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🏆A little louder for the people in the back

May 07, 2020
MATT SLOCUM/AP
MATT SLOCUM/AP

The GIST: On Monday, we said we were so sick of the holier-than-thou student athlete culture, after seven women sued the NCAA for failing to protect them from alleged sexual assaults by male athletes. Turns out the NCAA is finally sick of it, too. That, or they’re also GISTers.

Good! Okay, start from the beginning: About five months ago — thanks to some excellent investigative journalism — a report known as the “Predator Pipeline” was released. The exposé revealed that college athletes are implicated in an outsized share of campus sexual assaults. And that at the time, nothing in the NCAA’s 440-page rulebook stopped those found responsible for sexual or violent misconduct from competing. SMDH.

  • But it gets worse. The piece also revealed that even when an athlete was expelled or criminally convicted of sexual offenses, athletes easily transferred to other NCAA schools, often recruited by other coaches, and returned to their sport within a year or less.

Got it — hence the “Predator Pipeline”: Exactly. These athletes could go from school to school to school and repeatedly offend along the way, as the NCAA had no personal conduct policy and no specific penalties for those who committed sexual assault. And apparently, despite being well aware of the issue for years, the NCAA Board of Governors even resisted pressure from US senators to fix it.

So what is the NCAA going to do about this?: Now, the NCAA is saying that athletes must annually disclose acts of violence that resulted in an investigation, discipline through a Title IX proceeding or criminal conviction. And if you’re thinking, “How wasn’t this a rule before?” we had the same response.

Jeez. So it’s all fixed now?: Well, not quite. To us, this new policy is missing one glaring thing: there are still no rules that restrict the eligibility of athletes who have committed these acts. So, technically, even if a student does disclose an act, a school, in theory, could turn a blind eye and allow them to play.

  • The new policy puts a big onus on the schools and the athletes themselves, and the NCAA, as the all-seeing regulator, needs to figure out how they’ll deal with the rulebreakers. Regardless, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

🏆Squad up

May 07, 2020
ALLISON FARRAND/NBAE
ALLISON FARRAND/NBAE

The GIST: Because we all need something to make us smile right now, here’s some good news about athletes working together amidst COVID-19.

Graduate Together: In honor of the high school seniors missing their graduations this year, the LeBron James Family Foundation is producing a TV special called Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, which will air May 16th. The special will feature athletes like LeBron and Megan Rapinoe, and former president Barack Obama will deliver the commencement speech. Oh, our hearts!

The Real Heroes Project: Fourteen pro sports leagues are joining together to honor the real heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic: healthcare workers. The collaborative initiative has players from around the world replacing their own names on their jerseys and uniforms with those on the frontline. They’re the real MVPs.

🏀🏒🏈

Not so fast

May 07, 2020
GERALD HERBERT/AP
GERALD HERBERT/AP

The GIST: It’s a good thing the NWSL is leading the charge, because other major leagues in North America still have a lot of work to do before they can get back on the court/ice/field/our screens.

NBA: Earlier this week, the NBA gave the all-clear for teams to reopen their practice facilities to allow for individual workouts starting tomorrow...which sounded great in theory. But when the rules of the workouts were announced yesterday, it seems very unlikely league-wide practices will begin anytime soon.

  • Only teams in cities with laxed restrictions can take part, and even then, teams will need to adhere to safety and distancing rules. Based on state guidelines and individual team decisions, as few as three teams plan to open their facilities tomorrow. Like we’ve mentioned before, this could lead to a v. unfair advantage for some teams once the season eventually restarts.

NHL: The NHL has been pretty tight-lipped lately, but this “bubble city” idea might actually work to restart the season. The plan has four North American cities acting as host cities for (maybe) the rest of the regular season and the playoffs (of which the format has yet to be announced) which would take place over the summer.

  • Up to 14 cities submitted a bid to host before last Friday’s deadline, and each had to show that they had enough empty hotels to safely house between 600 and 1,000 people (you know, to avoid popping the bubble), and a nearby practice facility.

NFL: Although there’s still a ton of time before the NFL regular season starts in September, they’re not exempt from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league is currently estimating a possible loss of $3.2 billion if the season has to be played without spectators. And the international series has been canceled, which would have seen one game take place in Mexico City and four games in London. Bloody hell.

  • Speaking of football in Europe, at least fútbol is on its way back. The German pro league Bundesliga got the official okay from Chancellor Angela Merkel to resume the season on May 15th, and Spain’s La Liga has opened training camps, so between these leagues and the NWSL, it looks like we’re all going to be big soccer fans this spring.

Now back to the good part

May 07, 2020
ANDY MEAD/ISIPHOTOS.COM
ANDY MEAD/ISIPHOTOS.COM

The GIST: The COVID-19 pandemic has proven what we’ve already known for a long time: women are damn good world leaders. Now the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is looking to prove that point in the sports world, too.

Awesome! How?: By making the NWSL the first North American league to safely start up again since the whole world basically stopped back in March. The 2020 NWSL season was supposed to start on April 18th before being pushed back indefinitely. But yesterday, the league began the first phase of its “Return to Play Phased Protocol,” allowing players to take part in voluntary, individual workouts in team practice facilities.

  • The league is still holding off on team practices, but plans to start training camps on May 16th. If all goes well, we could see games start back up (without fans in the stands, of course) by the last week of June. Thank goodness.

So great. Why aren’t all the leagues doing this?: While other major leagues are mostly made up of 20-plus teams, field international players and hold games across the US-Canada border, the NWSL has only nine teams with mostly American rosters, all located in the US, making it a good starting point to get the sports world turning again.

  • And because we’re all about silver linings, we can’t help but think of what a great opportunity this could be for women's sports. With other pro leagues in North America still working on contingency plans, the NWSL has the chance to fill the gaping hole in sports networks’ broadcast schedules and sports fans’ hearts. We’re so here for this.

🎮Guide to Esports

May 06, 2020
Guide to Esports

The GIST

Unlike more traditional sports (soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey etc.) that have been around for decades, esports is a newer ‘sport’ to hit mainstream markets. The simplest way to think about them is as “electronic sports.” Essentially, esports is competitive/professional video gaming. Esports is kind of an umbrella term similar to saying “sports” as there isn’t one specific video game that all competitors play. So take football, basketball and soccer and sub them in for League of Legends, Overwatch and Dota 2. Make sense?  

How are esports organized?

Esports are normally played in tournaments. In their infancy, esports tournaments were predominantly played online. However, in the early 2010s, streaming and esports took off and these gaming tournaments started taking place IRL. 

There are currently thousands of tournaments around the world being hosted online and offline where competitors vie for millions of dollars in prize money. That’s right. These high-level gamers are competing professionally for a chance to win millions of dollars for playing their favourite video game. Literally living the dream. Apparently our parents may have been wrong when they said: “Go outside and play, you’ll never get anywhere sitting in front of a screen.” 

Back up, what do you mean tournaments?

We totally get it — it’s hard to picture. The same way you play a soccer tournament, gamers play against each other in teams of players or individually. It’s generally round-robin style with the winner of each game moving on to some sort of playoff. Tournaments can be played and watched online, but when they’re hosted IRL, they’re normally played in large stadiums or arenas where fans can watch too. Some tournaments are even held in the same arenas as major league sports like the Rogers Centre in Vancouver and Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia. Pretty cool, right? 

Both these major sporting arenas have hosted million dollar tournaments — the Rogers Centre hosted a $25.5M tournament called ‘The International’ in 2018 and Wells Fargo hosted the 2019 Overwatch League Grand Finals where the winners walked away with a cool $1.1M in prize money. Millionaires in the making. 

How big is esports? Why is it all the rage these days?

Esports is a big, big industry and it’s been rapidly growing for years. By the year 2020, sources estimate the global esports industry will be worth MORE THAN $1.65 BILLION. Damn, that’s a lot of zeroes.

One of the biggest reasons for industry growth is the investments being made by traditional sport owners like Robert Kraft. Kraft owns the New England Patriots, and also purchased pro esports team Boston Uprising, a part of the Overwatch League. The COO of the New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon, also owns the New York Excelsior from the Overwatch League. Three-time NBA Champion Rick Fox, yes THE Rick Fox, bought a League of Legends team called the Gravity Gaming and renamed it Echo Fox. His purchase was largely based on the bond Rick and his son had built while playing League of Legends. What better way to bond over a mutual love of a video game than buying a professional team!? Don’t you wish your dad was like Rick Fox? 

The games

Not all video games are played professionally (unfortunately for our talents, you won’t find a Sims league in esports). However, there are a lot of different “leagues” out there. And that’s really the beauty of esports — there is something for everyone. Do you enjoy fast-paced shooting games? You should check out CS:GO. Do you fancy a fantasy-based game where strategy is at the forefront? Dota 2 might be your next obsession. Are you a huge soccer fan? Rocket League is basically monster trucks playing soccer. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and literally anyone and everyone can play.

And that’s why we love esports so much — unlike a lot of traditional sports where physical fitness is key (so a lot of athletes retire around the age of 40), esports players don’t have to worry about ageing out of the game. You can be a professional esports player at any age as long as you can play the game!

The international superstars

Let’s take a look at some of the top gamers in the world:

Dota 2: Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Germany) has been playing Dota 2 for almost a decade is currently the highest net earner with more than $4M USD in total income. He surpasses every other esports player in the entire industry. Damn!

League of Legends: Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (Korea) is the highest paid League of Legends player with career net earnings of more than $1.1M USD and adds even more to that playing with his SK Telecom T1 team.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth (Denmark) is CS:GO’s highest earning player with an impressive career total almost $1.5M USD. 

Where our girls at?

The sad reality in esports is that, much like many other professional sports leagues, women are still being left out of professional teams. Esports has predominantly been a “man’s world” with issues of sexism and misogyny running rampant. Ugh. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ANY women competing.

Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon (Overwatch), Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey (CS:GO), Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn (Starcraft II), and Kristen “KittyPlays” Michaela (Fortnite) are some of the top female players. Unfortunately, their earnings pale in comparison to the multi-millions made by their male counterparts.

Although women make up half the population of amateur gamers, we’re still incredibly under-represented in pro-gaming esports. Slowly more women are being signed to top tier organizations, but it’s been a very slow process.

Did you know...

  • “The International”, Dota 2’s biggest tournament of the year, has the record for the world’s largest esports prize pool of more than $30M USD! And that’s just at time of writing, it has continued to go up year-after-year and shows no signs of slowing down.
  • Professional esports players train the same way traditional athletes do. They focus on their health, physical fitness (reaction times are KEY) and mental stamina. 
  • Did you know that esports gaming chairs (yes, if you’re going to be playing a long time you want to make sure you’re well equipped) can cost as much as $3k?! Just wild. Check out the most expensive chairs in the world here

That’s #thegist of it!

Written by Guest Writer: Gillian Scott

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