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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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🏀Guide to Basketball

May 26, 2021
Guide to Basketball

The GIST

Professional basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets (and the most points). A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket they hit the shot. Courtside seats gives fans unprecedented access to the players, so basketball brings out celebrity sightings like no other sport. Just look at Drake getting up close and personal with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse during the 2019 playoffs.  

How is it organized?

The highest level of the sport is the National Basketball Association aka NBA. The league is divided into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions. There are 30 teams in the league, and only one team in Canada - our Toronto Raptors! In the 2018-19 season, the Raptors went all the way to the NBA Finals against the thought-to-be-unstoppable Golden State Warriors and WON, bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy (like the Stanley Cup of the NBA) home to Toronto. Unreal.

The best of the best

The reigning NBA champions are the LA Lakers. The Lakers claimed their 17th (!!!) NBA title in franchise history during the NBA’s historic 2020 bubble season played at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Superstar LeBron James led his Lakers squad, earning NBA Finals MVP honors by averaging nearly 30 points per game throughout the Finals. King James became the first player to ever win the MVP honors with three different franchises. True royalty.

James had some help from teammate Anthony “The Brow” Davis, who averaged 25 points throughout the Finals. Talk about a dynamic duo.

The 2020 bubble season was historic for many reasons, most notably the wildcat strikes for social justice which nearly ended the season midway through the playoffs. With these strikes and calls to action, these players and franchise put social justice at the forefront all season long.

In addition to King James and Davis, the league’s most notable stars also include 2019-20 league MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo (pronounced YAWN-IS ANT-TET-TO-KOOM-PO), who could stir up some drama by joining a new team this offseason, and Houston Rockets guard James “The Beard” Harden.

When does the next NBA season start?

The 2019-20 NBA season ended on October 11th, right around when the new season would typically begin. It took some negotiating, but we officially have a start date for the 2020-21 season: December 22nd. It's a Christmas miracle!

Although this season won't be played in a bubble, things will still look a bit different. Most notably, each team will play 72 games as opposed to the standard 82. Exact schedule details (including fan attendance policies) are still TBD, but we're already counting down the days until tip-off

Play like a girl (it’s better that way)

The WNBA is one of the best professional sports leagues for women in North America as these basketball bosses actually get airtime on top sports networks. Keep your eye on:

  • WNBA legend and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks)
  • Kia Nurse (New York Liberty), who in 2019 became just the third Canadian to ever play in the WNBA All-Star game #proud
  • 2018 league MVP and 2020 Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, who led her Seattle Storm to their fourth (!!!) title in franchise history.
  • Reigning WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. Last season, Wilson lifted the Aces to a WNBA-best 18-4 record.
  • 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty, who will be returning from a heart-breaking season-ending injury. We can't wait to see her back out on the court!

Wow! Can I get more info on the WNBA?

Absolutely! The WNBA season (typically) runs from May until late September or early October, with each of the 12 teams playing 34 regular season games. The league has actually been around since 1997, though only three teams remain from inception: the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Go deeper on how the league is organized here.

These women still have a long way to go before reaching parity with their professional male counterparts. But thanks to 87 nationally televised regular season games (more of this, please!), the WNBA saw an incredible 68% increase in viewership during the 2020 season. Amazing what happens when you put women's sports on TV!

And prior to the historic wubble season, we finally saw the WNBA bet on itself by signing a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will significantly benefit the players. Among other things, players receive an increase in salary that improves the average compensation from $79k to $130k (!!!) with the league’s top players set to earn $500k — more than three times the previous maximum. Cardi B would be so proud. 

There’s obviously still a long way to go before there’s parity with the men’s professional leagues. That being said, this is a BFD — the WNBA listened to its players and took their input into account more than ever before. It’s refreshing to see a league partner with its players and bet on its women to move closer to closing the inequality gaps that still exist in women’s sports. 

One last thing…

The most important (although we are admittedly biased) fact about basketball is that the sport was created in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith! O’ Canada, indeed!

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🏀Guide to Fantasy Basketball

May 26, 2021
Guide to Fantasy Basketball

WTF is fantasy basketball?

So glad you asked! Fantasy basketball is all about building the best (imaginary) basketball team with real NBA players and competing against the other teams in your league to prove who’s best.

Not entirely clear? Let’s compare this to Hollywood then, because we’re suckers for pop culture and why the heck not. We want you to picture your favorite actors. Next, imagine if all of your favorite actors were to suddenly team up and join a movie that YOU have full creative control over. The actors are real, their ability to deliver lines is real, but YOU select who’s on the cast, what parts they play, and how they will be directed. 

For this exercise, replace Ryan Gosling with LeBron James, replace the movie set with a court, and replace line delivery skills with bball skills in your mind. That is fantasy basketball. You have control of your players and your players have control of the game and their ability to produce results.

Sounds fun, how do I play?

To play this fun AF game, you first need to join a league. Your office may already have one in the works, so definitely ask around, but you can also join a league for free online! These websites are some of the best, and most popular out there:

Once you join a league, a “Draft Day” will be set and scheduled by your league’s commissioner (fancy phrase for league organizer). You should aim to do all of your prep work and research before your scheduled Draft Day, as this will be the day that you actually select your team. It’s a BFD.

Before we dive in, you should know that teams are mostly made up of six forwards (SF, PF, F), five guards (PG, SG, G), and two centers (C), for a total roster of 13 players (ten active players + three inactive bench players each day). There are 301 players in the NBA and you only need to pick 13 on Draft Day, so be sure to make your picks count.

Fantasy basketball is generally structured in a VERY similar way to fantasy hockey – if you have not yet checked out our Fantasy Hockey Guide, then we strongly recommend you take a quick jump over and read all about the wonderful world of fantasy sports and the small nuances that come with it. 

Let’s return really quickly to Draft Day, as this day is absolutely critical to your success. There are two types of drafts – the snake draft, by far the most common, and the auction draft. Just like hockey, a snake draft is when each team in the league is assigned a predetermined draft number and selects a player (from the remaining available players) to join their roster on their respective turn. If there are ten teams in your league, then you will draft somewhere between first and tenth, with the tenth drafter also selecting the eleventh pick because the order flips after each round. It will look something like this:    

The whole point of Draft Day is to build your team using the best players available to you. Whether you pick the known high performers or take a gamble on a potential breakout star (aka sleeper pick), Draft Day is all about what you decide. There’s some strategy to this, y’all! But, don’t fret, your picks are not set in stone; you’ll get the chance to make trades or pick up undrafted players during the season to mix your roster up and chase after a baller you couldn’t/didn’t nab in the draft. As always though, beware the buyer as a big trade could require you to give something big up in return…

If you haven’t a clue what to do, most websites offer ADP (Average Draft Position) for each player to help a sister/mister/GISTer out. The ADP is the average spot that the player was taken across all of the drafts run on that website – the higher the ADP, the more in demand that player is, which is a big clue that they might be pretty friggin’ good.

As an owner after the draft, you set up your squad every day and select which players get to play Like Mike and hit the bball court and who gets to sit on the bench. Most often, you’ll play against another team in your league each week in a head-to-head format to see who’s team does the best in a variety of categories – points, threes, rebounds, assists, and steals are some of the most common categories, but it can vary depending on what your commissioner has decided. 

The team who outscores their opponent in each of the league’s categories at the end of every week will earn a point; for example, if Team A had 36 total rebounds for the week and Team B had 32, Team A would earn a point. The team with the most points in their “head-to-head” matchup will earn the dub (win because dub is short form for W) for the week and this will go towards their overall standing in the league. Rinse and repeat this process until playoffs and there you have it, a regular-season of fantasy basketball. 

Wanna get good? Here are some draft tips to get you started

À la Elle Woods & her iconic orange Mac laptop in the 2001 classic Legally Blonde, you’re gonna have to sit down, do some homework, and take some notes in order to slay your fantasy league. So hit the Google and check out these resources: 

🏀Exciting NBA Playoffs action

May 25, 2021
Source: USATSI
Source: USATSI

 The weekend: Four of the eight opening games ended in an upset, with each game staying fairly close. The largest point differential was just 14 points and six games were decided by 10 points or less. Parity, is that you?

The highlights: Postseason basketball hits different. Here are some of our favorite plays from the weekend:

  • Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton called “game” with this clutch shot to defeat the Miami Heat 109–107 in overtime on Saturday while Trae Young had a game-winning shot of his own yesterday in the Atlanta Hawks 107–105 win over the NY Knicks.
  • Though the Dallas Mavericks pulled off a 113–103 win over the LA Clippers on Saturday, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard posterized Mavs’ Maxi Kleber with this monster dunk.
  • After a scary moment during the first half, Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul received a standing ovation when he returned to the floor of the Suns’ 99–90 win over the LA Lakers yesterday. Thankfully, CP3 says he’ll “absolutely” be ready for Game 2 tomorrow.

What’s next: We’ll be spoiled with daily playoff basketball until at least next Monday. The No. 5 Miami Heat look to bounce back against the No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. the No. 6 Portland Trailblazers at 10 p.m. ET. Settle in. 

🏎🎾

Sports Quick Hits: Monday May 24th, 2021

May 25, 2021
Source: Matt York/Associated Press
Source: Matt York/Associated Press

 ⛳️Golf: As we mentioned at the top, Phil Mickelson proved age is just a number yesterday with his second-career PGA Championship win. Not only is he the oldest player to win a major, he’s just the fourth to win one in four separate decades. Congrats, Lefty! Now let’s get you some better security.

🏎️F1: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix to take his first-ever lead in the Formula One world championship standings. Meanwhile, seven-time world champ Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton wasn’t feeling it in Monaco, finishing in a disappointing seventh as he and Verstappen continue their heated hunt for the title.

🎾Tennis: Olivia Rodrigo wasn’t the only one showing out for Gen Z this weekend. On Saturday, 17-year-old Coco Gauff notched her first career singles title on clay while sweeping both the singles and doubles titles at the Italian Open. Perfect timing before next week’s French Open. Très bien. 

What’s not très bien? Fellow Gen Z Denis Shapovalov dropping out of Roland Garros (aka the French Open) with a shoulder injury. C’est dommage.