Warning: This post was written by a Mets fan.When Daniel Murphy let a ball bounce beneath his glove in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the World Series, I threw my Mets hat to the ground. It was ostensibly the pivotal moment in a 5-3 Royals win, the kind of play that reminded me why other sports have fouls but baseball has errors.We could sit here together and dwell on all the Mets errors: We could wonder how Jeurys Familia, an all-star closer, blew five saves in 48 opportunities during the regular season, but has blown two in two opportunities during the World Series. We could plumb the depths of Yoenis Cespedes’s above-average defensive metrics, and make the case that to measure Cespedes’s true defensive capacity we need a new metric that somehow quantifies a fielder’s nonchalance.1And ideally a fielder’s tendency to kick the ball off his leg when he can’t catch it. And we could spend hours trying to understand Terry Collins’s faith in an eighth-inning set-up man who is allowing a .835 OPS to opposing batters in the postseason. (It seems as though I may spend the next several years doing that.)But instead I want to tell you about my hat. If you read FiveThirtyEight a lot, you know that we’re puritanical about baseball’s playoffs being a crapshoot. They’re a series of games that may or may not be a reflection of a team’s actual quality. Intellectually, I know the same rules of randomness that apply to a baseball also apply to what I wear to watch a game. But the World Series is not a time for intellect.On July 31, the day Cespedes was traded to the Mets, I bought a Minnesota Twins hat at Target Field in Minneapolis. It was a tourist’s purchase – I was in Minnesota for a couple of ballgames with some friends.But the hat started to mean something more. That weekend, the Mets swept the Washington Nationals to tie for first place in the NL East. So I kept wearing the hat. And the Mets kept winning. The Mets went 37-22 to close out the season, and won the NL East despite a 23 percent chance of doing so when I bought the hat. (The rational readers among you will note that they also went 37-22 to close out the season after Cespedes joined the team, but, again, this is not a rational story.)Soon, the Twins hat had replaced my Mets hat. My Mets friends texted me and asked me to wear it when they were feeling nervous about a game. I nearly forgot it on a plane, and felt the Mets season slipping away until I stormed back to retrieve it. At the start of the playoffs, I went on a poorly timed vacation to India, and brought the Twins hat to ensure the Mets advanced.I returned to the U.S. in time for the World Series, and there was no question I’d wear the Twins hat into the heart of a Mets bar for Game 1. Fourteen innings later, the hat wasn’t enough. The Mets lost 5-4.So I put on something different. I went to Game 3 in Citi Field and wore a hat that spelled out M-E-T-S. I had worn it to every Mets home game I attended this year.That Mets hat has its own history, with a winning percentage of about .550 this season, if I recall correctly. Good, but not Twins hat good. Yet the Mets won Game 3 9-3. And so, before Game 4, I faced the same choice any manager does: Do I ride what’s hot, or stick with the steady performer? I looked into the archives of Baseball Prospectus, but couldn’t find any research on whether there’s such a thing as a hot-hand effect in fans’ attire. I was adrift with nothing but my own small sample sizes.Saturday, I put on the Mets hat. By the end of the night, it had regressed to its mean. It couldn’t stop a Royals team that had a .301 BABIP in the regular season from having a BABIP of .346 in Game 4 (and that doesn’t even count the ball that skittered beneath Murphy’s glove). It couldn’t make the Mets win. It couldn’t get Terry Collins to bring in his best bullpen pitcher for a six-out save with nobody on, rather than a five-out save with two runners on base. It couldn’t get Cespedes to stay closer to first base in the final moments.A hat with a .550 winning percentage could never do that. But a Twins hat with a .627 winning percentage? We’ll find out during Game 5.
Darkness had fallen over Longs Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, and Andrew Hamilton was struggling to find his way. He wasn’t entirely alone. A handful of people trailed close behind him, and fans in places like London, Atlanta and Kansas City were following the progress of the 40-year-old stay-at-home dad and preternatural hiker online as his tracking beacon mapped his location in real time. Hamilton was on pace to break the speed record for climbing all 58 of Colorado’s “fourteeners”1There are 53 ranked fourteeners in Colorado, but this list does not include minor summits that rise less than 300 feet above their saddles with another fourteener. If these other peaks are included (as they are on the Colorado Geological Survey’s official count), the list expands to 58 peaks. Most of these other summits are easily and sometimes necessarily climbed en route to the main summit. Hamilton topped all 58 summits; the previous record-holder had done 55. Hamilton told me that none of the extras he included added much time, and he thinks that 58 will be the recognized number going forward. — mountains at least 14,000 feet above sea level — but first he needed to find the keyhole. Named for its shape, the giant rock notch serves as a waypoint on the standard route up Longs Peak, and it’s usually hard to miss. He’d had better conditions on this peak the first time he’d set the record, back in 1999. But on this night, the only light was from his headlamp, and this final peak he needed for the record was shrouded in fog. Hamilton had gone nine days without more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time. And now the wind was blasting, and the rain was turning to snow.The five hikers following him could offer moral support, but to secure the record, Hamilton had to do the route-finding himself. After some bumbling around, he finally located the keyhole, and from there, he was looking for bull’s-eyes — route markers painted on the rocks along the final mile and a half to the summit. Each time he found one, the crew behind him cheered. Meanwhile, his Internet fans discussed the blow-by-blow of his attempt on the 14ers.com forum. As Hamilton navigated the exposed section leading to the summit — a place where people regularly fall and die, even in good weather — the markers became obscured by snow. He was down to wits alone.With the help of crampons and an ice ax, Hamilton finally reached the summit. Longs Peak had put up a fierce battle, but he’d made it. Descending would be hazardous too, but at least he’d have his tracks to follow. Hamilton reached the finish of his Longs Peak climb at 2:21 a.m. on July 9 — nine days, 21 hours, 51 minutes and 264.5 miles after he’d embarked on the 58-peak adventure. His time set a new record, slicing nearly 24 hours off the previous one. Never mind that it was the middle of the night — a crowd of more than 40 people was waiting to congratulate him.One of the people there to greet Hamilton was Teddy Keizer, who’d held the record for 15 years. It was his 44th birthday, and he’d flown in from Oregon. “It felt fantastic to be there,” he told me later. “You don’t get to see history in the making very often, and there couldn’t be a more deserving person to hold the record.”Such sportsmanship is a hallmark of the pursuit. The Colorado fourteeners record has no organizing body or official regulations. “It’s a gentleman’s sport,” said ultra-marathoner Buzz Burrell, who helped popularize the notion of FKTs or “fastest known times” on mountain trails. “It’s unofficial,” he said. “It’s always been for personal achievement and the respect of your peers.” The event isn’t just for gentlemen, however. Danelle Ballengee, an accomplished runner and adventure racer, set the women’s record in 2000 and had been on track to break the men’s record until a lightning storm turned her around on Mount Lindsey. (She drove away from the mountain intending to drop out, but after a six-hour nap decided she couldn’t quit.)Cleve McCarty pioneered the speed record by climbing all of Colorado’s fourteeners (then recognized as 52) in 52 days in 1960. It wasn’t until runners started going after the record in the 1990s that the event became more like a race — the Mighty Mountain Megamarathon — than a recreational goal.Trying to set the fourteener record is more than just a test of human endurance; it’s also a data optimization problem. Colorado’s 58 fourteeners are scattered over approximately a third of the state. The clock begins with the first climb and stops with the last, so it’s not enough to hike fast. If you want the record, you need to find the most efficient route and minimize the time wasted getting from one climb to the next.Keizer, known as “Cave Dog” on the trail, understood this better than anyone. Before making his successful record attempt in 2000, the then-29-year-old spent four and a half years researching the problem, scouting routes and planning every detail. This was before GPS driving instructions were ubiquitous, and he drove all over Colorado to construct a 30-page book of directions — “every tenth of a mile, every turn” — for his crew. Before Keizer, most record-seekers tried to mix and match easy peaks with more difficult ones, which meant lots of extra travel time. “That’s crazy,” Keizer said. “I wanted to find the most efficient route.”Keizer also changed the approach to recovery. Hamilton told me that previous record-holders Rick Trujillo and Ricky Denesik, renowned Colorado mountain runners, blasted up and down the peaks as fast as they could but then would grab a meal at a Mexican food joint and go sleep six or eight hours. “Teddy took away all the sleep and took two days off the record,” Hamilton said.Keizer’s optimized routing and decision to sleep while in transit allowed him to shave more than 25 hours off the time that Hamilton spent in transition from one climb to the next during his 1999 record. Even though Keizer’s hiking pace was significantly slower than Denesik’s in his 1997 record, his transition time was almost 100 hours faster.Keizer’s many years of preparation had left few details to tweak, but Hamilton found some places for improvement. Keizer’s order of operations forced him to travel from Pikes Peak, just outside of Colorado Springs, to Longs Peak, northwest of Denver, during rush hour, and he lost valuable time stuck in traffic. Hamilton reworked the route so that those two peaks weren’t back-to-back, and he also linked some peaks in the Elk range into a single outing. Hiking those peaks in a single push took him 24 hours, Hamilton said: “But it was an entire day I took off of Teddy.”For future challengers, Keizer wrote down the informal rules already in place and added a few of his own. The most long-standing one is the 3,000-foot rule, also called the Colorado rule, which requires record-seekers to ascend at least 3,000 feet in absolute elevation from a start of a climb to the first summit and descend at least 3,000 feet before leaving the series of peaks.One thing that Keizer’s rules don’t explicitly address is the Culebra question. Culebra Peak is privately owned, part of an 80,000-acre ranch in southern Colorado, and right now, the only way to climb it is to pay $150 and show up on a pre-arranged weekend day and time. That obviously throws a wrench into the planning of a record attempt, and one of Hamilton’s crew members arranged for him to have less restricted access. A few commenters on the fourteener forums questioned the fairness of this. While hesitating to call it unfair, Peter Bakwin, the owner of the Fastest Known Time website, told me: “I don’t real like that he did it, because it’s not available to everyone.” Hamilton stands by his decision, which Keizer supports. Of course Hamilton should set up access, Keizer told me: “Part of the logistics is getting that special permission.”Yet logistics are only part of the equation. Fitness and mountaineering skills are also necessary, but nothing’s more crucial than winning the mental game. “You’re out there in the dark, you’re tired, you want to quit,” Hamilton said. Muscle fatigue and sore joints were only the beginning. He also fought the “sleep demons” — the sometimes overwhelming urge to fall asleep. He coped by downing 5-Hour Energy shots and listening to a repeating playlist of Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor and other “pump” songs he’d preloaded on his iPhone.Hamilton’s low point came on day four. He had six peaks on the agenda, and after ticking off the first one, Culebra, and summiting and traversing the Crestones, he headed toward Kit Carson Peak. But first, he had to get around Obstruction Peak. “It’s sort of just in the way,” Hamilton said. It was raining, he was surrounded by fog, and an irritated tendon in his ankle was killing him. With no trail along this route, he was blazing his own way, and lightning was moving in. “I started thinking it would be better to get struck than to have to drop out,” he recalled.Lightning is no idle threat. Several days after Hamilton set his record, a honeymooner was struck and killed on Mount Yale. The element of risk involved in seeking the fourteener record makes it more than a gauge of fitness and logistics; it’s also a test of decision-making under pressure. “This is a mountaineering adventure, not a running adventure,” Keizer said, which is why he proposed that the record-setter must always do the route-finding. “You’re down to the elements, and you have to be able to survive by your own wits.” The mental game is far more difficult than the physical one, he said. “When it’s 2 a.m., on a technical rock face and the hail starts hitting you, and you’re strapped on some rock, trying not to fall off the peak, you have to posses the serenity that allows you to withstand the elements,” Keizer said.When Keizer set his record, he climbed 50 of the peaks solo. But when Hamilton made his attempt last month, he had people watching at every turn. The advent of the Internet and satellite tracking devices has turned things like fourteener record attempts into spectator sports. Hamilton’s satellite tracker uploaded his whereabouts on a topo map in real time. As he went, many of his online supporters showed up in person to follow him and cheer. “There were times when it felt like that scene from ‘Forrest Gump’ where he’s running across the country and a pack of people are just following behind him,” Hamilton said.Hamilton was pleased to break the fourteener record by what he called a “satisfying” margin. “It’s going to be under attack, and I’m OK with that,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to see.” Given how badly it was handicapped by weather, Ballengee’s women’s record seems even more ripe for the picking, and although she doesn’t intend to try again, she told me that she’d love to see someone go after it. “I think there’s a chance that a woman could go and break the men’s record,” she said, pointing out that until Scott Jurek broke it by a narrow margin on July 12, Jennifer Pharr Davis held the speed record on the Appalachian Trail. Who’s next is anybody’s guess, but what’s almost certain is that the next challenger will have a posse of fans watching it all unfold in real time from the comfort of somewhere else.CORRECTION (Aug. 5, 8:34 p.m.): An earlier version of this post listed the wrong source for the chart that shows the time record-seekers spent hiking vs. transitioning between peaks. It comes from Andrew Hamilton, not Charles Komanoff.
2007Zach Johnson613016460513 2011Charl Schwartzel224564199620 Strokes gained tee-to-green was the top category (or tied for the top) for 46 percent of the Masters winners over that span,2No other category was above 38 percent. and 62 percent of winners ranked among the Top 10 in the statistic — like Woods does this year. (This is consistent with my previous research that driving distance and approach accuracy are the two secret weapons players can possess at Augusta, causing them to play better in the Masters than their overall scoring average would predict.)I haven’t mentioned Tiger’s putting numbers yet, and with good reason. Woods used to be the greatest putter in the world, but so far this season he ranks just 74th in strokes gained with the flatstick, adding only 0.19 shots above average per round. Last year, he was better — 48th on tour — though he still wasn’t the putting maestro who once showed me and countless others the fundamentals of a great stroke. However, Augusta has frequently seen putters who rank far worse than Woods win during the era of detailed PGA Tour tracking data. (In fact, more than half of qualified Masters winners since 2004 have ranked worse than 78th in putting.) Putting performance is so random from year to year — much less from tournament to tournament or even round to round — that it’s a lot easier for a good tee-to-green player to get hot on the green for a weekend than for a good putter to suddenly have an uncharacteristically amazing weekend off the tee.Because of all this, it’s not hard to understand why Woods is a strong 12-to-1 bet to win the Masters. But it’s also not hard to imagine that this could be the 43-year-old’s last, best chance to win another green jacket. Using our research on historical major winners from a few years ago, here’s what the aging curve for championship golfers looks like: Average34.531.970.018.486.121.2 Masters winners do their best work from tee to greenStrokes gained rankings by category for Masters Tournament winners during the seasons they won, 2004-18 2018Patrick Reed104742297224 2009Ángel Cabrera3748169636351 YearMasters WinnerOff TeeApproachAround GreenTee to GreenPuttingTotal 2014Bubba Watson2476371098 2008Trevor Immelman116501131191113 As the world’s greatest golfers convene in Augusta, Georgia, this week for the Masters, it’s time for every sports fan’s annual rite of spring: wild speculation about whether Tiger Woods can add a fifth green jacket to his closet. Picking Woods used to be a trendy bet; then it began to feel like a totally futile exercise. Well after he last won the event in 2005, there was a period when Woods was in the news constantly for everything except golf success. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Woods’s relevance as a winning golfer seemed finished, along with his bid to chase down Jack Nicklaus’s record for all-time majors won.But that all changed last season, when Woods put everything back together again to finish eighth on the PGA Tour money list and win the season-ending Tour Championship in September. Now Woods is back, in his best position in years to win another Masters. According to VegasInsider, Woods has the third-best odds of any player to win this weekend; he’s also playing even more inspired golf than he did during last year’s comeback campaign. But at age 43, will this be one of Woods’s last chances to win at Augusta before his days of being a viable champion are over?Certainly, Tiger has been outplaying many of his much younger rivals these past few seasons. Since the end of his lost 2017 campaign, Woods ranks sixth among qualified1Minimum 30 total rounds measured by ShotLink, the PGA Tour’s real-time scoring system. PGA Tour players in total strokes gained per round, trailing only Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood. He’s mostly regained his old mastery of irons on approach shots and still has some of the game’s best feel for shots around the green. In terms of strokes gained, Woods is picking up 1.67 shots (relative to the average player) per round so far in 2019, an even better mark than the 1.60 he posted last season — which itself was easily his best performance in five years.One of the most impressive aspects of Woods’s early play this season has been improved accuracy off the tee. According to the PGA Tour, Woods has hit 65.2 percent of possible fairways on his drives this season, which ranks 54th out of 214 qualified players. That might not sound amazing, but by Woods’s standards, it is ultraprecise accuracy. Last year, he hit only 59.4 percent of fairways, which ranked him 127th, and he struggled to break 55 percent over the four injury-plagued seasons before that. (Even during his really great pre-scandal/injury seasons, hitting fairways was an Achilles’ heel. In 2007, when he made the most money playing golf of his career, Woods ranked 152nd in driving accuracy and failed to hit 60 percent of fairways.) When Woods is scuffling, the first indication is often a wayward drive that requires subsequent artistry just to make par.With the help of that improved accuracy, Woods now ranks 72nd in strokes gained on drives this year — he was 100th last year — and ninth in strokes gained from the tee to the green, picking up 1.48 shots per round before ever setting his spikes on the putting surface. Classic Tiger was always a tee-to-green monster, ranking either first or second in the category every healthy season from 2006 to 2013, so his strong performance in that category this year is another signal that Woods is returning to vintage form.It’s also a very good sign for his chances at Augusta. That’s because, as Todd Schneider wrote about for FiveThirtyEight a few years ago, the Masters often comes down to a player’s skills with the long clubs — contrary to the tournament’s reputation for being a putting contest.Great PGA Tour players generally assert themselves most on approach shots and drives anyway, gaining about 4 strokes relative to average from tee to green for every extra shot they pick up on putts. But the recent history of Masters winners also suggests that a great long game is the true prerequisite for winning the green jacket. The average winner since strokes gained was first tracked in 2004 (excluding the 2016 and 2017 winners, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, because they lacked enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for official leaderboards) ranked only about 86th in putting performance per round but 35th in strokes gained off the tee, 32nd in strokes gained on approach shots and 18th in total strokes gained from tee to green. 2015Jordan Spieth15117492 2013Adam Scott21677510811 PGA Tour Rank 2017Sergio García—————— 2010Phil Mickelson66532513312 Garcia and Willett didn’t play enough rounds to qualify for the PGA Tour’s rankings during their Masters-winning seasons.Source: PGAtour.com 2004Phil Mickelson7224351289 2005Tiger Woods44128451 2012Bubba Watson1598431606 2016Danny Willett—————— 2006Phil Mickelson124664405 That spike in wins for players in their early 40s came from 42-year-olds Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Payne Stewart, Tom Kite and Gary Player, and it was the last actual uptick on the chart — and Woods is now on the wrong side of it. Jack Nicklaus famously won his final major at age 46, but most great golfers are largely done winning by their early to mid-40s. And the game has only gotten younger in the twilight of Woods’s career; while the average major-winner in our data set above (through 2014) was 31.9, that number is just 29.6 in the years since. With his own early career dominance and popularity, Woods has inspired a younger generation of gifted golfers that he now must do battle with.Woods is a special talent and in the conversation for the greatest golfer ever.3Even though most fans still give Nicklaus the nod. He’s playing as well heading into Augusta as he has in a long time and excelling in exactly the right categories. But between aging effects and his own injury history, he may never have a better shot at winning another Masters than he does right now. Once upon a time, Tiger was legendary for pouncing on every opportunity left in front of him. We’ll just have to see if he can summon that ability yet again.
Members of the Ohio State women’s soccer team huddles before a game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Credit: Aaron Tomich | Lantern ReporterThe Ohio State women’s soccer team is gearing up for the final act of the season commencing on Saturday. The Buckeyes (10-6-3, 4-4-3 Big Ten) kick off the first round of the NCAA tournament against the Dayton Flyers (9-9-3, 4-4-2 Atlantic 10) at 6 p.m. at Jesse Owens Stadium.OSU senior defender Bridget Skinner expressed excitement about receiving news of the team’s bid into the NCAA tournament, noting that the Buckeyes are champing at the bit with special motivation and strong anticipation of their matchup against their in-state opponent, the Dayton Flyers. “We’re just pretty pumped that we’re at home and get a chance to play them,” Skinner said. Coming off of three week’s rest, Skinner took time to discuss the team’s mentality behind the gap between its last game and Saturday’s upcoming match. This included a couple days of physical and mental rest, along with the idea of a fresh start.“We really did look at it as this completely new season,” she said. “Like, it’s postseason, the regular season happened, and this is a completely new season.”OSU coach Lori Walker focused on motivating the Buckeyes during the break, as they sat aside during the Big Ten tournament. “Everybody else is playing, so as a competitor, you get a very nauseous feeling that you’ve been left out of something,” Walker said.Walker noted that the team capitalized on the odd feeling of being left out, continuing to emphasize the concept that “winners don’t like to be left out of things,” as extra motivation for Saturday. She said that given Dayton has played three games in four days last weekend, the Buckeyes are focusing on attacking a fatigued Flyers team.“We know Dayton well. They’re a really good team,” Walker said. “They’ve had some success here and there, and at the end of their season, so we’re excited to play them on Saturday.”OSU senior forward Lindsay Agnew hopes the break from competitive play refocused the team going into Saturday night. Echoing the same team mentality, Agnew looks at this matchup as a new season. In saying that, she and the team as a whole focused on what has been improved all season long.“We took a couple days off at the beginning to reset and refocus,” Agnew said. “But since then, we’ve been basically just getting back to the basics: goal-scoring, shot-blocking and working on our midfield movements, just all the foundational stuff.”To take advantage of Dayton’s short rest, Agnew stressed the importance of ball movement and connecting midfielder crosses to forwards, eventually leading to more scoring opportunities.Dayton poses a threat to the OSU defense with junior forward Alexis Kiehl, who currently sits tied for most goals scored this season in the NCAA with 20. Although Kiehl’s numbers are daunting, the Buckeyes’ back-line is prepared to combat a potent offense.“I think if we stick to this game plan, we’ll be fine,” Skinner said. “And it will be kind of irrelevant that (Kiehl) has scored 20 goals,” Skinner said.
“You don’t want to get behind the eight ball early in conference play,” coach Pete Hanson said.“You have got to take of care of your home court plus win a few on the road and now we’re in a good position to keep that rolling.” The Buckeyes showcased why they are a defending conference champion as they displayed dominance as well as overcoming adversity in a decisive victory over the Mastodons. “I was pretty confident in our ability to do well,” the junior said. “Everyone had confidence in each other, we stayed positive and we were able to get the job done.” John Klanac had no doubt in his mind that the Buckeyes were capable of winning that game. The Buckeyes won the next point and eventually took the second game, which featured 18 ties and several lead changes, 34-32. The Buckeyes were led by impressive performances from senior Ted Schoenfeldt, posting a match-high 20 points and 15 kills and Klanac, who also contributed with 17.5 points and 13 kills. Sophomore Mik Berzins, who was switched to outside hitter for the match, added 11 points and 10 kills of his own. As a team, OSU hit .320 for the match, compared to just .150 by IPFW. “We just made sure we were all on the same page,” Hanson said. “We made sure all the guys knew what we wanted done, how we were going to get it done, and to just take a deep breath, relax and play.” After the break, OSU controlled from the start and won the third game, 30-24, never trailing and finishing off a sweep of the Mastodons. Ohio State (1-3, 1-0) faced stiff competition last weekend at the Outriggers Hotels Invitational, falling to No. 12 Hawaii, No. 5 Penn State, and No. 1 USC, and was looking to regroup with a statement win in their MIVA conference opener against IPFW (2-1, 0-1). Ohio State came out focused early, assisted by 10 IPFW errors, and easily won the first game 30-16. However, in the second game, the Mastodons set the tempo early and led the majority of the game, forcing a game point against the Buckeyes, leading 29-28 when Hanson called a timeout. After opening the season with a series of tough matches in Hawaii last weekend, the No. 11 Ohio State men’s volleyball team opened up Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference play with a 3-0 sweep (30-16, 34-32, 30-24) against Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne Friday night at St. John Arena. After the win, despite spending the previous weekend in Hawaii, Klanac said he was happy to be back home in Columbus.
In college football, where BCS formulas, strengths of schedules and computer rankings determine end-of-season opportunities, one loss can tarnish a season. By mid-September last year, an 18-15 loss at home to USC had spoiled Ohio State’s national title hopes. An October loss to Purdue was icing on the cake. But every offseason, each school is granted a clean slate, and OSU captured the No. 2 ranking in many preseason ballots. Aside from annual conference battles with Wisconsin and Iowa, both ranked in the top 15, the Buckeyes’ championship aspirations were hinged on the outcome of a matchup with Miami (Fla.). Unlike marquee non-conference matchups of recent years past, the Buckeyes played up to their competition, as the 36-24 final difference seemed to reflect inadequately the talent differential on the field that afternoon. OSU intercepted Miami quarterback Jacory Harris four times, while Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw for 233 yards and rushed for 113 more. “As long as we continue to grow, this (win) is huge,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said. “I think they’re a top-10 team. In my mind, going into the game, I was interested to see if we were a top-10 team.” The last time OSU avoided an early season loss to a highly regarded opponent, 2007, the Scarlet and Gray reached the BCS Championship game before falling to Louisiana State University. That year, Washington was the nonconference challenge, and the Buckeyes pounced on the Cougars, 33-14. A year earlier, OSU knocked off Texas in Austin, 24-7, and carried the momentum from the win — the Bucks were ranked No. 1 and the Longhorns No. 2 entering the game — into the national title game before being upset by Florida. So the Buckeyes have been here before. But will they reach the title game like they did on each of the two previous occasions? “The problem with ratings and whatnot is you have to prove it every week,” Tressel said. “I think we proved it (against Miami) that we’re a top-10 team, and now we’ve got to prove it next week and the next week.” The Buckeyes saved the meat of their conference schedule for the end, finishing league play with a trio of games against Penn State, at Iowa and home against Michigan. The road test against the Hawkeyes and a trip to Camp Randall to visit Wisconsin should provide the stiffest challenges to OSU’s hopes of maintaining an unblemished record. But for now, with one major hurdle successfully cleared, the Buckeyes have time to make progress and continue on their path toward what they hope is another shot at hardware. “We can be a good football team,” Tressel said. “You have to play hard to be good. Now you have to start playing better to be real good, and I think our guys understand that. … We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to square away. It’s September, we’ve just got to keep trying to get better.”
Columbus is still in the running for a major NHL event, but it isn’t the 2012 Winter Classic.Both the NHL and the Columbus Blue Jackets refuted speculation that Columbus was a potential host for the 2012 edition of the Classic.Ryan Holtmann, manager of communications for the Blue Jackets, said the rumors might have originated from an opinion column that was published in the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Holtmann also said that even though Columbus is one of few cities that has the appropriate climate for the NHL’s popular outdoor event, the Blue Jackets “haven’t been contacted by the NHL or made aware that we’re finalists for the 2012 Winter Classic.”John Dellapina, the NHL’s senior director of media relations, said, “having just emerged from the 2011 game, we still are reviewing the Pittsburgh event. Any speculation at this point about the site of the 2012 NHL Winter Classic or any subsequent one is just that: speculation.”However, Columbus is in contention for another marquee NHL event.Linda Logan, executive director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, is still optimistic about the 18-month-old bid to bring the 2013 NHL All-Star Game to the city.“We’d be a great host for the All-Star Game,” Logan said. “We’re a great sports town, and this event would be in-keeping with that tradition.”Holtmann said there is no timeline for a decision to be made on where the 2013 All-Star Game will be held.As far as a future bid for the Winter Classic in Columbus is concerned, Ohio Stadium, a potential venue, could be a deciding factor. Dellapina said the Horseshoe could only boost a bid for the Classic.“Ohio Stadium is one of the iconic venues in American sports,” Dellapina said. “Any event staged there is made more special by its setting. An NHL Winter Classic played there would be no different.”
The last two days saw two former members of the Ohio State football program make their respective NFL debuts, though both had forgettable outings. Former OSU coach Jim Tressel debuted in the coaching booth for the Indianapolis Colts in a Sunday Night Football matchup with New Orleans. Tressel, now a game-day consultant with the Colts, opted to postpone his term of employment until Week 7 of the NFL season due to concerns about current and former OSU players who were suspended in both the NFL and NCAA. In Tressel’s final game coaching the Buckeyes, he led the team to a 31-26 victory against Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl in the Louisiana Superdome. That game, along with the entire 2010 season, was later vacated by OSU as part of its self-imposed penalties for violating NCAA policies. Tressel resigned from his post with the Buckeyes on May 30. Tressel returned to the Superdome last night only to see his new team fall to the Saints, 62-7. The loss dropped the Colts’ 2011 record to 0-7. On Wednesday, Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell said that Tressel will assist in situations when the team might challenge a play. “I may have a couple of other things for him to do, sort of game day activities, but that’s basically what he’s going to help us with, among other things,” Caldwell said. “I want him to come around and make certain that he gets a feel for how we do things. Practice, preparation and all those kinds of things, so he’ll have a sense of that. The rest of the time it will probably just be towards the weekend, but he’ll be around. (Tressel will) travel with us, obviously.” Tressel was not made available for comment. Week 7 also saw former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor make his first appearance for the Oakland Raiders. Pryor, who was slated to miss the first five games of the Buckeyes’ 2011 season, departed the university on June 7 to pursue an NFL career with a year of NCAA eligibility remaining. Pryor and five of his then-OSU teammates were suspended for selling team memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Despite his off-field problems, Pryor was selected by the Raiders in the third-round of the NFL supplemental draft with the understanding that he would be suspended for the first five games of the NFL season. During the first quarter of the Raiders’ 28-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, the former Buckeye lined up at the wide receiver position before going under center and taking a snap. Pryor was flagged for a false start penalty on the play and did not return to the game. The Raiders did not respond to The Lantern’s request for comment regarding Pryor. Indianapolis will return to action Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. The Raiders are in the midst of their bye week and will next play the Denver Broncos at home Nov. 6.
It was clear who Indiana’s top three players were in its victory against Ohio State. The trio of Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Christian Watford each scored more than 20 points (they combined for 70) to out-score the entire Buckeye team and fuel the top-ranked Hoosiers to an 81-68 victory Sunday at the Schottenstein Center. It was also clear who OSU’s best player was. Deshaun Thomas, as he has most of the season, led the Buckeyes in scoring with 26 points. But after Thomas, there appears to be a void as to who the Buckeyes can rely on a night-to-night basis offensively and, as Indiana showed, three scorers are better than one. “You’re not going to win too many games with three guys scoring over 20,” said junior guard Aaron Craft. Craft has emphasized all season the importance of winning at home, especially in conference play. The top-five teams in the Big Ten standings are separated by two games or less, and have lost a combined three home conference games. Indiana (21-3, 9-2) and OSU (17-6, 7-4) saw firsthand earlier in the week the challenges of winning on the road. OSU lost in overtime to No. 3 Michigan on Tuesday, and Indiana lost at the buzzer to unranked Illinois two days later. Zeller, a preseason All-American sophomore center, only shot six times in that loss, something the Hoosiers were ardent on improving against the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers fed their 7-footer early and often as he scored the game’s first bucket, had 12 points at halftime and finished with 24. “We really needed to get the ball in the paint,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “It was very important that the ball hit the paint because our statistics, when they hit the paint, are very high percentage-wise. We did the best job all of (our Big Ten games) of feeding the post today.” Perhaps more important, Zeller drew two early fouls on sophomore center Amir Williams, forcing him out of the game. Three Buckeye big men tried their luck against Zeller, but the three Buckeyes combined for five fouls in the first half and 10 for the game. Williams finished with four fouls, and senior forward Evan Ravenel fouled out. “Sometimes the refs are going to call it tight, sometimes the refs aren’t,” Ravenel said. “You can’t worry about it.” Indiana’s best option offensively was Oladipo, who matched Thomas’ effort with 26 points of his own on 8 of 10 shooting. In the first half’s waning minutes, the junior guard converted back-to-back acrobatic buckets, the last of which cam when he grabbed a loose ball, sprinted down the lane and finished with a high-flying, two-handed slam to give Indiana an eight-point advantage. Oladipo also grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists. The Buckeyes took their first lead, 13-11, when Thomas connected on a 3-pointer from the wing, eliciting a roar from the sold-out crowd at the Schottenstein Center – some of which had been camping out in anticipation of the game since Wednesday. But Indiana, supported in part by two first-half 3-pointers from Watford, took a 41-33 lead into the locker room. Watford, a senior, hit four long balls on the day and finished with 20 points. Three free throws from Thomas drew OSU within four early in the second half, but as was the case for most of the game, Indiana answered with a run of its own as Oladipo sunk a 3-pointer at the 15:32 mark to extend the lead back to nine. The Buckeyes never got closer than seven for the rest of the game. “We’d make a run and they’d make a 5-0 run back at us and kept their composure,” Craft said. OSU coach Thad Matta agreed. “We couldn’t gain that momentum,” Matta said. “Unfortunately we didn’t guard them at the level we needed to guard them.” Indiana shot 59 percent in the second half and 53 percent for the game. OSU shot 42 percent. Thomas was the only Buckeye in double figures until below the 3:30 mark in the second half. Craft finished with 16 points and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross added 11. The loss marks the end of a difficult week for OSU and broke the Buckeyes’ streak of 121 consecutive games without consecutive losses. Between Michigan and Indiana, the Buckeyes played two of the top three teams in the nation during a six-day span. “Typical week in our conference,” Craft said. “We got a few games left and every one of them is going to be a dog fight just like these were.” The Buckeyes play Northwestern Thursday at the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m. and the Buckeyes like their chances for the rest of the season. “I feel as though we have the ability and the team and the personnel to beat those guys any day of the week going forward,” Ravenel said.
“You can play,” was the message some fans sported on their shirts during the Ohio State men’s hockey team’s second annual Pride Night.Executive Director of the You Can Play Project and former NFL player, Wade Davis, spoke Saturday at the Schottenstein Center before the Ohio State men’s hockey team (11-6-1, 1-2-1) took on Michigan State (6-10-3, 0-2-2).You Can Play is an organization that seeks to bring equality, respect and safety to all athletes regardless of their sexual orientation. Before the game, which ended in a 1-1 tie with Michigan State winning the shootout, Davis spoke about the challenges he faced as a gay athlete.“I didn’t have the courage to exist in the world as I really was,” Davis said. “The safest place for me was with my teammates because I wasn’t thinking about the idea that I was gay.”It was that mindset that led Davis to his involvement with You Can Play. Davis said that when it comes to sports, one’s race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation should not matter.“You Can Play addresses the idea that athletes really don’t care about your sexuality,” Davis said. “They only care about if you can help the team win.”The Board Room in the basement of the Schottenstein Center filled up at 5 p.m. with hockey fans, students and families who came out to support OSU’s partnership with Gay Hockey Ohio in an effort to show the university’s commitment to ensure equality amongst all athletes. At Pride Night, Davis spoke about how his experience being open about his orientation as an athlete has been both “liberating and awful.”“There is a common misconception that sports culture is a culture that is really homophobic, but actually in a lot of ways, sports is one of the few places where athletes are used to dealing with someone who is different,” Davis said.Pride Night aimed to raise awareness and advocacy among both athletes and students at OSU through team videos expressing support of the You Can Play Project.A video message from Mayor Michael Coleman played on the jumbotron opened the game in support of the project and OSU’s decision to promote the program.“Tonight is about our sportsmanship and the strength and diversity of our community. These are values we embrace and honor right here in Columbus,” Coleman said in the video. “I take pleasure that we celebrate this kind of diversity.”Davis said a huge idea that You Can Play stresses to athletes is that they need to treat each other with respect regardless of their sexual orientation in order to help other athletes play freely and openly.There was also a silent auction held prior to the game to help raise money for the project. A hockey stick signed by current Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and other signed merchandise was available to purchase.Brooke Cartus, a second-year law student at OSU’s Moritz College of Law, said OSU is the first Big Ten university to host a pride night. Cartus is the co-chair of The Outlaws, an organization within Moritz that seeks to understand legal issues that affect the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. She called the organization “an opportunity for open communication and education.”Ben Brown, a first-year in agricultural engineering, supported the project along with many other students who attended the hockey game.“If you have a love for the sport, it shouldn’t matter your orientation and if you’re good at the sport, it shouldn’t matter,” Brown said.