Kaylee Bryson makes Chili Bowl history as first woman in main event

Kaylee Bryson raced her way in, and finished 18th, on the lead lap, in a field that included NASCAR Cup winner and two-time defending Chili Bowl champion Kyle Larson. And now, Tanner Thorson can tell everyone that he beat NASCAR’s best – and there seems to be a good chance that he’s a colorful storyteller, so that’s cool.

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Thorson, in fact, already has talked about beating Larson, saying before last year’s Chili Bowl, “I was one of the handful of guys who beat Larson when he ran midget this year and [NASCAR driver and Saturday’s runner-up Christopher] Bell, too. I know I can, and I’m planning on it. We just have to be prepared for anything.”

It was a year later than he planned, but still a fantastic comeback from a fiery California highway crash in 2019, driving back from a race in Las Vegas, that left Thorson hospitalized.

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Not a bad night to have learned about the Chili Bowl.

Oh, there’s the money

There’s something kind of unsettling, even in non-lockout times, about Major League Baseball’s international signing period, when prospects from other countries get signing bonuses rising into the millions. Good for them getting paid, for sure, but it’s also a reminder of how broken the system is when bonuses are splashed around like that and minor leaguers don’t get a living wage when they’re actually playing.

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These kids aren’t subject to the draft, and in fact wouldn’t even be eligible for it if they were Americans because they’re mostly 16 and 17 years old. They’re also a long way from being part of the MLBPA, whose members aren’t getting paid anything now because of the lockout. That puts just a bit sharper focus on baseball teams being the businesses that they are, and that they’re in a standoff with their union employees but will continue to operate the same way, exactly as they see fit, when not subject to collective bargaining.

If they were, perhaps they’d rebalance their efforts from being so heavy on money to recruit talent to spending on the development of that talent. Because it’s not just a reminder that baseball is a business, but that baseball’s business model is short-sighted, focusing on immediate gain of either talent or profit over building for the long term.

Aaron Judge and Vlad Guerrero scare Orioles into moving fences back

Since 2006, the Orioles’ home ballpark has allowed more home runs than average every year except for 2016 (when it was exactly league average in that category) and the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Since 1992, no ballpark has seen more balls leave the yard than Camden, and that left-field fence has been a big reason for all the home runs. At its closest, the left-field wall sits just 333 feet away from home plate. That’s actually about average across all MLB ballparks. However, the parks’ 364-foot distance to left-center is the second-closest of any MLB ballpark, ahead of only Wrigley Field (363). Camden Yards is also one of just eight ballparks with a wall lower than eight feet in left. A 12-foot wall would be tied for the sixth-tallest wall in Major League Baseball. What’s interesting is, in this era, when the longball is king, you’ll regularly find teams moving walls in or lowering them. Moving them out? Not so much. Cleveland moved the walls out at old Municipal Stadium back in 1991 but returned to the old dimensions a year later. And the Cardinals discussed moving the walls back at Busch Stadium III in September, but so far have not.

To put in perspective just how hitter-friendly this ballpark has been, after left-hander John Means threw the team’s first no-hitter since 1991 in 2021, Means said he was glad the game happened in Seattle and not Baltimore. If the game had happened in Baltimore, it’s likely that Kyle Lewis’ eighth-inning fly ball, which was caught at the left-field wall in Seattle would’ve been a home run.

“If this was Camden Yards, it was gone,” said Means after the game.

This man just threw the team’s first no-hitter in 30 years and one of his main post-no-n0 thoughts was “I’m glad we weren’t at home.” If that’s how your ace feels, just imagine how difficult it would be to attract free-agent pitchers. Why would any of the top free agents play for your team if they know they’re going to be giving up dingers left and right that they wouldn’t give up at other ballparks?

Over the last three years, there have been 655 home runs hit at Camden Yards — 72 more than the next closest ballpark (Yankee Stadium, 583). That’s a larger gap than the difference between Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field — the 13th-most homer-friendly park over the last three seasons.

How will this move directly affect the Orioles’ 2022 season though? Well, given that two of Baltimore’s top three home run hitters: Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle were right-handed hitters, there’s a big chance that Baltimore’s offensive numbers could take a dip. However, there’s also a big chance that Baltimore’s division rivals could take a huge hit when playing in Baltimore.

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Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has hit 14 career home runs at Camden Yards, four more than any other ballpark not named Yankee Stadium.

Yankee shortstop Gleyber Torres has hit eight home runs in Baltimore, twice as many as the next closest ballpark.

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Toronto first baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit 12 home runs against Baltimore last season. That’s one-fourth of his season total.

Rays catcher Mike Zunino has been playing in the AL East for just the last three years of his nine year career. Already, Camden Yards has seen him hit five home runs (sixth-most of any ballpark he hasn’t called home).

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Right-handed hitters tend to have their way in Baltimore, and the AL East is filled with powerful right-handed bats. I didn’t even mention Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Bo Bichette, Randal Grichuk, or George Springer.

Theoretically, this move should help the Orioles’ pitching staff. With many of their staff still very young and a ton of prospects still in the minor leagues, this is probably a good move. It will not only help build confidence in many of the team’s young pitchers, but also help convince free agent pitchers to join the team.

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It’s a move that’s long needed to happen for a while, and with the Orioles’ lease on the ballpark set to expire in 2023, this decision will hopefully help in talks with Maryland Stadium Authority to give the team an extension.

Za’Darius Smith is back for the Pack, and it couldn’t come at a better time

In 2019, the Packers signed Smith, a 2015 fourth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens, to a 4-year, $66 million deal — $20 million guaranteed. It was an outstanding investment. Smith recorded 12-plus sacks in each of his previous seasons with the Packers and has 60 quarterback hits in total. He also forced four fumbles in 2020.

Jaire Alexander is also back on the field for the Packers. He suffered a shoulder injury against the Steelers in Week 4 and went on IR. There was a chance that he could’ve played in the Packers’ regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, but he was not able to get in enough practice time after spending time on the COVID-19 reserve list.

Top pass-rusher and top cornerback, those will certainly be welcome additions to a defense that has struggled at times this season. They have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the second season in a row, but for them to get to the Super Bowl, consistent play from their defense is a must. The Packers finished the regular season ranked 22nd in the league in defense DVOA.

The playoffs are obviously the most important time of the year for an NFL team, but for the Packers this might be their most important playoff run in franchise history. They’ve been a stable franchise for nearly 30 years, mostly due to Hall of Fame caliber play at quarterback. That stability was threatened with the struggle during the offseason to get Aaron Rodgers to return to the team. He did, and played well enough to likely earn himself a second-consecutive MVP, but 2021 is supposed to be his final season in Green Bay.

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Green Bay drafted their quarterback of the future in Jordan Love in 2020, but in his two opportunities at extended play this season, it looks like the Packers need to delay their future plans for as long as possible. That means they need to convince Rodgers to stay in Green Bay, and ride him until he starts to play like Ben Roethlisberger did this year for the Steelers.

A Super Bowl championship may not be enough to convince Rodgers to stay, but what surely won’t bring him back in 2022 is another disappointing playoff loss. For the Packers to avoid that, the defense is going to have to carry their share of the load during the postseason. Of the 10 best offenses in the NFL, per DVOA, five of them are in the NFC playoffs, and the 11th best offense is the Philadelphia Eagles.

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With a bye week, and Smith and Alexander on the field for the first time since before the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs, the Packers’ defense has a fighting chance to slow down those offenses and give their second-ranked offense the opportunity to get them to Los Angeles for Super Bowl LVI. That means head coach Matt LaFleur had better not send out the field-goal unit if he’s down eight points on 4th-and-goal with less than three minutes remaining in the game, and Smith needs to live in opposing backfields.

Teenage pitcher becomes first female to play professionally in Australia

Beacom has a killer breaking ball. That’s a 12-6 curve reminiscent of prime Barry Zito if you ask me. Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but she’s 17 for goodness sake! She can continue developing that breaker and perhaps turn it into a seriously devastating weapon the longer she plays.

What’s even more impressive than the pitch itself is Beacom’s release point. As you can see in the overlay, there is nearly no separation between where she releases her fastball versus her curve. That’s one of the most important aspects of pitching: not tipping your pitches. Hitters will look for any little tidbit of information to figure out whether or not the next pitch thrown their way is going to be 90 mph or 75, so Beacom’s ability to make each of her pitches look the same is pretty impressive for someone her age. When I took the video and broke it down frame-by-frame, you can see that she does actually go slightly more over-the-top with her breaking ball, but the difference is so minuscule, even Major League hitters would have a tough time noticing the difference in live at-bats.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Beacom’s fastball sits anywhere between 80 and 84 mph, which is close to the fastest pitch ever recorded by a female pitcher. In the show I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, fictional superstar Ginny Baker topped out at 87 mph with her fastball. So, theoretically speaking, we aren’t that far off from the “unrealistic” world portrayed in that 2016 TV show.

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There are pitchers in Major League Baseball today who struggle to hit 90 mph who’ve dominated Major League competition. Among active pitchers with at least 200 career innings pitched, two of the top-16 career ERA leaders have an average fastball velocity under 90 mph: the Marlins’ Richard Bleier and the Angels’ Aaron Loup. So, as long as a woman can demonstrate similar control and ability to create weak contact as someone like Bleier or Loup has done throughout their careers, she’d just need to knock her velocity up a few pegs to officially be on the same level as current Major League pitchers. Don’t forget, she’s a lefty pitcher, and those are always in demand.

We’re still likely decades away from seeing the first-ever female in Major League Baseball, but as long as women like Beacom keep showing up, it’ll only be a matter of time before it happens.

Let’s talk about Julius Randle and the thumbs down

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Essentially, if we’re looking at a sports team that we support as a product through purchasing tickets and merchandise and investing our time and energy, why are the consumers of such a product expected to stick around with a smile on their faces through shit results?

Of course, it’s not boiled down to that so simplistically, for one, an enormous part of the popularity of sports is that it’s not just a product. The teams we love are part of our identities, and the “rain or shine” aspect is a huge part of what fans see as culturally acceptable. “Bandwagon fans” are shit on regularly for the crime of investing their time, interest, and money in a product that they know is going to succeed, but we all know that’s not it. It’s that we don’t see them as having real loyalty, of crawling through the mud with your team on a down streak until they finally see the light of day on the other side. It’s easy to be a bandwagon fan, so does that mean that consumers of the sports product should expect their investment to be met with days, weeks, or years of difficulty and frustration?

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The thing is, there’s no real ROI in the product of sports, aside from bragging rights and that on-top-of-the-world feeling you get when your team wins. Which is why that comparison from Twitter doesn’t necessarily work. At a restaurant, at the very least, you’re presumably consuming a bodily necessity in food and drink. In return for money, you’re getting fed, which we need to do to stay alive. Does it have to be food from that specific restaurant? No, but in sports, we’re consuming a wholly unnecessary product. It’s fully a choice — not only the decision to support your team, but to become invested in sports at all.

Look, I get it. I’m a Cubs fan. I attended nearly every Notre Dame game of the Charlie Weis era. It’s not fun to see your team lose, and you do sort of expect something better. And it’s totally normal to have a disappointed or angry or frustrated human reaction to your team failing to be better. But I’m not sure that taking that anger and frustration out on the athletes — the real-life human beings in front of you — is necessarily the way to go.

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A similar situation went down this summer when Mets players Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor gave the crowd a thumbs down after scoring. In a press conference following the incident, Baez said, “We’re not machines. We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. It just feels bad when…I strike out and get booed.”

And yes, I know that they make millions upon millions and we don’t feel bad for them for getting booed and all that. I think the fans have a right to express their emotions surrounding a sport, which is, in many ways, an extremely emotional product that we consume. At the very least, what we receive from our consumption of sports is a wide variety of emotions that rely heavily on how your favorite team performs on a given day. There’s also that sense of the “we” in sports fandom — you identify strongly with your team and that identity is visible and vulnerable to those around you. If your team performs poorly, your friends and acquaintances and coworkers are going to turn to you to poke fun or talk shit or ask the tough questions. By investing in one fandom or another, you become an extension of that team or program to the people who you interact with in your daily life.

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However, the athletes are only one part of a much larger production system that surrounds sports, and while we can take to Twitter to express our anger with coaches, GMs, presidents, owners, and the like, the only people we’re really granted personal access to are the athletes. The booing is, presumably, directed toward all levels of an organization for failing to meet expectations, but the people physically using their bodies and doing their best to work toward success are the ones who have the misfortune of hearing it. I mean, for God’s sake, I was at a college football game this fall where the home crowd booed their own starting quarterback for coming back in to replace the backup. Is the jeering directed toward the coaching decision in that case? Probably, but some 23-year-old playing for no money who will probably never see the NFL instead hears tens of thousands of people booing him off his own field.

There’s no real conclusion on this, but it’s an interesting thing to think about. To answer my earlier questions, I think that Knicks fans have a right to express their frustrations, and while it’s not classy to boo your own team, it’s also their prerogative as invested fans. They could exist without the team, but the team couldn’t exist without them, so they do have a certain level of power there. But Randle was also well within his rights to come back at them. I mean, come on, he’s a person, not some indestructible god. He’s a dude getting booed by the people who — within the culture of American sports, at least, whether you agree with the expectation or not — are expected to support him and his team.

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In my opinion, the fans owe him respect as a human being, but don’t necessarily owe anything to the organization they support. On the other hand, the organization doesn’t owe the fans success, as the fans are at complete liberty as to whom they support, but they do owe the fans an effort, at least. I’m not sure how the restaurant metaphor works in there as it’s hard to compare anything to the consumption of such a unique aspect of our culture. Either way, the Knicks won the game. 

Let’s go Brandon? Let’s stop the nonsense

Maybe it’s appropriate that this took place on Knob Hill Road, because these are a bunch of absolute doorknobs who made their announcement before actually getting the sponsorship approved by NASCAR. They thought they had the green flag — er, green light, as Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass reported, because one NASCAR employee did give the go-ahead, but “NASCAR indicated that sponsorship needed approval from higher-ranking officials.”

So, someone at NASCAR liked this whole scheme (surprise), but the higher-ups, who would like their sport to appeal to people beyond the MAGAverse, gave it the thumbs down. As Pockrass wrote, NASCAR “has considered a shift in policy to restrict sponsorships that it believes are political in nature as it strives to be as least divisive as possible.”

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NASCAR already has put the kibosh on Confederate flags at its events, and that loser banner has been replaced on infield trailers by more contemporary loser pennants: Trump flags. Thin Blue Line flags, too. And surely, this coming season, wastes of money and fabric to declare “Let’s go Brandon.” For a lot of people who complain “stick to sports” and rail against “virtue signaling,” it sure is a lot of politicizing sports and signaling lack of virtue.

Banning the Confederate flag, explicitly recognizable as clothbound hate speech, is a lot easier than prohibiting its vexillological descendants of the early 21st century. Without equivalent markers on the left, there’s not really a way to do it without appearing biased against the right.

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And that’s what this is about: appearances. There are plenty of righties in the sport of left turns, and NASCAR’s tracks are primarily in places that are deep crimson on an electoral map, but the sport’s TV ratings are tied to being able to draw eyeballs from the places where people actually live.

Trying to be apolitical is, itself, a political decision, and even if the reason for NASCAR to shun sponsorships from a meme cryptocurrency and political campaigns is that they don’t want to look like assholes to the wider public, there’s still a political backlash to doing it. There’s also money being left on the table, which capitalists just don’t do unless it protects more of their money. Just ask Major League Baseball, with the ALCS and NLCS “presented by LoanDepot,” whether sports leagues will debase themselves for the right price, so long as the reputational hit doesn’t cost more.

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Whatever mix of propriety and financial consideration went into NASCAR’s decision on Brown’s sponsorship, you can bet that they’re not scared to learn that “the largest investor into LGBcoin is threatening a lawsuit, citing damages to those who invested in the cryptocurrency, the value of which dropped in the hours after NASCAR’s decision.” That lawsuit has even less chance of being successful than Brown does as ever being known as anything more than the driver whose name became a brain-dead political meme. They’re going to sue? For a private entity turning down a sponsorship because they thought it would be bad for their own business? Because they got a yes at the first step on the corporate ladder and ran to the public with it before getting the actual approval they needed? The only winners of that suit are the lawyers getting the billable hours on it.

Brown will find another sponsor — maybe those coffee guys who Kyle Rittenhouse loved so much, maybe MyPillow to compete with REMarkable Pillow’s truck sponsorship. He’ll be fine, and cheered on by idiots for years to come. It’s not as if NASCAR now stands for the National Association of Socialists, Communists, And Radicals. But the organization knows that openly embracing this kind of nonsense, really the only kind of political sponsorships they’d get, is only a couple of laps away from winding up in the same place as Trump: defeated, irrelevant, and dreaming of past glory while waiting for an inevitable death.

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Making that stand over a cryptocurrency for idiots is an easy way to draw that line.

Georgia's (5-9) men's basketball team received votes in the AP Poll — so who done it?

Georgia received 22 votes, meaning that SOMEBODY ranked Georgia fourth in the entire country! How does something like this happen? It has to be a mistake, right? As it turns out, yeah. It was.

Stephen Tsai, an author for the Honolulu Star Advertiser, is the culprit in this Scooby-Doo mystery. Tsai did, in fact, rank Georgia No. 4 in the country.

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Why? Well, as it turns out, Tsai must’ve mistaken the ‘G’ in the Georgia logo for Gonzaga’s ‘G’ or something along those lines. Tsai thought he was voting for the 11-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, and mistakenly ended up giving the Georgia Bulldogs 22 votes. Tsai never offered an official statement regarding his mistake, but the error has since been fixed and the AP Poll, which was updated mid-week, no longer has Georgia listed anywhere.

Tsai made a mistake that I’m sure he’s not going to live down for a few months, or at least until the end of the college basketball season. It happens to the best of us. Similar mistakes have happened in the past, like in 2020 when Maria Taylor forgot to include Anthony Davis on her All-NBA ballot. Many other All-NBA voters came to her defense claiming they’d made similar mistakes in the past.

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The one positive people should take away from this whole situation is how quickly the Associated Press contacted Tsai and fixed the problem. It took them less than two days to reach out, confirm he made a mistake, and adjust their rankings accordingly. Having the flexibility to fix obvious mistakes is an important factor for helping make sure voters never feel pressured into being 100 percent accurate all the time.

As was the case when Major League Baseball implemented their replay review system in 2014, the AP realized that sometimes oversights happen and being able to fix them will only help the sport in the long run. These lapses in concentration shouldn’t jeopardize the integrity of college basketball or the AP rankings. It’s good to see this one didn’t. Though it’s pretty damn hilarious.

WAR isn’t perfect, but don’t disregard it entirely

Heyman’s right. WAR isn’t perfect, but it’s still a good measure. Esteemed baseball writer Tom Verducci has an even stronger opinion. Verducci has called WAR a “junk stat” because certain legends are ranked lower than others many would consider just above average. For example, as I’ve stated in some of my pieces before, Bobby Abreu ranks higher in career WAR than both Vlad Guerrero and Ichiro Suzuki, despite both Guerrero and Suzuki being far better players during their primes. Well, Abreu isn’t just higher than those two, he’s also higher than the likes of Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Joe Torre, Larry Doby, and many other Hall of Famers. So, if Abreu, someone who was named an All-Star just twice during his MLB career, ranks higher than these legends, CLEARLY wins above replacement is a broken stat.

NO!

Career WAR is an accumulative stat, much like hits, home runs, or a pitcher’s wins and losses. So, why is it that those stats reliant on a players’ longevity are viewed in such high regard when compared to WAR? No one complains that Frank Robinson has more career home runs than Mark McGwire despite McGwire playing five fewer seasons. Omar Vizquel was never a great hitter during his career. He had an OPS over .800 once (1999), yet people love to point out his 2800-plus career hits as a Hall-of-Fame credential…so what makes WAR any different?

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If you play long enough, you’re bound to accrue some solid base stats, but what? Since WAR isn’t rooted in any of those physical statistics, it’s worthless? Get out of here.

Heyman’s tweet specifically mentions that Yogi Berra should’ve been higher on this list of all-time catchers because of how flawed WAR is as a measuring stick. However, Heyman seemingly fails to realize that Berra is fifth all-time in catcher WAR, ahead of Mike Piazza, who was ranked higher than Berra in the article Heyman references. That sort of breaks his argument that WAR is what kept Berra lower.

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The four players who rank higher than Berra in all-time catcher WAR — Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Iván Rodríguez, and Carlton Fisk — all had more career plate appearances than Berra, and guess what? That’s how WAR is supposed to work. Berra didn’t play as long (plate appearance-wise) as his counterparts so he didn’t have as much time to up his WAR. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Berra is worse than Fisk or Abreu, it just means that the other guys managed to stay on the field longer, which adds to their career value.

If we’re going to applaud players for reaching certain benchmarks like 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, or even something as minuscule as most games played at shortstop (once again, one of the most common arguments for Omar Vizquel to be in the Hall of Fame), why can’t WAR be viewed the same way? Having a 60 career WAR is remarkable. It shows that a player was able to play at a high level for a very long time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a player with greater than 60 WAR is better than everybody with less, but it’s just another measuring stick people can use. Lord knows I don’t think Willie Davis (60.7 career WAR) is greater all-time than Andrew McCutchen (46.0 career WAR).

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Even if you still think it’s ridiculous, there are other great sabermetrics that use WAR as a baseline to take a player’s prime into account, if that’s more your style. Take JAWS, a statistic created by Jay Jaffe that compares a player’s career WAR with the best seven-year stretch of their career and uses both figures to determine the ultimate value a player provided. Essentially, if a great player played less years than someone else and had a lower career WAR because of it, JAWS allegedly brings that first player’s peak into the equation and provides a more clear picture as to who the more valuable player was. When that gets taken into the equation, Berra actually drops below Mike Piazza on the all-time catcher list.

I’m not saying that WAR is a perfect stat. Neither is JAWS, might I add, but to totally invalidate a person’s opinion because they used a statistic that has been more or less accurate in the years it’s been used, that’s petty and elitist.

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Yes, it’s easy to play “narrative ball” with some advanced analytics.

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But that doesn’t mean these analytics are useless. They can be great figures for making an argument in defense of any given player, even if they aren’t linked to any tangible statistics.

Just what in the world are these ankle monitors on NFL players?

These anklet sightings have created some hysteria among NFL fans wondering what they could be. Are these players on work release, house arrest restrictions? If that’s the case, what crimes did they commit? It makes sense that fans would think this after players like Antonio Brown had issues of their own with ankle bracelets a few years ago. Some fans believed these were StatCast monitors that helped the NFL monitor data like top speed and distance runs for certain players. That sounds like something the NFL would do. NFL players have been doing it on their own for years. It only makes sense that the NFL would start implementing some of their own too.

The answer, boringly, is neither of these are the truth.

I reached out to the NFL to find out what exactly these things are. In reality, these monitors are nothing more than devices for contact tracing. Players actually started wearing these Kinexon monitors last season as part of the NFL’s measures to mitigate the effect that COVID-19 would have on the season. The flashing red light you see is part of the device’s programming. It lights up whenever the device is within six feet of another person wearing the device. This feature is meant to help promote social distancing among players when they’re off the field. Obviously, social distancing isn’t exactly something players can do in the middle of games.

So, why are we only seeing these devices now? Well, the devices have always been there, players have just been hiding them. “Most players have a pocket sewn into their jerseys. Some have [the device] in their pads,” said an NFL spokesperson. They’re all wearing the devices, just not everyone has it on their ankle.

The NFL isn’t the only pro sports league to implement contact tracing devices on its athletes either. The NBA has experimented with these same Kinexon SafeZone devices in the past. Major League Baseball followed suit with devices of its own prior to last season.

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These devices are not indications of players currently under house arrest with conditions allowing them to go to their home fields for practices and games, and honestly, we should’ve known that from the get-go. Chargers’ running back Joshua Kelley, one of the people seen in-game wearing the device around his ankle, is a really swell guy. He used his opportunity on a national stage at the NFL combine to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

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I would be shocked if there were any criminal charges against him. The man clearly has a caring heart.

With the Chargers’ lead back Austin Ekeler in COVID protocol, likely to miss this weekend’s game against Houston, Kelley could have a great opportunity to show off his device this weekend, proving that he has been more COVID-conscious than his backfield counterpart during this pandemic.