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NCAA’s weight-room fiasco, clumsy attempts to explain it are the real March Madness

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

By now we can’t unsee the side-by-side photos, tweeted out last week by Ali Kershner, a performance coach with Stanford’s women’s basketball team, and seemingly shared by every Twitter and Instagram user on the continent. 

The weight room at an Indianapolis hotel hosting participants in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament looked nearly as well-stocked as an on-campus facility. Rows of racks with barbells, rubber-coated weight plates and lifting platforms. Whoever outfitted the space realized the elite athletes present might perform power cleans or snatches, high-revving lifts that end with the lifter dropping the barbell, and need workstations optimized for high-impact.

And the women’s facility in San Antonio? A mostly empty ballroom, with a small Christmas tree-shaped rack holding a few pairs of light dumbbells. Whoever stocked that room either didn’t know, or didn’t care, that elite athletes across the gender spectrum perform the same movements in training. Strength coaches don’t program “men’s squats” and “women’s squats.” They program squats.

Before the NCAA could even convene a press conference to explain the disparity, private operators like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Tonal volunteered to fill the void. When NCAA basketball VP Dan Gavitt finally addressed reporters on Friday, he called the mismatched weight rooms “a mistake,” a signal that the NCAA spent the intervening hours cooking up half-baked spin instead of a plausible response.

Gavitt could, for example, have told us the women’s weight room inspiration came from celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, best-known for keeping actress Gwyneth Paltrow lean using pilates and tiny dumbbells. “No woman should lift more than three pounds,” Anderson told Oprah.Com in 2008.


Or he could have blamed the social media staffer who authored this since-deleted tweet about Loyola-Chicago toppling top-seeded Illinois in an intrastate showdown in the men’s tournament. The tweet included an outline of the state of Indiana, and Twitter users could tell the difference even if the NCAA’s tweeter couldn’t. Maybe Gavitt could have explained that the women’s equipment, like the map on that tweet, simply landed in the next state, and should arrive quickly from Louisiana.

Or the NCAA could have told the truth — that the organization doesn’t value the women’s tournament and its athletes the way it does male athletes and their event. It’s a fair conclusion to draw given the weight-room drama, as well as the COVID-19 test discrepancy. Men’s tournament participants undergo PCR screening; the women’s side gets less expensive, less accurate rapid antigen tests. But it’s not an argument a serious sports organization can make with a straight face in 2021, when so many other sports industry players are emphasizing gender equity.

The NCAA could also put a gender-neutral business spin on the truth. The men’s tournament generates an average $ 771 million a year in broadcast revenue, and that figure jumps to more than $ 1 billion in 2025, when a new contract starts. Meanwhile, ESPN airs the women’s tournament as part of a 12-year deal worth $ 500 million total, and includes rights to several other sports. In a strict business sense, you can’t argue against devoting more resources to the property that makes more money. But telling that truth undermines the fantasy that big-time college sports in the U.S. exist to provide opportunity and experience for young adults, and not as a big business that enriches a long list of stakeholders, but doesn’t pay the talent.


In our gender-neutral hypothetical, you could probably justify spending lavishly to equip the stars of the billion-dollar mega-event, and saving money on the broadcast property that merely brings in eight figures. But if you introduce gender — and there’s no meaningful way to factor it out — you also have to investigate whether committing more resources to the women’s event might help it grow into a bigger revenue generator. 

And if you cast big-time college basketball as a business, you can’t avoid the reality that the unpaid labourers who make the industry visible and valuable deserve payment — not instead of the in-kind compensation their scholarships represent, but in addition to it. New legislation allowing players to cash in on their name, image and likeness, treats athletes less unfairly than the current system does, but still relies on third parties to pay athletes while college programs pay them in exposure.

If that setup were just or logical, it wouldn’t just apply to players. But you won’t see Kentucky head coach John Calipari forgo his $ 8.1 million salary because he thinks he can make more money licensing his name, image and likeness. And Turner Sports and CBS didn’t secure broadcast rights to the men’s tournament by delivering a shipload of scholarships to the NCAA. They paid in dollars — not opportunity, experience or exposure, and not crypto or NFTs — because cash is still the currency that counts.

WATCH | North Courts previews NCAA tournaments:

It’s March Madness time and with a record number of Canadians in the NCAA tournament, we’re dedicating this episode to the stars from north of the border, including Jevohn catching up with Gonzaga’s own sixth man of the year Andrew Nembhard. 17:17

So the NCAA will peddle the idea that it exists to facilitate opportunities, but if that were true the organizers of the men’s and women’s tournaments would have stayed on the same page about what athletes need if they’re sequestered at a hotel for three straight weekends. The men had a fully equipped weight room because somebody recognized they’d need to access all their regular training methods but couldn’t retreat to campus for a post-practice lifting session.

As for the women’s tournament, NCAA president Mark Emmert told the Economic Club of Indiana on Monday that weight rooms, technically, weren’t part of the deal.


The strides in gender equity across many sports appears to have fallen on NCAA president Mark Emmert’s deaf ears. (Associated Press)

“Those were never intended to be weight rooms,” he said “Those were exercise rooms before the kids went onto the court for practice.”

If the people setting up the women’s tournament HQ didn’t think high-level basketball players use weights to exercise, it’s fair for the rest of us to question how much they know about elite sport in the 21st century. And if they didn’t think the women’s tournament deserved expensive perks like a fully equipped weight room, it’s clear the focus was never on facilitating opportunities. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need to peg spending to revenue. Each event would receive the budget needed to keep players healthy, safe and performing. 

That means approximating the weight rooms the athletes have on campus, PCR COVID-19 tests, and better on-site nutrition for everyone involved, even if the extra spending gnaws at the profit margin. If the NCAA doesn’t want to make sure women and men have a similar quality of tournament experience, it should just admit that college sports at the highest level are a business. 

And if college sports are a business, people in charge need to start cutting cheques to the workers.

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CBC | Sports News

Field-Tested: DJI’s New FPV Drone Brings VR to the Real World

Plenty of solutions exist for flying a drone while looking through an AR or VR headset (we reviewed the Epson Moverio when it came out). But until now, they have all involved compromises in video and control latency — unless you cobbled together your own as a DIY. DJI crossed part of that divide by combining its DJI Glass VR headset with a high-speed video link add-on, but it wasn’t a fully integrated solution with a drone capable of race-level performance. The company has addressed that with its new DJI FPV drone (Combo package $ 1,299, Fly More Kit $ 299, Motion Controller $ 199). We’ve been fortunate enough to have a DJI FPV in-house to fly for a few weeks, and can let you know what we’ve found.

DJI FPV By the Numbers

DJI FPV DroneThe DJI FPV is a performance beast. In full manual mode, the company says the drone can reach speeds of up to 87 mph and has a 0-60 time of around 2 seconds. I think that’s roughly the same as the fastest Tesla in its fastest mode. I’m sure we’ll see someone race them soon enough.

Lest that sound kind of scary to fly, the drone starts life in a more mild-mannered “Normal” mode and reacts essentially the same way as any other DJI drone to the controls (although like a car with a more powerful engine, it responds very quickly). In Normal mode, the drone has forward-facing obstacle detection. There is also a “Sport” mode that turns off obstacle detection and serves as a middle ground between Normal and Manual.

DJI has put a lot of work into the drone’s video connectivity. There is a dedicated emergency stop capability — which is important once you start using the advanced modes. The FPV uses DJI’s O3 system for connectivity with the drone and claims a range of up to 10km (which in practice should mean a better ability to fly in noisy environments). The FPV also features an ADS-B receiver, so you’ll get an alert in the goggles if there is an aircraft nearby.

Because it is an FPV drone, designed to be piloted by someone looking through the camera, it only has a 1-dimension gimbal (up and down). The battery pack is beefy, but because of the drone’s high-performance characteristics, its flight time of up to 20 minutes is slightly less than similar, less-powerful models. The headset receives a 1440×810 feed from the drone. It is lower resolution than current VR gaming headsets, which can make it a little hard to read the icons on the screen, but not impossible. There is a flexible IPD (inter-pupilar distance) adjustment, which is great to see. However, there isn’t a focus adjustment, so if you wear glasses to see distance, you’ll need to make sure they fit inside the headset. Mine do, fortunately.

Setting Up a DJI FPV

For the most part, the process should be pretty familiar to anyone who has flown a DJI drone before. You download the DJI Fly app (not the Go app used by the Mavic family), log in, and power everything up. Everything, in this case, includes the headset (which is powered from an external battery attached via cable), the remote (which doesn’t need to physically connect to anything), and the drone itself. Then you connect the headset to your phone, hit Go Fly (assuming all the pieces have found each other), and put the headset on.

Of course, you are now managing a headset, a cabled battery, your phone, and the remote. So it is a little more complicated than simply flying with a remote — especially once you put your headset on. For example, I inadvertently switched the DJI Fly app into playback mode when I stashed my phone in my pocket and put the headset on, so I had to try and juggle everything at once to set it back to Fly mode. Since technically you need a second person to keep an eye on the drone while you fly, there is also a role for them to help manage the devices.

One big improvement in the DJI FPV over previous DJI models is that it’s user-repairable. Using the provided hex key, you can disassemble it and replace individual components. DJI will sell replacement parts directly to owners. That’s especially important if you are going to make full use of the drone’s high-performance capabilities or race it.

The DJI Fly doesn't fold, so even if you remove the props and the antennas from the goggles, it takes some space when traveling

The DJI Fly doesn’t fold, so even if you remove the props and the antennas from the goggles, it takes some space when traveling.

Flying the DJI FPV

If you haven’t flown an FPV drone before, the closest experience I can think of is a VR-based flight simulator. Except that you’re flying in the real world. Unless you’re in line for a jet pack or one of the emerging class of single-person drones, this may be the closest you can get to experiencing personal flight. It’s definitely fun, and at least in my case a little bit freaky. I’m even more in awe of professional drone racers now that I have some experience trying to do even simple maneuvers in first-person. DJI recommends flying their free simulator before even switching to the drone’s more-advanced modes. In any case, if you’re at all tired of your current drone flying options, this is an excellent choice for a new, and different, experience.

Caveats for First-Time FPV Fliers

If you aren’t already familiar with flying an FPV drone, there are a couple of caveats that go along with any of them. The first is that in the US, and many other countries, you are legally required to have your drone in sight. For an FPV drone, that means a second person with you. Now, I’m not exactly sure how well that person will be able to keep track of your drone if you crank it up to over 80 mph, but presumably, a lot of high-performance flying is done in special circumstances such as pre-cleared drone racing venues.

Second, if you have an issue with motion sickness when using a VR headset, flying an FPV drone may be an issue for you. I don’t know if the problem is the lag time (over 25ms, which is well outside the VR magic window of under 15 ms) or simply that you’re basically messing with your head the same way as if you’re flying in a VR application. Probably some of both. I enjoy VR experiences, but only for about 20 minutes at a time. In comparison, I’m good for one flight with the DJI FPV at a time, but I don’t think I’d want to do two back-to-back, at least not until I get more used to it.

The DJI FPV Is a Work in Progress

The beta application we have been using during the pre-release period is fairly limited. For example, you currently can’t record the headset view, even though it has a microSD card slot. So I can’t really show you what I saw while flying. Of course, you can record on the drone itself, so it’s definitely possible to impress your friends with your awesome flying ability or dramatic crashes.

Speaking of which, DJI has also introduced a cool new motion controller for the DJI FPV. It is essentially a 3D controller that allows the drone to move the way your hand does. DJI is particularly excited that it will create opportunities for new FPV fliers who may not be comfortable with the traditional 2-stick solution. Unfortunately, due to shipping delays, our review motion controller didn’t arrive before the announcement, so we can only speculate on how effective it will be.

Is a DJI FPV the Right Drone For You?

If you’ve wanted to experience the thrill of FPV flying and have the money, the DJI FPV is an excellent way to get started. (FPV flying is really popular locally with high school students, but their budgets are typically a lot less, so they build their own.) For $ 1,299, you get the DJI FPV drone, non-LCD remote controller, FPV Goggles V2, cables, charger, and one battery. For another $ 299, you can get two additional batteries and a charging hub. The Motion Controller will set you back another $ 199. Based on my experience so far, I’d definitely also recommend getting the DJI Refresh insurance.

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

FBI visits real estate office where person of interest in Nashville explosion worked: reports

FBI agents investigating the Nashville motor home explosion have visited a real estate agency where a person of interest in the bombing had worked on computers, local media reported on Sunday.

Steve Fridrich, owner of Fridrich & Clark Realty in Nashville’s Green Hills neighbourhood, told the Tennessean newspaper he spoke with the agents late on Saturday about Anthony Q. Warner, 63, after the company told the FBI he had worked there.

According to public records, Warner had lived at a home in Antioch, southeast of Nashville, that was searched on Saturday by officials with the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives following the huge Christmas Day blast.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department confirmed that Warner is under investigation in the case.

Federal agents have said they are following up on more than 500 leads and are working to identify what appear to be human remains found in the wreckage.

WATCH | Nashville explosion wounds 3:

The CBC’s Derek Stoffel reports on the latest developments on the explosion that shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning. 1:31

The explosion in the heart of the U.S. country music capital injured three people and damaged more than 40 businesses, including an AT&T switching centre — disrupting mobile, internet and TV services across central Tennessee and parts of four other states.

Fridrich said that for four or five years, Warner had come into the office roughly once a month to provide computer consulting services, until this month — when Warner told the company in an email that he would no longer be working there. He gave no reason, Fridrich said.

“He seemed very personable to us. This is quite out of character I think,” he told the newspaper.

At a news conference on Sunday, five Nashville police officers who were on the scene early on Friday recalled the dramatic moments ahead of the explosion, when they scrambled to evacuate homes and buildings and called for a bomb squad, which was en route when the motor home blew up.


A person of interest in the case is believed to have been a consultant who used computers at a real estate office once a month. ‘He seemed very personable to us,’ the owner of Fridrich & Clark Realty told a Tennessee newspaper. (Harrison McClary/Reuters)

Officers had heard music and an automated announcement coming from the RV warning them about the impending explosion as they sprang into action, requesting access codes for buildings and trying to shepherd as many residents to safety as possible.

“I was thrown forward, knocked to the ground,” Officer Brenna Hosey told reporters about the moment of the explosion. “But I was able to catch myself, I was fine.”

The officers, who were initially responding to reports of gunfire in the area, have been hailed as heroes by city leaders.

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CBC | World News

Rather than attack the real problem, sports organizers have only aimed to limit COVID-19 risk

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Let’s start with two observations we can now consider truth about sports in the COVID-19 era.

First, half-measures don’t work. If you’re not screening participants daily, then quarantining them from the outside world, the way the NHL and NBA did with their respective bubbles, and the way big-time fight promoters have in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, you’re leaving openings the virus can, and will, exploit. That’s why COVID-19 didn’t permeate the NBA’s secure campus in Orlando, and why the virus forced the cancellation or postponement of more than a dozen NCAA football games last weekend alone.

Second, the sports world won’t return to whatever normal is going to be until a safe, effective vaccine reaches a broad cross-section of the population. Teams need to sell tickets to boost revenues, but you can’t build an NBA-style bubble around a sold-out stadium. If you want a standing-room-only crowd and the kind of full-throated cheering that accompanies high-stakes games, you have to be sure spectators who arrive healthy won’t leave with a potentially deadly virus.

That’s why recent news from big pharma should have sports fans excited in North America and beyond.

Late last week, drug maker Pfizer announced early data indicated that their COVID-19 vaccine was 90 per cent effective. On Monday, Moderna issued a news release saying their new vaccine prevented COVID-19 in 94.5 per cent of participants in a preliminary trial. News like that could make you envision a return to everything we’ve missed since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the sports industry last winter – full schedules, packed stadiums, in-person meet-and-greets with your favourite athletes.

But a pair of news releases from drug firms competing for market share aren’t enough to bring pro sports back to normal. And if you think we’re all just a needle away from packing Jurassic Park to watch the Raptors in the NBA playoffs, you should temper your optimism with patience.

Sports fandom should, after all, teach us the pitfalls of extrapolating from limited data. If my favourite baseball player goes 3-for-4 on Opening Day, I know better than to think he’ll hit .750 for the season.

WATCH | Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine tests show promising results:

 A COVID-19 vaccine from biotech company Moderna has shown promising early results, appearing to be 94.5 per cent effective, and the company says that it may apply for emergency use in the U.S. within weeks. 3:24

Experts better-positioned than I am will tell you that the early reports, while encouraging, don’t give definitive answers on how these two vaccines will stand up to further trials, or, assuming they’re broadly effective, how to store and distribute the drugs for maximum impact.

But if everything unfolds the way we hope, with regulatory approval pending and broader availability a few months into 2021, we might see something resembling a normal Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach certainly sees the promise in soon-to-hit-the-market COVID-19 vaccines, and says immunization will likely become a requirement for athletes and spectators in Tokyo next July.

“In order to protect the Japanese people and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake great effort so that as many [people] as possible — Olympic participants and visitors — will arrive here [with a] vaccine if by then a vaccine is available,” Bach told reporters in Japan this week. “This makes us all very confident that we can have spectators in the Olympics stadium.”

Of course, the road to a COVID-19-free Olympics, contested by the best in the world in every event, goes through the United States, a regular at the top of the medal table, and home to the IOC’s most lucrative broadcast rights deal — NBC signed a 28-year, $ 7.75 billion contract extension with the IOC in 2014.

But in the country that also leads the world in COVID-19 cases (11.3 million by Tuesday afternoon), and where more than a quarter million residents have already died of the disease, addressing the pandemic often has more to do with politics and ideology than public health.

Undermining severity of COVID-19

If we drew a Venn diagram charting people who don’t believe in vaccines and people who think face coverings rob citizens of their freedom, we might not need a second circle. And if we counted the ways lame-duck President Donald Trump and his political allies helped spread COVID-19, we’d run out of fingers and toes.

In the pandemic’s opening stages, Trump’s administration bid against individual states for personal protective equipment, raising prices and lowering supplies of gear sorely needed to keep frontline medical staff safe.

In October, a COVID-positive Trump may have exposed Secret Service members to the virus when he had them drive him around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to wave at supporters who had gathered there.

And in September he lent his heft to a campaign to force the Big Ten conference to reverse its decision to postpone fall sports like football. When the league finally decided to play football this fall, Trump tried to take credit for the decision, hoping it would help him win battleground states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Trump failed to win Michigan or Wisconsin in this month’s election, but the virus succeeded in infiltrating football programs across Big Ten country. Before the Wisconsin Badgers smashed the Michigan Wolverines 49-11 last Saturday, the team endured a rash of positive tests and a two-week shutdown. Last month, the Wolverines kept practising even as a surge in COVID cases locally prompted a stay-at-home order for students on campus. And an outbreak among Maryland’s football team forced them to cancel a game against Ohio State.

Wrestling COVID-19 into submission seems the most effective way to return to sold-out stadiums, and to protect the athletes those fans pay to see. But reaching that point, whether for mainstream American sports or the Olympics, means surviving two more months with an administration determined not to attack the problem.

Until then, some sports outfits will move forward with compromises aimed at limiting the risk. The NCAA has announced plans to hold the entire basketball tournament known as March Madness in Indianapolis, instead of spreading its 67 games among far-flung host cities.

But other operators are treating COVID-19 as a nuisance, and not a threat to public health. When the pandemic wiped out the Battle 4 Atlantis, an annual season-opening college basketball tournament in the Bahamas, the event relocated to South Dakota, the U.S. pandemic’s current epicentre, where more than 58 per cent of COVID-19 tests come back positive. Organizers are selling tickets, even though as of Nov. 16 the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases was 1,424, in a population of less than 885,000. If Ontario logged new COVID-19 cases at that rate, we’d see more than 23,000 a day.

In sports terms, it’s like walking Rich Aurilia to pitch to peak P.E.D. Barry Bonds.

And in terms of restoring the sports world to whatever normal is going to be in 2021 it’s a big step backward, even with vaccines on the way.

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CBC | Sports News

Real Madrid in Champions League trouble despite late comeback to draw

With one point from its opening two games, Real Madrid is facing another fight to preserve its proud record of qualifying for the knockout stage in all of its seasons in the Champions League.

It could have been a whole lot worse for the record 13-time European champions on Tuesday, though.

Heading into the 87th minute against Borussia Monchengladbach, Madrid was losing 2-0 and on course for four straight losses in the Champions League for the first time.

However, goals by Karim Benzema and then Casemiro — in the third minute of stoppage time — rescued a 2-2 draw for the Spanish champions, who opened with a 3-2 loss at home to Shakhtar Donetsk last week.

Next up for Madrid is a double-header against Inter Milan, the team which was supposed to be its toughest rival in Group B but which is also still without a win. A 0-0 draw at Shakhtar, during which Inter hit the crossbar twice, came a week after a 2-2 draw with Monchengladbach.

Madrid is in bigger trouble, though, in its 25th campaign in the Champions League, in which the team has never been eliminated in the group stage.

Last season, Zinedine Zidane’s side started in almost identical fashion, losing its opener — 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain — and then drawing 2-2 in its second match against Club Brugge. The overall standard of its group is tougher this time round.

“This is going to be a difficult year for everyone,” Zidane said.

Defending champion Bayern Munich is having no such trouble, with a 2-1 victory at Lokomotiv Moscow extending its winning run in the Champions League to 13 games.

Also on a maximum of six points is Manchester City after a 3-0 win at Marseille, as the English team continues its latest bid to become European champion for the first time.

Liverpool is the other team to have won both of its games so far, with Diogo Jota scoring the club’s 10,000th goal of its 128-year history to set up a 2-0 home win over FC Midtjylland.

Kimmich to the rescue

Bayern went unpunished for a sloppy performance in Moscow as Joshua Kimmich prolonged the German team’s winning streak in the competition with a brilliantly taken 79th-minute goal.

Leon Goretzka put Bayern ahead in the 13th, but the champions gave up plenty of chances before Anton Miranchuk finally took one in the 70th.

Bayern opened with a 4-0 win over Atletico Madrid, which got its Group A campaign back on track by rallying to beat Salzburg 3-2.

Joao Felix scored twice, including the winner in the 85th minute. Marcos Llorente opened the scoring for Atletico before Salzburg went ahead through goals by Dominik Szoboszlai and Mergim Berisha either side of halftime.

Man City pours it on

Playing without a striker didn’t stop Man City racking up the goals against Marseille.

Sergio Aguero is back on the sidelines with a hamstring injury and with Gabriel Jesus also injured, City started at the Stade Velodrome with Ferran Torres then Raheem Sterling filling in as the makeshift centre forward.

Both of them scored, either side of a goal by Ilkay Gundogan as City backed up its 3-1 win over Porto last week.

Porto rebounded from that loss by beating Olympiakos 2-0 thanks to goals by Fabio Vieira and Sergio Oliveira. It was the 100th victory for Porto in the European Cup and Champions League.

Olympiakos opened with a 1-0 win over Marseille.

Fabinho injury

Liverpool’s defensive woes deepened as Fabinho was forced off with a hamstring injury during the first half of the win over Midtjylland.

The Brazil midfielder has been filling in at centre back for Virgil van Dijk, who is likely out for many months after damaging cruciate knee ligaments. With Joel Matip currently struggling for fitness, Liverpool has just one fit senior centre half in Joe Gomez.

A 19-year-old, Rhys Williams, replaced Fabinho and Liverpool was shaky at times against the competition newcomers from Denmark.

However, Jota scored in the 55th for a historic goal for Liverpool and substitute Mohamed Salah converted a stoppage-time penalty.

Duvan Zapata scored twice in six minutes as Atalanta rallied for a point against Ajax, who went 2-0 ahead thanks to Dusan Tadic’s penalty and a scruffy goal from Lassina Traore.

Atalanta is two points behind Liverpool in second place.

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CBC | Soccer News

Bayern Munich, Real Madrid continue in opposite directions at Champions League

Real Madrid couldn’t halt its losing streak in the Champions League, and no one seems able to stop Bayern Munich’s winning run.

Madrid’s 3-2 loss to a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk team was the most surprising result of Wednesday’s opening group games — while Bayern delivered the most impressive performance with a 4-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

It was a third straight loss in the competition for Real Madrid — its worst run in 34 years. For defending champion Bayern, it was a 12th straight Champions League victory.

Wins for Liverpool and Manchester City capped a good round for English clubs, and Atalanta again showed its free-scoring style to win 4-0 at overmatched newcomer Midtjylland.

Real Madrid has been unconvincing, especially at home, in the Champions League since lifting a record-extending 13th European title three seasons ago.

Yet Shakhtar was missing several starters after a COVID-19 outbreak at the club. The Ukrainian champion still led 3-0 at halftime, exposing a Madrid defence missing injured captain Sergio Ramos.

“It’s my job to find solutions because these kind of games can’t happen,” said coach Zinedine Zidane, who left veterans Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema on the bench ahead of playing Barcelona on Saturday.

Few fans attended the eight games, because of the spiking coronavirus infections across Europe, and there were none at Olympiakos to see a stoppage-time goal earn a 1-0 win over Marseille.

Only 1,000 were at San Siro to see Romelu Lukaku score in his ninth straight European game, including a 90th minute equalizer, to help Inter Milan draw 2-2 with Borussia M├╢nchengladbach.

Fading power

Since Real Madrid’s last Champions League title in 2018, the club and president Florentino Perez have been linked with plans to create more elitist competitions that would avoid facing so many lower-ranked teams from countries like Ukraine.

Shakhtar is a group-stage regular, and moved on to the Europa League semifinals in August, though was missing several of its Brazilian contingent against Madrid.

Goals from Tete and Manor Solomon either side of an own goal by Madrid defender Raphael Varane came in a 13-minute spell before halftime.

Madrid hit back with Luka Modric’s long-range shot in the 54th and minutes later substitute Vinicius Junior, who entered and ran direct from the touchline to steal possession and score.

Madrid has now won just one of its last seven home games in the Champions League, including a 2-1 first-leg loss to Manchester City in the round of 16 in February.

This one was played at Madrid’s empty training ground while the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is renovated.

Also in Group B, an Inter team also affected by a virus outbreak, drew 2-2 with Monchengladbach.

After a goalless first half, Lukaku scored early and late in the second for last season’s Europa League runner-up. Monchengladbach had taken a 2-1 lead when Jonas Hoffman’s goal in the 84th was confirmed after a video review lasting several minutes.

Bayern surges

The champion in Lisbon two months ago, Bayern carried over its dominant European form in a 4-0 dismantling of Atletico. Kingsley Coman, scorer of the title-winning goal against Paris Saint-Germain, netted twice.

The game went ahead after a further round of testing of Bayern players on Wednesday, one day after forward Serge Gnabry’s COVID-19 infection was revealed.

Also in Group A, Salzburg was held 2-2 at home by Lokomotiv Moscow.

English wins

Man City started a competition it was originally banned from by UEFA with a 3-1 win at home Porto.

City trailed early, then levelled from Sergio Aguero’s penalty kick awarded for a foul against Porto’s veteran captain Pepe. Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres secured the win midway through the second half.

Liverpool and Ajax have a combined 10 European titles yet had not faced each other in Amsterdam since 1966.

A 1-0 win for Liverpool was decided by Sadio Mane’s shot in the 35th forcing an own goal from defender Nicolas Tagliafico.

The English champion handled the absence of injured Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, and some anxious moments with back-up goalkeeper Adrian.

Liverpool moved midfielder Fabinho into central defence and he made a spectacular goal-line clearance to deny Dusan Tadic.

Few fans

A fresh wave of the pandemic across Europe meant storied clubs Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Manchester City and Olympiakos could not let fans in their stadiums.

Midtjylland recorded an attendance of 132 for its Champions League group-stage debut.

Salzburg had 3,000 fans in attendance and Inter had just 1,000 to abide by event limits in Italy.

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Real Madrid clinches record-extending 34th La Liga championship

Real Madrid clinched its first Spanish league title in three years on Thursday after extending its perfect run following the pandemic break.

Madrid secured its record 34th league title with a 2-1 win over Villarreal, opening a seven-point gap to second-place Barcelona with one round to go. Barcelona lost to 10-man Osasuna at the Camp Nou Stadium.

Karim Benzema scored twice to give Madrid its 10th consecutive league victory. It is the only team with a perfect record after the coronavirus-enforced break, having trailed Barcelona by two points before the league was halted.

It was Madrid’s first league title since Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus two seasons ago, and the first since coach Zinedine Zidane returned from a short break.

The title celebrations were subdued as the triumph came with Madrid playing without fans and at its training centre because the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium remains undergoing renovation work.

Madrid last lifted the league trophy in 2017, a year before Ronaldo departed. Zidane quit at the end of the 2017-18 season after leading the club to a third straight Champions League title. He was asked to return less than a year later as the team endured a streak of poor results in the Spanish league and the Champions League.

Barcelona had won the last two league titles but stuttered after the break, drawing three times and losing once after the league resumed.

Benzema — one of Madrid’s key players this season — opened the scoring with a shot from inside the area in the 29th minute and added to the lead by converting a penalty in the 77th, reaching 21 league goals and moving within two of scoring leader Lionel Messi, who netted for Barcelona against Osasuna.

Benzema’s goal from the penalty spot came after Sergio Ramos’ initial attempt was called back after he just rolled the ball sideways to Benzema to score. The French striker had entered the area too soon and the penalty had to be taken again.

Luka Modric set up Benzema’s first goal after a breakaway that started near midfield.

Fifth-place Villarreal pulled one back with a header by Vicente Iborra in the 83rd. It was denied an equalizer by a great save by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in stoppage time.

Madrid’s Marco Asensio had a goal disallowed moments later.

Barcelona falters

Barcelona needed to win its match and hope Madrid slipped up. Instead it lost 2-1 at home against midtable Osasuna.

Messi scored his league-leading 23rd goal from a free kick in the second half to cancel out Jose Arnaiz’s opener.

Osasuna lost substitute Enric Gallego to a direct red card for bloodying the mouth of Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet with an elbow to the face in the 77th.

But Osasuna’s Roberto Torres scored in stoppage time with Barcelona pushing forward searching for a late goal.

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Drew Doughty on resuming NHL season: ‘not going to be like winning a real Stanley Cup’

Two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2016 Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty is pessimistic about the chances of the NHL resuming play this season.

The star Los Angeles Kings defenceman said Monday it’s going to be difficult for hockey to get back this season, even just to hold the playoffs and hand out the Stanley Cup.

“Honestly, I don’t see how the season is going to return,” Doughty said. “I really don’t. We have no idea when this virus is going to be over.”

The 30-year-old known for his frank answers and commentary cast doubt on the validity of a 2020 Cup winner, especially given that there were 189 regular-season games left and not all teams had played the same number of games. Doughty is also concerned about how playing late into the summer might affect next season, which the league has maintained it wants to play in full.

“I know they so badly want to give out the Stanley Cup this year, but in all seriousness it’s not going to be like winning a real Stanley Cup because the [regular] season wasn’t finished,” Doughty said. “There’s teams that couldn’t get in the playoffs. And then I’m assuming they’d have to come up with a different playoff format. I don’t know. It’d be a little different. I’m not a huge fan of it, as much as I want to play. I just don’t want things to go into next season and affecting those [games].”

WATCH | A look at some possible return scenarios:

Ever since Donald Trump talked to a handful of sports commissioners, plans seem to be leaking about possible return scenarios. Rob Pizzo looks at a few.  2:31

Doughty, who won the Cup with Los Angeles in 2012 and 2014, said “for sure” his opinion would be different if the Kings were in a different spot in the standings. They were 28th out of 31 teams and eliminated from playoff contention.

But he added that his view on the NHL season was more affected by the state of the world during the coronavirus pandemic than the logistics of holding sporting events.

“Everything just keeps getting delayed even more, like lockdowns and stuff like that,” Doughty said. “People are dying even more every day. So I just don’t see how or when we’re going to be able to make any type of decision to return to the season.”

Everything on the table for Bettman

In an interview Monday on CNN, Commissioner Gary Bettman continued to say the NHL hasn’t ruled anything in or out when it comes to the resumption of play.

“We’re exploring all options, but when we’ll have an opportunity to return depends on things that we have absolutely no control over because it all starts with everybody’s health and well-being,” Bettman said. “Until there’s a sense that people can get together, not just in our arenas but for our players to get together to work out, we don’t know when we can come back, but it’s something we’re monitoring on a daily basis.”

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