The Chargers Are Unprecedented LateGame Failures

61985-86Buffalo16-2.516-2.9-5.4 “[I’m] furious,” the San Diego Chargers coach told reporters. “It’s a major disappointment. You get the lead we had, and to fall apart — [it’s] a major disappointment. Frustration is an understatement. I can’t say right now in this microphone how I really, truly feel.”McCoy’s reaction was understandable, because his Chargers are currently in a historic stretch of late-game failure. Last season — McCoy’s third in San Diego as head coach — the Chargers lost 2.6 games’ worth of win probability added (WPA) in the fourth quarter or overtime, trailing only the New York Giants (-2.8) and tied with the Dallas Cowboys. (WPA measures the swing in each team’s chances of winning a game with each play, and it can be added up to isolate how — and when — a team helped or hurt its chances of winning.)This goes beyond simple “if the game ended after three quarters”-type stuff to encompass many types of bungling that can make a game closer than it had previously been. If a team has a 75 percent chance of winning with six minutes left but then throws a pick-six to put its odds at 20 percent, that’s 0.55 games’ worth of lost win probability. So 2.6 games is a lot. And the team has nearly matched that total already this year, losing 2.1 games of WPA in the first four games of the season. Added together, that two-year total of -4.7 WPA in the fourth quarter or overtime ranks 19th-worst by any team in a two-season span since the Super Bowl era began in 1966. 31999-00Dallas17-3.616-2.1-5.7 52011-12Philadelphia16-3.716-1.7-5.4 Mike McCoy was in a mood when he stepped to the podium and addressed the media after his team blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead against the New Orleans Saints Sunday. 192015-16San Diego16-2.64-2.1-4.7 YEAR 1YEAR 2TOTAL 71979-80St. Louis16-2.016-3.2-5.2 122007-08St. Louis16-2.416-2.6-5.0 41993-94Washington16-1.816-3.9-5.6 141995-96Baltimore16-2.416-2.4-4.8 171994-95Washington16-3.916-0.9-4.7 151970-71Cincinnati16-1.014-3.8-4.8 YEARTEAMGAMES4Q/OT WPAGAMES4Q/OT WPA4Q/OT WPA And again, that’s comparing this season’s Chargers, four games into their schedule, with teams that had many more opportunities to blow games. On a per-game basis, the 2015-16 Chargers have lost more WPA in the fourth quarter or OT than any other team of the Super Bowl era did over a two-year stretch: 181989-90Minnesota17-2.116-2.6-4.7 81985-86Buffalo-16.7 Of course, McCoy and the Chargers also have more opportunities to reverse this trend. Since 1978 (the advent of the NFL’s 16-game schedule),1And excluding the strike-shortened 1982 and 1987 seasons. fourth-quarter and OT performance by WPA over a team’s first four games hasn’t really been indicative of how the team would perform for the rest of the season.2The correlation between a team’s per-game WPA in the fourth quarter or OT through the season’s first four games and the same figure over the rest of the season was effectively zero. This suggests that teams who begin the year by bleeding points and WPA late in games aren’t inherently doomed to choke forever (though the Chargers’ two-year trend might be more damning than usual).But the damage of these first four weeks has already been done. Now the only question for the embattled McCoy is whether he can keep his job long enough to be at the helm when San Diego’s WPA problems eventually work themselves out. 92011-12San Diego16-1.516-3.6-5.1 201994-95Houston16-3.016-1.6-4.6 22000-01San Diego16-3.816-2.5-6.3 82014-15Tennessee16-3.216-1.9-5.1 101970-71Cincinnati-16.0 YEARSTEAMCHANGE IN WIN PROB. AFTER 3Q 11996-97Oakland16-2.716-4.1-6.8 71981-82Pittsburgh-16.8 21996-97Oakland-21.2 41993-94Washington-17.6 32000-01San Diego-19.7 161988-89Dallas16-2.316-2.4-4.7 101995-96New York16-2.716-2.3-5.0 111997-98Indianapolis16-1.816-3.2-5.0 12015-16*San Diego-23.3 62011-12Philadelphia-16.9 Worst 2-year stretches by WPA in 4th quarter/OT since 1966 132000-01Carolina16-1.616-3.2-4.9 51999-00Dallas-17.4 91979-80St. Louis-16.2 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Includes playoff games.*Only includes the first four games of the 2016 season.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Worst 2-year WPA-per-game runs in 4Q/OT since 1966 read more

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Sloane Stephens Falls To Olga Puchkova At 2013 Citi

Sloane Stephens played in her first match since Wimbledon against Olga Puchkova at the Citi Open on Monday, and things didn’t fair well for the American tennis player.The No. 2 seeded Stephens, who hadn’t been practicing well, fell to Puchkova, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the tournament.“Leading up, I didn’t practice that great and I just wasn’t feeling the ball out there,” Stephens told reporters. “Sometimes you have days like that and it’s unfortunate that it came today.”The highest-ranked American behind Serena Williams, Stephens’ service game was less than par—which opened the door for the unseeded and 88th-ranked Russian. Stephens didn’t record a single ace and allowed Puchkova 15 break points.“I couldn’t really get it together, but there will be more tournaments, so it’s OK,” Stephens ended. read more

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The 2018 World Cup Favorites Sleepers And Most Pivotal Games

Argentina±<1+1±<1 It’s not all historic honchos that have risen to the top of our model. Group G standout Belgium, which has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the worldwide rankings over the past decade, has a 27 percent chance of making the semifinals for just the second time in team history (and the first since 1986). This could very well be the year for fellow Group G side England — which fancies itself a blue blood2In fairness, it did basically invent modern soccer. but won its sole World Cup more than 50 years ago — to finally end its drought.Over in Group B, Portugal has a good chance to avenge the disappointment of 2014 and advance deep into the tournament — provided it can stave off Morocco (and, as always, that Cristiano Ronaldo can carry over his club-team form to the global stage). In Group D, the veteran Croatians are not only a good pick to advance to the knockout stage but maybe even to make some noise once there. And as the front-runners in Group H, James Rodríguez and Colombia may be poised to advance past the quarterfinals for the very first time in national history.Further down the list, our model sees a few dark-horse candidates to keep tabs on. If healthy, Mohamed Salah and Egypt have a much better knockout-stage probability than their Soccer Power Index would imply, because they were fortunate to draw the historic cupcake that is Group A. (Speaking of which: Uruguay — a two-time World Cup winner, so they might not quite fit the dark-horse image — and the host country, Russia, also have great odds of getting to the round of 16 out of the same group.) In Group H, meanwhile, Poland boasts essentially a coin flip’s chance to advance to the knockouts — which would be a first since 1986 — as does Denmark in Group C, Switzerland in Group E and Sweden in Group F.To get there, though, all of these hopeful sides must win (or at least draw) a series of harrowing matchups within their respective groups. Thanks to our model, we can identify the matches that will likely swing the tournament’s odds the most, much like we did for college football’s most crucial games last fall. And perhaps surprisingly, no group-stage match will shape the World Cup more than Morocco’s duel with Spain on June 25.Here are the tournament’s most important group-stage matches: Nigeria±<1+1±<1 Swing if … Affected teamSpain winsMorocco winsDraw Portugal-2+3±<1 Brazil±<1+2±<1 Germany, England±<1+1+1 Morocco, Argentina, France, Uruguay, Belgium, Croatia, Portugal±<1+1±<1 * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Spain±<1+2±<1 6. Germany vs. Mexico, June 17Weighted total swing* of ± 5.60 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Argentina, England, Portugal, Croatia, Uruguay, Colombia±<1+1±<1 Affected teamArgentina winsCroatia winsDraw Spain±<1+2±<1 Spain+3-11-4 Croatia-1+2±<1 Spain+5-6+1 Argentina+3-4±<1 Affected teamBrazil winsSerbia winsDraw Swing if … Swing if … 7. Argentina vs. Croatia, June 21Weighted total swing* of ± 5.38 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Affected teamEngland winsBelgium winsDraw Swing if … Spain±<1+1±<1 4. Brazil vs. Switzerland, June 17Weighted total swing* of ± 7.98 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Swing if … * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Swing if … Affected teamBrazil winsSwitzerland winsDraw Spain, Belgium, France, England, Argentina±<1+1±<1 Belgium-2+3±<1 Brazil+3-9-3 England, Argentina, France±<1+1±<1 Belgium±<1+1+1 3. Brazil vs. Serbia, June 27Weighted total swing* of ± 8.11 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Brazil±<1+2+1 * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Affected teamSpain winsPortugal winsDraw Affected teamArgentina winsNigeria winsDraw 9. England vs. Belgium, June 28Weighted total swing* of ± 5.07 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Germany+2-6-2 Brazil-1+1±<1 England+2-3-1 Argentina, Belgium, Mexico, Spain±<1+1±<1 * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities 5. Spain vs. Iran, June 20Weighted total swing* of ± 6.15 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Swing if … * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Argentina+3-4-1 * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Affected teamGermany winsMexico winsDraw 2. Spain vs. Portugal, June 15Weighted total swing* of ± 8.33 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Swing if … Affected teamGermany winsSweden winsDraw Belgium, Croatia±<1+1±<1 * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Swing if … 8. Argentina vs. Nigeria, June 26Weighted total swing* of ± 5.13 percentage points of World Cup championship probability * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Brazil+3-8-2 Switzerland-1+2±<1 Germany+2-7-3 Serbia±<1+2±<1 Germany±<1+1±<1 * Sum of outcomes’ absolute values weighted by their probabilities Swing if … Germany±<1+1+1 Affected teamSpain winsIran winsDraw Sweden±<1+2+1 When the 2018 World Cup begins play today, it’ll kick off what could be a very good month for the usual suspects of international soccer. Our World Cup probability model, which launched on Wednesday (read more about it here), gives Brazil — the most successful team in World Cup history — the best chance of winning the tournament, at 19 percent. Spain (the winner two World Cups ago1Never mind the whole firing-the-coach-on-the-eve-of-the-Cup thing.) and Germany (the defending champ) aren’t very far behind. And don’t forget about the classic contenders France and Argentina, who are also in our model’s top seven.Only eight countries have ever lifted the Cup, so it’s not surprising that we are predicting good things for the world’s perennial soccer powerhouses. (Well, most of them. Sorry you couldn’t make the appointment, Italy and the Netherlands.) But this World Cup could still have its share of surprises, too. Here are the teams our model has as the favorites: 1. Spain vs. Morocco, June 25Weighted total swing* of ± 8.55 percentage points of World Cup championship probability 10. Germany vs. Sweden, June 23Weighted total swing* of ± 4.92 percentage points of World Cup championship probability Argentina±<1+1+1 Spain+2-11-5 Because Hakim Ziyech and the talented Moroccans were cruelly slotted into one of the tournament’s deadliest groups (Group B), we give them only a 28 percent chance of making the round of 16. But Morocco is strong enough to potentially play spoiler to the group’s favorites — Spain and Portugal — which also means that if Morocco wins or draws in the group stage, it could have ripple effects for teams across the tournament.Aside from the few group-stage clashes between titans, such as Spain-Portugal or England-Belgium, there’s a common recipe for the crucial matches listed above: a talented underdog that can’t be overlooked by its contending opponent and that has the potential to break the knockout bracket before it’s even set. But don’t just take my word for it — in our interactive, you can actually tinker with the effect of a given team finishing in a given slot and see how it changes the overall odds.So with all that said, all that’s left is to enjoy the action on the pitch. Check our model for the latest odds and live, in-game match probabilities, and we’ll be with you throughout the tournament with updates and analysis. read more

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How Madden Ratings Are Made

Making The First String 2014-15 When “Madden NFL 15” shipped, the third-year linebacker had an overall rating of 64 and was buried on Denver’s bench. But after an injury to Danny Trevathan in August, Marshall joined the Broncos’ starting lineup. After he put together four straight games with a Pro Football Focus grade of +1.0 or better by midseason, Marshall was rated 75 overall with vastly increased awareness, tackling, zone coverage and play recognition ratings. By Week 14, he carried an 81 overall rating, up a league-high 17 from where he’d started the season. The Virtual NFL February 25, 2015 Hunched over a keyboard, surrounded by computer monitors, Donny Moore, 37, controls the fate of the National Football League. Its players throw as hard as Moore wants. They run as fast as he says they should. And the stars of America’s most popular sport aren’t always delighted by his judgments. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, for instance, was upset. “I want to talk about my speed,” Moore remembers Newton saying as he clambered into Moore’s cubicle last April. Despite leading all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards in 2013, Newton ranked as only the ninth-fastest QB in the league, according to Moore — hence Newton’s unhappiness. But as Moore wheeled around from his den of screens, he was confronted by not only Newton, but also an enormous boot on Newton’s foot, the result of recent ankle surgery. “Yeah,” Moore said as Newton hobbled toward him, “let’s talk about your speed.” Eventually, Newton was pleading with Moore to not make him slower. Such is the power afforded Moore, a hyperactive Floridian who works as the official Ratings Czar1 for EA Sports’ Madden NFL video-game franchise. In that role, Moore is tasked with assigning more than 40 numerical grades to each of the NFL’s roughly 2,600 players,2 evaluating them in categories ranging from passing accuracy to tackling ability. Moore’s process has largely been a black box, and yet it shapes how more than 5 million gamers simulate pro football — particularly because there’s no official alternative to his numbers. A decade after signing a controversial exclusivity deal with the league and the players union, Madden3 is still the only licensed NFL game in town. In fact, an entire culture has grown up around Madden and its attempts to distill human athleticism into numbers. It is all good marketing for EA Sports but also speaks to the sway Madden holds. The ratings are a de facto time capsule from the year they were produced, a digital archive that offers players some measure of immortality in a sport where the average career lasts only a shade over three years. “It’s important to these guys that they be rated 99 in speed; it’s important to somebody that he have the best arm in the game,” Owen S. Good, a writer for the video-game news site Polygon, told me. The allure of the Madden rating might also speak to the relative lack of meaningful statistics in football itself. It would be strange for a baseball player to complain about his ratings in MLB: The Show, for instance, because a realistic baseball simulator (by necessity) has ratings grounded in actual statistics. But in a sport where objective measurements are often inadequate, subjective numbers — like those generated by Moore — take on greater currency. All these factors put more pressure on Moore to produce ratings of ever-increasing accuracy even as they highlight the fundamental paradox limiting Madden’s realism: It’s nearly impossible to accurately simulate some players as long as a gamer must assume control of the athlete’s brain. Madden has generated more than $4 billion in revenue over its 26-year lifetime. Yet for all EA’s resources, Moore performs his czar duties in surprising solitude. Footnotes Position QB Walt Hickey @WaltHickey madden rating tom brady a 93 further exemplifies why it is the worst of the EA sports games #thatsjustdisrespectful #hesthegreatestever— mackey (@kylemack_) August 28, 2012 Original 64 It was against this backdrop that Moore began his professional affiliation with EA. In 1998, he was still a student at the University of Central Florida, pursuing a degree in political science, when in November when he noticed advertisements for an “NCAA Football 99” tournament at the student union. Moore and his roommates were devotees of the game — he recalls elaborate house rules requiring that a witness be present every time a game was played in the friends’ shared Dynasty Mode savefile. On a whim, he skipped class, entered the contest using Florida State as his team, and won first prize. Moore’s detailed knowledge of the game’s minutiae impressed NCAA Football developers on hand for the tournament. On the spot, they offered him a part-time job testing the coming edition of the game, a break he would later parlay into a full-time gig as an EA Sports football tester. Playing and testing the games, Moore got a firsthand look at the give-and-take between gameplay and player ratings. He recalls the time a long-forgotten defensive tackle for the University of Kentucky inadvertently became a superstar after a typo assigned him a speed rating11 of 85 — blazing for a lineman — and when the Oakland Raiders, long known for their real-life fixation on speed, became unstoppable because the Madden game engine translated the overall velocity of the Raiders’ roster into far better virtual performances than the team was capable of in reality. Moore would eventually be promoted to a designer and associate producer along his path to Ratings Czar, but the relationship between Moore’s testing background and his current job is clear. “The [ratings] are probably the single biggest factor in gameplay,” Moore said. And the ratings have far more moving parts now than when Moore began working at EA. Each player in the game is graded in 43 categories — many of which were added when Madden transitioned from the sixth generation of consoles to the seventh. There are also nearly 20 new player-tendency tags, known as “traits,” that control specific player behaviors. Moore’s employer, Electronic Arts, is the world’s fifth-biggest game publisher by revenue, and Madden is among its most popular titles. The franchise has generated more than $4 billion in revenue since its debut in 1988. Yet for all of EA’s resources, Moore performs his czar duties in surprising solitude. He’s assisted by a former Madden tester who oversees players’ cosmetic details4 and the usual barrage of (ever-civil) feedback on Twitter. But when it comes to the task of managing a database of more than 100,000 player attributes, one of the best-selling sports franchises in gaming history largely leaves matters up to one man. Moore’s job has morphed from a behind-the-scenes technician to a sort of celebrity — and villain — in gaming circles. And in an increasingly data-heavy sports landscape, it’s a role that sits squarely in two intersections of growing importance — between scouting and analytics, simulation and reality. Because in both Madden and the post-“Moneyball” sports world, humans become a collection of data points and then are turned back into a digital approximation of themselves. Physical Talent Throwing Power Madden Rating But these days, I don’t have to step on the field to know what happens when I step on the field. We have Madden for that. And shockingly, the people behind Madden were willing to turn me into a guinea pig. All I had to do was give them 36 hours and sit in front of a panopticon of cameras, and they’d turn my corporeal self into a digital one. I booked a flight to Florida. The most pressing issue on my mind: what my Madden ratings would be. The game (the most recent edition is “Madden NFL 15”) rates players on a scale from 0 to 99, basing overall scores on 43 categories, including trucking, deep passing, strength and agility. A guy like me was virgin territory for Donny Moore, the Madden Ratings Czar. How exactly would he quantify the football ability of a person with hardly any? That I was essentially a rookie made Moore’s job even harder. As my colleague Neil Paine explained, rookies require an intense amount of research — game tape, college stats, combine performance — because they have no NFL experience to use for a rating. The only way Moore could draw up my forecast was by watching me play. On the agenda: the 40-yard dash, agility drills, and basic throwing and catching evaluations. After that was all over, I figured I’d be one of Jon Bois’s Breaking Madden creations. For the past few years, in a series for SB Nation, Bois has been tweaking players’ stats to show what happens when those players are made superhuman or all too human. I expected to be in the latter category. But I wanted my avatar to at least get a point on the board, at least complete a couple of passes, and at least lead a team to one victory over several simulations (even if I broke an interception record for good measure). I wanted to show that the average dude could survive the rigors of the NFL. I’ve never exactly been an athlete. The last organized sport I attempted was three semesters of club crew in college. I reached out to my former coach, Nathan Walker, to get an independent assessment of my athletic priors. In an email, Walker said he didn’t imagine I was “the type of kid who defined himself through sports while growing up.” That is an understatement. I went to an elite-football high school but ran the debate team. He said that in my first year of rowing, I was “clumsy and awkward,” and my limbs didn’t quite go where I wanted them to. Nonetheless, he said, I was “a pure joy to watch” because I was passionate about it.1 Essentially, like most Americans, I’m not exactly out of shape, but I’m not exactly in shape either. I’m generally just a shape. Speed If you hang around the Madden studio enough, you’ll hear a curious phrase tossed around, a relic from games of a decidedly different genre and medium: “Dice rolls.” Although Madden takes pains to immerse gamers in the fantasy that they are controlling real NFL players, every interaction between two players in the game is also dictated by underlying probabilities, weighted by the various ratings of the respective players. As Rex Dickson, Madden’s creative director, said: “The way the game works on a high level is that when two players run into each other and are about to do an interaction — let’s say it’s a ball-carrier and a linebacker — it’s going to take several ratings and throw them into a formula and do a dice roll. “The dice roll is how we get the randomness. So it’s basically his break-tackle chance against your tackle chance and then a dice roll on top of that. The ratings mismatch is your modifier on the dice roll. If he’s 10 points higher than you for his tackle rating, the dice roll is going to be favored in his favor to get the tackle versus the flip where it’d favor the break-tackle.” After hours of hearing this kind of talk during our visit to EA’s studios, my colleague Walt Hickey had a realization: This is basically Dungeons & Dragons for sports fans. If an obsessive following is a requirement for that comparison, consider Madden certified. The annual unveiling of Madden’s player ratings is an event unto itself. Beyond just Newton, many NFL players grouse to Moore about their numbers. (Kerry Rhodes, while playing safety for the New York Jets, made a YouTube video titled “WTF Madden!” demonstrating pretty conclusively that his throwing power rating was too low.) There are also sites where amateurs, apparently dissatisfied with Moore’s handiwork, aim to create their own competing sets of ratings. And the ratings have even been deemed to constitute “likeness” in lawsuits such as Parrish, et. al v. NFLPA.16 Bois told me that he thought the game does about as well as it can when it comes to converting real players’ abilities into a series of numbers. “If we were going to be entirely realistic, you’d probably have to have 1,500 different skill sliders” per player, he joked. “But this is a decent way to distill it into a thing that the layman can play around with and use.” Bailey agreed. “It’s an inexact science,” she said, “but for the most part [Moore] gets it right.” Yet for all of Madden’s quest for realism, there are certain aspects of football that the game still, and may always, have trouble simulating. On one level, sports video games give regular Joes and Jills the opportunity to perform athletic feats that most could only dream about in real life — blazing runs, high-flying dunks, cannon-armed throws — and games have gotten pretty good at simulating these aspects of what it means to be a professional athlete.17 But sports video games will always struggle to accurately replicate the cerebral side of sports; that’s why it’s more difficult to simulate being Ricky Rubio than LeBron James. Gamebreakers There are certain player archetypes that have always been difficult for Madden to accurately simulate. The classic example is Michael Vick from “Madden NFL 2004“; Vick’s speed was overvalued in the game. But less egregious examples occur whenever a gamer takes control of a player whose real-life counterpart possesses immense physical gifts but lacks awareness. The converse is also true; players whose defining skill is football IQ — Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, for example — are inept in the hands of an inept gamer. Watch the gamebreakers Position QB Clockwise, from top left: Hickey poses in front of the cameras; the computer builds a 3D model of Hickey’s face based on his photos; skin tone and facial detail are added; Hickey’s final rendering Extra Points 0/4 How Madden Ratings Are Made The Secret Process That Turns NFL Players Into Digital Gods by Neil Paine graphics by Reuben Fischer-Baum illustration by Mike McQuade Short Accuracy 0/5 On the early December day I visited his cramped cubicle, tucked away in a corner of an office building on the EA Sports campus near Orlando, Moore was putting the last touches on a roster update that would be downloaded later in the week by PlayStation and Xbox owners around the globe. When he was finished, 577 players saw some aspect of their skills re-evaluated on the basis of the previous week’s action. It’s an activity that Moore repeats every week of the season in an attempt to ensure that Madden imitates NFL reality. Front Page Sports: Football Pro Sierra Online’s “Front Page Sports: Football Pro,” regarded as the most realistic football simulation of its time, came out in 1993 and had eight ratings. Early player ratings were simplistic. The legendary “Tecmo Super Bowl,” released in late 1991, kept 14 ratings categories in total. But only a few affected in-game performance for any given position. Meanwhile, the initial version of Sierra Online’s “Front Page Sports: Football Pro,” regarded among the most sophisticated football simulations of the mid-1990s, tracked just eight rating categories for each player,8 with the same traits taking on radically different meanings depending on the player’s position. (For instance, a quarterback’s strength rating might refer to powerful throws, while the same category for a lineman would control his ability to block.) Deep Routes 0/2 The quarterback drills brought me back to earth. Asked to throw the ball as far as I could, I threw it pretty consistently between 17 and 20 yards in an often-loose spiral. I then threw the ball toward my colleague Neil Paine, who was trying his hand at receiver, and connected only 40 percent of the time on short, medium and long passes. Watching the drills unfold, Moore said I was throwing the ball too low and would probably end up hitting offensive linemen in the back of the head often. When I had exhausted my arm, I did some receiving drills — or attempted to. I was useless beyond 10 yards but caught each of the three short passes thrown my way. Brad Hilderbrand, a communications specialist for EA, said I could possibly be a great tight end. My pride swelled again. And then it withered the moment my foot touched a football. My range was so pathetic that I couldn’t boot it more than 20 yards, which at least doesn’t preclude me from being one of the league’s great onside kickers. Punting was no better. Any team with me as its punter would go for it on fourth down every time because I couldn’t kick it farther than 11 yards. “Offensive guard is probably your athletic skill set,” Moore said at the end of the day. “But you’re probably going to want to put on 100 pounds. So, that’s going to be hard for you to bulk up there and still maintain the performance that you put on display today.” Leaving Orlando, I reflected on the day and felt one thing above all: extreme pain. My back was seizing up, my right arm went somewhat numb, and a nap had only made me more sore. When I got home in the wee-morning hours, I took enough ibuprofen to dull my senses and decided that I should exercise more often.3 The soreness continued for three more days. Take, for example, a player’s trucking score, which captures his ability to run over a defender. Mine ended up being 9 out of 100, which makes me highly unlikely to take on Jadeveon Clowney and prevail. But my interaction with Clowney has an element of randomness — that weighted dice roll could lead to luck for me and misfortune for him, which would mean I’d lower my shoulder and it would somehow push him aside. When I walked on the field to try out for the game, I found this idea oddly comforting. Moore’s ratings elicit all sorts of reactions — anger, joy, pride, ridicule. Here, for example, is a sampling of reactions on Twitter to Tom Brady’s ratings over the last few years. The Virtual NFL February 26, 2015 I was on the 50-yard line, trying to make sense of the long slant route ahead of me. My debut was not going well. I was winded, slightly dehydrated and kicking myself after a day of mediocre runs and failed catches. The next pass was my last chance to impress, and I knew the cameras would be on me. When I heard “hike,” I took off. Eight yards out, I saw the ball above in a spiral. I jumped for it pitifully … and hit the ground. The ball was not in my arms. Before that pass, I knew I wasn’t cut out for the NFL. But when it sailed over my head, something else became clear: I was barely cut out for a video-game facsimile of the league. I was in Orlando with a crew of people who work on Madden, EA Sports’ premier football simulation, because I, like many obnoxious New York Giants fans, once had a fleeting moment of hubris. Sometime during QB Eli Manning’s 97 interceptions over the past five years, I thought: “Christ, even I could throw a better pass than that.” I cannot throw a better pass than that. Yet there was a sort of perverse appeal to the damage I’d bring to the Giants if I were swapped with Manning. What would happen if a schlub like me played in a league as unforgiving as the NFL? In the next madden game Tom Brady’s rating is going to be 100— Zachary Olds (@ZacharyOlds) February 2, 2015 Player performance is notoriously more difficult to quantify in football than in baseball. Deep Accuracy 0/5 3 Cone 0.0 sec Translating the athletic skills of flesh-and-blood humans into digital form has been a necessary part of sports gaming as long as real-life players have been incorporated into the software. According to Good, that practice dates at least5 as far back as the 1984 release of “Micro League Baseball” for the Commodore 64. “Micro League” was among the first sports simulations with a license to use Major League Baseball players on team rosters, an innovation that helped usher in the modern era of sports gaming. Developers were suddenly presented with a novel problem: having to represent actual players’ likenesses within the technical constraints of the day. One solution? Assigning numerical skill ratings to help differentiate good players from bad. “They were transitioning from primitive video games that were just trying to approximate the basic acts of a sport,” Good told me, pointing to the Atari 2600’s sports titles as examples of early games without rated players. “Basically, all players perform equally,” Good said. “They just wanted [to know]: ‘Do we have three outs and three strikes? You can throw the ball from third to first to put a guy out?’ ” But with the advent of licensed games, the stakes were raised. “You want Kirk Gibson to play differently from Tony Gwynn,” Good said. The method of “Micro League Baseball” was to algorithmically translate a player’s real-world statistical benchmarks — his batting average or home-run total, for instance — into skill ratings that would presumably6 spit similar numbers back out on the other side of the simulation. It was effectively the computerized version of older board games like All-Star Baseball whose colorful spinners reduced the essence of a ballplayer to a series of probabilities, locked in an eternal marriage with chance.7 But player performance is notoriously more difficult to quantify in football than in baseball. On the gridiron, detailed individual statistics are kept for only a handful of positions, and those numbers frequently miss the whole story because of interactions between 11 players on each side of the ball. Game developers quickly realized that football players, in contrast with their cousins in baseball, would need to be graded on a wider variety of skills — and that ratings-makers would have to temper the science with a whole lot of art. Tecmo Super Bowl Nintendo’s seminal football game was released in 1991 and used no more than seven rating categories for any player. The game wasn’t super realistic. Bo Jackson was an all-time great in the NFL; he was superhuman in Tecmo. Donny Moore at his cubicle at EA / Photo by Erika Larsen Listen to Walt Hickey and Neil Paine discuss their reporting and how they broke Madden. Neil Paine @Neil_Paine Next: Reggie Wayne Mute Video No player to participate in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine since 1999 had a 40-yard time as bad as mine.2 The closest was Regis Crawford, a 316-pound offensive guard out of Arizona State who after the 2004 combine went undrafted. Crawford still managed to run the dash 0.70 seconds faster than me. Next up came agility drills — one shuttle run with three cones in an L-shape, another a 20-yard back-and-forth — that would determine how agile I wasn’t. I have the maneuverability of a rudderless aircraft carrier. Moore charitably characterized my style as “a real north and south kind of player.” Then came a lunging jump, in which I posted a consistent 6-foot, 5-inch leap. Moore seemed less appalled than he had all day. “Not bad there,” he said. It was one of the only times I felt anything approaching pride. 6’1″ Height When I first met my avatar, it was like staring into a mirror set up across the uncanny valley. My facial features were nearly exact, down to the barely noticeable scar on my chin. But I looked disoriented — even more disoriented than I was on the day of the shoot. My neck lolled; my eyes were glazed over; my blinking was algorithmic. My avatar played just as strangely as it looked. We’re used to playing Madden with athletes who have remarkable skill sets; they move quickly, consistently and responsively. I did not. It was like driving in the snow: You know how the car is supposed to move, but it just doesn’t behave as expected. This is what happens when your Madden score is 12. A 12 out of 100 is bad. Very bad. The lowest-rated player in “Madden NFL 15” is Jacksonville Jaguars long snapper Carson Tinker, who’s a 41. Despite the praise during practice — that I had more of an offensive-guard skill set, that I could be a tight end, that I was “a real north and south kind of player” — when it comes down to it, I’m clumsy and awkward, my limbs don’t quite go where I want them to go, and at best, it’s just fun to watch me. Generally speaking, I don’t think a regular person could compete with the pros. Most people are somewhat good at something. But greatness — regularly scheduled weekly articulations of greatness — is something that just can’t be turned on. Maybe the only thing causing me to play poorly was that I wasn’t playing as myself. I challenged Madden’s creative director, Rex Dickson, to a scrimmage. Starting at QB for the Giants: Walt Hickey. Hickey did not have a good day. He threw 7 for 25, threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. The Giants lost 42-7. The only points came thanks to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who could make any quarterback look good. He scored on a short pass that he turned into a 94-yard touchdown. My only comfort was to imagine the great headline The New York Post would put on its back page the next day: “Hickey Fails to Leave a Mark.” Original 75 24 Years Age When I asked Moore what types of players Madden had the most difficulty simulating, two archetypes sprung to his mind. “There’s the Peyton Manning guy — not [Tom] Brady or [Aaron] Rodgers because they have strong arms18 — but the quarterback that’s pure decision-making, accuracy and touch,” Moore said. “And the crafty veteran wide receiver with the ability to find holes in zone [coverage], like Reggie Wayne or Roddy White.”19 As he is wont to do, Moore suggested the latter could be better simulated with even more ratings or traits. “We could rate if a receiver was on the same wavelength with his QB,” he offered. After all, Moore loves to add to Madden’s stable of ratings. His pet example is passing accuracy, which was originally represented by a single rating but is now broken down into three separate classifications by distance. In previous versions of the game, the single rating was applied to the sureness of every throw, which failed to capture a big part of what makes each quarterback unique. In reality, some QBs have better accuracy on short tosses than deep bombs (think Brady), while others are better at judging long throws than short passes (Joe Flacco comes to mind). By splitting pass types into subcategories, Moore thinks he is better able to represent the characteristics that define different quarterbacks. Greater rating detail has also recently enabled Moore to address one of the criticisms that has dogged sports games — and Madden in particular — from time immemorial: that fast players are fundamentally overvalued. (Regarding the tendency for digital speedsters to far surpass the skills of their real-life counterparts, ESPN’s Patrick Hruby once mused that “Oakland Raiders boss Al Davis should have been a game programmer.”) Moore doesn’t shy away from that critique. “When you make a guy fast in a video game, he’s just a little too effective,” he said. Take receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former track standout who hasn’t exactly had a great NFL career despite ranking among the league’s fastest players. Heyward-Bey is just the kind of one-dimensional speedster whose avatar traditionally wreaks undue havoc in Madden, but Moore insists the revamped ratings have made it more difficult for those players to trick the game’s engine. Bailey confirmed this development. “It was true for a long time [that] the little speedy guys could just get open, and that was that,” she said. “I don’t think that’s as much of the case anymore.” But while speed can be mitigated, Moore granted that there’s no good way to overcome the problem of simulating a quarterback like Manning, whose most important skills — reading defenses, calling audibles, seeing things on the field that no one else can, and making sound decisions — are instantly negated when a gamer picks up the controller. Physical Talent Agility Position WR Comments The effects of the ratings on actual gameplay can be arcane for even the most seasoned Madden veterans. Perhaps no one outside of EA Sports has spent more time contemplating Madden’s inner workings than SB Nation’s Jon Bois, the creator of Breaking Madden, a football column that doubles as an absurdist meditation on the game itself. But Bois confessed that he still can’t quite figure out what some of the rating categories actually do for players on the virtual gridiron. “There are definitely more obscure settings,” Bois said. “There’s a slider called ‘press,’ which I have no idea what it means. I set it to zero every time, and I still have no idea what it does, or what ‘press’ even is.”15 It says so right on his business card. ^ Including practice-squad members, free agents and other fringe players. ^ The namesake of retired coach and commentator John Madden. ^ Their equipment styles, for instance. ^ Good rightly cautioned me about the imprudence of declaring anything in gaming a definitive “first,” given the variety — and, just as often, the obscurity — of games and platforms in the medium’s history. ^ It’s impossible to say because “Micro League” didn’t actually have the capacity to track statistics from simulated games. ^ Perhaps it’s no coincidence that in another region of the baseball universe, the field of sabermetrics was tracing a parallel path at roughly the same time. Both endeavors were seeking to distill a player’s on-field performance to its numerical core, albeit for somewhat different purposes. ^ Acceleration, agility, hands, strength, speed, endurance, intelligence and discipline. ^ Also developed by EA’s Tiburon studio outside Orlando. ^ EA Sports’ ratings are on a 1 to 99 scale. ^ Not counting the overall rating, which just serves as a composite of a player’s component attributes. ^ There aren’t even college ratings to fall back on anymore; EA Sports put its NCAA Football series on hold in 2013. ^ Typically watched on the NFL’s RedZone channel. ^ In fact, the overall rating generally doesn’t use all — or even most — of the 43 component attributes at its disposal. Many categories effectively receive a weight of zero. ^ After a little digging, I found that the “press” rating measures a very specific skill: the defensive back’s ability to jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage while lining up in tight coverage. ^ In that class-action lawsuit, a group of retired NFL players sued the NFL Players Association — and won — over royalties that the union received from sales of Madden games containing classic teams with unnamed players whose ratings bore a striking resemblance to the talents of those teams’ real-life members. The unnamed players had “the same height, same ethnicity, same uniform number, same position,” Good said. “Although those things are very substantial in identifying a person, it was also that they would perform as you would expect that player to have performed in real life.” ^ As NBA Jam illustrates, there’s no limit to how much a video game can crank up the dial on pure athleticism. ^ Brady and Rodgers boast throwing power ratings of 93 and 95, respectively; Manning sits at 85. ^ Both Wayne and White boast speed ratings beneath the average of 90 for receivers in “Madden NFL 15”. ^ “Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. “Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. “We’re trying to simulate strengths and weaknesses as best we can within the game, but how you play the game is still you.” Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight. Reuben Fischer-Baum is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight. UPDATE (July 24, 7:15 p.m.): In July 2015, Moore announced his retirement as Madden’s Ratings Czar, leaving EA Sports to join the daily fantasy sports company FanDuel. Madden NFL 16, which will be released in August, will be the final game in the series to contain ratings curated by Moore. CORRECTION (Feb. 25, 1:23 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized Tecmo Super Bowl’s rating system. The game kept 14 rating categories in total, not per player. Michael Vick Hidden Skill Set Reading defenses,calling audibles Comments Finally, after all the component categories are set for both rookies and veterans, the numbers are used to generate the fabled Overall Rating. When I asked Moore about this, I expected him to decline to comment, citing a proprietary formula shrouded in secrecy. Instead, he cheerfully called up a spreadsheet containing the values that go into computing a player’s overall grade (and later e-mailed it to us). And somewhat anticlimactically, the overall rating is simply a weighted average of a player’s ratings across the 43 skill categories tracked by Madden, with different categories taking on more weight depending on the position.14 For example, the most heavily weighted categories for quarterbacks in “Madden NFL 15” are awareness and throwing power (each contributes about one-fifth of a quarterback’s overall rating), accuracy by zone (short and medium accuracy are both slightly more valuable than deep accuracy), and play-action passing. Together, those categories make up 89 percent of the overall grade for QBs, with the rest of the weight given to throwing on the run, agility, speed and acceleration. Reggie Wayne Reuben Fischer-Baum @reubenfb I strolled onto the gridiron in Orlando wearing old gym clothes and the cheapest sneakers available, which I had ordered three days prior. I did the three stretches I remembered from my middle school Presidential Physical Fitness Test — touch your toes, lunge side to side, twist your arm out of its socket — and some light jogging. That may have tired me out more than I expected. My 40-yard dash and 10-yard split times were poor — 6.75 seconds and 2.30 seconds, respectively. Those numbers were a problem because they determined my speed and acceleration grades, which are two of the most important ratings in Madden. And yet I won some games as quarterback. In the 15 seasons that EA simulated with me as QB for the Giants,6 the team never had a winning season but did win an average of 2.9 games each year. Head coach Tom Coughlin was also fired every season. So, win some, lose some. Moore also simulated me as a receiver, kicker and punter, each of which also dragged the Giants down. The team had an average of 3.3 wins with me as a receiver, 3.5 wins with me at kicker, and 3.8 wins with me at punter. Somehow, I made 95 percent of extra-point attempts, and my average punt was 27 yards. Skeptical, I emailed Moore to see whether the game might be flawed. “It might be one of those things in our simulation where it might not simulate the Extra-Point kicks based off of ratings enough,” he said. Even my achievements may have happened in error. Case StudyBrandon MarshallVeteran Player by Walt Hickey graphics by Reuben Fischer-Baum photography by Marius Bugge Long 0 yds How Madden helped a schlub like me make it into the NFL Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for lifestyle. Broad Jump 0’0″ The Walk-On A Rating-Changing MomentNov. 23, 2014 A 75 overall rating for a rookie receiver is nothing to sneeze at, but that was just the beginning for the New York Giants wideout. Beckham recorded 31 catches in his first six games, raising his rating to an 80 overall by Week 11. And in front a national TV audience the next week, he hauled in 10 balls for 146 yards against the Dallas Cowboys — 43 yards of which came on arguably the greatest catch in NFL history. Beckham’s rating would increase by 10 more points, and he ended the year with huge upgrades in awareness, route-running, catching in traffic — and, of course, spectacular catch. Bailey offered an illustration from franchise mode, in which a gamer uses a finite supply of experience points to boost players’ skills. “It can be unclear which ratings you want to increase,” she said. Spending experience points on awareness, for instance, will almost always increase a player’s overall rating — but for defensive players and even quarterbacks, that boost won’t cause them to play better when they’re being controlled in-game. Meanwhile, wide receivers can actually see tangible in-game benefits from a higher awareness score. Confused yet? “I’ve heard it speculated that even the Madden team themselves don’t really know what’s going on,” Bailey said. “Because they’ve got years upon years of systems and code just layered on top of one another, where it’s not always entirely clear how they’re interacting. “It’s kind of a crazy system.” Whatever the virtues and drawbacks of Madden’s player ratings, though, they’re just a starting point. The game must still be played. Physical Talent Throwing Power PASSING Throw Power 0yds Moore looked relieved during the scrimmage. My abysmal performance was proof that Madden really is a simulation of the NFL: A player who somehow lucks into the league without any skills really doesn’t have a chance. He’d have to rely on his teammates to compensate. Thankfully, Madden doesn’t allow for locker-room coups. I will never on my best day be as good as Manning on his worst day. And yet, Madden was way too kind. The Giants should have been so, so much worse with me at the helm. My avatar couldn’t have been rated much lower. I was far closer to a zero rating than I was to the lowest legitimate athlete in the game (Tinker, the long snapper). Despite that, my avatar still managed to lead a team to a little less than three wins a year on average? That doesn’t make sense. The Giants went 6-10 last season. There’s no way Eli Manning is only three wins above Walt Hickey. All we need to do to demonstrate this is to look at the team that performed exactly as I expect mine would: the 2008 Detroit Lions. Although that team was among the worst of all time and failed to win a game, it was made up of talented players who were each still vastly better athletes than I am. Indeed, that year, the overall ratings for four Lions quarterbacks — Daunte Culpepper (80), Jon Kitna (84), Dan Orlovsky (73) and Drew Stanton (77) — vastly exceeded my rating. Factor in my shocking kicking performance (maybe I could make 95 percent of extra-point attempts on, say, the moon or some other low-gravity satellite), and I think that even my low stats fail to encapsulate just how bad (or rather how normal) I am. Madden’s simulation is geared to work within a realm of athleticism where I do not reside. To articulate my actual performance on the field, I’d probably need a negative rating. It’s all laughs for Bois, who excels at turning Madden into surreal comedy. But the cryptic nature of the game’s growing set of player attributes can also have frustrating consequences for serious gamers. “The unfortunate thing for Madden is that a lot of [its] player ratings are opaque,” USgamer senior editor Kat Bailey told me. “There are so many systems going on that you don’t always know which [ratings] affect which [systems].” Two months later, Moore and company asked me to return to Florida for the big reveal: what I’d look like as a real (fake), live (artificial) NFL (Madden) player. When I was first in Florida, EA mapped my face for an avatar by putting me in front of 12 high-definition cameras, each poised at a slightly different angle. It looked like what Jeremy Bentham would have made if he had gone into photography after he was tired of designing prisons. I posed seven ways — one mugshot, left and right profile shots, a natural smile,4 one with my mouth slightly open,5 one with a wrinkled forehead and eight chins, and one screaming. When I saw the photos in December, they looked like I had just walked out of an anti-methamphetamine advertisement. The photos came with polarized flashes that stripped my face of any shadow. Zooming in on the high-def shots made it look like I had slept in hot grease. Will Gibson, the technician who took the photos, said they made me look sort of like Ray Romano. But this, he said, was the point. “Put Brad Pitt in front of this,” he said, “and he’d look like Steve Buscemi.” Next: Michael Vick Mute Video Moore lobbied for many of the new rating categories, spurred by the same motivation that drove “Micro League Baseball” to add player ratings in the first place: greater differentiation among players. Hickey’s best scores for combine drills. Continue Reading Mute Video Just lost ALL respect for the madden ratings creators! They got russell wilson the same rating as Tom Brady! GTFOH!!!!!— ☆G.O.A.T☆ (@YoungPrevo) July 22, 2014 Receiving “You’re going to be setting new ground in how low we go with the ratings,” Moore told me on my second day in Florida. But I still had a chance to succeed. In Madden, everything’s a weighted dice roll — one player slamming into another isn’t an athletic act, it’s a probabilistic one. Even bad players like me could get lucky now and then. Medium Routes 0/2 Hidden Skill Set Poor awareness, decision-making Walter Hickey Monroe, N.Y. 40-Yard Dash 0.0 sec Walt Hickey 17 Throw Power 15 Throw On Run 14 Strength 03 Deep Accuracy 00 Consistency 12 Overall “The possibilities are endless.” KICKING/PUNTING 205 Pounds Weight For example, one of the most important categories when computing a quarterback’s overall rating is awareness, which is based on experience and attempts to quantify factors like decision-making and depth of playbook knowledge. Awareness clearly affects how computer-controlled quarterbacks play the game; the lower the rating, the more likely a CPU opponent is to throw into coverage or miss open receivers. But despite its heavy weighting in the overall rating formula, a quarterback’s awareness score makes no difference when a human is controlling him. When you, the gamer, are in charge, it’s up to you to be “aware” for the avatar you’re controlling. Bois described the same conundrum using a basketball analogy. “I’ve found that the video-game version of J.R. Smith is incredible,” he said. “He’s just way better than he is in real life, and I think the reason is because you get to make the decisions and not him. He’s an amazing player, but once you distill him to his physical self, he’s just unstoppable half the time.” So at what point does an unaware Peyton Manning — or an aware Smith — cease to be a true representation of the original? It’s an interesting philosophical issue and one connected to the delicate balancing act of favoring skilled gamers while having virtual players mirror the strengths and weaknesses of their real-life counterparts. “It’s a fine line,” Dickson said. “You want to make sure that somebody with great stick skills can still win and be successful but at the same time not transcend a really crappy team and all of a sudden they can beat anyone.” When that equilibrium is disturbed, the game can sometimes even be criticized as too realistic. In 2013, testers from Houston complained to Dickson after playing as the Texans’ undrafted rookie quarterback Case Keenum. “They all said, ‘[With] these computer physics, I can’t have fun with this guy: Every pass is inaccurate,’ ” Dickson said. “We’re watching film on [Keenum], and it’s like, ‘Well, he’s a third-stringer. Every pass is inaccurate. This is real life.’ ” “They said to us, ‘Well, if I’m good and making good decisions, I should be able to make good reads and get the pass there,’ ” Dickson continued. “But all of a sudden then you’re making guys like Geno Smith look like Peyton Manning, and your stick skills are now superseding the simulation. We’ve actually had that in the game before, and it didn’t go over well. People reject that. “You shouldn’t be able, just because you’re really good at Madden, to make Geno Smith all of a sudden awesome. Geno Smith, even if he makes a good read, is still an inaccurate passer. That’s just the way it works in the NFL, and that’s modeled in our simulation.” Polygon’s Good used a baseball example to illustrate this tug of war between enjoyment and realism: “How do you make failing seven out of 10 times fun?” It’s a challenge that doesn’t seem to be completely solvable using player ratings, no matter how much faith Moore places in them. Then again, I doubt it will stop him from trying. “In a perfect world, in ‘Madden 2037,’ we might have [ratings] split into 10 or 15 different awareness-type categories,” Moore said, still rattling off items from his wish list. “Like awareness around the end zone, awareness in the fourth quarter … Actual participation was out of the question. This is no longer George Plimpton’s NFL. The size of an NFL player has ballooned — players are taller and larger than ever before. Between 1974 and 1999, rookie offensive linemen got 24 percent heavier. I’m not getting near the turf of an actual football field. Plus, my insurance isn’t that great. Madden Rating Short Routes 0/3 Adjusted 64 “Some designers and producers complain that there are too many ratings,” Moore said of his colleagues. “They ask, ‘How can we limit the number of ratings?’ But I would argue you make players more vanilla with fewer numbers.” That’s why Moore wants to continue adding categories even if it makes his job progressively more daunting. “The developers and programmers hate this,” he said, “but it would be great to do more ratings.” He then launched into an only-half-joking suggestion that the game might add a long-snapping rating someday. When Moore sits down to build a player’s ratings for the newest version of Madden, he goes through one of two separate processes, depending on whether the player is a veteran or a rookie. Each type of player offers its own challenges. Veterans have existing ratings from previous games, but the degree to which each of their categories must be changed is uncertain. Rookies, meanwhile, must be created completely from scratch.12 For the past few versions of the game, users can download Moore’s latest roster update every week of the season via Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. That means a player’s ratings fluctuate based on how he plays each time he takes the field. To figure out whose ratings to tweak and by how much, Moore said he combines his observations and notes taken during games13 with subsequent film study, conventional statistics, and — increasingly — advanced metrics from outlets such as Football Outsiders (particularly for schedule strength) and Pro Football Focus. “The big factor during the season is stat-based,” Moore said. “The advanced metric sites like Pro Football Focus, like the Football Outsiders, this guy named Ryan Riddle — [a] former NFL player who actually does a blog that has a lot of great information — those types of things bring out the snap-by-snap look on a player. And that, to me, gives a truer look in terms of a player’s value, rather than the conventional ‘how many receiving yards’ or ‘what was the completion percentage for the quarterback.’ ” Pulling all that data together, however, is when Moore’s instincts take over. Listening to him describe the process of rating a Madden player across all 43 categories, I began to realize that he has unwittingly adopted a sort of ad hoc Bayesian updating process. He said there’s a bit of “What have you done for me lately?” in the ratings but that certain categories are fundamentally more or less prone to short-term adjustments — another Bayesian-sounding notion. “Speed largely stays the same,” Moore said, “although when guys get hurt, I will make a change to [their] speed and agility” — a fact Cam Newton came to know firsthand. “Carry rating can be in flux if a guy fumbles a few times,” Moore continued. “Every position has certain ratings more impacted in-season than others.” Meanwhile, a category like “spectacular catch” can change on the basis of a single play. Moore defended the policy, saying that this particular rating has little to no effect on actual gameplay — but it underscores the ad hoc nature of some of Moore’s changes. Such modifications will take a veteran player through the end of the season. Moore makes additional adjustments over the summer based on age-related factors and other reports coming out of OTAs and training camps. “In the offseason, I look for guys trending up — young guys — or down — older players,” Moore said. As for the rookies, their creation process dominates Moore’s spring schedule. Starting around March, Moore begins sketching out the ratings framework for projected draftees using a series of templates for each position. Working with measurables from the scouting combine and pro days, he establishes a player’s ratings in categories such as speed and strength, which are almost directly tied to the drills performed by prospects in advance of the NFL draft. For instance, a 4.50-second time in the 40-yard dash will usually earn a prospect a speed rating of 89, barring particularly strong scouting comments about his fleetness of foot (or lack thereof). At the same time, Moore dives into the various public pre-draft scouting reports for each player, marking down pluses and minuses when consistent themes emerge and applying those adjustments to the templates in areas where the raw combine measurables are less useful, such as coverage skills or play recognition. This did not lend itself to a great deal of differentiation between players. The assortment of skills that needed to be collected for each player grew as football games progressed through the 1990s. By the end of the decade, EA Sports’ NCAA Football series9 assigned 14 attributes to every player in the game,10 while Madden began handing out 17. With the advent of fifth-generation consoles, the degree of complexity in simulating football increased dramatically, requiring a wider range of player attributes to feed into the new game engines. “I’ve heard it speculated that even the Madden team themselves don’t really know what’s going on,” Bailey said. Adjusted 75 I asked Moore whether there were any sports that regular people could jump into and be at least a little competitive. “Poker, if you consider that a sport,” he said. Mohegan Sun has a poker tournament at the end of the month. How hard can that be? Footnotes Walker added that he never considered me one of his top rowers. “Even though you pushed yourself at practice, you lacked that same self-discipline away from practice and would often stumble into morning practices having not slept the night before,” he said. That is entirely correct. ^ Craig M. Booth’s excellent NFL height/weight charts inspired the scatter-plots in this article. ^ I have not. ^ Presumably to be used in event of a successful play in-game, so essentially unnecessary. ^ I just made a Manningface. ^ Using the 2014 roster each time. ^ Peyton Manning Case StudyOdell Beckham Jr.Rookie Player Hidden Skill Set Knack for getting open read more

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You Dont Know What Tony Romos Got Till Hes Gone

UPDATE (Nov. 26, 10:30 p.m.): Tony Romo reinjured his collarbone on Thursday in a game against the Carolina Panthers. ESPN reported that he will be out for the rest of the season.By beating the Miami Dolphins Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys preserved their undefeated record this season with quarterback Tony Romo under center. That’s the good news for Cowboys fans; the bad news is that Romo has only played three games. Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden were both winless when filling in at QB while Romo was out with a broken clavicle. At 3-7, the Cowboys have little chance of making the playoffs unless they go on a serious tear against what isn’t an easy schedule down the stretch.If nothing else, the Cowboys’ season has reinforced just how completely essential Romo is. His absence has made it clear that he belongs in any discussion of the league’s top signal-callers.Romo ranks among the top QBs in the NFL over his career, whether you use data from the box score1He ranks fifth in adjusted net yards per attempt since taking over as a starter in 2006. or more advanced, play-by-play metrics.2He ranks eighth in QBR. But Romo also has a reputation, starting early in his career and growing with each passing year since the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl win, for not being “a winner.”While it’s possible Romo is a stat-stuffer whose great individual numbers overstate his true worth, there are other ways to detect a player’s value. For instance, here at FiveThirtyEight we’re oddly thankful when players miss time because it gives us a chance to quantify their influence on the performance of their teams. And few quarterbacks in NFL history have been associated with a better with-or-without-you (WOWY) ledger than Romo.To help measure this WOWY effect, I used Elo ratings, FiveThirtyEight’s pet power rating system. Elo gives us a snapshot of how good each team was expected to be at any given moment, as well as how much a team’s strength estimate changes over time. By looking at those changes in conjunction with who the team’s primary QB was during that game3Meaning the QB who attempted the most passes in a given game., we can construct WOWY scores that measure how much having a given passer under center helps the team.For instance, after Romo’s Cowboys beat Philadelphia in Week 2 (the game in which Romo was lost to injury), they achieved a 1618 Elo rating. Seven games later, when he took the field again on Sunday, Dallas’s rating had dropped to 1463, meaning it lost about 22 points of Elo per game in his absence. By comparison, the Cowboys gained about 19 points of rating per game when Romo does play, so his WOWY this season is +41: the team gains 41 more points of Elo per game when he plays than when he doesn’t.Gaining 41 points of WOWY is incredibly impressive by itself. In seasons where a QB both played and missed at least three games, only Dan Fouts’ 1978 season ranks higher since 19704The year of the AFL-NFL merger.. But it’s nothing new for Romo, who has consistently been good for the Cowboys. Over his career, his WOWY score of +16.7 ranks third among qualified5Minimum 50 games as a team’s primary passer in a career, and 20 games missed. passers since 1970: David Woodley504712.3 That Rex Grossman and Joey Harrington are anywhere near Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on that table shows that this isn’t a completely foolproof method. (For one thing, WOWY can’t factor in the quality of a QB’s backups, beyond what Elo is able to detect from changes in a team’s performance.) But it does suggest that, in terms of making his team more likely to win games, Romo has done an impressive job with the supporting cast the Cowboys have given him. Like Brady6Don’t let the 11-5 record against a weak schedule fool you; the Cassel-led 2008 Pats were significantly worse than they were in 2007 or would be in 2009. and Manning, Romo is associated with elevating his teams’ chances of winning games in addition to gaudy stats.That probably won’t be enough to change anyone’s mind in one of those endless arguments about Romo, but it does quantify what we’ve seen so far this season: The Cowboys are a very good team with Romo — and are totally lost without him.Check out our NFL predictions for odds on every game. Rex Grossman508212.9 GAMES Tom Brady5121+23.3 Joey Harrington552512.4 John Elway1513613.9 Tony Romo802916.7 Boomer Esiason1045512.7 Drew Brees872513.7 Joe Ferguson947712.2 Peyton Manning722321.7 QUARTERBACKWITHWITHOUTWOWY ∆ ELO read more

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Mens hockey No 14 Buckeyes sweep Spartans in East Lansing

Ohio State junior forward Kevin Miller rips a shot on net against Minnesota on Feb. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 5-4. Credit: Nick Clarkson | Lantern reporterThe No. 14 Ohio State men’s hockey team (16-8-6, 7-6-1-1) left East Lansing, Michigan, with six Big Ten points after sweeping hosting Michigan State (6-19-3, 2-10-2-0).Game OneThe Buckeyes took a 3-2 lead early in the third period, and without suspended senior defender Josh Healey, put on a spectacular performance in the final 20 minutes to take Game One of the weekend series.Sophomore forwards Dakota Joshua and John Wiitala, along with freshman forward Tanner Laczynski, netted goals in the victory. Laczynski also notched an assist on Wiitala’s goal, as well as two helpers from freshman defender Matt Miller.A little over 10 minutes into the opening period, OSU opened the game’s scoring when Joshua buried a rebound from close range for a 1-0 lead on his sixth goal in his last six games. Junior defenseman Janik Moser notched his fourth assist of the season on the goal.Despite the early goal, the Spartans would answer less than two minutes later after sophomore forward Brennan Sanford netted the equalizer on the rebound with 7:54 left in the first.With under two minutes remaining, the Buckeyes retook the lead as Laczynski wristed a rocket into the top corner for his ninth goal of the season. However, the Scarlet and Gray lead would be short lived. With under 30 seconds remaining, Spartans senior forward Villiam Haag tied the game on the power play to enter the first intermission in a 2-2 deadlock.In the second period, the hosts led OSU on shots 13-7 and the Buckeyes went on the power play twice, but neither team could find the back of the net as we entered the final 20 minutes in a 2-2 tie.Less than two minutes into the period, however, the Scarlet and Gray found the winner.Off the shot from Laczynski, Wiitala redirected the puck past Spartans freshman goalie John Lethemon for a 3-2 lead. Laczynski’s assist marked his second point of the night and 30th of season, as well as an assist from Miller on the play for his second point of the evening — and first two-point game as a Buckeye.With nearly the entire period remaining, Michigan State searched for the equalizer and eventual winning goal, but came up empty in the final 20 minutes as OSU took Game One.Senior goalie Christian Frey returned to the starting role between the pipes for the Buckeyes in this one, parrying away 33 shots on the night.Game TwoAfter Friday’s series opener, the Scarlet and Gray completed the weekend sweep of the Spartans with a 4-3 win Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena.Goals from Miller, senior forward and captain Nick Schilkey, sophomore forward Brendan Kearney, and junior forward Matt Weis propelled the Buckeyes to their first series sweep in regulation since No. 18-19 at Rensselaer.The visitors once again opened the scoring in Game Two, as Miller slapped a rocket through traffic into the back of the net to give OSU the 1-0 lead with 7:43 left in the period and into the first intermission. Redshirt junior defender Matt Joyaux notched his eighth assist of the season on the goal.Under two minutes into the second, the Buckeyes scored twice less than 30 seconds apart to take a commanding 3-0 lead.First, it was Schilkey on the power play for his 23rd goal of the season off the assist from senior forward David Gust. Next, it was Kearney from just inside the crease for his first goal for OSU this season. Schilkey’s total of 23 goals this season is the most by a Buckeye since 2005.Despite the three-goal hole, Michigan State would respond less than a minute later as freshman forward Logan Lambdin redirected a shot to get his team on the board. The Spartans cut the lead to one with 6:44 left in the second period, as sophomore forward Mason Appleton scored on a screen to send us into the second intermission at 3-2.With 17:59 remaining in the final frame, OSU found the eventual game winner. After winning a faceoff, Wiitala centered a pass to Weis, who one-timed the puck past Lethemon for his ninth goal of the year and a 4-2 Buckeye lead.Michigan State cut the Scarlet and Gray advantage to one with just over six minutes remaining in the final 20 minutes after a goal by freshman forward Sam Saliba and peppered Frey in net, but the Spartans could not complete the comeback and fell 4-3.Up NextThe Buckeyes return to Columbus and the ice this weekend, as the rivaled Michigan Wolverines enter the Schottenstein Center to close out the season series. Puck drop Friday is set for 7 p.m., while Saturday’s start is slated for 5 p.m. read more

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It takes two Club hockey teammates stay the course commit to Ohio

While most incoming freshmen athletes face the college transition on their own, Ontario natives Lisa Steffes and Ally Tarr will find themselves taking on college together.The 17-year-old teammates signed letters of intent back in December to play hockey for Ohio State come fall 2010.For the past two years the duo has played on the same club hockey team, the Bluewater Junior Hawks, and they attended Team Canada’s Strength and Conditioning Camp in April 2009.In July, both participated in Team Canada’s selection camp. Both are current representatives of Team Ontario Red for the ‘09-’10 National Women’s Under-18 Team. It seems like, in all things hockey, the two are cosmically destined to be teammates.When considering OSU, both girls agreed the appeal of the coaching staff played a large role in their decisions.“I really love the coaches and everything with the facilities,” said Tarr, a 5-foot-5-inch forward. “[The coaches] really want you to succeed.”Steffes said the decision to attend OSU wasn’t difficult to make.“You could tell [the coaches] had heart and they wanted to win,” she said. “They persuaded me pretty easily.”While making friends is important to each girl, both find reassurance in having an established pal nearby.“Well, it’s obviously very comforting knowing that there’s someone there that supports you no matter what,” Steffes said. “We’re already friends and we’ve already been through so much together. I’m happy that [Tarr’s] going to be there.”At the age of 8, Steffes started playing hockey because she wanted to be like her brother. Originally she figure skated, but hockey appealed to her more.“It’s a fast game and I’m into fast moving things,” Steffes said. “It’s very exciting and unpredictable. I think that’s why I probably stuck with it.”During her college visit, OSU had a lot to offer: top-notch programs, multi-million dollar facilities and the opportunities of a large campus with a close-knit community.“They offered the best. They [have] every possible thing I need,” Steffes said. “A nutritionist, a sports psychologist — all the resources I need to improve my game.”What she looks forward to most is the new and unknown.“I’m ready just to start off something new,” Steffes said. “I have no idea what to expect, so it’s just going to be an adventure.”At the age of five, Tarr started playing hockey and immediately fell in love with the competitive nature and team dynamic of the sport.Outside of hockey, Tarr likes what OSU offers in the classroom and the academic support system set up for athletes.She is most excited about coming to a new place and learning all that OSU has to offer.“The experience of just being there, it’s such a great school for everything — sports, academics — I’m just really excited about everything,” Tarr said.Having a friend and teammate she respects and admires by her side won’t hurt either.“I’m really excited about that because I’ll be meeting new people, but at the same time [Steffes will] be there,” Tarr said. “It’s going to be exciting because [we] know each other… [we’ll be] able to help each other out.”For coach Jackie Barto and assistant coach Catherine Hanson, obtaining two girls from the same team was unintentional.“I think it’s a positive [situation], and it just worked out that both of them decided to be Buckeyes,” Barto said. “We’re extremely happy about that.”Barto said Steffes is an outstanding athlete and foresees her competing for quality minutes in goal based on her competitive edge and work ethic.“She’s a very mobile and athletic goaltender,” Barto said. “[Lisa] moves in the crease very well, has a very good presence, and she’s always square to the puck.”Barto sees Tarr’s ability to find the back of the net and create offensive plays as a benefit to the team.“I think what separates [Ally] from other kids is her knack for scoring. She has those tools and gifts, abilities with the puck that are very hard to teach,” Barto said. “Those kids are far and few between… [and] that’s what we saw in Ally.”Even with all of the benefits of Steffes’ and Tarr’s experiences together, Barto believes their individual identities should not be forgotten.“They’re going to learn and develop in their own individual ways, both academically and athletically,” Barto said. “They’ll support each other but grow as individuals. And that’s positive.” read more

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Geoff Carlston coaching up Ohio State womens volleyball making impact

When Geoff Carlston first arrived on Ohio State’s campus in 2008 as the women’s volleyball coach, few questioned his success or experience in volleyball. What most people don’t know is how Carlston ended up coaching volleyball. On most occasions, when people want something, they go after it. For Carlston it was the exact opposite, as volleyball kept finding him. Even though Carlston coached a junior Olympic team at the age of 21, he had no intention of becoming a volleyball coach. “I was 21, coaching at that early age and really had a great time with it,” Carlston said. “And really, I didn’t think a lot about it. After I graduated, I rode my motorcycle around the country and was a ski bum. I was in the Peace Corps, and ended up with a bunch of traveling, and volleyball just kept finding me even when I was in there.” In 1993, Carlston graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in speech communication but quickly found himself in school a second time, cementing his path to becoming a volleyball coach. “Mike Hebert was at the University of Minnesota, and he had been a Peace Corps volunteer and asked me to come be his volunteer,” Carlston said. “So I was a volunteer assistant there when I was getting my master’s at Minnesota.” During Carlston’s two seasons as a student assistant coach, the Gophers compiled a 27-9 record and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Carlston went from collecting gold and bronze medals in Holland to being named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year four times at Ohio University and, after five years at Ohio, he came back to the Big Ten. “I was excited because you look up on the wall in the gym and you see Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue,” Carlston said. “I grew up in the Big Ten, so first of all it was cool to be a part of this. The coaches that I looked up to forever such as Mike Hebert … to be coaching against them and to be coaching in the same conference was pretty cool.” After finishing with a 12-20 overall record with a 3-17 mark in the Big Ten in his first full season at OSU, Carlston revitalized the team by winning 25 games the very next season and brought the team back to the NCAA Tournament. In the next two seasons, the Buckeyes won 20-plus games and were invited to two more NCAA Tournament appearances. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 15 this year, with a 17-7 overall record. “I’m really proud of how far we have come when we were 3-17,” Carlston said. In his 12 years as a volleyball coach, Carlston has received many accolades, including Coach of the Year. But he said the satisfaction he gets from his job means more to him than any awards he receives. “I love (volleyball) because … you never know what exactly you’re going to get, which can be stressful on some days, but I love the variety,” Carlston said. “You get to wear a lot of different hats. I mean one day you have to be tough – you have to be the mom, you have to be the dad, you have to be the counselor because you’re dealing with 15 young ladies’ lives.” Senior outside hitter Emily Danks, senior middle blocker Mariah Booth and senior setter Amanda Peterson, who are part of his first recruiting class at OSU, have expressed that Carlston is more than just their coach. He was everything they needed him to be, and then some. “Geoff has influenced me in so many facets of my life,” Danks said. “Throughout my time in this program, I’ve learned things far beyond the realm of serving and blocking. He certainly helped me develop my game, but more importantly, he continuously pushed me out of my comfort zone to develop into a stronger, more confident leader.” One of Peterson’s fondest memories of Carlston happened off the court, during a trip to Hawaii, when the coach encouraged his players to be adventurous. “One of my favorite memories is when we played in last year’s preseason in Hawaii. Geoff let us jump off the cliffs into the ocean,” Peterson said. “I’m guessing that most coaches would instead stifle his players for fear that they would get hurt, but Geoff encourages us to conquer new experiences.” Booth said her favorite memory of her coach was during a preseason retreat, where she shared simple, yet meaningful moments with him. “He and I sat on the couch and played puzzle games before dinner,” Booth said. In every sport, athletes come and go. Carlston said he can’t believe that his seniors, whom he handpicked, are all grown up and will soon graduate and move on to bigger things in life. “The senior class has really allowed me to remember when they were freshman. It seems like 100 years ago,” Carlston said. “They’ve come a long way; we’ve come a long way as a staff and as a program.” Carlston said knowing the impact he’s having on his young players is the best thing about being a coach. “A lot of times, two to three years down the road when they will come back or you’ll get a letter, or you’ll get a parent come up to you and say … just say some amazing things,” Carlston said. “How you have impacted their daughter, or the players come back and say you did this for me and I really appreciate it.” Carlston said being a coach is not just about the numbers. “Like any teacher, (statistics) are the things that sustain you because you never really know at times,” Carlston said. “You’re just in it, you’re competing all the time and you’re trying to push them to be better than what they even think they can be. When they come back and say, ‘Hey, you really made a difference,’ it just reminds you why you do it.” The day is coming when Danks, Booth and Peterson will hang their jerseys up, and there will be certain things they will miss about having Carlston as their coach. “I think what I’ll miss the most about Geoff is how he always keeps us on our toes,” Danks said. “Whether it’s the drills we do in practice, new gear or surprise days off, he always finds a way to mix things up and keep it interesting and fun.” Carlston doesn’t know how long he will coach at OSU, or what his future holds. “I mean winning a national championship would be great, and that is always our goal, but ultimately that’s not the lasting stuff, it’s the impact you had on your players,” Carlston said. “So I’m hoping as kids leave our program and look back they say that Geoff really did make a difference in my life. That’s important to me, I’m not going to lie and say it’s not because it is.” Danks said Carlston’s favorite saying is “carpe diem,” which is Latin for “seize the day.” “He lives by that every day,” Danks said, “and encourages us to do the same.” read more

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Shorthanded Buckeyes drop 2 against Michigan State and Michigan

Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary (11) hits the ball during a match against Michigan Sept. 27 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1.Credit: Mark Batke / Lantern photographerThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team, playing without a full lineup, could not end its lengthy losing streak when it took on No. 17 Michigan Saturday.The Buckeyes, who have dropped eight straight matches, are still looking for a breakthrough in a tough Big Ten conference.OSU is now 2-10 in the Big Ten after winning all 12 of its matches in non-conference play. It looked as if the streak might end as the Buckeyes took the first two sets against the Wolverines, but Michigan was able to win three straight, including a 15-7 decision in the fifth.Sophomore outside hitter Katie Mitchell, who was cleared to play just in time for the Buckeyes’ Friday loss at No. 14 Michigan State after suffering an injury in practice earlier in the week, played in all five sets against the Wolverines.Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary recorded a career-high 31 kills against Michigan. Leary added 13 digs but also tallied 16 attacking errors. Freshman outside hitter Kylie Randall added 10 kills and senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo had a match-high 24 digs.The Buckeyes had a .168 attacking percentage in the match, compared to a .226 clip for Michigan.The Wolverine attack was spread out, as four players recorded double digit kills. Senior outside hitters Molly Toon and Lexi Erwin tied for the team lead with 16 kills. Senior middle blocker Jennifer Cross added 12 and freshman middle blocker Abby Cole pitched in 10.The loss to Michigan, which is one of only two teams that OSU has beaten in conference play this year, came on the heels the Buckeyes’ second three-set loss to the Spartans this season.The Buckeyes fell to Michigan State 25-21, 25-23, 25-17. Coach Geoff Carlston said OSU would be forced to play without two starters for the match in freshman setter Maggie Heim and Mitchell. Mitchell was cleared in time, but only played in the third set, while Heim missed both weekend matches because of illness.The Buckeyes are also playing without junior middle blocker Anna Faul, who tore her ACL during non-conference play during the Blue and White Classic.Randall led the shorthanded Buckeyes with 11 kills and Leary pitched in with 10, but the team finished with 22 errors, compared to 13 for Michigan State.Spartan senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski led the match with 14 kills.Coming off of two more road losses, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return home for their next two matches. OSU is set to host Indiana Friday before welcoming No. 16 Purdue Saturday. read more

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Football Ohio State stays at No 4 in the latest AP Poll

Alabama (54)Clemson (6) GeorgiaOhio StateOklahomaWisconsin (1) Auburn Notre DameStanford WashingtonPenn StateLSUVirginia Tech West Virginia TCUMississippi StateBoise StateUCFMichigan OregonMiami USCArizona StateOklahoma StateMichigan State Ohio State Buckeyes join together at the end of the game against Rutgers to sing “Carmen Ohio” on Sept. 8. Ohio State won 52-3. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorAfter a 52-3 win over Rutgers in the first Big Ten game of the season, Ohio State stayed at No. 4 in the Week 3 of the AP Poll behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No.3 Georgia. The Buckeyes failed to earn a first place vote. Ohio State is one of five teams from the Big Ten in the Top 25 along with No. 6 Wisconsin, which received one first place vote, No. 11 Penn State, No. 19 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State. The Buckeyes were ranked as high as No. 2 by three voters, and as low as No. 11.No. 4 Ohio State will face No. 15 TCU on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. AP Top 25 read more

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Deadly Portuguese ManofWar stinging creature washes up on UK beaches

first_imgA Cornish pasty-shaped, transparent purple float is visible on the water’s surface while the blue, tentacle-like “fishing polyps” that hang below the float can be tens of metres in length.”It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal sting,” said Dr Richardson.”A stranded Portuguese Man-of-War looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon with blue ribbons attached, children will find it fascinating.”So, if you’re visiting a Cornish beach this weekend it’s well worth making sure you know what these animals look like and that no one picks them up.”We’d like people to report any sightings of Portuguese Man-of-War to our website so we get a better idea of the extent of the strandings.” It’s the tentacle-like polyps that can give an agonising and potentially lethal stingDr Peter Richardson, Marine Conservation Society The potentially deadly Portuguese Man-of-War has been washed up on UK shores, conservationists are warning.The Marine Conservation Society said it had received reports of several sightings of the bizarre stinging creature on beaches in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.The public are being warned not to touch the Portuguese Man-of-War, which is not a single animal but a floating colony. The stings can be exceptionally painful and in extreme cases fatal.The sightings in British waters comes weeks after the authorities in Ireland advised local beach goers about a spate of recent strandings of this potentially dangerous floating sea creature. Tentacle-like 'fishing polyps' that hang below the float can be tens of metres in length 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. Portuguese Man-of-War are only occasionally reported in UK waters, with the last significant UK strandings of the species occurring in 2009 and 2012.”We don’t receive reports of Portuguese Man-of-War every year, but when we do they can turn up in big numbers, usually around about this time of year,” said Dr Peter Richardson, of the Marine Conservation Society.”In the last couple of weeks we’ve received several confirmed reports of Portuguese Man-of-War stranded on beaches around Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.”With the earlier strandings in Ireland, these recent sightings could herald the arrival of more of the creatures as they get blown in from the Atlantic.”The Portuguese Man-of-War is not a jellyfish, but is closely related and consists of a floating colony of hydrozoans – lots of tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal. Tentacle-like ‘fishing polyps’ that hang below the float can be tens of metres in lengthCredit:Peter Soper/Marine Conservationlast_img read more

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Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife has bail conditions

first_imgEmile Cilliers and his wife, Victoria  She suffered multiple serious injuries at Netheravon Airfield, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on April 5, 2015.Mr Cilliers, of Aldershot, Hampshire, denied two charges of attempting to murder his wife during the short hearing at the court.One charge is alleged between March 24 and 31 last year, while the second is alleged between April 3 and 6 last year.Mr Cilliers also denied a charge of damaging a gas fitting belonging to his wife, while recklessly endangering life, between March 28 and 31 last year.Judge Keith Cutler, the Recorder of Winchester, adjourned the case for a date to be fixed and released Mr Cilliers on bail.”It is likely to be a trial of five weeks’ length, perhaps in May or the summer part of next year,” the judge told the defendant.Mr Cilliers, who was born in South Africa, spoke only to answer “not guilty” to the three charges alleged against him. An army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife after her main parachute failed to open during a 4,000ft jump has had his bail conditions amended so he can go skiing.Emile Cilliers, 36, pleaded not guilty when he appeared at Salisbury Crown Court to face three charges in relation to his wife Victoria Cilliers, 40. The proposition is there’s a ski leaders’ course in Bavaria… then there’s another ski course in AustriaChristopher Hill, representing Emile Cilliers The court heard Mr Cilliers’ bail conditions include having no contact with his wife, not to enter Wiltshire apart from legal appointments and to surrender his passport.Christopher Hill, representing Mr Cilliers, applied for his passport to be in the possession of police or the Army, so his client could attend ski courses abroad.”The proposition is there’s a ski leaders’ course in Bavaria, with a transfer by bus and ferry,” Mr Hill said. “Then there’s another ski course in Austria. The request is that he is allowed to attend those.”The judge said the passport should be in the possession of the police and the Army.”This case comes first,” he told Mr Cilliers. “I will renew your bail in those amended terms.”He added there would likely be another administrative-type hearing in February or March.  Emile Cilliers and his wife, Victoria, who he is accused of attempting to murder 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.last_img read more

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Reindeer becoming smaller due to global warming research finds

first_imgThe implications are that there may well be more smaller reindeer in the Arctic in the coming decadesProfessor Steve Albon However, warmer winters have brought with them greater rainfall which freezes when it settles on the snow, thereby locking out the reindeer from the life-sustaining food below.As a result, female reindeer are becoming starved, causing them to abort their calves or giving birth to much lighter young.The average mass of an adult reindeer in 1994, when the survey began, was 55kg, but by 2010 it had dropped to 48kg.Professor Steve Albon, an ecologist at the James Hatton Institute in Aberdeen, said his the research some of the critical changes facing Arctic species.“While I doubt we will see the extinction of reindeer across their circumpolar range, Santa may need more to pull the laden sleigh,” he joked.He added that, because the mammals have a relatively high surface-area-to-volume ratio, they are no particularly energy efficient.Reindeer can often access the meagre food sources beneath the snow by clearing it away with their antlers, but they cannot break through the hard ice.Without access to the food in winter, calves are being born far lighter than they should be.Numbers of reindeer have also soared in the past 20 years, meaning that those which are born are facing greater competition for food.“The implications are that there may well be more smaller reindeer in the Arctic in the coming decades, but possibly at risk of catastrophic die-offs because of increased ice on the ground,” said Professor Albon.According to Christmas folklore, Santa Claus uses a team of eight reindeer to transport him around the world in a single evening.Based on the 1923 poem a Visit from St Nicholas – though more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas – these are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.In the imaginations of many, however, Rudolph has been added as an honorary ninth member of the team, thanks to the enduring popularity of the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.Despite the gloomy findings, reindeer appear to be suffering less from the impact of climate change than some other arctic species.Last week the scientists warned that a third of the world’s polar bears could disappear in the next 40 years to to melting Arctic sea ice. 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. Dragging a sleigh laden with enough presents for the world’s children – not to mention a famously portly white-bearded gentleman – can be no easy feat.But, since time immemorial, this crucial Christmas Eve duty has been performed with distinction by a team of beloved reindeer.Soon, however, Santa Claus may have to start looking around for a stronger type of animal, as new research reveals the species is becoming increasingly puny. A 16-year survey on the arctic Norwegian island of Svalbard found the reindeer there have declined in weight by an alarming 12 per cent.The reduction in average body-mass is being blamed on global warming.In research presented today at a meeting of the British Ecological Society in Liverpool, scientists will explain how rising temperatures are depriving female reindeer of nutrients during important phases of gestation.Snow in Svalbard typically covers the ground for eight months of the year, which, combined with low temperatures, limits grass growth to June and July.But as summer temperatures have increased by around 1.5C, pastures have become more productive, allowing female reindeer to gain more weight by the autumn and therefore to conceive more calves.last_img read more

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Leicester Cathedral Canon and husband found dead in suspected suicide pact

first_imgWiggins Close, Rugby, Warwickshire where the bodies of senior council officer Sean Lawson and his wife were found Credit:SWNS.com One resident, living on nearby Crick Road, said: “I have a friend who lives on the close which backs on to their road and apparently there was quite a commotion in the early hours. Mary Lawson, a former Canon of Leicester Cathedral and former primary school head teacherCredit:SWNS.com “It’s being treated as a murder-suicide from what I’m aware but we don’t know the precise details, it’s just what I’ve been told.”There was police everywhere, it’s really concerning because in this sort of area nothing like this really happens.”He was very well known for his work with the council and was a pillar of the community. It’s tragic because they seemed like a really nice couple.”A family friend said that they believed the pair had committed suicide together after Mrs Lawson’s condition deteriorated following her stroke.They said: “I don’t think they could bare to be be without each other but Mary’s illness had really took a strain on them. She was really suffering.”He would never have killed his wife. It would have been arranged. The information we have so far is that it wasn’t a murder-suicide but they both committed suicide.”But I suppose that will be for a coroner to decide for sure.”A neighbour said they were “heartbroken” at the news: “This is a close knit community and they both did more than their fair share for it.”I don’t want to say too much more because I’m just heartbroken they have died. Mary Lawson, a former Canon of Leicester Cathedral and former primary school head teacher “You couldn’t wish for a better couple or met a nicer pair of people.”Another neighbour, Brian Dott, 49, said: “They were a lovely couple and very popular with everyone around here.”They both did very good work for their community and will be missed very much. It is a real tragedy.” Warwickshire Police said the couple’s next of kin have been informed.A force spokesman said: “Police were called to a property on Wiggins Close, Rugby, after concern was raised for the occupants.”The bodies of a 50-year-old man and a 63-year-old woman were discovered at the property.”Detective Inspector Matthew Pyatt, of Warwickshire Police, added: “We are not treating the incident as suspicious.”The incident was contained to the property and we’re not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.”The case will be handed over to the coroner.”A joint statement issued by Councillor Michael Stokes, leader of Rugby Borough Council, and the council’s executive director Adam Norburn, said: “It is with great sadness that we must announce that Sean Lawson and his wife passed away over the weekend.”Sean was 50 years old and head of environment and public realm at Rugby Borough Council.”Sean had worked at the authority for 12 years, most recently as a head of service. A former Canon of Leicester Cathedral and her husband have been found dead at their home in a suspected suicide pact. Mary Lawson, 63, and her husband Sean, 50, a senior council chief, were discovered at their £500,000 detached property at around 2.45am on Sunday after neighbours raised concerns.Emergency services rushed to the scene but the couple were pronounced dead from their injuries on leafy Wiggins Close, in Rugby, Warkwickshire.Residents living close to the private road said neighbours described hearing “quite a commotion” over the weekend before seeing police on their quiet street. Others described their shock and “heartbreak” at the news. A family friend said that they understood that the couple had committed suicide. Mrs Lawson was the former Canon of Leicester Cathedral and a former primary school head teacher. Mr Lawson had worked for Rugby Borough Council for more than 12 years as head of its environment and public realm department.Police have confirmed that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths and they are not looking for anyone in connection with them. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow added: “Mary made a very significant contribution to the work of the Church across the diocese.”I am shocked and deeply saddened by this news and my thoughts and prayers are with Mary and Sean’s colleagues, family and friends”. “He sat on the Rugby Community Safety Partnership and chaired the Rugby Safety Advisory Group.”He had overseen a number of major projects, most notably the build and operation of the Rainsbrook Crematorium and the planting of the Diamond Wood, where he planted several trees in person.”Sean was close to his staff and news of his death has been a shock to us all.”Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.” Sean Lawson former head of environment and public realm at Rugby Borough Council Wiggins Close, Rugby, Warwickshire where the bodies of senior council officer Sean Lawson and his wife were found  Sean Lawson, former head of environment and public realm at Rugby Borough CouncilCredit:SWNS.com 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. The Diocese of Leicester confirmed Mrs Lawson had died over the Bank Holiday weekend and said she had suffered ill health since having a stroke in 2015.A diocese spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness that we have learned of the deaths of former Diocesan Director of Education Mary Lawson and her husband, Sean.”Mary Lawson was Director of Education for the Diocese of Leicester between 2010 and 2014 and led the Diocesan Board of Education through many significant changes which impacted diocesan schools including the creation of the Multi Academy Trust, Diocese of Leicester Academies Trust.”She was also a Canon of Leicester Cathedral.”After leaving the diocese Mary became head of a primary school in Leicester but had recently suffered from ill health following a stroke in 2015.”last_img read more

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Can you spot the bird in this picture If not evolution is

first_img 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. An Aegean lizard on a rock The study, carried out in Zambia, showed that individual birds chose backgrounds that enhanced their camouflage to their main predators. If you struggled to spot the bird in the picture above you may think you are witnessing a cunning example of evolutionary deception.But, in fact, animals that rely on camouflage are so tricky to spot, not because they are superbly matched to their environment, but because they actively seek out spots which are most like themselves.It’s the equivalent of person in green wooly jumper and brown trousers choosing to sit in a tree, rather than on the park bench below.Scientists at Exeter and Cambridge Universities looked at nine remarkable hard-to-see ground nesting birds to try and tease out the success of their concealment strategy. Instead, they enhance their level of camouflage to hunting birds by choosing to rest on rocks that are more similar in colour to that of their own backs. Cambridge University also discovered that Aegean wall lizards also sit on rocks that better match their individual colouring, reducing the risk of attack by birds when they soaking in the Sun’s rays to warm up.While some types of lizard, such as chameleons and geckos, are able to rapidly change colour in a matter of seconds or minutes to better match their backgrounds and avoid being spotted by approaching predators Aegean wall lizards are unable to do this. Kate Marshall from the Department of Zoology said: “This strongly suggests that lizards rest on backgrounds that heighten their own camouflage to reduce the risk of being attacked by birds, and that individual behaviours have an important role in enhancing camouflage across different microhabitats.“As for the puzzle over how the lizards ‘know’ how camouflaged their own backs are against a particular rock – one theory is that it is under genetic control, while another possibility is that it develops in early life through learning from other lizards and from experience.”“Although we don’t know what the exact mechanism is yet, we hope to uncover some clues in future.”The studies were published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution and Scientific Reports. Nightjars are one of the best birds in the world at hiding from predators Credit:University of Exeter  The researchers say it is not yet clear how individuals choose places to suit their appearance.“It could be that somehow they ‘know’ what they look like and act accordingly,” added Professor Stevens.“They may look at themselves, their eggs and the background and judge whether it’s a good place to nest, or learn over time about what kinds of places their eggs escape being eaten.” The bird is easier to spot in this close upCredit:Martin Stevens  It is virtually impossible to see the nightjar in this image Credit:Martin Stevens  Two chicks are hiding in this picture, but can you spot them?Credit:Martin Stevens  Project co-leader Professor Claire Spottiswoode, of the University of Cape Town and the University of Cambridge, added: “We tend to think about camouflage as something that involves gradual evolutionary change in appearance – we don’t often think of it as a matter of individual animal behaviour.“This research helps us understand how behaviour and appearance are linked.”These findings were made possible by the amazing field skills of our team of nest-finders from the local community in Zambia, who found hundreds of beautifully camouflaged nests.” An Aegean lizard on a rock It is virtually impossible to see the nightjar in this image  A fiery-necked nightjar and chick from afarCredit:Martin Stevens  A fiery-necked nightjar and chick from afar Nightjars are one of the best birds in the world at hiding from predators  The bird is easier to spot in this close up They found that individual birds adjust their nest position based on their own specific patterns and colours.“Each individual bird looks a little bit different, and we have shown that they can act individually,” said project co-leader Professor Martin Stevens, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.“This is not a species-level choice.“Individual birds consistently sit in places that enhance their own unique markings, both within a habitat, and at a fine scale with regards to specific background sites.” Two chicks are hiding in this picture, but can you spot them?last_img read more

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You didnt even know her Prince William and Harry on their confusion

first_imgPrince Philip, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales at Diana’s funeral “He was the one out of two left and he tried to do his best and to make sure we were protected and looked after.”But, you know, he was going through the same grieving process as well.”The Duke also paid tribute to the Queen’s decision to keep her grandsons at Balmoral in the days following her death on August 31, 1997.Then, she weathered heavy criticism from the public who accused the Royal family of keeping the children “prisoner” away from the people. The Duke said: “I don’t think anyone, even my grandmother, had seen this anything like this before. I think all of use were on new territory.“But for Harry and I, my grandmother and father believed we were better served at Balmoral, having the walks and the space and peace to be with the family and not be immersed having to deal with serious decision or worries straight away. The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have spoken of the bewilderment they felt at the public grief following their mother’s death, admitting they had struggled to understand why so many strangers were crying when they “didn’t even know her”.The Duke, who was 15 when Diana, Princess of Wales, died, said he had felt “a bit protective at times about her” as he walked behind her coffin with his brother, who was just 12.Admitting the “alien environment” of grieving in the public eye had been among the most difficult moments of his life, the Duke said he had wondered of weeping members of the public: “You didn’t even know her, why and how are you so upset?”He has since come to understand how much the Princess had meant to people, he said, as he and his younger brother speak candidly about how the duty of performing for the watching world in 1997 affected them. Prince Harry speaks to the BBC In hindsight, he said, he was “really glad” he had walked behind the Princess’ coffin, saying he had come through a phase of wishing his Royal status away to devote himself to duty and “making her [Diana] proud”.The Duke added: “When you have something so traumatic as the death of your mother when you’re 15, it will either make or break you. I wouldn’t let it break it, I wanted it to make me.” “I think it was a very hard decision for my grandmother to make. She felt very torn between being a grandmother to William and Harry, and her Queen role.” “They were shouting and literally wailing at us. Throwing flowers, yelling, sobbing, breaking down, people fainted, collapsed.” Prince William and Harry meet the public in the days after their mother's death “The wailing and the crying and people wanting to touch us… I was 15 and Harry was 12. It was like nothing you can really describe, it was very unusual. The programme, Diana, 7 Days, will be broadcast on Sunday, August 27th at 7.30pm on BBC One. Prince Charles visits flowers outside Kensington Palace with his sons It is the first time in a series of high-profile interviews about the Princess’ death that they have praised their father for his part in helping them grieve.Prince Harry said: “One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died.”How you deal with that I don’t know but, you know, he was there for us. The Duke and Prince Harry spoke as part of a documentary for the BBC, which sees them publicly defend the decision made by the Prince of Wales and the Queen to keep them at Balmoral following the car crash which killed their mother. Duty first: Princes William and Harry meet the public “I did feel a bit protective at times about her. I was like, ‘you didn’t even know her’. Why and how are you so upset?”Now looking back, over the last few years I’ve learned to understand what it was she gave the world and a lot of people.”Prince Harry added: “The way that people were grabbing us and pulling us into their arms… I don’t blame anybody for that, of course I don’t, but it was those moments that were quite shocking.”center_img 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. The weight of expectation placed on the young Princes required them to put on a “game face” in order to avoid “completely and utterly breaking down”, said the Duke. Duty first: Princes William and Harry meet the public Prince Harry accepts flowers five days after his mother's death Speaking of the funeral procession, he added: “I couldn’t understand why everyone wanted to cry as loud as they did, and show such emotion as they did when they didn’t really know our mother. Prince William and Harry meet the public in the days after their mother’s death The Duke of Cambridge speaks to the BBC  Prince Harry added he had not cried in public at the time and was probably still unable to, explaining: “Whatever happened then has changed me in that sense.”Describing coming back to London to meet the public, the Duke said: “What was very peculiar but obviously incredibly touching was everybody crying. Prince Philip, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales at Diana's funeral Prince Charles visits flowers outside Kensington Palace with his sons Prince Harry accepts flowers five days after his mother’s death Prince Harry speaks to the BBC The Duke of Cambridge now understands why the public felt so strongly Saying he was thankful there had been no smartphones to keep them up-to-date with what was happening in London, he added: “We had the privacy to mourn and collect our thoughts, and have that space.”Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Diana’s sister, added of the Queen’s decision: “She did absolutely the right thing. If I was her I would have done that.”In contrast to the peace of Balmoral, the streets of London were lined with members of the public overcome with emotion and demanding sight of the senior members of the Royal Family.last_img read more

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BBC reveals plan to end singleuse plastics by 2020 after criticism from

first_imgTony Hall, BBC director general, said: “Like millions of people watching Blue Planet II, I was shocked to see the avoidable waste and harm created by single-use plastic. We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way.” The BBC has released a plan to end its use of single-use plastics after criticism from its staff.5 Live presenter Rachel Burden tweeted earlier this month: “Someone needs to have a word with the bbc bosses in Millbank about their plastic consumption.”She included a photograph of a drawer-full of single-use plastic spoons.Now, the BBC has announced that it will be curbing its use of the plastics, which pollute the environment.The broadcaster is scrapping plastic cups and cutlery by the end of 2018, and says this will end the use of 2 million plastic cups by visitors and staff a year.It also pointed out that several BBC sites have already begun to remove plastic cups from kitchens and replace with glasses wherever possible.  Someone needs to have a word with the bbc bosses in Millbank about their plastic consumption @maryannehobbs 😱 pic.twitter.com/QW8ly5UTle— Rachel Burden (@rachelburden) February 2, 2018 This comes as a tide of change has hit the UK after the success of Blue Planet II, which highlighted the harmful impact of plastic pollution on sea life.Healthy fast food restaurant chain Leon has banned plastic straws throughout its restaurants, and has been followed by many other hotels, cafes and bars, including Soho House Group, Wahaca, Costa Coffee, Pizza Pilgrims and Jamie Oliver.center_img There are plans to remove plastic containers from canteens by 2019, starting with a pilot in Salford this month, where a coffee cup recycling scheme will also be trialled.The company will also be curbing the use of plastics in its catering, and only working with companies which will provide goods which are not wrapped in single-use plastic. The Queen has also banned plastic straws and bottles from Royal estates as Buckingham Palace outlined new waste plans and said there was a ‘strong desire to tackle the issue’ at the highest levels of the Royal household.Internal caterers at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh will now only be allowed to use china plates and glasses, or recyclable paper cups.Scotland also plans to ban plastic straws from the country by 2019, with the country’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham telling the Daily Mail: “I would strongly encourage the big manufacturers of straws that the writing is on the wall and they need to be thinking about alternatives now.”last_img read more

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Labour partys biggest union backers aim to force Jeremy Corbyn into global

The 2014 visit hit the headlines during last year’s general election campaign, when Labour said that Mr Corbyn had been paying his respects at a memorial to those killed by an Israeli air strike on Palestine Liberation Organisation offices in Tunis in 1985. Unions have been frustrated that the party’s attempts to put the Government on the back foot over its “Build it in Britain” campaign this summer have been completely overshadowed by the anti-Semitism row.On Saturday Paddy Lillis, general secetary of the shop workers union Usdaw, demanded that Labour “immediately” adopt the full definition, following similar calls from Dave Prentis, the leader of Unison, and Tim Roche, the general secretary of the GMB union.Jon Lansman, the leader of Momentum, together with more moderate Labour MPs such as the deputy leader Tom Watson are understood to want to adopt the entire definition. Last weekend Mr Corbyn stood by the party’s decision not to accept all 11 examples word for word writing in The Guardian: “Our code is a good faith attempt to contextualise those examples and make them legally watertight for use as part of our disciplinary procedures, as well as to draw on additional instances of anti-Semitism.”Seven of the IHRA examples were incorporated word-for-word. And I believe the essence of the other four have also been captured.”He added that “actual differences” with the Jewish community were very small amounting “to half of one example out of 11, touching on free speech in relation to Israel”. Labour MPs who have been critical of Mr Corbyn’s handling of the row welcomed the news – but warned that Mr Corbyn had go further than just adopting the definition.One said that Mr Corbyn’s refusal to adopt the entire definition with examples had “put a focus” on the occasions “when he has met with, defended and supported all sorts of extremists and in some cases terrorists and anti-Semites.”This issue is not going to go away until he accepts the full definition … and kicks out anti-Semites from the Labour party for good”. But the Daily Mail said that its own visit to the Martyrs Ceremony had shown that the memorial was 15 yards away from the spot where Mr Corbyn was pictured holding a wreath, in photographs held in the Palestinian Embassy website archive.The newspaper said that the pictures were taken in front of a plaque honouring three men, including the founder of the Black September organisation which carried out the Munich atrocity and yards from the grave of PLO intelligence chief Atef Bseiso.A motion to accept the IHRA definition in its entirety is set to be submitted to a meeting of the disciplinary committee of the Labour party’s ruling National Executive Committee on September 4.  Jeremy Corbyn pictured in 2014 holding a wreath at a cemetery in Tunis where the Munich plotters are buried Credit:Facebook “Ah-ah, we hear the cry, it takes a Jew to see the substance. Well, we are several hundred Jews and none has spotted it. But then we are unworthy Jews who do not pass the authenticity test, cast beyond the pale by the magic circle for giving away the game. Andersen is joined by Lewis Carroll.“So what is the warp and weft of this cloth, what is the pay off and why the tantrums? Just three strands compose the fabric.”Israel, Zionism and Jew are wove into cloth such that criticism of Israel or Zionism is transmogrified into criticism of Jews and magically becomes anti-Semitic.” Jeremy Corbyn faces being bounced into accepting the international definition of anti-Semitism by Labour party’s biggest union backers, The Telegraph can reveal.Unite, Unison and the GMB – which donate millions of pounds to the party every year – are understood to have been paying for lawyers to examine the legal definition of anti-Semitism and reassure the party over adopting it.A stumbling block has been the requirement that Labour party members will in future not be allowed to describe Israel as a “racist endeavour”, if its policies discriminate against Palestinians.Labour has been dogged by fury over its failure to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition including all 11 examples of anti-Semitism. Labour MPs who have criticised the position warned on Saturday that it would not now be enough to defuse tensions and said Mr Corbyn had to go further than merely adopting a form of words. On Saturday the party was forced onto the backfoot again when a photograph emerged of Mr Corbyn in 2014 before he was leader holding a wreath near the graves of those responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Jeremy Corbyn pictured in 2014 holding a wreath at a cemetery in Tunis where the Munich plotters are buried  The MP added: “This problem pre-dated the Labour party’s discussions of that definition. Everytime he has tried to address it, he has made the problem much much worse.”The news came as Glyn Secker, a member of the pro-Corbyn group Jewish Voice for Labour risked starting another row be reworking Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to dismiss arguments about anti-Semitism.Writing in the Morning Star last week, Mr Secker said: “We know that the wave of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is invisible because, when we ask party branch members — and we have asked very many during this show — if they themselves, personally, have actually seen examples of anti-Semitism within the party, rather than having heard reports of it, or seen it elsewhere in the public domain, the answers are overwhelmingly negative. The Telegraph understands the new definition will not be applied retrospectively, so that its adoption cannot be used to discipline party members for comments made years ago.One senior party source said: “The big trade unions – Unite, GMB and Unison – will come behind an adoption of it… it will be facilitated onto the agenda. By October everything will be done and dusted and people will wonder what it was all about.”Aides to Mr Corbyn will want to ensure that if the definition is adopted it does not look like a dent to the Labour leader’s authority. 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. read more

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City analyst sexually harassed junior colleague and told her I can teach

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. Nathalie Abildgaard claims she was unfairly dismissed from her role at IFM Investors in LondonCredit:Gavin Rodgers Mr Michel-Verdier, who is married, denies the allegations.The 50 year-old is also said to have messaged Ms Abildgaard his hotel room number so “we could have some fun” on the same night in March last year, which was organised to celebrate the closing of a deal. Nathalie Abildgaard claims she was unfairly dismissed from her role at IFM Investors in London Employment Judge Graeme Hodgson said the victimisation claim relates to IFM Investments making an “unjustified and aggressive threat to approach her new employer”.According to the IFM Investors website, Mr Michel-Verdier is “responsible for relationship and partnership development” as well as “implementing and managing infrastructure investments”.He joined the company in 2008 and previously spent three years with Ernst and Young in Paris as well as 11 years as a banker at Barings, the world’s second oldest merchant bank.The hearing continues. A City analyst sexually harassed a colleague more than 20 years his junior and told her “I know more about sex. I can teach you a lot of things,” an employment tribunal heard.Frederic Michel-Verdier, 50, an executive director at IFM Investors, is accused of telling 27-year-old Nathalie Abildgaard: “If I was 20 years younger, I would have been all over you,” while the pair were celebrating a business deal at a nightclub in Madrid.Ms Abildgaard claims she was unfairly dismissed from her role as an associate with the Australian fund management firm, which has an office in Gresham Street, London.An employment tribunal heard Ms Abildgaard left the company a month after Mr Michel-Verdier made the alleged comments in Madrid.He was also said to have stood “inappropriately and intimidatingly” close to her and said: “You do not understand, I’m so much older than you. I know more about sex. I can teach you a lot of things.” Ms Abildgaard, originally from Denmark, was said to have sought medical treatment for stress and anxiety after the incident.Employment Judge Graeme Hodgson laid out the claims of harassment, unfair dismissal and victimisation Ms Abildgaard was making against her former employer at Kingsway Employment Tribunal yesterday.In addition to the comments and text messages on the night at the club in Spain, Ms Abildgaard also alleges she was the victim of harassment when Mr Michel-Verdier tried to call her twice in the early hours of March 17.On March 19, Ms Abildgaard said she was approached by her boss at work and he said to her: “Good night out Friday, I was so drunk I missed my flight out on Saturday.”He is also said to have sent her a message on April 11 after her resignation saying: “Good luck for your new endeavour (now we can meet).”The claim of unfair dismissal relates to “the first respondent failing to take reasonable steps to stop the second respondent carrying out the acts of harassment identified”.It also relates to “the first respondent failing to respond to acts of alleged harassment by the second respondent”.The hearing had to be briefly adjourned to discuss whether the claim of victimisation would proceed at this tribunal as it is currently the subject of a civil claim. read more

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