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NFL boss Goodell to Louisiana governor: ‘Would be wrong’ for me to overturn call against Saints

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NFL boss Goodell to Louisiana governor: 'Would be wrong' for me to overturn call against Saints

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards in a letter made public Monday that a penalty should have been called against the Los Angeles Rams following a crucial play in last month’s NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints but added that “it would be wrong for me” to overturn the game’s outcome “because of an officiating error.”

“I fully understand your personal disappointment, and the disappointment and frustration of Saints fans throughout the country, over the outcome of the NFC Championship Game,” Goodell said in the Feb. 6 letter.

On the play in question, Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman delivered an helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis while a Drew Brees pass was in the air with less than two minutes remaining. A penalty for pass interference or unnecessary roughness would have given the Saints a first down and a chance to run down the clock before kicking a potential game-winning field goal. The Saints did kick a field goal to take a 23-20 lead, but the Rams had time to kick a game-tying field goal of their own before winning the game in overtime, 26-23.

SAINTS FAN’S OBIT SAYS HE WAS ‘DETERMINED NOT TO WATCH THE SUPER BOWL

Edwards, a Democrat, wrote to Goodell two days after the game, saying the Saints “deserved better. Saints fans deserved better. The City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana deserved better.” The governor added that Goodell and the 31 team owners “should make sure that by next season there is some recourse on the field when such a clear [officiating] error is made … If the NFL fails to act, the very integrity of the game will be called into question — something that no football fan wants to see.”

In Goodell’s response to Edwards’ letter, which the commissioner said reached him after he returned from this month’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, he said that “it is incumbent on us to review this issue closely to determine if there are changes in our rules or procedures that would prevent a similar occurrence in the future. While there will always be mistakes in any game played, coached, and officiated by humans, we do not want officiating to be the topic of discussion after any game.”

In his annual “state of the league” news conference the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, Goodell declined to rule out making pass interference and helmet-to-helmet penalties reviewable via the league’s instant replay “challenge” system, but did not endorse such a move either.

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“There have been a variety of proposals over the last — frankly 15 to 20 years — of should replay be expanded? It does not cover judgment calls. This was a judgment call,” Goodell said at the time of the Robey-Coleman play. “The other complication is that it was a no-call. And our coaches and clubs have been very resistant and there has not been support to date about having a replay official or somebody in New York throw a flag when there is no flag. They have not voted for that in the past. It doesn’t mean that we won’t. It’s something that we’re going to put to the competition committee to see if there’s an answer to that, but the reality is that’s been at least an opposition philosophically for many clubs.”

In a series of tweets, Edwards said he applauded Goodell’s “willingness to review the officiating error closely to determine if similar errors can be prevented in the future through rule or procedure changes.” The governor also promised that the state would be “hospitable” to the NFL when New Orleans hosts Super Bowl 58 in February 2024. It will be the 11th time the city has been the site of the Super Bowl — as Goodell pointed out in his response to Edwards, no city has hosted it more.

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Giants manager Bruce Bochy to retire after 2019 season

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Giants manager Bruce Bochy to retire after 2019 season

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has announced he will retire after the 2019 season.

Bochy, 63, has been the Giants’ manager since 2007 and has guided them to three World Series championships, in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

Before that he managed the San Diego Padres from 1995 to 2006. He took them to the World Series in 1998, where they lost to the Yankees. He was named Manager of the Year in 1996.

In 24 years as a manager, he has a record of 1,926-1,944. His victory total ranks 11th on the all-time list.

Bochy played nine seasons in the big leagues as a catcher for the Astros, Mets and Padres.

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French fencing body recognizes lightsaber dueling as a sport

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French fencing body recognizes lightsaber dueling as a sport

BEAUMONT-SUR-OISE, France — Master Yoda, dust off his French, he must.

It’s now easier than ever in France to act out “Star Wars” fantasies, because its fencing federation has borrowed from a galaxy far, far away and officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport, granting the iconic weapon from George Lucas’ saga the same status as the foil, epee and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.

Of course, the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can’t slice a Sith lord in half. But they look and — with the more expensive sabers equipped with a chip in their hilt that emits a throaty electric rumble — even sound remarkably like the silver screen blades that Yoda and other characters wield in the blockbuster movies.

Plenty realistic, at least, for duelists to work up an impressive sweat slashing, feinting and stabbing in organized three-minute bouts. The physicality of lightsaber combat is part of why the French Fencing Federation threw its support behind the sport and is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be lightsaber instructors. Like virtuous Jedi knights, the French federation sees itself as combatting a dark side: the sedentary habits of 21st-century life that are sickening ever-growing numbers of adults and kids.

“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue. They don’t do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs,” says Serge Aubailly, the federation secretary general. “It’s becoming difficult to [persuade them to] do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one’s thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural.”

In the past, the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers helped lure new practitioners to fencing. Now, joining and even supplanting them are Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.

“Cape and sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth,” Aubailly says. “Lightsaber films have the same impact. Young people want to give it a try.”

And the young at heart.

Police officer Philippe Bondi, 49, practiced fencing for 20 years before switching to lightsaber. When a club started offering classes in Metz, the town in eastern France where he is stationed for the gendarmerie, Bondi says he was immediately drawn by the prospect of living out the love he’s had for the Star Wars universe since he saw the first film at age 7, on its release in 1977.

He fights in the same wire-mesh face mask he used for fencing. He spent about 350 euros ($400) on his protective body armor (sturdy gloves, chest, shoulder and shin pads) and on his federation-approved lightsaber, opting for luminous green “because it’s the Jedi colors, and Yoda is my master.”

“I had to be on the good side, given that my job is upholding the law,” he said.

Bondi awoke well before dawn to make the four-hour drive from Metz to a national lightsaber tournament outside Paris this month that drew 34 competitors. It showcased how far the sport has come in a couple of years but also that it’s still light-years from becoming mainstream.

The crowd was small and a technical glitch prevented the duelers’ photos, combat names and scores from being displayed on a big screen, making bouts tough to follow. But the illuminated swooshes of colored blades looked spectacular in the darkened hall. Fan cosplay as Star Wars characters added levity, authenticity and a tickle of bizarre to the proceedings, especially the incongruous sight of Darth Vader buying a ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips at the cafeteria during a break.

In building their sport from the ground up, French organizers produced competition rules intended to make lightsaber dueling both competitive and easy on the eyes.

“We wanted it to be safe, we wanted it to be umpired and, most of all, we wanted it to produce something visual that looks like the movies, because that is what people expect,” said Michel Ortiz, the tournament organizer.

Combatants fight inside a circle marked in tape on the floor. Strikes to the head or body are worth five points; to the arms or legs, three points; on hands, one point. The first to 15 points — or, if they don’t get there quickly, the high scorer after three minutes — wins. If both fighters reach 10 points, the bout enters “sudden death,” where the first to land a head- or body blow wins, a rule to encourage enterprising fighters.

Blows only count if the fighters first point the tip of their saber behind them. That rule prevents the viper-like, tip-first quick forward strikes seen in fencing. Instead, the rule encourages swishier blows that are easier for audiences to see and enjoy, and which are more evocative of the duels in Star Wars. Of those, the battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace” that ends badly for the Sith despite his double-bladed lightsaber is particularly appreciated by aficionados for its swordplay.

Still nascent, counting its paid-up practitioners in France in the hundreds, not thousands, lightsaber dueling has no hope of a place in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

But to hear the thwack of blades and see them cut shapes through the air is to want to give the sport a try.

Or, as Yoda would say: “Try not. Do! Or do not. There is no try.”

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Lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to be co-promoted by Top Rank

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Lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to be co-promoted by Top Rank

Lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and promoter Frank Warren have signed a deal under which Fury will be co-promoted by Top Rank, they announced Monday.

Fury will have his future bouts co-promoted by Top Rank and Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, with the deal calling for a minimum of two bouts per year in the United States, according to their agreement. That means Fury’s bouts will appear on ESPN platforms. The network and Top Rank have a multiyear deal.

“I’m delighted that Frank and Queensberry Promotions have teamed up with Top Rank to promote my fights in America,” Fury said. “With ESPN and [British broadcaster] BT Sport behind me, the biggest sports platforms in the world are now linked up with the best heavyweight in the world.”

Top Rank and Warren already made an earlier deal for most of Warren’s United Kingdom cards to stream on ESPN+ in the United States.

What the deal with Fury means for the prospect of his rematch with world titleholder Deontay Wilder is unclear.

“Top Rank is very excited to enter into the promotional arrangement along with Queensberry Promotions for the lineal heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “He is a generational heavyweight talent at the peak of his powers. We also look forward to our growing relationship with [Fury manager] MTK Global, which represents so many world-class fighters.”

Said Warren: “This is a great move for Tyson Fury and a great move for Queensberry Promotions. By partnering with ESPN and Top Rank in America, we’re giving our boxers, including Tyson, the opportunity to perform on the biggest and most powerful platforms on both sides of the Atlantic and become truly global stars.”

The Wilder and Fury camps have been in negotiations for a rematch of their Dec. 1 draw at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Showtime, which has a long-term deal with Wilder co-manager Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, put the fight on Showtime PPV and has said it has the rights to a rematch, which could make finalizing it complicated now that Fury is with ESPN.

Shelly Finkel, Wilder’s co-manager, told ESPN that he said he wasn’t sure if Showtime had a contractual right to a rematch but that he hoped the network would be involved if the fight is finalized.

“We are hoping to make the fight and figure out how with this new relationship they have with ESPN that it can be done. I would want to try to make it with Showtime and ESPN (working together),” Finkel said. “(Haymon) wants to make the fight and that whatever is realistic will get done.”

A purse bid for the bout has been postponed twice because they were close to a deal.

The purse bid was initially scheduled for Tuesday at the WBC headquarters in Mexico City, but the sanctioning body permitted it to be postponed for one week because the camps said they were close to making a deal.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said the purse bid was allowed to be further delayed because of how close they are to an agreement.

“I have been in direct communication with both parties and they have indicated that they are in goodwill negotiations, very close to reaching an agreement,” Sulaiman told ESPN last week. “I will monitor this matter personally and if needed will intervene within the next week.”

Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) and Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) fought to a draw in an entertaining battle in a classic heavyweight title fight that generated around 325,000 buys for Showtime PPV in the United States. Fury outboxed Wilder for long stretches, but Wilder also scored two knockdowns, one in the ninth round and a thunderous one in the 12th round, after which Fury shockingly beat the count and was able to continue.

In the end, the judges scored it 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113, a split draw that allowed Wilder to retain his belt for the eighth time.

After the fight, Wilder, 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Fury, 30, of England, each said they wanted an immediate rematch, and a week after the fight, the WBC said it would approve a second fight. Three weeks ago, the WBC formally ordered the rematch and set the parameters for the purse split in the event there was a purse bid.

The fight, if finalized, is being targeted for May 18 in New York or Las Vegas, Finkel said. April 27 had also been a potential date but no longer.

“April is out,” Finkel said.

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