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Football

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Sports Quick Hits: July 8th, 2021

July 08, 2021
Source: Steve Kingsman/Canada Soccer
Source: Steve Kingsman/Canada Soccer

⚽️Soccer: As Team Canada gets ready to say hello to Tokyo, living legend Diana Matheson is saying goodbye. After 18 years and 206 international games, the three-time Olympian, best known for her bronze medal–winning goal during the London 2012 Games, announced her retirement yesterday. So long, Diana, and thank you.

🏀Basketball: Although Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YAHN-iss ah-dedo-KOON-bo) miraculously returned from injury for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns led the way. 

  • Phoenix set an NBA Finals record with 25 consecutive made free throws and Chris Paul became the first player since Michael Jordan to notch 30 points and eight assists in a finals debut. Decent company.

🏈CFL: False alarm, folks. After scaring diehard fans with talks of a possible merger with the Dwayne Johnson–led XFL, the CFL has announced they’ve scrapped collaboration efforts. It’s cool, we were kind of confused by it anyway. Onwards and upwards: after a year off, the new season starts August 5th. 

🏀🏈

Ottawa: Brad Sinopoli Announces Retirement and Future Plans

June 24, 2021
Source: Kevin Light/CBC
Source: Kevin Light/CBC

🏈Redblacks: After nine seasons in the CFL, including five with the Redblacks, wide receiver Brad Sinopoli announced his retirement yesterday. The CFL’s two-time Most Outstanding Canadian won’t go far though: the former Ottawa Gee-Gee is sticking around the city as a community ambassador

  • Meanwhile, the rest of the team is preparing for July’s training camp ahead of August’s season start. Check out the full schedule here and start planning your trip to TD Place. Lansdowne is waiting for us.

🏀BlackJacks: Elsewhere at TD Place, the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL)’s third season tips off tonight at 7 p.m. with an Ottawa BlackJacks home game against the Niagara River Lions. Though games are still closed to fans, you can watch online or listen to the amazing HannaH Sunley-Paisley and AJ Jakubec broadcast on TSN 1200.  

🏈Race-norming in the NFL

June 13, 2021
SOURCE: MATT ROURKE/AP
SOURCE: MATT ROURKE/AP

QUOTE OF THE DAY

I’ll believe it when I see it.

— Former NFL running back Ken Jenkins, on the NFL's recent promise to stop race-norming. We’re with him.

🧠 What is race-norming?

SOURCE: SCOTT BOEHM/AP

Race-norming is a pervasive practice mainly used in the medical field. In essence, it assumes that the baseline cognitive function of a Black person is lesser than that of a white person.

  • It was in the 1990s that race-norming practices began to supposedly help diagnose dementia and determine appropriate treatment for those suffering from the syndrome.
  • It’s unclear whether the NFL began using the practices prior to their 2015 concussion settlement (more on that below), but they did put together a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee in 1994.

The league initially claimed that race-norming was used at the discretion of clinicians making the diagnoses, but it has since been discovered that physicians felt pressured into using the practice.

So why are we talking about race-norming now? Because the NFL brought it up a couple of weeks ago and then swiftly brushed it aside with other football news. And while it’s been floating around the media a bit lately, it’s not being talked about nearly enough for our liking.

💸 The settlement

SOURCE: SANDRO SCHUH/UNSPLASH

Thousands of former players sued the NFL in 2011, accusing the league of hiding what they knew about repeated head trauma and its effects, including dementia, post-concussion syndrome and a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

  • The league settled for $1 billion and began awarding the settlement money to former players who suffered brain injuries while playing in the NFL. 

To determine who was awarded settlement money, the league assessed players’ dementia and brain injury claims to determine if their brain degeneration was directly caused by playing football in the NFL.

  • But because of race-norming, Black players had to show a larger cognitive decline than their white peers to qualify for settlement money. WTF?

🔨 The latest lawsuit

SOURCE: USA TODAY SPORTS

Unsurprisingly, many players were refused money from the settlement over the past decade, including retired Black players Kevin Henry, an eight-season defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Najeh Davenport, an eight-season running back (RB) for the Steelers, the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts.

  • They each played very different positions, Henry in the 1990s and Davenport in the 2000s, but both suffered repeated traumatic brain injuries during their time in the league.

The two men were so sure the NFL had denied their claims because of race-norming that they filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2020 with judge Anita B. Brody, who has overseen the settlement since 2011.

The mediation is ongoing, but in the meantime, former Washington RB Ken Jenkins started a petition to demand equal treatment for Black players in the NFL and, a few weeks ago, he delivered 50,000 signatures to Judge Brody.

  • In response to those 50,000 signatures, the NFL said, “There is no merit to the claim of discrimination.” Yeah, we didn’t buy it either.

📝 The NFL’s statement

SOURCE: KIRBY LEE/USA TODAY SPORTS

You might want to sit down for this one. After everything that’s happened, last week, the NFL...wait for it...changed their tune and admitted to race-norming. Contrary to most of their actions for the past however many decades, the NFL released a statement indicating they “are committed to eliminating race-based norms in the program.”

  • Also according to the statement, a newly formed panel of neuropsychologists, including two female and three Black doctors, are working on a new testing program proposal to replace the current race-norming practices.

➡️ The next steps

SOURCE: DERIK HAMILTON/AP

Once the new testing system is ready, the NFL will use it going forward and will also reopen claims they previously denied based on racial bias. It’s the least they can do, but it’s especially important with dementia claims.

  • Out of the over 2,000 players who claimed their dementia diagnoses were a direct result of their time in the NFL, less than 600 were awarded compensation from the original settlement.

In the nearly two weeks since making the announcement, the NFL hasn’t addressed the matter further and no dates or deadlines were included in the statement. The next steps, though proposed, remain vague and unclear.

💭 The GIST’s take

SOURCE: SARAH ANDERSON

We hope the new system will provide some vindication for players who’ve been denied compensation they’re rightfully entitled to. And more than that, all of the affected players and their families and caretakers deserve an official apology — at the very least — from the NFL. 

  • After denying for so long that they were discriminatory and frankly blatantly racist towards players who sacrificed their bodies and brains for the league, it's a cop out to only acknowledge it now that they’ve decided to stop the practice. Hold the applause.
  • We’re happy that this is the end of the race-norming practice in the NFL, but it can’t be the end of the conversation. To learn more, listen to this episode of our podcast, The GIST of It.

🏈Guide to Fantasy Football

May 26, 2021
Guide to Fantasy Football

The GIST

Here’s the deal: fantasy exists in pretty much any sport (yup, there’s fantasy hockey, baseball, etc.) and is kinda like a computer game with real-world counterparts. We all know that football exists IRL and we all cheer for our favorite teams/players. But, as viewers, we don’t have any decision-making power or skin in the game — players are chosen by the teams’ owners/management, and viewers don’t have a choice in who the teams sign. That’s where “fantasy” comes in! So us regular folk can create our ideal team — our “fantasy” team, if you will. The catch is, this team is built online. You choose players from across the league that makes up your dream team. Your fantasy team then squares off against other people’s fantasy teams. What’s cool is that as much as your fantasy team exists online, the statistics of actual players in real-life games dictate how your fantasy team does. 

Still with us? Great! This may sound a little bit complicated, but you really don’t need to be a die-hard fan to participate in fantasy sports. Having a basic understanding won’t make you basic; any smart and strategic babe (that’s you!) can win it all. Before we get into it, there are a lot of football references in this guide (duh), so make sure you brush up on your football 101 before diving in.

Why is fantasy such a big deal?

As we at The GIST say all the time, sports have a unique way of uniting people, and fantasy sports are no different. It’s a pretty unreal feeling when you get to brag about knowing a rookie would have an incredible season before anyone else, or picking up a player before he has a breakout game. There’s also the less poetic aspect of having cash money on the line. And everybody likes winning money.

In fact, the market for fantasy football is so huge there’s an entire TV show dedicated to it. There are radio stations dedicated solely to fantasy football and the NFL website has its own fantasy football section. Basically, FF is a BFD, so it’s time to get on board.

Okay, but what’s a sports pool and what’s fantasy?

Pools

In terms of betting on sports IRL against other people, there are generally two main ways to do it: pools and fantasy. A “pool” in sports typically means you’re picking one team to beat the other. “Fantasy” on the other hand usually means you’re picking players to make up your team, which will then face other fantasy teams.

To start, the simplest type of pool is a standard pick ‘em. That means you just pick who you think is going to win in each head-to-head match-up each week. The person in the pool who guesses the most victories wins that week. 

Another type of pool is a survivor pool. Each week, you check the matchups and pick one team that you think will win their game. For example, if the New England Patriots (all-around awesomeness) are playing the Cincinnati Bengals (general sad pandas), you would choose the team you thought was going to win and then hopefully move on to glory. As long as the team you choose wins, you move on. The catch is you can only choose each team once throughout the 17 week season, so you may not want to choose all the obvious winners upfront. Oooo some strategy, we love it. Choosing a wrong team means you’re kicked out of the pool. Bye Felicia!

Fantasy

Now, it’s time for fantasy standard draft leagues. These require more effort and understanding, but once you get it, it’s hella fun! Let’s base things off Yahoo Fantasy because it’s the most common website used. 

First you draft your team, which means selecting (usually) 16 players. These are real pro football players who are top-dogs at their positions. Imagine an all-star season of your favourite reality show: only the best are worthy.

This is what the Yahoo draft page looks like once it’s live:

While this dashboard looks a little complicated, here are all the parts you need to know:

  • Time in the top left corner: How much time you have to make a player selection. You only get 1-2 minutes to make your selection, which sounds like a lot, but it goes fast!
  • Red bar underneath: Your spot in the drafting order (see below on how that’s decided).
  • Draft order: This is where all the teams in your league are listed, so you can see the order in which each team will select their player.
  • Middle top: When you click on a player, this is where his face and stats pop up. If they haven’t been drafted yet and you want to pick him, you can click “Add to Queue,” which is basically a waiting spot on the top right of the screen. This makes it easier to find the players you’re interested in.
  • Middle of the screen: This is where all the available players are — you can search by position to make it easier to navigate. If they have a little red plus sign, it means they’re injured.
  • Top right: If you’ve added players you want to your queue, this is where you’ll see them. If someone drafts them before you can, they’ll disappear from there.
  • Middle right: This is where you’ll see the players you’ve taken that make up your team!

Drafting works as a snake. What the heck do snakes have to do with sports? Let’s say your league has 10 people. The computer uses an algorithm (#math) to randomly assign you a number from 1-10 and then the order for picking your player will go from person 1 to person 10, then start with person 10 down to person 1, and then repeat, until everyone has filled their rosters. So if you’re drafting 8th, 9th or 10th, you should have two picks ready to go cause that snake moves fast.

Standard leagues draft the following positions: quarterbacks (QB), wide receivers (WR), running backs (RB), tight ends (TE), kickers, and a team defence (meaning you choose the whole Green Bay Packers defence, not an individual player).


W-R-T means you can fill that spot with either a WR, RB or TE — it kind of acts like a wildcard. BN is your bench. The bench is like a holding spot for the players you aren’t using that week. IR stands for injured reserve, the place you hope your star players never end up. Welp.

Once you draft your players, you set your roster each week. Yes, you’ve got to pick a roster EACH week! Also, FYI: The football week is Thursday to Monday with usually one game on Thursday, 14 on Sunday and one on Monday. Setting your lineup means deciding who you think is going to get you the most points. So, if one of your running backs is facing a team that has a killer defence, it might be better to bench him for the week. Yahoo provides predictions to help you out.

How do you get points?

Your commissioner (a fancy way to say organizer of the league) can change how each player earns your team points, but the standard Yahoo scoring is super easy to understand. Here’s a quick breakdown:

There are two kinds of standard leagues: head-to-head and total points. Head-to-head means your team faces off against another team in your league each week, and whichever team gets the most points, wins that week. Total points leagues are similar, but instead of a winner and loser each week, your team’s total points are counted over the entire season to determine placing.

Here is an example of what a head-to-head matchup could look like:


TBH, it sounds more complicated reading it than it is actually playing it.

First time? Here are some tips and tricks:

Step One: come up with the best team name ever! A common formula is a player’s name plus something culturally relevant. Some examples include Turn Down for Watt, Pimpin’ Ain’t Breesy and Diggs in a Blanket. Think outside the box!

Next, you need to do some research – don’t think of it as boring, going to the library, citing your sources research; but rather using your incredible intellect to assess the scene of the NFL. Plus, there are a lot of websites that kind of do everything for you. These include:

Each site has articles, lists, projections and rankings. Don’t feel like you need to read everything and try not to feel overwhelmed — most of these sites say the same things. They’re valuable for newbies to get an idea of who’s hot and who’s not (although we all know Tom Brady is hot hot hot). Once you have a basic knowledge of who’s injured, sleeper picks (those guys who are fairly low key, but could have high potential to get you a lot of points), the top defences etc., you’re ready to draft!!

Some hot tips to get you started:

  • Most importantly, it’s key not to stress too much during the draft because nothing is really permanent. You have the ability to drop and add different players throughout the season, or even trade with other people in your league. If you took someone you regret, do some more research after the draft and drop that player for another one. If your QB gets injured or that one RB just isn’t performing well, get some new ones! You learn a lot as you go.
  • Don’t pick a quarterback first! While he may be Queen Bee (but not Queen Bey), there will be a lot of good ones available.
  • Go for RBs and WRs first. They do most of the scoring.
  • Take your defence second-last and your kicker dead-last. Some leagues will even eliminate the kicking category because it’s the least important!
  • Don’t take too many players from one team. Each team gets a bye week (a week off), so you’ll be f***ed if they’re all on your bench.
  • Stay relaxed, especially if the player you want gets taken, cause it’s def going to happen. Have a few lined up so you’re always ready. Remember, you only have a certain amount of time to choose each player.

Bonus: watch out for injuries during the season. If any player goes down, whether they’re yours or not, try to get their backup!

Good luck and have fun, GISTers!

That’s #thegistofit

Written with Guest Writer: Kara Steyn

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🏈Guide to Football

May 26, 2021
SOURCE: GIPHY.COM
SOURCE: GIPHY.COM

The GIST

To start, it’s important to know that football is really only played in North America where there are two main leagues: the National Football League (NFL) played in the U.S. and the Canadian Football League (CFL) played in Canada. Talk about a sport called “football” anywhere else in the world and they’ll for sure assume you’re talking about soccer (or ‘footy’, as it’s affectionately nicknamed).

The NFL

Let’s start by giving you #thegist of the NFL, the most popular football league in the world where the best players aspire to compete.

NFL football is played on a 100-yard field with goalposts (called uprights because the posts face into the sky rather than the ground like soccer) at each end. There are 11 players from each team on the field at once. By passing or running the football, the point of the game is to score touchdowns and field goals to have the most points at the end of four quarters (this is the same in the CFL). Each team has four attempts (called downs) to advance the ball 10 yards before the ball is turned over to the other team. TBH, we know this can be confusing, but stay with us! The rules are similar in the NFL and CFL; however, there are some key differences. Keep reading to get #thegist on the CFL. 

How’s it organized?

There are 32 teams in the NFL, which is divided into two conferences (NFC and AFC) which are further split up into four divisions (North, South, East and West). There are 16 regular season games leading to the playoffs which culminates with the Super Bowl. From the wildly overpriced commercials, to the star-studded halftime show, to eating until you explode – the Super Bowl is an event like no other.

The best of the best

The best team from the 2019-20 season was the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 31–20 marking KC's first Super Bowl title in 50 years. Kansas City was led by their exceptional quarterback (QB), Patrick Mahomes (who recently signed a record-breaking $503 million dollar (!!!) contract). 

Determining who’s the best player in the NFL is tough because there are so many different positions that require different skills. But it’s pretty undisputed that Tom Brady, who is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer is, quite literally, the greatest QB of all time with six Super Bowl rings. Other players to know in the league right now are Ciara's husband and Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, and wide receiver Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints). You can check out the 2020 top 100 list as voted on by the players here.

Female footballers

Think football is a man’s sport? Think again! There are actually three full-contact 11-on-11 leagues in the U.S., the biggest being the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA). Formed in 2009, the WFA has continued to expand and now includes 60 teams (!!!) across three divisions, each crowning its own champion at the end of every season.

And for those who dig the game but not the tackling, there’s always flag football — a similar game where players have to stop running when their flag is pulled off their belt rather than when they’re tackled to the ground.

Ramp up your trivia game

  • Only six teams have won a playoff game without scoring a touchdown (aka field goals only).
  • Brett Favre (of Green Bay Packers fame) and Tom Brady are the only 40-year-olds to ever win a playoff game, and Brady is the only QB above 40 to win a Super Bowl.
  • Just 18 teams played in the NFL’s inaugural season way back in 1922. We’ve come so far!

The CFL

Now that you have #thegist of football, let us break down how the CFL is different from the NFL:

  • A CFL field is 110 yards long vs. the 100 yard NFL field. It’s also a little bit wider.
  • The CFL has 12 players on the field at one-time vs. 11 players in the NFL partially because the field is bigger.
  • In the CFL, teams only have three attempts (downs) to advance the ball 10 yards, vs. four attempts in the NFL. This often results in more turnovers (when one team is forced to give up the ball to the other team) and keeps things moving at a brisk pace.

How’s it organized?

There are nine teams in the CFL, which is divided into two divisions: East and West. There are 18 regular-season games and then six teams make the postseason for the chance to win the Grey Cup. The season runs from June until the end of November, meaning the playoffs are generally played in sub-zero/snowy weather. Just check out the infamous 1996 Snow Bowl in Hamilton, Ont.! 

The best of the best

The reigning Grey Cup champions are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33–12, thus ending the longest Grey Cup drought in the league (29 years!).

The first Grey Cup was won in 1909 (!!!) by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, because back then it was awarded only to amateur teams. Today, the Grey Cup is property of the professional CFL, while the Vanier Cup is awarded to top amateur University teams across the country.

Did you know… 

  • There used to be some American teams in the CFL? The first team from the U.S., the Sacramento Gold Miners, was admitted to the league in 1993. American teams only played in the CFL for three seasons during the glory days of the early 90s.
  • The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have made the most Grey Cup appearances (25), while the Toronto Argonauts have won the most championships (17).

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