It’s not often that a player is still a desired commodity days after his 43rd birthday, but that’s precisely what Jaromir Jagr, who was traded from the New Jersey Devils to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, appears to be.Despite recent frustrations over his playing time with New Jersey, Jagr could prove to be a useful short-term rental for the Panthers. He retains the same soft hands and keen vision that made him a five-time scoring champion. And like so many of hockey’s greatest offensive talents before him, Jagr has a knack for skating where the action is headed before it arrives. His trademark strength seems scarcely to have waned with time; he still has moments when he’s nearly impossible to knock off the puck along the boards.Jagr is by no means the player he once was. But it’s improbable enough that he is still a player at all, still part of the league more than 24 years after his NHL debut. He had been 81 days older than the league’s second-oldest active player — St. Louis Blues goaltender Martin Brodeur — but then Brodeur up and retired last month. Now, no current player was born within 25 months of Jagr.Of course, more than perhaps any major sports league, the NHL has had a place for ancient players. Three and a half decades ago, Gordie Howe — then the NHL’s all-time scoring leader — famously skated through a full 80-game schedule that concluded a week after his 52nd birthday. More recently, Chris Chelios was still manning an NHL blueline at age 48. And just last season, Teemu Selanne played at an age seven months older than Jagr is now. So it’s not quite unprecedented for Jagr to still be around at age 43 — and counting.But Jagr’s past few years have surpassed what just about any other NHL player has ever done in his dotage. Despite posting the leanest traditional numbers of his long career this year (more on that later), Jagr is1As of late last week. in the midst of the seventh-best adjusted point shares above replacement (PSAR)2A modification of the Hockey-Reference.com metric that assigns goaltending worth according to Tom Tango’s wins above replacement and re-allocates the remaining value such that forwards receive 60 percent of league PSAR in a given season, defensemen get 30 percent and goaltenders receive 10 percent. season by any skater aged 43 or older3As of March 1 of the season in question. since the NHL’s Original Six era began in 1942-43. What’s more, he was better last year: No non-goalie aged 42 or older has ever had more PSAR in a season than Jagr’s 6.9 in 2013-14.Plus, there’s a strong case to be made that the conventional stats — and the next-level metrics based off of them, such as PSAR — have undersold Jagr’s contributions to the Devils, particularly this season.As marvelous as they are for a player his age, Jagr’s basic numbers this year haven’t been eye-popping by the standards of other forwards logging as much ice time. In 53 games, he’s notched a modest 11 goals and 18 assists to go with a -10 plus-minus rating. (As a point of comparison, if Jagr had played to his career per-game averages, he’d already have 25 goals and 37 assists by now!) According to PSAR, which synthesizes box-score stats into a single-number representation of value, it’s been his worst season ever — and by no small margin. The 18-year-old rookie version of Jagr had 3.1 PSAR in 1990-91, after which he wouldn’t put up fewer than 4.9 PSAR in a single season again — until this year.Hockey’s recent statistical revolution, however, has brought with it more sophisticated ways to gauge a player’s contribution to his team. Its biggest lesson? That although goals and assists are great, there’s also a big advantage in simply helping your team keep possession of the puck.And as it so happens, Jagr is still one of the best players in the league at that.Over the past two seasons, Jagr’s Devils haven’t been an especially strong hockey club. They rank 24th in both point percentage4In the wacky world of the NHL’s standings, some measure of sanity can still be salvaged by dividing a team’s standings points by the total number of points handed out in its games. So, for instance, the winner of a regulation game would earn 2 out of 2 total points; meanwhile, the winner of a shootout would get 2 out of the 3 total points awarded, since the loser would also get 1 point. Among other things, this has the advantage of preserving a .500 record as the mark of an average team. and goal differential during that span, and while the team has undeniably been plagued by poor shooting and save percentage luck, they’ve also posted relatively unimpressive possession rates — except when Jagr is on the ice. With Jagr, New Jersey plays like one of the premier possession teams in hockey5The Devils’ zone start-adjusted 5-on-5 Fenwick percentage with Jagr on the ice would rank third in the NHL over the past two seasons.; without him, they play like one of the worst.Studying Jagr’s game, it’s not hard to see why this is the case. Although his stride — never the fastest even in his prime — is noticeably sluggish these days, he makes up for it with sheer hockey sense, constantly scanning the ice for passing opportunities or chances to extend possession by corralling loose pucks. Perhaps more importantly, he remains the master of shielding the puck with his 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound frame, creating scoring chances for himself and others by cycling possession deep within the offensive zone.“I know … my strength,” Jagr recently told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I like to play [in the] offensive zone on the boards. I still feel like I’m strong enough to beat anybody, [or] at least hold that puck. … Maybe I’m not going to beat that guy one-on-one like I used to, but I can still make a play from that corner from the cycle. That’s my strength. And in the playoffs, that’s the way you play.”This is why, with the NHL’s trade deadline approaching, Jagr was mentioned as a legitimate option for contending teams looking to upgrade their offense — particularly with the man advantage — before the playoffs begin. Ironically, it seems that as the league increases its emphasis on possession, Jagr’s value has only been heightened even as his goals and assists have receded with age. And for Florida, barely clinging to the hope of a playoff berth but with clear upgrades to be had on the power play and in advanced metrics, Jagr might be a good fit.On the other hand, what does it say about the state of the NHL in 2015 that a plodding 43-year-old future Hall of Famer could change a team’s postseason chances?Like many things in hockey, it’s a question that leads back to Howe. In the foreword to Howe’s (excellent) new autobiography, the great defenseman Bobby Orr marveled at Howe’s longevity: “Today, if a player cracks the top five in scoring in the NHL, he’s considered a star. Do it a couple of years in a row and you’re a superstar. … Well, Gordie Howe did it twenty years in a row. That’s right — twenty. How do you begin to do justice to a legacy like that?”It was undoubtedly an impressive run for Howe, but — counterintuitively — the ability of a man in his 40s (and even 50s) to still dominate a professional sports league might speak as much about the quality of play around him as to his own athletic gifts.In 1968-69 — the final year of the streak to which Orr referred — a 40-year-old Howe was nearly the best player in hockey, finishing second only to 26-year-old Phil Esposito in PSAR. And in his final season more than a decade later, Howe was serviceable enough to be a regular contributor. But the NHL of that era also underwent an enormous amount of upheaval between expansion, the emergence of a rival league (the World Hockey Association), and the influx of new talent (and a fresh playing style) from Europe.In some ways, the chaos of the 1960s and ’70s provided the perfect cover for an aging megastar such as Howe to keep his career rolling. We can see this in the percentage of total NHL PSAR going to various cohorts of skaters, grouped by age, over time:The 1960s saw the NHL’s first expansion since the Great Depression — marking the end of the Original Six era — and they also coincided with a major uptick in the production of older players, one that would not fully abate until the early 1980s. In addition to Howe, players such as Alex Delvecchio, John Bucyk, Jean Beliveau, Frank Mahovlich and Jean Ratelle all produced great seasons in their late 30s (and beyond).The present day also appears to be a haven for the comparatively superannuated. Starting in the early to mid-1990s, the fraction of league value produced by the oldest batch of NHL players swelled to levels not seen since the 1970s. While that proportion has decreased a bit today relative to its peak in the immediate aftermath of the NHL’s lost 2004-05 season, it remains higher now than at any point between 1974 and 1996.So Jagr’s longevity, impressive as it is, might also be a symptom of ongoing weaknesses in the state of pro hockey itself. Is it mere coincidence that the uptick began right when the NHL’s aggressive expansion plans of the 1990s were fully realized? Or that it lasted through the so-called Dead Puck Era and well into the post-lockout “New NHL“? It’s not clear.But regardless of where Jagr sits in the intersection between the NHL’s health and the twilight of his once-immense (and still formidable) skills, he remains a player to which attention is owed. The Panthers are picking up more than a living legend playing out the final act of his career — they’re nabbing a player who still offers many of the little advantages that could make a difference along the journey to the Stanley Cup.
The sad story of former NBA star Allen Iverson took another dramatic turn Sunday, when TMZ reported Iverson’s estranged wife Tawanna is seeking a restraining order against him.According to Tawanna Iverson, Allen “has engaged in increasingly contemptuous, threatening and disturbing behavior” in recent months. She would like the restraining order to be put in place until the two can agree on a divorce settlement.A.I. denies her claim that the relationship as “irretrievably broken,” citing that he and his wife were intimate for a four-month stretch after she re-filed to split in Fulton County, Ga. in June last year.The demand may seem a bit strange, since Iverson isn’t even in the country—he’s currently in Shanghai, China on a NBA Legends tour.
Goalie Tim Howard was brilliant.There are streaks and then there is what the U.S. men’s soccer team faced with Mexico. It seems absurd to believe that the Americans could go 75 years without winning a game in Mexico. Seventy-five years.Finally, however, with a 1-0 victory Tuesday night, the U.S. ended the ridiculously protracted streak.In an ironic twice, the game’s only goal, scored in the 80th minute, was by Michael Orozco Fiscal, a 26-year-old defender from Orange, Calif., whose parents were born in — you guessed it — Mexico.“The goal was for the U.S. fans and the whole U.S. We made history,” Orozco Fiscal said.Mexico dominated control of the game for much of the night but the Americans did not relent. Orozco Fiscal’s goal was the breakthrough they needed, and goalie Tim Howard made sprawling saves to secure the history-making win.“Just happy we won and made history,” the U.S.A’s Brek Shea said. “It’s something we haven’t done in a long time. Just to be on the roster is cool.”Shea had a role in the game’s only score. He cut inside Severo Meza on the left flank and crossed to Terrence Boyd at the top of the 6-yard box. With his back to the goal, Boyd took a touch with his left foot and with his right made a quick backheel pass to Orozco Fiscal, who with his left foot poked it from 3 yards past goalkeeper Guilleremo Ochoaand defender Jorge Torres Nilo for his first international goal.Orozco Fiscal, who plays in Mexico for San Luis, was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team but hasn’t established himself with the varsity.He entered in the 77th minute for his fifth international appearance and first since October. Shea, back with the team for the first time since February following a season of turmoil in Major League Soccer, came on a minute later. Boyd, a German-American who made his U.S. debut in February, had entered to start the second half.
Tennessee Titans player Bernard Pollard was fined $42,000 by the NFL for his hit on Andre Johnson on Sunday. The Houston Texans’ wide receiver suffered a concussion as a result of the collision.Pollard tweeted Wednesday that he was contacted by the NFL, where they told him the amount he would have to pay.“So @nfl said I did “everything right” but 42k later I still get fined. Wow! It’s called football but they want 2 hand touch. #TitanUp#”An NFL insider confirmed to ESPN that Pollard was indeed fined $42,000 for the hit. Pollard was penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head with his shoulder, according to the source. Pollard made an effort to not hit Johnson excessively; he turned his head to avoid a helmet-to-helmet contact on the hit. As a result, the referees didn’t call a penalty on the play.Pollard will reportedly appeal the fine. The NFL will make an official announcement about the fine on Friday.
New Clipper owner Steve Ballmer (orange shirt) with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Photo: Getty ImagesDonald Sterling, disgraced and stripped of his NBA franchise after recorded racist remarks were released by a girlfriend, fought to hold on to the Los Angles Clippers, and insulted even more people along the way. But all his fight was for naught, as a California court Tuesday confirmed his wife Shelly’s authority to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.Minutes after the ruling, the $2 billion deal was inked and Sterling was officially out, his legal options over. And so Doc Rivers, the coach who reportedly contemplated quitting if Sterling remained owner, and players like Chris Paul can abandon the notion of sitting out in protest of Sterling.“It’s very, very exciting. I’m a basketball nut,” Ballmer said in an interview with ESPN. “I’ve got time. I love Los Angeles. I love Seattle, too, which is where we have our home. But the notion of spending a lot of time in Los Angeles has been exciting to me for years. The community down there is great. I look forward to supporting the community, the fan base, the staff, Doc [Rivers] and the players to take this thing to higher heights.”Ballmer was unable to complete the sale until Tuesday’s written court order affirmed Shelly Sterling’s authority to sell the franchise without the consent of her husband, Donald Sterling. There was frustration in the delay, Ballmer said. But he held steadfast.“My job has been to complete the deal and there were a lot of people, including me, working on it for a long time,” Ballmer said. “Was I kind of itchy? Sure. But I knew the only thing I could do or should do was complete the final deal, and we were able to do that.”The NBA’s board of governors interviewed Ballmer on July 15, then took a vote electronically last week in which he was unanimously approved as an owner, sources told ESPN.Ballmer decided he would complete the sale as soon as Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas’ written order came in, which occurred at 11:30 a.m.“We were ready,” Adam Streisand, Ballmer’s attorney, said. “Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered.”In a statement, Rivers said it was “an amazing day in Clippers history. I couldn’t be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve’s passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way, and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well.”Paul added: “I am very excited about Mr. Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers. I’ve had a chance to meet him, and his excitement for the game of basketball and our team is going to be great for the league, the city of Los Angeles and Clipper fans everywhere.”
Reds+0.58-0.04-0.22 Diamondbacks+0.28+0.04+0.17 Rangers+0.24-0.78-0.08 Cubs+0.49+0.74+0.84 Padres+0.94-0.11+0.13 Twins+0.41-0.03-0.10 Phillies+0.35+0.05+0.35 Red Sox+0.63-0.27-0.12 Cardinals+0.44-0.26-0.02 Royals+0.85-0.27-0.20 Mets+0.23-0.19-0.04 Giants+0.50-0.04+0.05 Astros+0.87+0.09+0.11 Rockies+0.88+0.13+0.12 Pirates+0.92-0.13-0.07 Yankees+0.90+0.62+0.74 Braves+0.46+0.11+0.08 Mariners+1.07-0.38-0.35 SENTIMENT SCORE Tigers+0.55+0.15-0.11 Baseball teams have a way of dragging their fans’ moods with their fortunes on the field. It’s no fun to root for a perpetually losing team, especially if its performance seems unlikely to improve. Conversely, an unexpected contender has a way of lifting one’s spirits.But wins and losses are much easier to measure than happiness. We do have a proxy, though: the masses at Reddit. I scraped comments from each team’s subreddit1Using this script to get text from specific subreddits. on the website and determined how happy their comments were.2In technical terms, the valence of each subreddit, or how positive it was. To do this, I used the AFINN-111 word list, which was assembled by Finn Arup Nielsen in 2011. To do that I used sentiment analysis, collecting the words used by each fan base to determine their overall level of joy. More positive words (“win,” “wow,” “wonderful”) point to a happier fan base, and more negative words (“unimpressed,” “miserable,” “wrong”) suggest the opposite.Here are some highlights of what I found (a full table is at the bottom of this post):There are some caveats, as there always are with sentiment analysis. The word list I used was calibrated to a sentiment analysis of Twitter — it’s possible that language is used differently on Reddit, and so the sentiment scores may not be as calibrated to the medium as they would be if we had Reddit-centric sentiment scoring. For example, the word “damn” is rated as strongly negative, since it is usually a negative exclamation (“damn, we lost again”). However, it can also be used in a positive sense: “damn, that was our fifth straight win, we are pretty good.” And maybe people on Reddit “damn” more positively than the hordes on Twitter. (The same can go for any word used atypically in any sentence, making its meaning different from how the algorithm interpreted it.) Also, people who write on Reddit do not constitute a random sample of a team’s fans.But let’s get back to the results. Hope springs eternal in the offseason but is extinguished for many fan bases by July.3All measurements come from three time periods: one preseason (Feb. 15 to March 15), one pre-trade-deadline (June 15 to July 15), and one crossing the trade deadline (July 15 to Aug. 15). That makes sense given how many teams don’t have any hope left. In the preseason, only one team — the Phillies — had playoff odds less than 1 percent, per FanGraphs. Now, 11 teams have odds less than 1 percent. Sentiment scores per word — our index of happiness — tended to be between 0.3 and 1 on the sentiment scale in the offseason, indicating that the average word was a positive one (between a neutral word and the word “agreement”). Nowadays, the same scores have plunged. Clearly the grind of the MLB season wears on the fans’ happiness as it does the players.Every fan base lost some of its happiness from the preseason, save one: the Chicago Cubs, who increased their sentiment score by a bit. The Cubs have not only been contenders in the crowded National League Central, they have also seen a number of top prospects called up, most notably Kris Bryant (but also Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber). Not only are the Cubs contending a little earlier than expected — the future is even brighter.All other teams’ fans have become much less happy since February, but not all by the same amount. The change in sentiment score from February to July is roughly in proportion to the change in playoff odds of each team.4The correlation coefficient is r = -.3, which is not quite significant. Teams that made strides in their playoff hopes such as the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers have seen the smallest declines in sentiment since February. At the other end of the spectrum, teams such as the Mariners, Athletics and Padres have seen their playoff odds tumble. Their fan bases also have had some of the most pronounced declines in sentiment scores per word.From July to August, sentiment scores were steady, fluctuating about four times less than they did from February to July.5The Pearson correlation value was a strong .746. The trade deadline didn’t seem to do much to move the needle in terms of fan happiness, but the teams that did gain are mostly the ones you’d expect: the Blue Jays (who strengthened their roster enormously), the Cardinals (who locked down a playoff spot) and a few others who were riding winning streaks. On the other side, the Tigers lost happiness, witnessing their championship window close and their highly regarded general manager leave.Although on-field success can buy happiness, it doesn’t seem to work for every team. The Royals have gained the most playoff probability of any team since the preseason, but they lost the fourth-most happiness from the offseason to July. There are any number of potential reasons6Including the All-Star controversy, an injury to their star player (Alex Gordon), and enmity from other teams/fan bases. for the relative grumpiness of Royals fans, but one may be that fans were more optimistic about the Royals than the projection systems. While contention in Kansas City may seem surprising to sabermetricians, it may not to Royals fans who were riding high off a World Series appearance.Conversely, failure on the field isn’t necessarily enough to dissuade a happy fan base. The Phillies, hopeless since the beginning of the year, nevertheless have fans who aren’t that much sadder than they were before the season. Despite the loss of erstwhile ace Cole Hamels at the trade deadline, fans have gotten happier since July — his trade and others signaled a shift in direction for the team toward rebuilding. As above with the Cubs, fan bases seem to not only weigh the present but also to consider the prospect for future improvement.There are also some inexplicable cases such as that of the Rays, whose fan base declined in sentiment much more dramatically than their playoff odds would lead one to expect. It’s possible that the Rays’ 4-8 slide in July before the All-Star break had something to do with it, or the seven-game losing streak from June 28 to July 4. The streaks, winning and losing, may play havoc with fans’ emotions, causing people to see false patterns suggesting imminent decline in what is mostly random fluctuation.Obviously, we’re grasping for answers as to why fans are happier or sadder as the season goes by. But the general trend seems to be that a complex calculus of current performance and hope for the future dictates how happy each team’s fan base feels. Of course, it all resets come March. Hang tight, Reds fans. Only a few more months to go. Angels+0.28+0.21+0.08 TEAMFEBRUARYJULYAUGUST Blue Jays+0.28-0.03+0.21 Nationals+0.61-0.11-0.18 Rays+2.24+0.04+0.27 Dodgers+0.29+0.07-0.15 Athletics+0.62+0.10+0.10 Marlins+1.44-0.08+0.19 White Sox+0.940.00-0.07 Brewers+0.71-0.29-0.06 Indians+0.66+0.05-0.02 Orioles+0.43-0.07+0.08
Scoring 50 goals in 50 games is the crowning achievement of an NHL goal scorer. Players who do so join a club of legends including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Maurice Richard. The club is exclusive — it has only five members, and it hasn’t accepted a new application in 25 years. There are dozens and dozens of active NHL players who weren’t alive yet the last time someone scored 50 goals in 50 games, when Brett Hull did it during the 1991-92 season.As with throwing dead octopuses onto the ice and shaking hands with the opponent after a playoff series, the 50 in 50 club is like many things unique to the NHL: steeped in history and perhaps devoid of logic. The attention bestowed on the exploit dates back to the days when there were only 50 games on the schedule. So when Richard became to first to do it in 1945, it meant he averaged a goal a game for a whole season. When the schedule expanded to 60 games — and then to 70 games, and then 74, 76, 78, 80 and 84 games, finally settling at 82 games — 50 in 50 remained a thing. Because, you know, why not?Like with many exclusive clubs, there are also a lot of rules. To gain access, you must score 50 goals in your team’s first 50 games, not your own. Alexander Mogilny scored 50 goals in his first 46 games in 1992-93, but an injury forced him to miss three weeks at the beginning of the season. Mogilny’s 50th tally came in his team’s 53rd game, so he’s not allowed in. No exceptions!It’s not easy to sustain a goal-per-game pace for 50 consecutive games, but so far this season, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov is doing almost exactly that. With 14 goals in 15 games, the young Russian with a hellacious shot has set himself up to make a legitimate run at hockey’s goal-scoring holy grail.Of course, many others have started the season on a similar tear in recent years — and all of them ended up way short of the benchmark. Here’s how every player who notched at least 14 goals in his team’s first 15 games post-lockout stacked up against the last three 50/50 players. Amazingly, only one of these players (Jaromir Jagr in 2006) exceeded 50 goals on the season, let alone in 50 games. In the 2005-06 season, winger Simon Gagne scored 17 in the Flyers’ first 15 games, but he ultimately scored only 17 more in the next 35. In that same season, both Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson had 15 goals through the first 15 games. They both cooled, too — like Gagne, they each netted 17 goals in the following 35 games.But there’s reason to believe this year might be different: The league itself seems different.So far this season, goalies are stopping pucks with less success than they have since 2008-09. But not all of the blame can be placed on lackluster goaltending — a number of rule changes have led to an increase in power play opportunities per game. More power play opportunities equal more high-quality scoring opportunities, which means more goalies left hung out to dry.It’s not shocking to see an analog in the 2005-06 season, when Jagr, Gagne, Heatley and Alfredsson each flirted with a goal-a-game pace: The league instituted rule changes in the wake of the 2004-05 lockout with the express purpose of increasing the number of goals per game, which had tanked in the NHL of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Chief among those rule changes was the elimination of the two-line offside pass. Defenses were slow to adjust to the rule change, which led to a preponderance of breakaways and two-on-one situations.In the 1980s and early 1990s, the NHL was a wide open league, and goaltending often seemed like an afterthought. From 1980-81 to 1993-94, the goals against average for the league never dipped below 3.0 — and the 50 in 50 was accomplished seven times.1Mike Bossy, Gretzky (three times), Lemieux, Hull (twice). From 1994-95 to the present, the goals against average has risen higher than 3.0 in only one season. It hasn’t climbed quite that high this season, but it’s close.2It currently sits at 2.89.Kucherov isn’t the only one taking advantage of the increase in scoring. Like during the 2005-06 season, this year’s NHL has a handful of players vying for NHL legend status. Alex Ovechkin has also started the year on fire (13 goals in 16 games), while Islanders’ captain John Tavares has 12 goals in 15.Of course, a goal scorer is nothing without dime-dishing linemates, and Kucherov has benefited from playing with the league’s leading point getter in Steven Stamkos (who missed 65 games last season, and the Bolts missed the playoffs). Stamkos is known best for his goal scoring prowess — he’s a two-time recipient of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goal scorer — but this year it’s his passing that has him at the top of the NHL’s scoring list. He’s still scoring goals, but his 18 assists pace the league. And 10 of those helpers have come on goals scored by Kucherov.Every player to hit the 50-goals-in-50-games milestone played on a line with one (or two) very good passers. Lemieux — who also unofficially scored 50 in 50 in two other seasons3Super Mario scored 50 goals in his first 50 games in both the 1992-93 and 1995-96 seasons, but neither exploit came on or before his team’s first 50 games. Sorry, Mario: Hockey conservatives say this doesn’t count. — played the bulk of his career on lines with some combination of Jagr, Kevin Stevens and Ron Francis. Hull played on a line in St. Louis with Adam Oates. Gretzky had Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy had Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, and Richard had Elmer Lach and Toe Blake. And it’s not a stretch to place Kucherov and Stamkos among these all-time great duos and trios.Kucherov’s gaudy numbers aren’t surprising — he’s scored no fewer than 29 goals in each of his three full NHL seasons and has an astounding career shooting percentage of 15.1. But that historically good shooting percentage is up dramatically this season: At the moment, Kucherov is scoring on 24 percent of the shots he’s taking. That’s destined to regress to the mean, but for now, Kucherov’s shot looks damn near unsavable.Who knows if Kucherov — or Ovechkin or Tavares — can sustain a goal-per-game pace for all 50 games. Even if they don’t, they’ve already made the NHL feel a little bit like the wild old days of the ’80s and early ’90s. And they’ve given every hockey nerd something to pull for.
The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks have faced off in plenty of playoff showdowns over the years, including four clashes in the 1980s alone, during the heyday of Larry Legend and Sid the Squid. This year’s series renewed the rivalry after a 31-year hiatus, and it’s largely lived up to expectations so far: Game 1 featured a pair of buzzer-beaters at the close of regulation before Boston won in overtime, then the Celtics handily took Game 2. But the Bucks managed to claw their way back, running away with Game 3 before winning Game 4 in thrilling fashion to tie the series up.Here are four questions to ponder as the teams head back to Boston and begin what’s now a best-of-three affair.Can Milwaukee’s offense stay hot?The biggest statistical trend helping to turn the tide in this series has been the newfound efficiency of the Milwaukee offense, which went from averaging a mediocre 105.9 points per 100 possessions1The league’s regular-season average was 106.2. in Games 1 and 2 to a scorching 122.8 points per 100 in Games 3 and 4, according to NBA Advanced Stats.You don’t heat up an offense that quickly without an abrupt change in shooting fortunes, and the Bucks have certainly turned things around from beyond the arc. In Games 1 and 2, Milwaukee averaged just 7.5 3-pointers per game — a number below its paltry regular-season average of 8.8 — with only Khris Middleton (who, granted, made a whopping 4.5 threes per game) providing any consistent spacing from the outside. Over the past two games, however, Milwaukee has increased its threes per game to 13, with 10 different players making at least one 3-pointer. In Game 3 alone, the Bucks set a franchise postseason record with 16 threes, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.So much of the Bucks’ offense is tied up in the playing style of its leading talent, Giannis Antetokounmpo, a player whose unmatched combination of size, length and athleticism allows him to get shots as close to the basket as he wants. (During the regular season, Giannis led the NBA in paint scoring at 15.7 points per game, and the Bucks were tied for the fifth-most buckets from the restricted area.) But as great as Antetokounmpo is, the reality of the modern NBA is that such a defense-collapsing force needs to be complemented with shooting that pushes opponents into impossible defensive dilemmas.The Bucks have often struggled to pose such a threat from deep; they made the league’s fourth-fewest threes per game during the regular season. But they hinted at a fuller offensive potential over the past few games versus Boston, with their increased focus on long-range shooting. It’s worth watching to see if Milwaukee can keep pairing those threes with a Giannis-led interior attack to potentially key a playoff series victory.Can Boston get Terry Rozier back on track?One of the keys to whether Boston could survive the loss of Kyrie Irving has been the play of Terry Rozier, the third-year guard who enjoyed a breakout regular season and took on an increased role in March after Irving’s knee surgery. Rozier was stellar in the first two games of this series, averaging 23 points (on 46.9 percent shooting) and zero turnovers per game as the Celtics built their 2-0 lead. But he has cooled down substantially, with his averages falling to 9.5 points (on 26.3 percent shooting) and 3 turnovers per game in Boston’s pair of losses.Which Rozier will show up now? It will depends on how he cracks the defense of Eric Bledsoe and, increasingly, Matthew Dellavedova — who guarded Rozier with success in Games 3 and 4. That pair has succeeded in making Rozier much less dynamic as both a passer and a scorer in the past two games, holding him to 8.5 potential assists per game (down from 10 in Games 1 and 2) and a usage rate of 18.4 percent (down from 20 percent).The Celtics have still gotten plenty of scoring punch from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who in Game 4 became the second pair of teammates under 22 years old to ever notch 55 combined points in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau — joining Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant from 2010. But with Rozier suddenly struggling, the Celtics are missing an important version of the stellar backcourt production that had been so central to the team’s success, both with and without Irving.Will Giannis’s teammates keep up the help?As noted, Milwaukee’s chances are inextricably tied to the Greek Freak — and Antetokounmpo has been holding up his end, delivering a superstar performance. Over the past two games, he’s anchored the Bucks with a 30.1 percent usage rate, 64.5 true shooting percentage and 28.9 assist percentage as the team was fighting its way back to draw the series even. But the irony is that those numbers weren’t too different when Milwaukee was falling into its early series hole: In Games 1 and 2, Antetokounmpo had a 30.2 percent usage rate, a 66.3 true shooting percentage and a 28.8 assist percentage.So for the Bucks, the determining factor isn’t merely how well Giannis plays — it’s how much everyone around him contributes. In the two opening losses, Antetokounmpo’s teammates averaged 74 total points and 13 total assists per game, with a 57.3 percent true shooting mark. In the Bucks’ two victories, those numbers skyrocketed to 87 points, 20.5 assists and a 65.2 true shooting percentage.Of particular note has been the strong play of Middleton and an expanded role for Jabari Parker, who was limited to about 12 minutes per game in Games 1 and 2. Parker has come on strong since, averaging 16.5 points (on 54.5 percent shooting), 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.5 steals and only 0.5 turnovers per game in Games 3 and 4. He helped Milwaukee’s bench outscore Boston’s 31-15 in Game 4, an important edge in a matchup decided by just two points.This doesn’t mean Giannis should be taken for granted, of course. He’s personally dominating this series, with his own play putting teammates in a position to produce efficient numbers for themselves. He willed the Bucks to victory in Game 4’s closing seconds, fighting off Tatum under the rim to tip home the game-winning bucket with 5.1 ticks to go. But the biggest difference between Milwaukee’s losses and wins in this series has been how well the Bucks not named “Antetokounmpo” have been able to execute in their supporting roles.Where’s Al Horford?Though Irving was forced to shoulder Boston’s scoring attack after Gordon Hayward went down with injury five minutes into the season, the 2017-18 Celtics’ most valuable player might have been center Al Horford, whose mega-efficient combination of skills make him the unsung catalyst who improves everyone around him.Boston’s first two games against Milwaukee featured Horford at his versatile best. He scored 20 points per game — while needing only 9.5 shots per game to do it — grabbed 8.5 rebounds and dealt out 4 assists. Every time you looked, he was doing some kind of proverbial “little thing,” like setting a key screen, contesting a shot or getting to the line. Despite taking responsibility for only 15.2 percent of Boston’s offensive attempts2Including shots and turnovers. while in the game, Horford managed to personally account for 17.8 percent of all the positive actions that took place on the court (for either team), according to NBA Advanced Stats.Horford didn’t play poorly in the following two games. He still averaged double-digit points and shot better than 50 percent from the floor. But he individually accounted for only 11 percent of the positive events that happened when he was on the floor, and the Celtics went from plus-4.9 points per 100 possessions with him to minus-8.9. On defense in particular, he had few answers for Antetokounmpo’s forays to the basket (in fairness, who does?), as the Bucks’ offensive rating swelled to 119.9 with Horford on the court.One of Horford’s greatest gifts is that he doesn’t need plays called for him to make a big impact. But there’s a fine line between unselfishly playing all-around basketball and not being involved enough, and Horford was probably on the wrong side of that line as Milwaukee chipped away at Boston’s 2-0 lead — especially in Game 4. He’ll need to get back to exerting his influence at both ends of the court in Game 5 for the Celtics to turn this series around.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
For the first time in almost four years, the Ohio State men’s basketball team has earned the top ranking in the country. Duke, who was No. 1 in all major polls this season, suffered a 66-61 loss Wednesday to Florida State and opened the door for OSU to claim the top spot with a win Saturday against Penn State. The Buckeyes survived the Nittany Lions and walked away with a 69-66 victory. OSU is now No. 1 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls. But the team was not focused on the No. 1 ranking. “Honestly, as a team, we really didn’t say nothing after the game about that,” freshman center Jared Sullinger said. “We just focused on we have Iowa on Wednesday night, and that’s our next matchup.” Coach Thad Matta acknowledged the ranking but said he was more focused on the big picture. “The thing that excites me the most is it’s the second time we’ve been there in a few years, and I think it is great for the program,” he said. “I don’t know how many schools can say that they have been in that position, and we are definitely one of them.” Prior to having the top spot in the AP poll March 5, 2007, the Buckeyes had not claimed that position in 45 years. Senior David Lighty was on the team in 2007 and is the only Buckeye who has been on a No. 1-ranked team. With veteran players at his disposal, Matta said he is not concerned with the new poll. “I think they’re experienced enough to just say, ‘Hey, it is what it is,’” he said. “We have to go out and continue to play basketball to win basketball games.” With their 18-0 record, the Buckeyes have the third best start in school history. The 1960-61 squad started 22-0 and the 1961-62 team opened with 27 straight victories. OSU was ranked fourth in the first AP poll of the season. The team moved up to No. 2 in the fourth week of the poll after then-No. 2 Michigan State and then-No. 3 Kansas State suffered their first losses Nov. 23. Though they acknowledged the rankings at this time of year are not important, the players said they hope they are worthy of the lofty location. “It’s really early, but I think we are very talented,” senior Jon Diebler said. “It’s hard to tell if we are No. 1 or not. Again, we are just going to try and keep getting better every day, and we’re not really going to worry about the rankings.” To maintain the top spot, the Buckeyes likely have to keep improving. Its last four games, against Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State, were the team’s only contests this season that ended with single-digit score differences. OSU will host Iowa at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and Matta said he knows the rankings won’t matter when his team steps on the court. “It doesn’t get you more points; it doesn’t get you stops,” he said. “We have to go out and honor it.”
No. 4 Logan Stieber threw up his arms, victorious for 19th time this season. After knocking off Iowa’s No. 2 Tony Ramos, 7-0, the redshirt freshman finally had a second to breathe. He looked up to see an electric home crowd, all eyes on him. “We haven’t beat Iowa in forever. It’s a big win for us,” Stieber said. For the No. 7 Ohio State wrestling team, Stieber’s win was just the beginning. OSU defeated the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes, 21-9, Friday night at St. John Arena. It is their first win against Iowa since Feb. 12, 1966. For OSU coach Tom Ryan, the win was extra special, with Iowa being his alma mater and the place where he was named an All-American twice. “I feel great, I feel great,” Ryan said. “You know, because these guys put so much time into what they do. Six o’ clock mornings, back in the afternoon; sometimes they’re back in the evening. They got eight hours of study tables. They got so many things on their lives.” The Buckeyes improved to 9-2 on the year and 3-2 in the Big Ten Conference. “It shows we can fight a little bit more, at the beginning of the year some close matches weren’t going our way, you know, we weren’t fighting as well, but we had a lot of close matches tonight and we fought well,” Stieber said. It was Iowa’s first loss in the Big Ten and only their second on the entire season, the other being a one-point defeat against No. 1 Oklahoma State. The Hawkeyes took an early 3-0 lead after Iowa’s Matt McDonough took down OSU’s Johnni Dijulius, 5-2. But OSU roared back with five straight wins from Stieber, his younger brother freshman Hunter Stieber, freshman Cam Tessari, redshirt freshman Josh Demas and freshman Derek Garcia. The flurry rocketed OSU to a 15-3 lead. For Logan Stieber, it was his second win in eight days against a top 10-ranked opponent. One-hundred-forty-one-pound Hunter Stieber gave OSU a 6-3 lead, scoring a 4-2 decision against Iowa’s senior Montell Marion, the No. 3 wrestler in the nation. Tessari brought the OSU lead to 9-6 after defeating Iowa’s Mike Kelly, 9-4, in the 149-pound match. Demas followed suit scoring a takedown with 10 seconds remaining in the 157-pound match to secure a 7-3 win against Iowa’s Derek St. John. Garcia narrowly beat Iowa’s redshirt freshman Mike Evans, 6-5. For No. 6 Evans, it was only his third loss on the season. Garcia also claimed the Russ Hellickson Award, which is given to the most outstanding wrestler of the night. “I think the best feeling is beating Iowa,” Garcia said. “Honestly I can guarantee everybody on the team would say the same thing.” Iowa wouldn’t score again until the 174-pound match where sophomore Ethen Lofthouse beat OSU’s sophomore Joe Grandominico, 7-1. Grandominico, who usually wrestles at 157-pounds, started in place of redshirt junior Nick Heflin. Rather, Ryan started Heflin at 184-pounds in place of injured redshirt junior C.J. Magrum. Heflin defeated Iowa’s Vinnie Wagner, 7-4, despite wrestling a weight class up. At 197-pounds, OSU’s freshman Andrew Campolattano beat Iowa’s junior Grant Gambrall giving OSU a 21-6 commanding lead against the Hawkeyes with only one match left to wrestle. By the time Iowa’s heavyweight senior Blake Rasing beat OSU’s Peter Capone, 7-2, an OSU victory was already in hand. The OSU crowd directed chants of “overrated” at Iowa before forming a mass near the entrance of the locker rooms to celebrate what some are calling the Buckeyes’ biggest dual win in program history. “We’re no joke,” Garcia said. “We showed everybody right now that we are real.”
Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien instructs his players during a game against Eastern Michigan Sept. 7 at Beaver Stadium. PSU won, 45-7.Credit: Courtesy of MCTAfter nearly two years of heartbreak, allegations and eventual unprecedented sanctions handed down by the NCAA, things might be looking up for the Penn State football program.In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, college sport’s governing body ordered the university to pay $60 million over five years to a special endowment created to fund programs preventing child sexual abuse, initiated a four-year bowl ban, vacated victories between 1998-2011 and took away scholarships. A bit of that changed Tuesday.PSU initially was only going to have 65 football scholarships beginning in 2014, but instead will receive 75 that year, 80 in 2015 and the full 85 in 2016.That could go a long way to restoring a program and school that was ravished by the scandal, potentially bringing it back to Big Ten relevance quickly.“We’re happy right now for our players; our student-athletes that are here and our football program,” PSU coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday on the Big Ten teleconference. “They’re a resilient bunch of kids… We’re just trying to take it one day at a time and working as hard as we can and continuing every single day to try to do the right thing.”O’Brien is 11-5 in just over a year as the head man of the Nittany Lions and is scheduled to lead them to Indiana for its Big Ten opener Saturday. PSU fell at home to Ohio State 35-23, in 2012 and is scheduled to visit Columbus at the end of October.The NCAA announcing the restoration of the scholarships to the program could help to improve recruiting in the immediate future, but O’Brien said his strategy for attracting players to State College is between him and his coaching staff.“Obviously, we’re able to sign some more guys and be able to have a roster of 75 scholarship players next year so things will change and we’ll see how that goes,” O’Brien said. “Right now we’re not going to comment on that or talk about that. That’s between the staff, myself and that’s about it.”The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes sport two of the largest stadiums in college football, and the rivalry that has ensued within the confines of each has yielded nothing short of exciting contests. OSU leads the overall series 14-8, with many of the matchups occurring when both teams were ranked.OSU coach Urban Meyer’s only time facing PSU was the victory at Beaver Stadium last season.Meyer was not asked about the reduced sanctions Tuesday on the Big Ten teleconference.OSU is set to open conference play Saturday in Columbus against No. 23 Wisconsin at 8 p.m. The Buckeyes will take on Penn State in Columbus Oct. 26.
OSU senior forward Chad Niddery (19) gets pinned against the glass by Wisconsin freshman defenseman Jack Dougherty (4) during a game at the Schottenstein Center on Feb. 13. OSU won, 2-1. Credit: Jordan Boone / Lantern photographerTimes have been tough for the Ohio State men’s hockey team, as the Buckeyes split a weekend series with Wisconsin, hurting their chances at earning a higher seed in the conference tournament.Going into the series, coach Steve Rohlik told the team he wanted it to play with a playoff mentality.“You know it’s all about getting better, and when we talk about playoff mentality, the NHL season is a long grind and you see what happens in the playoffs. It’s the ultimate sport to watch in the playoffs and I said, ‘That is the mentality you have to have,’” Rohlik said.But even with that mentality, the Buckeyes followed a 2-1 Friday win with a 3-2 loss on Saturday.The loss means the Buckeyes’ chances at a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament have become slimmer. OSU is guaranteed a spot in the six-team tournament, but will likely have to face a top-three seed as the Buckeyes sit at fifth in the conference with eight regular season games to play.Senior forward Tanner Fritz said making a late-season push will come down to playing with pride and confidence.“(We are playing for our) pride. You have to play desperate hockey all the time and you want to go into the tournament with some confidence,” Fritz said. “It was a great opportunity for us tonight to get our first sweep, and we came up short.”Rohlik said he thought his team played with a bit of the playoff mentality in Friday’s game but didn’t feel the Buckeyes had the same approach going into Saturday’s matchup.“I talked to the guys after, I said, ‘You guys have to play desperate,’ and we talked about playoff hockey. Tonight’s performance was a different version of playoff hockey than I understand,” Rohlik said.With the offense falling short of the playoff mentality, the Buckeye defense stepped up and portrayed a bit of the desperation that Rohlik was looking for. After a total of 25 blocked shots against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes showed that they are willing to put themselves on the line for the puck.“If you’re in the lanes, you have to sacrifice your body for the team, and we talked about that and we have to continue to do a better job of that,” Rohlik said.With just four series remaining on the Big Ten schedule, including another against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will be looking for the playoff mentality to become a part of their everyday game. Senior assistant captain Matt Johnson said there are no excuses for losing games.“We weren’t executing like we were supposed to, we strayed completely away from our game tonight,” Johnson said Saturday. “(It) doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we need to come out the same way every single night. We know our strategy and we know our game plan and we just need to stick to what we know.”OSU’s Friday win snapped a six-game losing streak. Junior forward Tyler Lundey and sophomore forward Nick Schilkey tallied the goals for the Buckeyes.“I liked the end result, but I didn’t feel we started out great,” Rohlik said. “We are just scratching the surface. It’s a big win for our team. Anytime you can walk away with a win, it’s a huge boost to the confidence.”The rolling confidence started out strong for the Buckeyes as they came into Saturday’s game, taking the lead early in the first period. But they were unable to hold on to the lead, going into the third period tied, 2-2. The Badgers added a third goal to thwart OSU’s attempt at a series sweep.Rohlik said the fast start might have been more of a hindrance than a positive.“It hurt us scoring the early goal because we just weren’t the same after that,” he said. “Even getting up 2-1, our execution tonight was off. We didn’t take care of the puck.”The Buckeyes will look to restart this week in practice ahead of a home-and-home series against Michigan on Friday and Sunday.“Now it’s just focusing on getting better; next week we have to continue to grind and get better. We have to fix our flaws that came out this weekend and start moving in the right direction,” Johnson said.
OSU coach Thad Matta barks orders to his team during a game against Michigan State in the 2015 Big Ten Tournament in Chicago on March 13. OSU lost, 76-67. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorWith the Ohio State men’s basketball team heading into its seventh straight NCAA Tournament with a unique mix of freshmen and seniors, coach Thad Matta said he doesn’t want his team playing for him, or themselves.“The biggest battle cry they have heard from me throughout this year has been play for one thing, and one thing only, and that’s Ohio State,” he said.Matta’s reasoning for what some might call his own version of the ‘Buckeye Battle Cry,’ came from an unusual, but personal experience.The 11-year OSU coach was getting lunch at a sandwich shop before a game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., when he came across two elderly people donning Buckeye gear, he said.“They said, ‘Coach Matta we are shocked to see you sitting in here on game day, could we take a picture with you? This is our Christmas gift to each other,’” Matta recalled. “(They said) ‘We live in Toledo and we came to Chicago to watch the Buckeyes.’“I wonder how many guys on this team would understand what that means? It touched me, and it made me say, ‘Damn it Thad, you’ve got to win for those two people who saved their money to come watch us play in Chicago.’”With a current roster that has just four Ohio natives on it, the OSU men’s basketball team also holds five freshmen and six seniors, but Matta said he wants them to come together and win for the school and its fans.“It’s a heck of a lot bigger than us. We have something that we have to represent. I think when we do that, we play pretty good basketball,” Matta said. “I don’t care what (class) you are, just represent the university.”The senior class on the OSU roster has seen almost all there is to see when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, including a trip to the Final Four and the Elite Eight before being bounced in the first round last year against Dayton.The current senior class has just one Ohio native on it — forward Jake Lorbach, who joined the team prior to the 2012-2013 season — but is hungry to get back to past glory.“I can’t speak for everybody, but I have a good feeling everybody is going to play their hardest basketball right now,” senior guard Shannon Scott said. “We might not shoot the ball well, we might get outrebounded and all that stuff, but (they) are not going to have more heart than us on the court.”The Buckeyes were given a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and are set to play Virginia Commonwealth, a team that made its own Final Four run just a year before OSU’s seniors walked into Columbus.Senior forward Sam Thompson said while he doesn’t know much about the Rams, he remembers their Cinderella run.“I was a fan when they made their deep run. We know that they are going to play hard,” Thompson said. “They are going to play with a ton of energy, and we are going to do the same thing.”Going back to Matta’s theme, Thompson said that regardless of their seeding in the tournament, he came to OSU for a reason.“This is the best time of the year, this is what we came to Ohio State to do – to play in the NCAA Tournament and have a chance to compete in the month of March,” Thompson said.The Buckeyes will have a chance to do just that on Thursday as they are set to tip against VCU from Portland, Ore.
Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder stands during the national anthem prior to the the dual meet against Iowa on Jan. 21 in the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe same four words reverberated around the Schottenstein Center over and over during the final match of Sunday’s wrestling meet between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 3 Iowa.“Snyder takedown. Holloway escape.”Heavyweight Kyle Snyder toyed with his opponent, Steven Holloway. He took the Hawkeye down, then allowed him to get to his feet, only to take him down again with ease. Holloway wrestled because Iowa held undefeated No. 3 junior Sam Stoll out against Snyder.“[Stoll] has struggled a little bit with health and I think if anyone can put you in some positions that’s not that good for your health, it’s Kyle,” Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said.Ryan, Myles Martin and Bo Jordan laughed when Snyder said he did not care whether Stoll decided to sit out. They, like everyone else, knew what the result would have been had Stoll wrestled.Sunday’s result, which ended as a 24-9 technical fall win for Snyder, was never in doubt. Instead, the spectacle of Snyder performing one last time at home attracted a season-high crowd of 15,117 fans.If someone in the arena closed their eyes and listened to the public address announcer continually repeat those statements — “Snyder takedown. Holloway escape” — it would be hard to believe Snyder’s superiority against the overmatched opponent. But nothing abnormal happened in Sunday’s match. Ohio State has never seen a wrestler like Snyder, who has four pins and two technical falls this season. Sunday was the celebration of an all-time great.“Obviously, he’s got a bunch more competitions for Ohio State, but I think today I just tried to really just enjoy the day,” Ryan said following his team’s 22-12 win against Iowa. “I think you put so much time and energy and work into this and sometimes you can just get lost in the stress of it and the results of it.”Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder waves to the crowd after competing in the dual-meet against Iowa on Jan. 21 in the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorAfter the final home match ended, Snyder took a photo with his coaches and fellow seniors Bo Jordan and Nathan Tomasello, who hope to join him in becoming the first trio of teammates to be named four-time All-Americans in college wrestling history. Then, Snyder walked toward the Scarlet and Gray-clad fans packing the stands and screaming his name. People mobbed Snyder as he took pictures and signed autographs for 10 minutes before heading back to take a shower.Everyone wanted a piece of history to remember watching Sunday’s match, which acted as a microcosm of his dominant college career. The three-time All-American has won back-to-back NCAA championships, two Big Ten championships and has not lost a college match since March 21, 2015. He is the top-ranked wrestler, pound-for-pound, in college, according to FloWrestling. Those, of course, are only his collegiate accolades. Snyder also became the youngest Olympic champion in U.S. wrestling history and the youngest world champion in the country’s history, achieving both feats while in college.Snyder’s laurels have catapulted him into the legendary territory reserved for historically skilled Buckeyes, including Jesse Owens, Eddie George, Jerry Lucas and a select few others. And like them, college is just a stepping stone to further greatness.“I’m thankful for everything, but I’m also very excited about the future and competing in other matches and other tournaments,” Snyder said. “My career is not even close to being over, God willing.”For that reason, Snyder said he felt no different emotions, even knowing he would never again compete for Ohio State in Columbus. His collegiate accomplishments merely sit at the beginning of a list of accomplishments that will continue to grow.Instead of overworking Ohio State’s public address announcer with his constant takedowns, Snyder will attempt to overwhelm opponents en route to a third NCAA championship in March and in international competition for the foreseeable future.
The virus is known to persist in men’s semen for months and PHE currently recommends that men use condoms for six months upon returning from a Zika-endemic region to avoid passing the disease to their partners.However, the new research suggests that the virus can also damage the male reproductive system.Scientists found that after three weeks the testicles of Zika-infected mice had shrunk to one-tenth of their normal size and their internal structure was completely destroyed. Levels of their sex hormones also dropped and their fertility was reduced.By six weeks after infection, the number of motile sperm was down tenfold, and testosterone levels were similarly low.When healthy females were mated with infected mice, the females were around four times less likely to become pregnant as those paired with uninfected males. The more we learn about the Zika virus, the more interesting and alarming it becomes.Prof Allan Pacey University of Sheffield Hundreds of babies have been born with microcephaly in South America since the Zika outbreakCredit:Felipe Dana Officials preparing for the Olmypics in Rio this summer Dr Derek Gatherer, lecturer in the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences at Lancaster University, said it was important to start monitoring the fertility of men who had been infected with Zika to see if patterns emerge.“The question of whether or not male Zika patients develop subsequent fertility problems ought to be answerable by comparing the numbers of children born to that group, and their sperm counts, against a social and age matched Zika-negative group,” he said.“It’s been known for a while that Zika virus in men can find its way into the reproductive organs and may then go on to be sexually transmitted, but this study in mice is the first suggestion that this passage through the reproductive tract may actually be damaging.“Whether the results are relevant to human Zika infection remains to be seen. Nevertheless, some clinical reports of pain in the lower pelvis of Zika patients, and blood in their sperm would be consistent with a similar effect happening in humans.” According to Public Health England (PHE), some 244 British people have contracted the virus since the current outbreak from travelling abroad, but they did not have records for how many were men.The study authors say men may not realise they are infertile until many years after infection.“This is the only virus I know of that causes such severe symptoms of infertility,” said co-author Dr Kelle Moley, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington.“You might also ask, ‘Wouldn’t a man notice if his testicles shrank?’ Well, probably. But we don’t really know how the severity in men might compare with the severity in mice. I assume that something is happening to the testes of men, but whether it’s as dramatic as in the mice is hard to say.”British experts said the findings coincided with reports that men infected with Zika suffered from pelvic pain and blood in their urine. The effects are similar to those seen following human infection with other sexually transmitted infections. Prof Richard Sharpe, of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh said: “The big question is whether the same course of events might happen in men infected with Zika, because if so, it could well result in permanent loss of or reduction in fertility“For sure, any generalised infection of the testes bad enough to provoke an immune reaction within the testes is bad news for testis function and sperm generation. The answer is that we just don’t know.“These new findings strongly suggest that testes function in human men infected with Zika should be closely investigated so that we can try and establish whether or not Zika poses a new threat to male reproductive function.”In August, US scientists said that the disease had the potential to cause long-term memory problems, similar to Alzheimer’s disease.Prof Allan Pacey, professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield, added: “The more we learn about the Zika virus, the more interesting and alarming it becomes.” Governments in South America are attempting to combat the outbreak by releasing genetically modified or infected mosquitoes into communities to bring down insect populations. The research was published in the journal Nature. 10-year-old Elison nurses his 2-month-old brother Jose Wesley Dr Michael Diamond, of the University of Washington, who co-authored the study, said: “While our study was in mice, and with the caveat that we don’t yet know whether Zika has the same effect in men, it does suggest that men might face low testosterone levels and low sperm counts after Zika infection, affecting their fertility.”We don’t know for certain if the damage is irreversible, but I expect so, because the cells that hold the internal structure in place have been infected and destroyed.”The research is the first to link Zika to male infertility. Previously it was though that the virus, which is passed on through mosquito bites, was only dangerous for pregnant women, because it can lead to babies being born with shrunken heads and brain damage, a condition known as microcephaly. In rare cases it can also lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome which can cause paralysis and lead to death. The Zika virus could cause infertility in men, a new study suggests.Scientists in the US discovered that mice infected with Zika had shrunken testicles, low testosterone levels and low sperm counts.Although the findings have not yet been replicated in humans, experts say that the virus may also have worrying conseqences for men who become infected. Pregnant women have been advised to avoid Zika infected countries but no advice has been given for men Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
An ambulance worker crashed while over the drink-drive limit as she fled in her car from a man she had just met through an online dating site, a court heard.Deborah Fogarty-Walker, 46, hit the back of a lorry as she drove away from an address in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, because she was in “fear of her own safety”.The mother of six decided to leave the property she had visited when the man became aggressive, magistrates were told.Fogarty-Walker, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, appeared at Beverley Magistrates’ Court and expects to be sacked from her emergency services job after the lorry driver found her to be smelling of alcohol and unsteady on her feet. In a statement, the YAS said: “Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust is aware of today’s court case involving a member of staff.”We can confirm that appropriate disciplinary action is under way.” Ms Clark said: “She knows all about the consequences of drink-driving, having been to the scene of many an accident where drinking has been involved.”What happened on the night in question, she was travelling to Doncaster, and she has fallen foul of the pitfalls of internet dating.”She’d had two drinks, one of which was a glass of wine and the other was a vodka cocktail, which had been mixed for her.”The man she was with became aggressive and she began to fear for her own safety. She decided she would just try to get as far away as quickly as she could.” Ms Clark added: “She feels she’s let herself down. The impact of what she has done has hit her extremely hard and the consequences of the inevitable disqualification is devastating for her. She has sought help for her problems.”Fogarty-Walker was disqualified from driving for 17 months and ordered to complete 125 hours of unpaid work over the next year.Sentencing, chairman of the bench Ray Sampson said: “We’ve listened carefully to the details of the offence and we’ve listened to what your representative has had to say.”There is little else we can say, other than to say that the circumstances you found yourself in were upsetting and regrettable.” The court heard the lorry driver had “felt a jolt to the rear” after the incident on the M62 on October 15.He pulled over and discovered Fogarty-Walker’s Peugeot 208 had crashed into the back of his vehicle.After police attended the scene, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) worker was breathalysed and found to be over the drink-driving limit by almost two and a half times.Theresa Clark, defending, said her client, who pleaded guilty to one charge of driving while over the limit, was expecting to lose “the job that she loves” as a result of her conviction. The man she was with became aggressive and she began to fear for her own safety. She decided she would just try to get as far away as quickly as she couldTheresa Clark, defending Deborah Fogarty-Walker said she expects to be sacked from Yorkshire Ambulance Service Credit:Ben Lack Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
JS, who lived with her mother in London, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer last year and by August this year she had been told her illness was terminal and active treatment came to an end.She began researching cryonic preservation online – a controversial and costly process that involves the freezing of a dead body in the hope that resuscitation and a cure may one day be possible – and decided she wanted to be frozen after her death.Because she was too young to make a legally recognised will, she had to have the permission of both of her parents to sign up for the process.When she contacted her father, whom she has not seen since 2008 and who himself has cancer, he said he was opposed to the idea, so JS began legal proceedings through a solicitor to ensure her wishes were followed. Shortly before her death in a London hospital on October 17, in what is believed to be a unique case, the judge granted JS her wish. Her body was frozen and taken to a storage facility in the US. She is one of only 10 Britons to have been frozen, and the only British child.She told a relative: “I’m dying, but I’m going to come back again in 200 years.”But after a decision that raises profound moral and ethical questions, the judge and the girl’s doctors expressed serious misgivings about the process, which did not go entirely according to plan. Her mother spent the last hours of her daughter’s life fretting about details of the freezing process, which was “disorganised” and caused “real concern” to hospital staff. Bodies are cooled with ice before being frozen using dry iceCredit:Cryonics UK The judge suggested that “proper regulation” of cryonic preservation – which is currently legal but unregulated should now be considered.Cryogenic preservation of bodies does not fall under the remit of the Human Tissue Authority, which regulates the safe and ethical use of human tissue and organs, because it was “not contemplated” when the Human Tissue Act 2004 was passed. Her father, however, saw cryonics as a lose-lose proposition. The most likely outcome was that it would not work, in which case his daughter’s family would have been put through unnecessary distress and expense.The alternative, however, was potentially worse, as he set out in a statement to a judge who was to decide his daughter’s posthumous fate.“Even if the treatment is successful and she is brought back to life in, let’s say, 200 years,” he said, “she may not find any relative and she might not remember things.”She may be left in a desperate situation – given that she is still only 14 years old – and will be in the United States of America [where her body was to be stored].” Volunteers from Cryonics UK train for the process of freezing a bodyCredit:Cryonics UK The disagreement between mother and father forced JS, who as a minor needed the consent of both parents for the process to be carried out, to seek a court order determining her fate.The court case which followed not only represented a human and family tragedy, but also shone a light on a little-known and highly controversial industry that describes itself as “an ambulance to the future”.Teetering between science fiction and science fact, cryonics is a leap of faith, relying entirely on future medical advances that may or may not happen.Its proponents frame it as a choice between “definitely” dying and “maybe” living on. But he had one condition: that he could see his daughter’s body after she died, to say goodbye to the child he had not seen for eight years.JS and her mother said no, forcing the judge to settle what he described as “a tragic combination of childhood illness and family conflict”.Mr Justice Jackson said “I fully understand the father’s misgivings” and pointed out that the girl’s doctors felt “deep unease” about cryonics, making the case “an example of the new questions that science poses to the law”.He granted JS’s wishes, having noted that “the prospect of her wishes being followed will reduce her agitation and distress about her impending death”.Cryonics UK, otherwise known as the Human Organ Preservation Research Trust charity, was put on standby and as JS’s condition worsened, a team of four volunteers assembled at the hospital.Meanwhile Mr Justice Jackson visited JS in hospital, at her request, and said he was “moved by the valiant way in which she was facing her predicament”.On October 17, ten days after the judge’s visit, JS “died peacefully in the knowledge that her body would be preserved in the way she wished”.However, the judge was sent a note by the hospital which made “unhappy reading”, he said.On the day JS died, “her mother is said to have been pre-occupied with the post-mortem arrangements at the expense of being fully available to JS,” said the judge.“The voluntary organisation is said to have been under-equipped and disorganised, resulting in pressure being placed on the hospital to allow procedures that had not been agreed.”The process involves replacing the blood with an anti-freeze fluid, slowly cooling the body to -70C, and then packing it in dry ice to be transported to a storage facility. Although the preparation of JS’s body for cryogenic preservation was completed, “the way in which the process was handled caused real concern to the medical and mortuary staff”, the judge said. A 14-year-old girl who died of cancer has been cryogenically frozen in the hope that she can be “woken up” and cured in the future after winning a landmark court case in her final days.The girl’s divorced parents had disagreed over whether her wish to be frozen should be followed, so the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked a High Court judge to intervene.In a heartbreaking letter to the court, she said: “I don’t want to die but I know I am going to…I want to live longer…I want to have this chance.”The girl, known as JS, asked Mr Justice Peter Jackson to rule that her mother, who supported her desire to be cryogenically preserved, should be the only person allowed to make decisions about the disposal of her body. Show more JS, described by her teachers as caring, happy and friendly, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in August 2015, and despite in-patient treatment at a London hospital, she was told her illness was terminal and in August this year her active treatment was stopped.By then she had already spent months researching cryonics and, according to court papers, “pursued her investigations with determination, even though a number of people have tried to dissuade her”.She chose “the most basic arrangement” offered by an American company, the Cryonics Institute, one of only three companies in the world that stores frozen bodies. In order to get her body to Michigan, where the company is based, she also contacted Cryonics UK, a non-profit volunteer organisation that offers the country’s only cryonic preparation service.Her parents were far from wealthy, but her maternal grandparents managed to raise the £37,000 that was needed.There was, however, a problem. JS’s father, who had not seen his daughter since 2008, (having applied unsuccessfully through the courts for contact visits) had to be told of her plans and asked to sign parental consent forms. He was reluctant to agree.He was concerned about the moral and ethical implications of the process, and whether he could be pursued for payments at some point in the future despite living on benefits.His daughter, with her mother’s help, hired a solicitor who applied for the disagreement to be settled by the Family Division of the High Court.When the case came before Mr Justice Jackson last month, JS’s father changed his mind, saying: “I respect the decisions she is making. This is the last and only thing she has asked from me.” JS’s parents could not afford to pay for the cryonic process, which costs from £37,000, but her maternal grandparents raised the money needed for her body to be frozen and taken to a storage facility in America – one of only two countries, along with Russia, that has facilities for storing frozen bodies.Expressing sympathy with the girl’s father, Mr Justice Jackson said: “No other parent has ever been put in his position.”It is no surprise that this application is the only one of its kind to have come before the courts in this country – and probably anywhere else.”He added: “It may be thought that the events in this case suggest the need for proper regulation of cryonic preservation in this country if it is to happen in the future.”How a family tragedy turned into a landmark court caseAs 14-year-old JS lay in hospital, waiting for her terminal cancer to claim her life, she found comfort, and hope, in the idea that science might help her to cheat death.After spending months online researching the theory of cryonics, the freezing of bodies in the hope that they could one day be brought back to life, JS made up her mind.“I’m dying, but I’m going to come back again in 200 years,” she told one relative.Her mother agreed that being cryogenically frozen represented a chance to resume her life once science had found a cure for her cancer. I was moved by the valiant way in which she was facing her predicamentMr Justice Peter Jackson About a week after her death, JS’s body was packed into a metal crate with around 40kg of dry ice and loaded onto an aeroplane bound for Michigan, where it will be stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen by the Cryonics Institute at its facility in Clinton Township.The company, which also stores dead pets, makes no excuse for the fact that it can only offer the “hope that future medical technology may be able to someday revive and restore them to full health”.To date, around 350 people have been frozen since the process was invented in the 1960s. Around 20 bodies thawed out and had to be buried after a pioneer company went bust, but the Cryonics Institute and its rival, Arizona-based Alcor, have been storing bodies since the 1970s.There is no proof that the process of cryo-preservation could ever be reversed.CORRECTION: As first published, this article wrongly stated that the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) regulates the freezing of sperm and embryos. This is in fact the responsibility of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The article has been amended to clarify the HTA’s remit. She was too ill to attend court, but wrote: “I think being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time. I don’t want to be buried underground.“I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up.”On October 6, the judge ordered that JS’s mother should have the sole right to decide what happened to her daughter’s body, while stressing that he was not making any ruling about the proposed cryonic preservation.He also granted an injunction preventing the father from attempting to make any arrangements for the disposal of his daughter’s body. He said he had been convinced JS was a “bright, intelligent young person” with the capacity to bring the application. JS was represented in court by Frances Judd QCCredit:Jacqueline Cross Cryonics UK, the non-profit organisation that prepared the girl’s body for transport to the US, agreed with the judge.A spokesman for the firm said: “We expect that future regulation will help hospitals to know where they stand legally and procedurally. The opportunity to utilise professional medical assistance may increase as we become a recognised and regulated field.”The case can only now be reported because Mr Justice Jackson ruled that nothing could be published until one month after JS’s death. He also ruled that her parents’ names and other specific details should remain secret. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
A delay in resolving a High Court case about a young woman who claimed she was being imprisoned by her father has been attributed to Brexit.Amina Al-Jeffery, 21, who grew up in Swansea and has dual British and Saudi Arabian nationality, has complained that her father locked her up in his flat in Jeddah because she had “kissed a guy”.Her father, Mohammed Al-Jeffery, a Saudi academic, has disputed her allegations and said he was trying to protect her.In August, Mr Justice Holman said her father had to “permit and facilitate” his daughter’s return to England or Wales by September 11, but she has not returned. Amina_Al-Jeffery shown in a school yearbook photoCredit:PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The case was adjourned until Friday in the hope that a private face-to-face meeting between Miss Al-Jeffery and her solicitor, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, would get to the bottom of the matter and allow it to be resolved “once and for all”.But the judge was told that the meeting in Jeddah had not taken place because of travel difficulties encountered by Ms Hutchinson.Her bid to get a visa was thwarted because her Irish passport did not have the required two clear pages side by side and, when she applied for a fresh passport, she was told there was a backlog because of Brexit.Adjourning the case until February 13, the judge said: “There you have it. The reach of Brexit has even impacted on progress in this case. Who would have foreseen it?”She needed two pages side by side, an Irish passport and there was a backlog because of Brexit.”But these things happen and we have to accommodate them.”At a previous hearing, the judge said he had heard that Miss Al-Jeffery’s relationship with her father was much improved and some of the restrictions placed upon her had been relaxed.Miss Al-Jeffery said she now had a mobile phone, a computer and her passports – although her British passport was said to have expired – and she was working as an intern.She had repeatedly said she wanted the legal proceedings to come to an end as they were hampering the restoration of family relationships.Lawyers for her father said he had agreed that she could travel in and out of Saudi Arabia at any time although, as a formality, he would require her to ask permission which would always be given.The judge said he remained concerned about the true scope of Miss Al-Jeffery’s freedoms and had not found it easy to decide whether to bring an end to the proceedings – hence the need for the meeting.
Thatcher declared war on youth culture at the end of the 1980s Poll Tax protestersCredit: HULTON ARCHIVE She launched a private battle against the European Commission after it announced it was repealing the Sex Discrimination Act, removing protection for Oxbridge colleges.Mrs Thatcher, who had studied at Somerville, said: “To stop [the existing policy] would infringe not enlarge liberties.”The Prime Minister would resist the move “most vigorously”.Plot to destroy cocaine crops by spraying bugsSecret plans to sabotage cocaine production abroad by introducing plant-destroying pests were put forward as the Government waged war on drugs.Thatcher described the idea, which was proposed by Lord (Victor) Rothschild in July 1989, as a “characteristically brilliant” and “intriguing” way of tackling the growing “crack problem”.Lord Rothschild suggested using “covert” tactics and aerial sprays to introduce a bug which would attack the source of cocaine, Cabinet Office papers released by the National Archives show. Downing St residents risked poll tax fineMrs Thatcher was warned she faced a fine for failing to register for the poll tax on time.The embarrassing oversight was quickly rectified, but it marked an inauspicious start for a measure that prompted a storm of protest and may ultimately have led to her downfall.In early 1989, as the political storm around the levy was gathering strength, Westminster city council began issuing registration forms ahead of the launch of the tax in England and Wales in April the following year. She also light-heartedly complained about a recent debate she had attended in Cambridge, which was “rather dull” and full of “rabid conservatives”.“Not a Trotskyite to argue with!” she quipped.The pair also discussed the first national steel strike in 50 years, which took place in January 1980 following a dispute over pay, while the Princess admitted she was finding it “quite impossible to find out what is happening in Afghanistan”.The Prime Minister, meanwhile, expressed her dismay at the ongoing hostage crisis at the US embassy in Iran, complaining that events had “cast a shadow over the whole world”.A spokesman for Buckingham Palace did not comment on the letters but a palace official said they were “comfortable” with the release.It came as other documents showed Mrs Thatcher attempted to block a visit to Brussels by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh over fears it would come at a “very bad time” for policy negotiations in Europe. The Prime Minister expressed concerns that plans for the royals to visit the European Commission and meet the King of the Belgians in 1980 would clash with a settlement on fishing policy. No 10 stressed Mrs Thatcher’s concern, but the Queen went on to visit Belgium in November of that year. Princess Margaret with Denis and Mrs Thatcher In the 1980sCredit:Getty Images Margaret Thatcher as she raises her glass at Somerville College, her old Oxford CollegeCredit:PA Wire Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Mrs Thatcher hated acid houseAcid house parties became a personal crusade by Margaret Thatcher after she received a complaint from a villager about the noisy all-night raves.The Prime Minister urged the Government to combat the “new fashion” and “prevent such things from starting”. Huge unlicensed parties were held across Britain between 1988 and 1989 as the dance music movement spread, earning the period the nickname “the Second Summer of Love”. Officials arranged for the prime minister to complete the form, only to discover that the council had sent the wrong one and she had to do it again.Mrs Thatcher responded cheerfully enough, noting her first effort had been “a good practice run”. The tax, officially known as the community charge, was a flat rate levy on all residents on a property and was widely seen as unfair to the poor.Other documents show that officials worried that a decision to allow MPs to claim the poll tax on their second homes through expenses could allow the press and opposition to “make a considerable amount of mischief”. In what Mr Powell described as an “unusually warm and friendly” letter, the Russian – addressing her for the first time in their correspondence as “Margaret” – expressed his appreciation for the “mutual understanding” they had established.In other documents, the anger of her closest aides was disclosed. Mr Powell, especially, could not hide his own views. Responding to a message from Brent Scowcroft, the US national security adviser, he said: “What happened was a devastating blow and a sad commentary on standards of loyalty in politics.”Battle to keep male dons out of collegesThe idea of forcing women-only Oxbridge colleges to hire male dons was “absurd”, Mrs Thatcher argued. The private events were held illegally and often included drug taking.Officials warned that any proposed legislation should not affect those attending “innocent events” such as barn dances, papers released by The National Archives show. Nigel Lawson in 1986Credit:Rex At the time, Mrs Thatcher insisted the £14 million a year they were spending on milk would be better spent on new school buildings.But when Kenneth Clarke wrote to her in May 1989 to suggest ending free milk for children in daycare, she replied: “No. This will cause a terrible row – all for £4 million. I know – I went through it 19 years ago.”Thatcher’s one-woman crusade against litter loutsParking wardens were to be given power to fine litter louts, under plans considered by Mrs Thatcher as part of an attempt to clean up Britain in the Eighties.Documents reveal that she virtually single-handedly drove the campaign by encouraging a variety of ideas in Whitehall. Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street during general election, London, Britain – 1983Credit:Rex Features/Herbie Knott Legislation to tackle the dance movement was introduced by the Entertainments (Increased Penalties) Act 1990, also referred to as the Acid House Bill, which heightened punishments for those organising parties without licences which played ‘repetetive beats’.Mrs T was a secret pal of Princess MargaretShe was reported to have a chilly relationship with the Queen, with some reports going so far as to claim the monarch mocked her accent and could not bare the way she “lectured”.But Margaret Thatcher seemingly enjoyed a secret friendship with the Queen’s sister. In fact, the Prime Minister and Princess Margaret were so friendly they discussed the royal’s recent operation alongside world issues in a series of intimate letters, it has now been revealed. Extent of economic adviser’s briefing against LawsonNigel Lawson resigned amid bitter feuding as advisers battled behind his back to have him removed.The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s decision to quit in October 1989 came as a heavy blow to Margaret Thatcher and helped to precipitate the events which led to her downfall.His walkout was prompted by her refusal to sack her economics adviser, Prof Sir Alan Walters, whom Lawson accused of undermining his position. But files have revealed the extent to which Sir Alan briefed against him. Princess Margaret in 1991Credit:RICHARD YOUNG/REX/Shutterstock The handwritten notes, sent between the Prime Minister and Princess Margaret at the beginning of 1980, were laden with compliments as the pair discussed topical issues, from Afghanistan to the steel industry.The rare release shows Mrs Thatcher praising the royal for her “wonderfully successful” tour of the United States, as she revealed she was “very distressed” to hear she had been admitted to hospital again.“You very kindly wrote to me after your own visit to the United States, which was wonderfully successful both in the admiration you won and in the financial results for Covent Garden,” she wrote in the letter, sent at the beginning of January that year. “Incidentally I went to Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve and Claus Moser [the former chair of the Royal Opera House] was still talking of your tour.” In the candid note, the Prime Minister also confides in the royal about how nervous she is to “take the chair at Neddy” – the National Economic Development Council – for the first time.“[It is] hardly the best moment but we were never to know that when the meeting was fixed,” she confessed.Around four weeks later, at the beginning of February, the Princess replied, apologising for the delay and explaining she had “just had to have some things dug out of my face”. She had actually just had an operation at the London Clinic to remove a benign skin lesion. In the letter, signed “Margaret”, she praised the Prime Minister for her trip to the United States, expressing delight that she had surprised them “no end at answering their questions in a positive way, when they are used to waffling on for hours in figures of eight, not actually answering anything”. Margaret Thatcher goes litter picking in St James’s Park Credit:PA Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool, October 1987Credit:Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images One proposal, mooted in November 1987, was for traffic wardens to be given powers to levy on-the-spot fines if people were spotted dropping litter.The idea was rebuffed, with the reply that wardens were ‘hard-pressed’ enforcing road and traffic law.World leaders’ disbelief at Thatcher’s oustingWhen the news broke that Margaret Thatcher had been ousted by Tory plotters after 11 years in office, world leaders and allies were left in disbelief. Documents lay bare their shock and show a remarkable outpouring of commiserations from those who had come into contact with her.Among the first to respond was Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state who telephoned Charles Powell, her foreign affairs adviser, in a “very emotional state”.In a note to Mrs Thatcher, Mr Powell said the American had told him that her departure “was worse than a death in the family”.The most remarkable message came, however, from Moscow and Mikhail Gorbachev, the reformist Soviet leader whom Mrs Thatcher had described a man to “do business with”. Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984Credit: Sipa Press / Rex Features A form covering the various residencies in and around Downing Street was sent to the Treasury. But the Cabinet Office complained that it was “most inappropriate” to issue a single form “asking a number of essentially personal questions”. Individual forms were dispatched, but there were still no details forthcoming. In May 1989 David J Hopkins, the council registration officer, sent a letter addressed to the “Resident/Owner” at No 10 Downing Street warning: “You are required by law to supply the relevant information within 21 days of this request and failure to do so may lead to a penalty being imposed.” In a memorandum to the prime minister dated October 4, 1989, he warned that the Chancellor’s policy of “shadowing” the German mark – Europe’s strongest currency – with sterling was having a devastating impact. The high interest rates needed to maintain the value of the pound risked tipping the economy into a “serious recession”, he said. “The pattern of events, like a Greek tragedy, is painfully familiar” he wrote. A week later he warned that the policy was playing into the hands of the Labour Party and could cost her the next general election.“This sorry process, loaded in favour of their financially irresponsible policy, must not be allowed to gather force and votes,” he said.When Mr Lawson announced on October 6 that he had had enough, Mrs Thatcher pleaded with him to stay. However her close advisers suggested she was well rid of him.Andrew Turnbull, her private secretary, said the true reason was her rejection of a demand by Mr Lawson and foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe for Britain to join the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM).He accused the Chancellor of shadowing the mark as an attempt to enter the ERM “by the backdoor”.’Milk snatcher’ barb still stung 19 years laterThatcher “the milk snatcher” was so haunted by criticism for axing free school milk when she was education minister in 1970 that she refused a similar cut nearly 20 years later over fears of more outrage.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Barnsley council has been forced to apologise after CCTV footage emerged of bin men deliberately dropping bags of rubbish and throwing wheelie bins.Cheryl Parker, 45, wondered why the bins on her street in Barnsley were strewn across the pavement so she checked her CCTV.The camera, which faces onto the road of Prince Arthur Street, captured footage of the bin men throwing bin bags around.The video of the bin men’s actions were shared on social media.In reaction, Barnsley council said the behaviour was unacceptable and announced that an investigation would be carried out.The statement from a council spokesman said: “We are aware of a video involving our waste collection service being shared on social media.”Barnsley Council aims to deliver a consistently high standard of service and this clearly falls shorts.”This behaviour is totally unacceptable and a full investigation will be carried out”We thank the resident for getting in touch and apologise for the level of service she received and any distress caused.”