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After years of close calls and mediocrity, the city of Washington D.C can finally hoist a World Series trophy.
The Washington Nationals won their first World Series title in franchise history Wednesday, defeating the Houston Astros in a thrilling Game Seven matchup by a score of 6-2.
The victory concluded a historic postseason run by the Nationals, who came into the playoffs as a Wild Card team expected to make it no further than the Division Series as a result of lack of depth and inconsistency.
The Nationals proved this assumption to be wrong rather quickly. Down 3-1 in the late innings of the Wild Card game against Milwaukee, just when all of the naysayers about Washington seemed to be right, the Nationals shined. Juan Soto knocked a single into right field with the bases loaded, driving in three runs.
The Nationals stayed alive.
In the National League Division Series, the Nationals faced the Goliath-esque Los Angeles Dodgers, a 106-win team stacked with All-Star caliber players. Washington quickly found itself down two games to one, and in the final few innings of that Game 4, the Dodgers looked poised to crush their postseason dreams, as they led by a score of 3-1.
Then Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, Washington’s star hitters, stepped up. The pair hit back-to-back homers to tie the game at three, and the rest was history when veteran Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam in extra innings to ensure the Nationals’ victory. Washington took Game 5 the following night.
The Nationals stayed alive.
Washington then barreled into the National League Championship Series against a flourishing St. Louis Cardinals club, a team with fresh momentum coming off of a stunning NLDS win against the favored Braves. The Cardinals were hot. The Nationals were hotter, sweeping them in 4 games of sheer dominance.
The Nationals stayed alive.
Finally, the Washington Nationals arrived at the World Series. The behemoth Astros stood in their way. A team built for postseason dominance, the Astros boasted countless All-Stars, multiple MVP candidates, a former MVP winner, and a pitching rotation that had struck fear into the hearts of opponents all season. The Nationals found themselves on the brink of elimination again, down three games to two after blowing three games at home. Yet again, though, the club would not give in.
After a clutch performance by star pitcher Stephen Strausburg in Game 6, the Nationals came up big late in Game 7, with two home runs from Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick giving them the lead. After more offense late, the Nationals’ Daniel Hudson sealed the deal, pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
The Nationals stayed alive.
After numerous comebacks and close games, the team from Washington that has failed so many times prior finally has its title. They fought for it and scrapped for it, and the work has finally paid off.
The Nationals stayed alive when it really counted, and now they have a World Series to show for it.
The wind blows popcorn and hot dog wrappers across empty seats. Occasional shouts and boos echo against the vacant concrete of the upper decks of Hard Rock Stadium. Despair-ridden calls of “ice-cold beer” float across fall breezes to the ears of the few that remain. No, this is not a sports purgatory.
This is Miami Dolphins football in 2019.
The NFL team that resides in South Beach is setting unbelievably high expectations for ineptitude so far this season, having been outscored by a margin of 211-63 at the hands of their opponents going into Week 7 of the season, according to ESPN. The team had not scored any points in the second half until Week 5 against the abysmal Washington Redskins. Regardless of the lopsided scores and dwindling attendance, the question remains: Why is Miami so bad?
The answer lies in one colloquial term that has become known to masses of football fans not only in Miami but around the country as “tanking.”
When a football team “tanks,” it means that the owner has fully embraced the lack of talent on the team roster and accepts the fate of falling far out of the playoff picture. These teams, ones which usually linger in the limbo of mediocrity for a few seasons, eventually purposefully do the opposite of what a successful team does in the NFL: they lose games.
The Miami Dolphins fit the mold of a tank team perfectly: over the past decade, they have only had one winning season — 2016 — and have only made the playoffs once — also 2016 — according to ESPN. That lone 10-6 season with a postseason berth was a short-lived success, however, as it only resulted in a 32-12 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card.
The Dolphins spent the remainder of those 10 seasons as a middling and even occasionally awful team, finishing with eight losing seasons, as well as one season at .500 in 2014. The team has used a variety of quarterbacks, but none of them have stuck long enough to provide reliability at the position. The defense can show signs of steadiness but regularly reverts to being a revolving door for opposing offenses.
After years of this infuriating inconsistency and mediocrity, though, the Dolphins are now doing what some fans have been calling for after some time. But why tank now in Miami?
The answers are simple: the team is incredibly weak, and the 2020 draft class is incredibly strong. Miami started off the year with two abysmal losses to Baltimore and New England, and it became clear that the team would not show any competitiveness this season, so ownership made a simple and effective decision to blow up the few remaining assets they had.
Star running back Kenyan Drake? Traded. Defensive powerhouse Minkah Fitzpatrick? Traded. Offensive blocking machine Laremy Tunsil? Traded. Receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Kiko Alonso were also dealt to other teams. The Dolphins’ roster was not this empty at the beginning of the season, the team has simply shipped off its stars in exchange for one thing: draft picks. These transactions all occurred within the span of the past 2 months in Miami.
This is where the “tank” comes into play: by losing tons of games now, the Dolphins position themselves to obtain countless talented players in the 2020 NFL Draft. These trades open up even more opportunities to acquire picks for players that will not help them win games now. Miami has already stacked up 13 draft picks in the 2020 Draft, three of which are first-round picks according to ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe.
If Miami continues to lose, they will almost certainly be granted the #1 overall pick of the draft, which would likely be used to draft dynamic University of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The momentum of a new and very talented quarterback could propel the team to new heights, especially when paired with other talents from what looks to be a very strong draft class.
Amidst the awful team on the field and the increasingly strong incoming talent, the questions about Miami’s strategy this season are still important ones to ask. Is this good for the NFL? How many teams will follow suit?
Regardless of the average fan’s opinion on them, the Miami Dolphins are an awful team, and it seems that they like it that way.
A Washington D.C sports ownership company and a British betting firm are attempting to create a legal sports betting environment inside D.C’s Capital One Arena, according to Forbes.
The betting facility would be organized between Monumental Sports, the group that owns both the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, and the British betting firm William Hill.
Monumental Sports also owns Capital One Arena, the space where the betting facility would be housed.
Monumental Sports owner Ted Leonsis did not disclose financial specifics to the press but did say to the Wall Street Journal that the partnership with William Hill was to ensure that there were no conflicts of interest in the betting process. Leonsis also said that the facility was intended to span multiple floors, and even offer the option for guests to place bets from their cell phones.
“Think of it as less of a cocktail lounge and more of a modern sports bar and trading desk,” Leonsis told the Washington Post. “We want it to feel like the best Apple store with the Genius Bar because young people are accustomed to that.”
The endeavor is still subject to review from city officials, but could still be a huge step towards allowing legal sports betting inside of sports arenas in the U.S.
Chief Executive of the William Hill betting firm’s U.S. division Joe Asher told the Washington Post that the surfacing of legal sports betting in scenarios like this is becoming a huge boom in the United States.
“You’ve taken this business that has existed but was largely a black market business outside Nevada, and you’ve made it a legal regulated industry," Asher said in an interview with the Washington Post. “There’s a huge legal industry that is in the process of being created and ramping up.”
This ramping up of business would explain the ambitious move to the United States by William Hill. The betting firm has already opened venues in 10 U.S states.
The project is said to be open by 2020, allowing for the legal arena betting in Washington D.C.
With the crack of a bat in Seattle on Sunday, a Mercer Bear made history.
Former Mercer Bear baseball player Kyle Lewis hit his fourth home run during his sixth Major League Baseball appearance, helping lead the Seattle Mariners to a comeback win against the Chicago White Sox.
“I’m just trying to see how things go, get in the flow of it and give it my best shot every day,” Lewis told the Seattle Times. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
The home run continued what has been one of the most historic MLB debuts in league history. Lewis homered in the first three consecutive games of his career, becoming only the second player in MLB history to do so, according to ESPN Seattle. The shot was Lewis’s fourth home run, a three-run blast that traveled 420 feet into the night air.
Lewis’ historic start has established him as a recognizable young talent in Major League Baseball. His home runs have already helped the Mariners win three of their previous four games, and some fans are claiming he is the future of the organization.
“I don’t think you can put a torch on somebody after a week of games,” Lewis told the Seattle Times when asked about his future with the Mariners. “It takes a while to get that. But I’m just going to keep working.”
The home run came in the eighth inning, scoring three runs and sending electricity back into the Mariners’ clubhouse as the team went on to come back from a 5-0 deficit against the White Sox. Lewis further aided the comeback in the ninth inning by advancing a runner that went on to score the game-winning run for Seattle. The club won the matchup 11-10.
The hot streak Lewis is on is the story many Mercer baseball fans were expecting after Lewis was a premier player at Mercer University for three seasons.
In his final season at Mercer, Lewis hit .395 and ranked fifth in the nation with 20 home runs on a powerful Mercer team. Lewis also ranked sixth in the nation in on-base percentage (.535) and was awarded the 2016 Golden Spikes Award, according to Mercer University Athletics.
Lewis’s torrid start offensively has given a spark to both Mariners and Mercer fans alike and has proved to be a fun storyline for anyone who is a baseball enthusiast.
The U.S. Men’s National Golf Team won the Walker Cup in England on Sept. 6, defending the title they won two years prior.
The men’s team completed the tournament in Hoylake, England, with a score of 15.5, edging out the British-Irish team’s score of 10.5.
The U.S. team was captained by Nathaniel Crosby and featured the top amateur golfers from across the country. Crosby was pleased with the team’s play, especially following a dominant streak on Sunday afternoon.
“The singles (on Sunday) were amazing,” Crosby told Golf.com. “The guys played great.”
The GB-I team took the lead by two points on day one, but the U.S. team made up the deficit by dominating the remaining matches on Sunday. The U.S. won all but two of the singles matches held on Sunday, according to Golf.com.
This is the first time the U.S. Walker Cup team has won a matchup in an away contest in 12 years, according to Golf.com.
U.S. team members Stewart Hagestad (5 and 3) and Cole Hammer (6 and 5) both had convincing wins, though the crucial point came from John Augenstein that put him 4 and 3 over Thomas Plumb from England.
"I did not know that my match this afternoon was the clinching point," Augenstein told Today’s Golfer. "I mean, it really doesn't matter who clinches it. The fact is that we're a team, and we won the Walker Cup for each other and for the United States."
The victory brought the U.S. record in the Walker Cup to a mark of 37-9-1.
This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
When college athletes take the field, the roars of fans fill their ears. The huge fanfare of college stadiums surrounds them, and the games are even televised, often nationally.
They are celebrities, especially in the southeastern United States. Merchandise brings in millions of dollars annually for universities across the nation.
So why are most of them broke?
The debate regarding college athletes being paid has been pervasive in the U.S. for years already, but it has been especially relevant as college football has gained viewership in mainstream media after the recent addition of the College Football Playoff to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football.
College athletes are compensated with free education from whatever university they are attending, which has even more value in the modern world today. It is almost impossible to get a steady paying job without earning at least a college undergraduate degree.
While this college education is more valuable than it’s ever been — due to its would-be cost and near essentiality for a job as an adult — the industry in which student-athletes “work” is just as valuable.
College sports are making more money than ever before. The NCAA made over $1 billion in 2017 from college football alone, according to USA Today.
So why aren’t college athletes paid? There’s already a booming industry centered around college athletics, and the only people not making huge profits off of said market are the athletes themselves: the athletes who help collegiate athletics remain entertaining and relevant in today’s high-octane world.
The argument can be made that the college education itself is worth enough, given its essential nature and the incredibly inflated tuition costs that some schools normally charge their students.
Another possible stance is that the college athletic world is simply a prerequisite for professional athletics, and the money that is to be made there is the incentive for college athletes, and thus money should not be given to them at the NCAA level.
In the modern era, however, it largely comes down to this: tradition.
The old rules say that college athletes are not allowed to be paid. So they aren’t paid.
With college athletics, specifically football, being so dominant in American culture for so long, rules are going to be based on tradition.
So why should college football, or any college sport, be any different? The rules were established years ago, and those rules have been followed ever since, so people believe there’s no reason to change them, or that it would be too turbulent to change them.
The money-making machine that is college athletics simply refuses to change, regardless of the work done by others. Perhaps student athletes at universities across America will never be paid for the tireless work they put in for the teams they love.
Mercer’s football program has been a crucial part of the school’s spirit and public image since the university revived the long-extinct football program in 2013. While the Bears have been formidable in some seasons, the team has never been truly consistent enough to snag a shot at a Southern Conference title, despite always posing a threat to opposing teams of any caliber. Fans and students are hoping that the 2019 football season will provide another opportunity for the Mercer football program to prove itself in the difficult Southern Conference field of play.
The offense was inconsistent and lacking in some areas over the course of the season last year for Mercer. The team could always put up a fight, but couldn’t close out games for wins. This is exemplified by statistics such as their third-down conversion rate of just 35.88 percent, according to Mercer University. The offense may experience some turbulence this year at the starting quarterback position, however: while returning players Kaelan Riley and Robert Riddle will be duking it out for the starting spot, so will freshman QB Dylan Fromm.
The hype on campus surrounding Fromm’s arrival has been nothing short of buzzing with energy, especially due to the prominent role of Dylan’s brother Jake as the starting quarterback for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
As a result, head coach Bobby Lamb will be faced with a tough decision.
A few starts from either Riley or Riddle should be expected, but if neither one finds success, Fromm will likely be asked to start, pending pressure from fans and an ineffective offense. This QB position duel will add an interesting wrinkle to the upcoming season for Mercer football, who hopes to make a strong return after a lackluster 5-6 season.
Mercer’s defense will also hope to improve but will have more returning players and momentum to do so, as the defense was more reliable for the Bears last year than the offense. Excluding a particularly overmatched FBS opponent in the form of Memphis, the defense avoided giving up huge sums of points to their opponents over the course of the season.
While the defensive efforts weren’t spectacular, another season with a largely similar roster should provide the Bears’ defense with an opportunity to build off of last season’s consistency and give the offense even more opportunities to improve. With prominent returning starters like defensive back B.J. Bohler and linebacker Will Coneway, the latter of whom led the team in tackles and tackles for the loss according to Mercer University, Mercer’s team will be optimistic and look for an improvement on the defensive side of the football.
Off the Field
This season Mercer is also introducing new things for fans on and off the field. Each home game will include a concert series as well as some other fun things for attendees.
The opening game of the season will showcase a local business during a tailgate on Black Field called “478day.” Toby will also be playing with kids at “Toby Town” at 12 p.m.
The Ford Concert series will showcase local artists from Macon starting at 3 p.m. The series will continue throughout the season and will host artists like Craig Campbell and Molly Stevens.
Mercer has also started a partnership with the Macon Beer Company and will be opening a “Bear Garden.” The venue will offer beer, a bounce house and other amenities.
Overall, Mercer University’s football program is beloved by students and provides an excellent atmosphere on home Saturdays. The team will look to make major improvements on offense amidst competition for the starting quarterback position, and the familiar defense will look to etch a solid season out of the momentum they’ve built since last year. Mercer hopes to continue its respectable status as a formidable foe in the Southern Conference and to continue to enhance the experience for fans.
As the summer portion of the Major League Baseball season winds to a close, many baseball fans in the South are anxious to see how the Atlanta Braves perform across the final part of the year before the playoffs begin.
However, while the Braves have been one of the stronger teams in baseball over the course of the season, a playoff berth is far from guaranteed. To understand why the Braves should be cautiously optimistic, the weights of the team’s strengths and weaknesses have to be assessed.
Atlanta’s greatest strength as a team lies in their high-octane offense. The Braves rank 6th among all Major League teams in the crucial statistic of OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) for the season according to ESPN, with four of the five teams ahead of them being American League teams with the distinctive advantage of the “designated hitter,” who bats in place of the pitcher.
All-Star center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. is having no “sophomore slump” of any kind, as he has hit 28 home runs, according to Baseball-Reference. The team’s offense as a whole has remained intense even with the loss of key starters Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis. Swanson is expected to return by the time the postseason stretch begins.
Offense is one aspect of the game that Atlanta has virtually no concern in, as the team consistently produces runs and finishes strong in key moments late in the game.
Atlanta’s pitching is another matter entirely, though. While there have been bright spots, such as rookie starter Mike Soroka’s fantastic season, the starting pitching has been shaky occasionally. Soroka, fellow rookie Max Fried and resurgent veteran Julio Teheran have done very well on the mound, but the rest of the Braves’ frequently changing rotation has been disappointing, if not inconsistent.
The addition of Dallas Keuchel to the starting five has been helpful, but the team’s earned run average has still reached a whopping 4.95 in the second half, which puts Atlanta at 22nd in the Majors in team ERA, according to ESPN.
The bullpen has been worse, as it has blown 20 saves this year, according to Fox Sports. This blown save count does not even factor in the tied or close games in which the bullpen has kept the team from making any attempt at a victory. These two problems have resulted in numerous Atlanta losses, and have been a cause for concern all year.
The front office has attempted to fix the problems by upgrading the bullpen with notable arms such as Mark Melancon and Shane Greene, but the bullpen continues to lose games for Atlanta.
Stability is key for Atlanta’s impending run at the playoffs. It is likely that the team will face slumps from certain players, and drastic action to change short-term trends is usually a recipe for disaster for playoff teams. This applies to hitters but is even more important when it comes to pitching, especially the bullpen.
The coaching staff and front office have to trust the newly acquired bullpen. Players with solid speed and movement on pitches will sometimes have off nights or even weeks, but they were added to the Braves’ roster for a reason: they are good pitchers who have proven themselves with other clubs this season.
Amidst a club and fanbase that are prone to overreaction, the Braves must keep faith in the upgraded bullpen and maintain stability going into the final stretch of the season. With a consistent core of relief pitchers paired with the fairly solid starting rotation and star-studded batting lineup, the Braves can expect a playoff run and possibly a shot at a World Series appearance.
Football is a way of life in the Southeastern United States. From high school football to the professional level of the sport, fans and players alike are intensely dedicated to their teams, fanbases and players or teammates. However, here in the South, college football rules all. It’s an intense tradition. For quarterback Robert Riddle, it’s never been any different.
“I started playing in fourth grade, in elementary school,” Riddle said. “Once you get to college, it’s a lot different. It’s a different stature.”
Riddle’s passion for football and athletic talent led him to an illustrious career as a high school star, winning a Regional Player of the Year Award as a senior and being a finalist for Tennessee’s “Mr. Football” Award.
The game had been a way of life for him, and as he headed to college, it didn’t seem as if it would be any different. But it was immediately clear that although it had the same name, college football would be a different game.
“High school football is a lot slower,” Riddle said. “Of course, in college, you just have better athletes. Everyone moves faster.”
Riddle, a redshirt sophomore from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, earned himself the job as Mercer’s starting quarterback after two games of excellent quarterback play in the 2018 season. Riddle led the Mercer team to upset No. 9 Samford on the road in the third week of the 2018 football season. However, when week four of the Bears’ schedule arrived, the brutality of the game reared its head.
Riddle suffered a broken collarbone on Sept. 22, 2018. The injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 2018 schedule and put an abrupt stop to his first season.
“I didn’t know what it was like to sit out for such a long period,” Riddle said. “I was just really ready to get back doing something, throwing the ball to receivers.”
Now, as the start of the 2019 Mercer football season closes in, Riddle’s long hibernation is finally over. Riddle can say quite a lot about his return with only a few words: “I’m looking forward to scoring a lot of points.”
With training camp underway for the team, Riddle has finally gotten to play the sport that means so much to him again.
Most of all, though, training camp has just given Riddle the opportunity to be himself again, and to him, that only means one thing: a good football player.
“The first day back from the injury, it was amazing,” Riddle said. “I had never sat out for so long.”
Riddle has slid comfortably back into his quarterback role at camp and is meshing well with newly-hired offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill Legg.
“Coach Legg is awesome, he loves working with everyone,” Riddle said. “He can communicate well with each position, he’s not only talking to skill position players like some coordinators. He does a great job.”
With his health intact, there’s no one more prepared for the 2019 season than Robert Riddle, and he is not afraid to display his enthusiasm. Only time and the game film will tell if this enthusiasm can translate into on-field success.
The season -- and Riddle’s anticipated return -- will begin Aug. 31 with an away game against Western Carolina University.
Note: This review contains spoilers for the film “Us."
After “Get Out” garnered widespread acclaim for its intensity and comments on race in America, Jordan Peele’s second effort as a director was highly anticipated. Despite “Get Out” being Peele’s first-ever film, it showcased the director’s ability to properly build trust, suspense and emotion through cinematic elements while still conveying a strong message about America without it taking over the film.
“Us” takes Peele’s knack for social commentary within horrific storylines to an entirely new level. While the social commentary in “Get Out” was almost expected due to its plot about a white family abducting and controlling the brains of black men, the true power of “Us” and its statement about America’s classism predicament is not felt until its conclusion.
The film focuses on Adelaide Wilson and her family as they go on a vacation to Santa Cruz and are attacked by a group of doppelgangers that are inhuman and brutal. The duplicates, calling themselves the “Tethered,” claim they are parallel versions of the family and are here to kill them. As the family tries to fight off the Tethered, it becomes clear that there are Tethered versions of every person in America, and that these duplicates are killing people in a mass coordinated attack.
The movie is filled to the brim with gorgeous shots such as young Adelaide’s reflection in the TV during the introduction showing her twin, as well as the eerie underground tunnel that houses the Tethered. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance as Adelaide (and her twin, remember) is simply incredible. The film uses dark, crisp shots to establish an unsettling vibe and contrasts the dark images by placing dangerous scenes in well-lit areas such as the beach. The score in “Us” is also incredible, with the main theme taking a sample from an old-school rap song and turning it into a terrifying anthem. That score kicks in just as the film moves into second gear, and Peele knows exactly the impact it has on the viewer after using the theme in the trailers for the film.
However, the film’s dark visuals and fantastic acting both contribute to the American commentary Peele is trying to offer.
As the battle with these doppelgangers ensues, Peele’s intentions become clear. This is what makes “Us” so genuinely terrifying-- its chaos reflects the current disarray and classism of America. We are our own worst enemy because we are so starkly separated by our class in America’s economy. Adelaide and her family are settled but still working in their current place as a middle/upper-middle class family, and are attacked by the Tethered, who come from a life where they have nothing.
Those with nothing will do anything to rise to the next economic echelon. The fierce and ruthless Tethered display that.
The final cue to the underlying comments on classism is the rich white family helmed by Josh and Kitty, a slightly dysfunctional couple who hold their wealth over the Wilsons’ head, irritating Gabe (Adelaide’s husband) in particular.
Josh and Kitty’s family is killed almost immediately by their Tethered counterparts, and for one simple reason: they’re too comfortable. Money is the thing they value most, more than their own family dynamic, which is shown by their incessant bickering. They are not prepared for any sort of assault on their prized wealth, and thus fall quickly when it comes.
But why does Adelaide fight the attack of the Tethered with such ferocity and experience compared to her family members?
The film addresses this question with its conclusion, and the answer is succinct yet still stunning. The visuals clue us in to this twist on poverty in America: the real spider next to a much larger fake, Adelaide’s shirt starting off white yet slowly becoming red to mirror those of the Tethered, and the significance of the time 11:11 repeated in the film, which is a perfect mirror image.
Adelaide’s survival instinct is a comment on all of America; we have been consumed by our wealth and separated by it. “Us” uses stark visuals, superb acting and a riveting original score to captivate and entertain the audience, but also to send an important message. Jordan Peele once again composes a film that is terrifying in more ways than one, reminding us that we are all members of a nation distinctly divided.