Fans now a part of Super Bowl media day

658734.jpg

Fans now a part of Super Bowl media day

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Chad Ochocinco was recounting how much he had changed during his one season in New England, when a section of fans in the stands started to cheer. Startled, he turned his head away from the microphone and tried to see what was causing the commotion at Super Bowl media day, which had a new look this year. For the first time, fans were allowed to sit in the stands and watch the goofiness unfold on the field. What he heard was some of the 7,300 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium cheering Tuesday when a player complimented their city and their restaurants. "It's kind of crazy," Patriots linebacker Tracy White said. "It's a new thing with the fans being able to buy tickets and come watch us do interviews. It's pretty cool." For 25 apiece, they got headsets that allowed them to hear how coaches and players at some of the 14 podiums on the field responded to media questions and everything else thrown their way. They quickly became part of the ambiance. While videographers were setting up tripods at the most popular podiums -- the one for quarterback Tom Brady drew the most attention -- fans settled into their seats, most of them wearing Colts jerseys. One fan dressed like Brady -- blue Patriots jersey, pants, shoulder pads, hand towel and pretend play list on his left forearm -- ventured to the front row and quickly got his desired several minutes of interview attention. Shortly before the Patriots started walking onto the field, a public address announcer told the crowd: "Let's respect all the media, all the players." The crowd applauded, then started figuring out how to tune in the headsets to listen to the interviews. "It's such an intimate experience," said Nick Lowery, a Patriots fan who drove from Columbia, Mo. "This is really cool." Until Tuesday, the NFL had restricted interviews at the Super Bowl stadium to accredited members of the news and entertainment media. By opening it up to fans, the two hour-long interview sessions felt more like the practice sessions before NCAA basketball tournament games, which are open to the public. Fans weren't allowed to get autographs or take photos with players, but a couple of them managed to sneak one in. A fan got Giants safety Kenny Phillips to autograph a football and toss it back. Mostly, they watched a typical media day -- lots of questions, a little bit of strangeness. A man dressed as a caped character from a cable network wandered about with a crew taping his off-beat interactions with Giants and Patriots. A Spanish language network sent a crew with a dance instructor and a disco ball on a stick, luring players into showing their moves to salsa music. Ochocinco's social media network -- the Ochocinco News Network -- prowled the sideline for interviews. Nobody enjoyed the day more than Ochocinco, who reached the playoffs only twice during 10 seasons with Cincinnati and wound up 0-2. When he was traded to the Patriots in July, he knew he would have to keep most of his comments to himself to co-exist with coach Bill Belichick, who doesn't tolerate diva distractions. Ochocinco kept quiet and accepted a reserve role on the team. He was the last Patriot to wade into the media throng on Tuesday, smiling at one of the best moments of his career. "Aw, man, I've dreamed of it," Ochocinco said. "I've been playing this game a long time -- started out at 4 years old. And this is what you dream of, to come to this stage and enjoy it. So that's what I'm going to do." Asked if it was bittersweet because he wasn't a starter and didn't get to sit at one of the podiums, Ochocinco smiled again. "It's not bittersweet," he said. "It's the Super Bowl."

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

MESA, Ariz. — As Major League Baseball officials responded to an unbelievably timed rain delay, Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti huddled in a suite beneath Progressive Field and recognized what he saw in Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer after nine innings in a World Series Game 7.

"(We're) trying to figure out: Hey, what's going to happen here? How long are we going to have to wait? Are we going to have to pick up this game tomorrow?" Antonetti said. "I remember the look on both Jed and Theo's faces — it was the same as mine — just like exhaustion and fatigue and angst."

Soon enough, Epstein would be standing in the visiting dugout, his black suit completely drenched, winging it through a CSN Chicago postgame show interview: "Jed's in charge. I'm going on a bender."

However Cleveland fans processed the 10th inning — at least LeBron James had already delivered the city's first major sports title since 1964 — the Indians regrouped and reloaded as one of the favorites to win the 2017 World Series.

Danny Salazar — who hadn't built himself back up to full strength by the Fall Classic — threw two scoreless innings during Sunday afternoon's 1-1 tie in front of a sellout crowd at Sloan Park in Mesa. The Indians also survived and advanced into early November without frontline starter Carlos Carrasco (broken right pinkie finger) throwing a single playoff pitch or All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (right shoulder complications) playing beyond May.

But the Indians didn't just sit back in their comfort zone this winter and simply hope for good medical reports and assume their young core players would improve. Sensing an opportunity, Cleveland swooped in around Christmastime and made a three-year, $60 million commitment to Edwin Encarnacion, who put up 42 homers and 127 RBIs last season for the Blue Jays, weakening the team that lost the American League Championship Series.

"It certainly has a positive impact on the momentum that we established and revenue heading into the following season," Antonetti said. "But I still think beyond that, it's been a big leap of faith by our ownership to really step out beyond what may make sense, just looking at where our projections might be.

"It's really a belief in our fan base that they'll continue to support our team and build on the momentum from last year."

Cleveland already paid the price for Andrew Miller — the Yankees wanted Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez from the Cubs as a starting point last summer — and now control the game-changing reliever for two more pennant races. The Indians also invested $6.5 million in Boone Logan — a reliever the Cubs had monitored closely — when the lefty specialist lingered on the open market until early February.

Between the future Hall of Fame manager (Terry Francona), a Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber), the young All-Star shortstop (Francisco Lindor) and the dude from Glenbrook North (Jason Kipnis), Cleveland has way too much talent to be consumed with what could have been in Game 7.

"Hopefully, our guys learned from all of their experiences," Antonetti said. "They went through a lot last year. But I think at the same time, we have an appreciation and realize how hard it is to win, and how hard it was to get to the postseason.

"Continuing that mindset — and remembering what helped us get there — will benefit our guys the most. They'll reflect back and realize we didn't just show up and end up in the postseason and in the World Series. We started that work on Day 1 of the offseason and Day 1 in spring training."

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.