But if you don’t quite believe, that’s perfectly understandable. The Browns have spent decades being absolutely terrible. They haven’t had a playoff victory since January 1995. Even after rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield sparked a winning streak in 2018, the team still finished 7-8-1 — an 11th consecutive losing record.
So the NFL schedule makers satisfied both the fans who are excited about the Browns, and the ones who are skeptical by letting us all find out together whether or not the team is for real.
The Browns will play the Jets on Monday Night Football in Week 2, the Rams on Sunday Night Football in Week 3, and the 49ers on Monday Night Football in Week 5. Hell yeah.
By the time the Browns’ Thursday Night Football matchup against the Steelers comes in Week 11 — making it the first time in over a decade Cleveland has four primetime games — we’ll probably already know if they’re the real deal.
Cleveland’s schedule down the stretch is interesting too with five of the last seven games against AFC North opponents. If the Browns want their first division title since 1989 (back in their AFC Central days) they’ll have to finish the season strong like they did in 2018.
The most fun part about the Browns right now is the possibility and potential that they miiiiight actually be great. Is the hype train warranted? Let’s all tune in together for some primetime games early in the season and see.
The world on stage at the Walter Kerr Theatre feels a lot like ours — scorched but soulful, a sort of dystopian now. As the first staccato notes of “Road to Hell” flit from an onstage trombone, it’s immediately clear that Hadestown, a haunting gut-punch of a new musical that opened on Broadway tonight, breathes the same air we do. This imaginative spin on Orpheus and Eurydice speaks with a bleeding heart to the here and now. It is both the most original and breathtaking musical of the season and a trenchant piece of political art.
The musical’s roots as a 2010 concept album from folk singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, developed for the stage with director Rachel Chavkin, are evident in its stripped-down and compact staging. A semi-circular colonnade encases the stage and seats an onstage band; a wrought-iron balcony lends a New Orleans flavor (scenic design is by Rachel Hauck). Consider it an American take on fallen Roman decadence.
Greed is to blame for the woes of Hadestown, where the seasons have been blighted by Hades unwillingness to share his wife Persephone, the goddess of harvest and fertility, with the world above ground (the pair are played with wry relish by Patrick Page and Amber Gray). This devil is also a rapacious capitalist, who lures a penniless, hungry Eurydice to the underworld with the promise of work and reward. Her love Orpheus, determined to compose a song that will restore natural order, follows behind to rescue her (Eva Noblezada and Reeve Carney play the honey-voiced lovers).
A parable about the havoc wreaked by avarice on the natural world and its inhabitants could hardly seem more pointed. Throw in a pin-stripped megalomaniac leading a call-and-response about building a wall and it’s hard to believe Mitchell actually composed the score back in 2010. “We build the wall to keep us free,” sings Hades’ somber workforce. “The wall keeps out the enemy.” “Who do we call the enemy/ My children, my children?” Hades asks. “The enemy is poverty,” comes the response. The echoed exchange seems to reverberate right through the floorboards into the earth, and not just because Page since with a bass more gravely than Leonard Cohen’s.
Chavkin, a Tony nominee for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, maintains a tight focus on storytelling (the venerable André De Shields plays Cupid, our narrator). Chavkin’s few visual flourishes (one in particular with lighting designer Bradley King) are all the more impactful given the production’s overall restraint even as it has grown in proportion (the show originated off-Broadway in 2017 and played London last year).
For all its chilling resonance, Hadestown is also a hoot. Gray’s Persephone is among the most wild and out there leading ladies since Oklahoma!’s Ado Annie. And the story offers s glimmer or two of hope to hang our hat on. Orpheus raises a cup of wine to the audience, a toast “to the world we dream about, and the one we live in now.” It’s further proof we’re witnessing a new dawn for American musicals.
No one was better at tactile politics than Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln lived in a time when American political culture valued touch. Handshaking had long been important as a sign of political and social etiquette.
Quakers, for example, preferred the handshake over doffing hats and bowing because the act had something of a democratic ring to it, denoting a rough equality.
By the early 19th century, handshaking was becoming both more American and masculine. French and British gentlemen were less inclined to shake hands and considered the American habit of sweaty handshaking “disgusting.”
Lincoln and American politicians cast their touch as a necessary part of political culture and engagement.
Then, as now, how you touched someone was politically risky. In the cultural and political ritual of American handshaking, care had to be taken not to slight or send the wrong message.
An essay entitled “Hand-Shaking,” from Harper’s Weekly of May 21, 1870, declared that refusing to shake hands was a “declaration of hostility,” but pressing the flesh had to be done with care.
Too tight a grip, the essay continued, indicated “tyranny,” a product of either unwitting strength or malicious intent. More “odious” was “he who offers you his hand, but will not permit you to get fair hold of it.” Such tactile diffidence reflected “cool contempt or supercilious scorn.”
Lincoln was a prodigious handshaker, and it added to his reputation as an egalitarian, common man, one literally and figuratively in touch with the people.
A marathon handshaking session in New York in February 1861 as president-elect left him with hurt hands. Just after his election as president, according to J. G. Holland in 1866, Lincoln met with crowds whose “hand-shaking … was something fearful” with “Every man in the crowd … anxious to wrench the hand of Abraham Lincoln. He finally gave both hands to the work, with great good nature.”
Lincoln’s hands were imprinted with politics, with key initiatives written into and onto his skin. According to Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner, even Lincoln’s signature on the Emancipation Proclamation was riddled with the common touch because “he had been shaking hands all the morning, so that his writing was unsteady.”
Lincoln commented: “When people see that shaky signature they will say ‘See how uncertain he was.’ But I was never surer of anything in my life.”
It’s important to note that Lincoln not only used touch to connect with voters – as politicians still do – but that he did so within widely accepted rules – as some politicians no longer do.
Unlike Biden, Lincoln was no hugger, sniffer or caresser for the simple reason that those tactile and olfactory displays were wholly inappropriate among white men of the time.
But for Lincoln, those rules were no impediment.
Lincoln used the simple handshake to help engage a nation and guide it through an immensely difficult time of war and national upheaval. That’s a reminder that appropriate touching plays an important role in American political culture.
MUELLER REPORT. White House officials concerned about being exposed: “Some of the officials and their lawyers have sought clarity from the Justice Department on whether the names of those who cooperated with Mueller’s team will be redacted or if the public report will be written in a way that makes it obvious who shared certain details of Trump’s actions that were part of the obstruction of justice probe, people familiar with the discussions said. But, they said, the Justice Department has refused to elaborate.”
PARTLY ALIVE. Scientists revive cells in brains of dead pigs. “We had clear lines between ‘this is alive’ and ‘this is dead,’” said Nita A. Farahany, a bioethicist and law professor at Duke University. “How do we now think about this middle category of ‘partly alive’? We didn’t think it could exist.”
BILL WELD. I’m in the GOP primary to beat Trump, not weaken him: ‘While he acknowledged winning in the South would be “tough,” he asserted that “the rest of the country is fair game” and argued that if he was able to beat expectations or even pull off an upset win in New Hampshire it could have “a domino effect on other primaries around the country — almost an electrical effect.”’
HERD OF THE DAY. The Boston Dynamics Spots. “It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot (~1 degree uphill, truck in neutral). These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.”
The small-school standout finishes off Oakland’s trio of picks in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft.
The Oakland Raiders have three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Believe it or not, that amount of high draft capital isn’t totally rare.
It’s happened two times since in the last seven years. In 2013, the Minnesota Vikings had three first-round picks and took defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The latter didn’t work out in Minnesota, but he’s stuck in the NFL, so overall that’s a decent haul.
Damien: After going best player available at No. 4 with Quinnen Williams and then filling a big need at tight end with Noah Fant, the Raiders get the best safety in this draft. Adderley was a standout at Delaware, but really burst onto the scene at the Senior Bowl … where he was coached by Jon Gruden and the Raiders’ staff. The 6’0, 206-pound safety was impressive all week for the Raiders’ coaching staff. And he took that performance into the game itself as well, picking off a pass.
Last season the Raiders were searching for answers at the safety position. Veterans Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist started the season at the two safety spots. By season’s end, however, the starters were former top pick Karl Joseph and former special teams maven Erik Harris. Both played well, but Joseph especially lived up to his potential and so the Raiders will look to find a safety to pair up with him for the longterm. Adderley is that guy.
Analysis: This pick may surprise some, but Adderley is not only the best small-school player in the 2019 draft, but indeed, the best safety available this year. Adderley may not be the biggest, but he’s a big-time athlete on the field and closes on the ball like no other safety in this draft. Adderley excels as a deep single-high safety, and is capable in man coverage. He’s fast to help in run support too. He could even see some action at times as a return man. Adderley is basically the total package for a safety, and a nice choice at No. 27. The easiest comparison to make for Adderley, while unfair, is Earl Thomas.
Anti-gay protesters put on a bizarre display at a Pete Buttigieg campaign stop in Marshalltown, Iowa on Wednesday.
A man dressed as Buttigieg in a white shirt whipped a man dressed as Jesus on the cross while another protester dressed as a devil yelled “Yeah, beat your savior, beat him. Yeah, I hate this guy. Yes, more blood, Peter. Every vote is a lash on the back of Christ.”
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Posted by mikenov
on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 6:08pm
Atalanta were the victims of perhaps the most unfortunate Expected Goals game ever.
If you’re not a seriously dedicated Serie A fan, you probably didn’t pay much attention to Monday night’s match between top four contenders Atalanta and relegation battlers Empoli. If you browsed the scores afterwards, a 0-0 draw probably didn’t catch your eye either. But it was one of the most notable games of the season: no professional team in the world has produced more chances and failed to score than Atalanta did in this game.
By expected goals, Atalanta could have pretty reasonably hit the back of the next six times.
Atalanta had 47 shots and 5.86 xG in today’s SCORELESS DRAW vs Empoli.
Not every xG model is the same, but disagreements about the ridiculousness of this game are minor. Atalanta produced 47 shots, 17 of which were on target, and seven of them came from inside the six-yard box. It’s unheard of for a team to fail to score from this kind of shot volume and quality.
Watching this game while knowing the result was enthralling, perhaps more so than it would have been to watch live. Atalanta actually took a few minutes to get going, and Empoli had the first two decent shots of the game. The unlucky hosts finally got cooking about 10 minutes in when Hans Hateboer missed a wide open header.
And that might not have been the most egregious miss of the night.
In the 14th minute, Empoli left back Luca Antonelli was substituted off with an injury. When Antonelli’s replacement, Manuel Pasqual, came on, the announcer for the English language international feed said, “The 37-year-old comes into the action, his first game since March. That shouldn’t disrupt, however, too much, the balance of the side. Pasqual is a true professional.”
That bit of wisdom turned out to be stunningly incorrect. Pasqual proceeded to get turned inside-out repeatedly by Hateboer and Josip Iličić.
In the 27th minute, our commentator — who at this point, has no clue what he’s witnessing — said for the first time that “it feels like the goal is coming.”
Again, in the 35th minute, he contextualized this game alongside more normal games, in which a team dominating and taking a lot of shots eventually leads to a goal. “Everybody back for Empoli, they are not going to be able to carry on for the next 55 minutes in this fashion,” he said.
In the 43rd minute: “It really seems like a matter of when, not if for Atalanta.”
At halftime, this game was still somewhat in the realm of normalcy. Atalanta had 16 shots: an impressive, but not unheard of number to take in a half without scoring. That happens about once a week in Europe’s big leagues.
This game’s turning point — the exact moment when it got really weird — came in the 56th minute.
It was at that moment that Atalanta got extremely pissed off and started firing shots at every opportunity. The big xG chances dried up and the shots on target plummeted. They started cranking hopeful shots from outside the box and Empoli let them, knowing that their keeper was hot and their opponent was tilted.
The final result was particularly heartbreaking for Atalanta because a win would have put them in the top four, and into a Champions League spot, ahead of AS Roma and AC Milan. If they fail to finish above the bigger clubs by two or fewer points, everyone will look back on this game as the team’s biggest missed opportunity.
But some team was always going to fall victim to a ridiculous xG game like this eventually, and Atalanta were among the prime candidates. To pull off a feat like this one, you need to be good enough to create 47 shots in the first place, but lacking in quality enough to miss all of them. There’s a very narrow set of teams that fall under that category.
Simply: What happened to Atalanta just doesn’t happen to the best teams in the world.
Doesn’t it feel like the really big clubs just barely scrape by with a lot of 1-0 wins? Remember Fergie Time? Fergie Time isn’t about luck, or favorable officials, or Alex Ferguson selling his soul to the devil. If top teams create 47 shots, they have good enough finishers to score one of them.
Atalanta, on the other hand, are led up top by Duván Zapata. He has an impressive 20 goals this season, but his goal tallies from his previous seasons in Serie A are five, six, eight, 10, and 11. His fellow forwards, Iličić andPapu Gómez, are similarly inconsistent. They’ve recorded seasons with 13 and 16 league goals, respectively, but ended up in the single digits more often than not. These are players who one could imagine creating 47 shots and finishing none of them.
Atalanta’s manager, Gian Piero Gasperini, is a specialist at this level of Italian football. He guided Genoa to a slew of top-half, but not-quite Champions League finishes during his stints there, with a pit stop at Inter Milan for half a year in which he figured out that big club politics are not for him. Gasperini has rarely wavered from his favored 3-4-3 system, even when he doesn’t have the right personnel or an opponent creates matchup advantages against it.
Gasperini is an expert in coaching one system, which allows him to get average teams to finish a couple spots in the table ahead of where one would expect based on their talent level. But he’s very dedicated to that system and rarely has a Plan B when things go wrong. This is the manager you could see coaching a team that does something like what Atalanta did Monday.
Sorry, Atalanta. This had to happen to someone, and you were perfect.
Blogs from Michael_Novakhov (20 sites): The Postcards from M.N.: mikenov on Twitter: I do support Mr. Barr’s intent to investigate the FBI and the other related agencies. And needless to say, it has to be bipartisan, non-political, absolutely… dlvr.it/R312QR
Posted by mikenov
on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 6:05pm
Blogs from Michael_Novakhov (20 sites): The FBI News Review: mikenov on Twitter: I do support Mr. Barr’s intent to investigate the FBI and the other related agencies. And needless to say, it has to be bipartisan, non-political, absolutely… dlvr.it/R312Fv
Posted by mikenov
on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 6:04pm
Brunei has defended its punishment of death by stoning for gay sex in a letter to the European Parliament. Under Brunei’s new law, adultery is punished similarly, and thieves are punished with amputations.
Wrote the Brunei Mission to the EU in the letter: “The SPCO does not criminalise nor has any intention to victimise a person’s status based on sexual orientation or belief, including same-sex relations. The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims particularly women. The offences, therefore will not apply to non-Muslims unless the act of adultery or sodomy is committed with a Muslim.”
The letter appears to suggest that there’s little chance the death penalties would be carried out because the crimes must have several “extremely difficult to find” witnesses “of high moral standing and piety.”
The letter was sent “ahead of a debate on human rights in the EP in Strasbourg on Thursday” according to EU Observer: “The European Union has said any such punishments violate the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”
Hunter is ready for his next step after winning a national championship.
Tony Bennett saw his most talented player get down on himself midway through Virginia’s Final Four game against Auburn. De’Andre Hunter was struggling, coming off three straight subpar performances in the NCAA tournament by his own lofty standards as UVA entered Minneapolis. Now he was going cold again in the biggest game of his life, missing a three that would have tied the score at the end of the first half as the ‘Hoos fought for a spot in the national title.
Bennett delivered a simple message in the locker room.
“Be free, man. Go after this. We need you. Be a player.”
Positive reinforcement has been a key for Hunter since he arrived on campus as a long-but-skinny recruit. Bennett knew a string of missed shots would get in Hunter’s head. A string of mediocre games was even worse, especially when the stakes were this high.
On the first possession of the second half, Hunter streaked to the basket for a dunk. He splashed a jumper a minute later. He finished an offensive rebound for a putback, and then hit a layup. Virginia had unlocked Hunter, and with it, their chances at a national championship.
The ‘Hoos would survive on another miracle finish, setting the stage for a showdown between two projected lottery picks on the wing in the final game of the season. Hunter’s assignment was Jarrett Culver, one of the few players in the country with the size and skill to match him. Hunter was named Defensive Player of the Year just a few days earlier, and this would be his biggest test yet.
All he did was turn in the performance of his life to finish with 27 points.
Hunter was money from three-point range, canning 4-of-5 attempts from behind the arc, including the biggest shot of the game, to the tie the score with 15 seconds left. He crashed the glass all night to finish with nine rebounds. He also consistently found his way to the foul line to give his team easy points when every possession felt like a war.
Three years at Virginia did so much for Hunter. It helped him grow into the best point-of-attack defender in college basketball. It made him something close to a knockdown shooter. It also put a national championship ring on his finger.
Now Hunter is ready for his next step. He’s entering the NBA draft, where he’s a lock to go in the top-10 and might even sneak into the top-five. It’s been an incredible rise for a player Bennett kept on the sidelines his entire first year on campus with a redshirt.
“In this game and this setting, and he saved his best for last,” Bennett said of Hunter in the glow of his championship press conference. “That tells you there’s something in that young man. He’s got more — he’s scratching the surface.”
There’s an alternate universe where De’Andre Hunter never arrived at Virginia.
Tony Bennett had four scholarships when he was putting together the 2016 recruiting class that would change Virginia basketball forever. One went to Kyle Guy. Another went to Ty Jerome. A commitment from center Jay Huff followed. UVA only had a spot for Hunter because their biggest recruit decommitted.
Sacha Killeya-Jones was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American. He committed to Virginia early before seeing his stock blow up on the grassroots circuit the next spring and summer. Killeya-Jones decommitted from UVA in June of 2015. Hunter accepted Virginia’s scholarship offer three months later.
Killeya-Jones would chose Kentucky, where he’d get lost in a loaded front court as a freshman and ultimately chose to transfer. He picked NC State, where he lasted only a few months before leaving the program in February.
Losing one of the highest rated prospects in program history in Killeya-Jones felt like a huge blow to Virginia at the time. Ultimately, it was one of the best things to ever happen to them.
De’Andre Hunter felt betrayed the day Bennett told him he was going to redshirt. Hunter was the lowest-rated member of Virginia’s incoming class, but he was still a consensus top-100 prospect out of Philadelphia. Recruits of that caliber typically don’t redshirt, but Bennett had a plan in mind.
The first issue was one of available minutes. Virginia had Marial Shayok, Devon Hall, and Isaiah Wilkins all set for heavy playing time at the three and the four. Bennett also thought Hunter needed to gain strength after showing up on campus at only 195 pounds. Virginia put him on a strict diet and weight lighting program, led by strength and conditioning coach Mike Curtis.
Patience eventually paid off. Hunter showed flashes in the non-conference season the next year, then hit his stride in ACC play. By the end of the year, Hunter was named Sixth Man of the Year in the conference and there were whispers he could be a fringe first rounder if he entered the draft. Virginia was rolling, going from unranked in the preseason to the No. 1 overall seed entering the NCAA tournament at 32-2 overall.
With his wrist on the mend and his team in need of redemption, Hunter announced he was returning to school without even testing the draft waters. Virginia now belonged to the 2016 recruiting class, with Hunter, Guy, and Jerome forming arguably the best perimeter trio in the country.
De’Andre Hunter wasn’t sneaking up on anyone this season. He was circled as one of the best players in the country and a potential lottery pick on every preseason scouting report. That type of focus from the opposition and the pressure that comes with multi-million dollar hype could have cracked a lesser player. Instead, Hunter kept getting better.
All Hunter did this season was turn into college basketball’s most terrifying man defender while also being ruthlessly efficient in every offensive opportunity he got. Now weighing 225 pounds while standing 6’7 with a wingspan of at least 7’1, Hunter had the strength to match his skill. It all coalesced to turn him into one of the best players in the country.
Hunter is the ideal man defender. He has the length and quickness to potentially guard four positions at the next level, but it’s his balance and technique that makes him special. Hunter is a master at getting over screens, at utilizing his feet to deny driving lanes, and at closing out on any shot from the perimeter. There aren’t many players in the world who have a prayer against the NBA’s biggest, baddest wing scorers, but Hunter’s physicality, focus, and defensive fundamentals gives him a chance.
Offensively, Hunter was efficient without operating at a high volume. He hit nearly 44 percent of his threes, took smaller defenders in the post, and even showed some capability playing both sides of the pick-and-roll in limited opportunities. His statistical breakdown paints the picture of a complete player:
Hunter fits the prototype of the 3-and-D wing NBA teams covet. His story tracks similarly to Mikal Bridges, another long wing who redshirted when he entered college, blossomed into a national champion at Villanova, and then became a lottery pick.
Scouts will wonder if Hunter’s man defense will translate to a modern NBA that places more emphasis on helping and recovering. For all of his defensive ability, Hunter’s block and steal rates were still curiously low. He’ll also have to quicken the release on his three-point shot, and prove he can beat a closeout by creating off the dribble.
Hunter is the best kind of college basketball success story, the player who grinded for three years before enjoying the ultimate breakthrough both for his team and individually. At 21 years old, he already feels like a finished product, though those close to him like Bennett swear he’s still just scratching the surface.
Hunter has already accomplished so much as he enters the draft. If this really is just the start, one lucky NBA team is going to get a productive, two-way wing for the next decade.