NFL looks at contingency sites for Super Bowl amid COVID-19
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL, not surprisingly in the midst of a rise in COVID-19 cases, has looked into other potential sites for next month’s Super Bowl.
That’s not unusual because the league does so every year. But with Los Angeles the site for this year’s title game, and restrictions increasing for attendance at indoor events, it has become more noteworthy.
“We plan on playing Super Bowl 56 as scheduled at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday. “As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances.
“Our planning process for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is ahead of schedule and we look forward to hosting the Super Bowl there to culminate another fantastic NFL season for our fans and clubs.”
AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, reportedly is one of the facilities contacted. The stadium hosted the Rose Bowl in 2021 when it was switched from Pasadena because of COVID-19 restrictions in California.
California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that it’s not just the Super Bowl that brings people to Los Angeles County, but a week or more of events across the region. He said officials are committed to making sure the events go forward as planned, “that the mitigation strategies that create safety around that event are in place.”
“I know L.A. County is closely in contact with the NFL to make sure that strategies are put in place to ensure that people can enjoy this important event while making sure that we put things in place that allow COVID mitigation to be an important feature of the approach to that game that is just over a month away,” Ghaly said Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, the Grammy Awards were postponed indefinitely. They were scheduled for Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Jan. 31. Organizers cited health and safety concerns.
The Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium is scheduled for Feb. 13.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
The Associated Press
In this youth baseball league, fans who mistreat umpires are sentenced to do the job themselves
Deptford Little League president Don Bozzuffi stands next to a Little League field in Deptford, N.J., May 10, 2023. Deptford is trying to curb the appetite among the crowd watching 10- and 11-year-olds play baseball who curse at the unpaid volunteers behind the plate. The fans could become the umpires if they won’t follow league rules on sportsmanship. (Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
By Dan Gelston in Deptford
DEPTFORD, N.J. (AP) — The April Facebook post hardly seemed like national news at the time for Deptford Little League president Don Bozzuffi. He’d lost patience when two umpires resigned in the wake of persistent spectator abuse. So he wrote an updated code of conduct.
It specified: Any spectator deemed in violation would be banned from the complex until three umpiring assignments were completed. If not, the person would be barred from any Deptford youth sports facilities for a year.
In G-rated terms (unlike the ones that will get you tossed), the mandate just wants helicopter parents to calm the heck down. No 9-year-old will remember, as an adult, being safe or out on a bang-bang play at first. But how deep would be the cut of watching dad get tossed out of the game and banished for bad behavior?
The league doesn’t want to find out. “So far, it’s working like I’d hoped and just been a deterrent,” the 68-year-old Bozzuffi said.
The problem, though, isn’t limited to Deptford and its handful of unruly parents. Outbursts of bad behavior at sporting events for young people have had frightening consequences for officials at all youth levels. Pick a town, any town, and there are adults assaulting referees or chasing umpires into parking lots looking for a fight, all available on the social feed of your choice.
The videos pop up almost weekly: inane instances of aggressive behavior toward officials. Like in January, when a Florida basketball referee was punched in the face after one game. Or last month, when an enraged youth baseball coach stormed a baseball field in Alabama and wrestled an umpire to the ground. Other adults and kids tried to break up the melee that took place in a game — at an 11-and-under tournament.
Jim McDevitt has worked as a volunteer Deptford umpire for 20 years. But he turns 66 this month and won’t call games much longer. He wonders where the next generation of officials will come from, especially when the job description includes little pay and lots of crap.
Youth officiating is in crisis. According to a 2017 survey of by the National Association of Sports Officials, nearly 17,500 referees surveyed said parents caused the most problems with sportsmanship at 39%. Coaches came in at 29% and fans at 18%.
Barry Mano founded the association four decades ago to advocate for youth officials. Mano, whose brother Mark was an NBA referee, has watched fan conduct become “far worse” than he could have imagined.
“Sports is simply life with the volume turned up,” Mano says. “We’ve become louder and brasher. We always want a second opinion on things. That’s where the culture has gone. I don’t think we’re as civil as we used to be toward each other, and it plays out in the sporting venues.”
In Deptford, things seem to be working — at least in attracting non-mandatory umps. Bozzuffi says that since his rule grabbed national headlines, three umpires have joined the league and more volunteers want to be trained.
And those who might get sentenced to umping? McDevitt puts it less delicately. “We’ll see how their sphincter feels when they have to make a tight call and the parents are all screaming and hollering at them.”
The Deptford Little League playoffs, a time when tensions rise, are under way, and Bozzuffi has urged his umps to show restraint. Bozzuffi, who has served as league president for 14 years and been connected to the league for 40, doesn’t want any fan to get ejected. He just wants to get them thinking.
For many, every “safe!” when the tag is missed, every called strike on a pitch below the knees is one more reason to blow a fuse in a youth sports culture full of hefty fees for league play and travel teams that have already heightened the financial and emotional attachment and encouraged a sense of parents as constituents who have a right to be heeded.
And it’s getting attention all the way up the youth baseball chain. Little League President Stephen D. Keener had this to say: “We applaud the volunteers at Deptford Township Little League for coming up with a creative, fun solution to shine a light on the importance of treating everyone with respect, on and off the Little League field.”
OK. But here’s the fine print.
Beyond the headlines that suggest Fuming Father No. 1 is going to get the call from the bleachers and suddenly start ringing up strike three, there’s this: It’s too much effort. The risks! The potential safety problems! The insurance!
Bozzuffi and the town’s mayor teach a three-hour safety certification class each offender must complete before receiving an umpire assignment. Rookie umps must pass a background check and complete an online concussion course. After all that, a real, qualified umpire would be stationed next to the replacement ump to ensure accuracy and fairness.
It hasn’t happened — yet.
“The first person that we have to do this to, nobody is else is going to challenge this,” Bozzuffi said. “Nobody wants to go through all this.”
So for now, at least on a recent weeknight in Deptford, parents, grandparents and friends, were on their best behavior. Parent Dawn Nacke found it unfair that the town was labeled as “obnoxious parents when we’re just caring about our kids.”
“We know that they ump for free, but sometimes bad calls are made and they cost us the game,” she said.
Has she ever been guilty of popping off too much?
“Mouthy, yes. But we all have to bite our tongues over here because of the new rule,” she said. “I just have to keep my mouth shut more. Scared me straight. I’m more angry that they call us obnoxious parents. That really upset me when I read it in the news. But this is their rule and I’m going to follow it.”
Just the way Deptford drew it up.
Follow Philadelphia-based AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston on Twitter at http://twitter.com/apgelston
Adams Jr., Rhymes in sync in B.C. Lions’ 25-15 win over Calgary Stampeders
B.C. Lions wide receiver Dominique Rhymes, left, runs the ball as Calgary Stampeders defensive linemen Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund chases him during first half CFL football action in Calgary, Thursday, June 8, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Donna Spencer in Calgary
Vernon Adams Jr. and Dominique Rhymes clicked early for the B.C. Lions in a 25-15 win over the Calgary Stampeders to open the CFL season Thursday.
Rhymes caught two touchdown passes and totalled 100 receiving yards in the game.
He picked up where he left off in 2022 when his 1,401 yards ranked second among CFL receivers behind Winnipeg’s Dalton Schoen and earned Rhymes a league all-star designation.
B.C.’s quarterback was efficient early Thursday.
Adams threw for 176 yards in a pair of touchdown drives — one on B.C.’s first possession of the game and the other in the first minute of the second quarter.
He capped those drives with throws to Rhymes in the end zone.
“It’s the work we’ve been doing as a whole offence together,” Rhymes said. “When they give me opportunities to make plays, I’ve got to make plays for him.
“He’s our quarterback and he’s our leader and I want to be the best person I can be for him, so I can make our offence successful.”
Adams was effective with his feet as well as his arm.
The quarterback rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries and also ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
B.C. kicker Sean Whyte’s 44-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining put the game out of reach for the Stampeders.
“Starting fast was big,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said. “It’s a 60-minute game, but playing Calgary here is tough.
“If they get momentum early, it’s really hard. You fight an uphill battle. It was good to get ahead on the scoreboard and Vernon and our offence was a big part of that.”
Tre Odoms-Dukes caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Jake Maier for Calgary’s lone touchdown in front of an announced crowd of 17,942 at McMahon Stadium.
Calgary’s Rene Paredes kicked three field goals on five attempts.
He missed his first two from 39 and 45 yards, but was successful from 22, 39 and 52 yards.
Adams completed 27 of 35 passes for 270 yards and two touchdown throws in the game. He was intercepted by Mike Rose.
The Lions acquired Adams, a 2019 CFL all-star, from the Montreal Alouettes midway through last season when Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke was injured.
With Rourke now property of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions looked to the 30-year-old Adams to lead their offence.
“I am feeling a lot more comfortable than I was last year getting thrown in the fire,” Adams said.
Maier struggled in Thursday’s first half in completing just seven of 15 passes for 56 yards.
The 26-year-old was under pressure several times and sacked late in the second quarter by Mathieu Betts.
Maier finished 20-for-36 in pass attempts for 154 yards and a touchdown pass. He was intercepted once.
“There’s no excuses,” Maier said. “I’m never going to be an excuse guy.
“We didn’t play that well, especially on offence in the first half and we’re on to Week 2.”
Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey, the CFL’s leading rusher last season, ran for 42 yards on seven carries.
B.C.’s defence held top Stampeder receivers Reggie Begelton and Malik Henry to a combined 58 yards.
The Lions generated more first downs than the Stampeders over the first three quarters.
“We’ve got to stay ahead of the sticks, meaning we can’t be a second-and-long team,” Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said.
“We weren’t able to necessarily give Jake the extra time to make that extra read, make that extra play.
“It’s early. I’m not going to beat them up. I understand what it is. Look in the mirror. We’ve got to be better. Coaches as well.”
Paredes’ field goal from 52 yards late in the fourth quarter pulled the hosts within four points of B.C., but Whyte’s 44-yarder sealed B.C.’s victory.
The Lions and Stampeders both posted 12-6 records in 2022.
B.C. downed Calgary 30-16 in last year’s West Division semifinal before falling 28-20 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the division final.
“Last year, we went to the game before the final, so we know what type of team we have,” Lions defensive back Garry Peters said. “We came into the camp a lot further ahead.
“We have a lot of veteran guys, so that’s just a testament of what type of team we have and that’s what we put on the field today.”
The Stampeders next face the host Ottawa Redblacks in a second straight Thursday night game to open their season.
The Lions are at home against the Edmonton Elks on June 17 with a pre-game concert by LL Cool J scheduled for B.C. Place
Campbell hopes bringing a win home from Calgary adds to the home-opener buzz.
“We’re trying to do our part on the field,” Campbell said. “Hopefully we get a huge crowd next week.”
Notes: The Stampeders had nine rookies in their game-day lineup, including three receivers, compared to seven for the Lions . . . Since the CFL returned to a nine-team league in 2014, Calgary is 4-4-1 and the Lions are 4-5 in season openers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
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