See WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s memo on impending layoffs

first_imgAT&T‘s WarnerMedia is beginning thousands of layoffs Tuesday as the company formerly known as Time Warner restructures around streaming video.The job cuts are part of AT&T’s plan to eliminate redundant positions within WarnerMedia and refocus the company around growing HBO Max, the company’s flagship streaming video service. Many of the top executives at Time Warner’s HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. production studio have already departed before Tuesday’s announcement, including ex-HBO chief Richard Plepler, ex-Turner president David Levy and ex-Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO and Chairman Kevin Tsujihara.- Advertisement – WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who took the job earlier this year after running Hulu from 2007 to 2013, has been evaluating the company and working to break down old Time Warner silos, along with AT&T CEO John Stankey. Stankey was WarnerMedia’s CEO before elevating to AT&T’s top job and passing on his role to Kilar.A WarnerMedia spokesman declined to comment on the exact number of layoffs, though a person familiar with the matter said it was in the thousands. AT&T’s stock jumped 1.4% on the news but is trading near a five-year low. The wireless carrier spent $67 billion on DirecTV five years ago and is now entertaining final bids for a minority stake sale in the company’s broader pay-TV business at a valuation near $15 billion. AT&T paid more than $100 billion for Time Warner in a deal that closed in 2018.- Advertisement – I’ve previously shared how critical it is for us to evolve how we operate in the context of best serving customers. As I mentioned a few months ago, this entails simplifying how we are organized, partnering with the very best storytellers, and leaning into world class product and technology as we share our stories directly with audiences across the globe. Our journey entails continuing to excel in our large, core businesses while at the same time investing in emerging businesses where we have the opportunity to meaningfully delight customers.Today, we have arrived at a number of difficult decisions that are resulting in a smaller WarnerMedia team. This is a function of removing layers and the impact of consolidating previously separate organizations. Starting today in North America, we will be sharing which jobs are being eliminated and which roles have changed. We are continuing to review proposed changes in other countries across our non-US businesses, the timing of which will vary according to local regulatory requirements. Nothing about this is easy. But please know, these reductions are not in any way a reflection of the quality of the team members impacted, nor their work. It is simply a function of the changes I believe we must make in order to best serve customers. For those impacted, we will be offering severance and healthcare packages, in addition to professional services and team member assistance programs.While I anticipate that organizationally, things will settle down materially in the weeks and months to come (we’ve worked hard to make this a process with a beginning, middle and an end), I don’t want to suggest that our future is static. Rather, our future is about inventing ever better ways to move the world through story … which entails embracing change. I have every confidence in this world class team to do just that.To our colleagues who are leaving, I wish there were words to lessen today’s pain. Your contributions are a permanent part of this great company and today’s news does not change that. I am extremely thankful for all that you have done for this team and this mission. I hope that at some point you will look back on all of it with immense pride.Until then, please stay well and safe.JasonDisclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.- Advertisement –center_img The WarnerMedia moves follow similar restructurings at large traditional media companies including Disney and NBCUniversal.This is a very painful email to write. And for a number of you reading this, I realize it will be even more painful to receive. For this, I am sorry.In August, I first shared news about how we were going to meaningfully change the organizational structure of WarnerMedia (which entailed, among other items, simplifying how we organize our entertainment studios, elevating HBO Max, and consolidating our commercial activities into one organization). Many of you have patiently waited to hear how the reorganization would affect you personally, which is both uncomfortable and stressful. Reducing this period of uncertainty was one of the many reasons we pushed so hard to get through this work as quickly and as thoughtfully as possible, although it probably didn’t feel fast enough. I want to thank you all for continuing to contribute your best, despite this challenging period and the additional pressure of everything else that has been going on in the world.- Advertisement –last_img read more

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Morrison hails Fletcher influence

first_img Press Association The midfielder believes four-time Premier League title winner Fletcher deserves instant respect from the Albion squad. Fletcher was given the Baggies’ captaincy by boss Tony Pulis after joining from Manchester United in January and has played a key role in lifting them eight points clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone. “It really hurt so we were wounded beasts and you could see the tackles flying in (on Saturday), which was really pleasing. “We fought for every ball and I thought we were comfortable. “They didn’t really have many chances. Stoke are a great side who have done really well this season so that’s a good victory for us. “The manager just wanted a reaction. That’s all you can do when you get a defeat. “We worked as a team. The lads fought for each other and when someone was out of the game people filled in.” Brown Ideye scored the winner at the weekend after missing a glaring chance against Villa and struggling with injury and Morrison hailed the Nigerian’s recovery. “He didn’t train all week. The two strikers only trained on Friday because of injuries so to put in that kind of performance is credit to them,” he said. “Brown produced a great header, especially having not put those chances away at Villa.” James Morrison insists Darren Fletcher has been the perfect man to spearhead West Brom’s survival fight. And Morrison, who has been called into the Scotland squad with Fletcher for their friendly against Northern Ireland and Euro 2016 qualifier with Gibraltar this month, insists his team-mate is their ideal midfield general. He said: “He’s a great lad, he’s a leader and he barks his orders. “He’s got that respect and he deserves it for what he’s done in the game. “Obviously I have played with Darren for many years for Scotland. I know his game and I think he knows mine and we slotted in perfectly. “We’ve got a good bunch of lads in the group and he has slotted in perfectly.” The duo played in midfield together for the first time in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Stoke which saw the Baggies hit back from successive defeats to Aston Villa in the league and FA Cup. Pulis stayed away from the squad for two days last week to avoid his mood affecting the players following the losses and Morrison admitted they were hurting. “It was rock bottom for us after those two defeats,” said the 28-year-old. last_img read more

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Moving Touches Closer Together

first_img Essential Reading! Get my 3rd book: Eat Their Lunch “The first ever playbook for B2B salespeople on how to win clients and customers who are already being serviced by your competition.” Buy Now One of the ways that you can immediately increase the number of appointments you schedule is to speed up the pace of those communications, i.e. move them closer together.Let’s say you are going to call a prospective client four times over the course of the year. One way to do that would be to make a call every ninety days, calling them quarterly. Some people follow this pattern, believing that if their dream client isn’t interested now, calling back in ninety days might allow them to catch that client at exactly the right moment. But from the client’s side, you called once and followed up with an email, and then you disappeared. There is no reason to take a call from a salesperson that calls once. That isn’t the kind of person you want to give your business to because they don’t really want it.A better way to professionally and persistently pursue your dream client would be to remove the space between these four calls. Instead of spacing them ninety days apart, you put seven or so days in between them. You call, leave a voicemail, and send a follow-up email suggesting you’ll try again later. About a week later, you follow that same pattern, trying a third time at the end of that same week. Six or seven days later, you try again.Calling every day makes you a stalker, and your prospect might believe you are belligerent. But calling around once a week for a few weeks in a row with a pitch that promises you’ll trade enough value for their time proves you are persistent and have something to offer. When your attempts are sporadic, you are sporadic, and so are your results. When you are disciplined and focused, you obtain your results faster and with greater certainty.This is one of the areas where a lot of people fear the wrong danger. They worry about seeming persistent when they should worry about not being known at all. They also worry about being a nuisance, but what makes one a nuisance is not the frequency of the communication as much as it is the value of the communication. If you have something to share that is worth your dream client’s attention, move your touches closer together.last_img read more

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2012 Trans Tasman Series On Fox Sports

first_imgThe Women’s and Men’s divisions was first played on Fox Sports 2 on Wednesday, 13 June 2012. The three divisions will also be played on Saturday, 16 June 2012 at 9.00am (Mixed), 10.00am (Women’s) and 11.00am (Men’s) and will be replayed in the early morning on Wednesday, 20 June. To see what to expect from RJ Media’s production of the series please click on this link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHHx8bUJfa4&list=PLE49F532EEA20AC95&index=0&feature=plcpTouch Football on Fox Sports Saturday, 16 June 20122012 Trans Tasman Series – Mixed: 9.00am (Fox Sports 2)2012 Trans Tasman Series – Women’s: 10.00am (Fox Sports 2)2012 Trans Tasman Series – Men’s: 11.00am (Fox Sports 2)Wednesday, 20 June 20122012 Trans Tasman Series – Men’s: 01.30am (Fox Sports 2)2012 Trans Tasman Series – Women’s: 02.30am (Fox Sports 2)2012 Trans Tasman Series – Mixed: 03.30am (Fox Sports 2)Stay tuned to the website for more information about when you can see the 2012 Trans Tasman Series on television.Related LinksTrans Tasman On TVlast_img read more

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4-Star South Carolina Quarterback Commit Brandon McIlwain Weighing Football, Baseball Options After Spurrier Retirement

first_imgFour-star quarterback Brandon McIlwain looked like South Carolina’s quarterback of the future after making a good impression at the Elite 11 this summer, but with the abrupt retirement Steve Spurrier and his skyrocketing stock as a baseball prospect, he is rethinking his commitment. McIlwain received a visit from Penn State quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne on Wednesday.Just had a home visit with Coach @RickyRahne ! .#PSU pic.twitter.com/ZytwCXKD8G— Brandon McIlwain (@BFMcIlwainqb12) December 3, 2015His mother, Lena McIlwain, reveals more about his pending decisions in a recent Facebook post. McIlwain is still considering South Carolina, but needs to hear from whomever takes over for Spurrier first. He’s also being recruited by other programs, and has emerged as a top prospect in the MLB Draft. WCIV Sports Director Scott Eisberg shared her post on Twitter.Not a big recruiting guy-but these posts sent to us-USC QB commit Brandon McIlwain’s mom a former Channel 4 staffer. pic.twitter.com/Nqumnh4N3w— Scott Eisberg (@SEisbergWCIV) December 3, 2015lena mcilwain brandon psu coach lena mcilwain brandon future mlb Yesterday, McIlwain was ranked eighth in an ESPN list of the nation’s top prep and college baseball [email protected] is number 8 on ESPN’s list! pic.twitter.com/BI6K4JtqYh— RockNorthBaseball (@crnorthbaseball) December 1, 2015As a potential first round pick in the MLB, and a Top 10 quarterback recruit, McIlwain has some serious decisions to make, especially with uncertainty surrounding the South Carolina job. It is hard to blame him for whatever he choses.last_img read more

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Report: Jalen Hurts Has “Won The Coaches And Team” At Alabama

first_imgAlabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium during a day gameInstagramCould Alabama start a true freshman at quarterback this season? According to Shannon B. Terry, Jalen Hurts has “won the coaches and team” heading into the 2016 season.Terry, the founder of 247Sports.com, took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to discuss Alabama’s quarterback situation heading into this year’s campaign. He notes that junior Cooper Bateman is “trending down”, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett is “improving” and true freshman Jalen Hurts has “won” the team over.Terry implies that even if Hurts isn’t named the starter at the beginning of the season, he expects him to be the quarterback by mid-season. That’s huge news, considering Hurts’ lack of experience.(1 of 2) #Alabama QB Bateman is trending down this fall, Barnett is improving and Hurts has won the coaches and team at this point.— Shannon B. Terry (@sbterry247) August 22, 2016(2 of 2) Only real decision 4 UA coaches is what is best way to develop Hurts? unless there’s a sig change, he will be the QB by mid-season— Shannon B. Terry (@sbterry247) August 22, 2016For the past two seasons, Alabama has turned to seniors to lead the team behind center. In 2014, Blake Sims helped the Crimson Tide reach the College Football Playoff. In 2015, it was Jake Coker leading the team to a national championship. Before that, it was AJ McCarron taking snaps for three seasons.Hurts getting the nod would be a surprise, but it’s never wise to doubt Nick Saban. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the call against USC.last_img read more

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Was Lionel Messi Tired

In Argentina’s final match of the World Cup, Lionel Messi — on whom Argentine hopes have rested for over a decade — only touched the ball at a rate of once every two minutes. One of those touches was a great opportunity to win the game near the end of regulation, which he failed to even put on goal. Despite this, and despite a decrease in goals and assists as the tournament progressed (four goals in his first three games, an assist in his fourth, and nary a goal or assist since), he won the World Cup’s Golden Ball award (essentially the tournament MVP). That prompted Diego Maradona, Messi’s Argentine forefather and foil, to say, “It’s not right when someone wins something that he shouldn’t have won just because of some marketing plan.” The sharply worded op-eds, so plentiful on Sunday and Monday, are dying down — for now — but even Messi’s fans may start to wonder what was going on, and whether Messi was playing like his usual self.Before Sunday’s World Cup Final, Messi’s father, Jorge, told the media that his son was struggling with exhaustion.1Note that Messi vomited during the final, but apparently this is a normal thing for him. This dovetails nicely with another story I’d been reading about for weeks, about how Messi’s “work rate,” or the amount he has been running on the pitch per minute, has been abnormally low during this World Cup. Here’s a quote from an ESPN article that touches on both subjects:The pressure of being captain and carrying the hopes of his country appears to have taken its toll on him as he found it difficult to make an impact. “He is exhausted,” Messi’s father Jorge said, according to the Daily Telegraph. “He feels as if his legs weigh 100 kilos each.”According to FIFA statistics, however, Messi is only ranked the 30th most hard-working player at the World Cup on the basis of distance covered. He has run a total of 32 miles in the six games he has featured in, having played for 573 minutes. By contrast, the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder has covered 43 miles in 585 minutes and tops the list. Messi is also second-from-bottom on the list of players who have played in all six games of the tournament so far.These mileage stats are common these days (and seemingly flash every time someone is subbed in/out of a game), though they’re not always easy to find or interpret. Fortunately, for the World Cup, FIFA has a page devoted to players’ “distance covered” stats. I’ve compiled those stats, broken down by offense and defense, and sorted by position, like so:Indeed, over the course of the World Cup, Messi had the lowest work rate among non-goalkeepers when his team is on defense and the second-lowest among forwards when his team is on offense (among players with 150 minutes on offense/defense combined).2There’s also a surprising amount of neutral time in soccer (up to a third of all match time is neither “in possession” nor “not in possession”). I haven’t included that in this chart.After an article by Ken Early in Slate first turned me on to Messi’s stillness, I couldn’t stop noticing it. When Messi’s not “on the ball,” he’ll often appear to be leisurely strolling through the area he’s in, particularly when the other team is on offense and he has little to do except sit back and wait to see if the ball comes his way. It can seem downright bizarre and contrary to everything a soccer coach teaches about “hustling.”Could it be that Messi’s inaction had something to do with his “100 kilo” legs? If so, it’d imply that Messi was so tired he was unable to “hustle” as much as normal, taking short breaks on the field when he got the chance to recuperate. This might also help explain his performance “decline” through the tournament.But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. On the FIFA site, individual game summaries have “tracking” stats as well. Here are Messi’s, broken down by offense and defense:For nearly every game, when Messi runs more on offense, he runs more on defense, and the same is true for when he runs less. To me, that suggests that the variation is probably more systematic and dependent on the matchups Argentina faced. But that large gap in the final game offers an interesting wrinkle. That’s when the difference between offensive work rate and defensive work rate was largest. This is at least consistent with a theory that he was tired for the last game (I assume that would be more likely to be reflected during his defense). But with the defensive work rate as a baseline, it could also indicate that he was running around extra hard on offense trying to make something happen (which he had failed to do for the last couple of games). Or it could just be random variance.Overall, though, the data doesn’t suggest that Messi wore down as the tournament progressed. If this work-rate phenomenon were a result of his being tired, we might expect to see the highest work rates in games following the longest layoffs, and/or for his work rate to decline as the grueling tournament wears on. But that’s not what the data shows.3I did find it interesting that all of his peak work rates came in games with the longest scheduled rest following them (first and third games of group stage, and last game of the tournament). That would be consistent with a premeditated strategy to conserve energy for later games, though it’s too tenuous to draw conclusions.So aside from a blip in the last game, there’s not much evidence that Messi had a general exhaustion problem, but there is evidence that he had a much lower work rate than other players. What to make of that? There are some negative interpretations possible: Messi might not have been fit enough to endure a whole tournament, or he might not have been trying hard enough. But these would only makes sense if low work rates typically indicated a lack of fitness or effort.And that we can test for.I don’t have the data necessary to do a complete study of work rates and how they may or may not predict and/or impact quality of play. But for a rough outline, we can at least take a look at FIFA’s data for this World Cup to see whether working harder tends to correspond with playing better. Is there any relationship between a player’s work rate and their offensive production?The following chart compares a players work rate with their offensive production per minute (using goals plus .1*chances created, a lower variance alternative to goals plus assists):4Includes all the distance a player covered during all the minutes he played (whether on offense, defense or neutral).This chart may support the argument that Messi didn’t deserve his Golden Ball, but I’ll stay out of that debate. He certainly didn’t play poorly, as he had the fifth-best per-minute production, despite having the lowest work rate (and it’s not limited to offense, as I’ve noted elsewhere; most aspects of his game were as good or better than normal through most of the tournament).Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Mario Goetze had a great tournament (obviously) and the highest work rate. In the middle, we have James Rodriguez, who managed an insane amount of success to go with his moderate effort.The important thing is that there’s not really any relationship between a player’s work rate and their production, either for forwards or for midfielders. In fact, the trend lines for both groups (covering 119 qualifying players in this tournament) are slightly declining — though not enough to read anything into it.5Moreover, if there’s an obvious source of team-quality bias, we might expect it to go in the other direction. We would expect players for better teams to have more production (more opportunities to dish, and more chances for teammates to dish to you, etc.), and because better teams tend to hold on to the ball more often and for longer periods, and forwards and midfielders are typically more active on offense, we would also expect those players to have a slightly higher meters run per minute.So has Messi been as good as he has despite being “lazy,” or perhaps because of it? When Messi was taking the tournament by storm, at least Ken Early was willing to give Messi the benefit of the doubt:Surely it must mean something that the best player in the fastest-ever era of football hardly ever runs at all.I don’t have distance-run data for Messi outside of the World Cup, but a little Googling reveals that Messi’s on-field leisure has come up before.June 2010: A New York Times article praising Michael Bradley cited the amount of ground he covered relative to Messi.May 2011: A Bleacher Report article cited Messi’s distance covered stats at UEFA6I’ve seen a lot of reference to these stats, but all the links are broken and I’ve been unable to find them on the UEFA site. as proof that he “doesn’t play hard every minute.”August 2012: A comparison between Messi and teammate Dani Alves showed how Messi spends roughly twice as much time in an “inactive” state.February 2013: An analysis of Messi’s (lack of) running from a Barca perspective tries to make sense of the phenomenon.April 2014: An article on ESPN FC criticized Messi’s Champions League play, based largely on the distance he ran.People have cited and/or complained about the amount Messi runs since at least 2010, and it has come up every year since. Note that Messi has been pretty good in that period.When you see a bunch of super-unusual things about one player, rather than trying to explain them all separately, it’s a good idea to try figure out how they might be related. If Messi’s low work rate was a “feature” rather than a “bug,” it could help him be the dominant player that he is. Here’s a very speculative version of what that argument would look like:A lot of soccer players run around a lot when there’s not much they can do to improve their situation. They may even continue running after they’re in the ideal location. Or even if they’re making slight improvements, they may be burning energy that would have more value being spent on runs that are higher leverage. Further, not moving unnecessarily may make it easier to keep track of what’s going on in the play, which may help the player anticipate what’s coming next.OK, that may sound fanciful, but it’s the sort of crazy idea that Messi should make us consider (feel free to propose alternatives!). And it wouldn’t be the only unconventional thing about Messi’s play that probably contributes to his advantage (e.g. his aversion to crossing passes, which until recently were considered an important part of offensive soccer strategy).This may be key to what makes him as good as he is, or it might not. The bizarre spectacle of Lionel Messi strolling along lazily shouldn’t be used either to hang him or to excuse him. Let’s not let a negative outcome against an all-time-great opponent cloud the mystery.CORRECTION (July 16, 10:16 a.m.): An earlier version of this article mischaracterized James Rodriguez’s success in the tournament as moderate. That is incorrect. It was insane. read more

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LeBrons Greatest Challenge The NBA Finals Arent Kind To Underdogs

Let’s play FiveThirtyEight Family Feud. Twenty seconds on the clock.Name an animal that begins with the letter ‘F’.Fox!Name a famous Super Bowl upset.J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.Name a famous NBA Finals upset.I mean… umm, uh.Uhhhhhhrrrrrrrmm.That isn’t an easy question. Didn’t Bill Russell’s Celtics once lose in the finals? (They did, exactly once, in 1958 to the St. Louis Hawks.) Wasn’t it kind of an upset when Dwyane Wade and Shaq led the 52-30 Miami Heat to a title in 2006? (It was, though not by much.) The NBA doesn’t lend itself to upsets. When each team has around 100 possessions per game, small differences tend to add up. And the differences really compound over a seven-game series. This has been particularly true in the NBA Finals. Whether by chance or because of the conditions under which finals games are played, underdogs have had an especially low success rate.The 2015 NBA Finals, which begin Thursday night in Oakland, look like a compelling matchup. Our Elo ratings provisionally rate the Golden State Warriors as the third-best NBA team of all time based on their performance to date. (There’s no big secret here. A 79-18 record — that counts the playoffs — is pretty amazing against this season’s Western Conference competition.) But the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Elo rating has been rising and is at its high point for the season, 1712. Only three finals matchups started with a higher combined Elo rating, and all three involved Michael Jordan’s Bulls.Maybe LeBron James really is good enough to overcome a middling supporting cast. But his odds aren’t great. The Cavaliers would be only about a 3-point underdog on a neutral court, according to Elo. Over a seven-game series, however — and with the Warriors having home-court advantage in a potential Game 7 — that adds up to just a 25 percent chance of the Cavs winning the series.1I get to that 25 percent figure — meaning the Warriors have a 75 percent chance of becoming NBA champs — by solving for all possible permutations in the seven-game series. Based on Elo ratings, the Warriors have about a 3-in-4 chance of winning each game played at home in Oakland, while the teams are about even-money in games played in Cleveland. I also account for the fact that the teams’ Elo ratings will change over the course of the series, which improves the underdog’s (Cleveland’s) chances slightly. Without recalculating Elo ratings at the end of each game, Golden State’s chances would be 79 percent instead of 75 percent. (That matches the odds according to another statistical system we’ve been using to handicap the NBA.) And that may be optimistic if history is any guide.Elo’s a really simple formula, so there’s a lot it doesn’t account for. You can make a case — we could argue about this for a long time — that past NBA Finals experience matters and could help James. Any lingering effects from the injuries sustained by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could matter a great deal to the Warriors, of course. Then again, Cleveland’s also pretty beat up,2Is Kevin Love’s injury the ultimate case of the Ewing Theory? and James’s superpowers were nowhere near enough against the San Antonio Spurs last year.The other thing is that underdogs have historically been bad bets in the NBA Finals. Here’s every NBA Finals matchup in history, with each team’s Elo rating going into the series and the probability Elo would have assigned to each team winning the series beforehand.It’s not just your lack of imagination: It really is hard to find monumental upsets in the NBA Finals. By Elo’s reckoning, the biggest one came in 1974, when the Boston Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games. That’s mostly because the Celtics looked worn down during the stretch run, finishing the regular season 27-20 in their final 47 games and deflating their Elo rating. (Plus, the Bucks were no fluke, with both Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson on the roster.)Overall, however, of the 39 series in which Elo would have given one team at least a 2-in-3 chance of winning, the favorite in fact won 35 times, or almost 90 percent of the time.Why such a high success rate? It could be a statistical fluke; we aren’t looking at all that large a sample. But this phenomenon isn’t unique to the NBA: It also holds for the NFL playoffs, we’ve found. Elo ratings treat regular-season games and playoff games the same. But in both the NBA and NFL, favorites tend to be more dominant in the playoffs, especially late in the playoffs, than they are in the regular season.The reason may be that some of the “noise” that affects teams in the regular season is absent in the playoffs. No team is coming off a back-to-back, for instance. Teams are going all-out to win, instead of potentially testing out new strategies or resting starters. And at least in theory — although there a lot of NBA fans who would dispute this when refs like Joey Crawford are often involved — the games are adjudicated by the best officials. When you remove some of the quirky circumstances that can cost teams games — bad refs, funky schedules — the best teams tend to prevail more often.That’s bad news for James, but it will add all the more to his legacy if the Cavs pull the upset off. read more

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Can Science Help Runners Break The Marathons 2Hour Barrier

When Kenyan Dennis Kimetto set the world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2014, his time, 2:02:57, made him the first runner to complete a marathon in less than two hours, three minutes. His time was 26 seconds faster than the previous record, set by fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang at the previous year’s Berlin Marathon. Such has the marathon world record progressed over the past 20 years: in increments measured in tens of seconds.But now three teams — one sponsored by Adidas, another backed by Nike, and one called SUB2 that’s being led by a team of academic researchers — are aiming to push the record nearly three minutes faster. Their audacious goal: to break the two-hour marathon mark.When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954, he did so as an amateur athlete, often training during his lunch breaks while attending medical school. By contrast, these two-hour marathon attempts are being made by professional runners handpicked by teams of researchers and bankrolled, in two cases, by corporations eager to show that their products can turn good runners into makers of history.We gathered a few of our favorite running science geeks to discuss the two-hour record, the current attempts to break it and whether these projects are good for the sport. The transcript has been lightly edited.Our participants:Christie Aschwanden is lead science writer at FiveThirtyEight.Wouter Hoogkamer studies the biomechanics, energetics and neurophysiology of running and other sports at the University of Colorado.Alex Hutchinson covers the science of endurance sport for Runner’s World and other publications.Steve Magness is coach to professional and collegiate runners and co-author of the book “Peak Performance.” christie: I want to start by asking (on behalf of our readers who aren’t marathoners): What is the magnitude of the goal here? Is breaking two hours a gargantuan feat? Or is this a technicality that will happen soon regardless?alex: Under “normal” circumstances, it’s very big. A few years ago, I predicted it would happen in 2075, which gives a sense of where my thinking was at that point.wouter: Without targeting some external factors to make it easier, it will be a long time before it happens.steve: Agreed. It’s a huge task. We’re looking at a several-decades jump in performance, at the minimum.christie: Is there some equivalent or analogy here that might help nonrunners understand the scope? How much faster is this record-breaker going to have to run?wouter: 2.5 percent faster.alex: For comparison, Usain Bolt has improved the 100-meter record by 1.6 percent, if I recall correctly.christie: Wow, that makes this look like a pipe dream.alex: And Paula Radcliffe improved the women’s marathon record by about 2.5 percent.wouter: In two increments, though, Alex.1Radcliffe broke Catherine Ndereba’s record of 2:18:47 with a time of 2:17:18, then broke that with the current record of 2:15:25.steve: I think the important thing is it’s a long, long way from our current reality.christie: So what makes the folks behind these three projects think they can do it?alex: People have been aware for a few years that there’s some “low-hanging fruit,” like optimizing the course and pacing, that would bring the goal much closer. It’s been a question of when someone would believe it’s close enough to invest money to make those things happen.wouter: Exactly.steve: Personally, I think it’s scientific arrogance and naivete that makes them think they can get it done within months/years. Can they drop the world record? Of course. But to get sub two hours is another question.alex: In rough terms, I always figured the “easy” stuff could get us halfway there. For Nike, I suspect it was their development of a new shoe that made them believe they could bridge the other half. Not sure about the other two.christie: Does science have a track record for facilitating faster running times? How much of the previous records are attributable to scientific advances?steve: As a coach and exercise scientist, I’d say the advancements due to science are minimal, at best. That seems like sacrilege, but if we look at the drops in time, they aren’t athletes training utilizing scientific gadgets. They are East Africans training with coaches doing standard training. The one advancement that has contributed in the marathon is refining of fuel intake.alex: I think running improvements are less influenced by science than almost any other sport. But there are still effects: equipment, track surfaces, etc.steve: When we look at running, science only adds the very small finishing touches. We’re talking fractions of a percent here and there.wouter: Outside running, there are multiple examples of where technology improvements have substantially improved sports performance: pole vault pole, clapskates for speed skating. Kimetto’s world marathon record was set with a shoe with a midsole material that has been shown to save 1 percent of energy.steve: But does 1 percent energy saving result in 1 percent improvement? I’d highly doubt so. Yet that’s what people immediately jump to. They think, “Oh, I’m 1 percent more efficient, so I’m 1 percent faster.” But it doesn’t work like that.alex: I think Wouter might disagree that changes in efficiency don’t translate to changes in race speed!wouter: Correct. We showed that adding 100 grams to shoes costs about 0.8 percent more energy and makes you run about 0.8 percent slower.alex: Of course, whether that holds true over 26.2 miles is a very big question!wouter: The relationship might not be perfectly linear at high speeds due to the effect of air resistance.steve: The marathon is a different ball game. In the shorter events, the physiology is mainly the limiting factor. When we get to the marathon, the causes of fatigue multiply.christie: So what are the limiting factors in the marathon?steve: Factors that all could be the weak link in the chain depend on the athlete and the race, things like fuel utilization, muscle damage or cramping, mental fatigue or psychological coping, and on and on.Basically, in the marathon, there are a lot more pipes that can burst than, say, in a mile or a 5K.alex: It’s important to note that Nike’s project, at least, isn’t really trying to change any of these traditional limiting factors. (I should add that Nike would probably disagree with that characterization, but it’s my take.) They’re instead trying to optimize some of the well-understood limiting factors like air resistance, as well as course details like the number of hills and turns.christie: Alex, you’ve reported on the different projects. What distinguishes them?alex: I know basically nothing about the Adidas project other than that they have a pair of shoes. The Nike and SUB2 projects are somewhat similar in the tactics they’re trying, with the difference that Nike has a lot more money and is staging its own event instead of using an existing race.wouter: I think that is the most important part of their approach.alex: Even more important than the shoes? 🙂wouter: Current races are not optimized to run as fast as possible, coursewise.christie: So what makes for fast conditions?steve: Flat course, perfect racing temperature (45 degrees or so), fewer turns. If you want to truly optimize, you’d have a slightly downhill finish.alex: Wouter’s dream course, outlined in his recent paper, was a flat, sheltered loop for the first half, followed by a gradual downhill (just within the 1 meter-in-1,000 rules for record-eligible courses) for the second half. I pretty much agree, except I might save the downhill portion for the last six miles, when things really get tough.christie: Track and field’s governing body, IAAF, has rules for what makes a legal course: a maximum overall drop in elevation of no more than 42 meters and a start and finish that are no more than 13.1 miles apart, as the crow flies, to prevent aid from a tailwind.wouter: We say you need to look for a course that drops exactly 42 meters. Same for the wind, if we can go 13.1 miles in one way, let’s do it and make sure you have a tailwind there and limit the negative effects of wind during the first half.christie: You also mention drafting.wouter: Yes, that’s the final strategy. The problem is you would need four guys who run a 2:03 marathon all running the same race and collaborating, and that won’t happen without serious monetary incentives.christie: How many runners are currently capable of that kind of time?steve: If they are all on their best at the same time (which never happens), four.wouter: Right, it’s not very likely. But if you could bring two of them together, and apply the downhill, tailwind and shoe technology, they’d have a fair shot.christie: Why is it so hard to run a perfect marathon?steve: There’s a reason that at most major marathons, with all the best guys trying to run fast, you are normally left with one, maybe two survivors — despite almost a dozen of them on the starting line who are able to run in the 2:04 range. We forget that these are humans, not machines. The training it takes to even get in 2:03-04 fitness is crazy. Marathoners live near the edge. They do as much as possible without falling over the cliff of overtraining or injury.alex: Steve’s point is important. If you compare the start list to the finish results at major marathons, it’s like, “What happened to all those fast guys?”That’s one reason I was pretty surprised that Nike went with a team of just three runners. Even getting to the start line of a marathon is a low-odds game. On these points, it comes down to “will it happen on any given day?” rather than “can it happen in theory?”christie: So the proposed approaches include a fast course, drafting and fast shoes. The SUB2 team also has a newfangled sports drink. How likely are any of these to make the difference?alex: I’d say a fast course, drafting and shoes are the big ones. There are lots of other things people are doing, but they’re not make or break. Nike’s not doing much new with sports drinks — just trying to make sure the athletes execute best practices, which not everyone does even at the elite level. The SUB2 project has an interesting new drink that makes some bold claims but hasn’t published any data to back it up yet.steve: And we haven’t even touched on the biggest limiting factor: the psychology of it all …christie: How does psychology play in, Steve?steve: You’re almost three minutes from the record. These guys are going through the half-marathon at near their half personal record. People think that “elites” are invincible mentally. But they freak out, they panic if they are too fast or slow, even if they don’t show it. The way fatigue works is a comparison to our prior experience and our current context. If your prior experience is nowhere near what you are trying to do, your body’s default setting is to freak out.alex: There’s that famous Herb Elliott quote about how, to set a world record, you have to have the arrogance to believe that you can be better than anyone else in history and then the humility to actually do it. Everyone who does it starts with an arrogance that is basically irrational, and most people will never do something that justifies that arrogance — but without it, you don’t even come close. Anyway, Nike (and SUB2, etc.) clearly have the arrogance, but the jury is still out about the humility.christie: I want to switch gears for a moment. Last week, we learned that the women’s gold medalist in the Olympic marathon in Rio, Jemima Sumgong from Kenya, has tested positive for the blood booster EPO. At this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics conference, Peter Weyand, a researcher on the SUB2 team, argued that their project could show athletes that there’s a way to excel with science that doesn’t send the sport down what he called the “pharmaceutical gene-doping freak show.” What do you all think? Could he be right, or is this just naive optimism?steve: I think it’s naive optimism, and Peter was my adviser during undergrad, so I can say that! The money and fame in running sub two are enormous. We still use Roger Bannister as an example of a barrier breaker nearly 70 years later! With that much to gain, athletes, coaches, agents, even sponsors will take risks. Athletes are already taking risks for much lower payoffs. If the payoff is that large, you bet it will bring doping into it.wouter: I don’t think the sub-two-hour quest will encourage doping more than gold medals and “regular” prize money.alex: I’ve been totally baffled by that message from the SUB2 team. Everyone wants to run fast and beat people, so it’s not clear to me why one sub-two project would encourage more doping and the other would encourage less!steve: We’re talking about all these measures that may improve a half percent here or there. EPO can improve performance by up to 6 percent, according to some research!christie: This leads me to another question: How important is it, really, to reach this arbitrary number? The marathon distance is an artificial construct, and the two-hour mark is just a function of our love of round numbers, right? I don’t recall anyone getting excited about breaking the 2:03 mark.alex: Well, I was pretty excited.christie: Ha!steve: Ha, so was I. But it’s a round number, like a four-minute mile or a 10-second 100 meter. So, yes, it will capture our imagination.christie: If it were the women’s record that stood this close to the two-hour mark, would there be as much interest?alex: You know the answer to that, unfortunately, Christie.christie: 😞alex: That said, that’s one area where this sport isn’t too bad. Think of the biggest marathon stars in the American firmament — Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, etc. There’s definitely respect for female accomplishments.christie: Most of the major marathons have equity in prize money, right?alex: Yes, as far as I know.steve: Exactly. Compared to most other sports, running is much more progressive. As someone who coaches mostly professional women marathoners, I wish it was more even in popularity. But you are seeing more split coverage and starting times so that the women’s race gets equal coverage. Which is huge.wouter: There are also scientific papers on the women’s equivalent of the two-hour marathon.christie: That research says the women’s equivalent of the two-hour marathon “has already been achieved.” 🏆steve: That’s because Radcliffe’s 2:15 is such a large outlier.christie: Right. It has stood for 14 years!alex: Put those worms back in that can!steve: I didn’t say why! I just said it was far better than anything else we’ve seen!christie: I want to finish by asking: Is the pursuit of the sub-two-hour marathon good for the sport?steve: I think it’s bad for the sport. We’re getting further and further away from what makes sport interesting: competition. Our obsessive drive for faster has hurt track and field as it is. We set ourselves up for failure by hyping up world records and then being disappointed when they do not occur. If we ever want to have this sport gain popularity, we need to take it back to its roots. Draw a line on the street and race to the next light pole. That’s the essence of running. These gimmicky approaches using artificial environments just push us further away from competition. Yeah, it’s great to see where limits lie, but I think this will push us more toward doping and a focus on times.alex: I should start by saying that I recognize many of the concerns that people have. I, too, love good, old-fashioned competition for the sake of head-to-head racing, instead of commercialized mega-events. But even with those caveats, my general sense is that it’s a net positive. I can’t overstate the number of people I’ve heard from whose messages start with some version of “I don’t usually follow running, but I saw your article on the sub-two thing and wanted to ask. …”wouter: Well, I think it’s definitely good for science. Everything we learn from what’s limiting human (sports) performance will have the potential to be used somewhere down the road in making walking easier for specific patient populations, which has many known benefits.alex: Ultimately, the sport is driven by what people want to see. Many people within the sport say “the focus on times is bad.” And many others watch the Olympics (where, e.g., the men’s 1,500 was the slowest time since 1932) and say “the focus on competition rather than time is bad.” To me, those are both interesting aspects of the sport, at opposite poles. I don’t want all one or the other, but neither do I want to get rid of one aspect entirely.christie: Yeah, although I lean toward Steve’s point of view here, the fact that it’s garnering more attention for the sport seems like a good thing.Wouter, you’re running the Boston Marathon on Monday. Do you have a time goal?wouter: I aim for sub-2:40.alex: Good luck, Wouter. Hope you’ve got some cooperative drafting lined up!wouter: Using the downhill and cooperative drafting. Regular shoes, though.christie: Best of luck! Only 40 more minutes to shave off … 😜Thanks for being here, everyone. read more

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Bucks hunt down Nittany Lions

It was a game between two teams headed in completely opposite directions.Penn State, losers of all nine of its conference games this season, arrived in Columbus to face an Ohio State squad that had won five in a row in Big Ten play.Neither streak came to an end Wednesday night, as the Buckeyes won, 75-62.On a night that the Ohio State football team was honored at halftime for last month’s Rose Bowl victory, the basketball Buckeyes took a page out of the football playbook and beat the Nittany Lions.The game figured to showcase two of the Big Ten’s best players, Penn State’s Talor Battle and OSU’s Evan Turner. Neither guard disappointed. Battle had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, all team highs, but it was Turner who stole the show.Once again, the National Player of the Year candidate led the way for OSU. Turner scored 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out six assists. Like Battle, he led his team in all three categories.“Stuff kind of opened up in the second half,” Turner said of his 22 second-half points. “It allowed me to go to work and to my thing for the most part.”The Nittany Lions made it close down the stretch, closing to within three points with less than two minutes to play. But junior guard Jon Diebler, who had been held scoreless for the first 38 minutes of the game, hit a three-point shot to end any hope of a Penn State comeback.“I was just thinking one is bound to go in,” Diebler said. “In years past my confidence would have went down and I probably wouldn’t have shot it. “Better to make one late than never I guess.”Sophomore William Buford added 19 points on 5-10 shooting. Buford continued his recent tear on the offensive end and over the course of the last two games he has made 62 percent of his field goal attempts, going 15-24. In addition, Buford has made all 10 of his free throw attempts.As for the Nittany Lions, coach Ed DeChellis said it was just more of the same from his team, which has made a habit of losing close games this season.“History kind of repeats itself,” DeChellis said. “We just tried to hang in there as long as we could, but I don’t think there are any moral victories.” read more

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