Feb 08, 2020 2:22 PM

Saturday Sports Headlines

Posted Feb 08, 2020 2:22 PM

Here is the latest Mid-America sports news from The Associated Press

UNDATED (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Central and advanced to the league championship series last season before falling to the Washington Nationals. They return the bulk of their lineup, along with their rotation and one of the game's best relief corps. But they also reside in one of the most difficult divisions in the game. The Cubs and Brewers also have won the Central in recent years, and the Reds are trending up after making some big offseason moves. 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals head into spring training with a new outlook. The team was sold in the offseason to Kansas City businessman John Sherman and Mike Matheny was hired to replace retired manager Ned Yost. The moves come after the Royals lost more than 100 games for the second consecutive year. The Royals spent last season trying to usher the first wave of young players to the big leagues. Their development will be a major focus this season. So will the growth of the young pitchers still in the minors. Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona on Feb. 12.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City Chiefs fan says he took a "professional NFL hit" when he slammed into a parking meter while trying to catch a pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the team's Super Bowl victory parade. Forty-three-year-old LaRue Bell told The Kansas City Star that the pass was intended for him but that the parking meter denied him the opportunity Wednesday.  Millions have watched the video on social media. Even Mahomes checked in on Twitter, asking "Yo is the dude who hit the parking meter okay." Bell says he is sore, noting that the pole "was not forgiving at all."

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Knowing its season begins less than a week after one of the biggest betting events in America, the new XFL is embracing sports betting in a major way. The league owned by wrestling impresario Vince McMahon will appeal to fans accustomed to betting on football who suddenly have nothing to bet on. Its first games come six days after the NFL's Super Bowl. From inviting sport book operators to a mini-camp to meeting with gambling companies, putting point spreads on the TV screen, and giving teams the option of seeking different numbers of points after a score, the XFL is baking sports betting into its operations.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The XFL's greatest contribution to football the first time around was the skycam. The league's focus when it returns Saturday will be on bringing fans further inside the game. ABC, ESPN and Fox will have access to the coach-player communication systems and can go live with the audio at anytime. The networks will also be able to go into the replay booth as plays are being reviewed. Fox analyst Joel Klatt says fans can understand the philosophy of a team and its coach when fans are able to hear play calls.

WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor is suspending 14 baseball players for two games each over an unspecified hazing incident that occurred a year ago. The school says the number of suspensions requires them to be staggered over the first three weeks of the season. The Bears open at home against Nebraska on Feb. 14. Athletic administrators became aware of the incident last May. An investigation by Baylor's general counsel office and Division of Student Life followed. Coach Steve Rodriguez says he's "very disappointed with this incident."

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Brice Calip and Alexa Willard scored 13 points each, and No. 24 Missouri State handed Northern Iowa its first home loss of the season 66-55. Jasmine Franklin added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears, who won their fifth straight. Missouri State took the lead for good with nine straight points capped at 44-35 by Willard's jumper with 5:55 left in the third quarter. The Panthers cut the deficit to three with a pair of 3-pointers but that was as close as they would get. Karli Rucker had 13 points and Cynthia Wolf added 10 for Northern Iowa.

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Feb 08, 2020 2:22 PM
XFL looking to bring fans inside the game with more audio

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The XFL’s greatest contribution to football the first time around was the skycam. When the league returns Saturday, the focus will be on bringing fans further inside the game.

ABC/ESPN and Fox will have access to the coach-player communication systems and can go live with the audio at any time. They will also be able to go into the replay booth as plays are being reviewed.

“To hear a play call and the verbiage, is the biggest thing that people will be talking about,” Fox analyst Joel Klatt said. “How often can you see a coach call plays? When you are able to hear the play calls, you can see the philosophy of a team and coach.”

Bill Bonnell, who is ABC/ESPN’s coordinating producer for XFL, oversaw production of the XFL for NBC in 2001. He said the biggest difference this time is the games will be presented as games, instead of feeling like a WWE show. The first XFL used mostly WWE announcers and cameramen.

There will not be a WWE slant this time. The main reason the league is on ABC/ESPN and Fox is because of how they televise football.

“It’s not going to be anything like the first time around,” said Bonnell, who also produces ESPN’s broadcast of the College Football Playoff title game. “I think hardcore fans are going to enjoy watching football. The sound is going to be the innovative part. Bringing the access and the sound is how we are trying to bring out fans.

“This time it seems much more like a football league that we are covering. It is leaps and bounds ahead of the first XFL.”

The replay review process could be another thing fans discuss after the first week of games. The networks will be able to air conversations between the official on the field and the booth. They will also be able to discuss the review with an XFL supervising official following the review.

“In a traditional game we would have a rules expert. Now you are hearing the official making the call and discussing it,” Bonnell said.

Fox’s Curt Menefee said he’s pleased questions about a game can be answered in real time.

“The one thing you don’t want to happen is when you leave a game, something was not called properly. Now questions will be answered,” he said.

The league and broadcasters also won’t shy away from discussing gambling. Point spreads and the over/under will be mentioned during games and will be included on graphics.

ABC has the league’s first game Saturday with Seattle at DC, followed by Los Angeles at Houston on Fox. Fox kicks off Sunday with Tampa Bay at New York with St. Louis at Dallas to follow on ESPN.

Bonnell said games will typically have 16 cameras, which is equivalent to a regular college football game. The skycam will be at every game as well as two remote cameras to go on the field.

Of the league’s 43 games — 40 regular season, three playoffs — 24 are on ABC or Fox. The remainder will air on ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2. Saturday games will be on ABC and Fox while Sunday will be mainly on ESPN/ESPN2 or FS1/FS2.

The Alliance of American Football folded after eight weeks last year but its ratings showed there is an appetite for spring football. The AAF averaged 400,000 viewers per game but only one game was on CBS with the rest on CBS Sports Network, TNT and NFL Network. The games on NFL Network drew audiences equivalent to NFL preseason games.

“A lot of people have tried spring league and someone has to get it right. There definitely is an appetite,” Bonnell said.