Serena is back in the Wimbledon semis! We preview both matchups

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Will Serena earn her 24th Grand Slam singles title, or will one of Simona Halep, Barbora Strýcová or Elina Svitolina deny her?

Serena Williams is back in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, and once again she stands on the cusp of history. Not that she is a stranger to history, having already made her case for being the best tennis player to ever do it, but she’s been sitting at 23 singles wins at the slams, one shy of Margaret Court, since she won the Australian Open in 2017.

Now, she’ll head into Thursday’s Wimbledon matchup with Barbora Strýcová, hoping to punch her ticket to the final, where she’ll face the winner of Simona Halep vs. Elina Svitolina.

It’s been a very fun women’s singles bracket thus far, with 15-year-old Coco Gauff giving us some early fireworks and four unseeded players making it to the quarterfinals. It hasn’t been an easy road here for any of the remaining four, and who comes out on top should be thrilling to witness.

Let’s break down the two matches

Williams vs. Strýcová

These two have played each other three times, though not since the 2017 Australian Open, which Williams won. Williams is 3-0 in their meetings, all straight-sets victories, including one in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2012. This will be the first time that Strýcová has played in a Grand Slam semifinal, having never made it past the fourth round in other slams.

Strýcová’s path to the finals has included wins over No. 32 Lesia Tsurenko (6-3, 6-2), Laura Siegemund, (6-3, 7-5), No. 4 Kiki Bertens (7-5, 6-1), No. 21 Elise Mertens (4-6, 7-5, 6-2), and most recently, Johanna Konta, the 19th seed (7-6(5), 6-1. She’s dropped only one set thus far, though her two most recent matches have been closer than the rest.

Williams first bested Giulia Gatto-Monticone (6-2, 7-5), Kaja Juvan (2-6, 6-2, 6-4), No. 18 Julia Görges (6-3, 6-4), No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro (6-2, 6-2), and most recently, Alison Riske (6-4, 4-6, 6-3). Riske, an unseeded American, eliminated the top seed, Ashleigh Barty, in the fourth round.

Looking at those two lists, it’s clear Strýcová has beaten the better competition, at least in this Wimbledon tournament. She’s had an up-and-down year, falling down the rankings, but her Wimbledon has been fantastic, and she’s going to be tough to beat for Williams.

Williams was pushed to three sets twice, and also played more this year than usual, taking part in a couple mixed doubles matches with surprise partner Andy Murray. Of course, she’s looked great and is adamant that the extra time on court won’t hurt her. She’s trying to match Court, who had 24 Grand Slam titles spanning from before the Open Era and into it. Williams already has the most in the open era, but tying and passing Court remains the goal.

Getting past the all-around game of Strýcová, an improviser who keeps opponents guessing, will be a tall order, but one that she should be more than capable of.

Halep vs. Svitolina

Halep was the favorite to win by many, but it’s going to be tough beating Svitolina, who she has lost to multiple times in the past. Halep has won three of their meetings, with Svitolina taking four of them. Most recently, they played on the hard courts in Qatar earlier this year, where Halep won in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

The two have never played on grass before, but Halep would seem to hold the edge there. She’s 7-1 on grass courts this season, though before her win in Qatar, Svitolina had won the previous three meetings between the two.

Svitolina’s run through the tournament included wins over Daria Gavrilova (7-5, 6-0), Margarita Gasparyan (5-7, 6-5 ret.), No. 31 Maria Sakkari (6-3, 6-7(1), 6-2), No. 24 Petra Martić (6-4, 6-2) and, most recently, Karolína Muchová (7-5, 6-4).

Halep’s run has included wins over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-4, 7-5, Mihaela Buzărnescu (6-3, 4-6, 6-2), Victória Azárenka (6-3, 6-1), Coco Gauff (6-3, 6-3) and Shuai Zhang (7-6(4), 6-1).

In other words, Halep hasn’t had to face a seeded opponent yet at Wimbledon. In all, both Halep and Svitolina have had a much easier draw than both Williams and Strýcová.

This will be Halep’s second appearance in the Wimbledon semifinal, having made it there in 2014 as well. She has one Grand Slam win to her name, winning the title at Roland Garros in 2018. Svitolina, the No. 8 women’s player in the world and former No. 3, has yet to win a Grand Slam and will be playing in her first ever slam semifinal, having only previously made it to the quarterfinals in other slams.

Watching the women’s semifinals

ESPN has television coverage of Wimbledon, and the women’s semifinals are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. local time on Thursday. London is five hours ahead of Eastern time in the United States, which means the first semifinal, between Svitolina and Halep, is scheduled to begin around 8 a.m. ET. The other semifinal will take place immediately afterward on Centre Court. Live streaming of both matches can be had at ESPN’s website, either with login from your cable or satellite provider, or a subscription to ESPN+.


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FBI makes arrests in Puerto Rico corruption scandal, prompting calls for governor’s ouster and concerns about billions in storm aid – WP | Trump and Trumpism – Review Of News And Opinions

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mikenov on Twitter: “The federal indictment says the former officials illegally directed federal funding to politically connected contractors.” washingtonpost.com/business/2019/…

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“The federal indictment says the former officials illegally directed federal funding to politically connected contractors.”
washingtonpost.com/business/2019/…


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mikenov on Twitter: FBI makes arrests in Puerto Rico corruption scandal, prompting calls for governor’s ouster and concerns about billions in storm aid washingtonpost.com/business/2019/…

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FBI makes arrests in Puerto Rico corruption scandal, prompting calls for governor’s ouster and concerns about billions in storm aid washingtonpost.com/business/2019/…


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News Review – 6:12 PM 7/10/2019 | Trump and Trumpism – Review Of News And Opinions

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News Review – 6:12 PM 7/10/2019

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“Mueller’s legal errors meant that
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Senate Intel Eyes Social Media Manipulators Who Pitched Team Trump
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After presenting Mueller as a savior, inevitable backlash against him for failing to validate a baseless conspiracy theory. twitter.com/jedshug/status…

“Mueller’s legal errors meant that
1) he failed to conclude that the Trump campaign criminally coordinated with Russia;
2) he failed to indict Manafort & Gates for campaign crimes (see concise timeline);
3) the 10 acts of obstruction in Vol II fell flat.” thedailybeast.com/robert-mueller…


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Ladies, Gentlemen, Nonbinary individuals: I bring you @aaronjmate shredding the Russiagate narrative.
youtu.be/ublVFxJfeno


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Mapping out the USWNT’s future

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Who you can expect to see come in and out of the team heading into the next World Cup in four years.

The World Cup is over and there won’t be another one for four years, but the United States women’s national team will have to spend that period constantly developing its roster.

There are 12 players 30 or older on the current USWNT, and it had the oldest average age of any team at the World Cup. There’s also some incredible young talent in the youth national team ranks. The squad is likely to experience some significant turnover ahead of the 2023 World Cup, and these are the players you should be keeping an eye on.

But first…

They’re going to run it back for the Olympics

Many of the players on the current USWNT were also on the 2016 side that disappointed in Brazil, and they’re going to want to make amends for that. The Olympics has a smaller roster size — 18 instead of 23 — so there will be some tough omissions. But don’t expect any of the older star players to retire or get cut until after the Olympics in Japan.

Expected to be on their way out

These are players who, due to either age or a recent lack of playing time, will probably not be on every USWNT roster after 2020.

GK Ashlyn Harris — She’s two years older than starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher so Jill Ellis (or whoever replaces her) will likely want to start giving the backup reps to a young player and start grooming Naeher’s future replacement.

DF Ali Krieger — Krieger is 34 and was out of the team for two years until just before the World Cup, so it would be surprising if she continued past the Olympics.

DF Becky Sauerbrunn — Center backs tend to age better than players at other positions, so perhaps we shouldn’t count Sauerbrunn out. But she hasn’t been at quite her previous world-beating form for club or country over the past couple of years, and she’ll be 38 when the next World Cup rolls around.

MF Allie Long — Long spent more team off the USWNT than on it during the past year and likely made her way back into the squad for locker room chemistry reasons, rather than footballing ones. Unless she starts turning in NWSL MVP-quality performances, she’s among the prime candidates to miss out on the Olympics due to the smaller roster size.

FW Carli Lloyd — Don’t tell Lloyd that a 40-year-old is unlikely to make the USWNT’s next World Cup roster… but a 40-year-old is unlikely to make the USWNT’s next World Cup roster.

FW Jessica McDonald — McDonald finally getting her USWNT shot at 31 has been an amazing story. But unfortunately, the other forwards she’s behind are around the same age, and Ellis is going to need to start succession planning for the front line immediately. That means a young player is likely to take McDonald’s place.

FW Megan Rapinoe — Hey, I’m not going to bet against Rapinoe. But she’ll be 38 when 2023 rolls around, and with her increased public profile following this World Cup, she has opportunities to make a lot more money outside of soccer than she ever did playing the game.

Future unclear

These players won’t necessarily be too old to be at their physical peak in 2023, but for various reasons, it’s not obvious how much of a future they have with the USWNT.

GK Adrianna Franch — On NWSL form, Franch should have been the starting keeper already. At 28, she’s probably a bit too old to take over from Naeher in the future. She might stay on the roster as a backup, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ellis opt for two young keepers that she rotates behind Naeher.

DF Kelley O’Hara — O’Hara said herself that she didn’t think she’d be able to make the impact she did at the World Cup after her injury issues over the past couple of years. Her ankles might not let her make it another four years at the top of the pro game.

DF Emily Sonnett — There’s no real knock on Sonnett, and no reason she shouldn’t stay in the team. She’s 25, and will probably be better in four years. She’s played well for Portland Thorns. But Ellis doesn’t seem to rate her as highly as her other defenders, and she’s been left off rosters when healthy before.

MF Morgan Brian — Ellis clearly believes in Brian’s talent. Even when she’s been in poor club form or struggling for fitness, she’s gotten call-ups and substitute appearances. But if Brian can’t stay fit for an entire season, Ellis will have to start considering other options.

FW Alex Morgan — No one would put it past Morgan to stay on top of her game for the next four years and chase down Abby Wambach’s record. Her development as a deep-lying forward that is no longer reliant on her pace means she can continue to be an effective national team player well into her 30s. But she’s going to be 34 when the next World Cup rolls around, which is old for a women’s soccer player, so she’s in this section.

FW Tobin Heath — Same deal as Morgan, basically. Her technical skills mean she’ll be useful even if she has no pace, but she’s even older than Morgan.

FW Christen Press — Unlike Morgan and Heath, Press clearly is not first choice at the moment, so she might have a harder time hanging onto her place as she ages into her mid-30s.

Even better next time?

These players are definitely sticking around for the next four years, and they’ll be expected to become the new stars of the team.

GK Alyssa Naeher — Naeher exceeded expectations in her first World Cup as the USWNT No. 1, and she should get better with experience. Goalkeepers usually don’t decline until well into their late 30s.

DF Abby Dahlkemper — She’s one of the best passing center backs in the world at 26, and she should be an even more intelligent distributor of the ball at 30.

DF/MF Julie Ertz — I’m not sure if Ertz’s future is at defensive midfield or center back, but she’s sensational at both of them, and shouldn’t be any slower in 2023 than she is right now.

DF Tierna Davidson — A prediction: Davidson will become the USWNT’s starting left back shortly, clearing the way for…

DF/FW Crystal Dunn — Dunn to move into a wide forward role. She’s one of the best attackers in NWSL and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her take over Rapinoe’s role shortly.

MF Lindsey Horan — Another prediction: By 2023, Horan will be the consensus best player on the planet.

MF Sam Mewis — Mewis is one of the slickest passers in the world, and at 26, she still has room to grow in that area. Expect her to be a truly world class playmaker in four years.

MF Rose Lavelle — It looks like Lavelle has finally put her recurring injuries behind her, and now the sky’s the limit. She hasn’t had an extended run in a club team with decent teammates and an attacking philosophy yet. We have no idea how good she can be.

FW Mallory Pugh — Same for Pugh, and she’s on the same team with Lavelle. Their combinations were nuts in the couple games they got to play together for the Washington Spirit before heading off to international duty. With every other forward on the squad being 30 or older, 21-year-old Pugh will be counted on to become one of the team’s best players quickly.

Fringe players still battling

These NWSL players didn’t make the USWNT roster this time around, and probably won’t for the Olympics. However, their national team dreams are far from over if they play well in NWSL.

GK Jane Campbell — Previously on the roster, Campbell is the leading candidate to start getting Harris’ minutes. She’s having a very solid season for the Houston Dash.

GK Aubrey Bledsoe — Bledsoe isn’t as young as Campbell, and her distribution leaves quite a bit to be desired, but she’s developed into NWSL’s best shot-stopper. If she can improve her goal kicks and passing, she’ll get a NT shot.

DF Casey Short — Short is one of NWSL’s most consistent defenders, but doesn’t make much of an attacking contribution from fullback, which Ellis values. Still, she’s one of the best fullbacks in the country and should be on the roster.

DF Megan Oyster — While the international players were away, Oyster was arguably the best center back in NWSL and one of the biggest reasons that Reign FC moved up into first place. She’s had two caps, and is clearly on Ellis’ radar.

DF Emily Menges — Ask Thorns fans and some will tell you, in a low whisper so no one hears, that Menges is actually the best central defender on their team. She doesn’t quite have Sonnett’s physical talent, but she’s more composed and makes fewer mistakes.

DF Jaelene Hinkle — You probably think that Hinkle is out of the national team because of her personal views on homosexuality, and most fans seem OK with that decision. If that’s the case, she obviously has no path back to the national team. But U.S. Soccer says she was only cut for soccer reasons and that her personal views have nothing to do with her exclusion. If that’s true, her status as the league’s assist leader while playing good defense on arguably the best team in NWSL is going to lead to her being reconsidered.

MF Danielle Colaprico — An injury led to Colaprico having to decline a call-up just before the World Cup, and that was that for her chances of making the roster. She’s been the most consistent holding midfielder in the league since she arrived, though, and should get another shot.

MF Sofia Huerta — This is a weird case. Huerta was tried out at right back by Ellis, and asked for a trade from Chicago to Houston to get more time at that position, in order to make the World Cup team. Houston correctly identified that Huerta was one of the best attacking midfielders in the league, so they played her there, ruining her chances of making the USWNT. Unfortunately, her 2019 numbers aren’t even close to what she did in 2018, and now she doesn’t look USWNT quality at either position. But there’s no denying that Huerta, at her best, is one of the 23 best American footballers. Don’t count her out yet.

FW Kealia Ohai — I don’t know why it hasn’t quite worked out for Ohai. She’s looked amazing in bursts at Houston, and she’s got a few national team caps. But she hasn’t translated her best performances and blazing speed into consistent production yet. At 27, her time isn’t up yet, but the clock is ticking fast.

FW Midge Purce — Like Huerta, Purce is likely considered a right back prospect by Ellis. Problem for Portland is, she’s been balling in a more advanced position, and right back Ellie Carpenter is back from Australia duty. Purce is talented enough to play for the USWNT, but it’s hard to see her getting a chance under the current circumstances.

FW Lynn Williams — The former NWSL MVP has gotten plenty of national team call-ups, but hasn’t quite meshed with Ellis and her system. There’s a serious dearth of prime-age striker talent in the pool, though, with most of Ellis’ options being in their 30s or teenagers. Being a good 26-year-old is enough to get Williams another look.

Coming soon… we think

These young players have turned pro and had a taste of USWNT action. I expect them to become regulars over the next couple of years.

GK Casey Murphy — The prime candidate to replace Harris’ minutes and become Naeher’s understudy. The 23-year-old has played a pro season in France with Montpellier and is currently playing out of her mind for Reign FC.

UT Hailie Mace — Mace is going to make the national team simply because of her ability to play literally every position on the field. She’s getting most of her minutes for Rosengard in Sweden at striker, but she’s played a lot of winger, fullback, and even a little center back, on the left and right sides. She’s a player Ellis wants on her bench.

MF Andi Sullivan — Ask any coach in NWSL and they’ll tell you that Sullivan is a lock to be a national team fixture for the next decade. The 23-year-old is already captain of the Washington Spirit and can play any midfield position.

MF/FW Savannah McCaskill — McCaskill has gotten her national team minutes under Ellis at central midfield, but it looks like her new team Chicago Red Stars intend on using her as a deep-lying forward, linking superstar striker Sam Kerr and the midfield behind her. As a hard-working midfield-forward tweener, she could replace a lot of Carli Lloyd’s minutes.

Ones for the longer-range future

These players are rookies or college players at the moment, but they’ve turned in impressive youth national team performances, and are firmly on Ellis’ radar.

GK Meagan McClelland — She was the Big Ten freshman of the year at Rutgers and is already getting called into Under-23 camps at 18 years old.

DF Tegan McGrady — Hamstring injuries have kept the Spirit left back from making a big impact in her rookie season, but if she gets healthy, she’s expected to enter the national team rotation.

DF Emily Fox — Fox already has three caps and is probably the best player still plying her trade in college. The UNC star should become a fixture on the roster whenever Sauerbrunn decides to call it quits.

DF Sam Staab — Staab has exceeded expectations in her rookie year for the Spirit and is one of the big contenders for rookie of the year. She’s incredible at hitting long-range passes with her left foot, something Ellis values.

DF Alana Cook — Currently out of the USWNT hype spotlight due to her move to Paris Saint-Germain. Hopefully she can keep getting paid abroad and doesn’t need to move home to get onto Ellis’ radar.

DF/MF Naomi Girma — The Stanford sophomore can play in defense or midfield, which is certainly a plus for her future national team prospects. With Cook and Davidson gone, she’ll be expected to lead the Stanford defense.

MF Jaelin Howell — The 19-year-old has already been to a senior camp and was the midfield anchor for Florida State’s national title-winning team as a frehsman. She’s already a good enough DM to help any team in the world that doesn’t have Julie Ertz.

MF Brianna Pinto — An intelligent and slick passing midfielder, Pinto has already been called into a senior national team camp. With Dorian Bailey graduating, she’ll now be expected to lead UNC’s midfield.

MF Kate Wiesner — Wiesner has yet to make her collegiate debut, but she’s the No. 1 ranked player in her recruiting class. She should become the starting left winger at Penn State immediately and start making a case for national team looks with her excellent left foot service.

FW Ashley Sanchez — Sanchez has actually failed to reach the heights she was predicted to since she first got called into a full national team camp, but no one is writing her off at 20 years old. With Mace departing UCLA, Sanchez will be expected to take over a starring role this season.

FW Catarina Macario — Brazilian-American Macario is widely considered the best player in college soccer, but won’t be eligible for U.S. citizenship for two years. She’s made it clear that she wants to play for the USWNT, though, and regularly participates in Under-23 national team camps even though she can’t play official games under FIFA rules. She should be fast-tracked to the full national team whenever her citizenship comes through.

FW Sophia Smith — The most obvious candidate for USWNT stardom in the future, Smith has 21 goals in 25 Under-20 appearances, and scored seven goals in 13 appearances for Stanford as a freshman.

There are so many great NWSL and college players we couldn’t fit here

Seriously, watch NWSL. If you’re a real nerd and want to get into this stuff hardcore, you can find great info on youth soccer at Top Drawer Soccer, and college soccer games are usually on streaming services you already have like ESPN3 and ESPN+. There are — no joke — 50 other players I thought of that could have conceivably made this list, so huge thanks to my supremely nerdy pals Fitzcamel and Travis Clark for helping me put this together.


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No, Tour de France riders don’t get bored on flat stages … usually

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Julian Alaphilippe in yellow and Peter Sagan in green ahead of Stage 4 of the 2019 Tour de France, which ran 213.4 kilometers across flat ground from Reims to Nancy.

Long flat stages are the lowlights of every Tour de France, but riders are doing much more in the peloton than you may think.

Flat stages are the bane of the Tour de France. To get from one gorgeous mountain vista to the next, the Tour sometimes needs to fill in the distance with long transfers that go over relatively uninteresting (though still mostly lovely) landscape in between. These stages are often inconsequential in the yellow jersey competition. From personal experience, they’re good background for summer naps.

For the riders, there is barely any time to be gained in the overall classification, so the biggest names often hold back, preferring to save their effort for the mountains where a good attack can take minutes out of their opponents. Flat stages can feel like exercises in risk management — until the very end, usually the last minute or two of a six-hour stage, when the sprinters bolt for the finish.

At the 2018 Tour de France, several riders criticized a 231-kilometer near-paper flat Stage 7 ride from Fougères to Chartres. Six-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan called it a “boring day.” Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde said that long stages like that “make no sense.” For viewers who aren’t fiends for low-level helicopter shots of French châteaus, the action and stakes are too low to stay invested.

But though flats are tough to watch, those participating usually aren’t as bored as you might think. Every stage of the Tour de France is an opportunity for something to go wrong, and that puts riders on edge.

Christian Vande Velde, now a cycling commentator for NBC Sports Network, rode 11 times in the Tour de France. He has occupied both domestique and team leader roles in the Tour before, shepherding Lance Armstrong to two of his stripped yellow jerseys in 1999 and 2001 before finishing fourth in 2008. He says that ceasefires flat stages would only occur “once in a blue moon.”

“It’s hard to explain a lot of times just from the chopper or the motorcycle, what you see at home, where it looks like a walk in the park,” Christian Vande Velde says. “In perfect world scenario conditions — let’s say, the break’s out, there’s zero wind, and it’s 65 degrees out, and it’s just a beautiful day — then maybe we’ll have a day that’s civilized. But those days are so far and few between. [There might be] a corner, and then after that there’s going to be exposed crosswinds 50K into the stage. You don’t really have big chunks of time where you truly let your guard down.”


Ryan Siu
Team Ineos riders Gianni Moscon, left, and Egan Bernal, right, talking after finishing Stage 1 in Brussels.

The misconception that flat stages are “easy” may come from the idea that the Tour de France is solely a competition to win the yellow jersey. True, the maillot jaune is one of the most iconic prizes in sports, but every rider and team has its own goals that may have nothing to do with the general classification. The green jersey competition, for example, rewards the individual with the most points, and is largely considered the “sprinters” jersey because the winner is frequently the rider who most dominated the flats.

Transfer stages are also days for breakaway riders from small wild card teams to earn television coverage for their sponsors and, on occasion, sneak a stage victory.

“The Tour de France, there are maybe five guys who want to win, and then maybe 10, 15 climbers,” says Jens Voigt, who started a record 17-straight Tours. “That still leaves 160 guys out there, they are normal, and they can only win on non-mountain stages.”

Voigt, also now working for NBC, was a breakaway artist who won two individual Tour stages across his career. “I’d go with the breakaway where I know the chances are one to 10 that I don’t make it. But hey, one to 10 is much better than zero, right?”

“People like me, we never had easy days,” he adds. “Earlier in my career I was on a French team, and we never had a GC contender, so every time we would hit the mountains, the sport director would come into our team bus, and in a dramatic gesture he would just close the race book and go, ‘Boys, we are on holiday now. The next three days in the mountains in the Alps, we cannot win, we go on hibernation.’ Which is in a funny way actually stupid. It’s the fucking Tour de France, nobody can be on hibernation.”

Stress makes the Tour de France unique. No other cycling competition is as closely watched. At a lesser event, both Vande Velde and Voigt admit that they are more likely to let their minds wander, or talk to riders on others team who they haven’t seen in a long time. For Tour-focused riders like them, many events were considered warmups for the Grand Boucle. If inattention led to a mistake on the road, the consequences weren’t severe if they didn’t affect their ability to race in July.

Mistakes during the Tour could invalidate an entire year of targeted preparation, however. Not to mention put riders at risk.

“The biggest difference with the Tour is just that heightened sense, just the total stress on your adrenal system or your central nervous system when there’s always fans lining the road, there’s always people with airhorns and throwing water, or beer. Or selfie sticks now, and iPads in your face,” Vande Velde says. “There’s always that little bit of danger.”

Riders and teams focusing on the yellow jersey put a lot of work in during flat stages to make sure their team leader stays upright. Crashes often occur during the transfer-loaded first week of the Tour, when energy in the peloton is high and nerves are tight. No one wants to cede ground, and when wheels touch in a tightly-packed peloton, the domino effect takes over, sending dozens of riders to the ground.

The safest place to ride is the very front of the peloton — the fewer people in front of you, the better — but it is also the most difficult place to ride, unshielded from the wind. Riders at the back of the peloton, meanwhile, practically get pulled down the course in the large slipstream created by the mass of riders in front of them, but flirt recklessly with cycling’s rotten luck by doing so. In between both ends of the peloton, teams and riders are constantly maneuvering to find their preferred balance of workload and risk, or to put their stage win-contenders in positions to attack.

“For a spectator on TV, yes, you see, ‘Oh, they’re just riding along.’ But there’s still so much underneath the surface,” Voigt says. “Thrill, and tactics and smartness and cleverness going on.

“And games, right? You can have teams that help each other, and the next day they fight against each other. One day, Cav [Mark Cavendish, and [Marcel] Kittel, and [André] Greipel will work together, and the next day go, ‘No, I don’t talk to you, I have somebody in the breakaway, I’m not going to work today.’ And then the day after they need to work again together.”


Ryan Siu
Julian Alaphilippe getting ready to start Stage 4 of the 2019 Tour de France.

So much hyper-awareness takes a toll on riders after three weeks. Voigt, in particular, was good at maintaining positive thoughts — “You think about the last win you had, or you think about a stage you won last year, or you think about the family, the next children’s birthday coming up” — and a process he calls “erase and rewind.”

“I swear, not to save my life, an hour after the stage I couldn’t name the start or finish town,” he says. “I would go back into the team bus, have a cold drink, read my book, or play stupid games on my Game Boy or on my phone just to keep my mind occupied and away from cycling. And I would only look into the race book the next day before the stage to memorize where’s the sprint.”

Yet even the aura and pressure of the Tour de France can’t override the human instinct to look around when they have a moment’s respite. Vande Velde remembers the first time he saw Versailles.

“We were going like 65k an hour, and someone pointed it out to me. And that hit me, ‘Wow, holy shit, that’s amazing,’” Vande Velde says. “I think somebody almost went flying into the ditch. [Laughs]. And that’s the last time I ever looked at Versailles.”

Voigt remembers what might have been a hallucination of a death-defying maneuver by one of the Tour’s helicopter pilots.

“He actually did fly so low above the ground that he passed between the ground and 100,000 volts of electricity wires above him,” Voigt says. “And there’s not much space. These wires are high, yes, but a helicopter is a big machine.

“And I’m like, ‘Fuck, did only I see that, or did somebody else saw that?’ And I asked other people and nobody noticed.”

Stage 21 is the most famous of the Tour de France’s flat stages, a short, loosely-contested procession that takes several laps around the Champs-Elysées. On the final Sunday of the Tour, everybody but the sprinters takes their chance to say an overdue hello to the friends on other teams they’ve been unable to acknowledge for weeks. Only then do riders fully take stock of where they are.

“When you see the Eiffel Tower for the first time, when you see the Arc de Triomphe for the first time,” Vande Velde says, “people never forget that.”


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Megan Rapinoe, Mark Ronson, Chill Moose, Sam Smith, Scruff and Jack’d, Northern Ireland: HOT LINKS

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TIGER MANDINGO. College wrestler Michael Johnson, sentenced to 60 years in prison for failing to disclose HIV to his partners, is out of jail 25 years early.

NYC. Megan Rapinoe posters vandalized in subway in possible hate crime. ‘A homophobe defaced posters showing members of the US soccer team — which has five out LGBTQ players — with anti-gay slurs at the 42nd Street–Bryant Park/ Fifth Avenue subway station on the afternoon of July 8 — one day after the team won the World Cup. According to MTA and NYPD spokespersons, graffiti with “various derogatory anti-sexual orientation comments” was spotted on eight posters across the station at around 1:40 p.m. and police officers were notified.’

CASHLEY BELEVINO. Cara Delevingne and Ashley Benson might be engaged.

NORTHERN IRELAND. British Parliament approves plan to compel government to legalize same-sex marriage and extend abortion rights. “The changes passed with a large majority in parliament in London on Tuesday and turned a routine, technical piece of legislation into a vehicle that could enact major social reforms in Northern Ireland.”

MATT BOMER. My 14-year-old son came out as straight.

GAY FOOTBALLER. The allegedly gay pro footballer has been corresponding with sports broadcaster ​Jim White.

SANTA ANA. 40-year-old man faces hate crime charges for threatening gay roommates: “On July 4, Rodriguez grew angry when he wrongly believed one of his roommates was using the bathroom, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. He pounded on the door of the bathroom with an 8- to 9-inch silver blade knife with a brown handle, making anti-gay slurs and threatening to kill his roommates, Bertagna said. At some point he pulled out a handgun and pointed it at one or two of the victims while making more homophobic remarks and threatening to kill both of them, Bertagna said.”

ACQUISITIONS. Scruff acquires Jack’d: “Scruff, a privately held dating app that caters to gay and bisexual men, bought Jack’d for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition comes as Jack’d attempts to move past a privacy scandal and reassure users that their intimate communications remain unseen by prying eyes. “

WIMBLEDON WATCHERS. Meghan Markle is causing a stir at the British tennis tourney.

CHILL MOOSE OF THE DAY. “Alaska is dealing with a record heat wave right now and everyone is doing what they can to stay cool. Even the wildlife. This moose was just chilling under a sprinkler after sprinkler hopping from yard to yard before finally settling down for a good soak. High temperatures will continue to take a run at 90 degrees. Normal temps this time of a year in anchorage are in the mid 60’s.”

HOW DO YOU SLEEP? Sam Smith announces new single.

View this post on Instagram

HOW DO YOU SLEEP? July 19th

A post shared by Sam Smith (@samsmith) on

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark Ronson and Camilo Cabello “Find U Again”.

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY 2. Nightlightr “Fishing”.

HUMP DAY HOTTIE. Naor Yazdan.

The post Megan Rapinoe, Mark Ronson, Chill Moose, Sam Smith, Scruff and Jack’d, Northern Ireland: HOT LINKS appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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Meet the only player picked in the 2019 NFL Supplemental Draft

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Jalen Thompson of Washington State got scooped up by the Cardinals with a fifth-round pick.

Wedged between minicamp and training camp, in the slowest time of the NFL’s yearlong calendar, is the supplemental draft.

Last season, two players were taken in the league’s special summertime exemption draft. This year, it was just one player. The Arizona Cardinals spent a fifth-round pick to add Washington State safety Jalen Thompson.

If Thompson doesn’t do much as a rookie, that’d be par for the course.

In 2018, the New York Giants used a third-round pick to take cornerback Sam Beal. He missed last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Still, the Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman are high on Beal.

“For what it’s worth, we really feel strongly that if Sam were in this draft he’d be a second-round pick,” Gettleman said at this year’s NFL Combine.

The other player taken last year was cornerback Adonis Alexander, whom Washington used a sixth-round pick on. He played sparingly in nine games last season and had just four tackles.

The other four players who entered the 2019 supplemental draft — Northland Community College tight end Devonaire Clarington, Syracuse linebacker Shyhem Cullen, Saint Francis defensive back Bryant Perry, and West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms — became free agents.

How does the NFL Supplemental Draft work?

The order for the supplemental draft is split into three tiers. The first tier consists of teams with six wins or less in the previous season. The second tier is the remainder of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs. The final tier is for playoff teams. A random draw orders each tier.

The full order this year is as follows:

If a team wants a player, it places a bid in a corresponding round. If two or more teams place the same round bid on a player, the pick is awarded to whichever team is highest in the order.

If a player is awarded to a team, the team gives up the corresponding round pick in the next year’s draft. A team can’t bid a pick in a round that they don’t own. For instance, the Bears can’t bid a first-round pick on a player in the supplemental draft because it was traded to the Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack deal.

The Cardinals’ decision to spend a fifth-round pick to acquire Thompson means they’ll be without a pick in the fifth round in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Players can only enter the supplemental draft if their eligibility has changed since the NFL draft in the spring. Those players also have to be approved by the NFL.

Here’s what you need to know about Thompson and the best of the free agent class, Marcus Simms:

Jalen Thompson, S, Washington State

Thompson considered entering the 2019 draft, but chose to return to Washington State for his senior season. He started three seasons for the Cougars, earning freshman All-American honors in 2016. He was a second-team all-conference player as a sophomore, and earned honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 team last season.

Over three seasons and 39 starts, he had 191 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions and 23 passes defended. He was expected to be Washington State’s best player on defense this season. However, he was forced to enter the supplemental draft after testing positive for a banned substance.

Thompson’s athleticism, experience and versatility was enough to convince the Cardinals to take a chance on him late in the supplemental draft.

At Washington State, Thompson moved around as a safety, and would often come down into the slot to cover a wide receiver or tight end. In that role, he excelled.

Thompson is quick to react to make a play on the ball and rarely finds himself out of position in coverage. He has speed to break on the ball quickly and chase down after the catch. He’s solid as a tackler, but won’t ever be known as a big hitter. Sometimes he’ll try to lay a hit, and whiff on the tackle. At a listed 6’0 and 195 pounds, Thompson is a little bit on the smaller side.

Thompson’s appeal for the Cardinals was as a coverage safety who can be relied on in man coverage. He’s not bad against the run, but not a star two-way safety like Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles, for instance.

Marcus Simms, WR, West Virginia

On a pass-happy West Virginia team, Simms was often the third option after Gary Jennings and David Sills. Over three seasons with the Mountaineers, he had 87 receptions for 1,457 yards and eight touchdowns.

After West Virginia hired Neal Brown as head coach this offseason, Simms attempted to transfer. Instead, he found himself in the supplemental draft. While he didn’t get picked Wednesday, he didn’t take long to land with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Simms’ speed is what stands out the most about his game. He can get out over the top, and uses his quickness to beat the press. He’s good at tracking the ball and has some wiggle after the catch.

What likely held Simms back from getting picked is the lack of routes he was asked to run at West Virginia. After missing rookie camp and minicamp, Simms will have to catch up in a hurry in the NFL. Simms also enters the NFL with some character dings.

He was charged with two DUIs early in his college career, and admitted to marijuana use. Those negatives can give teams pause about a player in the supplemental draft. Still, the Jaguars will willing to take a chance on Simms as a free agent because he’s so naturally talented.


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Colorado’s most antigay Republican senator just got an openly gay Democratic challenger

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Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is up for reelection in 2020 and Dan Baer, an openly gay Democrat and former U.S. Ambassador under President Barack Obama, hopes to unseat him.

Baer, who just received the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, pulled in a jaw-dropping $1.35 million in fundraising dollars last quarter. It’s the largest ever initial fundraising total for an openly LGBTQ congressional candidate.

This no doubt has Gardner more than a little unnerved.

44-year-old Gardner has a long history of supporting antigay policies. Not only does he oppose same-sex marriage, but in 2015, he voted against giving same-sex partners access to the Social Security and veterans benefits earned by their spouses, and in 2007, he voted against a bill to allow same-sex couples in Colorado to adopt children.

In addition to that, Gardner has voted to confirm nearly all of Trump’s judicial picks, even the ones with vehemently anti-LGBTQ records, and he declined to co-sponsor any pro-LGBTQ bills, like the Equality Act.

He currently scores 12 on the HRC’s Congressional Scorecard, down from 16 the previous year. In contrast, he has a perfect score of 100 percent with the antigay hate group The Family Research Council.

Despite all this, Gardner still likes to bill himself as a “pro-LGBTQ Republican” by appearing at fundraisers hosted by the conservative LGBTQ rights group American Unity Fund and having his press secretary tell reporters he’s “a strong supporter of marriage equality” while he simultaneously tells the same reporter that “marriage should only be between a man and a woman” and “my views on marriage have long been clear.”

Seriously, the dude’s a mess.

If elected, Baer would become the first openly gay man in the U.S. Senate and the third openly LGBTQ person to serve in the chamber.


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EXCLUSIVE: How one Oklahoma church decided to push back against Christian homophobes

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The countdown to the July 12 release of American Heretics continues, and we just scored an exclusive clip.

The new documentary film by directors Jeanine and Catherine Butler follows a group of ministers in rural Oklahoma working to kill the notion of the Republican Party as the “Christian” party. The movie focuses on several Oklahoma churches, including the Mayflower Church which started performing same-sex marriages long before they became legal in the state. Doing so sent a message of the church as a place of inclusion and love, rather than one of judgment. Much to the delight of the leadership, the church actually underwent a significant expansion as a result.

Related: EXCLUSIVE: See what Christian love really looks like

In an era of polarization, bigotry and corruption brought on by the Trump Administration, American Heretics aims to take Christianity back from the forces of hate, and make America love again.

American Heretics opens in theaters July 12.

Watch:


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Trump fans just can’t win with the USA’s World Cup champions

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Fresh of her win at the Women’s World Cup and the newfound megastardom that followed, out-lesbian soccer player Megan Rapinoe has slammed Donald Trump for his administration’s treatment of queer people.

Rapinoe appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 to discuss her big win at the World Cup, and to address the already brewing controversy over her taking a knee during the National Anthem. She had previously said she would kneel as a sign of solidarity with football player Colin Kaepernick, who knelt to protest the treatment of people of color by police.

Related: Trump fans adopted soccer star Kelley O’Hara as their hero. Then they watched this kiss.

Cooper offered Rapinoe a moment to address Trump directly. “Your message is excluding people,” she said. “You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me. You’re excluding people of color. You’re excluding Americans that maybe support you. I think that we need to have a reckoning with the message that you have and what you’re saying about Make America Great Again. I think that you’re harkening back to an era that was not great for everyone. It might have been great for a few people and maybe America’s great for a few people right now but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world, and … you have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person and you need to do better for everyone.”

She also defended her choice to protest during the National Anthem. “I think that taking care of others, standing up for yourself and other people if they don’t have the ability to do so, is very uniquely American. I think everyone in America would say that and I think we have a rich history and a pride in saying that in those words and often times in doing that in the world. I don’t think anybody can deny the horrors of racism and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and what’s happening on the southern border and gay rights and women’s rights. A lot of the people that disagree with me would benefit greatly from a world that is better for everyone…Protest is not comfortable, ever.”


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We visited the set of ‘Pose,’ the show that might just save the world

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POSE — CR: Jeffrey Neira/FX

On a misty New York City morning, a party bus drove a gaggle of entertainment writers to a remote area of the Bronx where a pair of soundstages keep creative vigil amid the industrial sprawl of warehouses, plants, and factories. Ryan Murphy had extended a special invitation to us to visit the set of Pose.

We knew we’d found the right place by the few cast members dressed in their colored costumes standing outside for a break—much like the soundstages, a splash of color in an area teeming with gray. None of us there that day quite knew what to expect from our visit, or just how profound the conversations of the day would dive.

Inside a barren and chilly stage, a sampling of some of the series’ most iconic costumes greeted us in silence. We had just enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee and examine some of the fabulous looks: a pink evening gown worn by Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), a yellow taxi sweater sported by Pray Tell (Billy Porter) and a hot pink ballgown featuring a moving carousel in place of a hoop skirt. The production team had also set up a faux judges’ table, complete with sparkling background, to help exhibit the looks.

After just a few minutes admiring the costumes, we looked up to see co-creator Steven Canals enter the room in a purple suit, flanked on either side by two of the series’ head writers, Our Lady J, and Janet Mock.

“I’m forever indebted to Ryan for putting his power behind this show,” Canals says. We settle in around a circular folding table draped in a black tablecloth set up for us by the crew. “The initial kernel of an idea came to me in 2004 as an undergrad. I wrote that first draft 10 years later working on an MFA in screenwriting at UCLA. I spent two years pitching it in and out of offices and being told ‘No.’ Initially, with very coded language—’It’s too urban, too niche’—to ‘Who will play these characters?’ to ‘It’s too black. It’s too brown.’ It was a show Hollywood didn’t want to make.”

Pose features one of the most ethnically diverse casts on television, and features storylines plucked from queer history. The drag ball scene of the 1980s spawned documentaries like Paris is Burning and Madonna’s song “Vogue,” but somehow the essence of the balls—which attracted an almost all-queer, non-white following, especially among transgender folk—had gone mostly overlooked by the Hollywood mainstream. That was until Pose came along, featuring one of the largest casts of transgender performers, writers and directors ever assembled.

Related: ‘Pose’ Season 2 just dropped a new teaser and we can hardly wait

“Ryan, at his core, believes in equality and equity,” Canals explains. “He said, ‘This show is going to be made.’ A show like Pose required a disrupter. And that’s what Ryan is. He likes to shake sh*t up.”

We point out to Canals that the show has already changed television and offered queer people a whole new kind of media representation, and new stories of their cultural and political heritage. “I’m trying hard to ensure, at least in my own voice and advocacy, an environment in Hollywood that is more inclusive of marginalized groups,” he says. “I think we’re getting there.”

A noble sentiment, to be sure, but of course Hollywood still has a long way to go. Pose can’t do it alone.

“For me, what’s been the most rewarding, and the most healing is that I’m able to help create reflections and images that I never had,” says Janet Mock, coming over to join us.

The longtime author and transgender rights advocate has played a crucial role in the creation of Pose, joining the writing staff, producing the show, and even wading into directing. In the first season, she accomplished a landmark breakthrough, becoming the first transgender woman of color to write and direct a television series.

“For me,” Mock adds, “the most rewarding part of directing and writing is being able to be the first person on the call sheet next to MJ Rodriguez, our number one. That’s rare. I can bring the voices of all the women I grew up with and all the women I saw in Paris is Burning, I can bring their lived experiences to the screen.”

We try to press the team for a few details on the plot of the upcoming season. They giggle with Mona Lisa smiles, unwilling to give much away.

“This season we delve even further into having HIV/AIDS. We dive deep into AIDS activism,” Mock offers.

“The first moment is when ‘Vogue’ comes out,” Our Lady J elaborates. She wears a white silk dress, with her red curls piled up on her head, looking a bit like the goddess Athena. “I’m excited for the viewers to learn about the activism at the time. So much is so dark right now, and so difficult for so many people. Something that happened in the generations that came before us, especially in the LGBTQ community, was they really used their anger to move and bring about change. So I hope people can see how they can be agents of their own change, how they can use a difficult and hostile environment to inspire that anger.”

As the three sat and chatted with us, another discreet figure entered the room, dressed in a ski jacket and beanie stocking cap.

Ryan Murphy walks over to join us, having come directly from shooting a key ballroom scene.

“Tell them I need 10 minutes,” Murphy says to a nearby PA. We press him for plot details, which he refuses to disclose. When it comes to an overall outlook for the season, Murphy opens up considerably more.

“This show, more than any other I’ve ever done, has a beginning, a middle, and an end,” Murphy says, sounding almost philosophical. “I always wanted to show the end around 1995-96 because that’s the year the HIV medications came out and stopped the plague. I wanted to do a story about a community under siege, and how do you find hope and joy when everyone you know is dying.”

Now 53, Murphy remembers the promise of queer liberation in the 1970s and the subsequent setbacks of the AIDS crisis from first-hand experience. We ask him that eyewitness memory helped inspire Pose. He sits quiet a moment, deeply considering the question.

“In 1988-89-90, I was really just coming of age,” Murphy explains. “I remember every time I went to do an HIV test, I would say ‘God, if I can just live, I’ll do whatever it takes.’ I would make this bargain that every time I would go and get a test I would do another year of services at an HIV anonymous call center. So I did that for a long time. I would take the calls from people who were contemplating suicide, or they were being shunned, or they were afraid of telling their parents. It was very dark and very upsetting. I guess I’ve been reliving that experience.”

“I remember the culture of that time: the late ’80s people were just shocked,” Murphy recalls. “The early ’90s, I was involved in protest groups. I remember people getting really, really, really mad. I remember just feeling like if we could just hold on, something good would happen. And it took six years for those drugs to become available. And I remember all that devastation. All that loss. All that sadness. And I was a person of privilege, make no mistake. I was living in Washington, DC and Miami and then I moved to LA. But I was in it. I was putting a lot of those feelings in. And I lost a lot of friends. So I’m writing about that feeling. It was dark and bleak and upsetting…but oddly hopeful. We had fun and we celebrated and we memorialized.”

“I want to keep the memory alive,” he declares, adding to his previous thought. “It was really important to me.”

Murphy springs up from his seat, tossing his coffee cup in a nearby trashcan. “Are you coming to watch?” he asks, moving toward the soundstage door.

Production coordinators escort us to an adjacent stage, between other sets still under construction and to a very familiar back staircase. We climb the steps to the second floor and find ourselves looking down over the light rail on the main ballroom set. Background extras clad in drag, mesh tank tops and tight shorts mull about waiting for the scene to begin. Down below on the main dance floor, dancers warm up with a few voguing moves and some breakdancing steps. We can see most of the main cast there as well—Dominique Jackson, MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross and Billy Porter all stand around waiting for cameras to roll. Well, all but Jackson anyway, who, we’re told, sprained her ankle shooting an earlier scene in heels. She gets to sit for the day to hide her brace.

Ryan Murphy re-enters the set, shedding his jacket under the hot studio lights. He gives some direction to Ross and Porter as well as the main cameraman to prep the scene. Meanwhile, the production coordinators instruct we the media to stay a few steps back behind the balcony edge, so as not to look out of place should a camera catch us while rolling. A few moments pass, then the magic happens. Cameras start rolling, the cast takes positions, and Murphy calls “Action!”

We watch the scene unfold over about a 30 minute period. In it, Candy (Ross) confronts Pray Tell (Porter) in a heated argument. Murphy has the actors perform about four takes of the scene, stopping to give them more instruction each time.

We stand mesmerized by the action, even getting into the scene a bit ourselves, hooting and snapping with the extras. Eventually, the production pauses to move to a new camera set-up, and a PA comes to escort us off the stage. Production designer Jamie Walker McCall greets us, leading us on a tour of the remaining sets. We get a chance to walk around the House of Evangelista apartment, examining the detail and decoration, and discover the “secret passages” where production can open the walls to allow for camera setups. We also walk through the Hellfire Club, a sex dungeon set which features prominently in the news season. McCall shows a special pride in the Hellfire set, which her team has decorated with various sex toys and intricate furniture.

Back on the vacant soundstage, most of the main cast enters to introduce themselves: MJ Rodriguez (Blanca), Indya Moore (Angel), Dominique Jackson (Electra), Hailie Sahar (Lulu), Ryan Jamal Swain (Damon), Dyllón Burnside (Ricky) and Angel Bismark Curiel (Lil Papi) all greet us, still dressed in their costumes of the day.

Rodriguez sits down next to us. Of course, we probe her for some tidbits about the new season as well, but just like everybody else, she stays mum. One thing she does bring up, however: her own experience with the AIDS crisis, how it affects her performance, and how it figures into the authenticity of the series.

“Unfortunately and fortunately—it’s kind of both—I have had people [affected by the AIDS crisis] in my life,” Rodriguez admits. “My mother had people like that in her life. People who just left. Her closest friend who she was raised in kindergarten with until the time she was 27 years old, he died of HIV. [My mom, who worked in a hospital] found out about her diagnosis when she saw that he was on her floor. It’s insane. It’s moments like that where you realize that this is going on. She said she saw people she never would expect come in one day and leave the next completely different.”

“I grasp on that,” she punctuates. “I did my research.”

“The show means life to me,” Sahar adds, almost glowing. “I’ve lost friends to HIV and things of that nature, so having an opportunity to be part of something like this is life to me. It’s my life. I get to portray my experience on camera, and hopefully touching other young people out there.”

“I came from the ballroom culture,” she continues. “I discovered it when I was underage. I was homeless at the time. I didn’t think I had the support system that I do. I relied a lot on friends who have passed on, but I cherish those moments. I look back on it now and I think had I not had that sense of family, who’s to say I would be here? Family is who you love, and who loves you. It’s not about who’s in your bloodline. And I’ve grown to really appreciate that and understand that and honor that.”

Across the table, Indya Moore gives in a warm laugh. She grins a radiant smile at Sahar.

“I relate to Miss Hailie’s story,” Moore declares. “I think what contributed to my homelessness and what contributed to my foster care was my family, by religious law or ideal or belief, they misconceputalized the way I experienced my gender, or my identity, or who I was. And I got my ass beat. We all got our ass beat, know what I’m saying? I got beat real bad, and I ended up in foster care.”

POSE — “Worth It” — Season 2, Episode 2 (Airs Tues, June 18, 10:00 p.m. e/p) Pictured (l-r): Mj Rodriguez as Blanca . CR: Macall Polay/FX

We realize we’re all holding our breath as we listen to Moore’s story. “All my siblings, we all got our ass beat,” Moore explains. “But my beatings were unique because it wasn’t just about stealing or lying or talking back. It was, ‘Stop standing with your hand on your hip.’ It was behavior. This is a lot of our families, you know, religious families with gay kids. A lot of this is indoctrinated in belief systems that are generational. So I ended up in foster care. Chosen family, navigating finding that was really tough because I moved from foster home to foster home a lot. I wanted to have a stable component of chosen family. For those of us who were lucky enough to find a space or a group of people that were actually there for one another no matter what, that helped me to survive.”

“Have you forgiven them?” we ask her.

“Absolutely,” Moore says without hesitation. “I mean, it’s a generational issue. My family had to forgive their family too. I think their intentions…you know, we mean well but we still cause harm. My family did intend to protect me. They loved me very much, and that’s why I ended up in the position that I did. I don’ t think it’s necessarily their fault because they thought that they were being spiritually righteous. They wanted me to have access to God. They thought that queer behavior would block me from having access to God. That was the brunt of the issue. I love my family. I know they love me. I totally forgive them.”

“The one thing I want people to understand,” Dominique Jackson chimes in, “is that we’re human beings. Some of the reactions I’ve seen that have been the most prominent have been, ‘Oh my God, I did not know that you guys went through this also.’ We have this thing in society where we suffer in silence and don’t speak out. It’s not just about Pose. We’re in an era right now where everyone is starting to come forward and say, ‘I matter. My life matters.’ It’s high time we started to remove ourselves from taught toxicity where women believe they are subservient and men believe that they are the ones in power, and trans people believe the only thing they can do is sex work. We have a lot of these myths to debunk.”

POSE — “Acting Up” — Season 2, Episode 1 (Airs Tues, June 11, 10:00 p.m. e/p) Pictured: Dominique Jackson as Elektra. CR: Macall Polay/FX

“Everyone’s been hurt,” Sahar observes. “Everyone’s longed for something. Everyone’s cried about something. Everyone’s longed for family and friendship and love. The subject matter might be different, but the human characteristics this show portrays humanize everyone and bring everyone together. That’s what the ultimate goal is. We’re all here on this planet. We were all children at one point. We all used to play together. We didn’t see color. We didn’t see gender. We just saw friends. I think that’s what the show does.” She shrugs. “Hurt people hurt people. Even someone like Donald Trump—everyone was a child at some point. Somewhere along the way, people get hurt, and they end up hurting people. But I still believe light can cast out darkness. Anything is possible. I’m sitting here today. Anything is possible.”

We ask Sahar about the gratitude she feels, having come so far in her life.

“It makes me cry. It’s that thing where you just look at your life full circle in a sense. And everything makes sense now. I realize now why I went through those hard times, particularly. Those times where I had nowhere to live, nothing to eat. They make sense now because the universe and God knew that I would be able to come full circle and be able to portray that on camera and be authentic in it. I cry because I’ve lived it, and I’m portraying it, and I know there are other people that are going to be blessed by that. I cry because I can’t believe it. I’m sitting here with you guys and I can’t believe it.”

“After we started this show,” she goes on, “I was sitting one day and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.’ I knew that this was a great opportunity. I knew that this was a blessing. But it wasn’t until my supporters…”

She freezes, suddenly choked up. She reaches out her hand as if offering an apology. We give it a gentle squeeze.

“It wasn’t until they reached out to me and started telling me that they had a reason to live, and they had hope,” Sahar says, regaining her composure. “Once that clicked, and I said, ‘This is really, really saving lives,’ not just changing the industry. This is changing the world. And I’m part of it. It’s a blessing.”

A production coordinator walks onto the stage, calling the actors to the set. We thank them for chatting with us and watch as they stride off the soundstage. Moore lingers a moment, stopping to admire the costumes on display. Suddenly, she jumps up on the table.

“Baby come here, let’s take a picture!” she says, motioning to us. Who were we to argue?

By that time, the hour had grown late, though the day did hold one last surprise. No sooner had Moore and the rest of the cast left than two more familiar faces entered the room.

Angelica Ross and Billy Porter, both still in costume and giggling like longtime friends, join us at the table. Ross shares a story about their relationship.

“I was in middle school, and they were doing a production of Grease,” she recalls. “And they thought they were being progressive by doing blind casting. They cast me as teen angel, but they only got that idea because they saw someone on Broadway—a black person in a wild outfit and hair—and they showed this to me. This was a while ago. And I became a ham in that role. I never knew until we were in a different interview and Billy was talking about that role. I was like, ‘That was you!’ It was a full 360. Those people you inspire or those people who are signposts on your journey.”

“I’m old enough to be a signpost,” Porter quips, triggering laughter in the room.

We ask about the response the show has received, especially for its portrayal of transgender characters.

“For people who don’t know us, for people who don’t know trans people, who don’t know the community, sometimes the perspective or story they get is all gloom and doom,” Ross says.” We’re talking about homelessness. We’re talking about unemployment. We’re talking about murder of transwomen which isn’t stopping anytime soon. There was another one just a few weeks ago. There was the murder of a trans woman, Ashanti Carmen, and nobody’s talking about it. What’s really important for people to understand—and this is something Pose does beautifully—the life of trans people of color, and LGBTQ people of color, may be filled with a lot of challenges. It may be one out on the street. Sometimes it may even be lonely. We have learned how to make beauty out of the challenging spaces, out of our lives. That’s what Pose does. We wipe our eyes, and we go out on the floor.”

“I was watching Oprah as I am want to do,” Porter interjects. “It was before I could afford therapy, and it was like, ‘Oh wait, she’s saying something I need to hear.’ And she and Maya Angelou and I think Iyala Vanzant were talking about service. When your intention is service, everything else will work itself out. And here I am in show business and I’m like, ‘OK, how can I be of services to something other than my own ego and bank account in a business that is inherently narcissistic?’ It’s like you need some version of ego just to survive. How does that happen? And the ton of bricks hit me. ‘Oh right. Everyone is trying to tell me that I can’t do anything unless I act like a straight man.’”

Porter shakes his head. “And by ‘straight man,’” he continues, voice rising, “it means their version of what a straight man should be. Their version of performed masculinity. Black masculinity. Toxic masculinity put on me. It’s actually not about masculinity. It’s about, ‘We know you’re gay, so you’ll never be allowed to live up to our version of masculinity.’ From the minute that I could comprehend thought, my masculinity was in question. It wasn’t until that moment 20 years ago I realized I don’t need to be fixed. I’m fine just the way I am.”

We ask why queer authenticity frightens so many people—something the show dealt with in its first season.

POSE — CR: Jeffrey Neira/FX

“I don’t know,” Porter confesses. “I really don’t know.” He recalls the reaction to his wearing a dress to the Oscars this year. “It was all about my attack on masculinity. ‘It’s an attack on masculinity’—Tomi Lahren. Or from the black community—it’s like I have some agenda. I don’t understand why it matters.”

“I’m a work in progress,” Porter admits, tone grave. “I’m so enraged about everything that’s going on in the world right now. I’m trying to find some grace. I don’t have grace right now. When we’re sitting in a cesspool of corruption, talking about it. We’re sitting around round tables for years talking about whether or not this motherf*cker is a liar or a racist or a cheater. Who doesn’t have to show up for a subpoena? Where’s the ‘lock him up?’ I don’t know what’s going on, so I don’t have the grace to talk about it without it sounding full of venom.”

Angelica sighs, nodding in agreement with his rage.

“We have something called ‘pay it;’ it’s an old African trans proverb,” she explains. “Pay it. It just means, girl, whatever the price is for this experience, pay it. It is what it is. That’s another African trans proverb: ‘it is what it is.’”

We about having Murphy, a white man, as producer for a show centered around a community of people of color? Is that cultural appropriation?

“The black people wouldn’t do it,” Porter booms.

“Right,” Ross says. “Period.”

“The white man showed up when the black people would never look at it!” Porter exclaims.

“And who’s going to call that out?” Ross queries. “Us! Because we’re black. Because we can. We hold both of those things. As black, queer, LGBTQ people, we can wrap this all up. We have a calling right now to get our folks together.”

“He’s the one that showed up, and look at how he did it,” Porter insists. “Look at how he did it.”

“Consulting from every angle,” Ross agrees. “My make up artist is trans.”

“Every piece of his money goes to organizations,” Porter says with gusto. “He ain’t making no money from this. Let’s talk about that. There’s a right way to be an ally.”

“I’m so thankful,” Porter muses, “that not only am I a part of the generation that kicked the door down. I have lived long enough and been blessed enough to walk through that process.”

Across the room, a production coordinator appears.

“We gotta run,” Ross laments. We thank her and Porter for chatting with us and giving us so much to think about.

As we pack our notebooks and recorders to head back to the bus, the PR team appears to present us with a trophy, made to look like one from the show with the date engraved across the bottom. We stop and look at it a moment, exhilarated by the day. We realize that Pose has already changed the lives of everyone involved with it, not to mention millions of viewers around the world who are finally learning about a vital bit of queer history, and who might see themselves on screen for the first time.

And we feel changed too, hearing the words of love and gratitude embodied by the show echoed in the words of the creative team. In a time of toxicity, a show about perseverance, community, authenticity and love might just offer the right antidote.

Halie Sahar put it most succinctly:

“Love is pure, love is kind, love is understanding. Love is simple. Love is family.”


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Major League Baseball managers wearing uniforms is the weirdest thing in sports we’ve accepted as normal

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Time to switch it up, y’all.

Major League Baseball managers are the only coaches in professional sports who suit up in uniform like players do. This never bothered me until I saw an Instagram of Braves manager Brian Snitker with some of his all-stars.

It was this Instagram (second photo) that gave me pause:

There’s nothing out of the ordinary with Snit here. For whatever reason, this wave of realization just happened to come over me. “Why on Earth is the coach dressed up like the players?”

It’s not like Snit is going to replace Brian McCann behind the plate to defend the integrity of the game, or play outfield for an evening so Ronald Acuña Jr. can catch a breather while the Braves roll over the Marlins yet again. He certainly isn’t throwing gas on the mound.

Managers dressing like they’re ready to call their own number at any given moment is the weirdest thing in sports that we as a society have decided is totally normal.

The historical answer as to why was answered by CNN’s Bob Greene in 2011, thanks to the official historian of Major League Baseball John Thorn:

He said that in the earliest years of the game in the 19th Century, “The person who was called the manager of a team was the business manager — he was the person who made sure that the receipts were paid and that the train schedules were met. He didn’t make any decisions about what went on during a game.

”The person who did that was called the captain. He did what a manager does today, but he also played. So at first, the person we would today call a manager wore a uniform because he was a participant in the game.”

This trend continued through the 20th Century, despite others like Connie Mack, who didn’t dress like players. However, they wore entire suits, which was almost as weird (though seems much more appropriate for it being many, many years ago).

Connie Mack Earnshaw Haas 1928
Connie Mack and some guys

Let’s take the same idea of wearing a full game uniform and apply it to the NFL. How weird would it be to see guys like Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, Bruce Arians, or other NFL head coaches in full pads and a helmet on the sideline? The NBA is just as funny to think about, if not worse. Do you want to see Gregg Popovich, John Beilein, Rick Carlisle or any other NBA head coach in game shorts and a jersey?

Baseball traditionalists who are still reading and aren’t already in my Twitter mentions probably want to know: “OK, guy, how should managers dress then?”

There’s a simple balance between Supporting The Team, and dressing like you’re ready to come in the game. Wearing a suit like an NBA coach isn’t the answer — I cannot emphasize enough how weird that would be in a baseball dugout, and how easily a suit would be ruined. Plus, managers would just look out of place. Save that drip for elsewhere.

Of the most recent Major League Baseball managers, Mike Scioscia was the closest to having it right. Wear some kind of team-issued gear up top so wearing actual uniform pants seems a bit more normal:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Arizona Diamondbacks
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Style king, kind of lol

Did he have a jersey under there? Maybe, but we also couldn’t see it.

Otherwise, find a way to wear some team-issued gear from head to toe that isn’t a game uniform. NFL coaches pretty much have this right, even though they also used to wear suits (remember when Mike Nolan tried to bring it back?). They look like they are a part of the team, but Bill Belichick doesn’t look like the backup long snapper.

Despite baseball managers suiting up in full uniform, this probably won’t change. Baseball is a game where, for most, “tradition” matters more than trying to change or improve the game. That’s why batters are still being beaned over bat flips and fragile feelings from the mound.

Managers dressing up like players isn’t the end of the world.

But it’s still really weird.


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Noah Schnapp Speaks Out Over Speculation That His ‘Stranger Things’ Character Will Byers is Gay

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Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp is speaking out about his character Will Byers’s sexual orientation after a line of dialogue in Season 3 suggested Will might be gay.

“It’s not my fault you don’t like girls,” says Finn Wolfhard’s character Mike to Schnapp’s Will in Episode 3, after the friends have spent a game of D&D talking about break-ups.

Said Schnapp to The Wrap: “It’s really up to interpretation. While all the characters were out developing and growing up, Will was in the Upside Down and he was alone there, not interacting with or connected to his friends or the rest of the world. And when he got back, he expected everything to just go back to how it was before, how it was when he was normal and when he was a kid and he wanted to go back to the basement and play D&D. … You see in Episode 3, he just wants to play D&D in the basement, and now all of his friends have girlfriends and they are dating. And it’s kind of, when you hear Mike say that line, it’s really up to the audience to interpret it.”

Speculation about Will’s sexuality has been going on since 2016. Said Schnapp at the time: “I’m only 12 but I do know we all relate to being different. And that’s why I think the Duffers wrote the show the way they did. So you can ask all these questions. I hope the real answer never comes out!”

The post Noah Schnapp Speaks Out Over Speculation That His ‘Stranger Things’ Character Will Byers is Gay appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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My bests and worsts about living in France during the World Cup

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On the one hand, there’s the smoking. On the other, there’s the time spent with amazing people.

I spent 34 days in France, long enough to start to feel almost settled there. I took the Paris Metro every day, went shopping for groceries, hung up my washing to dry, made friends with the neighborhood cats. Then, suddenly, the World Cup was over and I was sprinting through Charles de Gaulle with my carry-ons; three in-flight movies later, I was in Boston.

I started the day in Paris and ended it sleeping in my own bed after spending the evening trying to bribe my cat with treats to love me again despite having been away for five weeks.

A lot can happen in 34 days. It’s enough time, in my opinion, to experience a decent cross-sample of daily life, at least in Paris. When you spend long enough in one place, the vacation shine wears off; you start to notice the bad jostling for space with the good, which is normal and healthy.

With that bad vs. good dichotomy in mind, I drew up a list of the best and worst personal experiences I had in France while covering the World Cup.

Worst of

Casual racism

I wrote about this already; unfortunately, another notable encounter occurred in Lyon when I dropped off my laptop to get fixed. “What’s the name, Ling, Ting?” the repair guy asked. I needed him to fix my computer, so I just ignored it and paid the deposit. The racism directed toward me in France seemed to take on a different flavor from what I get in the United States — both suck, but in France it felt far more casual, tossed out almost offhandedly — and was rooted in a different historical context compared to what I experience stateside. That’s to be expected, as the US and France have different ways of viewing Asian immigrants. Didn’t make it any less uncomfortable, though.

The smoking

It’s everywhere and if you have allergies, it really, really sucks.

The one night in Lyon where I got eaten alive by mosquitoes

The French heat wave, la canicule, dropped on us like a ton of really hot bricks. The French are used to a climate where it cools off nicely during the night, but la canicule meant even with the windows open and fans blasting at max, you were baking all night long. The French also don’t typically use screens on their windows, so when I went out to the slightly cooler living room of my Airbnb to try and at least get a few hours of sleep, I turned into a delicious mosquito buffet.

Getting got by Parc des Princes because I tripped up the steps

I was so careful at Parc des Princes precisely because of the uneven steps, yet at my last game there I still tripped going up and scraped my leg in such a manner that caused it to sluggishly ooze blood.

Men throwing tanties in the press areas

I was not impressed with a number of the male media members I saw having loud public arguments in the media zones, especially as it was to the detriment of everyone around them who was trying to work.

Best of

Learning that you have to have photo ID for metro passes

In Amelie, [spoiler alert] one of the characters is obsessed with the mystery of a man who makes use of the photo booths at metro stations and always immediately throws the photos away. For me, the sticking point was why there were photo booths at so many subway stations, but finding out you need to have a head shot in order to get a subway pass suddenly made Amelie make a lot more sense. Also, my Navigo pass head shots turned out pretty well, since I was having a good hair day.

The food, the food, the food

I’m seriously going to miss waking up to my one-euro espresso every morning and sauntering down to the local boulangerie for fresh croissants. While away, I definitely missed Dunkin’ because I’m a simple northeasterner, but I don’t like Dunkin’ because it’s good; I specifically like it because it’s trash. I think I finally understood what coffee snobs are talking about while sitting in a little cafe in the 6th arrondissement, sipping my espresso and tasting all its flavor notes.

Scooter gang adventures

The hotel the USWNT stayed in before their semifinal game in Lyon was a bit far out from the city center, so on one of the days with media availability, the Athletic’s Meg Linehan and I rented two scooters and followed the Saône north on a water-level trail. It was a gorgeous trip on a nearly-empty path, so we were able to open the throttle on the scooters and zoom along the riverbank, which alternated between open views of the far bank and park areas with tall grasses and trees growing out over the water. It was enchanting, even in the heat, even with the wrong turn we took up an extremely steep and not-scooter-friendly hill. The ride down was fun, anyway.

Meeting lots of incredible people

Social media has helped me form international connections, but there’s something to be said about meeting people face-to-face and just shooting the shit in a dark, stifling apartment while waiting out the worst heat of the day, or playing cards late into the night and not talking about soccer at all.

Reuniting with faraway friends

In the same vein, I have several soccer friends who, due to distance, I only get to see once a year at most, and sometimes only every four years. I spent my downtime at this tournament reconnecting with these good people who could rattle off an all-world starting XI just as fast as they could offer to buy you a drink.

The 2019 World Cup made for a nonstop, exhausting, and ultimately completely draining month that I would do all over again without hesitation, although maybe I would invest in a CamelBak and some antihistamines the second time around. Yes, some bad things happened. But bad things happen anywhere you go; that doesn’t mean they suck any less, but it does help to put them in a larger context. The larger context of this World Cup is that I had a banging time with people I admire, love, and appreciate, and I’m already planning for 2023.


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Max Adonis and Wesley Woods are Two Escorts Double-Booked for Rock Hudson: SHORT FILM

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Adult performers Max Adonis and Wesley Woods flex their acting chops (and other things) in this short (edited for YouTube but still wk-unfriendly) film from Himeros TV (there is a fully-uncensored version — even more wk-unfriendly — available on their site).

Set in 1950s Palm Springs, it’s a fictitious story that takes as its launching pad this vintage beefcake photo that you can see in the final shot of the film. The screenplay is by Travis Mathews (best known for Interior Leather Bar with James Franco) and directed by Matthew Lynn (best known for Triads, coming to Amazon Prime this fall). 

The post Max Adonis and Wesley Woods are Two Escorts Double-Booked for Rock Hudson: SHORT FILM appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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