How Boxing Day Became a Highlight of the Sports Year: Tomorrow is Boxing Day in England, a secular holiday for giving gifts to tradespeople and servants -- people who had to work on Christmas -- that has become one of the biggest sports days of the year. "The curious origins of Boxing Day sport date back to 1860, when two of the world's oldest football clubs met in Sandygate Road in Sheffield," writes one explainer. "One hundred and twenty-six years later, while the sport itself has gone through several transformations -- technical and commercial -- the traditional Boxing Day fixture continues to be the most anticipated of the annual football calendar."
Hall of Fame voting raises more questions than answers: The fact of the matter is, Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame both recognize Barry Bonds as the all-time home run leader, and now they're trying to pass the buck on the BBWAA to shell out some justice. That's not a game I'm comfortable playing. C. Trent Rosencrans fills out his first HOF ballot.
Kobe Bryant's Below-Average Midrange Jumper: ESPN NBA analyst Tom Haberstroh produces a Big Number series of short videos that call attention to interesting stats in the game. His latest focuses on the huge number of contested midrange jumpers Kobe Bryant is taking -- and mostly missing.
Are You Ready for Some Snookball?: If you built a $7,000 pool table big enough to walk around on and replaced the balls with soccer balls, you'd be playing Snookball. The sport was invented by two French entrepreneurs and there are 10 tables in that country so far. "We know this game will be popular when beer is involved," one told Sport Bible.
The Miracle of Sociedad Deportiva Eibar: The town of Eibar, Spain, population 27,000, has a club playing in La Liga's top division for the first time in its history. Sociedad Deportiva Eibar has a $22 million budget compared to $934 million at Real Madrid, but after 16 games it has five wins and five draws and is in ninth place, seven points above the relegation zone. The club, the smallest ever in Primera Division, is debt-free and self-sustaining. "We could be a little bit uncomfortable for a lot of clubs, because they have done things in the opposite way," said club president Alex Arranzabal.
What Jeffrey Gamblero Knew About the Nets: Bryan Joiner remembers Brooklyn Nets fan Jeffrey Gamblero: "For those two years, our seats were in the upper level, but it was impossible to miss him. He was always on the Jumbotron and fluttering in the aisles, constant movement and energy and action. ... In this sea of blandness, Gamblero stood out. He seemed to care, even if wasn't clear quite why or how. It's clearer now."
ESPN Keeps Expanding Bowl Season With Its Own Games: There are 39 bowl games this year in college football. ESPN owns 11 of them. One of this year's network-created newbies is the Camellia Bowl, played in Montgomery, Alabama, at the 92-year-old Cramton Bowl, the longtime home of the BlueGray Football Classic and host to 20 Alabama games through the 1950s. The bowl was created to match up Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference teams and the inaugural opponents are Bowling Green (7-6) and South Alabama (6-6). The guaranteed payout for each team is only $100,000. "We realize this isn't Ohio State-Alabama in New Orleans," said Pete Derzis of ESPN Events.
Chris Wondolowski Relives That Shot: "Wondolowski went back to the locker room and showered and dressed. Moments later, he did something that no athlete in the aftermath of failure should ever, under any circumstances, do: He checked Twitter." Jordan Ritter Conn of Grantland catches up with Chris Wondolowski, six months after the World Cup round of 16 game-winning goal that wasn't.
The Boston Celtics have traded Rajon Rondo to Dallas: Rondo and forward Dwight Powell have been swapped for Center Brandan Wright, Forward Jae Crowder and whatever is left of PG Jameer Nelson.
Panthers Win in NHL Record 20-Round Shootout: The Florida Panthers defeated the Washington Capitols in an epic, record-setting shootout that went 20 rounds Tuesday night. Five times the Panthers needed a goal to extend the shootout and got it. The last was by Dylan Olsen, a rookie defenseman who said "I really only have one or two moves." In round 20, after Alex Ovechkin missed, Nick Bjugstad scored the winner.
Served up on a platter for SportsFilter: the question of which is the superior sport, cricket or baseball?
Can True Sports Fans Switch to a New Favorite Team?: Ben Adler says no: "When I lived in Washington, D.C., I had a friend who is also from New York but had switched his allegiance to D.C. teams on the grounds that he planned on living there the rest of his life, so it would be more convenient. I couldn't even fathom doing the same. If you can make rational decisions about who you root for, are you even a real fan at all?" An NFL Shop commercial says yes with its "Vikings-Eagles-Bengals-Cowboys-Steelers family," but the ad gets hammered on social media every Sunday. Don Delco blogs, "We can all agree this family sucks. How can everyone who moved away become such bandwagon fans?"
Welcome to Middle Infielder Island: If you want your son or daughter to be a great middle infielder, move to Curacao, an island off the coast of Venezuela. From a population of only 150,000 have emerged some of Major League Baseball's current and future shortstops and second baseman: Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar. The secret is in the soil, which is hard and pebble-strewn even on the baseball fields: "[T]hose little rocks have helped produce some of the most talented middle infielders in baseball, softening their hands and honing their reflexes to react to the most unexpected of bounces," writes David Waldstein.
The FSU Problem: 'The Florida State football program has become the Florida Man of college sports. Any story that begins "A Florida State player … " is liable to end almost anywhere except, remarkably, in jail.'
Zemgus Girgensons Leads NHL All-Star Voting: The top vote getter on the leaderboard for NHL all-star balloting is Zemgus Girgensons. The 20-year-old Buffalo Sabres center does not rank in the top 100 scorers -- 9 goals, 8 assists, 5 +/- -- but he has over double the votes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. Girgensons, the only Latvian in the NHL, is getting enormous support from his country. From the NYT: "In the most recent week in which votes were measured, Girgensons added 400,000, 82 percent of them coming from Latvia."
Plans for 39th Premier League Game Abroad Fizzle: Six years after Premier League chief Richard Scudamore floated the idea of playing a 39th game in other countries, he is conceding defeat. "The idea of an extra game is gone," he said. "I bear the scars from thinking it’s a good idea." Another proposal has been more successful: The next broadcast deal will feature Friday evening games beginning in 2016.
New Tennis League Called 'Minor Miracle' by Wall Street Journal: A new league founded by former doubles champ Mahesh Bhupathi, International Premier Tennis League, began last month with events in the Philippines, Singapore and India. The final event of the first season finishes today in Dubai. Four teams featuring some of the sport's best-known men and women -- including past greats -- compete in a series of singles and doubles events as the Micromax Indian Aces, Musafir.com UAE Royals, Manila Mavericks and DBS Singapore Slammers. Some rules speed up the sport, including a serve clock, next-point-wins provision after deuce and a worth-double "power point" a team can attempt once per set. There also are player substitutions mid-match. Wall Street Journal sportswriter Tom Perrotta said the league "should be considered a minor miracle -- and an important part of the sport’s future. ... As of July, there were still rumors that the league would fail before it started. Instead, it has received a lot more attention and praise than anyone thought it would."
Bitcoin Bowl Brings Virtual Currency to St. Pete: The first Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl will be played on December 26 at Tropicana Field between N.C. State and UCF. The bitcoin processor BitPay bought the naming rights, paying for the deal in the virtual currency, and the event has grown beyond the game. A nearby town in a "Bitcoin Beach" initiative convinced 65 percent of its businesses to accept the currency, touting no transacation fees or chargebacks as incentive. Five bitcoin ATMs will be installed at the game and concessions will take it as payment. A sign that this isn't all bitvana, from the Tampa Tribune: "A downside to the coin is that its value fluctuates. But BitPay has offered area merchants the opportunity to accept it from customers and then receive the exact dollar amount of the transaction back into their bank accounts."
Wage Lawsuit by Bills Cheerleaders Details Appalling Treatment: The Buffalo Bills make over $200 million in revenue a year but not a penny of that goes to the team's cheerleaders. A minimum wage-violation lawsuit filed by five of the Buffalo Jills details how they had to pay $650 for their own uniforms, got no wages, had their Facebook accounts monitored, were told how to handle their menstrual cycle and were required to visit a plastic surgeon who pitched them on breast augmentation. And then there's this: "The Jills were required to attend a golf tournament for sponsors. The high rollers paid cash -- 'Flips for Tips' -- to watch bikini-clad cheerleaders do back flips. Afterward, the men placed bids on which women would ride around in their golf carts. A not-incidental detail: The carts had no extra seats. Women clung to the back or, much more to the point, were invited to sit in the men’s laps."
Jon Lester Signs 6-Year, $155 Million Deal with Chicago Cubs: Free agent pitcher Jon Lester has reportedly agreed to the richest contract in Chicago Cubs history -- a six-year, $155 million deal. Other teams vying for his services were the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants. In terms of annual value, Lester becomes baseball's second-highest paid hurler behind Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. How are they taking this news in Boston, Eric Wilbur? "Red Sox proved incompetent in losing Jon Lester."
Oklahoma Judge Asked to Overturn High School Playoff Game: On Wednesday, a district judge in Oklahoma will rule on whether to invalidate a high school football playoff game because of an officiating mistake. Locust Grove defeated Frederick A. Douglass 20-19 after a 58-yard Douglass touchdown pass was reversed with 64 seconds left. A coach had accidentally bumped a referee during the play, and the referees wrongly threw out the score instead of assessing a five-yard penalty on the extra point or kickoff as the rules dictate. To those who scoff at the idea the mistake should result in a partial or full-game do-over, Oklahoma City public schools general counsel Brandon Carey said, "Just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean it’s not the right thing to do."
Helmetless Football?: "the latest innovation—practicing without helmets—is meant to ingrain safer tackling techniques into a new generation of players"
Alia Atkinson Becomes First Black Female Swimming Champion: The Jamaican Alia Atkinson became the first black woman to win a world swimming title, taking the 100-meter breaststroke at the world short-course championships Saturday. The 25-year-old also tied the world record of 1 minutes, 2.36 seconds set by Ruta Meilutyte. Check out the link for a photo of her epic reaction upon learning what she did.