Olympic medalist reveals how she fixed her kayak… with a condom

It worked. And Jessica Fox’s kayaking has no unplanned pregnancies that we know of.

Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment (she’s a little busy). But while games organizers have given out condoms to Olympic athletes since 1988 (the tradition began in Seoul in 1988 due to HIV and AIDS), things are a bit different this year. Due to the coronavirus, Olympic organizers haven’t wanted to encourage Olympic hookups, so they reportedly aren’t handing out free condoms until the athletes are ready to leave Japan.

Fox’s ingenuity shouldn’t surprise anyone. She now has four Olympic medals, and Team Australia proudly, and accurately, dubbed her “the most successful female paddler in Olympic canoe slalom history.”

“I’m grateful to everyone who helped me get to this point,” Fox said in the Instagram post. “I’m sending all my love and all my gratitude because I felt the support from all over the world.”

MLB streaming 2021: Watch baseball’s pennant races live without cable

From DirecTV Stream to Bally Sports to MLB.TV to YouTube, there are plenty of ways to watch the last weeks of the Major League baseball season.

With about 15 games left in the season, MLB has again dropped the price of its MLB.TV season subscription, and there are also a few free ways to watch live baseball in September. You don’t need cable to watch your favorite team’s games, but your options depend on which team you follow and where you live.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has led the Toronto Blue Jays back into playoff contention, where they are fighting with the Yankees and Red Sox for a Wild Card spot.

There are two major ways to stream MLB games day in, day out without a cable or satellite TV subscription:

Depending on where you live, one of the major live TV streaming services could carry the channel that has your favorite team. Those channels, called regional sports networks, deliver almost all of the regular-season games live.

Most such services, however, carry only a handful of the 30 RSNs that show MLB games — and they’re typically the most expensive. DirecTV Stream carries the most RSNs, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan; its basic $70-a-month plan doesn’t include RSNs. Sling TV, a service that costs $35 per month, doesn’t have any RSNs for baseball. If you’re a baseball fan who needs your team’s RSN, a cable subscription might actually be cheaper than streaming.

The other option is MLB.TV, a separate service that carries every game played by every team live. It’s great for hard-core fans in general. MLB.TV costs $27 for the remainder of the season.

The big catch with MLB.TV is the local blackout restriction: You can’t watch your local team’s games live. Instead, they become available about 90 minutes after the game ends. If you’re a Yankees fan in the New York area, for example, you can’t start to watch the Yankees game until an hour and a half after the final out. Other teams’ games aren’t blacked out live, which makes MLB.TV ideal for fans who want to follow one or more of the 28 or 29 teams based in other cities, aka out-of-market teams.

Due to MLB.TV’s blackout restriction, a live TV streaming service is the best bet for following your local team. Many services carry the RSN that has exclusive rights to every regular season game, but availability varies by location and service.

In addition to the RSNs listed below, live TV services carry most if not all of the major national networks — ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS — that regularly televise matchups from different teams around the league. Details are at the top of this article.

Here’s how the RSNs stack up on each service.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s to rename them. So, Fox Sports Ohio is now called Bally Sports Ohio and so on.

If you are looking to watch your local team night in and night out, DirecTV Stream is your best bet. It offers by far the most RSNs of the live TV streaming services. Philadelphia and Toronto are the only MLB cities whose RSN is not offered on DirecTV Stream. FuboTV is second with 10 RSNs, giving you only a one-in-three chance of getting your local RSN to watch baseball.

DirecTV Stream is the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get MLB Network and any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.

Major League Baseball’s official streaming service is great for following your favorite team if you live outside its TV market. Because of the 90-minute blackout described above, however, it’s much less useful for following your local home team.

MLB.TV subscribers also miss games that are broadcast nationally on ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS. Those games are blacked out on MLB.TV, which can be particularly irksome for fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other big-market teams that are frequently selected for national broadcasts.

The price of MLB.TV at the start of the season was $130. With only two weeks left, that has dropped to $27. As a subscriber, you can watch out-of-market games live or on demand, and the in-market (home) team with a 90-minute delay from the end of the game.

With MLB.TV, you can also listen to home and away radio broadcasts. The radio broadcasts aren’t subject to the blackout rule, so you can listen to home team games live. MLB.TV also includes a ton of video content, including classic games, baseball documentaries and old This Week in Baseball episodes.

Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still watch baseball with the MLB app. It offers one Free Game of the Day that anyone can stream live for free.

Read our MLB.TV review.

ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service costs $6 a month or $60 a year and shows one game nearly every day of the six-month MLB season. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus, similar to MLB.TV. Also, the games shown on ESPN Plus are not exclusive to ESPN Plus and are also available on MLB.TV.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games. YouTube also shows a game a week for free.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 10 RSNs for baseball. It also includes ESPN, Fox and FS1 but not TBS. You can add MLB Network for an extra $11 a month with the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on. Check out which local networks and RSNs it offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers five RSNs for baseball, along with all five channels for national broadcasts. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and carries five RSNs for baseball along with ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS, but not MLB Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch baseball. You can, however, use Sling to watch national baseball broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, and the Blue plan includes Fox and FS1. Both plans offer TBS. The MLB Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

For the third year, YouTube streams some MLB games for free. For the 2021 season, 21 games will be shown as the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube. Two games remain on the schedule

For Yankees fans in the team’s market, Amazon will stream 21 Yankees games on Prime Video this season. While you don’t need to live in the Bronx to stream these games, the area where they’re available is limited — New York state, Connecticut, northeast Pennsylvania, and north and central New Jersey. You’ll need to be a Prime member, too.

Three Prime Video games remain:

The MLB At Bat app is great on phones and even better on tablets. If you bought an MLB.TV subscription (as outlined above), you can log in to your account and watch games live in the app. There is a cheaper subscription option for use with the mobile app only, but it’s limited in what it lets you watch.

You can buy an At Bat subscription via the MLB At Bat app. It costs $20 a year (or $3 a month) and lets you listen to the home or away radio broadcasts — baseball is the only sport I can listen to on the radio — and watch one game per day during the season. You can’t choose which game you want to watch; you’re stuck with the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day.

Grab two pairs of NFL or MLB gloves for just $15 shipped

These logo-emblazoned utility gloves make an excellent (and useful) stocking stuffer.

Before you get too excited, be warned that not every NFL team is represented in the glove sale but 18 are, including the most storied franchises, such as the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Cowboys and ‘Niners. You have fewer options for MLB teams: just the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Tigers, Twins and Indians (who are soon to change their name).

You also can’t pair NFL gloves with MLB gloves, so you’ll have to pick two from the same sport. We haven’t gotten our hands in these gloves yet and so can’t speak to their quality, but they score high marks on Amazon, where the same gloves sell for $13 a pop.

Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley memes: Light-up trunks, Dude Wipes, that tattoo

Tyron Woodley agreed to get the “I Love Jake Paul” tattoo as long as Paul gives him a rematch, so stay tuned.

Jake Paul is 4-0 after defeating Tyron Woodley on Aug. 29.

As you may have heard, the fighters made a pre-fight bet. The loser gets a tattoo proclaiming their love for the winner. After the fight, Paul told Woodley that he’ll give him a rematch if Woodley follows through on the “I love Jake Paul” tattoo. Huh? Didn’t Woodley already agree to get the tattoo, rematch or no? Anyway, they shook on it, so… round two, anyone?

The tattoo made its way into a bunch of memes, one of which jokes about “Tyron Woodley ducking Jake Paul’s tattoo artist at the venue.”

Boxing trunks aren’t just clothing any more. Paul wore trunks decorated with LED lights, and you just know people had thoughts on that.

Cracked one Twitter user, “Are they going to light up when he’s hit like the outfits in fencing and score a point for Woodley?”

Said another, “Good because soon it’s lights out for him anyways.”

Woodley may not have had LED light-up trunks, but he did have the name of a flushable personal hygiene wipe — Dude Wipes — right across the butt of his own trunks.

The company crowed about it even when Woodley lost, tweeting a little bathroom humor with “Great Fight. We want a #2.:

Paul dominated for the first few rounds, but Woodley started to come back around round 4. And when Paul took a big punch and hit the ropes, social media hit back. Let’s just say people like to see Paul get punched.

“Woodley got to punch Jake Paul in his face multiple times,” wrote one Twitter user. “Win or lose thats a huge W!”

Said another, “Paul won the fight but Woodley had the most significant punch and round of the fight.”

And it wouldn’t be a fight involving one of the Paul brothers if people weren’t declaring that the fix was in.

“The Jake Paul vs Tyron Woodley fight was rigged,” wrote one Twitter user. “Jake nearly died from one punch.”

Said another, “Woodley had Paul seeing stars in round four and came out in round five and didn’t even try to throw a punch. This was a complete set up to try to make Paul seem legit. Now he will fight Fury, who isn’t a real boxer either.”

Paul said after the fight that he might take a break for a while, but fans are already calling for him to fight Tommy Fury, the brother of current heavyweight king Tyson Fury, who easily won his fight on Sunday against Anthony Taylor.

Logan Paul vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Main event start time, how to watch or stream online

Logan Paul is facing Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what might be one of the weirdest boxing matches ever.

These two fight in a matter of hours…

In the US, the PPV starts at 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT) on Sunday, June 6.
In the UK, the PPV starts at 1 a.m. BST on Monday, June 7.
In Australia, the PPV starts at 10 a.m. AEST on Monday June 7.

The main event will not start until at least 10 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT). That’s 3 a.m. BST in the UK and 12 midday in AEST.

You can watch the final, post weigh-in staredown below.

The easiest way to watch online is via Fanmio.

Those who want to see the fight will need to get pay-per-view access. A ticket to watch the fight comes with a T-shirt and costs $49.99 (£36, AU$64).

Fanmio’s site says that 20 US residents who sign up for Fanmio will also get a video meet-and-greet with the fighters — and the giveaway rules say those winners do not have to buy the fight to enter the drawing.

There are other ways to watch, however.

In the US you can pay Mayweather’s usual partner Showtime $49.99 to watch the fight.

In the UK you can watch via Sky Sports Box Office for a relatively cheap £16.95.

In Australia you can watch via Main Event for AU$49.95, which cheaper than you’ll be paying on Fanmio, but you’ll need access to Foxtel to access Main Event, which makes things trickier. If you don’t already have a Foxtel subscription, best to just go the Fanmio route.

This special exhibition is slated for eight rounds, each three minutes long. Both fighters will wear 12-ounce gloves.

On Saturday night, Logan Paul weighed in at 189.5 pounds and Mayweather at 155. Per his contract, Paul had to weigh in at 190 pounds or less for the fight, otherwise he would have been fined an eye-watering $100,000 for every pound he went overweight. Mayweather had to cap at 160. Mayweather faces a massive size disadvantage. Paul is around 6 foot 2 inches with a 76-inch reach, while Mayweather is around 5 foot 8 inches with a 72-inch reach.

Given the fight is an exhibition, it’s been confirmed there will be no judges. Knockouts are legal and are to the judge’s discretion. If the contest plays out to its conclusion there will be no official judges result, the Florida State Boxing Commission told Sky News.

It’s a pretty lean one, only four fights…

Logan Paul is going to box Floyd Mayweather.

The 26-year-old Ohio native and his brother, Jake, first became famous for their Vine and YouTube videos. Paul then moved to LA and dabbled in all sorts of forms of entertainment, from acting to running a clothing line. He’s not without controversy: In 2018, he was heavily criticized for filming a dead body in a Japanese forest known as a location for suicide and YouTube has yanked ads from his channel for questionable content in the past. But his fans don’t seem to care: His YouTube channel has more than 22 million subscribers.

As for sports, Paul was a high-school athlete, participating in wrestling and football. But his boxing record isn’t exactly long. In 2018, he fought British YouTuber KSI (real name: Olajide William Olatunji) to a majority draw in what was considered an amateur match. In 2019, the two held a rematch that was considered a professional bout, ending in a split decision victory for KSI. So with zero victories to his credit, he’s decided to … take on a famous undefeated boxer. As you do.

Mayweather is the best boxer of his generation.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is quite a bit older than Paul, at 44. And he’s much, much more experienced in the ring. He won 15 major world titles in five weight classes, with a 50-0 record in the sport, a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics, and three US Golden Gloves championships, among other titles. (Note that he won that Olympic medal when Logan Paul was just a year old.)

So why, then, is the undefeated former champ taking on a YouTuber who’s never won a fight? It’s not about the boxing — the fight won’t count anywhere, it’s an exhibition. Think those two irresistible elements: Money and fame.

“It’s likely that only the promise of another lucrative payday could convince ‘Money’ Mayweather to put on his gloves again, and Paul provides an opponent with major name recognition despite a paucity of boxing experience,” the Washington Post reported. The newspaper noted that for Paul, it’s not about who wins, but about the exposure, which makes him even more famous and opens up more opportunities and future paydays.

That’s the bare essentials, but if you want to catch up on the juicy, possibly manufactured drama in the lead up to the fight… keep reading.

No, that is not a typo. 

Despite the fact Floyd Mayweather is fighting his brother Logan Paul, Jake Paul got into quite the situation with Mayweather, by stealing his baseball cap after a press conference for the Logan Paul vs. Floyd Mayweather fight.

The above Twitter thread shows most of the best footage. Jake Paul and Mayweather had a confrontation, they talked back and forth about a fight between them, Jake Paul snatched up Mayweather’s hat and then… all hell broke loose.

Regardless of whether it was a publicity stunt or not this has stirred up quite an amount of attention on social media.

Everyone is going to make a lot of money.

Part of the appeal of this is it’s hard to know what to expect. The most obvious outcome is Mayweather outboxing Paul and potentially knocking him out. But Mayweather is 44 and he is giving up at least 30 pounds in weight. It’s hard to imagine that Logan Paul will even touch Mayweather given his defensive prowess, but we haven’t seen him fight since the McGregor fight and that was almost four years ago.

Here are some clips of them training.

Floyd seems confident.

“These guys have done a great job fooling the public that they are real fighters,” he said. “I ain’t got to use my A game, my B game, my C game. I can use my Z game. Don’t even gotta hit him hard.”

Sounds ominous.

Why Naomi Osaka dropped out of Wimbledon: What you need to know

Naomi Osaka intends to return at the Olympics in July.

Osaka has now withdrawn from Wimbledon in addition to the French Open.

Osaka’s current plan is to make a return to professional Tennis is her home country of Japan at the Olympics in July.

“Naomi Osaka will be greatly missed by all of us at Wimbledon this year, but we completely understand her decision,” Wimbledon reps told CNET in an emailed statement. “We wish her a happy time with her friends and family and look forward to welcoming her back to Wimbledon next year.”

Osaka’s withdrawal is the latest in a series that began with controversy at Roland Garros.

After canceling press obligations during the French Open as a result of mental health issues, Osaka — one of the top-ranked women tennis players in the world — was fined $15,000 and threatened with expulsion by tournament organizers. Ultimately, Osaka decided to take matters into her own hands and left the tournament of her own volition.

“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka, 23, wrote in a statement describing her struggles with depression. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”

After initially criticizing Osaka’s unwillingness to meet the press in person and answer questions after matches (see below), Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation, delivered a statement on Osaka’s decision to exit the match — a statement he delivered in French and English before walking out of the media room without taking questions from the press.

“First and foremost, we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland-Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our Tournament next year,” Moretton said. “We remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our Tournament, including with the media.”

A stream of support has since come out for Osaka from fans and professional athletes alike. Here’s everything you need to know.

Naomi Osaka is a Japanese tennis player and the current world number 2, behind Australian Ash Barty, having won four Grand Slam championships. Born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, Osaka grew up in the US and won her first Grand Slam — the US Open — aged 20.

Since then she has become a global superstar in the world of tennis, holding the position of number one in 2019 and winning three more Grand Slam tournaments.

Osaka is famously shy and soft spoken, but has regularly pushed past this to use her platform for activism. In 2020 she withdrew from the Cincinnati Open to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake. During the 2020 US Open she famously wore a series of masks bearing the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice to raise awareness during Black Lives Matters protests.

Last week Naomi Osaka posted on her social media accounts, stating she wouldn’t be taking part in press conferences during the French Open, to protect her mental health.

“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health,” she wrote, “and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”

In response Roland Garros posted a statement on its website and issued a $15,000 fine.

“Following this announcement,” read the statement, “the Roland-Garros teams asked her to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.

“Following the lack of engagement by Naomi Osaka, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open jointly wrote to her to check on her well-being and offer support, underline their commitment to all athletes’ well-being and suggest dialog on the issues. She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.

“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honour her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct.”

In the statement, Roland Garros claimed mental health was of the “utmost importance”, but also posted a now-deleted tweet, that made light of Osaka’s mental health concerns.

In response to the fine and the threat of expulsion, Osaka withdrew from the tournament.

“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” she wrote. “I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my wellbeing is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.

“The truth is I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”

Osaka wrote that she was already feeling “vulnerable and anxious” about the French Open and the prospect of having to face the press, that she was exercising “self care” by skipping the conferences. Osaka also claimed she privately wrote to the organizers of the Grand Slam tournaments to apologize.

“I’m going to take some time away from the court now,” she said, “but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”

Observers were quick to note that Moretton’s follow up statement expressing his sadness and support for Osaka seemed disingenuous. “The immense irony of the FFT President not taking questions from the media in the wake of this Osaka withdrawal is not lost on anyone,” wrote journalist Ben Rothenberg, describing Moretton.

In the wake of Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open multiple athletes across different sports came out in support.

Serena Williams, who Osaka famously defeated to win her very first Grand Slam recently commented on the situation.

“I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like,” she said. “I’ve been in those positions

“We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can.”

Venus Williams, had a different response. Speaking out on how she dealt with press conferences — during a press conference.

“[M]e personally, how I cope, how I deal with it, was that I know every single person asking me a question can’t play as well as I can and never will,” Williams said. “So no matter what you say, or what you write, you’ll never light a candle to me.”

Tennis legends like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova — alongside athletes like Steph Curry — tweeted messages backing up Osaka.

“Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs,” said Billie Jean King.

“You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this,” said NBA star Steph Curry, “but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own.”

Osaka received support from all corners. Not just for standing up for herself, but for raising awareness of mental health issues.

Calm, an app dedicated to helping with sleep and meditation, is donated $15,000 — the equivalent of Osaka’s initial fine — to Laureus Sport in France, a company that does work in the mental health space.

It’s also offered to the same if any other tennis athletes are fined for taking the same stand in the future.

Before the billionaires and oligarchs, the unlikely story of football’s first foreign owner

Way before international money flooded in, the first American owner in English soccer came to the rescue of a dying club.

Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

This international spending spree started when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003, but the largely forgotten first step toward today’s globalized era occurred way back in 1984. Football clubs were traditionally owned by local businessmen until California lawyer Bruce Osterman bought Tranmere Rovers, a proud but impoverished team in the unemployment-lashed north of England. It was the beginning of a new era — but you wouldn’t have known it at the time.

“The game as a whole was at its nadir,” remembers Mark Palios, a former footballer turned businessman who played for Tranmere in those dark days of the 1980s. “Gates were low, there was hooliganism, there was a complete lack of investment. It was a sick industry.”

What followed is more than a quirky footnote in sporting history — it’s a story of conflict between passion and business that any fan of any team in any country will recognize. Palios played an unexpected secret role in the ensuing drama, only to face a horribly familiar crisis threatening the club three decades later.

Mark Palios played for Tranmere in the 1970s and 1980s, taking an unexpected role in the drama behind the scenes — before returning to the club 30 years later.

Former Tranmere player Ken Bracewell was coaching a professional team in San Francisco in the early 1980s when he was approached by attorney and keen amateur goalkeeper Bruce Osterman. The glamour had faded from The National American Soccer League’s 1970s heyday, so Bracewell was surprised when Osterman wanted more than a chat about soccer teams — he wanted to buy one.

Why would a Californian lawyer want to invest in an impoverished sports team on the far side of the Atlantic?

“I was young and it seemed like a good idea,” says Osterman, now in his late 70s. “I had some extra money as I’d done well in my law practice,” he remembers in his unhurried California drawl over the phone from his home near San Francisco. “Tranmere was in real trouble so it was a number to purchase the team that I could afford.”

Tranmere chairman Bruce Osterman filmed at Prenton Park for a TV documentary.

Tranmere’s stadium Prenton Park is only a brief ferry ride away from footballing titans Liverpool and Everton, but in 1984 it might as well have been on a different planet. Barely clinging to professional status at the wrong end of the English leagues, with no money and plummeting attendances, Tranmere had special permission to hold matches on Friday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons so locals wouldn’t disappear to watch the team’s more glamorous neighbors.

“Tranmere will never compete with Liverpool and Everton,” one of the club’s managers later said. “They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere as a deadly submarine.”

In 1984 Tranmere was about to emulate a submarine in the worst possible way: by going under.

Osterman took advantage of the strife and a disastrously weak pound to buy the club, installing Ken Bracewell in charge. “I relied on Kenny for the day-to-day things,” Osterman recalls, “because frankly what the hell did I know?”

Bruce Osterman (crouching third from left, wearing glasses), lines up with a team of sports journalists playing a friendly at Prenton Park in August 1986. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the chap on the far left: popular TV and radio pundit Ray Stubbs, who played and worked at Tranmere.

Today’s game is full of players, managers and owners from other countries. In the 1980s it was more insular. English clubs were banned from European competition throughout the second half of the 1980s, foreign players like Tottenham’s Argentine duo Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were still a novelty, and there wouldn’t be a foreign manager until Jozef Vengloš arrived from Czechoslovakia to join Aston Villa in 1990.

Having staved off the club’s short-term woes, Bruce Osterman showed up at Tranmere for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. There was occasionally a language barrier with the distinctive Merseyside accent. “I used to go to sportsman’s dinners for people who had shares in the club, and I was usually the brunt of the after-dinner comedian,” Osterman remembers. “I know he was speaking English but I couldn’t understand a word!” Osterman’s family came too, although his wife found herself excluded from men-only areas such as the boardroom and team coach. “She tolerated my doing this, but it wasn’t a pleasant time for her,” Osterman admits.

Journalists were delighted by the sight of the bespectacled 43-year-old chairman diving around in the training field mud, while players mischievously blasted balls at him. This was all highly unusual, but still — Tranmere were saved.

In the days before television revenue, a lesser club’s main income was ticket sales. Larger-than-life characters attracted paying fans through the turnstiles, so Osterman made the unexpected choice to appoint Frank Worthington as the team’s player-manager.

Worthington, who died in March 2021, had two decades of experience on the field but had never managed a team. The mulleted Elvis fan was certainly an entertainer, a prodigious goalscorer and even more prodigious playboy. His autobiography, suggestively titled “One Hump Or Two,” lists more nightclubs than football clubs. Worthington joked that when he took charge at Tranmere the players thought they’d be in trouble if they got home before 2 a.m.

Larger-than-life character Frank Worthington playing for England.

In his first game before the Prenton Park faithful the dashing player-manager bagged three goals in a 6-2 victory, and he ended up scoring 20 that season. He also made shrewd use of Osterman’s limited budget — one of Worthington’s acquisitions, Ian Muir, remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer. But defence was poor and Tranmere couldn’t afford new blood.

“We didn’t have the players or the money,” Osterman admits. “I had no idea of the difficulty of handling a team even in the fourth division.”

One player understood the economics of Osterman’s situation more than most. Tenacious midfielder Mark Palios was a local lad in his second stint at Tranmere when Osterman arrived. Unlike most footballers, who typically spend their time between matches wasting money, Palios worked a unique parallel career managing money as he trained to be an accountant.

Mark Palios playing for Tranmere the night they beat Arsenal in 1973.

One day Tranmere’s directors walked into Palios’ office looking for advice. They wanted to push Osterman out. The surprised player found himself in the awkward situation of offering advice on the club’s financial future mere hours before pulling on his team shirt and running onto the pitch.

Tranmere’s cash flow crisis came to a head when the well-intentioned but overstretched Osterman tried to sell Prenton Park to make way for a supermarket. Fans, directors and local authorities turned against him.

The American dream had soured.

Thirty years later, in 2015, history repeated for Tranmere Rovers — and for Mark Palios. The club was again in dire straits on and off the field. And just like in the 1980s, a new owner stepped in. But this time, it was Palios who bought the club.

After combining his playing days with a successful accounting career, Palios had been CEO of the Football Association. A specialist in turning around failing businesses, he and his wife Nicola now tackled Tranmere’s turmoil.

Palios began a three-step process he’d applied to many dying companies: Find cash for breathing space. Use that breathing space to fix the business. And finally, bring in new investment.

Most important, the club had to break the cycle of lurching from savior to savior. Palios compares football clubs to gamblers gifted more chips who continue betting on the same old numbers. To really fix the ailing business, Mark and Nicola had to make new bets.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios and vice chair Nicola Palios took charge in 2014.

Back in 1985, Palios quit Tranmere and distanced himself from the boardroom shenanigans to avoid a conflict of interest. Ultimately the directors exploited changes to insolvency legislation to get rid of Osterman, Bracewell and Worthington, earning Tranmere another dubious distinction as the first football club to go into administration under the new laws.

In 1987, a new buyer offered less than Osterman paid for the club. Luckily for the American, a strengthened pound took the sting out of the loss.

A new owner and manager took over, but Tranmere’s troubles weren’t over. To ensure survival they had to beat Exeter City on the last day of the season or be disastrously dumped out of the professional league.

Kickoff was delayed as 7,000 fans crammed into one of Prenton Park’s signature Friday night matches on May 8, 1987. Mark Palios was there, although in another bizarre twist he could have been on the field — for either side. Exeter previously tried to sign him, while injury-plagued Tranmere desperately searched for Palios to see if he could help out in the crucial match. “We didn’t have mobile phones in those days,” Palios jokes. “[Tranmere] should have asked the administrators — they knew where I was…”

As the sky darkened above the floodlights neither side could break the deadlock — until six minutes from time, when Ian Muir’s pinpoint cross was headed home by defender Gary Williams. At the final whistle, the delirious crowd poured onto the pitch.

After this fairytale escape, new manager John King — another former Tranmere player, who coined the “deadly submarine” nickname — kicked off a resurgence in the 1990s. The team went to multiple finals at Wembley, rising through the divisions and almost surfacing alongside Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Ian Muir (right), signed by Frank Worthington and still Tranmere’s top scorer, celebrates the first of Tranmere’s many trips to the hallowed Wembley Stadium in the 1990s.

Sadly the golden era didn’t last, and in 2015 a run-down Tranmere sank out of the professional league entirely. Under different leadership that could have destroyed the club, but Mark and Nicola Palios had a plan to stay afloat. They developed new revenue streams which didn’t rely on a benefactor’s deep pockets, earned money from the stadium not just on matchdays, and built on the club’s standing in the community with training schemes for vulnerable youth. “The business model I’ve tried to produce is football-agnostic,” Palios explains. “So if I go, the business stays.”

The club is into phase three of the Palios plan: tempting investors. Palios contemplates leveraging the local area’s rich footballing heritage for projects such as a hotel, and perhaps even leaving Prenton Park (an idea that backfired for Osterman). Palios has his eye on building a new stadium at the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters dockland regeneration scheme, one of the largest development projects in Europe.

Tranmere returned to Wembley in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019, when Connor Jennings scored another last-gasp goal to secure Tranmere a second successive promotion.

Palios notes these long-term plans are “embryonic” and depend on factors like promotion to higher leagues, millions added to the bottom line, and major investors.

“It’s a way off,” Palios says of his potential vision for the future, “but if somebody comes in with serious money, you have to have a business plan. And the one thing I won’t do is limit ambition.”

To bring things full circle in terms of foreign backers, the Palios’ have shared photos of themselves courting international investment since this interview. This time Tranmere’s seeking funding from soccer-mad Indonesian businessman Simon Nainggolan, also known as Simon N.

The chaos at Bury and Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows how precarious the football business can be even with TV money and global investment. At Tranmere, smart commercial decisions and dedicated supporters kept the club alive. To fans’ delight, under manager Micky Mellon — yet another former player — the team won promotion in 2018 and again in 2019 (only to be summarily relegated again when the Covid pandemic ended the next season early).

Devoted Tranmere Rovers fans celebrate.

Bruce Osterman still practices law, although he stopped playing soccer at 60. “If I had to do it all again I would,” he says of his experience with Tranmere. “No foreigner had ever done this before, and I met a lot of great people. It was an adventure for me.”

For today’s US-based investment consortiums, owning a sports team is all about profit. For Bruce Osterman, it was an adventure. And for Mark Palios, sport offers a unique combination of both business and passion. When fans tell him they’re proud of the club, he says, “that’s the reward.”

Thank you, Tokyo Olympics, for bringing us the ‘beast mode’ we all needed

Many wanted the Tokyo Olympics cancelled, but in the end, they were incredible.

The best.

Pushing past the flimsiest steel barrier ever constructed, into a restricted area he clearly shouldn’t have had access to, Boxall ripped off his required mask and proceeded to… dry hump a fence like The Ultimate Warrior circa Wrestlemania 6?

Like I said. Beast Mode.

The best part: In the background, a Japanese Olympic official, doing her level best to provide resistance, raises her hands like a frightened gazelle and then succumbs. Slowly those raised hands are lowered, evolving into confused claps. OK, she seems to say. You’re here now. There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m just going to try and enjoy this front row seat to Beast Mode, starring Dean Boxall.

In this metaphor, Boxall is the Tokyo Olympics. Both as an event and an idea. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic both probably shouldn’t be here. As the world reels from the effects of the delta strain and global vaccine hesitancy, this is the Olympics no one asked for. Dean, what are you doing here? Bugger off, Dean. Now is not the time.

High jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi gave each other their gold medals. This is too much.

Me? I’m the Japanese official. We’re all the Japanese official. Nervous, unsure how to react, ultimately acquiescing to this moment completely out of our control. Even in Japan, the host country, people were protesting the Olympics. First we collectively raised our hands in passive resistance. Seconds later we were all clapping.

And we were clapping because Dean Boxall is awesome. Reckless, sure. But so awesome. The Olympics were reckless too — but also awesome.

This is what the Olympics delivers: Beast Mode direct to your screen and your heart. It’s in the business of providing iconic moments like Boxall’s. Moments that simultaneously inspire and subvert our sense of what’s possible. Weird shit, displays of pure athleticism.

Two men collapsing into one another’s arms when they realize they can share a gold medal instead of duelling to the death for it. Skateboarding girls cheering each other on, making quick friends in the face of fierce competition. Runners stumbling, falling over in potentially race-ending collisions, miraculously recovering to win races.

Incredible, awe-inspiring moments.

Maybe it’s because we live in a universe where moments like these are worshipped, contorted and shaped into GIFs, tweets and memes in an infinite social media content spiral, but it somehow feels like we’ve had more of these moments compared to previous Olympics. That these Olympic Games have meant more than we ever could have expected when we cynically, reluctantly invited them into our homes.

Personally, as a man living in Sydney, a city wrestling with strict lockdowns that could potentially last for months, the Olympics was been a salve I didn’t realize I needed. It was a welcome distraction as I juggled home-schooling, work and a near-permanent dread at the daily ritual of waiting for Sydney case numbers to drop so we can all go back outside and live relatively normal lives.

There were a million reasons why the Olympic Games shouldn’t have happened in 2021. A million reasons why we shouldn’t have watched and supported what is arguably an irresponsible event run for the wrong reasons. But it’s also equally possible that — this year — the Olympics were more useful than ever.

The Tokyo Olympics probably shouldn’t have happened because of COVID-19. But I’m also happy it happened — because of COVID-19. If that makes sense.

None of it makes sense.

But right now, sport — with its simple rules and digestible outcomes, with its warm blanket of normalcy and straightforward narratives of triumph over adversity — is maybe the only thing that makes sense.

The Olympics, much like Dean Boxall, busted its way into our homes and televisions and refused to leave. An unwelcome guest. But, like the uncertain Olympics official dealing with the uncontainable Boxall as he dry humped a fence, I’m glad the Olympics forced their way into my life. I couldn’t have done lockdown without it.

How 5G played a role in the Phoenix Suns’ historic NBA title run

The wireless technology gave the team an edge when it came to crunching the data on its players to find ways for them to improve.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker during the 2021 NBA playoffs.

The new tools helped general manager James Jones and the rest of the coaching staff better evaluate player performance and adapt in real time. Ryan Resh, the Suns’ head of data analytics, credits 5G with “pushing the NBA’s boundaries” regarding how the coaches train and teach their athletes.

The Suns’ use of 5G is an example of one of the many different applications of the wireless technology beyond higher speeds on your phone. The technology, rolling out across the globe, is expected to transform many industries, including sports. Professional and college teams are installing 5G in stadiums and arenas to improve the on-site experience, and apps are emerging that let fans view replays from different angles or feel like they’re a part of the action. Teams are exploring ways to use 5G to improve the performance of the athletes themselves by quickly collecting huge amounts of data — something that isn’t possible with 4G or Wi-Fi.

“5G is allowing us to … take those movements and those analyses and make them so real-time that the process just becomes iterative and seamlessly flows into the working procedure of our coaches and our players,” Resh said in an interview.

While sports teams have been using analytics to improve player performance nearly as long as sports have existed, 5G is emerging as a new way to make that analysis even more effective. The key is the technology’s high speed and low latency. Cameras and sensors can collect data and provide insight in real time, letting coaches instruct their players on the fly or detect injuries before they become bigger problems. For the Suns, the intersection between 5G and athletics made its mark this NBA season.

“The 5G lab keeps the Suns on the cutting edge,” Jones said in a statement. “That cohesion provides our staff with unparalleled opportunities to efficiently unlock each athlete’s fullest potential.”

The need for real-time data is becoming more and more important in sports. Prior to the rollout of 5G and installation of sensors and cameras in arenas, players were used to waiting until the next day to review film highlighting in-game mistakes. While players and coaches still review film after games, the 5G lab offers data within milliseconds — something that once took several minutes to calculate.

“Coaching has been around for thousands of years, where coaches go out there and with their gut, they watch things,” Brian Mecum, vice president of device technology for Verizon, said in an interview. “Well, how about if we trust data, and how about if we flip it and trust what science is telling us by what it can measure?”

While Verizon is building 5G in more than 60 stadiums and arenas, its partnership with the Phoenix Suns is different. No other team working with Verizon uses 5G to help with real-time analytics.

5G helps the Suns coaching staff quickly gather and crunch data from three different tools. With a technology called Noah, the players are able to get real-time feedback, live and automated in-game data, and in-depth post-practice and game analytics. For instance, the practice center’s hoop is equipped with sensors that allow Noah to track the arch consistency, the depth and the left and right trajectory of the ball. Coaches will be able to compare subpar performance against a player’s peak, letting them know instantly what places or situations on a court have the best odds for sinking a shot.

“It gets down to centimeter accuracy, and it also has the ability to look at things in three dimensions [along] the X, the Y and the Z axis,” Verizon’s Mecum said. A player may not be able to tell in real time why their shots aren’t going in without the in-depth arc and angle analysis Noah provides.

“This team took and learned that sometimes players were spending too much time shooting, for example, they were taking too many shots and that was affecting the effectiveness of their shots,” Mecum said.

Adding Noah to the Sun’s practice facility has shown real results for the team. One younger player had a tough time consistently sinking his shots. With Noah and the tracking sensors installed in the rafters above the hoop, the coaching staff was able to show the player where his jump shots typically landed and where his performance was the weakest.

“That was enlightening to him because it allowed him to accept that his mechanics may not be as consistent as he wants them to be, which is not something that you really feel, in real time,” Resh said. “His work did eventually pay off in the playoffs, and he was our best three-point shooter.”

Another analytics source used by the Suns is called ShotTracker. Players and coaches are able to use a sensor-based system that generates shooting analytics stats to teams — and fans — thanks to a sensor placed on the ball. Players must also wear a small tracking device, and there are sensors in the rafters above the rim to pinpoint the location of the shot. Specifically, more than 100 sensors communicate to the coaches in real time what players are doing (or not). This allows both players and coaches to go back and review how many shots were taken and exactly where they were shot.

The final piece of the Suns’ technology expansion relates to lateral movement off the court. With the help of Simi’s motion capture cameras, coaches are able to track players’ abilities both before and after injuries. A returning player may feel they are back to normal, but coaches are able to see in real time if the player is healed or not by comparing the post-injury performance to the player’s baseline. The Suns are using Simi in the weight room to track static movements — but have hopes to one day use Simi to predict how players move on the court.

In the practice facilities, the Suns’ are also using Bertec’s 3D force plates in combination with Simi’s cameras. The Bertec plates, which players stand on, are able to track a player’s gait, jump and balance while Simi captures the movement in real time. Simi shows the coaches, the movement, while the Bertec plates provide data about pressure and other characteristics.

“While Wi-Fi can accomplish that, what 5G does is it makes it so fast [and] the latency is so low, that as soon as a player is done jumping, [the data is] there in front of them,” Resh said

Latency is the response or lag time between sending a signal and receiving one back, and 5G’s shorter latency is how it makes a difference in sports analytics.

“You want to reduce the delay as much as you can to give [people] real-time experiences,” said Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell. “Every little bit helps.”

3G networks had latencies in the hundreds of milliseconds, which is an appreciable fraction of a second. 4G networks, which enabled smartphones and all of the apps we use today, started with latencies of about 100 milliseconds and now are down to a range of about 30 milliseconds to 70 milliseconds. 5G aims to get to 1 millisecond, but it’s currently at about 20 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds, which is faster than the human eye blinks, Verizon’s Mecum said.

Fans are able to view a game from multiple camera angles.

An essential piece of the Suns’ practice facilities and arena is their use of millimeter wave 5G. MmWave is a band of radio airwaves that provides super-high speeds but can only travel short distances and gets blocked by objects like windows and trees. For sporting venues, though, those downsides aren’t an issue. Teams can easily install towers where needed in stadiums and arenas. MmWave’s ability to handle a huge number of devices on one network, at the same time, is ideal for fans during a game.

With the Suns’ stadium app, fans are able to receive feedback similar to what the coaches see while watching the game. The app is available to users with or without 5G phones. Seven different camera angles let fans view replays and real-time stats on the players. The app is available both in the stadium and at home. “You can go back and look at replays, and you’re in control instead of waiting for the jumbotron,” Mecum said.

Suns’ players and coaches are also able to get real-time feedback that lets them make live adjustments. The speeds needed to interpret this data captured during the Suns’ practice is only available over 5G, the coaching staff says. Neither Wi-Fi nor 4G can produce the results as quickly.

For now, the Suns are only using real-time analysis over 5G in the team’s practice facility. The NBA has strict guidelines surrounding what data collection is available in-game and doesn’t allow the kind of analysis the Suns perform in the practice facility.

The Suns aren’t the only ones interested in the numbers. Sports analytics bridges the gap between team stats and interpretation. When teams crunch data, the goal is almost always to figure out where performance fell short. After establishing areas in need of improvement, teams can optimize practice time using the data found from analytics. It’s a big business — the global sports analytics market size is expected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $5.2 billion by 2024, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets.

“When you are a professional athlete, standing on your feet just moving around a basketball court is actually considered work,” Resh said. “When you don’t have a ton of time to practice, you have to make your practices as efficient as possible.”

As the intersection between sports and analytics continues to grow, there is a need for 5G and real-time data, said Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin. Many sporting venues are incorporating 5G and mmWave to receive feedback as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the best-known example of sports analytics was captured in the 2011 film Moneyball. The movie, based on the Oakland Athletics baseball team, explained how analysis and statistics alone could lead to victories.

Brad Pitt played then-A’s general manager Billy Beane, who put together a winning team utilizing analytics and minimal funding. He studied sabermetrics, “the objective knowledge about baseball,” to rebuild the team on a low budget. Through studying these analytics, he led his team to a 20-game winning streak, the longest one in franchise history.

While the Suns can use 5G to track performance in the practice arena, the coaches aren’t able to do such analysis in the arena. Instead, Second Spectrum exclusively partners with the NBA, as well as soccer’s Premier League and Major League Soccer, to provide in-game player tracking.

After an initial response, Second Spectrum didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Players, coaches and fans can use Second Spectrum to access years of game history and find game playbacks within seconds. The company uses machine learning and computer vision to form a tracking system. It’s able to collect 3D data live from cameras within the arenas and then generate reports showing player location, player stats and the type of play in progress.

Even though the Suns didn’t come out on top this season, the conversation around what 5G has provided is just beginning.

“That real-time feedback is what we found to be the best method of teaching and learning for our players and for our coaches,” Resh said.

CNET’s Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

Correction, 11:19 a.m. PT: This story initially misstated the Phoenix Suns’ history with the NBA Finals. The team has made it three times, in 1976, 1993 and 2021, losing each time four games to two.