Daniel Ricciardo and friends is must-see quarantine TV

This is Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo.

DRicc

And this is pro snowboarder Scotty James.

Scotty James

And this is Australian cricketer Marcus Stoinis.

Marcus

They’re hot. They’re Australian. They’re BFFs and have an adorable friendship. They speak in Australian accents. And they’re having a lot of fun in quarantine.

The trio have been giving each other challenges on Instagram and posting them daily on their stories. The challenges started out simple enough with things like trick shots and catching grapes in their mouths.

 

But as quarantine has gone on and our brains have gotten weirder, so have the challenges. Challenges that range from feats of athleticism like juggling tennis balls against a wall while standing on one foot.

To juggling eggs while trying to sit down and back up again.

Sometimes the challenges are just weird, like getting dressed mid-handstand.

And… whatever this is.

The challenges have even ventured into gross territory at times, like this raw eggs challenge.

They’re all fun though, and the boys are obviously having a blast (how could you not in those amazing houses???). I mean, when you have that much space, you might as well make use of all of it.

Anyways, watching this on Instagram is the first thing I do in the mornings. I love it. Thank you Daniel and friends (and also thank you for being handsome).

Follow @danielricciardo, @scottyjames31, and @MarcusStoinis on Instagram.

Hangin’ with Miss Cooper: Let me fix sports for you

You hear all the time about how sports need to be fixed. You hear it mostly with baseball, but the complaint trickles into other sports too every so often. It’s always “these dang kids and their phones and Twitters and short attention spans. What are we gonna do?!?!”

Nevermind that Major League Baseball has insane blackout restrictions where people in certain cities often times can’t even watch their home team on either the TV or on the MLB.tv app. Did you know 70 percent of people in Los Angeles haven’t been able to watch Los Angeles Dodgers regular season games in six years? And if you really want to be mad, go look up an MLB blackout restriction map. How do you bring fans in when people can’t even watch the games?

But no, no it’s not that. Baseball, the game itself, needs to be fixed. People aren’t watching because the games are too long, and too slow, and too boring. A 4-hour game is WAY too long. Pace of play would make them 3 hours and 45 minutes. That would fix everything!

And football also needs to be fixed, obviously. and basketball. and of course so does racing.

The kids and their smart phones! They’re ruining everything!

Okay, fine. I will do it. I will fix sports for you. You want action? You want to make sports fun so the kids put down their Xbox controllers and watch? I got you. You’re welcome.

BASEBALL

Okay, here are my two suggestions for how to fix baseball.

1. What is the greatest thing that could ever happen in a major league baseball game? I’m thinking it. You’re thinking it. Let’s say it at the same time.

Position player pitching.

It’s the best. You’re sitting through a 14-2 blowout, feeling the yawns coming on when WAIT, the bench player who only ever gets to pinch hit against lefties like once every four games is running down to the bullpen?? I’m back in!

I love a good old fashioned 15 inning baseball game more than I love just about anything else on earth, but I know I’m a weirdo. But how great would it be if MLB extra inning rules now meant that after the 13th inning, only position players could pitch?

BUT let’s take it one step further. Not only can only position players pitch, but only pitchers can hit and play the field. Drain the bullpen and throw them all in the infield. Can you imagine?

This rule also applies to all games where one team has at least a 12 run lead. There’s nothing boring about watching tomorrow’s starter try to run down a popup in centerfield, yall.

2. I think about this every time I’m watching a game with the home team winning heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. If you were to rank innings of baseball based on how boring they are, the bottom of the eighth is No. 1. I asked my brother one time if he thought a player on the home team that was winning had ever purposefully struck out in the bottom of the eighth just to hurry up and get the game over quicker and he said, “No, players always want to score more runs and build a bigger lead.”

To which I replied, “You’re absolutely lying.”

No chance. It’s the bottom of the eighth, your team is three outs away from winning, no chance a player who isn’t just trying to up their own batting average or hit a record breaking home run actually cares about that at-bat.

So, let teams skip it. You’re the home team, you’re up at least three runs heading into the bottom of the eighth, and you feel really confident in your closer, you should be allowed to say “hey, we’re forgoing our last at-bats and heading directly to the ninth.”

I mean, they say baseball games are too long, this would fix that. Also, you now have a slightly better chance of a fight breaking out when the other team is like “How dare they! What disrespect!”

The catch is, if you do forgo your bottom of the eighth inning at bats (or top of the ninth if you’re the away team) and then you blow the save, the loss now counts as two losses in the standings.

If you want to get really crazy with it, you can let teams forgo ALL of their at bats at any time. Like, if your team comes out and scores 14 runs in the first inning, you can say you don’t want to bat anymore and now the other team has 27 straight outs to play with. BUT, once you give up your at bats you can’t take them back if the other team gets close. Seems stressful right? I’m all in! I think it’d be great.

FOOTBALL

You thought it was just baseball that needed fixing? No, no. I got lots of ideas for yall.

1. Teams only get two extra points per game. Every other touchdown you have to go to for the two-point conversion.

Do you go ahead and use your extra points on the first two scores? Do you save them for a possible overtime? Lots of strategy goes into this.

2. Make fields longer, BUT keep the first endzones at 100 yards. and then a second endzone at 110 yards. and a third endzone at 120. If a player gets to the first endzone it’s six points. If he can run through the first to the second, it’s eight points, and running through to the third is 10.

Also, each endzone has its own goalpost, so if you line up for a 30-yard field goal, kickers can try to kick through all three posts, also for more points.

3. Overtimes should just be another full quarter of play. If teams are still tied at the end of that quarter, then each kicker lines up on their own 10 yard line, and they take turns kicking field goals, each backing up 5 yards after each attempt. The last kicker standing wins.

Actually, as a Bears fan I don’t like this idea so much.

BASKETBALL

1. No more free agency. Free agency has taken over actual basketball. It’s the reason the biggest storyline all last season was where was LeBron going this year. and the biggest storyline all this season is where will Kevin Durant go next year, and the reason the third question Doris Burke asked Kawhi Leonard, literally 10 minutes after he won an NBA championship, is “how does this affect your free agency?”

It’s boring, and kind of annoying. So get rid of it.

Instead, every year, every player goes into a draft, gym class style. Each team picks one player they want to keep, and that player because their team’s captain, going through the entire NBA and picking teams, just like how they do with the all-star team. Your pay is based off of what number pick you were.

Because, let’s be honest, everyone just wants to play with their friends anyway. I mean, this is basically how free agency works every year, so just make it league wide.

2. Keep one team that is just a bunch of clones of Russell Westbrook.

This is selfish of me because Russell Westbrook is my favorite athlete on the planet. I think he’s literally perfect. Also, has a team ever had five players all average a triple-double? I don’t think so.

Plus, people always say “Russ is such a bad teammate! “Russ never passes!” Well, what would he be a bad teammate to literally nine other hims? Would he pass to himself?? Where would Paul George go???

(Russell Westbrook has averaged 8.4 assists per game for his career. I digress.)

RACING

Too many things to name. Pass.

COLLEGE SPORTS

Oh, I don’t know. College sports are basically perfect and just and totally not corrupt. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with them. I guess you could start with like, no longer making coaches multi-millionaires from free labor from players. Maybe let kids transfer whenever and wherever they want, just like any other normal college student. And, I don’t know, let players make money off of their names and likeness. I mean, other people are able to make money off of the players’ names and likeness, so that’s not really fair. Plus, for a lot of the players this is the only time they’ll be able to make money off of themselves. I’m really just spitballing here.

No, no, you’re right, that’s crazy talk. Who am I kidding.

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

Hangin’ with Miss Cooper: Maybe running isn’t so terrible after all

I wasn’t going to run.

On July 17, I saw an email in my inbox advertising the Martinsville Speedway Mile, a one-mile run on the NASCAR track.

“I can do that. One mile. No problem,” I thought. I work out pretty regularly, run, bike, and hike a lot, and like to think I keep myself in pretty good shape, so one mile should be a breeze.

So that day I drove to the Martinsville YMCA for my first test run. I already knew that if I start in the Y parking lot, take a left down Starling Ave, and keep going through the neighborhood down Mulberry Road it’s all downhill for exactly one mile. That would be a good place to start, because running downhill is easier, and when training for athletic endeavors it’s important to do the easiest workout possible.

I took off, all the while thinking about my goal for the race. I wanted to run the mile at the Speedway in under 8 minutes.

“That should be easy. I’ll crush that. Eight minutes? I mean, come on,” I thought to myself. “Heck, I can probably get down to, like, 7:30. Maybe even 7 minutes. That will be no problem. It’s only one mile.”

I got maybe 300 yards and realized I’d made a huge mistake.

When I finally got done with the one mile I wanted to crawl up in the lush green grass of some random person’s front yard, hide under a tree and just cry. It was terrible. I think I might have actually shed a few tears.

My time was 9:34. But I was so tired I didn’t even think or consider if that was a good time or not. I was too busy crying, if we’re being honest.

I turned around and started walking back to my car, my head down in shame knowing that time is cruel and exercise is awful, and I look to my right and see a local basketball coach, one who is at least twice my age, sprinting up the hill beside me like a gazelle, with all the ease of Usain Bolt racing against a team of middle schoolers. And that’s when I remembered why I quit running after high school.

Because running is terrible.

It’s not terrible. That’s not the point of this story. But in that moment, hands swollen and sweat dripping down my face from the 90 degree heat, I hated all ideas of ever exercising again. Heck, I hated all ideas of ever leaving my house again. “This is why cars were made, so we don’t have to do this anymore,” I thought as I angrily shuffled back up the hill.

My first mistake was tweeting about it. My original thought when I was going to run the race was “I’ll tweet my workouts and progress and that will be fun and keep my honest.” Then when I had my first practice run I thought “I’ll tweet about how much I hated that,” because I tweet way more than I should.

“I made the mistake of seeing Martinsville Speedway is having a 1 mile run and me being stupid competitive (emphasis on stupid) thought ‘I could totally dominate that and win my age group.’ Just ran 1 mile, all downhill. 9:34. And I want to die. Running is stupid, no one should do it,” I tweeted.

I had some friends write back words of encouragement, so I thought “The first practice isn’t supposed to be easy. Do you think Michael Jordan made every shot during his first basketball practice back from playing baseball? No! You just gotta ease back into it.”

So the next night I tried again. This time, I left from the Bulletin office and just ran around Uptown Martinsville until my running app told me I hit a mile. I can’t train only on downhills, because the Speedway doesn’t have any downhills at all.

I felt… better after finishing. Until I looked at my time – 10:25.

Almost a minute slower??? I thought the point of training was to drop time?!

How am I going to get under 8 minutes if every time I run I ADD seconds??

Right then and there I decided, I am NOT doing that race.

I pulled in to the Speedway Saturday morning with my camera to get pictures and write a story for work. “I can’t take pictures and run. It’s too much,” I told myself as an excuse for chickening out. I saw a friend who pointed out I wasn’t wearing running shoes.

“Are you running?,” he asked?

“No…” I said.

“You can still take pictures of the first race and run. You can even run in those shoes.”

“Well I have tennis shoes in the car because I’m going to the gym after this.”

“What??? If you’re already going to the gym you can run this race! You have no excuse,” he said.

I guess he sort of had a point.

Then Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell walked up and heard him pressuring me to run.

“Cara, you should do it. You need to run this race,” Campbell told me.

After a few deep breaths, I figured if the president of a track tells you you need to race on his track, you should probably stop being a wimp and run the race. It is only one mile, afterall, and I know I can do that without passing out.

So I ran out to my car, hearing an announcement saying anyone not registered had 60 seconds to sign up. And when I say I was not prepared to run, I was NOT prepared to run. I didn’t eat anything for breakfast. I didn’t have my actual gym shoes, just my extra generic tennis shoes I keep in my car in case I get to the gym and realize I forgot shoes (which has happened). I also didn’t have a good enough hair bow, which is a terrible thing when you have as much hair as I do. Having a stretchy hairbow is absolutely crucial, and the one I had just slipped right through my ponytail.

But I ignored all that, got it together, and prepared to run. The one good thing about signing up for a race 10 minutes before it begins (which you should not do by the way) is you don’t have time to get nervous about it. My nerves are the reason I quit running races in the first place.

When we were getting ready to start, my friends were discussing what their strategy would be. That’s when I realized I should probably have a plan for how I’m going to attack this mile. “Don’t go out too fast.” “Use the banking to your advantage.” But truly my only thought was “Just pretend it’s gym class in 7th grade and you want to be the fastest girl in the school.”

When the race started, I felt really great for the first 200 meters. Then I realized I definitely went out too fast. It started hurting before I even reached the quarter-mile mark.

On the second lap I realized I was breathing really hard and really loud. It made me remember that I never really learned how to breathe while running. My mind alternated between really angry thoughts of “Cara, quit being a wimp and keep running! If you walk so help me!” and really inspirational thoughts of “You got this Cooper!”

I came around the final turn and somehow felt sort of not terrible. I figured I had to be around 10:30, maybe 11 minutes. Then I looked at the clock and saw it read 9:00.

Holy crap! How?!

My final time was 9:16, which was insane to me. I’m pretty sure I haven’t run a mile that fast since high school. I was pumped, and also super tired and sweaty. All the lead up to the race, the chickening out was silly, and the peer pressure to do it was worth it. I didn’t go sub-8 minutes, but I did something I didn’t think I could do. Plus, now I have something to work for for next year.

The main thing is maybe I don’t hate running so much anymore.

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

Hangin’ with Miss Cooper: ‘Fair Pay to Play’ act could benefit more than just top college athletes

One summer night when I was in college my friends and I were meeting up at Applebees. One good friend was telling us how he had run a 5K that morning and finished second.
“I won $25,” he told us. “But I couldn’t keep it, because it would have been an NCAA violation.”
This friend at the time was on a partial track scholarship at Division II Lenoir Rhyne University in North Carolina. Despite the fact he was running at a Division II school and admittedly had no chance of ever going pro in track, accepting the $25 would have essentially made him a professional athlete, and he would lose his scholarship and wouldn’t be able to run college track anymore.
This made me mad for two reasons.
1. This kid owed me a lot of gas money from throughout the years, and I thought if he had come into a little bit of cash that day he would be the one paying for our half-price appetizers that night.
2. More importantly, what was the big deal? He was running a street race, not wearing a Lenoir Rhyne uniform, and it was $25.
Last week, California passed the “Fair Pay to Play” act that would allow college athletes to make money off of their being athletes. As is the case with any conversation of college athletics and money, this was met with both cheers and jeers.
Where much of the discussion takes place is about whether college athletes should be paid, but it’s important to differentiate between paying college athletes and allowing college athletes to make money.
Paying college athletes an actual paycheck from the school is an extremely nuanced conversation, mostly because while Division I college football and basketball bring in billions of dollars, that is only two of two dozen NCAA sports, most of which don’t bring in any money at all. And while it’s nice to dream on those billions being divvied up between all those athletes, it won’t happen. Who gets how much, and how equal do you divvy? It’s a logistical nightmare to even think about, especially when you consider Title IX.
But allowing college athletes to make money is a much different conversation, and that’s where the Fair Pay to Play act comes in. When the law goes into effect in 2023, athletes in California will be able to make money from endorsements, autograph signings, and anything else someone is willing to pay them for without fear of losing their scholarship. Imagine being a Division III college athlete and having a local car dealership offer you $100 to be in a commercial. That would now be possible, and according to the AP as many as 10 other states are currently drafting legislation to follow California’s lead.
Of course, this law has been met with a lot of backlash. Tim Tebow, best known for winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships while playing quarterback for the Florida Gators, went on ESPN last month to express his frustration with the idea of allowing athletes to make money, fearing it would make students “selfish.”
“When I was at the University of Florida I think my jersey was one of the top selling jerseys around the world… and I didn’t make a dollar from it,” Tebow said on ESPN’s First Take. “But nor did I want to. Because I knew going into college what it was all about… what makes college sports special, to now it’s not about us it’s about we… it changes what’s special about college football.”
The irony here is that Tebow is one of the better examples for why college athletes should be able to make money. It’s impossible to know how much Florida was able to profit off of Tebow’s play on the field, but it was certainly in the tens, possibly hundreds, of millions when you consider ticket sales, memorabilia, and TV contracts. And Tebow’s best playing days were in college. He lasted just three seasons in the NFL, and was generally considered a bust. The money he made off of endorsements post-college is certainly much less than he would have made during his time with the Gators.
And Tebow was a lucky one, because his personality netted him an on-air job with ESPN, and a chance to give baseball a try in the New York Mets minor league system, so he’s not struggling for money. But many, many college athletes are. While his argument is a sweet thought, and there is something really lovely about the idea of playing sports for the love of sports, that simply isn’t possible for every college athlete in the country.
When people talk about paying college athletes, the focus is often on the Tebows, the Zion Williamsons, the Johnny Manziels, and big names like that. But they’re a very small percentage of college athletes. And Division I athletes are a small percentage of overall players in the NCAA.
The NCAA’s website states, “More than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes – more than ever before – compete in 24 sports every year.” The most recent NCAA statistics show there are roughly 179,000 Division I athletes, 122,000 Division II, and about 190,000 Division III.
Sixty-two percent of Division II student athletes receive some level of athletic aid, according to the NCAA. But in Division III, athletic scholarships are not allowed at that level. More than a third of all NCAA athletes are not able to receive any sort of athletic scholarship money, but are also not allowed to make money off of themselves.
Division II and Division III athletes certainly won’t be able to make life-changing money off of endorsements in the way a Duke basketball player or Alabama football player would, but Duke and Alabama athletes also have the chance to continue making money off of their likeness beyond their college days. For lower level athletes, those four years is likely the only chance they have to make money off of themselves. What’s so bad about letting them keep $25?

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)

Hangin’ with Miss Cooper: The line between gamesmanship and cheating

When I was 16 I played travel softball for a really, really good team. Like, stupid good. We finished third in the national world series tournament. Our No. 1 pitcher would sometimes back off her mid-60s fastball and throw a knuckleball. An underhanded knuckleball! I freak out every time I think about it.

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, Cara played for a really good team. She must have also been really good.”

Not to brag, but yes, I was. And by really good I mean I was always the first one off the bench to pinch run. Unless on our of other incredibly fast players wasn’t playing that game and could pinch run instead.

Anyways, there was one game we played in the quarterfinals of that world series. Games in these summer tournaments are almost always played with a time limit, usually around 90 minutes or so. If the team that is winning is up to bat when the timer ends, the game ends right there. If the team that’s losing is up to bat when it ends, they’re allowed to finish that half inning.

So, my team was up like one or two runs, and it was late in the game. I had pinch run a few innings earlier.

We quickly got an out in what would be our final at-bat when my coach told me to pinch hit.

Again, not to brag, but the girl pitching for the other team was committed to play at University of Kentucky, and (not to brag) I hit a double off of her.

As soon as I stepped on second the coach of the other team walked out of the dugout and up to the umpire, looking at his lineup card. They talked for a minute or so before the umpire points at me and tells me I’m out.

I’m upset, but I look over at my coach and he isn’t saying anything, isn’t fighting it. He just has a sly smile on his face.

The next girl on my team steps into the batter’s box, and after a pitch or two the buzzer goes off to tell us time is up. We won.

After celebrating we all had the same question for my coach – why was I out?

Well, since I had pinch run earlier in the game, I couldn’t pinch hit because then I was batting out of order. But it wasn’t a mistake on my coach’s part. He did that on purpose.

“I checked and saw there was just a few minutes left on the clock, so I knew once the other coach realized we batted out of order he would go out and argue with the umpire and take up more time and they wouldn’t be able to start another at-bat.”

I was upset because I felt cheated out of my only hit of the tournament (I wasn’t very good…), but I guess I understood. You play to win the game.

Playing for this team was the first time I realized there’s so much more to sports than just being good at sports. At the start of every game our first base coach would come in the dugout and tell us what to listen for while batting. If he said “Let’s go,” that meant the catcher was lined up inside. If he said “Get a hit,” that meant the catcher was lined up outside.

That was fine. I never understood why some shifty players never quickly turned their head in the second before a pitch to see where a catcher set up, anyway. I think that would be possible? Who knows. But anyways, it’s easy to see where a catcher is lined up, so a coach telling you seemed innocent enough.

But usually an inning or two into the game that same coach would gather us in the dugout and say “O.K., I’ve got their signs. If I clap, that means it’s a fastball. If I pat my legs, it’s offspeed.”

This felt less innocent. A little shady if I’m being honest. It wasn’t cheating, I guess. More like icky gamesmanship. You play to win the game, though, right?

At least once a tournament an opposing coach would figure out our coach’s scheme and get all up in arms about it, marching out of the dugout yelling, “They’re stealing signs!” And then they’d complain to the umpire who was always like, “I don’t know what to tell you.” And my coach would fight it and protest and say “No we’re not!” before eventually conceding and saying “If you don’t want your signs stolen, don’t make them so easy to steal.”

There was a girl on this team who hit bombs. Like several home runs a tournament. You were never out of a game when she got up to bat. And after the game she would always say “Well, I saw the pitch and knew it was a curveball coming inside so I knew I had to wait on it,” or give a perfect description of the pitch and location of the balls she hit.

I was always blown away by that. I know it’s not crazy to think batters can pick up on that kind of stuff in the moment, but I also realized that she probably only knew the pitch because someone told her. And I realized that while she was very good she was also very good at gaming the system.

The Houston Astros are facing allegations that they devised several different methods to steal signs from other teams. Allegations that go as far as saying the team had cameras set up in the outfield and someone in the clubhouse watching live videos and hitting trash cans to relay pitches to batters.

The Astros aren’t the only team to face allegations of sign stealing, though these are certainly the most concrete. It seems obvious setting up cameras goes way over the line into cheating, but some fans insist it’s just gamesmanship. Getting an edge. You play to win the game.

That softball team I played for was incredibly good. (An underhanded knuckleball!) And the Houston Astros the last few years have been incredibly good, with a roster full of MVPs and future hall of famers.

I know it’s a naive way of thinking, but what ever happened to winning the game by simply being better than your opponent?

(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)