, and only 24 hours after appearing on Monday Night Raw, Jim Hellwig — a.k.a. the Ultimate Warrior — died at a hotel in Arizona late on Tuesday

Days after being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Hall of Fame, Jim Hellwig, who will be forever immortalized under his stage name the Ultimate Warrior, died late on Tuesday night after collapsing at a hotel in Arizona. He was 54 years old.

“WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE superstars ever, the Ultimate Warrior,” read a press release posted on the promotion’s website late on Tuesday night.

No details on the cause of death have been released.

The Ultimate Warrior’s popularity in the wide world of wrestling lasted from the late 1980s up through the mid-1990s, peaking when he defeated archrival Hulk Hogan in 1990 at WrestleMania VI for the WWF championship.

The Warrior will be remembered most for his high-octane, dead-sprint entrances to the ring to one of the greatest walk-in tracks in the history of professional wrestling, and for delivering unbridled, surrealist prefight monologues reminiscent of equal parts Colonel Kurtz and Nietzsche in themes and imagery. His fights were often brief and lacked technical finesse, but the energy he brought to the ring was unmatched.

In the mid-1990s, the Warrior fell out with WWE and faded through multiple promotions before announcing semiretirement at the end of the decade. In 2005, the WWE released the DVD, The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, featuring interviews with multiple wrestlers and promoters; however, Hellwig’s first-person views on his fall from grace were notably absent.

Despite the bitter relations between Hellwig and the WWE, the Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the promotion’s Hall of Fame last weekend and appeared at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans and on Monday Night Raw the following evening, where he delivered one last haunting monologue.

“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath,” said Hellwig. “And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”

TIME Business of Sports

Sports TV Broadcasting Hits New Highs … in Annoying Fans

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Jetta Productions—Getty Images

Lately, many sports fans who have tried to watch the Winter Olympics, or NCAA Final Four basketball, or the Atlanta Braves, or the Los Angeles Dodgers have been frustrated for a very basic reason.

They can’t find the !?#&*!? sporting event on TV.

On Saturday night, countless college basketball fans tuned in to CBS, hoping to watch the men’s Final Four March Madness tournament matchups of Wisconsin-vs.-Kentucky and Florida-vs.-Connecticut. Instead of basketball, viewers were treated to reruns of CBS dramas “Person of Interest” and “Criminal Minds.”

After some confusion, and perhaps some cursing and throwing of remotes, shoes, and cheese dip, previously unaware viewers discovered that for the first time since March Madness has been televised, the national semifinals weren’t shown on network TV. The back-to-back games, played on what’s often thought of the best night of the year for college basketball, were only broadcast on cable. On several cable channels, in fact, thanks to a curious arrangement with Turner Sports, in which TBS hosted the main broadcast, and sister channels TNT and TruTV showed the same game but with different local play-by-play announcers to cater to each team’s fan base.

In any event, the games weren’t on network TV. That was enough to ruin the night for cord cutters, i.e., folks who don’t have pay TV, who have also missed out on the tournament’s many other games shown only on TBS, TNT, or TruTV rather than CBS.

(MORE: Why Las Vegas Loves March Madness Way More Than the Super Bowl)

The arrangement did more than alienate the fairly sizeable portion of fans too cheap to have a pay TV package. Despite an onslaught of coverage telling folks that they games were on cable for the first time ever— according to Adweek, the campaign included digital billboards in subways, ads shown before films in theaters, promos on radio and TV, and a takeover of USAToday.com’s home page—the move to cable did some serious damage to TV ratings as well. Yes, when combined the trio of Turner Sports channels achieved a record high number of viewers for a non-football sporting event on cable, but the shift away from network broadcast also resulted in a multi-year low in ratings overall. The Associated Press reported that an average of 14 million viewers watched the games on Saturday night, down 11% from a year ago when they were shown on CBS. (TBS is in 14% fewer American homes than CBS.)

There’s no mystery as to why any of the parties involved would risk aggravating fans by showing the games on cable rather than CBS: Like so many things, it’s all about money.

CBS and Turner Sports are a few years into a 14-year, $10.8 billion partnership with the NCAA to air the March Madness tournament. One reason that TBS and its siblings agreed to the deal—thereby helping CBS from losing the tournament to ESPN and ABC—is that they were guaranteed the right to air some of the tournament’s premier high-ratings games, rather than just the earlier rounds.

More importantly, these networks, and the powers than be in general in sports and TV, are well aware that live sports is the largest reason many Americans continue to cut a check for a monthly pay TV bill. Time Warner, which owns TBS, TNT, TruTV, CNN, and many other cable networks (and, for a little while longer, Time Inc. and Time.com), obviously has great interest in keeping levels of cable-paying households high. They want cord cutting to hurt, or at least be difficult and impractical for sports fans to circumvent, and moving the Final Four to cable does just that.

(MORE: YouTube Is Going to Use TV to Destroy TV)

The Final Four broadcast is hardly the only example of how larger battles over money and TV rights are frustrating the lives and viewing habits of sports fans—perhaps turning some into former fans in the process. Four years ago, NBC Universal angered hockey fans and the hockey world in general by its decision to air some premier Olympic hockey games on cable rather than the main network. Likewise, fans were only able to view many events from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi by watching them on cable (or streaming them online, only possible with a pay TV account). Of course, Comcast, the biggest player in pay TV, owns NBC Universal, so it makes a lot of sense to strategically broadcast in-demand sporting events in ways that push people to feel the monthly cable bill is still unavoidable, if not exactly well worth the money.

At 162 regular season games plus playoffs, Major League Baseball plays the most games of any pro sport, and therefore it has the most games aired on TV. But thanks to a trend kicked off largely by the advent of the Yankees-focused YES Network more than ten years ago, fans are increasingly likely to be forced to jump through hoops, or at least cough up extra cash, in order to tune in. For instance, an ongoing dispute between Fox Sports and Dish TV in Atlanta will result in some Braves fans being unable to watch nearly one-third of the team’s games this season.

Over in southern California, a huge brawl over Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts pits the Dodgers-owed SportsNET LA network and its distributor, Time Warner Cable, on one side, and on the other, a range of pay TV providers such as Cox, Charter, and DirecTV, which so far are refusing to pay the high fees being demanded to include the channel in customer packages. Caught in the middle, of course, are the many fans who use other TV providers, and who often don’t live in areas where they could get SportsNET LA even if they wanted to pay for it.

(MORE: Hank Aaron Would Have Faced More Racism Today)

The result is an absurd scenario epitomized by a recent column from the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, who on Dodgers opening day hit a handful of bars, as well as a taco shop, bowling alley, and a Burger King, trying—and failing—to find the game on TV. The deal the Dodgers cut for the rights to broadcast games is incredibly lucrative for the club. But as Plaschke warned the Dodgers, the money may come at the cost of quite a few fans. “Dodgers, ask your fans if they are willing to sacrifice watching the games on television for the sake of having the league’s richest team,” he wrote. “They would say no.”

Plaschke ran into one sports bar patron, who noted the irony of seeing Dodgers jerseys posted to the tavern’s wall and yet “they can’t even get the games,” he said. “At least everyone can still watch the Angels.”

For the time being anyway.

TIME FInal Four

The Shabazz Show Wins Title for UConn

Connecticut celebrates with the championship trophy after beating Kentucky 60-54 at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game on April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.
Connecticut celebrates with the championship trophy after beating Kentucky 60-54 at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game on April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. David J. Phillip—AP

Senior shooting guard Shabazz Napier's 22 points helped lift the seventh-seeded Connecticut Huskies to a 60-54 victory over the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, bringing the team its fourth national championship since 1999

Thousands of basketball-obsessed kids, in schoolyards and backyards and barnyards around the country, may be trying a new kind of shot come Tuesday morning. It’s a deep one, and comes with a kick, literally: release, and kick your right foot out, like you’re also whacking an invisible soccer ball. Call it the Shabazz Shot. It just won UConn a national championship.

Shabazz Napier, the UConn senior shooting guard, scored 22 points, and hit four key three pointers — most with that signature kick — to lead the seventh-seeded Huskies to a 60-54 victory over eighth-seeded Kentucky in Monday night’s NCAA title game. His backcourt mate, junior Ryan Boatright, also had a fabulous game, shooting 5 for 6 from the field and finishing with 14 points. Napier and Boatright outscored Kentucky’s backcourt, twin freshman Aaron and Andrew Harrison, 36-15.

Just as important, Napier and Boatright used their size disadvantage to their advantage. The Harrison brothers are both 6-ft, 6-in. Napier is 6-ft, 1-in., and Boatright is listed at a generous 6-ft. Big guys don’t like being pestered by smaller, quicker players. UConn’s Kevin Ollie, a national champ in his first NCAA tournament as head coach, scripted a smart game plan: unleash the quickness of Napier and Boatright on Kentucky’s taller guards. The Harrisons turned the ball over 7 times. Both Napier and Boatright finished with three steals.

The game wasn’t a classic. But it was a chess match. In the first half, when Kentucky clearly couldn’t stop the quickness of UConn’s backcourt, Wildcats coach John Calipari switched to a zone. The move stalled UConn, which dominated Kentucky in the first half, but only had a 35-31 lead at halftime. Calipari admitted his team should have been down 20 points. The play got a bit sloppier in the second half: combined, both teams turned the ball over 23 times. Ollie made his moves in the second-half: almost all game, his team played man-to-man, but when he threw in the occasional zone, Kentucky got flustered. Kentucky’s James Young kept slithering into the lane, keeping the Wildcats in the game almost by himself. The freshman—all five of Kentucky’s starters are freshmen—finished with 20 points.

The game was also decided at the foul line: Connecticut, money from the line all tournament, shot a perfect 10-for-10. Kentucky missed nine shots, finishing 13-24. Calipari screwed up in the final minute, ordering a foul with 54 seconds left, with Kentucky down 58-54. All that did was give UConn a fresh 35-second shot clock, enabling the Huskies to run the time down the rest of the game.

No matter: the game was still the Shabazz show. Napier, who hails from Roxbury, Mass., returned to UConn this season instead of entering the NBA draft, and is on track to graduate with a sociology degree. He’s developed a social conscience: after telling reporters that he sometimes goes to bed hungry because his scholarship does not cover the full cost of attending college, Connecticut lawmakers started chirping about allowing UConn athletes to unionize. A bit of political pandering by the statehouse reps? Maybe. But at least he started a discussion. And after the game, Napier grabbed the CBS mike to deliver a message to the NCAA. “I want to get everybody’s attention right quick,” Napier told a national television audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the hungry Huskies. This is what happens when you ban us last year.” The NCAA kept UConn out of last year’s tournament because of poor academic performance by prior players. Napier used the national championship platform to publicly express his disgust with that policy.

You may not agree with Napier. But it’s still refreshing to see college athletes like him lifting their voices. And their feet. Start kicking, kids.

TIME Auto Racing

WATCH: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Fiery Crash in NASCAR’s Duck Commander 500

The driver earned his first last-place finish since 2007 as a result of the crash. Rival Joey Logano won the race in extra laps, edging out Jeff Gordon.

Famed NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. crashed during the Duck Commander 500 in Fort Worth, Texas on Monday after hitting a patch of wet grass and blowing out a tire. The race had already been postponed on Sunday due to poor weather conditions. The driver then drove into the outside wall and his No. 88 Chevrolet caught fire. As a result of the crash, Earnhardt Jr. was guaranteed to finish 43rd, his first last-place finish since 2007, the Associated Press reports. The driver was not hurt.

Joey Logano went on to win the race in a last-lap pass of rival Jeff Gordon.

TIME NCAA Tournament

March Sadness: One Shining Moment Fades Away

Every year, only one team in the NCAA Tournament can walk away with the National Championship, leaving 67 losing squads in its wake. See the pain of a season-ending loss

TIME psychology

NCAA Championship: How Evenly Matched Teams Make Us More Defensive

Florida v UConn
Shabazz Napier of the Connecticut Huskies reacts during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal against the Florida Gators at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

There's no underdog between eighth-seeded Kentucky and seventh-seeded UConn, which makes players and fans feel more entitled to a win. To fans of whichever team loses: Brace yourselves for some serious mental gymnastics

Going by their track records, tonight’s NCAA playoff, a pretty close match, could be a nail-biter. Connecticut is seeded seventh, while Kentucky is eighth. Connecticut has won each of the three previous times it reached the championship game, while Kentucky has the winningest record in NCAA basketball. On any given day, either team could take the championship.

PHOTOS: Moments of Madness: Weird Photos From the NCAA Tournament

In an evenly matched game like tonight, luck likely won’t be part of the winning narrative. In such compatible games, fans and players alike tend to focus more on skills and ability when it comes to explaining the final score, says Ed Hirt, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University — and not the lucky three-pointers, impossible cross-court shots, or questionable calls by a referee that can shift the momentum of a game from one team to another. That’s because both teams in tonight’s championship have a strong sense of entitlement and confidence in their ability to prevail. So they’ll talk mostly about what they brought to the victory: determination, dedication, and, in the case of Kentucky, perseverance after a shaky start to the season.

MORE: 11 Players You Need to Watch in the NCAA Tournament

For fans of tonight’s losing team, there will still be some mental gymnastics to perform in order to accept the defeat. Psychologists call it “social creativity,” the process by which the vanquished try to make sense of the loss in light of the fact that they had the skills and ability to win. So they focus on the positive: we came further than we thought we would in the tournament, we came in second to all the teams in the NCAA, and we pulled through some tough games to make it this far.

That’s not the case when it comes to less balanced contests — when an underdog challenges an established powerhouse — and wins. In such Cinderella stories, the downside can be that a lower-ranked team doesn’t get as much credit for the victory. “In those situations, it’s more easy to be dismissive of the underdog victor playing well and attribute the cause to the favorite choking or playing poorly,” says Hirt. Take the run that University of Dayton had into the Sweet 16. Having polished off higher-ranked Ohio State, Dayton survived elimination when a last-minute three-pointer by Syracuse failed to find the basket. Post-game conclusion, even by Dayton coach Archie Miller? “Fortunately tonight, [Syracuse] didn’t hit some shots that they probably normally hit,” he told to USA Today. “The defense was great, but you also could play them 10 times, and I don’t think that some of those shots would be missed. So a little bit of luck is on your head.”

“It really is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s why people will have totally different perceptions of the same game,” says Hirt. If Connecticut loses, those fans will have their relatively new coach, and their lower expectations coming into the season, as fodder for creative interpretations of a loss. If Kentucky loses, there was the challenge of quickly melding a group of strangers into a winning athletic unit.

And if the outcome is close? That’s when all that rational focus on skills and effort and heart gets distracted by the drama of the moment and you might start to hear something about luck – if only the referee hadn’t made the charging call; if only the rimmed throw had gone in. Fans can be so fickle.

TIME

You Should Root for UConn Over Kentucky Tonight

UCONN vs Michigan State Elite Eight
Ryan Boatright of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after a turnover by the Michigan State Spartans in the second half of the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City. Elsa—Getty Images

It's all for glory tonight as Huskies and Wildcats square off in the NCAA title game. The backcourt battle between the two top-seeded teams is also a college hoops culture clash: The kids who stayed in school versus the ones likely off to the pros

Oh, you’ve got love this Cinderella* final. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to at least 64 teams in 1985, never before have two lower-seeded teams met in the national championship game. Monday night’s title game is a dream matchup between two underdogs* who have charmed the nation.

* Never have the terms “Cinderella” and “underdog” been more of a misnomer. They’d normally apply to much lower-seeded teams. But when the seventh seed is UConn, a team that won a national title just three seasons ago, has won three national titles since 1999 and is a perennial power, and the eighth seed is Kentucky, the winningest college hoops program in history that starts five freshman who may all be playing in the NBA next season, let’s cease any and all pluckiness talk.

In tonight’s title game, homing in on the guards is key. They’re important for both the on-court result and what they say about the tensions surrounding college sports. Kentucky starts a pair of freshman twins from Texas, Aaron and Andrew Harrison. In back-to-back games, Aaron Harrison has hit two of the gutsiest three-pointers you’ll ever see, first stabbing the heart of Michigan in the Midwest regional final, then winning the national semifinal game against Wisconsin with another huge three-pointer in the waning seconds. To borrow a phrase from our pal Bill Raftery, the kid’s got some serious onions.

But UConn’s own backcourt, senior Shabazz Napier and junior Ryan Boatright, have stepped up their defensive game during this tournament run: can these elder statesmen thwart the rookie twins from Kentucky? On Saturday night, Napier and Boatright shut down Florida’s two highly regarded guards, Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II. Wilbeken, the SEC Player of the Year and master of penetrating into the lane, scored just four points on 2-9 shooting, and recorded a single assist. Frazier, a three-point specialist in the mold of a Ray Allen, sank his first three of the game. It was his only one. He only got off two more shots from downtown, and finished with a measly three points.

The backcourt battle is also a college hoops culture clash — the kids who stayed in school (Napier-Boatright) vs. the ones likely off to the pros (Harrisons). Some experts are saying that Kentucky’s tournament run has really helped the brothers’ draft stock. Both Napier and Boatright considered heading to the pros after last season, but decided against it: the title game is a pretty sweet reward.

Boatright’s journey to the championship, in particular, represents college sports in all its craziness. I wrote a magazine feature on Boatright in 2007, when he was just starting ninth grade, because he was at the forefront of a disturbing trend: college coaches recruiting and offering scholarships to kids at younger and younger ages. Boatright was a curious case: USC coach Tim Floyd offered him a scholarship in eighth grade, even though Boatright was only 5-ft., 9-in., and 138 lbs. Boatright and his family gladly accepted the offer. It’s one thing to try to lock-up a man-child. But Boatright was a ninth-grader who actually, you know, looked like a ninth-grader.

Boatright picked his college before he even picked his high school. Recruiting experts scratched their heads. “What am I supposed to do?” Floyd, now the coach at the University of Texas-El Paso, told me at the time. “Should I wait until another school offers and then come in? I can’t do that. Because they’re going to say ‘Well, you’re late.'”

After meeting Boatright back in September of 2007, if you would have asked me to make a bet, right then and there, on his future, I would have wagered against him living up to the hype. He needed muscle, and some serious rotation on his jump shot. As I wrote, “Boatright [is] a bright, personable kid with a supportive extended family worth rooting for.” But gosh, he was so small — not surprising, considering he was 14. And all that pressure – failure almost seemed predetermined.

But Boatright came across unfazed. “I like the pressure,” said Boatright during our conversation, noshing on a chocolate long john at Dunkin’ Donuts before a Saturday-morning shoot-around. “I feed off it. I hear all the negative stuff, I just add another workout. I’ll make them feel stupid in the end.”

I’ve never been happier about being stupid. “He knew that, as a little guy, he had to work even harder,” says his grandfather, Tom Boatright, during a phone interview from Dallas, where he’ll attend his grandson’s championship game. Tom Boatright, who runs a track club in Aurora, helped train his grandson from an early age. Floyd resigned as coach of USC in 2009, after Boatright’s sophomore year of high school, amidst allegations that he gave $1,000 in cash to a middleman who helped steer current NBA player O.J. Mayo to the Trojans.

“After Floyd left, we just didn’t know if the new coach was even interested,” says Boatright. Ryan decommited from USC, but since he met, and maybe even exceeded expectations in high school, offers from plenty of big-time programs came pouring in. Boatright committed to West Virginia early in his senior season, but backed out after coach Bob Huggins signed another point guard. Eventually he decided on UConn, who went on to win the national championship.

In the end, Boatright, who now checks in at 6-feet, 168 pounds, was too good for USC. But his UConn career got off to a rocky start. The NCAA suspended him for six-regular season games for an infraction involving accepting a plane ticket while playing AAU ball. Then he had to sit three more games after the NCAA said he and his mother received additional improper benefits. When he was on the court during the 2011-2012 season, he and Napier, a year older, clashed.

“My freshman year, it was tough,” Ryan Boatright said on Sunday afternoon, CBS Sports reports. “I was used to having the ball all the time and making plays, and scoring the ball. Naturally as a kid, I was immature. You come in and you think it’s all about you. I grew up and, Shabazz will tell you, he wasn’t the best leader at that time. He had some stuff he had to work on. We bumped heads a lot. Both of us being from inner cities, and being tough guys, we ain’t back down to each other. We had some rough practices.”

Then UConn was put on academic probation and barred from playing in the 2013 tournament. Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun retired. Boatright, however, never seriously considered transferring. In January, Boatright’s cousin, Arin Williams, was shot to death in Aurora. They were like brothers.

“It’s just been such a long, tough journey,” says his mother, Tanesha, unable to hold back her tears during a phone interview from Dallas. “During the lowest moments, he was the one giving me encouragement.” When Boatright committed to USC in eighth grade, Tanesha was taken back by the criticism: that she was hungry for money, rushing her son into a major life decision. “After hearing the commentators and critics, it’s a relief to know I wasn’t a crazy mom,” says Tanesha, a single mother of four.

Boatright texted Tanesha just this morning, telling her to relax and smile. “Shouldn’t I be the one doing that?” Tanesha says. On offense, Boatright learned to accept his supporting role to Napier, the team’s top scorer. “Batman can’t function without Robin,” says Tanesha. “Even though Ryan’s not Batman, there are a thousand people in this world wishing they were Robin.” Boatright, who Tanesha says is on track to graduate, could still wind up leaving a year early for NBA riches. However, he’d probably benefit from a senior year of seasoning, out of Napier’s shadow.

But no matter what, Boatright conquered the early pressure, stayed in school longer than many pro prospects, and fought through setbacks and tragedy. If UConn’s upperclassman beat the hotshot frosh tonight, forgive this stupid spectator for giving a little cheer.

TIME NCAA Tournament

Moments of Madness: Weird Photos From the NCAA Tournament

College basketball's chaotic tournament produces some strange moments. These are 10 of the best

TIME

Hank Aaron Would Have Faced Worse Racism Today

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves
Scoreboard flashes 715 in Atlanta after Hank Aaron of the Braves hits home run #715 to break Babe Ruth's record off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8, 1974. Herb Scharfman/Sports Imagery—Getty Images

The home-run king is lucky he didn't have to contend with the ubiquitous bigots and haters on today's social media

“The only thing I can say is that I had a rough time with it. I don’t talk about it much. It still hurts a little bit inside, because I think it has chipped away at a part of my life that I will never have again. I didn’t enjoy myself. It was hard for me to enjoy something that I think I worked very hard for. God had given me the ability to play baseball, and people in this country kind of chipped away at me. So, it was tough. And all of those things happened simply because I was a black person.” — Henry Aaron, June 12, 2006, American History magazine

Henry Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run off Al Downing on April 8, 1974 still stands today as one of the greatest milestones in Major League Baseball history. By breaking the four-decade mark of the great Babe Ruth, Aaron strode out of the shadows – and stepped into a cauldron.

This accomplishment transcended sports. By his own accounts over the years, we can recognize that Aaron went through hell during that time. It was tough enough when reporters and camera crews chronicled his every at-bat and invaded his privacy. But that was the least of it. Here, a black man stood poised—while playing in the Deep South, to boot—to claim one of the sports world’s most storied marks. Bigots hounded Aaron and made his life miserable, at a time when he should have basked in the glow of both his historic achievement and the recognition that had eluded him for decades.

Still, you know what? We might conclude that Aaron got off easy four decades ago, long before social media dominated every facet of our lives and removed any shred of privacy.

Just try to imagine how much more intense and challenging his predicament would have been. Can you picture the potential for incessant racist taunts on Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the blogosphere? In the 1970s, the haters reached Aaron by what we call “snail mail.” Today, in our sped-up-world of modern communications, Aaron would have had no escape.

Racism existed before Aaron challenged the Babe and it continues to pervade our society today, all over the world. I made a cursory Google search to check out “sports racist taunts on Twitter” from 2014 alone and found numerous examples, such as:

“Cops Investigate Racist Taunts at Stan Collymore After He Accused Luis Suarez of Diving”; “Students Suspended After Racial Slurs at Basketball Game”; “Racism Rears Its Ugly Head: Peruvian Fans Shout Epithets at Black Brazilian Soccer Player

Plus, we witnessed the possible racial overtones in the bullying furor late last year that engulfed the former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and the reaction to Richard Sherman’s post-game comments after the NFC championships game. Even in those simpler times, Aaron, caught up in a media whirlwind that he did not sign up for, surely paid a price for his lofty accomplishment. Indeed, Aaron had gotten death threats during the winter before the start of the 1974 baseball season. The Atlanta Journal discreetly crafted Aaron’s obituary, just in case. As Sports Illustrated noted:

“Is this to be the year in which Aaron, at the age of thirty-nine, takes a moon walk above one of the most hallowed individual records in American sport…? Or will it be remembered as the season in which Aaron, the most dignified of athletes, was besieged with hate mail and trapped by the cobwebs and goblins that lurk in baseball’s attic?”

And just after Aaron did finally hit No. 715, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ iconic announcer Vin Scully remarked:

“What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron. … And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.”

Aaron was never the type to stand at home plate and stare at a long ball, as Reggie Jackson was wont to do in his heyday. Nor did Aaron showboat around the bases by slowing his trot to an excruciating level after he had just hit a home run.

How would Aaron likely have fared in the Twittersphere, where athletes try constantly to be glib, provocative and controversial at all costs? He likely would have flopped on Twitter. Aaron is by his nature an articulate and measured speaker, but articulate and measured speakers are not exactly revered in social media. Aaron’s dignity and integrity would have gone unappreciated on Twitter.

As he pursued Babe Ruth’s historic home-run record, bigots, racists and haters chased him. Only he can know how painful that ordeal must have been. Still, he is lucky it didn’t happen today.

TIME hockey

NYC Firefighters, Police in Vicious Brawl During Charity Hockey Match

Charity match marred by nasty confrontation between the Big Apple's Fire Department and Police

What began as a charity hockey match between New York City police officers and firefighters later erupted into bedlam as the benches cleared and punches were exchanged on the ice in Long Island on Sunday.

Based on videos posted on several social media outlets, the brawling began during the second period of a charity exhibition at the Nassau Coliseum.

The referees struggled to bring order as fans screamed profanity-laced chants. What exactly sparked the confrontation remains uncertain and both departments refused to comment on the episode following the melee.

After calm was restored the NYDP team pulled off an 8-5 win, their first victory after enduring five straight losses to the FDNY squad.

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