Michael Clarke Duncan Was Huge White Sox Fan

Michael Clarke Duncan, the larger-than-life actor who died Monday at 54, was an avid Chicago White Sox fan who was so into his team that he forged a close relationship with team general manager Kenny Williams.Duncan, who reached fame and success late in life with a role in the Tom Hanks movie, “The Green Mile,” was such a fan that he would even call Williams to give him advice on player personnel decisions, Williams said.“Michael was a close friend. He was the nicest, kindest guy anyone could ever know. He was a great fan of the Chicago White Sox and often called me to offer advice. His friendship will be missed.”Duncan was a huge sports fan, as his appearance as a fixture at Los Angeles Lakers games attests.The South Side Chicago native, according to Yahoo! Sports, holds the distinction of being the only Chicagoan to ever narrate a World Series film for a Windy City champion. His baritone laid the soundtrack for the White Sox’s 2005 highlight reel.He also served as the narrator for 2010’s “The Club,” MLB Network’s forerunner to “The Franchise” series.Duncan was also said to be one among the thousands that rushed Comiskey Park’s field during Disco Demolition Night in 1979. He even told Chicago reporter Sarah Spain a few years ago that he had made away with Bill Melton’s bat during the commotion, though the slugger had been retired for two years at that point and hadn’t played for the Sox since 1975.When he became a public figure, Duncan used his fame – after years of holding regular jobs – to meet and greet with many in the sports world and athletes and teams he admired from afar before he earned a level of fame.Duncan suffered a stroke several weeks ago and passed away Monday night. read more

New Zealand The Little Nation That Could Win Two World Cups

1979CricketWest Indies4.8England46.7 YEARSPORTWINNERPOP.RUNNER-UPPOP. 2011CricketIndia1,210.2Sri Lanka20.9 2011RugbyNew Zealand4.4France63.1 1983CricketIndia748.0West Indies5.0 2007RugbySouth Africa49.6England51.4 1991RugbyAustralia17.3England47.3 1987RugbyNew Zealand3.3France56.0 1987CricketAustralia16.3England47.3 1995RugbySouth Africa41.4New Zealand3.7 1996CricketSri Lanka18.4Australia18.3 1999RugbyAustralia19.0France58.9 1992CricketPakistan117.3England48.0 1975CricketWest Indies4.6mAustralia13.9m Usually the countries that dominate international sports competitions are the ones more populated than New Zealand, which has just 4.6 million people. Yet the island nation is competing, and winning, in a whole range of sports. Its next task: winning the Cricket World Cup.On Tuesday, New Zealand’s men’s cricket team beat its counterpart from South Africa, a nation of more than 54 million, to advance to its first cricket World Cup final. (And they did it in a thrilling match.) New Zealand has won all eight of its games in this year’s competition, and is the country with the smallest population to ever reach the title match in the competition’s four-decade history. The last World Cup champion, India, had just a slightly larger population: 1.28 billion.Winning any World Cup is a big deal for such a small country. After all, my friend Stephen Wells, a London-based photographer, told me, “Any international/global achievement no matter how trivial is a big deal in NZ.” He added, “Some of us have an inferiority complex that we’re an afterthought of a country, because sometimes we really are an afterthought of a country. But not now.”If the Kiwis beat their neighbors, Australia, on Sunday in Melbourne, New Zealand will become only the second country ever to hold the World Cup titles for both men’s rugby and men’s cricket at the same time.1Australia won the 1987 cricket World Cup and still held that title four years later, when it won the rugby World Cup. Australia also won both World Cups in 1999 and repeated as cricket champs in 2003.As good as New Zealand is in cricket, it’s better in rugby. The men’s team won the last World Cup, in 2011, its second. It has a winning record against every team it has ever played, has been ranked No. 1 for longer than all other teams combined and is the betting favorite to defend its title at this fall’s World Cup. New Zealand’s two rugby World Cup triumphs are the only wins in either World Cup in the last 35 years by a nation with fewer than 5 million people.2West Indies, a cricket conglomerate of 15 small nations and territories, won the first two cricket World Cups in 1975 and 1979, each time representing places with a combined population slightly bigger than New Zealand’s this year. 2007CricketAustralia21.2Sri Lanka20.3 2003CricketAustralia20.0India1,093.8 1999CricketAustralia19.0Pakistan140.6 2003RugbyEngland49.9Australia20.0 New Zealand also has won one World Cup in women’s cricket and finished second at another. And it won four of seven World Cups that have been held in women’s rugby.Again, all that with fewer than 5 million inhabitants.These achievements might be easy to dismiss if you’re not into cricket or rugby. The sports have widespread but not worldwide appeal. Mostly they’re limited to former British territories and Commonwealth countries, and neither is yet an Olympic sport.3Rugby sevens, a faster form of the game played at the World Cup, will debut at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next summer. But New Zealand has done well in the men’s soccer World Cup lately, too. It qualified in 2010 — as the third least populous country, bigger only than Slovenia and Uruguay — and was the only team not to lose a match. (It drew all three of its group-stage matches and was eliminated.) It fell one game short of qualifying for last summer’s World Cup. The women’s team qualified for the 2007 and 2011 women’s World Cups.In the Summer Olympics, New Zealand has been gaining on its more populous rivals. It won 13 medals in London in 2012, the fourth straight Summer Games in which New Zealand increased its medal total. It ranked seventh in per-capita medals in 2008, and fourth in 2012, behind only nations that won all their medals in athletics. New Zealand athletes medaled in six different disciplines in London.“That shows there’s a system in place, not just chance or concentration on one sport,” said Alex Baumann, chief executive of High Performance Sport New Zealand, the government body that sponsors recreation in the country, in a telephone interview earlier this month.Baumann attributed the country’s sporting success to a number of factors. As with many things, it starts with money. Over the last five years, the government has increased its investment in his department by nearly 50 percent.4New Zealand’s per capita GDP is higher than India’s and some other cricket rivals but below that of Australia and the U.K., two of its rivals in both cricket and rugby.“In the end, we don’t have all the resources like other countries do, like the U.K. or Australia or even Canada,” Baumann said. “You can’t spend the resources so thinly that you don’t make the difference.”Prioritizing funding has spurred individual sports federations to excel, not just for glory but to keep getting money from the government. “There’s that kind of tension between sports to do well,” Baumann said.That philosophy, and a deep emphasis on sports, is shared by Australia, New Zealand’s close neighbor and ally and sporting rival. While New Zealand lately has topped the standings for sporting performance by countries with fewer than 5 million people, Australia has been the dominant global sports force for countries with fewer than 20 million people. Baumann pointed out that each country’s prime minister attended the cricket teams’ World Cup match last month in Auckland, even though it was in the group stage and unlikely to eliminate either team. “It highlights the importance of sport,” Baumann said.CORRECTION (March 27, 3:03 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said India won the cricket World Cup last year. It won the last cricket World Cup, in 2011.CLARIFICATION (March 27, 3:32 p.m.): A previous version of this article said the cricket World Cup final will be played on Saturday. Its scheduled starting time is 2:30 p.m. on Sunday in Melbourne, which is 11:30 p.m. EDT Saturday. read more

201516 NBA Preview This Could Be The Rockets Year

Here’s a case where I disagree with CARMELO, which projects Ty Lawson to produce about the same WAR as he did last season. The Rockets love what Lawson brings to their backcourt in terms of pushing the pace and creating for others. Expect his WAR to improve. And here’s how CARMELO sees the Rockets’ key players: Is this the beginning of the end for Dwight Howard? In 2013, he produced 8.1 wins above replacement, and his WAR has declined each year since. However, last season’s 1.6 WAR was a result of his playing in just 41 games because of injuries. Howard’s WAR should increase this season; it’s projected to be 3.3. But CARMELO has Howard on the downslope of his career: He turns 30 in December and has a history of injuries. Howard’s poor foul shooting doesn’t help his cause, making him a liability on the floor late in games. When healthy and on top of his game, he’s a dominant center, but CARMELO is skeptical, putting Howard in the “key role player” category. Before every game, Trevor Ariza (the Rockets’ third offensive option) plays EA Sports FIFA 16 on PlayStation. It relaxes him. He’ll lose some minutes to Lawson, but Patrick Beverley’s value to the Rockets has never been higher; he’s a defensive point guard who’s expected to create havoc this season. The Houston Rockets lost 180 man-games to injuries last season; only two teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, had more players receive DNPs. And the Rockets still won 56 games — mostly because of shooting guard James Harden, who led the team in scoring 60 times while playing in 81 games. A healthy Rockets team should compete for a title, and while keeping the core group together was important, the trade for point guard Ty Lawson brings an added dimension to the offense. FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projects the Rockets to go 52-30. We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here. James Harden is one of the best players in the NBA — just check out his top five comparables. But the Rockets expect Harden to do less ball handling thanks to the addition of Lawson, and the team is trying to speed up the pace this season. Both those things may help Harden cut down on his turnovers. Lawson becomes the main ball handler, thus pushing Harden into more of a traditional two-guard role where the Rockets want him to catch and shoot, and play off the ball. Injuries slowed Terrence Jones’s game down, but in training camp Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he’s making quicker and smarter decisions, which is a positive step. Jones is expected to start at power forward this year.Read more: 2015-16 NBA Previews read more

Ohio State Penn State mens hockey split offensively charged series

OSU junior forward David Gust attempts a shot during a shootout in a game against Michigan on Jan. 15 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won in the shootout. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Asst. Sports EditorThe Ohio State men’s ice hockey team went to Happy Valley this weekend for a two-game series, but it is heading home feeling nothing more than content after an up-and-down weekend.The Buckeyes were thoroughly defeated on Friday, losing 6-1, but they were able to recover the following day, taking care of the Nittany Lions 7-4.In Game 1, the Nittany Lions struck first after junior forward David Goodwin dispossessed the Buckeye defense behind the goal and laid off the puck for senior forward David Glenn, who fired it behind junior netminder Christian Frey.The first period was quite physical, as both teams were handed penalties. At two points, the teams played four-on-four hockey. Penn State junior goaltender Eamon McAdam demonstrated why he leads the Big Ten in save percentage, stopping a flurry of shots from sophomore forward Luke Stork and senior forward Anthony Greco. The Buckeyes appeared to be knocking on the door after a strong finish to the first period. That, however, would not be the case, as Penn State illustrated why it has the nation’s fifth-ranked offense.Penn State would double its lead with a long shot from freshman defenseman Vince Pedrie. Redshirt senior forward Eric Scheid brought the puck up the right side of the rink and completed a cross-ice pass, which Pedrie collected and converted. Goodwin made it 3-0 with just over six and a half minutes left in the period after some nifty build-up play with freshman forward Andrew Sturtz. This forced OSU coach Steve Rohlik to make a switch inside the pipes. He replaced Frey with junior goalie Matt Tomkins, marking Tomkins’ first appearance in seven games. The substitution would not make any difference.Just three minutes later, Penn State senior defenseman Luke Juha made it 4-0. The nightmare continued for the Buckeyes just over a minute later when freshman forward Alec Marsh pushed the puck under Tomkins’ right skate, making it 5-0. Junior forward and co-captain Nick Schilkey broke McAdam’s shutout with a power-play goal just over two minutes into the third period. The goal, however, did little to turn the tide, as Penn State coasted to the victory. Junior forward Zach Saar took advantage of an empty net with less than 30 seconds remaining, ending the match 6-1. Tomkins would remain in goal for the Scarlet and Gray for Game 2 on Saturday. Senior goaltender Matthew Skoff took over for McAdam in the Nittany Lions’ goal. It became quite clear early on that the Buckeyes were not going to allow a repeat of the previous night’s performance.Just a minute and a half into the first period, Schilkey laid the puck off to junior forward David Gust, who converted for the power-play score. It was Gust’s 17th point in 17 games, although his 15-game point streak ended the night before.The Buckeyes doubled their lead just six minutes later after freshman defenseman Tommy Parran netted his first career goal for the Buckeyes. Another freshman, forward Freddy Gerard, made it 3-0 for the Buckeyes less than halfway through the period. With just over two minutes remaining in the period, Penn State got on the board. Scheid centered a pass for freshman forward Chase Berger, whose shot was deflected in by Tomkins. Sturtz cut the lead to one goal just past the halfway point in the second period after a great solo effort from the Penn State defensive zone. Emotions began to run high after a few altercations between the two sides. One conflict behind the Buckeyes’ net resulted in junior defenseman Drew Brevig and junior forward Ricky DeRosa being sent to the box, resulting in some four-on-four hockey similar to the night before. An interference call on Parran resulted in a four-on-three advantage for the Nittany Lions, and they would swiftly take advantage with an equalizing goal from Goodwin. Penn State would then grab its first lead of the afternoon when Kevin Kerr fired a shot from long range above Tomkins’ glove just under three minutes into the third period. The Buckeyes finally responded after Penn State’s four straight goals, courtesy of sophomore forward Matthew Weis’ eighth goal of the season. Then, just 42 seconds later, a shot from senior defenseman and co-captain Craig Dalrymple trickled underneath Skoff, which left freshman forward John Wiitala with an easy empty-net goal to put the Buckeyes back in front 5-4. Weis would grab his second goal of the game after a two-on-one breakaway and doubled the Buckeyes’ lead with just over five minutes remaining in the encounter. Senior forward and Co-captain Anthony Greco put the game to rest with just under 30 seconds left with an empty-net score, ending the match at 7-4. OSU is set to get back in action on Friday against Wisconsin at the Schottenstein Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. read more