Lightsaber Dueling Is Now Recognized As a Competitive Sport in France. No, Really

(BEAUMONT-SUR-OISE, France) — Master Yoda, dust off his French, he must.

It’s now easier than ever in France to act out “Star Wars” fantasies, because its fencing federation has borrowed from a galaxy far, far away and officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport, granting the iconic weapon from George Lucas’ saga the same status as the foil, epee and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.

Of course, the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can’t slice a Sith lord in half. But they look and, with the more expensive sabers equipped with a chip in their hilt that emits a throaty electric rumble, even sound remarkably like the silver screen blades that Yoda and other characters wield in the blockbuster movies .

Plenty realistic, at least, for duelists to work up an impressive sweat slashing, feinting and stabbing in organized, 3-minute bouts. The physicality of lightsaber combat is part of why the French Fencing Federation threw its support behind the sport and is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be lightsaber instructors. Like virtuous Jedi knights, the French federation sees itself as combatting a Dark Side: The sedentary habits of 21st-century life that are sickening ever-growing numbers of adults and kids .

“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue. They don’t do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs,” says Serge Aubailly, the federation secretary general. “It’s becoming difficult to (persuade them to) do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one’s thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural.”

In the past, the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers helped lure new practitioners to fencing. Now, joining and even supplanting them are Luke Skywalker , Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.

France Learning Lightsaber
Christophe Ena—APIn this Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, photo, men dressed up as Stormtroopers joke as they approach a vehicle during a national lightsaber tournament in Beaumont-sur-Oise, north of Paris.

“Cape and sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth,” Aubailly says. “Lightsaber films have the same impact . Young people want to give it a try.”

And the young at heart.

Police officer Philippe Bondi, 49, practiced fencing for 20 years before switching to lightsaber. When a club started offering classes in Metz, the town in eastern France where he is stationed for the gendarmerie, Bondi says he was immediately drawn by the prospect of living out the love he’s had for the Star Wars universe since he saw the first film at age 7, on its release in 1977 .

He fights in the same wire-mesh face mask he used for fencing. He spent about 350 euros ($ 400) on his protective body armor (sturdy gloves, chest, shoulder and shin pads) and on his federation-approved lightsaber, opting for luminous green “because it’s the Jedi colors, and Yoda is my master.”

“I had to be on the good side, given that my job is upholding the law,” he said.

Bondi awoke well before dawn to make the four-hour drive from Metz to a national lightsaber tournament outside Paris this month that drew 34 competitors. It showcased how far the sport has come in a couple of years but also that it’s still light years from becoming mainstream.

The crowd was small and a technical glitch prevented the duelers’ photos, combat names and scores from being displayed on a big screen, making bouts tough to follow. But the illuminated swooshes of colored blades looked spectacular in the darkened hall. Fan cosplay as Star Wars characters added levity, authenticity and a tickle of bizarre to the proceedings, especially the incongruous sight of Darth Vader buying a ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips at the cafeteria during a break.

In building their sport from the ground up, French organizers produced competition rules intended to make lightsaber dueling both competitive and easy on the eyes.

“We wanted it to be safe, we wanted it to be umpired and, most of all, we wanted it to produce something visual that looks like the movies, because that is what people expect,” said Michel Ortiz, the tournament organizer.

Combatants fight inside a circle marked in tape on the floor. Strikes to the head or body are worth 5 points; to the arms or legs, 3 points; on hands, 1 point. The first to 15 points wins or, if they don’t get there quickly, the high scorer after 3 minutes. If both fighters reach 10 points, the bout enters “sudden death,” where the first to land a head- or body-blow wins, a rule to encourage enterprising fighters.

Blows only count if the fighters first point the tip of their saber behind them. That rule prevents the viper-like, tip-first quick forward strikes seen in fencing. Instead, the rule encourages swishier blows that are easier for audiences to see and enjoy, and which are more evocative of the duels in Star Wars. Of those, the battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace” that ends badly for the Sith despite his double-bladed lightsaber is particularly appreciated by aficionados for its swordplay.

Still nascent, counting its paid-up practitioners in France in the hundreds, not thousands, lightsaber dueling has no hope of a place in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

But to hear the thwack of blades and see them cut shapes through the air is to want to give the sport a try.

Or, as Yoda would say: “Try not. Do! Or do not. There is no try.”

Sports – TIME

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(NEW YORK) — Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have settled collusion lawsuits against the NFL.

In a three-sentence statement released Friday, the NFL said:

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”

Kaepernick’s lawyer tweeted an identical statement.

Kaepernick and Reid filed collusion grievances against the league, saying they were blacklisted because of protests during the national anthem at games. Kaepernick has not played in the league since 2016, while Reid missed three games last season before signing with Carolina.

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President Trump has installed a room-sized golfing simulator inside his personal quarters at the White House, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The device, which reportedly cost $ 50,000, will enable the President to simulate playing on some of the world’s most famous golf courses. Trump paid for the simulator and its installation himself, according to the report.

The system replaced a less-sophisticated simulator that had been installed by President Barack Obama.

Before he became President himself, Trump frequently complained that Obama golfed too much during his term. He tweeted about Obama’s golf hobby 27 times from 2012 to 2016, according to SB Nation.

However, Trump has spent significantly more of his time as President golfing than Obama. The Washington Post reports that Trump plays about 70 rounds of golf a year, while Obama played, on average, 38 rounds.

Golf courses have also been a signature part of Trump’s career as an hotelier. The Trump Organization operates 17 golf courses, according to the company’s website.

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Trump hasn’t used the simulator yet, the Post reports.

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Meet Trump, the Australian Shepherd Who Just Won Big at the Westminster Dog Show

The President of the United States was in Texas on Tuesday, but someone else named Trump made waves in New York.

At the 2019 Westminster Dog Show, one Australian Shepherd named Trump won best of his breed, leaving some fans of the Westminster Kennel Club’s program to interpret the name as a political message of some kind. But Trump’s co-owner and co-breeder, Pat Zapf, tells TIME that the show dog’s name has absolutely nothing to do with the President of the United States. Actually, it has everything to do with a card game.

When the dog was born in 2012, naming him after the ‘trump card’ in bridge — a wild card which changes from hand to hand — seemed innocuous to Zapf, whose grandparents always played the game throughout her childhood. “But at the time, I obviously didn’t know where our political standings would go,” she says.

Upon learning his name, when people react both positively and negatively, Zapf isn’t bothered. “The dog doesn’t know that his name is a controversial topic,” she says over the phone, driving home through the snow to Pennsylvania after Trump’s successes in New York. “He doesn’t care at all. He wants his pets and cookies.” But sometimes, he’ll even have his absolute favorite treat, marshmallows—Trump “has a sweet tooth,” she explains.

The 6-year-old Trump is a star at more than just snacking, though. He won awards of merit in the 2016 and 2018 Westminster competitions and was the No. 1 male Australian Shepherd in 2015. “He’s an old hat at showing,” Zapf says. “He certainly knows what he’s doing out there and he loves his job.”

This will be Trump’s last year competing in shows, but that’s okay—Zapf says the dog will be just as happy laying on the couch and eating potato chips. “He’s had a pretty illustrious career as an Australian Shepherd show dog,” she says, “but more than anything, he’s our pet.”

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This Baseball Team Wants to Rewrite ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ After Going Peanut-Free

A Connecticut minor league baseball team is banning peanuts and Cracker Jack from its stadium to protect fans with food allergies — and it’s even rewriting a classic ballpark song because of it.

As of the 2019 season, the Hartford Yard Goats will no longer sell peanut products at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, according to a team announcement. While other teams have hosted peanut-free nights or maintained peanut-free sections, team officials said they believe they are the first to implement a full ban.

The decision came after Kerry Adamowicz and other local parents approached team officials about their children’s food allergies. Adamowicz’ two-year-old son, Sam, has a life-threatening peanut allergy, and the new policy means he can grow up a baseball fan, she told NBC Connecticut.

“It’s a huge relief,” Adamowicz said. “It’s a really good feeling to come to the park and know that’s one stress that is taken away and we can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy baseball.”

As many as 2.5% of U.S. children are allergic to peanuts, an increase of 21% since 2010, according to a recent estimate from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. A recent study also estimated that about 4.5 million adults are allergic to peanuts, and 3 million are allergic to tree nuts.

Yard Goats President Tim Restall told the Hartford Courant that helping kids and adults with peanut allergies to enjoy the game is more important than selling peanut products.

“The way we look at it, if we eliminate this one item to allow kids to enjoy a baseball game, that’s what it all comes down to,” Restall said. “Why prevent someone from catching a foul ball or getting a picture with [mascots] Chompers and Chew Chew because of a food item?”

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Five Days After a Crash, Lindsey Vonn Wins Bronze Medal in Final Race of Her Career

(ARE, Sweden) — Lindsey Vonn walked off with her career haul of medals in her right hand, the gold, silver and bronze clinking together almost weighing her down.

Or was it the bulging knee braces and metal support rods inside her vast array of broken bones?

Whatever it was, the sound was a reminder of what Vonn has come to symbolize — an athlete who battled back from one major injury after another throughout her career to win more ski races than any other woman.

Add one more — final — comeback to the list.

Five days after crashing in super-G — a fall that knocked the wind out of her and left her with a black eye and a bruised rib — and three months after tearing a ligament in her left knee, Vonn won the bronze medal in the world championship downhill Sunday in the final race of her career.

She’s shed so many tears that there are none left — just like she no longer has any cartilage in her knees.

“I’m literally tapped out, I can’t cry anymore,” Vonn said. “I want to cry but it’s dry. … It’s not an easy thing to feel your bones hitting together and continue to push through it.

“Of course I’m sore. Even before the crash I was sore. So I’m just sore on top of sore. My neck is killing me,” Vonn said. “But at the end of the day no one cares if my neck hurts; they only care if I win. … I knew that I was capable of pushing through the pain one last time and I did that. … Every athlete has their own obstacles and I faced mine head on today and I conquered them.”

Vonn had been planning on retiring in December but she recently moved up her plans due to persistent pain in both of her surgically repaired knees. Then came the super-G crash, when she straddled a gate in midair, flew face first down the mountain and slammed into the safety nets.

“She has been business as usual this whole week, saying I’m racing to win,” said Karin Kildow, Vonn’s sister. “I was like, ‘Just maybe make it down and maybe stand up.’ But she was like, ‘No, I’m going full out’. She was definitely in the mindset to push it and she really did.”

It’s a medal that brings Vonn full circle: the American’s two silvers at the 2007 worlds on the same course in Are were the first two major championship medals of her career.

“I was weighing in my mind the risk of putting it all out there, crashing and getting injured again, as opposed to finishing where I wanted to,” Vonn said. “It was an internal battle.”

As soon as she exited the finish area, Vonn embraced Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, the only skier to win more World Cup races than she did — 86 to 82.

“I basically begged him to come here via text, in all caps, many exclamation points,” Vonn said. “He’s an icon and a legend in our sport and he doesn’t really like the spotlight but he deserves to have it. I was just so grateful that he was there. Honestly, it’s a perfect ending to my career.”

The third skier on the course, Vonn had a big smile on her face when she came down with the fastest run to that point. She waved and bowed to the crowd.

Eventually, Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia beat Vonn and took gold, defending her title from the 2017 worlds. Stuhec finished 0.23 seconds ahead of silver medalist Corinne Suter of Switzerland and 0.49 ahead of Vonn.

“Not many were counting on (Vonn) to get the medal in her last race, which makes it even more special,” Stuhec said. “She has won everything.”

Vonn became the first female skier to win medals at six different world championships. It’s also her fifth downhill medal at a worlds, matching the record established by Annemarie Moser-Proell and Christel Cranz.

“Thank You Lindsey: Forever A Star,” read one sign positioned by the side of the course.

Four U.S. flags were in the grandstand when Vonn came down and there were quite a few cheers when she started her run wearing a suit with blue-and-yellow trim — Sweden’s colors — to honor Stenmark.

“She really deserves this sendoff from her great career,” said Eleanor Bodin, a 21-year-old fan from Sweden who was holding up a sign saying “Thank You Lindsey.”

“She has been my favorite skier since 2008 when I saw her winning on television,” Bodin said. “I was a little girl sitting on the sofa. I just thought what a great skier and inspiration.”

At 34, Vonn eclipsed her own record from two years ago for oldest woman to win a medal at a worlds.

Fog and wind forced organizers to shorten the course to the second reserve start, which favored Vonn because it reduced the strain on her knees.

Now she can finally let her body heel and move onto the next phase of her life — possibly acting, having children, starting a business .

“I’m looking forward to just chilling out a bit and recovering everything, including my mind,” Vonn said. “It’s been a lot to process.

“The nice thing is that, in the real world I’m actually pretty young. I have felt really old for a long time, because I’m racing with girls that are like 15 years younger than me. So now, in the real world, I’m normal. Thirty is the new 20 so I’m super young. I’ve got a lot to look forward to.”

Sports – TIME

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Duke University Investigating Assault Claim Against Former Basketball Player Made by Fairfax Accuser

Duke University is investigating a sexual assault allegation made Friday against a former men’s basketball player.

The claims were made in a statement by the attorneys of Meredith Watson, who has also said Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her on the university’s Durham, North Carolina, campus when they were both students there in 2000. Fairfax has refused to resign as he faces two allegations of assault.

“Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke,” the statement said. “She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN both he and the university understand the severity of the matter.

“I think there was an allegation made, right?” the coach told the network after Saturday night’s game against Virginia. “I’m not sure that’s true or not, but there’s an allegation. I didn’t find out about it until late last night, and I have no knowledge about it.”

The school released a statement on Saturday night.

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Trailblazing Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson Dies at 83

Crowding the plate, fearsome and fearless, Frank Robinson hammered his way into the Hall of Fame.

His legacy, however, was cemented that day in 1975 when he simply stood in the dugout at old Cleveland Stadium — the first black manager in Major League Baseball.

Robinson, the only player to earn the MVP award in both leagues and a Triple Crown winner, died Thursday at 83. He had been in failing health and in hospice care at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. MLB said he was with family and friends at the time.

“Frank Robinson’s resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

Robinson hit 586 home runs — he was fourth on the career list behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays when he retired and now ranks 10th. An MVP with Cincinnati and Baltimore, he led the Orioles to their first World Series championship in 1966.

“Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies. We were friends. Frank was a hard-nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done,” Aaron posted on Twitter.

“Baseball will miss a tremendous human being,” he said.

An All-Star outfielder in 12 seasons and a first-ballot selection to Cooperstown, Robinson also was a Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove outfielder and a bruising runner.

But his place in the sport’s history extended far beyond the batter’s box and basepaths.

Robinson fulfilled his quest to become the first African-American manager in the big leagues when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians. His impact was immediate and memorable.

The Indians opened at home that year and Robinson, still active, batted himself second as the designated hitter. In the first inning, he homered off Doc Medich and the crowd went crazy, cheering the whole April afternoon as Cleveland beat the Yankees.

The Reds, Orioles and Indians have retired his No. 20 and honored him with statues at their stadiums.

Robinson later managed San Francisco, Baltimore and Montreal. He became the first manager of the Washington Nationals after the franchise moved from Montreal for the 2005 season — the Nationals put him in their Ring of Honor.

More than half the major league teams have had black managers since his debut with Cleveland.

Robinson later spent several years working as an executive for MLB and for a time oversaw the annual Civil Rights Game. He advocated for more minorities throughout baseball and worked with former Commissioner Bud Selig to develop the Selig Rule, directing teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a new manager.

For all he did on and off the field, Robinson was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005.

Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre played against and worked with Robinson for years.

“He was a tough nut,” Torre recalled at the owners’ meetings in Orlando, Florida. “He never lost that feistiness, which puts a smile on your face … He was always that guy that commanded a lot of respect and he had a presence about him.”

Born Aug. 21, 1935, in Beaumont, Texas, Robinson attended McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, and was a basketball teammate of future NBA great Bill Russell. But it was on the diamond, rather than court, where fame awaited Robinson.

Former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who also gained first-ballot entry into the Hall, once called Robinson, “the best player I ever saw.”

Starting out in an era when Mays, Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams were the big hitters, Robinson more than held his own over 21 seasons — if anything, many who watched Robinson felt he never got his full due as an all-time great. He finished with 1,812 RBIs and hit .294 — he played in the World Series five times, and homered in each of them.

Robinson was the only player to hit a ball completely out of old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and once connected for grand slams in consecutive innings of a game. But he didn’t just slug away, as evidenced by a .389 on-base average boosted by 1,420 walks against 1,532 strikeouts. Extremely alert on the bases, he had 204 steals.

Robinson played the game with grace, yet was known as fierce competitor who combined hard work with natural talent. He planted himself near the plate, yielding to no pitcher, and didn’t seem to care about being brushed back or getting hit by a pitch 198 times.

“Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down,” Robinson said. “It made me more determined. I wouldn’t let that pitcher get me out.”

And opposing pitchers noticed.

“Frank Robinson might have been the best I ever saw at turning his anger into runs. He challenged you physically as soon as he stepped into the batter’s box, with half his body hanging over the plate,” Hall ace Bob Gibson once wrote.

“As a rule, I’m reluctant to express admiration for hitters, but I make an exception for Frank Robinson,” Gibson wrote.

Robinson carried a similar philosophy as a baserunner, unapologetically sliding spikes high whenever necessary.

“The baselines belong to the runner, and whenever I was running the bases, I always slid hard,” Robinson declared.

Robinson broke in with a bang as a 20-year-old big leaguer. He tied the first-year record with 38 home runs for Cincinnati in 1956, scored a league-high 122 times and was voted NL Rookie of the Year.

Robinson was the 1961 NL MVP after batting .323 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs for the pennant-winning Reds, and reached career highs in runs (134) and RBIs (136) in 1962.

All-time hits leader Pete Rose joined the Reds the next year.

“He had a huge influence on me when I first came up in ’63,” Rose told The Associated Press by phone. “Frank was a really aggressive, hard-nosed player, and it rubbed off on everybody. Frank was the one who took me under his wings, so to speak. … Frank consistently talked to me about playing the game the right way,” he said.

Robinson was an All-Star, too, in 1965, but Reds owner Bill DeWitt decided Robinson was an old-ish 30 and time to make a move.

That December, Robinson was the centerpiece in what would ultimately be one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, going to Baltimore for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson.

Robinson became an instant hit with the Orioles in 1966 as the unanimous AL MVP and a Triple Crown winner.

On May 8, he became the only player ever to hit a home run completely out of Baltimore’s home park, Memorial Stadium. The drive came against Cleveland ace Luis Tiant and the spot where the ball sailed over the left-field wall was marked by a flag that read “HERE” that remained in place until the Orioles left for Camden Yards in 1991.

Robinson batted .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs during his first season in Birdland. He then homered in the first inning of the 1966 World Series opener at Dodger Stadium and capped off the four-game sweep of Los Angeles with another homer off Don Drysdale in a 1-0 win in Game 4.

Robinson hit two home runs against Rose and the Reds in teaming with future Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson to win another crown for the Orioles in 1970.

All told, Robinson was an All-Star in five of his six seasons with Baltimore, reaching the World Series four times and batting .300 with 179 home runs. The cap on his Cooperstown plaque carries on O’s logo.

Pappas went 30-29 over two-plus seasons with the Reds, Baldschun won one game in 51 appearances over two years with Cincinnati and Simpson hit five home runs as a part-time outfielder for the Reds during two mediocre seasons.

Robinson was traded to the Dodgers before the 1972 season. He played for the California Angels in 1973 and was dealt to Cleveland late in the 1974 season.

His managerial debut came 28 years after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier as a player.

“Every time I put on this uniform, I think of Jackie Robinson,” Frank Robinson said as he began his new role.

Robinson had coached for the Orioles and worked in their front office when he became their manager in 1988 after the team opened at 0-6. Things didn’t get much better right away as Baltimore went on to lose its first 21 games and finished 54-107. The next season, the O’s went 87-75 and Robinson was voted AL Manager of the Year.

Tough and demanding, he went 1,065-1,176 overall as a big league manager.

A no-nonsense guy, Robinson also had a sharp wit. That served him well in Baltimore where, in addition to being a star right fielder, he was the judge for the team’s Kangaroo Court, assessing playful fines for missing signs, uniform mishaps and other things he deemed as infractions.

At the time, the Orioles had a batboy named Jay Mazzone, whose hands were amputated when he was 2 after a burning accident. Mazzone capably did his job for years with metal hooks and became good friends with Robinson.

Some players, though, initially weren’t sure how to treat the teen.

“Frank Robinson broke the ice,” Mazzone said. “He was running his Kangaroo Court and calling a vote among the players, whether to fine somebody or not.”

“It was either thumbs up or thumbs down,” he recalled. “After the vote, he said, ‘Jay, you’re fined for not voting.’ Everybody laughed. After that, I was treated just like everybody else.”

Survivors include his wife, Barbara, and daughter Nichelle.

There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.

___

AP Sports Writer Joe Kay and AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

Sports – TIME

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Six strings and no five hole: How music helps Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby

“It takes your mind off things,” Holtby said. “That’s kind of why I feel it helps me on game days. To play a little bit, you kind of forget about all that. Whether you’re in a good or bad mood, it doesn’t matter; you kind of come back to square one.”
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10 Dead in Fire at Brazilian Soccer Club

(RIO DE JANEIRO) — A fire tore through the sleeping quarters of a development league for one of Brazil’s most popular professional soccer clubs on Friday, killing 10 people who were most likely players and injuring three others, authorities said.

Firefighters were called in just after 5 a.m. local time to battle a blaze at the sprawling Ninho de Urubu training ground of the Flamengo soccer club in Rio de Janeiro’s western region, a fire official told The Associated Press.

Beatriz Busch, the public health secretary for the state of Rio de Janeiro, said two of the injured were in stable condition and one was in critical condition.

“Those who died were athletes,” she said, adding that their identities had not been released and the cause of the fire was unknown.

“Flamengo is in mourning” the team posted on its Twitter account.

Messages to Flamengo officials were not immediately answered.

The three injured were 14, 15 and 16 years old, said the fire official, who asked his name not be used due to his agency’s rules.

Overhead images captured by an AP drone showed a charred area with smoke emerging.

Outside the complex, an AP reporter saw two ambulances and a fire truck enter. The facility was closed, and no officials had come out to address media.

Family members, friends and neighbors were gathering outside in hopes of getting information. Several gathered in a circle to pray.

Jefferson Rodrigues, who runs a small inn near the club, said he had reached a 15-year-old player he had befriended.

“I am very happy. I just spoke to Caix Suarez and he is alive,” said Rodrigues, adding that the youth told him he ran when he saw the flames in the morning. “He lost his phone, and all of his things, but the important thing is he is alive.”

Joao Pedro da Cruz, a 16-year-old player in the Flamengo youth league, told G1 news portal that he decided not to stay the night at the facility Thursday because the team wasn’t going to train on Friday. Instead, he went to a friend’s house.

“The majority of them (the team) stayed, my friends stayed (at the facility),” he said. “Today I woke up and heard this terrible news.”

Like many professional clubs in soccer-crazed Brazil, Flamengo has a youth development program for promising young players in their early teens. Many players, particularly those who live outside of Rio de Janeiro, stay at the facilities while training.

The dream of many youths in Latin America’s largest nation, winner of five World Cup titles, is to make it into the ranks of professional soccer. The development leagues identify promising players at a young age, working with them as they grow through their teenage years.

The best of those eventually play for Flamengo and several other teams across Brazil.

Flamengo is arguably Brazil’s most famous club, with an estimated 40 million fans nationwide. Supporters are so attached to their academy team that players have a motto for them: “Flamengo makes legends at home.”

Among the most famous to come through the club are Zico, a former No. 10 on Brazil’s national team; top goal-scorer Adriano, who rose to fame at Inter Milan; and current Real Madrid star Vinicius, Jr., who not long ago was living in the structure destroyed by the fire.

As news of the fire broke, several teams and players expressed their condolences on Twitter.

“We are extremely sad and shaken by the news of the fire,” tweeted Chapecoense, a team in southern Brazil that lost 22 players in a plane crash in 2016.

Sports – TIME

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How Netflix’s High Flying Bird Upends the Conventions of the Sports Movie

There’s no game-winning miracle dunk in High Flying Bird, a new basketball film from Steven Soderbergh that arrived on Netflix on Friday. There’s no training montage, rousing halftime speech or pint-sized surprise hero, either.

Instead, the film is driven by backroom machinations, Sorkin-esque walk-and-talks and tense face-offs over cups of tea.

But while the film mostly lacks basketball, it is more true to the state of modern professional basketball than most other films about the sport—and it strikingly captures the current power struggle of black athletes as they battle with owners for player autonomy, free speech and billions of dollars in revenue.

The film follows the fictional agent Ray Burke (André Holland) in the midst of the contentious 2011 NBA lockout. He works to outmaneuver a cutthroat team owner (Kyle MacLachlan) in lockout negotiations, expand the mindset of a downtrodden, debt-ridden rookie (Melvin Gregg) and team up with a steely player’s union executive (Sonja Sohn) to alter the economic structure of the league.

The stakes may initially appear lower than other Soderbergh films—like drug trade in Traffic or corporate corruption in Erin Brockovich. But the heart of the movie’s conflict lies in the control and commodification of black bodies. One character compares the NBA draft to a slave auction; another recounts the NBA’s white-only origins, describing the league’s integration in 1950 as a “game on top of a game”: a system used by wealthy white owners used to control players’ movements, image rights and earnings.

The fierce and dense screenplay was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Oscar in 2016 for co-writing Moonlight. Like that film, High Flying Bird champions characters who search for radical ways to survive and transcend unjust systems. McCraney explained a driving factor behind both films in an interview with GQ this month: “On one hand, the American dream is being carroted in front of us, but on the other, the stick of oppression is beating us.”

McCraney, Soderbergh and Holland (who co-produced the film) situate the film within a lineage of black protest. It takes its name from the Richie Havens version of a folk song that poignantly calls for freedom. And Ray treats the sociologist Harry Edwards’ 1969 book The Revolt of the Black Athlete as a sacred text. In that book, Edwards outlines the systematic discrimination faced by black athletes and recounts his efforts to create a black boycott of the 1968 Olympics, which led to a Black Power salute in Mexico City. “They tell the world that the Games are free of discrimination, a wonderful example of fair play to everyone,” he writes. “Meanwhile, neglect kills off your people faster than you can sprint.”

Edwards himself appears in High Flying Bird, forging a direct link between a time when black superstars like Bill Russell had to sleep in separate hotels and a new era of protest. Edwards now serves as Colin Kaepernick’s advisor and works with many sports teams; he remains vocal about what he terms the “social, physiological and cultural scaffolding that allows individual bias and prejudice to find affirmation in discriminatory actions.”

In the same way that Edwards worked to debunk the rosy vision of sports presented by the Olympics, McCraney and Soderbergh use High Flying Bird to rebel against the utopian construct of sports movies. Films like White Men Can’t Jump, Glory Road and The Blind Side propagate the idea that sports can drive equality; that class and race tensions vanish while on the hardwood or gridiron through a shared determination and perseverance.

High Flying Bird, in contrast, is far more cynical. “The league is a business,” Ray reprimands Erick. “Business. We are in business.” While Michael Jordan won his freedom through a buzzer beater in Space Jam, High Flying Bird quashes the notion that on-court victory even matters. The film’s NBA isn’t a conduit for greatness but rather a cold, unfeeling corporation in which MacLachlan’s snot-rocketing executive profits off of black men scraping against each other in a zero-sum game. High Flying Bird could be called an anti-Sports Movie: its goal is not to uplift, but rather to provoke, mobilize and envision a future in which the players themselves own the league. And in contrast to the sweeping cinematography of other sports films, High Flying Bird was shot on an iPhone.

In real life, the 2011 lockout ended in relative defeat for the players’ union, as NBA owners forced players to accept a reduction in their share of revenue. But since then, players have taken steps to increase both their income and agency, drastically changing the landscape of the league.

LeBron James, in particular, has been revolutionary in how he wields power over his own career. He has encouraged other players to follow his lead in claiming autonomy, and he condemned a double standard that shackles devoted superstars to teams while allowing owners to trade them when it suits their business strategy. (On Wednesday, he took to Instagram to criticize the way in which Harrison Barnes was unceremoniously shipped off for a trade during a game.) This season has seen several stars—including Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis—use their leverage to forge their own career paths rather than stay beholden to team owners.

These efforts have been aided by the rise of social media and other online outlets that allow players to control their own public image and speak out on political and social causes. James famously tangled with Donald Trump on Twitter, while Kevin Love opened a dialogue about mental health issues on The Players’ Tribune, a media platform founded by Derek Jeter.

Meanwhile, a massive $ 24-billion TV deal, combined with a favorable 2017 bargaining agreement negotiated by Michele Roberts, the leader of the N.B.A.’s players union, landed huge payday opportunities for young stars, 45 percent raises for players on minimum contracts and higher minimum salaries for veterans.

In High Flying Bird, Ray aims even higher, dreaming of a radical player-owned league in which games are streamed straight to YouTube or Netflix. Such a drastic shift seems unlikely any time soon. Until then, activists, filmmakers, and the players will continue to work to challenge power structures and shake the perception that athletes are not looked at as “super animals,” as Edwards wrote in 1969, but treated with full humanity.

Sports – TIME

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IHOP debuting ‘Pancizzas’ in honor of National Pizza Day

Perhaps because they got away with convincing us they were turning into a burger chain, IHOP will now try to sell pizza. Well, sort of. Beginning later this week, IHOP is planning to debut a line of “Pancizzas” in honor of National Pizza Day on Feb. 9. But what exactly is a “Pancizza” (pronounced Pan-keet-za)?…
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Sprint sues AT&T over ‘5G’ wireless branding

Sprint sued AT&T late on Thursday, saying it is misleading consumers into believing that they are using fifth generation wireless network, known as 5G, a technology that has not yet been widely deployed. AT&T customers are seeing “5G E” logo on their mobile devices in over 400 markets. Although users are still using 4G network,…
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