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Endeavor Expands N.B.A. Talent Reach With Stake in BDA Sports

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Bill Duffy, who founded BDA Sports Management more than two decades ago, represents rising basketball stars like the N.B.A.’s Luka Doncic and the W.N.B.A.’s Sabrina Ionescu.
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Tiger Woods Out of Surgery and ‘Recovering’ After Crash

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The greatest golfer of his generation sustained leg injuries in the accident that, along with a recent back surgery, could raise questions about the future of his career.

For Tiger Woods, it was a resounding comeback. After a back injury that had seemed destined to end his career, he won the Masters Tournament in 2019, a thrilling return to form that captivated the nation.
But after a year of fits and starts that yielded no major victories, he announced last month that he had undergone another spinal procedure that would keep him out of competition until later this year.
Then came the single-vehicle accident on Tuesday in which his S.U.V. ran off the road and landed on a hillside near Los Angeles, causing leg injuries that required Mr. Woods to undergo hours of surgery.
At 12:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, a statement appeared on Mr. Woods’s Twitter account, saying that he had “undergone a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle” and that he was “currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.” The statement added that a rod had been inserted into his right tibia and that screws and pins were used to stabilize bones in his ankle and foot.
It was another devastating episode for Mr. Woods — who burst onto the national scene as a child and is the greatest golfer of his generation — and raises questions about his ability to make yet another comeback.
In recent years, Mr. Woods, who has won 15 major championships, second in the sport’s history to Jack Nicklaus’s 18, has talked extensively about the limitations his previous surgeries and injuries have caused.
They have severely reduced the amount of time he can practice and have often disrupted the flow and power of a once revered golf swing. For several of the past few seasons, Mr. Woods, 45, could be seen wincing after every few shots, and he frequently struggled to lean over and retrieve his golf ball from the cup after completing a hole.
His accident incited an outpouring across sports and beyond.
On Twitter, Mr. Nicklaus wrote of his and his wife’s anguish. “Barbara and I just heard about Tiger’s accident, and like everyone else, we are deeply concerned,” Nicklaus’s post said. “We want to offer him our heartfelt support and prayers at this difficult time. Please join us in wishing Tiger a successful surgery and all the best for a full recovery.”
Justin Thomas, a trusted confidant of Mr. Woods who frequently joins him for pretournament practice rounds, appeared stunned by the news.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Thomas said as he prepared for the Workday Championship, a PGA Tour event in Central Florida set to begin Thursday. “It hurts to see one of your closest friends get in an accident. I just hope he’s all right. I’m just worried for his kids, I’m sure they’re struggling.”
The incident happened about 7 a.m. Pacific time near the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, a coastal Los Angeles suburb, on a twisting and winding stretch where the speed limit is 45 m.p.h. Two days earlier, Mr. Woods had hosted a PGA Tour event at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles and stayed to tape a promotional spot for Golf Digest.
Mr. Woods was traveling at a “greater speed than normal” but did not seem impaired, Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County sheriff, said at a news conference, adding that “there was no effort to draw blood, for example, at the hospital.”
Mr. Woods lost control of the vehicle on Hawthorne Boulevard, hitting a curb and a tree before rolling several times, the sheriff said.
“That area has a high frequency of accidents,” Mr. Villanueva said. “It’s not uncommon.”
transcript
“Today at 7:12 in the morning, Lomita Sheriff’s Station received a call of a solo vehicle collision in Harbor, or Hawthorne Boulevard, north of Palos Verdes Drive. We arrived on the scene at 7:18 a.m. and discovered this solo vehicle collision. And the sole occupant was, again, Tiger Woods. And deputies at the time, they did not see any evidence of impairment, anything that of concern — obviously, the lifesaving measures that had to be taken for the occupant in the vehicle. The vehicle traveled several hundred feet from the center, center divider at the intersection and rested on the west side of the road in the brush, sustained major damage, the vehicle, you’ve seen all the images of that.” “Resources and personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department observed a single rollover vehicle incident with one person trapped. The person trapped was extricated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel. The person was packaged at the incident in stable condition with serious injuries, and because of the fact that they needed to be extricated, they were transported to Harbor U.C.L.A. Hospital. It was brought to my attention that he was conscious. Now, exactly what was said is unknown, but he was conscious.”
With 82 PGA Tour victories, Mr. Woods is tied for the most ever with Sam Snead.
But Mr. Woods has been hobbled by injuries in recent years. He has had five major back operations and three knee operations, which have derailed his ability to compete for years at a time.
His injuries in the car accident would seem to create a substantial obstacle to returning to full form, a prospect already in question ahead of the Masters in April.
In 2009, at the height of a career in which Mr. Woods was expected to demolish every record in his sport, news reports about serial marital infidelity cost him his marriage, and he was shunned by many in the golf community. In swift succession, his myriad corporate sponsors dropped him. The scandal caused him to take a lengthy hiatus from golf. When he returned to competition, he struggled to find his old form, a complication that coincided with the onset of his physical ailments.
On the same golf courses where he had long been greeted by wild cheering, his presence was instead met with an eerie quiet. As time passed, being snubbed was far from Mr. Woods’s only problem at tournaments. He was often viewed as a limping afterthought. A young breed of golfers now controlled the top of the leaderboard.
His downfall eventually had a defining act, a middle-of-the-night arrest in May 2017 that revealed an opioid addiction. Mr. Woods was taken into custody by the police after he was found alone and asleep in his car on the side of a road with the engine running.
Typical of his career arc, Mr. Woods’s resurrection ended up being as dramatic and attention-grabbing.
At the 2019 Masters, golf’s most watched event, Mr. Woods was not one of the pretournament favorites to win but he became a final-round contender. In the crucible of the event’s final holes, as his rivals withered under the pressure, Mr. Woods found the inner resolve that had been his trademark. He birdied four of the final five holes to claim his fifth Masters title. When his final putt dropped, he celebrated with a primal scream that seemed to be matched by the thousands of fans encircling the 18th green.
Just two years earlier, Mr. Woods had ranked as low as 1,119th in the world. His comeback, especially considering his travails off the course, may have been the greatest in sports history.
Leaving the green, Mr. Woods lifted his son, Charlie, and his daughter, Sam, into his arms — a gesture that was a near repeat of the embrace Mr. Woods’s father, Earl, had given his son after the 1997 Masters, Mr. Woods’s first major victory.
He continued to be competitive with his peers in 2019, winning one more event, but the pandemic-shortened 2020 golf season took place with Mr. Woods often absent. Other than a tie for ninth in mid-January, he did not finish higher than a tie for 37th and appeared in just 10 events.
Mr. Woods has not played competitively since December. In January, he announced he had undergone a procedure on his back called a microdiscectomy, which was performed in December to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching a nerve. On Sunday, while acting as the host of the Genesis Invitational PGA Tour event in Southern California, Mr. Woods was interviewed during the broadcast of the tournament. He said he had begun practicing and appeared at ease, smiling and joking with CBS announcers about his progress from the recent operation. But he offered no timetable for his return to competitive golf.
The Masters, though, remained central on Mr. Woods’s calendar. Asked whether he would compete in the event in April, Mr. Woods replied: “God, I hope so. I’ve got to get there first.” He added that he was “feeling fine, a little bit stiff” and was awaiting another M.R.I. scan to evaluate his progress. In the meantime, he said, he had been “still doing the mundane stuff that you have to do for rehab, the little things before you can start gravitating toward something a little more.”
Mr. Woods conceded that surgeons may have only so many more ways to help him. “This is the only back I’ve got,” he said. “I don’t have much more wiggle room there.”
At the pandemic-delayed Masters in November, Mr. Woods tied for 38th place. In the wake of the final round of the event, he said of his physical infirmities: “No matter how hard I try, things just don’t work the way they used to. And no matter how much I push and ask of this body, it just doesn’t work at times.”
At the Rolling Hills Country Club near Los Angeles on Monday, pictures on social media showed Mr. Woods interacting with various celebrities, including the former N.B.A. player Dwyane Wade. During the function, Mr. Woods gave players golf tips and some instruction but was not swinging a golf club.
Douglas Morino, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Alan Blinder, Kevin Draper and Gillian R. Brassil contributed reporting.
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Tiger Woods was conscious and talking after the crash, the authorities said.

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Nicholas Bogel-BurroughsBill Pennington and
Tiger Woods sustained serious leg injuries on Tuesday after the luxury S.U.V. he was driving struck the median of a road in Los Angeles County, crossed over into the opposite lane of traffic and rolled over several times before coming to a stop in a grassy area several hundred feet from where he had been driving, the authorities said.
Emergency workers rushed to the scene just after 7 a.m. Pacific time and took Woods, 45, to the closest trauma center, where the golfer’s manager said he had gone into surgery. The authorities said that Woods was in serious but stable condition at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, and that his injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. Daryl L. Osby, the chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said on CNN that Woods had “broken bones in both his legs.”
At 12:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, a statement appeared on Mr. Woods’s Twitter account, saying that he had “undergone a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle” and that he was “currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.”
Woods was conscious and able to speak to deputies when they arrived, giving them his name and appearing “lucid and calm,” said Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first officer on the scene. Woods was not able to stand on his own because of his injuries, Deputy Gonzalez said.
Woods was driving near the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes and was heading downhill along a road where people often drive over the 45 m.p.h. speed limit, Sheriff Alex Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said at a news conference.
Sheriff Villanueva said only that Woods appeared to be driving at a “greater speed than normal” and that he did not seem to be impaired by drugs or alcohol. He added that because Woods did not seem impaired, “there was no effort to draw blood, for example, at the hospital.”
The sheriff said it was not yet clear what had caused the crash. No other vehicles were struck, and there were no skid marks at the scene, he said.
Mark Steinberg, Woods’s longtime agent, said in a statement around noon that the golfer was “currently in surgery,” adding: “We thank you for your privacy and support.”
Deputy Gonzalez said that when he arrived on the scene, Woods did not initially appear to be too worried about his injuries, which the officer said was common with crashes when people are in shock. He said that Woods was wearing his seatbelt and that the airbags on his S.U.V. deployed.
“He told me his name was Tiger, and at that moment, I immediately recognized him,” Deputy Gonzalez said at the news conference.
Woods was driving a Genesis S.U.V., which is made by Hyundai’s luxury division. Last weekend, he hosted a PGA Tour event at Riviera Country Club in Southern California, the Genesis Invitational, which is sponsored by the car division. Riviera is where he made his PGA Tour debut in 1992.
Woods’s vehicle was traveling north on Hawthorne Boulevard at the intersection of Blackhorse Road when it crashed, striking a “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates” sign and hitting a tree as it rolled over, Villanueva said.
Video from local television stations showed Woods’s vehicle on its side in an open, grassy area, with its hood crumpled and its windshield broken.
The Sheriff’s Department initially said Woods had been removed from the vehicle with hydraulic tools collectively known as “Jaws of Life,” but fire officials later said that the tools were not used. Osby, the fire chief, said rescuers had used an ax, among other tools, to get Woods out of the S.U.V.
transcript
“Today at 7:12 in the morning, Lomita Sheriff’s Station received a call of a solo vehicle collision in Harbor, or Hawthorne Boulevard, north of Palos Verdes Drive. We arrived on the scene at 7:18 a.m. and discovered this solo vehicle collision. And the sole occupant was, again, Tiger Woods. And deputies at the time, they did not see any evidence of impairment, anything that of concern — obviously, the lifesaving measures that had to be taken for the occupant in the vehicle. The vehicle traveled several hundred feet from the center, center divider at the intersection and rested on the west side of the road in the brush, sustained major damage, the vehicle, you’ve seen all the images of that.” “Resources and personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department observed a single rollover vehicle incident with one person trapped. The person trapped was extricated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel. The person was packaged at the incident in stable condition with serious injuries, and because of the fact that they needed to be extricated, they were transported to Harbor U.C.L.A. Hospital. It was brought to my attention that he was conscious. Now, exactly what was said is unknown, but he was conscious.”
Chief Osby said that Woods had been placed on a seat with a backboard as a standard precaution after serious crashes, in case of possible spinal injuries.
On Monday, at an event at the Rolling Hills Country Club near Los Angeles, pictures on social media showed Woods happily interacting with various celebrities, including the N.B.A. player Dwyane Wade. During the function, Woods gave golf tips and limited instruction but was not swinging a golf club.
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Tiger Woods's Past Was Examined in Recent HBO Documentary

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Margaret Lyons and
Tiger Woods was the subject of a recent two-part documentary on HBO called “Tiger,” which chronicles the golfer’s intense relationship with his father and especially the ways the elder Woods shaped his son’s understanding of sex and masculinity. The documentary was based on a book, “Tiger Woods,” by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict.
“Tiger” depicts the relentless scrutiny focused on Woods, particularly though not exclusively from tabloid media, and the tensions of a celebrity culture that can be both wildly permissive and swiftly judgmental. A number of golfers, former caddies and friends participated in the documentary, but perhaps the most revealing sources were two women who were involved with Woods at very different times in his life: Dina Parr, who dated Woods in high school, and Rachel Uchitel, who had an affair with Woods in 2009.
While archival footage of Woods features heavily, he declined to participate in the documentary, and his longtime agent, Mark Steinberg, released a statement blasting it. “Just like the book it is based off of, the upcoming HBO documentary is just another unauthorized and salacious outsider attempt to paint an incomplete portrait of one of the greatest athletes of all-time,” Steinberg said.
The first part of the documentary, which was released in January and is streaming on HBO Max, was HBO’s most watched sports documentary in almost three years.
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Tributes Pour in for Tiger Woods Wishing Him a Speedy Recovery

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As news spread that Tiger Woods was seriously injured in a crash on Tuesday in California, fans, fellow athletes, celebrities and politicians offered tributes and prayers for the golf superstar.
The former New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez said he was “praying for my brother” and “thinking of him and his entire family.”
Stephen Curry, a three-time N.B.A. champion, also said he was praying for Woods and his family. Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic gold medalist skier who had dated Woods, shared a similar message for the athlete. And the basketball legend Magic Johnson asked that people pray for Woods.
Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist swimmer, and Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion, offered their sentiments as well.
“Fight @tigerwoods like the champion you are for your kids and the world,” Tyson said on Twitter.
The actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who called Woods the GOAT (greatest of all time), said she had been with him on Monday.
“Don’t take not even a MOMENT for granted!” she said on Twitter. “I know you’re good because your Tiger within is a beast!!!”
Fellow golfers recalled Woods’s strength and resilience.
“We know how tough you are, we’ve seen it a hundred times,” the golfer Justin Rose said on Twitter.
On ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Justin Thomas, another professional golfer, said he was “sick to his stomach” after hearing about the crash of one of his closest friends. “Man, I just hope he’s all right,” he added.
Jack Nicklaus, who won 18 major titles, said that he and his wife, Barbara, were “deeply concerned” about Woods and wished him a successful surgery and full recovery. Woods is second on the career list with 15 major victories.
Former President Donald J. Trump, who awarded Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019, phoned in to Fox News on Tuesday night to pay tribute to Woods, whom he called “an incredible guy.”
“He’s going to be back,” Mr. Trump said. “I have no doubt about, he’s going to be back.”
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N.C.A.A. Basketball Tournaments Will Welcome Fans After All

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Some epidemiologists say it’s a bad idea, because the games will attract people from all over the country to Indianapolis and San Antonio, the cities that will host every game of the men’s and women’s tournaments.

The N.C.A.A. announced on Friday that it would welcome fans — tens of thousands of them — to Indianapolis and San Antonio, where the entire men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are to be held this season, in a move that will generate millions in ticket revenue but risk further spread of the coronavirus to and from far-flung regions of the country.
The 68-team men’s tournament, which begins on March 18, will be played in Indianapolis before crowds of up to 25 percent capacity at sites ranging from the quaint 9,100-seat Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed, to the cavernous Lucas Oil Fieldhouse, which in a normal year could hold up to 70,000 fans for the regional finals and the Final Four.
The 64-team women’s tournament, which begins on March 21, will allow up to 17 percent capacity from the regional semifinals through the championship final in San Antonio. Those games will be played at the Alamodome, which has a 31,900-seat capacity for basketball. (Crowds at the first- and second-round games, some of which will be played in small arenas, will be limited to several hundred friends and family members.) The capacity limits were decided after consultation with local health authorities, the N.C.A.A. said.
Still, several public health experts said they were baffled by the decision.
“I can’t see any good reason to do that, and I can see a lot of bad reasons to do that,” said John Swartzberg, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied infectious diseases and served as an adviser for the Pac-12 Conference. “Bringing people from all over the country to a congregate setting is just nuts.”
The N.C.A.A. made the decision to move its entire tournaments, which are each normally played at more than a dozen sites around the country, to Indianapolis and San Antonio to create a more restrictive environment for the dozens of teams involved and give the single-elimination tournaments a greater chance of avoiding interruptions because of positive tests.
Extensive measures are being put in place to play the games. All athletes, coaches and staff members will be required to have seven consecutive negative coronavirus tests before arriving in Indianapolis or San Antonio via a chartered plane or bus. Once they are there, testing will continue. All meals will be served in hotel rooms or in rooms with distanced assigned seating. Players, coaches and staff members also must wear contact-tracing devices throughout the tournament that measure if someone is within six feet of an infected person who also wears a device.
Previously, plans had been made for family and friends to attend the games with each player, and for coaches and staff member to each receive six tickets. Those guests would be prohibited from interacting with players, coaches or staff members during the tournament.
But having thousands of fans arrive from all over the country without the same measures creates a risk of turning the tournaments into super-spreader events, said Ana Bento, an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
Fans will be required only to wear masks and to practice social distancing in the arenas.
“At this point in the epidemic, we can no longer say we don’t know enough,” Bento said. “We know what to avoid in order to minimize risk. This is something that carries a lot of risk.”
Said Kathleen Bachynski, an assistant professor of public health at Muhlenberg College: “When you start bringing in thousands of people who have not been through these protocols ahead of time, you really are adding a much higher level of risk.”
“And to what benefit?” she added.
A benefit for the N.C.A.A. could be gaining a portion of the ticket revenue that would be expected in a typical year, and holding each tournament in one location should reduce some of the travel costs that the organization covers for teams. The N.C.A.A. said last month its revenue had dropped by $600 million last year — a 50 percent decline — largely because of the cancellation of the men’s basketball tournament. The vast majority of N.C.A.A. revenue is redistributed to the colleges, but the reduction forced the organization to tap into reserves, cut salaries and institute furloughs and layoffs. Its staff is about one-quarter smaller than it was a year ago, the N.C.A.A. president, Mark Emmert, told The New York Times last month.
The N.C.A.A. said it would announce information on ticket sales for the basketball tournaments next month.
The decision to allow fans comes at a fluid moment in the pandemic. Known cases are declining and thousands of people are being vaccinated each day in the United States, but those steps forward could be offset by new variants of the virus that spread more aggressively and may not be as easily countered by some vaccines. At the moment, many cities are trying to figure out how to fully open schools.
The circumstances may change by the time the tournaments start or when they conclude — with as many as 17,500 fans watching the men and about 5,500 spectators for the women in the final games.
But some things won’t change: The virus is more easily transmissible indoors, making a basketball arena more conducive to spreading the virus than an open-air football stadium. And fans, even if they are masked up and sitting at a recommended distance from one another while watching games, are going to spend time on other activities in the host cities.
“It’s not just having all these people in the stands,” Swartzberg said. “All these people are staying in a hotel and eating in a restaurant and drinking at a bar. Indianapolis is probably going to be celebrating what’s going on. All of these things don’t make sense in the midst of a pandemic.”
He added: “I can understand the argument for parents or siblings of the players to attend. But to open it up to as much as 25 percent of capacity? The only reason to do that is not player safety or family safety — it’s to sell tickets.”
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Mesut Özil: the galáctico who became symbolic of Arsenal's decline

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The Germany international was supposed to elevate the club when he joined from Real Madrid but he left with no fanfare
Last modified on Wed 20 Jan 2021 12.38 EST
There was a first-day-of-school feeling around Arsenal’s training ground when their squad returned from the September 2013 international break. They had a star in their midst and the sense was one of genuine elation. Mesut Özil’s arrival was a show of intent quite out of keeping with the half-decade that preceded it: this seemed the turning of a page and, with that in mind, the players snapped and crackled their way through the morning’s drills.
“It was a complete buzz,” says a senior staff member from that time, who worked with Özil on a daily basis and saw him quickly forge instinctive understandings with fellow schemers such as Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky. “All of a sudden you get a big one coming in, and you felt something was happening again. You could see things forming. There was a real electricity among everyone; you felt something was coming.”

The contrast with Özil’s departure, which largely involved a low-key set of farewells on Sunday, could hardly be more telling. While there was never any chance he would slip away invisibly, given the level of scrutiny that has followed him across seven and a half years, the overriding impression when he joins Fenerbahce will be of relief. It is nothing personal but many at present-day Arsenal had been crossing their fingers that this day would come: the dramas surrounding a non-playing footballer had been a negative weight for too long, and impossible to make someone else’s problem until a notoriously expensive contract was terminated.
He leaves a legacy of contradictions and contortions; heady times mixed with bad, none of which should be glossed over. Özil became, in the modern style, the subject of binary “pro v anti” battles among the fanbase but few things are that simple. Perceptions of his spell are perhaps coloured by the fact his signing never quite brought about the liftoff it was supposed to. He came to symbolise the wider frustrations of the final years of the Arsène Wenger era but few involved would contend his addition was a destabilising factor in those early years.
He was hardly a long-term target, even though Arsenal had scouted him extensively at Werder Bremen. Some doubts were harboured, back then, about his stamina and elements of his attitude but those appeared to have been misplaced when he became a global A-lister with Real.
Özil was not seriously on Arsenal’s radar when Jorge Mendes, the ubiquitous agent, called their then-transfer negotiator, Dick Law, and suggested Real Madrid, needing cash to fund the purchase of Gareth Bale, were ready to sell Karim Benzema and Ángel Di María. The former had long been of interest to Wenger and, given they had already tried to sign Luis Suárez and Gonzalo Higuaín, Arsenal took the idea seriously. They scrambled a delegation to meet Real in Spain, only to turn up and be infuriated when they were told proposal was no longer on the table. Instead they were offered Özil, who was Cristiano Ronaldo’s accomplice in chief, and almost fell off their chairs.
“We were shocked,” Law remembers. He tells an entertaining, complex story about the machinations that followed: the tale of a £42.5m transfer that, had any one among an intricate series of connections crisscrossing Europe gone awry, would not have beaten the pre-deadline dash. “Over those final four or five days the pieces just began to fall into place,” he says. “Any time you do a deal of that magnitude you’re excited. There’s a lot of tension involved but we knew he was going to make us better, and he did.”
Law is correct. Özil had not wanted to leave Real; it felt like a step down that he would not have considered if the La Liga club had not made clear he would be jettisoned. But he settled in quickly, helped by the presence of his Germany teammates Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker along with the kindred football brain of Cazorla. Any latent concerns about his work rate were dispelled by a stream of assists and figures that, at least in his first two or three seasons, gave the lie to perceptions he would not run around.
Özil could indeed appear languid and even insiders were surprised he regularly appeared at the top end of Arsenal’s statistics for ground covered, along with related exertions. By contrast, Alexis Sánchez was routinely lauded for his all-action style after his own high-profile arrival the following season but, largely operating in bursts, generally fell near the bottom of those rankings.
Meanwhile, Özil was providing assists constantly and Arsenal were climbing the table, although they would miss a good opportunity to crown their ambition when failing to properly challenge Leicester for the title in 2015-16. In training he would confound teammates by bobbling the ball over their feet in five v two drills, in which the pair are required to win possession back. That would later translate into the “chop” finish, kicking it into the ground before it spun up and in, that became a hit on matchdays and arguably reverberates as his trademark manoeuvre.
Unusually in a football world that sees gossip travel with relative freedom, there is little consensus regarding how and why things went wrong. There is certainly a scarcity of information about why Mikel Arteta cut him so cleanly from his plans this year. Most theories trace back to the £350,000-a-week contract he signed, after considerable wrangling, at the start of 2018. Wenger had been desperate for Özil to stay, although the size of the deal eventually offered did not sit well with the manager, either at the time or since.
“Most of the time now we think when we sign a player for five years we have a good player for five years,” Wenger said in 2019. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they practise, they play their best. Because they might be in their comfort zone.”
Wenger did his bit to indulge Özil, turning a blind eye when his application levels away from home, in particular, began to dip. But Özil was a footballer after his own heart, “playerish” as the manager described one of his earlier Arsenal teams. A feature of Wenger’s final decade in charge was a weakness for players who tended to offer highlights-package moments at the expense of structure, and Özil epitomised that to some degree.
“Arsène knew how to deal with Mesut, as a player and a man, and Mesut really respected him,” says the backroom member who captured that first-day training-ground buzz. “They were on the same wavelength. He was given room to breathe and play, not many restrictions, and I think Mesut needs that. You can tie him down to certain things but, with players like that, you’ve got to let them have that freedom to go and express themselves. Arsène understood him and knew what he was.”
Set against that, Wenger’s departure – months after the new deal was signed – comes to appear a defining moment. Perhaps that was when the romance faded on both sides. Özil did not enjoy life under Unai Emery, who dropped him and emphasised the point by describing him as “like another player”. His unhappiness was little secret in what, at the time, was a troubled dressing room. A tight alliance with Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi is understood not always to have transmitted itself positively. It should be pointed out, though, that few who worked closely with Özil during Wenger’s reign have reservations about his character.
A brief upturn after the arrival of his former teammate Arteta, including an assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s winner against West Ham in what proved his final appearance, ran aground after the Covid-19 shutdown. The circumstances remain a mystery although, given Arteta is known to have informed his players soon after taking over that he would expect a hard-pressing style, it is hardly outlandish to suggest a player in his early 30s with diminishing output was not up to that job.
Özil was certainly disillusioned by Arsenal’s lily-livered distancing from his stance regarding China’s treatment of the Uighurs in December 2019, and again found himself at odds with the hierarchy when refusing a pay cut. He has numerous charitable interests but it was viewed as a breaking of ranks. There was a sense internally that, while his contribution on the pitch was declining, the number of headaches he provided off it were mounting. But there has never been any evidence non-footballing factors were involved in his demise; it is more likely to have been the result of a steady slide and, ultimately, a failure of communication and management on all sides. By the autumn Özil, or at least a public relations employee in his name, was reduced to microblogging Arsenal games on Twitter and seeking validation from the core of supporters to whom he could still do little wrong.
They were still wed to a notion of Özil, rather than any remaining reality, and perhaps that explains why there will never be any consensus around his accomplishments. In finally splashing out the bounty of their feverish commercial expansion of the early 2010s, Arsenal created the vision of a glittering tomorrow that crystallised in Özil’s form. Özil and Arsenal could not deliver what the initial lightning bolt promised, and what remains is a half-legacy of jaw-dropping moments few other top-flight players could have produced. To some that will be enough; to others it will not, leaving an enigma that will forever be left hanging in the air.

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Tennessee Fires Football Coach Amid Investigation

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Coach Jeremy Pruitt and nine members of his football program’s staff were fired after ongoing investigations into the team’s recruitment practices showed violations of N.C.A.A. rules.

The University of Tennessee fired Jeremy Pruitt, its head football coach, and nine other staff members after the school investigated whether the program violated N.C.A.A. recruitment regulations, the school announced Monday.
The firings go into effect on Tuesday.
In November, the university started an investigation in collaboration with a law firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King, to determine if the football program had broken N.C.A.A. rules while recruiting candidates for its team, finding that “Coach Pruitt did not meet the university’s expectations for promoting an atmosphere of compliance and/or monitoring the activities of the coaches and staff who report to him.”
Among those fired were assistant football coaches Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton, four members of the football team’s on-campus recruitment staff, the director and assistant director of football player personnel, and a football quality control coach.
“What is so disturbing, as demonstrated by the scope of these actions, is the number of violations and people involved and their efforts to conceal their activities from our compliance staff and from the Athletic department’s leaders,” Donde Plowman, the school’s chancellor, said in a news release. “Despite a strong compliance culture in our athletic department, we must look for ways to further strengthen our processes.”
Tennessee informed the N.C.A.A. about the violations, and the university opened its own case in December, Plowman said in a news conference on Monday. She did not cite specific violations, because both the school’s investigation and N.C.A.A.’s case are ongoing, but said that there were likely a “significant number” of Level I and Level II violations. Level I violations are considered “severe” breaches of conduct, including fraud and unethical conduct that signals a “lack of institutional control.” Level II is considered “significant.”
Pruitt, 46, was hired in December 2017 and had a 16-19 record in three seasons. He went 3-7 this year as Tennessee exclusively played within its league, the Southeastern Conference, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The university, claiming for-cause firing, will not pay Pruitt any of his estimated $12.6 million buyout; it will also not pay Niedermeyer or Felton their buyouts.
In a statement released Monday night, Pruitt’s lawyer, Michael Lyons, said that the nature of the firing showed the university’s effort to get rid of him without paying the buyout despite minimal evidence that Pruitt had violated N.C.A.A. regulations. Lyons claimed that in a private meeting between Pruitt and Plowman, Plowman said that “there was no evidence that Coach Pruitt was either actively involved in any alleged violations or knew they were occurring.” Lyons also said that Pruitt received the letter of termination three hours after Plowman said no employment decisions had been made.
“The timing of the University’s actions and decision appear to be preordained and more about financial convenience and expediency than a fair and complete factual determination by the University,” Lyons wrote.
He added that he would defend Pruitt against any violations he is accused of by the N.C.A.A. and look into whether the university intended to “disparage and destroy Coach Pruitt’s reputation” to back out of payments that he would be owed for a regular release.
Several current and former Tennessee players and former players posted their surprise of Pruitt’s firing on Twitter.
“Crazy,” wrote defensive tackle Omari Thomas.
“Why,” wrote quarterback Brian Maurer.
The university’s athletic director, Phillip Fulmer, also announced that he would retire as soon as the school found a replacement for him. Fulmer, 70, came out of retirement in 2017 to oversee athletics at the school in Knoxville, Tenn., on a “short-term basis,” according to the announcement. The university said that the search for Fulmer’s replacement will begin immediately and that the new athletic director would hire the new football coach.
“Our next football coach needs to be on the sidelines for 10 years or more, and he will need to know who his athletic director will be for the duration,” Fulmer said. “It only makes sense that I make this move now, so a new coach and a new athletic director can implement their vision together.”
Plowman said that Fulmer was not involved in any of the potential recruiting violations. Pruitt’s firing means Tennessee will be hiring its fifth different full-time coach since Fulmer stopped coaching in 2008.
Kevin Steele, the team’s newly hired defensive assistant, will serve as the interim head coach.
“This is very unfortunate in the sense that we’re going to have to work really hard to keep it from setting us back,” Fulmer said at the news conference.
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The Fiver | Merci, gentleman Ged, et adieu

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Gérard Houllier never did win the league with his beloved Liverpool. Not technically. But he did win the FA Cup. And the League Cup. And lift Euro Vase after the Greatest European Final Ever. And the Super Cup and Charity Shield. And another League Cup. And he built a team that only required the addition of Xabi Alonso and Luis García, plus moving Jamie Carragher over a bit, there you go son, stand there, to win Big Cup in the Greatest European Final Ever II. And without his root-and-branch philosophical rebuild of the club, there’d have been no chance of Rafa going close, of Brenny going closer, of Jürgen going even closer before finally, at long last, getting there. Ged, who has died at the age of 73 after a heart operation, set Liverpool’s title ball rolling in the right direction again, all those years ago. History will mark his contribution. We’re chalking one up for him, put it that way.

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Trump supporters aren't crying and looting. Yeah, we are angry, but we are level-minded and strong. We are resilient and we will fight on, not whine and complain. See you in court, Dems!

We love you, President Trump. Hope you and your family recover quickly. Take care and best wishes. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1312158400352972800

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