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Talking Points | Sports | - FlagSpin

Talking Points | Sports |

Registration open for AV youth flag football league

Registration is currently open for the Antelope Valley Friday Night Lights Youth Flag Football League, the largest youth flag football league in California.

The league is for all students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The season begins May 10 and will run until July 9. There is only one practice per week and all games are on Friday nights at Desert Sands Park.

The cost is $200 per athlete and payment plans are available.

Goalie Kenneth Vermeer leaves LAFC on eve of season opener

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles FC and goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer have mutually parted ways on the eve of the team’s season opener.

LAFC announced Vermeer’s surprising departure Friday night.

The 35-year-old Dutch goalkeeper spent one season with LAFC after joining the club from Feyenoord. Vermeer made only eight MLS starts for LAFC while sharing time in net with Pablo Sisniega.

Vermeer, who began his pro career at Ajax, also started all five of LAFC’s matches in last year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

LAFC coach Bob Bradley hadn’t named a first-string goalie for the upcoming season, but the winner of the competition apparently was Sisniega. The 25-year-old Mexican goalie joined LAFC two years ago from Real Sociedad’s reserve team, and he made 14 starts last season.

The only other goalkeeper on LAFC’s roster is 20-year-old Tomás Romero, who has never played an MLS match. The New Jersey native signed with LAFC in January.

Los Angeles opens its fourth MLS season at home Saturday against expansion Austin FC.

Three Avalanche games postponed

Three Colorado Avalanche games have been postponed after a third player entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols Friday.

Pending test results, the team could return to practice as early as Wednesday and resume play on Thursday at St. Louis.

The Avalanche were scheduled to host the Los Angeles Kings on Friday and Sunday. They were scheduled to play at St. Louis on Tuesday.

The NHL also rescheduled a pair of games between the Vancouver and the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Canucks come back from a COVID-19 outbreak. The Leafs were set to play in Vancouver on Saturday and Monday, but the league said the games have been rescheduled for Sunday and Tuesday.

The Canucks have had 11 games postponed since the outbreak hit late last month. At least 21 players and four members of the coaching staff have tested positive for the virus.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning said Thursday that several players had not yet received the medical clearance necessary to return to the ice.

Head of Tokyo Olympics again says games will not be canceled

TOKYO — The head of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday was again forced to assure the world that the postponed games will open in just over three months and not be canceled despite surging COVID-19 cases in Japan.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto was asked at a news conference if there were any conditions under which the Olympics would be canceled.

The question comes as the general secretary of ruling LDP political party, Toshihiro Nikai, raised the possibility the day before.

“There are a variety of concerns but as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee we are not thinking about canceling the games,” Hashimoto said.

Nikai, the No. 2 person in the LDP party, was asked on Thursday in an interview if cancellation was still an option.

“Of course,” he replied, adding that if the Tokyo Games caused a surge in infections “there would be no meaning to having the Olympics.”

Nikai tried to backtrack later, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued a statement Thursday saying there is “no change to the government position to do everything to achieve safe and secure Olympics.”

Unstoppable Cink: 47-year-old sets midway record at Heritage

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Two-time champion Stewart Cink moved into position for a third RBC Heritage title, shooting a second straight 63 to set the 36-hole scoring mark at Harbour Town.

Cink, 47, appears unstoppable after two amazing days. He sits at 16-under 126, five shots ahead of Corey Conners. The previous best midway score was 129, set by Jack Nicklaus en route to victory in 1975 and matched by Phil Mickelson, who wound up third in 2002.

Conners shot 64 and was 11 under. Emiliano Grillo (64) was another shot behind.

Fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa, preparing to defend his PGA Championship title next month, was tied for fourth at 9-under with Sungjae Im (65), Billy Horschel (67) and Cameron Smith, who followed his opening-round 62 with a 71.

Cink was hardly overwhelmed by the scores he posted, chalking them up to smart preparation and strong execution alongside his 24-year-old son, Reagan, who’s caddying for him.

“It doesn’t feel all that special, to be honest with you,” Cink said. “We just kind of worked our game plan.”

It was certainly unexpected. Cink hasn’t finished in the top 20 at Harbour Town in a decade, hadn’t led halfway since the Travelers Championship in 2008 and is closer to the PGA Tour Champions than his prime.

Yet Cink has had a renaissance on golf’s biggest stage this season. He won for the first time in 11 years at the Safeway Open in September and has added five top-20 finishes including a tie for 12th last week at the Masters.

Cink was down three shots to Conners when he teed off Friday.

No matter. Cink quickly erased the deficit with an eagle on the par-5 second and a birdie on No. 3. Cink moved in front with a birdie on the sixth and steadily built his margin the rest of the way, adding birdies on the 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th holes.

Sharks to welcome back fans on limited basis

The San Jose Sharks will welcome back fans on a limited basis beginning April 26 against Arizona.

The Sharks say fans with proof of vaccination or a negative test for COVID-19 will be allowed to attend games for the rest of the season.

Tickets will be sold in pods of two to four seats with distancing between each group. Fans must wear masks when not actively eating or drinking in designated areas and will not be allowed to bring bags into the games..

The team will do a test run April 24 with family members of players and staff allowed at the game against Minnesota.

Dwyane Wade joins Utah Jazz ownership group

SALT LAKE CITY — Dwyane Wade is an NBA owner.

The Utah Jazz announced Friday that the 13-time NBA All-Star will join the youngest ownership group in the league.

The group is headed by technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith, who along with his wife, Ashley, acquired majority interest in the Jazz in late 2020.

Wade and Smith have known each other for several years and had discussed working with each other in various capacities.

“Dwyane is not only a basketball legend, he is also a great leader, businessman, and human being,” Smith said in a statement. ”As we continue to build on the incredible legacy of the Utah Jazz franchise, we are excited to add Dwyane’s experience and expertise to the equation. Utah is an amazing place and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the future of the franchise and the future of this state. Dwyane’s influence will be important to both.”

Wade played 16 NBA seasons with Miami, Chicago and Cleveland before retiring after the 2018-19 season. He won three NBA titles and had his No. 3 jersey retired by the Heat last month.

Tim Mead quits as president of baseball Hall after 2 years

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Tim Mead is quitting as president of Baseball’s Hall of Fame after two years.

The Hall said Friday the move takes effect in mid-May.

Mead was announced as Hall president on April 30, 2019, and took over that June 24 from Jeff Idelson, who had held the job since 2008.

“I made the recent leap with every intention of following in the footsteps of my predecessors, in continuing their efforts in maintaining the Hall of Fame as a critical component of the game,” Mead said in a statement. “Try as I might, even with the unwavering support of my family, these last 22 months have been challenging in maintaining my responsibilities to them.”

Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark said the resignation was accepted with “regret,” and “his genuine appreciation for the game’s history … will be greatly missed by us.”

The 62-year-old Mead joined the Hall after 40 years with the Angels organization, the last 22 as vice president of communications. He served as assistant general manager from 1994-97.

Rublev stuns 11-time champion Nadal at Monte Carlo Masters

MONACO — Andrey Rublev produced an audacious display of attacking tennis to hand record 11-time champion Rafael Nadal a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 defeat on clay in the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Friday.

The sixth-seeded Russian might have won even more convincingly, with Nadal saving break points at 3-1 down in the second set.

Nadal clawed his way back to win that set and seemed to have settled down, but Rublev broke him immediately at the start of the decider in which the 34-year-old Nadal looked very tired.

Rublev clinched his first win against third-seeded Nadal on his first match point with a typically powerful winner on forehand — a weapon Nadal struggled to contain all match.

“I don’t even know what to say. I cannot imagine being in the situation of Rafa, knowing that you are the best player on clay,” Rublev said. “I think for him it must be incredibly tough.”

Having beaten the 20-time Grand Slam champion on one of his clay strongholds, Rublev’s next opponent is unseeded Norwegian Casper Ruud.

The 22-year-old Ruud, who has just one career title compared to 86 for Nadal, also beat a former champion by knocking out 2019 winner Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-4, 6-3.

Virus slams 6 Challenger tennis events in Canada

Six Challenger tennis tournaments scheduled for Canada this year have been canceled because of the pandemic.

Tennis Canada said Friday the events are: the men’s Winnipeg (Manitoba) National Bank Challenger; the women’s Challenger event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; the National Bank Challenger in Granby, Quebec; and the Odlum Brown VanOpen in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Calgary (Alberta) National Bank Challenger and the women’s Challenger event in Fredericton, New Brunswick, will not take place in 2021 following their October postponement.

So far, Tennis Canada has postponed or canceled 14 Challenger events, which are a tier below events on the ATP and WTA tours, since the start of 2020 because of COVID-19.

Tennis Canada said there are still plans to hold Challenger events in Saguenay, Quebec, (Oct. 18-24) and Toronto (Oct. 25-31).

The Drummondville (Quebec) National Bank Challenger, originally scheduled for March 2021, might be played later this year.

AP study: MLB salary down 4.8% in 2 years; top 100 earn half

NEW YORK — The average major league salary dropped 4.8% to just under $4.17 million on opening day from the start of the previous full season in 2019.

The average has fallen 6.4% since the start of the 2017 season, when it peaked at $4.45 million, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press. The salary downturn is yet another sign baseball could be headed toward labor strife and a possible work stoppage in 2022.

Baseball’s middle class has borne the brunt of the drop. The median salary — the point at which an equal number of players are above and below — is $1.15 million, down 18% from $1.4 million two years ago and a drop of 30% from the $1.65 million record high at the start of 2015.

Of 902 players on opening-day rosters, 417 (62%) had salaries under $1 million, including 316 (35%) under $600,000.

The 50 highest-paid players are getting 33.4% of all salaries, up from 28.6% in 2017, and the 100 highest-paid are receiving 52.4%, an increase from 42.5% in 2017.

Fred Couples nearly flawless and takes 2-shot lead in Naples

NAPLES, Fla. — Fred Couples put in more work than usual to get ready for the Masters, only to have his worst performance in 36 appearances. Back on the PGA Tour Champions, he was more at ease and close to flawless.

Couples didn’t miss a fairway, setting up wedges or short irons into most of the holes, and he had a 9-under 63 to build a two-shot lead after the opening round Friday of the Chubb Classic.

Bernhard Langer, one of players at Augusta National last week, shot a 65. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker was among those another shot behind.

Couples matched his lowest round of the season with a 63, which featured five straight birdies to close out the front nine on the Black course at Tiburon Golf Club.

VAR denies Leipzig bid to cut Bayern’s lead to 2 points

BERLIN — Leipzig had an injury-time winner ruled out through VAR and had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Friday.

It was potentially a title-deciding decision.

A win for hosts Leipzig would have cut Bayern Munich’s lead to two points ahead of its tough game at third-place Wolfsburg on Saturday. Defending champions Bayern now have the chance to pull seven points clear with five rounds remaining after this weekend.

Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann acknowledged his team’s title bid was becoming increasingly difficult.

“We have to win the games to manage it, but we didn’t manage it, and that’s why we don’t have to talk about it so much,” Nagelsmann said.

Substitute Yussuf Poulsen thought he had scored in the 96th minute after heading in Marcel Halstenberg’s corner, but referee Manuel Gräfe reviewed video replays and determined that the ball struck Poulsen’s hand.

It was Hoffenheim’s second consecutive scoreless draw after another uninspiring game against Bayer Leverkusen on Monday, but it was enough to lift the visitors to 11th on goal difference ahead of the rest of the 29th round.

Leader Lille draws with Montpellier; PSG 4 points behind

PARIS — Lille needed a late equalizer from Luiz Araujo to draw 1-1 at home to Montpellier on Friday and guarantee it will keep top spot in a close French title race, regardless of whether defending champion Paris Saint-Germain wins this weekend.

With time running out against a well-drilled and counterattacking Montpellier side, a loose ball fell to the Brazilian on the left of the penalty area and Araujo curled a superb shot past goalkeeper Jonas Omlin in the 84th minute.

Eighth-place Montpellier’s main threat — Teji Savanier providing for strikers Gaetan Laborde and Andy Delort — caught Lille cold after 20 minutes.

The unselfish Laborde chased a pass down the right and whipped in a fine cross which the alert Delort met with a diving header.

He joined Laborde on 12 goals this season, a good total considering that Delort has twice tested positive for coronavirus during this season.

Lille is four points ahead of Champions League semifinalist PSG, which hosts an improving Saint-Etienne side on Sunday without the suspended Neymar.

UEFA set to approve new Champions League format next week

GENEVA — UEFA is set to approve a new 36-team format for the Champions League at an executive committee meeting on Monday but delay decisions on control of the finances.

The top item on an agenda published Friday for the meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, is the format of UEFA club competitions taking effect in the 2024-25 season.

Broad agreement on the key takeaway — adding four teams to the Champions League, each playing 10 games instead of six in a single standings table — has been in place with UEFA and Europe’s top clubs and leagues.

A controversial change is giving two of the four new places, worth tens of millions of euros (dollars), to clubs which did not qualify on merit but are ranked highly by UEFA on historical record. This season, such a proposal could have been a safety net for Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.

However, an expected decision on March 31 stalled when UEFA did not accept last-minute demands pushed by some wealthy clubs for control of commercial strategy and distributing billions of euros from broadcasting and sponsorship deals. UEFA offered a shared venture and keeping control of sporting decisions.

Family affair: Jimmy Boeheim to play for his dad at Syracuse

Jimmy Boeheim is transferring to Syracuse to play for his father and with his younger brother after three seasons at Cornell.

Coach Jim Boeheim’s oldest son made the announcement Friday on Instagram. “Back home to the place that made me fall in love with the game,” he wrote.

Jimmy Boeheim placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal in November after the Ivy League announced that it was canceling its basketball season. The 6-foot-8 Boeheim averaged a team-high 16.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21 games in his junior season in 2019-20.

The Ivies don’t allow athletes to play after graduating, even if they have a year of eligibility left, so Jimmy Boeheim was free to go to another school after he graduates in May and play a final year, and the Orange roster needed an experienced forward.

AP source: LSU’s Fargas in negotiations to be Aces president

LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas is in negotiations to become Las Vegas Aces president, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on Friday on condition of anonymity because no deal has been finalized. Bill Laimbeer has been the team’s president and coach since the franchise moved from San Antonio to Las Vegas in 2018.

It’s been an eventful offseason for the Aces, who were bought by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis. The team, which lost to Seattle in the WNBA Finals, added All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray to a stacked roster that includes league MVP A’ja Wilson.

Fargas just completed her 10th season at LSU and was 177-129 at the school. The team was 9-13 this past season. She led the team to the Sweet 16 twice, the last in 2014.

Before coming to LSU in 2011, Fargas was the head coach of UCLA for three seasons, finishing second in the conference in 2011 when the Bruins went 28-5.

Steelers players 10th group skipping in-person workouts

The Pittsburgh Steelers have become the 10th group of NFL players to say they won’t be attending in-person voluntary offseason workouts.

With a post through the NFL Players Association, the Steelers joined the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, Broncos, Seahawks, Giants, Bears, Raiders, Lions, Browns, and Patriots in declaring their intent to skip the sessions that can begin on Monday.

“We should not be made to compromise our health and safety,” the Pittsburgh players wrote. “With the current pandemic still affecting our communities and country, and the lack of clear protocols and protections regarding returning to work at full capacity, the players … have decided to exercise our right to not participate in voluntary offseason activities.

“A virtual offseason (in 2020) helped keep us safe to not only start but finish the regular season as safely as possible,” Steelers players added, “and it makes no sense for us to risk infection or injury in the spring if we don’t have to.

“The protections we had in place last year are not fully in place now and remain unclear. We are professionals and are committed to being in the best shape possible. Our team holds each other accountable to the highest professional standards and we will prepare as we always do to be the best for Steelers Nation.”

Chen tops Hanyu to win men’s free skate at World Team Trophy

OSAKA, Japan — Three-time world champion Nathan Chen won the free skate at the figure skating World Team Trophy on Friday to continue his dominance of two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu.

First after the short program, Chen opened with a quadruple flip and landed a quad salchow in the first half of his routine set to a selection of music by Philip Glass.

Winner of the past five U.S. titles, Chen landed two more quadruple toeloops as part of combination jumps to score 203.24 points.

Hanyu, who was second after the short program, opened with a quad loop but could only manage a single salchow instead of a planned quad salchow on his second jump. He added two quad toeloops later in his program and finished with 193.76 points.

Russian skater Mikhail Kolyada was third with 180.72 points.

Canizares keeps 1-stroke lead at Austrian Open

ATZENBRUGG, Austria — Alejandro Canizares overcame a slow start to card a 2-under 70 on Friday and keep his one-stroke lead after the second round of the Austrian Open.

The Spaniard is 7 under overall, while former top-ranked Martin Kaymer (70) and John Catlin (70) share second place.

Both Canizares and Kaymer are after their first win in seven years. Kaymer won the U.S. Open in 2014, his second major triumph.

Catlin won twice on the European Tour last year.

Cologne Open, Den Bosch dropped from tennis tour

LONDON — The Cologne Open and the grass-court tournament in Den Bosch have been canceled as part of WTA calendar changes announced Friday.

The German tennis federation said the Cologne event was canceled because of the worsening virus situation. It had been scheduled to start May 15.

The Libema Open in ’s-Hertogenbosch was called off because of the pandemic and because the start of the French Open was recently pushed back a week. The combined ATP-WTA Wimbledon warm-up tournament had been slated to begin June 5.

Libema Open director Marcel Hunze said the current restrictions made it impossible to host fans.

US Open Cup won’t be held this spring because of pandemic

CHICAGO — The U.S. Open Cup will not be held this spring because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a decision that follows the tournament’s cancellation last year.

The U.S. Soccer Federation’s Open Cup Committee cited logistical and financial challenges caused by the pandemic and said Friday it will evaluate holding the tournament “in some fashion later in the year.”

The committee had announced on Feb. 4 plans for a revised tournament format that cut the field from 101 teams to 24 and reduced the competition from eight rounds to five. On March 29 the committee said the first round would not be held as scheduled on May 4-5 but that it hoped to start on May 18-19.

The 2020 tournament was skipped entirely because of the pandemic, the first time the competition was not held since it started in 1913-14. Atlanta United won the 2019 title.

Mercedes one-two in practice at Imola, problems for Red Bull

IMOLA, Italy — Mercedes topped both practice sessions for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix as Red Bull endured a torrid day on Friday.

Red Bull was favored heading to Imola but fortunes swung in Mercedes’ favor as the reigning championship team managed a one-two in both practices while its rival finished each session with just one driver.

Valtteri Bottas was fastest in both, edging Lewis Hamilton by just .010 seconds in the second practice and .041 in the first.

“The weekend has started in a positive way, I’m much happier with the balance of the car,” Bottas said. “The car feels better, we still have the same type of issues as in Bahrain but less so.

“Still not perfect but we are only on event two out of 23 this season so hopefully we have time to fix it … We still don’t think we are the fastest car and we really need to improve on that on Saturday.”

Pierre Gasly, who briefly separated the two Mercedes drivers, was .078 slower than Bottas in the second practice.

It is his AlphaTauri team’s home race, with its Faenza base located 15 kilometers from the track.

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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