In January, Daniel Dobson was two months into a new job that allowed him the opportunity to travel overseas and watch live sports. It had a downside, though: It got him arrested in an incident that drew media coverage around the world.Dobson’s job was to sit courtside at the Australian Open in Melbourne and use his cellphone to transmit the outcome of each point of the match he was watching. The faster he worked, the greater the edge his employers at Sporting Data Ltd. would have in the betting market.Police charged Dobson, 22, with violating a law protecting integrity in sport. Two months later, they dropped the charges, and today Dobson works out of Sporting Data’s London office. The experience convinced Sporting Data chief executive and co-founder Steve High to drop tennis courtsiding from his firm’s portfolio.“That’s it for us,” he said in an interview at the company’s headquarters last month. “We’re not going to do that anymore.”Now that he doesn’t need to protect his company’s tennis tactics, or stay mum during a high-profile investigation, High is speaking freely about courtsiding. His colleague Richard Coughlan is also talking, and a former courtsider for another company has written a book on the topic to be published this week. All three describe careers that parallel those of the players. Courtsiders travel the world alongside the tennis tours, spend hours of each day honing their craft, seek to make it to the highest-profile matches to earn a big payday and, if they’re booted early in the week by their opponents, kick back and enjoy touring glamorous cities.“Oh, I loved it,” Coughlan, 27, said of his courtsiding job, which paid an annual salary of about 40,000 pounds ($67,000). “I’d love to still be doing it now.”Officials crack downThe vigorous opposition of tennis officials to courtsiding has made it impossible to continue. Coughlan and Brad Hutchins, author of the forthcoming “Game, Set, Ca$h!,” say tournament directors use a network of scouts, security officials and sometimes police to sniff out people transmitting scores. The sleuths are aided at times by disapproving chair umpires, photographs of known courtsiders and, according to Hutchins, closed-circuit television.Tennis has an uneasy relationship with gambling. In 2007, the sport was roiled by a high-profile incident of irregular betting involving top-10 player Nikolay Davydenko. (Davydenko insisted he was innocent and no evidence was found implicating him.) Partly in response, in 2008 the international organizations that oversee the professional game jointly formed the Tennis Integrity Unit. The TIU standardized rules on betting, including banning spectators from transmitting live scores for commercial purposes. (The secretive, London-based group doesn’t disclose its budget or staff size, and its spokesman told me its policy is not to comment except about cases it has already made public.)Yet the sport also seeks to share in the revenue from the popularity of tennis gambling. The website Bet-at-home.com is a sponsor and the namesake of men’s tournaments in Hamburg, Germany, and Kitzbühel, Austria. And the top customers for the sport’s scores are gambling websites.Tennis bans courtsiders to protect the sport’s integrity, U.S. Open tournament director David Brewer said. That courtsiders might be involved in more problematic betting-related behavior like match-fixing “would certainly seem to be a logical conclusion that some people could reach,” Brewer said, adding, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”Scott Ferguson, a betting-industry consultant, rejects this logic. “There is no connection whatsoever between courtsiding and match-fixing,” he said in an email. “Hell, if you were fixing a match, why on earth would you need to be in the crowd? You’d get as far away as possible to avoid detection.”1A spokesman for the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which hosts the Wimbledon tournament, cited another reason for its crackdown. “We take a view that courtsiding comes under anti-social behavior and is liable to be a nuisance to fellow spectators and therefore we have the right to remove perpetrators from the site,” he said. “To my knowledge we have done it on two occasions previously.”High and Hutchins said they think tennis authorities are cracking down to protect the value of their own scores product. In 2011, the men’s and women’s tours made a deal to sell their scores through a company called Enetpulse, majority owned by IMG. Many of the buyers are sports-gambling websites that provide the scores for in-play betting — wagering on the match after play has begun.2Such wagers make up about 80 percent of tennis wagers for the betting company Coral, according to Coral spokesman David Stevens. One site that reportedly buys the scores, Betfair, is a betting exchange that, like a stock exchange, pairs buyers and sellers for transactions when they are willing to agree to the same terms.A spokesman for IMG said the company believes the tennis tours “should be the providers of the official data, thereby benefiting the sport and allowing funds to flow back into the game.” Spokesmen for the ATP and WTA, the men’s and women’s professional tennis tours, said the tours jointly invested more than $10 million to create and operate their system for collecting and distributing live match data. A spokeswoman for the Fédération Française de Tennis, which runs the French Open, said the FFT bans courtsiding because it “owns the right to the data.”High said the tours could drive courtsiders out of business by providing a product as fast as their competition’s — or faster, if they took advantage of proprietary high-speed wireless networks at tournaments.Time is moneyBoth sides in the cat-and-mouse game owe their jobs to the nature of tennis scoring data. After each point ends, chair umpires enter the outcome into computers, which transmit the scores to fans and bettors around the world.The snag for bettors is that chair umpires aren’t primarily concerned with entering data instantaneously. They follow the ball along with line judges and watch the players to make sure neither one challenges a call, and on clay courts they often spring out of their chairs to check ball marks and ensure calls are correct. There can also be an electronic delay in the data they transmit.The potential for delays means someone who can get score data faster has an advantage. That’s why courtsiders are courtside. The second the ball lands out, or bounces twice, they can click a button on their phones and transmit the score directly into the servers their employers use to place bets. The servers, in turn, contain software that models the outcome of the match. The model incorporates the latest point outcome, spits out a probability of each player winning, and then places any bets it can find that it considers favorable based on its calculated probability.That’s basic courtsiding. A more advanced courtsider will get to know the players and their tendencies, and sometimes make calculated risks to gain a bigger betting edge. Suppose a player on the run throws up a lob. If his opponent’s body language suggests it’s going out, the courtsider can record the point as over before it’s officially ended. Or he might call a shot out before the line judge does, trusting his own eyesight and judgment.Such advanced maneuvers should be used carefully — a premature decision could be costly.“We’d rather be sure,” High said. “If it’s an absolutely critical point, you don’t want to be wrong.”His courtsiders typically got local phones, testing different providers for the best coverage and speed. They rigged the phones with buttons that were easier to press without looking, by reaching into their pockets or even pressing them from outside their pockets.Courtsiders tried to get to tournaments early in the day, to get seats behind one of the players for optimal viewing. They regulated their liquid intake to avoid poorly timed toilet breaks. “You hold, hold as long as you possibly can,” Coughlan said.Coughlan was an active courtsider for 18 months, through last summer’s U.S. Open. At the peak of Sporting Data’s operation, each of its courtsiders was relaying data 30 to 35 weeks a year, three days a week, three or four matches a day. Tennis is ideal for live scoring because tournaments typically stage many matches simultaneously. If one is lopsided and driving no betting, courtsiders can shift to a different match.After getting used to the job of keeping score, “you almost zone out,” Coughlan said. Then at crucial moments in the match, “you really have to really switch on.”I asked him to show me how he’d record the score. He said I wouldn’t see, and I didn’t; he was that good. He could applaud a well-played winner while deftly tapping the right button on the phone in his pocket. He’d usually pick a player to support, going with the crowd whenever possible so as not to stick out.Before prospective courtsiders were sent out to work, they were tested in the office, racing to see who could record points fastest. And they were told not to drink during tournaments after company tests — conducted by assigning employees the onerous homework of drinking heavily — showed hangovers weren’t conductive to fast, accurate match-scoring.3Hutchins’s company didn’t enforce similar rules; in his book he describes one drunk work session: “Our speed isn’t up to scratch but we are keeping it together.”Most of the courtsiders were young men. High, who turned 49 in January, worked mostly out of headquarters in London. “I’m an old man,” he said. “It’s a young man’s game.”It’s also a career with a limited lifespan. When tournaments catch a courtsider in the act, they typically boot the offender and ban him from returning, on threat of prosecution. Hutchins describes in his book a folder with headshots of known courtsiders that he kept seeing at tournaments. When he repeatedly was booted early in tournaments, he knew his days on tour were numbered.“One of our guys got on first-name terms with security,” High said. “At that point, he knew his career was drawing to a close.”‘We broke a million’Sporting Data occupies office space in a storage facility in southwest London, not far from Wimbledon, the International Tennis Federation headquarters and the National Tennis Centre, but not as posh. Inside are a few desks and lots of computer monitors and screens, plus a conference room that doubles as storage space.Sporting Data placed tennis bets primarily on Betfair, which imposes a five-second delay on bets. Often, Sporting Data would get score information from its courtsiders more than five seconds before the official scoreboard updated. Between its data speed advantage and its predictive model — which incorporates each player’s probability of winning serve and return points — it could find advantageous bets.Some of the people on the other side of Sporting Data’s bets probably were casual gamblers who based their wagers on the match broadcast or the digital scoreboard. Others might have been betting with their hearts, when a favorite player was in a tough scrape. Some might even have been rivals whose own courtsiders were sending in scores even faster, or who used models that disagreed with Sporting Data’s.4Rivals also were competing on the same side of the bet as Sporting Data. The first one to offer a bet that matched one they wanted to make would get it. For high-profile matches, there might be five or six other firms, also with courtsiders and models, competing. “Whoever wins that race is going to get the casual punter first,” High said. “Generally speaking, there’s enough for all of us to make a lot of money, because there are a lot of casual punters, a lot of recreational punters out there.”The identity of the person on the other side of his bets didn’t matter, High said. “The clearest point I want to make is, he’s a guy who wants his bet to be matched.”5Also, Betfair warns its customers on its website that its score data may not be the latest available: “Although the current score, time elapsed and other data provided on this site is sourced from a ‘live’ feed provided by a third party, you should be aware that this data may be subject to a time delay and/or be inaccurate. If you rely on this data to place bets, you do so entirely at your own risk. Betfair provides this data AS IS with no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of such data and accepts no responsibility for any loss (direct or indirect) suffered by you as a result of your reliance on it.”Naturally, Sporting Data lost a lot of bets, because knowing about just one more point than your betting counterpart often provides only a minuscule edge. But it won enough bets to make the whole enterprise worthwhile. “We broke a million” pounds ($1.7 million) last year, High said, though that was before expenses on courtsiders and Betfair charges. “From a purely business point of view, I would say the margins were good but not extraordinary,” he said.The business didn’t depend on fixing matches or seeking inside information at tournaments, High said. He said his employees never corrupted the sport, and bristled when some of the press coverage of the Daniel Dobson arrest referred to an alleged “betting scam.”High got into tennis betting after working for Reuters and then Betfair. He and several partners formed a syndicate to pool their bets and agreed to split winnings. Sporting Data is the company they created to provide the syndicate with data.At first they were getting their scores from the official scoreboard, and betting without a model. Then they found a model online and adapted it for their purposes.High speaks with some pride about his firm’s increasing competitiveness in tennis betting, much like a coach might speak proudly of his protégé’s career progression. “We went from being fairly slow, and not having a model, to operating on a Wimbledon final,” he said. At its peak, tennis was producing about half the syndicate’s profits, with horse racing generating much of the rest.Coming into conflict with tennis authorities, and occasionally getting booted, was a cost of doing business. But an arrest wasn’t part of the plan. “We were aware that the authorities didn’t really like it, but there was no suggestion it was illegal in any way,” High said.High described the aftermath of Dobson’s arrest as stressful — for his young employee, for Dobson’s parents, and for High and his colleagues, who stayed in touch with Australia in the middle of the London night. After the arrest, Sporting Data launched a website whose sole content was a statement asserting that “it has never been and never will be involved in any illegal betting or any other illegal activity whatsoever,” and that Dobson couldn’t be guilty of the 2013 law under which he was arrested because recording scores doesn’t affect match outcomes.The company endured about a week of intense and often negative media coverage. “Once people understood we weren’t some sort of criminal organization cheating people out of money, the whole thing died down pretty quickly,” High said.A spokeswoman for Tennis Australia, which runs the Australian Open and which reportedly flagged Dobson to the state of Victoria police, said she would send answers to written questions but didn’t. After the charges against Dobson were dropped, the police issued a statement saying the decision “should not be seen as an invitation for people to attend the Australian Open next year and engage in courtsiding.”High thinks other companies, including Hutchins’s, also pulled out of courtsiding after the arrest. Coughlan can tell some courtsiders are still active simply by watching the in-play betting markets for matches on Betfair. When the odds move before the score has changed, he knows one of his former peers is at the match.Now that Sporting Data has exited tennis, it’s had to lay off some employees. It’s focusing on soccer and horse racing.High is considering ways to re-enter tennis based on intelligence advantage, not a speed edge. For instance, do Asian bettors drive up the price of Asian players beyond what they merit? Betting psychology may be the next frontier, High said. “I think that’s underestimated.”
Usain Bolt in Olympic semifinals (Twitter)Usain Bolt won gold in the men’s 100-meter Olympic race Sunday night, his third straight win for the event. The track and field star made history for being the first to ever do so. Afterward, his victory inspired several memes in celebration of his gold medal.According to ESPN, Bolt took off in .155 seconds, a typically slow start for the 29-year-old. It didn’t matter, though, because the gold medalist finished in 9.81 seconds, gaining the lead over initial front-runner American Justin Gatlin. He finished just 0.08 behind the Jamaican at 9.89 seconds.Bolt was not worried about his distant start, calling the race “brilliant.”“I didn’t go so fast, but I’m so happy I won,” he told the sports outlet. “I told you guys I was going to do it.”After attendees chanted “Bolt, Bolt, Bolt” at the Rio De Janerio, Brazil facility, the #Jamaican hashtag sprung up on Twitter, hilariously putting Bolt at the center of pride for the country.A user by the name Luke Cripwalker used the now-famous semi-finals photo to describe himself running away from deadlines, responsibilities and sleep.pic.twitter.com/J5FauqFglp— Luke Cripwalker (@sporker_) August 15, 2016Ashley C. Ford typed a possible thought Bolt had as he took the lead.”Had you shook with that slow start, didn’t I?” pic.twitter.com/5EX6TG2vWk— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) August 15, 2016@reginaapaigee tweeted a photo covered in Jamaican flags to celebrate the nation’s feelings on the big win.SHMOOD pic.twitter.com/f3kuk6LOz6— regina adizua (@reginaapaigee) August 15, 2016And used a scene from “The Wolf of Wall Street” to drive the point home.Jamaican twitter tonight: pic.twitter.com/u908sHpZJo— regina adizua (@reginaapaigee) August 15, 2016@FireinFreetown tweeted a photo throwing shade to non-Jamaican Caribbeans, using silver medalist Gatlin’s photo.How it feels to be West Indian but not Jamaican pic.twitter.com/HmdQ7tpfsu— Neauxlita Nopington (@FireinFreetown) August 15, 2016They also used Bolt’s semifinals image to demonstrate “racing to conclusions.”Me racing to conclusions pic.twitter.com/AdKKDXrx5W— Neauxlita Nopington (@FireinFreetown) August 15, 2016@dante2534 shared his Jamaican fiancé’s reaction to NBC reporter Bob Costas’ claim that Bolt is more famous than Bob Marley.My Jamaican fiancée when Bob Costas said that Usain is more famous than Bob Marley pic.twitter.com/73H2I49Ukb— baeyard rustin (@dante2534) August 15, 2016@Namastaywoke tweeted two photos showing national pride.Jamaicans be like : “by the way I’m Jamaican” pic.twitter.com/uthk64Mm7g— ladykilla96 (@Namastaywoke) August 15, 2016 “How yuh know ima Jamaican?” pic.twitter.com/OP3PGvQ6BF— ladykilla96 (@Namastaywoke) August 15, 2016@kidnoble proclaimed himself Jamaican that night.Gotdamnit I’m Jamaican tonight. ?— Capt. Jake Ballard (@kidnoble) August 15, 2016@Kelroydaily posted a clip of what many Jamaicans did to celebrate Bolt’s win.Every Jamaican after bolt won the 100m https://t.co/I3fLxwPuU0— top⚡gun (@Kelroydaily) August 15, 2016It made Christine Sydelko emotional.The olympics make me so emotional like why am I crying at the Jamaican national anthem— Christine Sydelko (@csydelko) August 15, 2016Bolt will qualify for his favorite race, the men’s 200 meter, tomorrow and the men’s 4 x 100 is on Friday.As the second-oldest 100-meter champion in Olympic history behind Linford Christie, the athlete said this will be his last Games.“Somebody said I can become immortal,” Bolt told ESPN. “Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal.”
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James took issue Monday with New York Knicks President Phil Jackson’s use of the term “posse,” leading to a lively discussion on Twitter.James’ issue stems from a statement Jackson made to ESPN Nov. 14, when he referred to the NBA player’s business partners and friends as a “posse.”“When LeBron was playing with the [Miami] Heat, they went to Cleveland and he wanted to spend the night,” Jackson told ESPN. “They don’t do overnights. Teams just don’t. So now [Heat coach Erik] Spoelstra has to text [Heat president Pat] Riley and say, ‘What do I do in this situation?’ And Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answers, ‘You are on the plane. You are with this team.’ You can’t hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland.“I always thought Pat had this really nice vibe with his guys,” Jackson continued. “But something happened there where it broke down. I do know LeBron likes special treatment. He needs things his way.”When asked for his response, James told ESPN he had “no relationship at all” to the former Chicago Bulls coach.“I had nothing but respect for him as a coach for what he was able to do,” he noted.But what Twitter latched onto was James’ issue with the word “posse.”“To use that label – and if you read the definition of what the word ‘posse’ is – it’s not what I’ve built over my career. It’s not what I stand for,” the athlete said. “It’s not what my family stands for. And I believe the only reason he used that word is because he sees a young African-American trying to make a difference.”In response, D.J. Andrews called for Jackson to lose his position.Somebody gotta hack Phil Jackson email and get him outta here too— D.J. Andrews (@DJDarrel3) November 15, 2016@KobeTruthNlight agreed with James but told him to respect the coach who led the Lakers for more than a decade.Ok Lebron I agree with you about Phil Jackson , but you better respect the greatest coach ever!— Jesus (@KobeTruthNlight) November 15, 2016Jammy Jam also sided with James. He referenced Jackson’s history of speaking on issues he was not originally involved in. The retired coach previously put his two cents’ worth in on a 2012 feud between former Lakers players Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal.Idc I’m team Bron Bron, I don’t like Phil Jackson anyway. He be talking shit and acting up but supposed to be all about zen lol— Jammy Jam (@OfficialJammy) November 15, 2016But some users defended Jackson. They backed away from James’ longtime business associate Maverick Carter’s assertion that Jackson was disrespectful.All the hard work,effort and achievement and @PhilJackson11 still calls us a “posse”every step you take they remind you, you ghetto” @S_C_ pic.twitter.com/OPsPvAvFoM— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 14, 2016But Fire Rich Cho checked Carter on the word’s definition.@mavcarter @PhilJackson11 @S_C_ lemme finish it for you. Look at the final definition and stop being so sensitive. pic.twitter.com/4KB4siTRmU— Fire Rich Cho (@FireRichCho) November 15, 2016Carter later clarified his stance, noting he didn’t call Jackson racist.Let me be clear I’m not saying @PhilJackson11 is racist,, I’m calling out his disrespectful language— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 15, 2016Meanwhile, Marquisha Jeng explained the origins of the word “posse” before deciding Jackson “meant no harm.”’Posse’ is derived from the word ‘posse comitatus’, which is a legal term defining power or authority. Phil Jackson meant no harm…— Marquisha Jeng (@_melaninhippie_) November 15, 2016Truth Seeker questioned why James felt disrespected by Jackson while he “went back to slave master Dan Gilbert.” The statement refers to Gilbert’s open letter in which he blasted James for leaving the Heat in 2010. During the ensuing fallout, Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Associated Press Gilbert saw James as an enslaved African who escaped from his slavemaster.“His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality,” Jackson said. “He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner/employee relationship – between business partners – and LeBron honored his contract.”I mean I’m black power and everything, but for LeBron to say Phil Jackson disrespected him and he went back to slave master Dan Gilbert. Smh— Truth Seeker (@xfilestrustno1) November 15, 2016Additionally, Checo said he didn’t believe the Knicks’ president was racist.I don’t think Phil Jackson ment for his statement to come off as racist. If he was then he made the WORST career choice. #LeBronJames #NBA— Checo (@ChecoRepublic) November 15, 2016
BAL51.516.1TEN56.914.030.11539 CIN68.415.3PIT42.516.431.61554 IND5.53.4NYJ188.8.131.52419 NO73NO71NO 43, WSH 19-3.1– BUF22.99.5HOU11.96.716.21439 KC97.2%+/-1.9NE70.0%+/-11.713.61637 ARI3.62.9MIN51.010.313.21495 Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality DAL30.710.5JAX59.811.822.31530 Playoff %Playoff % KC68KC61KC 30, JAX 14-7.7– ATL22.79.8TB29.012.522.31509 DEN7.24.5LAR184.108.40.206513 The best matchups of Week 6Week 6 games with the highest average Elo rating using the harmonic mean plus the total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION CIN63CIN64CIN 27, MIA 17-1.2– GB22.08.3SF6.54.512.81445 CAR59.713.2WSH29.812.125.31521 LAC73LAC69LAC 26, OAK 10-3.9– Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 5Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 5 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game Unlike college football, which is currently as imbalanced as ever, the pros have generally tended toward more competitive balance since the 1970s. That trend, though, largely leveled off once free agency and the introduction of a salary cap equalized each team’s spending, creating a parity machine that apparently only the New England Patriots — and conversely, until this year at least, the Browns — could resist. But even against that backdrop, this year’s Super Bowl race looks particularly wide open, with K.C. sitting nervously as tentative favorites.In that department, we might gain some additional insight after Sunday night’s Patriots-Chiefs matchup, which rates as the best of the week in terms of matchup quality (as determined by the harmonic mean of the two teams’ Elo ratings in each game): CLE3.22.7LAC51.712.315.01438 When Dak Prescott’s improbable pocket escape and 44-yard heave set up a field goal to tie Sunday night’s Cowboys-Texans game late in regulation, viewers were left with a familiar feeling: This game, like so many others this season, seemed destined for overtime. (Indeed, it did require OT — the Texans kicked a field goal in the extra frame to win 19-16.) It was the eighth overtime game of the 2018 season already — the most in the first five weeks of any NFL season since 2002, which also saw eight OT games. Along the way we’ve also gotten two ties, ensuring only the league’s fourth multi-tie campaign since it first introduced regular-season OT in 1974, and we narrowly missed three others thanks to game-ending scores in the waning seconds of the extra period.1Had the Titans not scored a walk-off TD against the Eagles in Week 4, they likely would have made a 27-yard field goal to seal up the tie. (Although we can’t say for sure.) While the NFL still faces plenty of big-picture problems — and some fans are even lamenting the renewed prevalence of those dreaded ties — this wave of close finishes has mainly made last year’s complaints about boring football seem like a distant memory.The spike in overtime contests is just one element of this year’s extra drama. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, 52 of the league’s 78 games this season have seen the trailing team sit within one score of the leader with five minutes left in the game — the second-most in any season through five weeks since 2001.2In 2011, 53 games met that criteria through five weeks. Furthermore, 47 games this season have been within a score with two minutes left to play in regulation. It’s a perfect recipe for wild endings like Sunday’s Panthers-Giants duel — which saw two lead changes in the final 68 seconds of play — or last week’s Raiders-Browns thriller, with its four separate game-tying or go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter and OT alone.Speaking of overtime: It took a season to produce an effect, but in combination with so many close games, the league’s recent tweaks to the OT format have finally started to generate more of those aforementioned ties. Back in May 2017, my colleague Ty Schalter predicted that the NFL’s switch from 15- to 10-minute overtime periods (on top of its earlier decision to modify the sudden-death rule, giving the coin-flip loser a chance to answer if the winner kicked a FG on its opening drive) would dramatically hike the rate of tied games once OT was reached. Although we went an entire season without a tie in 2017 — only 14 games went into overtime at all, below the seasonal average of 16 since 20013Excluding 2018. — this year has made up for lost time, with a quarter of OT games ending in a stalemate. And you thought draws were too common in the “other” version of football…Anyway, all of this mainly speaks to the rise in parity across the league as a whole this year. Through five weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs rank No. 1 in FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings (our pet way of gauging how well a team is playing at any given moment in time), though their 1657 Elo isn’t especially high for an NFL leader at this stage of the season.4It’s the eighth-lowest rating for a No. 1 team through Week 5 since the 1970 AFL merger. At the other end of the rankings, the No. 32 Cleveland Browns (1344 Elo) are a lot better than the typical last-place team. You might say the Browns deserve better than 32nd place (I happen to agree), but choose an alternative — the Bills? Cardinals? Giants?? — and each has at least shown some signs of basic competency at various times this season. All of which is to say: The gap between the best and worst teams is not as wide as we’ve gotten used to it being.And that shows up in the overall distribution of team performances this season. Since 1970, the standard deviation of teams’ Elo ratings through a season’s first five weeks has never been lower than it is right now: SEA50%LAR70%LAR 33, SEA 31+13.5– PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN.com PHI70PHI58MIN 23, PHI 21+12.8– BAL76BAL66CLE 12, BAL 9+11.3– DAL61HOU50HOU 19, DAL 16+9.6– SF66SF59ARI 28, SF 18+7.2– Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. CAR80CAR76CAR 33, NYG 31-3.4– NE83NE83NE 38, IND 24-2.0– Of course, the Chiefs have tempted us to overreact after beating the Patriots before, so maybe we won’t actually learn as much as we might hope on Sunday. But Week 6 also offers a number of matchups that could move the playoff-odds needle by at least 20 combined percentage points — including Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh, Baltimore vs. Tennessee and Carolina vs. Washington.Out of all these tightly contested games, surely some will flirt with overtime (or maybe even a tie!) again. But more than just giving us yet another chance to jokingly compare stalemates on the gridiron with those on the soccer pitch, it’s a real sign of how evenly balanced the league has become so far this season.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersWant another way to keep up with the league? Be sure to check out our constantly updating NFL prediction interactive, which uses Elo ratings to forecast the rest of the season. And if you think you’re smarter than Elo, now you can prove it: In our prediction game, you can pick against our model (and your fellow readers) for bragging rights and a place on our giant leaderboard.Using your picks from last week, here’s our regular look at where Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the field: OAK2.31.7SEA33.49.511.21468 CHI54.912.2MIA35.911.824.01490 NYJ56DEN56NYJ 34, DEN 16-14.3– PIT57PIT51PIT 41, ATL 17-7.9– BUF52TEN62BUF 13, TEN 12-17.8– DET60GB56DET 31, GB 23-17.4– NYG4.64.1PHI61.411.415.51488 Elo eked out another victorious week over the readers, winning by 24.3 net points on average. It’s been an unusually impressive start to the season for Elo, whose built-in lack of knowledge over the NFL’s offseason comings and goings hasn’t seemed to hamper it one bit. (Maybe this is a nice reminder that preseason NFL predictions are mostly useless.) In Week 5, Elo was too high on the Seahawks, Eagles and Ravens, all of whom fell short. But it made up for those bad picks by calling Buffalo’s win over Tennessee and Detroit’s victory over Green Bay, among other games.But Elo didn’t make all of our readers look silly. Congrats to reader Paul Diaz, who led all users in points for Week 5, and to Jevon Mallett, who leads all users on the season in total. Thanks to everyone who played last week — and if you didn’t play, get in on the game already! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you missed the first quarter of the season.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
Ohio State concludes its dual meets with a victory over Wright State. Credit: Sydney McNulty | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State men’s swimming team won its final dual meet of the season against Wright State, picking up a 153-103 victory at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.Some of the highlight swims for the Buckeyes included a win for sophomore Michael Salazar in 200-yard freestyle (1:39.79), along with senior Mark Belanger and junior Jack Barone both taking home first in their respective events, the 100-yard backstroke (48.62) and 100-yard breaststroke (55.96).Sophomore standout Mossimo Chavez glided to victory in the 50-yard freestyle by matching his time last week against Michigan, touching the wall in a time of 20.73 seconds.“I felt good today,” Chavez said. “Dual meets are just another opportunity for us to race and to prepare for the next couple of weeks.”The Buckeyes seized the opportunity by sweeping every single event, but for the seniors, the meet meant more than just another win.“It’s been a pretty emotional meet for me,” senior Matt Moen said. “ It’s definitely different because all these years we saw the older guys go through it, and you never think of you going through it yourselves. We were over there and talking, and we were like, ‘Wow this is pretty real that we are going to be in the real world soon,’ so that adds a little bit of energy too, which is always good.”Moen finished 3rd in the 200-yard breaststroke behind two fellow Buckeyes.Moving forward, however, the Buckeyes as a unit are focused on the rest of the season, using every meet as a chance to get ready for the Big Ten Championships in Columbus on Feb. 22-25.“It is a rehearsal for Big Tens,” Moen said. “The next couple of weeks are just trying to work on the details. We put in a lot of work the last couple of months, so at this point it’s just working on technique so we can perform as well as we need to.”Up next the Buckeyes will host the OSU Winter Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Despite a 6-3 loss at Calgary Tuesday night, Columbus Blue Jackets fans have plenty to get excited about watching captain Rick Nash. The 25-year-old dazzled Calgary (6-2-1) goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff with his team-high fourth goal of the season. Down two men, Nash sped into the Flames’ zone, beating defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a loose puck. Sweeping past Kiprusoff, the Jackets’ star sent the puck to the back of the net as Calgary fans sat in a daze looking on.Calgary was outworked by the Blue Jackets (5-2-0) in the second period, but mustered three unanswered goals against second-year goaltender Steve Mason to complete the win. Nash commented on Mason’s play after the game.“Everyone will have bad nights,” said Nash, who has collected a point in each of his last six games. “[Mason’s] won us a lot of games by himself and we didn’t give him much support.”Columbus will need to forget about the loss quickly as the Blue Jackets return to the ice in Edmonton at 9:30 p.m. Thursday. The team will wrap up the four-game road swing in six days with night matchups at Anaheim Saturday and at Los Angeles Sunday.Special teams successSpecial teams have been a strong point this year for the Jackets.The team collected two power play goals against the Flames and have converted 7 of 28 opportunities (25 percent) this season, which is ninth in the league.“We’ve done a lot of work on the power plays,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I think the players are comfortable with the transition we’ve had with it.”The Jackets continued their dominance shorthanded against Calgary and have now killed 28-of-29 (96.55 percent) opponent power plays this season, which is first in the NHL.“We made some significant changes in killing penalties,” Hitchcock said. “That’s been the most consistent, solid part of our game. We’ve tried to incorporate six forwards and be more comfortable doing that, rather than just using the four. We’re trying to have harder, more competitive reads in the penalty kill, and so far, it’s working.”Scouting the Oilers, Kings and DucksThe Jackets will have their hands full against the Edmonton Oilers (5-2-1), who have scored 29 goals in eight games. Oiler forward Dustin Penner has collected five goals with four assists to collect nine points early in the 2009-10 campaign.Columbus is 3-3-2 in the past eight games against Edmonton and will hope to take down the squad from the Northwest Division.Looking ahead to Anaheim (3-3-1), the Blue Jackets will need to take advantage of a struggling Ducks team at home. In the past three home games, Anaheim is 1-2-0 and has been outscored 11 to four. Right wing Corey Perry leads the Ducks with four goals and three assists in seven games.Rounding out the weekend in southern California, the Jackets will meet the Kings for the second time this season. Columbus defeated LA, 4-1, at home Oct. 17.During that game, forward Raffi Torres broke a tie on a power play goal late in the second period, while Nash contributed with a shorthanded goal.The Jackets won three consecutive meetings against the Kings and hope to return to Columbus Monday with a winning state of mind.“If we’re going to be a better team, we need better play from those top six guys if we’re going to get to the next level,” Hitchcock said.
Being Big Ten Freshman of the Year might satisfy most — but not William Buford.The Toledo native is determined to make his name known and has been working to become a better player in the offseason.Buford had an opportunity last season to get more minutes after an injury ended the season for junior David Lighty. Even with Lighty back this season, Buford still figures prominently in the Buckeyes’ plans for the season.For Buford, it is important to apply what he learned as an inexperienced freshman to his play this year.“I learned a lot from last season coming into this year,” Buford said, “but probably the most important thing would be to play hard; to leave everything on the floor every second that I am out there.”His play last season sparked the Buckeyes offensively. Buford takes pride in being a scorer, and the Buckeyes often relied on him to take the pressure of scoring off of junior Evan Turner.Buford knows scoring is important, but it’s not all that is expected from him.“I think my role is to score for one,” Buford said. “I’ll do whatever it is my team needs, though, whether it’s rebounds or steals. I’d like to get more steals, though, that’s one thing for sure.”With a year of experience, Buford said being more vocal is something he wants to do this season. He said everyone on the team talks and helps each other, but he is more willing to point out a mistake or correct a teammate because he wants to make everyone around him better.Scoring might be what everyone expects from Buford, but the potential starter used the offseason to improve all facets of his game.“I worked hard to try and improve my ball handling,” Buford said. “I worked on all aspects of my game, especially defense. I’ve really been trying to work on everything to get my game better.”Buford averaged 11.3 points per game with a .361 percentage from behind the arc. His offensive game has always been his strong suit, but Buford said he will try to continue improving in this area.His teammates know how versatile he can be, and that defenses will have to account for Buford’s scoring ability. “He’s doing what he does best, and that’s scoring the ball. That’s really what Will does,” Lighty said. “He’s grown in the aspect of knowing the offense and being able to execute better when he gets his opportunity. I think he has worked hard to be a better complete player, with his defense and everything.”Lighty said opponents will have to start planning more for Buford this season by putting a stable defender on him.Turner, who had a breakout season his sophomore year, expects much of the same from the talented Buford in his second year.“I’ve just always thought Will was good,” Turner said. “I’ve always thought Will was a lot better than teams give him credit for, and this is going to be a big year where teams will have to respect him more. He is a big-time player. He has a nice shot, and his ability to score is crazy. “Last year teams would just throw a decent defender on him like he wasn’t an all American or Mr. Basketball of Ohio. This year teams will have to throw a top defender on him.”
The Buckeyes, led by redshirt sophomore tight end Rashod Berry (13), wait at the end of the tunnel prior to taking the field for the game against UNLV on Sept. 23.Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe door to the left of the lectern opened and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer walked hastily into the team meeting room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for his weekly Monday press conference. He had no time for any opening statements.“Just jump right into questions,” Meyer said, gruffly.He had no time for pontificating; no time for questions. Meyer wrapped up his weekly conference faster than usual, hustling out the same door he entered 11 minutes prior.He had just one thing on his mind: revenge.Last season, Penn State nearly ruined Ohio State’s season as a swarm of Nittany Lion fans wearing white stormed the field following their team’s upset of the then-No. 2 Buckeyes while those wearing scarlet and gray slunk back to the locker room with their season seemingly in shambles. Though coaches normally shy away from publicly claiming avenging defeat as a catalyst for a statement victory, Meyer was blunt.“Is revenge a motivator?” Meyer asked. “Hell yeah it is.”Not much motivates teams quite like memories of a loss to a conference opponent.“We were just stunned. We didn’t respect a really good opponent and kind of took for granted winning,” redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard said Wednesday.This season, Ohio State will not be surprised by the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes believe they are ready for what will be one of their stiffest challenges of the season. Meyer said Penn State has “one of the top offenses in America.” He called running back Saquon Barkley “the best all-purpose guy we’ve probably faced in probably, maybe my career.” Barkley, a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, has rushed for 757 yards — 6.5 yards per carry — and has racked up a team-leading 32 catches for 448 yards. Meyer said Penn State has “the No. 1 pass defense in America.” The Nittany Lions rank first in the nation in pass defense efficiency (94.02).If Ohio State hopes to win, it must slow down the best running back in college football and penetrate one of the best pass defenses in the country. It needs to limit dual-threat quarterback Trace McSorley and protect quarterback J.T. Barrett from a rampant defensive line that decimated the Buckeyes’ offensive line in their previous meeting. Last year, the Nittany Lions picked on right tackle Isaiah Prince, who will have an opportunity to show his improvement on a grand stage.That’s no small task. But whether this season will be deemed a success relies on it. For Ohio State, anything but a berth in the College Football Playoff will be seen as a failure. The Buckeyes’ game versus Penn State marks the turning point in the season, just as it unexpectedly did last year. Will 2017 be a disappointment or will Meyer’s team position itself in the conference’s driver’s seat?If Ohio State defeats the Nittany Lions, it will be the heavy favorite to win the conference. Sure, it will have to take down Michigan on the road, No. 16 Michigan State and likely No. 5 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, but optimism would be high following a win against the team many presume to be the best in the conference. If Ohio State wins out, it would earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.But if the Buckeyes lose, their chances of reaching the playoff vanish. They entered the season with three season-defining games — matchups against Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan. They would have failed their first two true tests of the year, effectively turning their season into an instant dud. Either Ohio State enacts revenge, upsets the No. 2 team in the country and becomes the favorite to win the Big Ten, or its season would be viewed as a flop. There is no middle ground.The Buckeyes cannot look too far ahead. This season-defining matchup comes at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium.The page flipped quickly from Ohio State’s off week and Penn State’s 42-13 victory against Michigan to Ohio State versus Penn State.Just six minutes after Penn State’s decisive win Saturday night, redshirt senior center Billy Price tweeted, “#BeatPennState.” At head coach James Franklin’s postgame press conference, the Penn State head coach picked up a phone, saw the time was 11:23 p.m. and said the Nittany Lions had just 37 minutes to celebrate the win.“I’m not talking about the next opponent,” Franklin said, referring to Ohio State, following his team’s win Saturday. “Enjoy the heck out of this win for the next 37 minutes and then the next day, we’ll focus on the next opponent.”Those 37 minutes are up. Now it’s time to see whether the Buckeyes will have their revenge or watch their season end at the hands of the Nittany Lions.
[It is] a very brutal form of treatment which clearly causes distress and suffering… Killing fish by overheating, whether accidental or not, is simply inhumanePhilip Lymbery, Compassion in World Farming The Prince of Wales during his visit to a Loch Leven fish farm facility in OctoberCredit:PA WIRE Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in the single worst incident 95,400 salmon were killed at a Marine Harvest farm in Loch Greshornish, on the Isle of Skye, in the summer.The fish were being treated for sea lice with a new device called a Thermolicer.The “sudden temperature change” in the water caused by the Thermolicer killed 95 per cent of the lice, but it also caused “significant mortalities” amongst the salmon, according to the documents.Officials estimated that the losses cost Marine Harvest over £2.7 million.Another 20,000 salmon were killed at the Loch Greshornish fish farm by other attempts to rid them of sea lice using chemicals.In an email, Loch Greshornish’s site manager Bill Wright reported to Marine Scotland’s senior fish health inspector that there had been more than 115,000 salmon deaths at the farm between July 3 and September 9 this year, “all due to treatment losses”. Another incident saw more than 60,000 salmon killed by hydrogen peroxide being used to treat them for amoebic gill disease at Marine Harvest’s fish farm in Soay Sound, off the Isle of Harris, in September.The deaths led to thousands of salmon carcasses being transported by lorry from the affected farms to incinerator plants near Wigan for destruction.The campaign group Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA), which obtained the government memos revealing the deaths, called for those responsible to be prosecuted.Don Staniford, director of GAAIA, said: “Serious questions must now be asked how thousands of farmed salmon became overheated, suffocated or even boiled alive by the Thermolicer.”Marine Harvests has contracts to supply fresh and smoke salmon to several supermarket giants, including Sainsbury’s and Tesco.The revelations come just a month after the Prince of Wales visited one of Marine Harvest’s farms, at Loch Leven, which houses more than 550,000 salmon.Following the visit, palace officials praised Loch Leven farm for its sustainable practices which they said “set the benchmark for the Scottish fishing industry”. The carcasses of salmon being transported for destruction following a similar incident Serious questions must now be asked how thousands of farmed salmon became overheated, suffocated or even boiled alive.Don Staniford, Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture Thousands of salmon were poached alive when a lice treatment process at Scottish fish farms went disastrously wrong, it has emerged.More than 175,000 salmon died when the water they were swimming in was overheated, prompting calls for those responsible to be prosecuted for cruelty.The catastrophic mistake by staff at farms run by the Norwegian multinational, Marine Harvest, cost millions of pounds and led to over 600 tonnes of dead salmon having to be incinerated.The deaths were largely responsible for a 16 per cent drop in the company’s Scottish salmon production and there are now fears it may lead to price rises for consumers in the run up to Christmas. The plan was backed by Mr Ewing, who promised to set up an “industry leadership group”.But animal welfare campaigners have said the recent deaths showed the plan to be fundamentally misguided. They claim the industry is already unable to deal with lice infestations because of the conditions in which the salmon are kept.Mr Stanniford said: “Sea lice infestations and infectious diseases such as Amoebic Gill Disease are quite literally choking the Scottish salmon farming industry to death.”The Thermolicer is supposed to works by bathing fish briefly in lukewarm water, capitalising on the parasite’s low tolerance for sudden changes in temperature.But Compassion in World Farming described it as “a very brutal form of treatment which clearly causes distress and suffering to the fish”.The campaign group’s chief executive, Philip Lymbery, said: “Killing fish by overheating, whether accidental or not, is simply inhumane. All current forms of treating sea lice entail problems.”Marine Harvest defended its practices, saying that the dead salmon had already been weakened by gill disease.Steve Bracken, the firm’s business development manager, said: “We regret any loss of fish and are always mindful of the welfare of the fish and aim to continuously improve our methods to address changing environmental circumstances.“We have been dealing with a number of challenges in relation to fish health. We have also faced challenges with amoebic gill disease which is increasing in this part of the world as a result of climate change.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Details of the incidents were revealed in a series of documents submitted by fisheries officials to the Scottish government’s rural economy minister Fergus Ewing.In recent months Marine Harvest fish farms in the Hebrides and Wester Ross have suffered a spate of gill disease outbreaks.There are concerns that lice are becoming increasingly resistant to chemical treatment – partly as a result of climate change – forcing fish farms to resort to potentially risky measures to get rid of the pests.According to the company’s latest quarterly report to investors, its production of salmon in Scotland has dropped by 16 per cent since last year as a result of the deaths.The report admits that costs increased due to “incident based mortality” that was “mainly related to gill disease and sea-lice treatment losses”.The deaths are a blow to the vital Scottish fish farming industry, which this year launched a plan to double its business from the current £1.8 billion to £3.6 billion by 2030.
The number of cancer patients turning to crowdfunding to pay for treatments not available on the NHS has soared, online donation platform JustGiving said.Cancer patients and their loved ones launched 2,348 appeals on the website last year compared to 304 in 2015 – a seven-fold increase, the figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live reveal.The fundraisers generated £4,670,143 to help pay for private medical treatment at clinics in the UK and abroad, a significant rise from the £530,519 raised in 2015.Consultant oncologist Dr Clive Peedell described the number of patients bypassing the NHS as “very worrying” and said some may be trying to access treatments which are not beneficial.”The NHS is clearly financially under pressure at present, but cancer therapy has received preferential funding compared to other diseases and conditions,” he told BBC Radio 5 live Daily. “The system for approving effective new cancer drugs is not perfect, but is much improved. The vast majority of proven effective treatments for cancer are funded by the NHS.”This includes immunotherapy for a number of indications including lung cancer.”Dr Peedell added: “I worry that some patients may be trying to access treatment that may not be beneficial.”Worse still, there may be significant extra costs involved, especially if patients pay privately or travel abroad.”Liz Sheppard, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, raised £135,000 online to help pay for private immunotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with small cell stomach cancer in November 2015.The mother-of-three, who was given months to live after the rare cancer diagnosis, has already spent £60,000 of the money and is responding well to treatment.She said: “If it wasn’t for people’s generosity and kindness, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”It’s not something I could have self-funded. Without that money I wouldn’t be here. It means everything.”NHS England said the immunotherapy treatment nivolumab was already available on the NHS for some cancers and is being considered by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for others.”Together with Nice we have also launched a new-look cancer drugs fund meaning patients will be able to access promising new and innovative treatments much quicker,” it said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Credit:Rex