The Wow Factor: Few could have guessed that the league's return would become so bloody, bitter and, most of all, emblematic of how power in the NFL truly works. From Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. at ESPN.
Rafael Benítez sacked by Real Madrid with Zinedine Zidane taking over: Florentino Perez, soccer clown extraordinaire, knifed Benitez in the back after just seven months (Okay, Rafa Benítez was not the solution for Real Madrid – he never had been, but still!). Can Zidane manage the superstar egos? Gab Marcotti and Graham Hunter have doubts.
Athletics doping: Wada commission wants Russia ban: The report says London 2012 was "sabotaged" by "widespread inaction" against athletes with suspicious doping profiles. Russia was also accused of running a "state-supported" doping program.
Sepp Blatter: Russia 2018 World Cup 'agreed before vote': The suspended FIFA chief continues to crash and burn on his way out, to the extent that I wonder if he will force the destruction/replacement of FIFA by the Feb. 26 vote for his replacement; Marina Hyde calls for exactly that today. Meanwhile, here are your seven
muppets candidates to replace Blatter.
Matthew Stafford: the $53m mistake costing the Detroit Lions dearly: The former No1 overall pick has been in decline for years, and has wasted his access to a strong defense and one of the game’s great receivers. Stafford is destined to replace Scott Mitchell in the hearts of Lions fans everywhere, if he hasn't already.
Liverpool part ways with Brendan Rogers: In a move that was either four months too late or six months early, another lackluster 1-1 result was the end of a 3+ season tenure for Rogers. Jurgen Klopp, rested after a four month break, is rumored to be first choice to take over after receiving a positive report on LFC from the team's German former midfielder Didi Hamann.
Blatter faces criminal investigation: Totally unexpected, eh? Amusingly, one of the indicated counts involves a $2M "disloyal payment" to Michel Platini; Platini said the money was legit and "relates to work which I carried out under a contract with Fifa" and he had clarified matters with the authorities. Of course.
NFL limits Junior Seau's daughter to video voiceover at HoF induction: Wow. Because why would the league want to give a voice to the child of one of it's greatest players?
Messi goal puts Barcelona past the post: Winning 1-0 over Atletico Madrid, last season's champions, at the Vincente Calderon, clinches the season title despite Real Madrid's 4-1 win today. This is their seventh title in ten years, with the Copa Del Rey and Champions League finals still to play.
Aaron Hernandez convicted of 1st-degree murder: Unsurprising but still a tragic disappointment. Maybe they can room Hernandez and Phillips together...
Australia bowls out New Zealand on 183: Loving the 93,000-strong support the Aussies made short work of their neighbors to win the Cricket World Cup for the fifth time yesterday. The Kiwis had a difficult start, losing three wickets early but then had a run to 150 when disaster hit and they lost three more for almost no runs. The home side had a terrific innings from captain Michael Clarke and (his replacement as captain?) Steve Smith, needing only five batsmen to run down the win. There were, of course, a few afters ;)
Lewis Hamilton wins with ease in Australia as only 11 cars finish: "Mercedes were in a race of their own at the front" as Hamilton and Rosborg finished more than 30 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettle, who finished third in a Ferrari. This is after the Mercedes cars' won 16 from 19 and took 18 of 19 poles last season. Many of the 11 non-finishers either didn't start or went out in the first few laps; guess some teams need a longer off-season.
Wigan owner makes controversial comment about Jews: Will the English get their own Donald Sterling moment? Kick It Out think so, and Wigan's shirt sponsor has already cancelled their deal over Mackay's hiring.
World Cup inquiry clears Qatar but criticises English FA: Or does it? Fifa report 'erroneous', says lawyer who investigated corruption claims and Fifa World Cup report pointless and a joke - FA boss Greg Dyke. So, Fifa corruption report: Who is to blame and what happens now?
Diego Simeone gets eight match ban: Although Athletico Madrid started off the season with a trophy, winning the Spanish Super Cup will cost their manager a spell off the sidelines as he behaved very poorly when the assistant ref was slow in allowing his fullback back on the pitch after treatment for a bloody nose. Simeone was suspended for four games for tapping the back of the assistant referee's head, two games for protesting, one game for applauding his sending off, and one game for remaining in the stands instead of going to the changing room after his expulsion. Atletico assistant coach German Burgos will take charge in his absence.
World Cup 2015 Fantasy League is ON!: Pick your team and join in the fun.
The all-time World Cup finals league table: Not surprise that Brazil top this table or that Germany is a close second, but a bit surprising for me the gap after that, both in points and goal difference. Spolier alert: USA are in 25th heading into next summer ;)
Don't Play Thailand: Many football fans will be scratching their heads to see Switzerland among the top seeds at next year's World Cup finals, while thoroughbreds like the Netherlands and Italy are not. The truth is that it could be down to the choices made by football administrators, not players.
How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers: Easterbrook lights into the NFL and politicians.
Dos a Cero, Again: The US Men's National Team beat Mexico 2-0 for the fourth time in a row in Columbus last night and, with Honduras getting a draw against Panama, became one of five teams to qualify for the World Cup Finals next summer. With the loss, Mexico assured themselves of a tough road simply to qualify.
Joining the US in Brazil will be Argentina, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Italy, while Jordan won a playoff to, well, playoff against the fifth place team from South America. Fomer USMNT coach Bob Bradley's Egypt side finished their AFC group stage a perfect 6-0 with a 4-2 over Guinea.
EPL Fantasy Football: Just a reminder since the league starts Saturday morning. If you were in the SpoFi league last season you're automatically re-entered once your team is setup.