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2020 Tuscan GP Free Practice 1 and 2 Debrief - r/Formula1 Editorial Team

2020 Tuscan GP Free Practice 1 and 2 Debrief

Words by UnmeshDatta26, showstopperNL, and Death_Pig
Discussion Threads:

The Worst Kept Secret Of The Year Is Confirmed

Vettel to Aston Martin, Perez goes where?

Since Ferrari announced that they would be signing Carlos Sainz for the 2021 season to partner with Charles Leclerc, the future of Sebastian Vettel has been in limbo, with murmurs that he was even considering retirement. The biggest rumor all season was that he would join soon-to-be-renamed Racing Point, spearheading the Aston Martin rebrand.
The rumors are now confirmed. Following Sergio Perez announcement that he would leave the team after 7 years of service, Vettel is now officially signed with Racing Point/Aston Martin and while the contract’s length has not yet confirmed, reports indicated that he will take a pay cut, supposedly earning a third his current salary at Ferrari. According to Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point’s CEO and Team Principal, it certainly seems that Vettel will be given a steady hand and a steady team for him to settle in and fight.
We would be remiss if we did not mention Sergio Perez’ contributions to Racing Point’s current standing. When the Force India team was in danger of collapsing, Perez’s actions bought it enough time to finalise a sale to the group headed by Lawrence Stroll, saving the team (along with many jobs). The outpouring of support and gratitude for his efforts by team personnel are certainly enhanced by the knowledge that the team would likely not be in Formula 1 without Perez.
Although many people say there is no place for sentimentality in the cut-throat business of F1, the humane connections formed while battling the other drivers and teams run deep and it is clear that Sergio Perez was a beloved part of the team and will be missed by many.

Change of Scenery at Williams

After Claire and Sir Frank left Williams last weekend in an emotional goodbye from the paddock at Monza and CEO Mike O’Driscoll announced he would be leaving the team, the questions started swirling around for who would come in to replace them.
For now, Simon Roberts has been promoted to Acting Team Principal and will lead Williams until the new owners can decide on the changes they want to implement. Roberts began his career in F1 in 2003, joining McLaren to be their Operations Director and General Manager, later moving to Force India in 2009 as their COO before a return to McLaren in 2010 as an Operations Director and a part of the Executive Team. He would become McLaren’s COO in 2017, a post he occupied until May, when he became Williams’ Managing Director.
We all hope he can steer the team through this difficult period towards a brighter future.

Quick bits

  • Ferrari celebrates their 1000th GP in F1 with a new special burgundy livery, the same color as their first-ever car that raced in Monaco in 1950. Their driver suits have also changed to the same color with a large 1000 logo on it, also present on the cars engine covers. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc are racing with special helmets to honor the occasion.
  • Haas and Racing Point have settled a two-year dispute over payment of F1’s prize money. Haas had originally argued that Stroll’s Racing Point should not receive their Column 1 prize money for two years, as they were a new entry, as Haas did when it entered the sport in 2016. As this was not the case, Racing Point receiving Column 1 prize money normally, Haas brought a case against it, saying that either Racing Point should not have been paid or Haas should have received the same payments for their first 2 years.
Haas had launched the protest against Racing Point at the end of the 2018 season in Abu Dhabi. Today, it was announced that the two teams had reached a settlement, details still very hard to come by.
In a press conference by Szafnauer and Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner, Szafnauer said: “We’re pleased that it’s come to a conclusion and now the entire team can focus on what we’re here to do and entertain the fans, we’re happy it’s behind us”, which close the matter without providing any details.

Track and Tech Talk

Mugello is the first of several new tracks for Formula 1 in 2020, and this weekend will be the first time a Grand Prix will be held at the track, but not the first time Formula 1 cars have gone around it.
The track record was set by Rubens Barrichello in the F2004 and half the current drivers have taken part in races at Mugello (a list of which will appear as a comment to this Debrief), with 6 current drivers having also taken part in the 2012 Pirelli test at the track.
Set in the Tuscan Mountains, the surrounding area has some similarities to the Red Bull Ring, with Mugello being a very fast track, featuring blind corners due to the terrain’s undulation, with Turns 8 and 9 (Arrabbiata 1 and 2) probably being the most impressive part for Formula 1 cars, as they are expected to take the double right-hander flat out, subjecting the drivers to massive G forces.
According to Mercedes’ fact sheet, 66% of the lap time is spent at full throttle, and the lowest speed corners are somewhere near 120 kph, much faster than most other circuits on the calendar. The drivers can expect to take anywhere between 4 and 5 Gs of force at Turn 9. Valtteri Bottas was quoted after FP2 saying “this track is definitely one of the most physically demanding. We’ll only properly get to see the effects of that in the race distance, but even today, I could feel it and it’s going to be tough for everyone on Sunday”.
There is only one DRS zone on the start-finish straight, with the detection point being just before the final turn, with only 5 braking events in the whole circuit, despite there being 15 turns, 6 to the left and 9 to the right. This track is a true test of the power and grip of the modern era cars, with drivers expected to take some corners flat out, notably the aforementioned Arrabbiata corners.
Pirelli has brought the three hardest compounds (C1, C2, and C3) for this weekend. The asphalt at Mugello is famously abrasive, so Pirelli expects high degradation from the asphalt and from the loads the high-speed corners will impose on the tires. As the cars will run high downforce packages, the loads will increase, and we can expect a powerful DRS in the start/finish straight.
And for the first time this season, there will be fans in the grandstands, as Mugello will allow close to 3.000 fans to watch the race live, bringing a small dose of normalcy to a very strange 2020.

Free Practice 1

After weeks of anticipation, it was finally time for the cars to hit the track at Mugello. All teams went out to do their installation laps right away, using tires they would return to Pirelli midway through the session for analysis. Lando Norris tested his radio in the most Lando Norris way possible by singing. Happy Friday everyone!
A cautious session ensued, with Mercedes coming out on top, Bottas topping the first-ever official Formula 1 session at Mugello, Barrichello’s track record duly broken. The Finn was closely followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the Red Bull looking good this weekend, in contrast to their tough weekend at Monza. The nature of Mugello with fast sweeping corners should favor Red Bull’s aerodynamic dominant design, and we expect the team to take the fight to Mercedes.
A fairly big surprise on the FP1 time sheet is Charles Leclerc closing the session in P3. Time will tell if this was a single lap glory run, or a glimpse of actual pace this weekend, but things can only improve from last weekend.
As usual, 6-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was not far from the top, even if he “only” managed to clock the 4th fastest time, some 0.5 seconds back from his Mercedes teammate.
Last week’s winner Pierre Gasly impressed again, finishing 5th. Just like big brother Red Bull, AlphaTauri looked good around Mugello in FP1, with Gasly’s teammate Daniil Kvyat setting the 7th best time.
After a torrid weekend in Monza, as can be read in u/Death_Pig’s A Weekend Chez Renault piece, Esteban Ocon will be looking to bounce back at Mugello. The weekend certainly got off to a good start as he was 6th fastest in FP1, 0.3s quicker than his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who finished in 10th.
Sandwiched by the Renaults were McLaren’s Norris in 8th and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon. While completing the most laps in the session (34), the second Red Bull had a slow start to the weekend, ending FP1 a full second behind Verstappen.
Further down the leaderboard, the biggest surprise is Racing Point down in 18th and 19th. The two pink cars appeared out of sync with the rest of the teams in doing race simulations, even causing some slight frustration between Stroll and Verstappen.
Other than Carlos Sainz being down in P15 for McLaren, the back of the grid had the usual suspects, with Giovinazzi P14, Russell P16, Magnussen P17, and Latifi P20.
The only incident of note in the morning session was Nicholas Latifi spinning into the gravel trap, but able to get going again.
FP1 did not answer many questions, but highlighted that the tires will be a big topic this weekend. The track does indeed punish the rubber quite severely and the teams will have their work cut out for them making them last.
With the teams having only three practice sessions to acquire all their tire usage data, this could throw a wrench in whatever plans the teams have made so far.

Free Practice 2

A fairly standard FP1 was followed up by an incident packed FP2, with Albon starting the session going back to the future.
The first to kick the excitement off was Leclerc, who spun into the gravel and was lucky not to beach his car, in a similar incident to Latifi’s in FP1.
After starting the morning on a high note, Lando Norris will have few reasons to sing after FP2. The young Brit put a wheel on the gravel coming out of Turn 10 and was lucky to only lose a front wing, and as the McLaren could not return to the pits, his session ended.
The red flag came out and the timing of it was awkward, as teams were preparing and/or starting their race simulations and had to abort their plans.
After the damaged McLaren was out of the way, the session restarted and the teams started their qualifying simulations, setting their best laps of the session. Bottas led the way again, going into the 1:16s for the first time, the current lap record now 1:16.969s. Hamilton was 0.2s behind and Verstappen almost matching the #44 Black Arrow’s time, only 0.039s behind.
Just as teams were settling into race simulations again, the 2nd big incident of the session occurred. Kimi Räikkönen and Sergio Perez collided in a very weird accident coming out of the pit exit into Turn 1. You don’t typically see collisions like this in free practice, but as the Racing Point came out of the pits, Perez could not see the Alfa Romeo, and as Räikkönen turned into the first corner, he clipped the front wing of pink car, spinning into the gravel, while Perez had to return to the pits for repairs (and will have a 1 place grid penalty for it). As the clash left a scattering of debris on track, the red flag came out again, ending many long runs.
The second session was less kind to Ferrari, with Leclerc P10 and Vettel P12 after a perfectly executed pirouette midway through the session. Racing Point fared better, but P7 (Perez) and 11 (Stroll) is not where the team wants to be, so it remains to be seen if they can further improve on Saturday. As Mugello will probably not offer many overtaking opportunities, a poor qualifying can hinder a team’s fortunes on Sunday.
Haas looks particularly in danger, as Grosjean could only complete 5 laps and Kevin Magnussen, while notching 32 laps was unable to beat Williams' Latifi, the teammates occupying P19 and 20, respectively. Kvyat, who closed the session in P15, must also improve, especially as his race winning teammate was P8 in the session.
With 12 minutes to go the mess was cleared, and cars took to the track again, before Vettel’s Ferrari decided to end their session earlier. The car turned itself off and ended the day’s running.

Conclusions after FP2:

Due to the long runs getting cut short, it is hard to ascertain where teams stand in terms of pace, but Red Bull does appear to be more competitive this weekend. Verstappen’s tire management could be an important part of the race, but it is yet unclear where Mercedes stands. This is not to suggest that they will not be the strongest team on Sunday, as betting against the team in 2020 seems foolish, but we can hope that Red Bull will challenge, especially if the temperature should rise.
The midfield battle still is as close as ever. With the new power mode directives in place, this could be another circuit where a midfield team, like McLaren, could challenge the top teams by pushing in a higher engine mode than the rest. On a track like Mugello, every ounce of power is crucial to overall lap times and the restricted overtaking opportunities could help a slightly slower car hold its position. After an all-midfield podium and an AlphaTauri win last weekend, we would certainly not complain if Sunday brought some surprises.
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Rolan Garros Men's Singles Round 1 Matchup featuring jaguars & potatos

Another tournament another app to download. Goot-bye US Open app. Another week of typing F into google chrome before realizing the site starts with an R. The French are classy. But who was Roland Garros? Was he, a fictitious dragon who ruled over the Alps and the Bay of Biscay and all that lay in between? Or was he a French aviator and pilot during World War I? Over the next two weeks, we’ll get to the bottom of this. I know which way I’m leaning.
PS that is Querrey in the photo if you're on mobile, not me
Djokovic Ymer : Novak’s biggest win at the French Open is having Thiem and Nadal on the opposite side of the draw. A healthy reward for the #1 player in the world, and one that will mean a very wide open draw and a very enjoyable snackathon while he watches the other semifinal. Novak, or Snack Attack as he’s known to his close friends and family, will be hungies for this one after a very odd day of frustration against Carreño Busta at the US Open led to a disqualification. Novak won the Rome event with relative ease and is as close to a frontrunner as someone other than Nadal can be at this event.
Ymer has been steadily improving but is still at the top of the challenger level when it comes to clay. This won’t be close, but it’s good to see Ymer stringing together a few seasons of appearances in the majors. Djokovic in 3.
Berankas Dellien : Ricardas Berankas may be closer than he appears. After a good hardcourt mini-swing, Berankas has been absent from the clay warmups. He’s never really been the best on clay although he plays a solid baseline game, and this mostly because while he’s consistent, he struggles to hit through the court on slower surfaces. Dellien on the other hand, does his best work on clay. He’s been losing matches you’d expect him to have a better chance in and hasn’t had many bright points leading up to the break. With Djokovic in the next round and Berankis on his worst surface with minimal warmup, this is a must-win for Dellien. He’s struggled to find the finish line but he’ll have ample chances here, and his defending is similar to Munar’s in terms of lockdown baselining Dellien in 4 or he is likely headed off the tour.
Galan Norrie : This is a brilliant opportunity for Daniel. He’s been hinting at a big run on clay and overcoming a lot of the gatekeepers of the challenger tour, but a lot of third set losses have plagued him, and while it’s considered a short stretch of tour, the clay events are deep with talent. Norrie has ventured to the South American swing once or twice, with relatively poor results. He can be a frustrating opponents at his peak, but his backhand doesn’t get through the court well and he’s just a bit inconsistent with results. He’ll still be a favorite here because playing in the spotlight in a major is something that takes time to adjust to, but Galan will make it close and could eke out a win since he’s still a developing player. Galan in 5.
Sandgren Hurkacz : Sandgren hasn’t had a terrible time on the dirt this year, qualifying for events the last two weeks and unfortunately running into guys who are simply better than him. Almost beating Caruso is a great step, and a year ago that would make him a bit of a favorite to beat Hurkacz. Those of us who watched his matches with Rublev and Schwartzman saw a different Hurkacz from the inconsistent but promising server that’s been exhausting bettors while losing after winning the first set time and time again. Hurkacz was hitting very clean and generating winners relatively easily, and while his serve left him late against Diego, playing a returner like that in a long match will do that to you.
Sandgren and Hurkacz will both be hitting a heavy ball here and looking to hold behind big serves, but one of them has had higher level success in the past few weeks, and I think Hubert, or “Hubert”, as he’s known down at the ‘ol library, has the better serve and bigger groundstrokes. Hurkacz in 3-4, and please when you look at Hurkacz picture him wearing glasses and looking up from his wooden table anytime someone coughs across the room.
Garin Kohlschreiber : This is a good start for Garin, whose physical state is somewhat dependent on Tsitspas. A finals appearance on Saturday will make for a tough turnaround, but I don’t think he’ll withdraw from a major, and given Kohl’s loss to a super-hampered Fognini last week a little bit of fatigue won’t be too much of an issue. That being said, Garin’s game is largely dependent on physical effort and being a ball machine. I would say it’s split 95% that, and 5% having elegant hair. Kohlschreiber won’t just disappear and if Garin is a ghost of himself, he’ll lose, but that’ll be a big dip in level in a short period of time, and the fatigue I expect to hurt Garin’s run at the French is more of a 3rd-4th round type of struggle. Garin in 4.
Humbert Polmans : Polmans name backwards is Snamlop, and that’s important because it’s now the second thing you know about his clay game. Polmans wears a hunting cap and plays a very energetic and consistent game. In normal circumstances he’d have a puncher’s chance, and the lucky losers in tour events are classic for pulling a number of upsets (like Bublik this week) but this is not the spot. Humbert played great in Hamburg and lost early enough that he’ll have a few days to travel and get ready for RG. Humbert in 3.
Vesely Broady : These two will be very happy to play each other first round. Vesely has only just started to eke out wins on this clay swing and Broady has just qualified for the first time, beating Polmans and Kuhn along the way. These aren’t the type of wins that suggest he’ll beat Vesely, but Vesely’s struggles are the kind of thing that could see lower-tier players reel him in. I expect Broady’s timing to be a bit better than Vesely’s to start as he’s had a few matches on these courts, but Vesely really is a tour level player at the end of the day, so I believe both players will have some difficulty pulling away here. Someone in 5. The Vesely that lost to Vukic in a challenger loses. The Vesely that played a decent match against Humbert wins.
Majchrzak Khachanov : If you got into a car accident with a basket full of the alphabet, you miiiiiiiiight get this combination of letters. Kamil just won a challenger in Prostejov, beating some quality players and Andujar in the finals. Everyone who knows Andujar knows he was raised with jaguars, and wins two titles in a row every year then disappears. Majchrzak interrupting this is a very brave feat, but also one that means this isn’t the one-way traffic that a Khachanov Majchrzak match normal would be. The problem for Kamil has been distancing himself against mid-tier opponents, and that is exactly what Khachanov big hitting and aggressive serving have done. Karen struggled against Lajovic last week, but that’s a puzzle he hasn’t solved yet, and likely won’t impact his performance here. He’s got a better shot at excelling in the big moments, and outlasting Kamil’s steady play. Khachanov in 4-5.
Baustista Agut Gasquet : This is a sleeper of a great match. The way Gasquet moves around the court in between points is deceptive given how well he covers the court, and his game looks a bit more devoted to flair than it is to hitting winners. Still, his results over the past decade have been brilliant and his serving is sneaky good at times. Zero warmup matches leading into this is the polar opposite of RBA’s commitment to getting in hard yards on the surface, and that’ll be a big edge for RBA. Not his best surface (I’ll stop harping on this eventually), but RBA is playing some good ball and Gasquet is half a question mark heading into this week. Playing at home and not sporting any visual injury means Gasquet won’t just disappear, but I think rust will be a factor. RBA in 4-5.
Uchiyama Balasz : Uchiyama is most famous for being the inspiration for that Nas song, but his second claim to fame is being a helluva tennis player. Many bettors had genuine panic attacks in his first round loss to PCB in last month’s US Open, and having that fresh in their minds could lead them astray here. Attila Balasz is one of the pure clay specialists on tour, and plays a very unique style of tennis. Tons of dropshots, a strangely effective but flailing backhand, and an affinity for hitting forehand winners from 10 feet behind the baseline are on display from him, as well as one of the best kick serves you’ll see. Given Uchiyama got the business from Duckworth last week, this should be a W for Balasz, who can trouble the winner of RBA/Gasquet but likely can’t win. Balasz in 3.
Pella Caruso : Pella has allegedly been diagnosed with Morton’s neuroma, which is an inflamed nerve in the metatarsal region of the foot. I’ve dealt with nerve issues in the metatarsals after breaking a toe recently, and it is the strangest thing. It’s nonstop pain, even when you’re sitting down, but you can still train. Your foot feels like it’s on fire, but you can still walk and you know nothing is wrong. I’m not sure what treatment he’s getting for it, but the stop and start aspect of tennis is going to really preclude him from doing much on tour while this is an issue, and I believe that’s what is leading to his subpar results since the restart.
Caruso on the other hand has become a household name lately, and although he’s done better on hardcourt than clay in the restart, this is a winnable match for him. I’m just not sold on Pella’s physical ability, and Caruso has the power to break down what is normally a rock-solid defense. Caruso in 3. Disclaimer : There’s a big tendency amongst gamblers to jump on lines because they think they have some injury info. Just keep in mind, the information the general public has is always less than what the books have. If anything, a question mark about an injury is a good reason to avoid betting on a match at all.
Millman Carreño Busta : For a while I thought Millman had a knack for drawing guys he’d have a real war with, but it’s just his style. He doesn’t serve aces but he has a decent serve. He doesn’t hit winners but he swings for the fences on the forehand. He doesn’t have much of a backhand but he puts it in play in decent spots. It’s just very difficult for Millman to overwhelm anyone, and very difficult for players to create offense against what he offers. PCB didn’t look great against Nadal, but two weeks of rest will have him in good shape to compete here. I do expect him to make a decent run at this event, and this is a good test to see where his game is at after a huge payday in the USO. PCB is a professional, but I don’t put it past him to struggle to find form/motivation for a while. PCB in 4-5.
Struff Tiafoe : This is the first line I’ll mention. Tiafoe comes in at +170 for this match, which is much closer than I’d set it. Tiafoe isn’t really a productive player on clay, and lost to local hero Musetti in a challenger last week. Struff blew up with a big lead in the third against Khachanov, and lost quickly in Rome as well, but he’s had some great clay results, and I expect him to come through very well here. The Tiafoe we saw at the USO may be a repeat appearance, but this would be the best win of his career on the dirt, so the line (especially after his loss to Musetti) makes me wary. Struff in 4.
Altmaier Lopez : Altmeir is a challenger level player with a big claycourt game. He plays pretty exclusively on the dirt, and while Lopez is a great server, he may take an L here. Altmaier came through qualifying fairly easily, and Lopez is a wildcard for his effort level and service efficiency, but I’d rather back a qualifier in-form than a maybe of an offensive veteran on a slow surface. Altmaier in 4.
Harris Popyrin : This is a nice matchup, as both of these guys wouldn’t be expect to make the 2nd round at RG very often. I’ve been big on Popyrin’s game in the past, but Harris has had the better win in recent times on clay, beating Caruso in two straight. This will largely be decided by serves, and in the interest of honesty, I haven’t watched many of their recent matches. Popyrin was better for a time, but that seems to have flipped. Someone with their hat backwards in 4.
Pospisil Berretini : Oddsmakers have set the games total for this at 32, which given Pospisil’s serve is a bit low. Vasek is by no means a great clay player, and Berretini is going to make quick work of this, but I do think Pospisil will keep him on court for at least two hours. Berretini in 3.
Medvedev Fucsovics : Spooky line for this one, with Medvedev (who regularly comes in at -1000 against solid opponents) only a 4 to 1 favorite here. Fucsovics hasn’t played any clay warmups and although Med lost to Humbert it was a side event and Humbert played lights out tennis. I guess the premise we’re going with here is that Medvedev’s style isn’t great on clay, but I think he’ll have a good event here as he was a bit more impatient than usual against Humbert. Medvedev in 4.
Mannarino Ramos-Vinolas : If you like lefties who’ve been on tour forever and never change their game, this is the match for you. Local robot ARV has had a disappointing start to his clay season, courtesy of an unexplainably good Bublik. He’s the type of player who generally needs a bit more time to work the point, and doesn’t go for clean winners very often. A bit like a more defensive version of Delbonis, ARV will have a good chance here to get a win. Mannarino has potential to make this close because ARV hasn’t been winning and that mental state is sometimes a difficult hurdle. He’ll also be playing at home which has historically been a huge boost for French players. It’ll depend largely on the condition of ARV’s game, but it will be difficult given Mannarino’s controlled game and ARV’s defense for either player to pull away. ARV in 5.
Halys Giron : These guys just aren’t that good, but they’re in a great section of the draw. Halys has been hanging around the challenger tour, but hasn’t made a great deal of impact. Giron has had a more impressive stretch of wins on tour, but none of them have come on clay. The crowd will help Halys, and I think he’s a bit more comfortable on clay, but Giron is the better player at the end of the day. Not a lot to separate these two. Giron in 5.
Querrey Rublev : I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about Querrey. It’s easy to say he’s washed up or he doesn’t care or he’s only good on grass and fast hardcourt. What’s difficult to do though is to remember that he did this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ICHm96chw&ab_channel=TennisWizard
That is all. Rublev might be coming off a title win, and the courts will be slower, but Querrey’s work on this planet is already complete. Rublev in 4. PS an anonymous source has recently informed me that Rublev’s house in Russia is actually structured like a hamster emporium and he wears a cape and refers to himself only as Tubelev. Vetting my source now.
Monteiro Basilashvili : Monteiro is somewhere fancy winning a challenger as we speak. I love this guy’s work ethic and he plays like he’s Nadal’s wild cousin who mountain climbs and just plays tennis when he’s in town. The forehand is big and he’s going against a guy who hasn’t notched a win since he came back to the tour. Commenting on legal issues isn’t great, but Basilashvili is facing some domestic assault charges back in his home country and there’s some notion that this is not great for his mental state. If they were both at their peak Nikoloz wins, but he’s in the doldrums and Monteiro is winning tons of matches. Monteiro in 3.
Lajovic Mager : Another tough draw for Mager. After getting a motivated Dimitrov he goes up against Lajovic who found his chops last week in a major way in Hamburg. Mager can absolutely crush the ball but he needs some times to find these shots, and Lajovic moves his opponents exceptionally well. A few missed opportunities against Tsitsipas have afforded Lajovic a few days of rest, and he should be good to roll through this one. Lajovic in 3-4.
Djere Anderson : This one of my favorite matchups in the first round. Djere is a great claycourter and plays harder than most when he gets in a rhythm, but he’s been struggling to win matches lately. Anderson’s return from injury has been similar to Nishikori’s as far as results, but not style. Nishikori has struggled to keep the ball in the court. Anderson seems to be able to play his normal game in stretches, but is hesitant to do so. It’s like watching a baby deer test it’s legs out. In a 2/3 format I think Anderson might sprint away, but here I like Djere to make this match physical and beat Anderson, who’ll be happy to go into the indoor season where things are a bit easier on the ol deer bits. Djere in 4-5.
Mayot Davidovich Fokina : Mayot is not the worst, but he’s not the best. Rublev vs Fokina is probably the best 2nd round we’re going to see in this event, and barring injury we’ll get a look at it. Fokina’s loss against Lajovic looked bad since Dusan was slumping, but looking at his form the next few rounds it makes sense. It’s like playing Paire on a day where he makes no errors and serves 16 aces. You come off the court like wait, where’s christmas? ADF in 3.
Shapovalov Simon : Shap had some clay wins that he hasn’t in the past. It’s nice to see the slower surface giving him time to really craft some winners. There aren’t many holes in his game, and he seems to only struggle once opponents settle onto his patterns since he tries to hit through the court on so many shots. When you see the guy shifting to where you’re going there’s a tendency to try to add some juice. Simon’s physical struggles aren’t public, but there’s something off about him. Age/fatigue/injury. I don’t know. The backhand is still beautiful and he’s still a great player, but he just can’t win lately, and this is the wrong opponent to be moving poorly against. Shap in 3. PS if you haven’t seen Shap’s rap video yet don’t see it. It’s not to be seen, like a rare butterfly or a peanut butter jelly sandwich your child hid in their closet for some reason 4 years ago.
Johnson Carballes Baena : Another match I feel good about. RCB is the RBA of ARV. His ability to push the pace without really hitting for winners is a quality the best claycourters all possess. Johnson can play some clay, but usually only in the USA event that consists of hardcourt players playing each other. This will be somewhat close as Johnson is decent on serve and RCB retired from his last match. The appeal of a big check at a major is such that people will make the trip even if they’re not at their best, and this one is RCB’s if he’s healthy, but Johnson’s if he isn’t. No way to pick, but I’m pulling for RCB, as he’ll be the better round 2 against Shap.
Martin Sousa : The hits keep coming. Sousa simply can’t win a match. He doesn’t seem to be playing terribly, just dealing with a huge slump. Martin will know how that feels, as he’s been taking first round losses when he finally makes his way into main tour events for a while. That changed at the start of this year though, and Martin has been a difficult out on clay in recent months. That likely will give him an edge here, and the confidence being based in results rather than in coaches puffery is likely to keep him pushing where Sousa will have doubts creeping in. Martin in 5.
Barrere Dimitrov : Barrere looked like he’d be making a big impact on tour this year before the break. There are some winners and some losers in any sporting revolution, and halting his progress seems to put him in the loser category. Draws are important, and while the solid hitter could have a chance against the new Kanye, this seems to be the old Kanye. Dimitrov tried exceptionally hard to beat Shapovalov in their Rome test, and it was good to see him playing well against even if the overarching idea is that the pinnacle of the tour has kinda passed him by. Dimitrov in 4-5.
Krajinovic Milojevic : Tough pull for Milojevic, who plays excellent dirt and worked very hard to qualify, notching wins against Leo Mayer and Yannick Maden. Kraj is pretty solid on clay and playing his best tennis the past few weeks. He’ll have to work hard to put Milojevic away, but he should do so. Krajinovic in 4.
Bedene Rinderknech : Strasbourg is in France, and Rinderknech is French. I like it. The 25 year old has been doing excellent recently on clay, and it’s nice to see him get a wildcard. Bedene isn’t the type of player who’s unbeatable, and Rinder’s win against Marc-Andrea Huesler (who should be in this event) shows he’s able to compete at tour level. The “home crowd” issue is probably getting annoying to read about now, but there’s some real comfort zone issues with the French players that lets them play comfortably there. Bedene is still a step above, but this could be close. Bedene in 5.
Laaksonen Cuevas : Henri never blinked in the qualifying, and this is a guy who does way more with way less. He trains his fitness at least as hard as anyone on tour, and while his game is pretty one-dimensional, he gets a lot out of it. He reminds me a bit of a local club champion who plays a tour pro and doesn’t just fold up and hope for their adulation. The serve is big and that’s the main weapon, and he’ll need it against Cuevas. Cuevas doesn’t give up much in the way of rallies and uses his variety to expose his opponents. Laaksonen won’t get tired, but he will have difficult ending baseline rallies, and his somewhat predictable approach is something that Cuevas is well suited to defend against. Cuevas in 4.
Munar Tsitsipas : This is a sleeper for an upset, especially with Tsitsipas playing for a title tomorrow. Munar hasn’t shown the type of world-beating dominance I expected him to on clay, because frankly he is a bit small for the tour, but he has a Nadal-level (RIP my inbox) effort on the court. He is rock-solid from the baseline and has a great attitude. Some injuries have hampered his development but even with Tsitsipas playing his best tennis this won’t be a walkover. The huge edge in serving for Tsitsipas means it’ll be tough for Munar to really apply pressure, but I think it’ll be a similar affair as his match with Garin where he seems in control until he begins making errors. Tsitsipas is still prone to shanking random rally balls and returning poorly. After talking up Munar’s chances I still think Tsitsipas may win in straight sets, but it’s one of those matches where I’d never give the spread. Tsitsipas in 3 difficult sets. PS Munar, or Lil Buttons as he’s known in the tennis rap community, buttons all the buttons on his shirt and that’s cute.
Monfils Bublik : Tough draw for both. Monfils has looked half motivated, as if he wants to play but can’t bring himself to until the pressure’s off or it would be an amazing comeback. It’s time to stop looking at these moments as a slump as this is pretty much how he has spent his whole career. When conditions are perfect, he thrives. These are outliers though, not his real level. Bublik won a bunch of sets of tennis this past week and had his chances against Garin. My initial thought looking at this match was that the games total of 35 seemed low. Bublik is likely to hold serve moderately well, and Monfils is likely to get drawn into the skill contest that Bublik represents with his dropshots/serve and volleys/underhand serves. I think this has potential to be the most entertaining match, and while Bublik is looking very good, Monfils has a lot of time here to play himself into a mental state where he can fight. Monfils in 5.
Gomez Sonego : Gomez and Sonego will both like their chances here. Sonego’s been losing, but to quality opponents like FAA and Ruud. Gomez qualified and got a nice article written about him, but his game has been legit and he’s been right around tour level for 2-3 seasons now. Gomez actually beat Seyboth Wild in the qualifiers, which is a huge win. Sonego really hasn’t won many matches, and that’ll be in his head a bit against a qualifier who is hungry to prove himself. Gomez in 5.
Thompson Albot : Our boy Radu hasn’t really been winning much since the tour’s return, which I think puts an asterisk next to the entire sport. It’s bad form for Radu not to get wins, and I believe that’s what Pospisil’s union is mainly focused on. Thompson was awfully disappointing against Coric in the USO, and is pretty bad on clay, but this again is a nice section of the draw with Fritz waiting in round two (I say that now but by the next paragraph I’ll convince myself he’s going to lose). Thompson in 4.
Machac Fritz : Is it legal to cheer? Machac’s recent results don’t say he can beat a player like Fritz, but he has beaten some players who can beat some players who can beat a player like Fritz. Fritz did well against Travaglia, and likely has the edge here. Some home-cooking for the 19 year old will be a factor if he manages to grab a set, but he’ll have to get there on his own and Fritz’ hitting may be a big factor in this one. Fritz in 3-4 but I’ll be crossin my fingas.
Coric Gombos : I see some people on twitter disrespecting my man Gombos. I’m lying, I don’t go near twitter, and only made an account so I can post a portrait of myself. You can view it here :
https://twitter.com/blurryturtle/header_photo
Gombos probably can’t win this, but he is the Gombosiest. Coric in fouric.
Rodionov Chardy : Is Chardy really tryna play tennis anymore? It seems like he’d have been making a retirement announcement this year but the pandemic ruined it. Rodionov did great in the qualifiers and winning is a habit. Chardy has the skill and serving to outclass Rodionov but he just hasn’t been doing the work lately. The upset is somewhat likely in my mind. Rodionov in 4-5.
Moutet Giustino : Local rapgod Corentin Moutet is a tiny little nugget of a player, who plays a big big game. Both have been winning matches lately, and this will be a tight contest. If this gets deep, I like Moutet as his experience winning 5-set matches is a big factor and his game is better after some miles are on both opponents since he thrives on his speed but plays a bit too far behind the baseline. Giustino in 4 or Moutet in 5.
Kecmanovic Schwartzman : We all know Kecmanovic is a great baseliner. He’s one of the tours more competent pushers, but Diego is just a better version of him. Diego was at his best in Rome, and I expect a good run here. Schwartzman in fourtzman.
I feel like there are more matches than usual. Also always nice when they don’t release the qualifier matchups until the day before the tournament. Thus ends my gripes.
Wawrinka Murray : Is it okay if I think they’ll both lose? Wawrinka played one of the funnier challenger events, losing the first set in almost every single round then winning the match and the title. Murray has hinted at the old Murray at times, but fans have grown a bit sadpants when watching him struggle with mid-level tour players. Murray hasn’t played, and Wawrinka looks like he hasn’t wanted to. The edge here goes to Wawrinka, but I expect a great contest as Murray has no quit in him and Stan has shown a prolific ability to find struggle where there is none. Wawrinka in 5.
Koepfer Hoang : Tough wildcard draw for Hoang, though a year ago he’d have been ecstatic. Hoang’s been winning locally, and I wouldn’t sleep on him here. He has a great serve, a big backhand, and is still developing. Home court advantage adds another wrinkle, but Koepfer will likely be physically recovered from his runs in Rome/Hamburg, and he really showed he can elevate his game and cover the court remarkably during that period. Koepfer in 4, and hopefully he’ll be the wakeup call Wawrinka needs in round 2.
Gaston Janvier : Two wildcards playing each other. Good for them. Probably Gaston in 4 (he has the much cooler name/hits a bit bigger)
Nishioka Auger-Alliassime : This one is interesting given FAA’s struggle to find his serving last week. Squishioka can be very frustrating in rallies, but he just hasn’t been able to win matches on clay. Clay is more of a big hitters surface, even though it’s slow. The work ethic is there, but not the offense. A disaster of a day for FAA if he loses this one; I don’t rule it out but it’s unlikely, and Bublik was in great form which explains half the loss. FAA in 3-4.
Ruud Sugita : Ruud has been excellent for years, and now he is looking like a real threat against anyone outside the top ten, and a big hurdle for those inside it. Sugita is a nice guy, but Ruud in 3.
Paul Duckworth : Tommy Paul’s best surface is clay? He really has shown an ability to perform and Duckworth just enjoyed a zipping in his last outing. One way trafffic, and Paul/Ruud in the second round is a great matchup. Paul in 3.
Opelka Sock : Say no to Jack Sock. It is addictive when this half boy/half potato starts winning matches. I think it continues here. Opelka has played no warmups, and moving on clay for such a tall fellow is really tough. He’ll have a tough time hanging with Sock’s pace, and the easier opponent (defensively) is likely to make Sock really focus on hitting to the open court. Sock in 4.
Honestly you’d tell me if there’s extra matches right? I feel like some guys are playing twice.
Cilic Thiem : Cilic is going to be sick of Thiem by the end of this one, but as a fan this is the perfect early round for Thiem. After playing no warmup matches the concern is rust, and so I’m excited to see Thiem have a match where he has to work right away. Typing that makes me a bit scared, as Cilic has played some ok tennis in the warmup, beating Goffin 2, 2. Still, this sub’s affinity for Thiem’s tumbly bum won’t let him lose in the first round, and as he gets going I think we’ll see him kinda shape into a threat for the title. Thiem in 4.
Zverev Novak : Novak isn’t great on clay. Trouble is, neither is Zverev. After a major finals, I don’t picture a guy like Zverev coming in with a smaller ego. I think there will be some harrowing moments in this, and if Herbert plays well in round one I like him to take at least two sets off Zverev. Zverev in 4-5, and I’m interested to see if he’s on the “slow start gradual turnup” path again, as that’s a terrible plan on clay for a guy who’s prone to frustration.
Mmoh Herbert : Mmoh did well to qualify, besting Renzo Olivo. Add in that Hyeon Chung was in their draw, and you really have a lack of offense in that section. Herbert has been bad recently, losing to a number of players he’d normally beat. His game depends largely on his serving, and while he’s one of the best players at net outside the big 3 (I’d put him first/Sock second) he needs to get there to be effective. Mmoh is a defensive test, but Herbert likely won’t want to get dragged into extended rallies, so this will look a bit like a low-rent version of Garin vs Bublik. I think Herbert at home gets the job done, but it may take some patches of trial and error to crack Mmoh’s defense. Herbert in 4-5.
Delbonis Londero : I was initially excited to back Londero a bunch after his USO run, as I know his best surface is clay. This is his second match against his countryman though, and it is a poor matchup for him as Delbonis has been playing decent. Delbonis his big and segments the game nicely, so the pace of the ball is fast, but the progression of rallies is slow. I don’t expect Londero to lose in straight sets, but it’s hard to back him after losing to Delbonis a few weeks ago. Delbonis in 4-5, but for betting porpoises I’d recommend avoiding this altogether.
Cecchinato De Minaur : Hehe. Finally stringing wins together, Cecchinato’s reward is a maindraw against a guy who is a nightmare matchup. Cecchinato plays a classic claycourt game. Big power and deft dropshots. He needs time to produce the first of those, and De Minaur takes that away. The dropshots are cute, but De Minaur covers the net better than most on tour. He lost to Koepfer in his only warmup on clay, and Cecchinato has won a bunch of matches recently, but this is a fairly even matchup. Both are excellent frontrunners, and I think the first few sets will be very competitive. Hard to pick against De Minaur in a long contest early in the event, and Cecchinato’s defense will likely be an issue if ADM is serving well. De Minaur in 4.
Paire Kwon : Paire still avoiding multiple matches, which is an excellent strategy for his longevity as a pro athlete. He basically could lose to anyone at this point, and his retirement in Hamburg appeared to be “I’m tired”. This is a bad sign, and worse still, Kwon is not a player who’ll beat him quick or represent a dominant opponent he can just tank against. This is one I’d advise listening to rather than watching, as Paire’s outbursts will be better than his play. I’m somewhat expecting Kwon to win, although this is similar to Nishioka/FAA where the more stable player lacks the weapons to just win in dominant fashion. Kwon via retirement.
Coria Jung : Coria is a wall. Jung is not a wall. Why not be a wall? Coria in 4.
Bonzi Ruusuvuori : Bonzi beat Karlovic which makes me sad, but I’m happy to see the challenger journeyman get a shot in a grandslam. Ruusuvuori is slowly becoming a household name, and his clay game isn’t adept but it’s a notch better than Bonzi. Fatigue may be a factor here not in hampering Bonzi’s game, but in Ruusuuvuori’s being more crisp. Ruu-uuu-u—- in 4.
Sinner Goffin : One of the sketchier first round matchups, what with wildcards playing each other and Coria and Jung going at it. This happens though, and it’s our gift to watch it. Sinner is one of the more promising prospects on the tour in a long time, and with the next gen guys finally starting to come through with big results and solid play, seeing a guy who seems more mentally stable than they were early on in their career is even better. Goffin losing quickly to Cilic isn’t a great sign, and he’s always a threat to go elfmode and stifle his opponents ability to play offense, but I think Jannik’s serving will give him a small edge here. Sinner in 4.
Fognini Kukushkin : Fognini had ankle surgeries, or else his recent string of poor performances and losses would be his normal string of poor performances and losses. He doesn’t seem willing to press himself yet, and this is another Paire/Kwon style matchup. Kukushkin will take any victory he gets a look at, but isn’t going to overwhelm his opponent. Fognini’s impatiance against Ruud did include a number of shots that missed by very little, and on the slower courts in Paris he may land a greater percentage of these. I expect Fognini to play a bit better, and this will be about optics. If Fognini feels like he looks bad or is in a spot where him trying would risk his ego, he’ll fold, and Kukushkin will win. This is sad to say about a professional athlete, but Fognini has the ankle situation to fall back on, so if he can’t win,he’ll just swing for the fences and inspect his racquet until it’s over. He’s very pretty tho. Kukushkin in 4, hopefully.
Martinez Vukic : Martinez was the best in the qualifying, and Vukic was in the qualifying. Martinez in 3.
Korda Seppi : Korda is becoming a sleeper pick on tour, and Seppi is notoriously at his worst on clay since he hits such a flat ball. I think this will stretch deep, and I am tempted to give the edge to Korda given Seppi’s recent loss to Klahn and Musetti and Korda’s win against Karatsev, who has been one of the best players in the past month on clay on the challenger tour. Korda in 4.
Benchetrit Isner : Benchetrit can make this close since it’s on clay, but Isner should be able to get into tiebreakers, which makes predicting this almost as annoying as Isner bouncing the ball between his legs. The dude’s a muppet. Someone in 4 tiebreakers.
Evans Nishikori : Evans hasn’t been great, and Nishikori has been worse. Nishikori has looked like he was gaining control of rallies and immediately making errors for a few weeks now, and it’s frustrating to predict his matches because there’s that sense that he will find form at some point. Evans likely gets the W here but it will take a lot of work. Evans in 4-5.
Andujar Travaglia : “BEGONE,” commanded Andujar. I stood there speechless. “YOU ARE AN ILLUSION!” he bellowed, waking several colorful parrots who sat atop his head. I was not there. What he saw was only his vision of me, which had come to him in a dream commanded by the vines and souls of tropical frogs. Confident that I had gone, he hopped off his perch on the mountain peak, and began descending. Not in the usual way via legs and feet, but on the breeze of a thousand moths, while nearby shamans began making a thousand broths. Andujar is back, and I hate this matchup. Travaglia was brilliant on serve leading up to RG, and Andujar was a breath of fresh air on the challenger tour, notching win after win after win and rarely dropping a set. This is one I expect to go deep, as both players are at their best. Who will win? A man does not summon the future, lest it become the present. Shamans in 3.
Diez McDonald : idc
Gerasimov Nadal : So we all know what will happen if I suggest Nadal will struggle in a match. Luckily, I won’t have to here. Gerasimov’s movement isn’t good enough to trouble many players on clay, and Nadal is probably the most dominant single-surface player that tennis has ever seen. He looked pretty human last week against Diego, and his muscles were muscley, but not as muscley as usual. Where is his massive crab-arm? The winner of Travaglia/Andujar will be his first real test. Nadal in 2 somehow.
PS User Kuklachert runs a very fun picking contest if you're interested in discord ... check it out here https://www.reddit.com/tennis/comments/izhabroland_garros_tipping_competition/
submitted by blurryturtle to tennis [link] [comments]

It is time to be honest about the WNBA

The NBA is the parent company to the WNBA, since there is no WNBAdiscussion I figured this would be the place to speak openly and honestly about the WNBA from a 15 year NBA fan's perspective.
For those unfamiliar with the origins of the WNBA the league was founded 24 years ago by the NBA under commissioner David Stern. The goal of this league was to get more women interested in basketball and to give Top-level American talent a place to play on the home front.
Good intentions and for the first 5 years of the WNBA's existence things were looking up, the league expanded from 8 teams in 1996 to 16 teams to start the 2002 season. Average attendance started at roughly 9000 per game in 1996, spiked to 11k per game in 1998 and declined back to 9k per game in 2002.
Therein lies the first issue with the WNBA, after 2002 the per game attendance numbers started a slow decline, so much so that by time 2010 rolled around many teams were relocated to smaller arenas or simply folded. There are now 12 teams in the WNBA and only 3 of the founding teams are in the same city. (4 founding teams folded and 1 was relocated 3 times)
The viewership and per-game attendance numbers were always low, people blame lack of marketing but if we're being honest almost every single person knows the WNBA exists. I believe that the main is reason is the general sports watching market is simply uninterested in professional women's basketball. Think about it, how many people do you know who watch the WNBA? Who buy the jerseys? or even go to WNBA games? (Pre-corona) I'm willing to bet that the number is quite low.
The majority of sports consumers are male and the WNBA was created to lure females into sport consumption. On paper the idea makes sense right? 50% of people don't really watch sports and most are female, why not try to and acquire that market? The problem is in reality women consume so many other types of media that the WNBA simply does not compare to. Social Media sites, YouTube and even the Kardashians have higher rates of engagement and support than the WNBA ever will. Adam Silver even revealed during this interview that they are frustrated that women are not showing up to the games. He also revealed that the WNBA is supported predominantly by older men.
The next problem is the biggest issue with the WNBA, there is a huge lack of entertainment value when you actually watch a game. Don't get me wrong, these women are phenomenal players and are fundamentally very very good. The problem is that biology is a bit of a motherfucker. Women cannot compare to men in terms of strength, acceleration or verticality. Think about a player like Gary Harris. His vertical leaping ability and hangtime in this play is absurd. Gary Harris is a solid player but he is no superstar player like Lisa Leslie or Candace Parker or even Brittany Griner. Yet those are the only 3 players in the WNBA to have dunked ever and none of them could jump like Harris can.
When you watch an NBA game there is always a chance to see a moment that captures our imaginations or even exceed them. Think about this play JR Smith of all people did something that looked incredible. The entire stadium got on its feet, you probably have chills from watching that play. That is the power of the NBA.
The WNBA suffers from a lack of athleticism compared to the NBA and unless we make serious strides in genetic engineering that gap will simply never be closed.
Now we have to talk about money, a touchy subject because the WNBA does not share it's financial data with the public. Adam Silver also admitted that the WNBA receives 12 million a year from the NBA as a stipend yet the league itself still loses 20 million a year on average since its founding. Now all this would be scary enough to look at if I was a member of the WNBPA but the strange thing is all the coverage on the financials of the league are about the wage-gap between the two leagues. Granted initially the WNBPA said they just wanted the same percentage of BRI (basketball related income) as the men's league (men's league gets 50%). However if your league takes in roughly 60 million a year in income and loses 20 million a year, why would you be entitled to the same percentage? Your labor is not generating profits even close to what a healthy professional league should be.
Even if you triple the WNBA salary cap does it make the league more watchable? As per my earlier arguments I believe the answer is no.
Most WNBA players actually play overseas during the offseason in Eastern Europe and earn up to triple their WNBA income. Which begs the question why even come back? Just play in Europe make your money and rest during the regular WNBA season.
If you were a software engineer in Ohio and you got offered triple your salary to work in Poland or Turkey how seriously would you consider that job offer?
This isn't a manifesto trying to take down women's sports. I enjoy women's tennis, I loved watching the US women's soccer team run rampant over the world cup and even female golfers are starting to gain popularity which is fantastic!
This is specifically about how the WNBA is a league on the decline and it has failed to establish a foothold in the US. The market isn't there, the product is subpar, the business is bad and the players make significantly more money elsewhere.
I am curious to hear what you guys have to say about the WNBA, do you think it has a future? If so what can the league do to generate interest ?
submitted by mass_a_peal to nbadiscussion [link] [comments]

JoJo's Bizarre OC Tournament #5: Round 2 Match 8 - Arpeggi and Agnes Versus Glitch and William

The results are in for Match 6. The winner is…
Player Team, with a score of 83 to Ernie Ford’s 62!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity Players 25-5
Quality TIE 24-24 Reasoning
JoJolity Players 24-23 Reasoning
Conduct TEAM 10-10
...“You know what I'm here for!” Effie’s words rang out as Ernie watched on at the unexpected turn of events.
“The funny thing is I really don’t know.” Ernie stood there and took in the scene. Was this the first time he had seen this type of outburst in the District? Ernie tried to recall, but now wasn’t really the time to reminisce on bad memories.
Something was afoot. Something about Ugo threatening them that was for sure. But if Ugo wanted somebody to fight him this would never be his plan of attack. “Would you care to enlighten me then, I wouldn’t mind this either way!” Ernie shouted back, his tone was neutral, the tension of the situation only increased, but he didn’t see a need to fight back even now.
“They sent us here, because they wanted us to steal your notebook!” Ernie heard the voice of Jenny behind a tree.
Things started to make sense to Ernie, the hiding, why it wasn’t Odin’s people doing this, and that outburst. “And what do you two intend to do?” Ernie moved his backpack from his back to carrying it on one arm.
“Well if you help us, you could send them a fake notebook! It’s not like we like those fuckers anyways!” Jenny replied beyond the trees.
Well that wasn’t so difficult was it, it only took one or maybe both of their ire to get to this arrangement. Ernie weighed this against the prospect that they were lying to him, but if it came down to it it would just be either a fight now or a fight later. “Alright I’ll help you! I’ll be in my cabin manuscripting! You two wait outside, this will take less than an hour!” Ernie shouted back over as he started to walk back to his cabin.
“Your funeral..wait what?!” Effie flipped as Jenny clapped an arm on her, “We did it, we can get out of this shitty situation.”
Effie looked around, The Murder receded back into herself. “Did that really just happen?” She held out the hope that it really would be that easy, she wanted to believe it but she felt a slight pang of confusion, guilt maybe?
Jenny continued on, “We just have to make sure that he does his end of the deal and we’ll be out of here in no time.” Jenny looked at Effie’s face as she noticed the change in expression, “You okay there? You let out a bunch just now and if you wanted to talk about it.”
“No I’m ok, come on we have to still keep an eye on him.” Effie brushed Jenny’s arm off and made her way closer into the clearing with Jenny following.
Well, that was somewhat anticlimactic. If you were hoping for a match with some more carnage in it, how about checking out a race out of a monster-filled urn and voting on it?
Scenario:
Sound’s Garden Eastern Strip - Heartache Casino VIP Room
“So kind of you all to come again,” a man dressed garishly in gold spoke to a roomful of wealthy highrollers, a lounge area with a wall taken up by a screen large enough to make the place double as something of a particularly cozy home theater, a setup which had typically been reserved for two things: watching games organized by Heartache Casino’s owner on the closed-circuits of buildings he owned, and being rented out for private parties and banquets.
“This is pretty unconventional,” a dark-haired sniper remarked between drinks, staring at the screen as it showed, largely, several shots of a building in Downtown Los Fortuna, which seemed to have rapidly grown occupied by a small group of Stand Users, some of whom familiar to the district’s regulars after some close shaves in the subways both occupied, “but it’s brilliant… Just needed to get your tech guy to get cameras in there, now you have a huge show for free.”
“Should you be drinking, Seido?” The gold-clad owner asked, raising an eyebrow, “I mean, if something comes up…”
“If something comes up, I’m off-duty, I’m just a guest right now, and I can shoot well enough sloshed to get myself out of a bind. If you wanted me as security, you should’ve hired me for that… Though really, I’d have rather been down there raising some hell if I was gonna shoot things.”
Tigran sighed, finding that fair enough, he supposed… He wasn’t going to hire this man when he was buzzed, and he wouldn’t do guard detail for free either. Apparently, the man literally came to the city walking out of a bar into the flag unveiling, so he shouldn’t have been surprised.
Still, though, even with moods high here, nobody seeming to mind the way anonymous characters like Oh No and Conqueror Worm mingled among them. Sure, they were kind of a low-priority target right now, with protests in the Business district, the hell-on-earth about to be unleashed Downtown keeping their worst nightmares busy, and the usual BS in places like the Waterfront and Industrial, but the man once noted for his supremely smarmy overconfidence had been feeling more anxious lately, probably because the Entertainment District’s criminal underground had taken some losses recently.
Things were riding high with several successful games, and the arrival of Conqueror Worm, revitalizing everything that they had thought they’d known and opening up whole new possibilities of what games might be possible to organize from a place of safety, all while not asking for a penny of payment. He was a weird guy, but a valuable asset, and all that was understood to be asked in return was that they pretend not to know exactly who it was underneath that big fleshy suit.
And then, the next time they had an in-person event, a bunch of them died in a fire, and on the way to… Well, who knew why he was there, but something happened that got a formerly active manager and ‘game’ organizer murdered blocks away from the site of the flames. Was it a sign, then, that the old ways really were dying, that they needed to change with the times or lose this subculture of theirs entirely?
Maybe, and maybe some would leave it like that, but Tigran “Golden” Sins knew another source of common ground with every one of their games to go wrong, to go awry, to risk the future and safety of all that they were, all that they had. Everything (besides that time he got punched in the face) that had gone wrong, from Thutmose leaving them, to events that were supposed to be disastrous bloodbaths going well for the ‘players’ and ruining bets, could trace back somewhere.
And she was sitting there looking very disinterested, nursing a sparkling juice in a very expensive evening dress and earrings, recently bought by the only man in the world he believed to be above himself.
“Having a good time, Metra?” Fox asked the star known to much of the city as TD/MD, smiling smoothly and paying her more attention than the event itself, where he was significantly more public than before. He’d spent how many thousands on her in a few days?
“Sure, yeah,” she answered, with a clear disinterest and foul mood.
“I understand if you’re not… we’re all sorry to have lost Thutmose. Most likely by where he was, whoever killed him would have done the same to us had he not interfered. So he would want you to have a good time, right?”
“Alright, everyone, last calls!” Conqueror Worm called out, many eyes looking all over. After getting back from camera work, he’d volunteered to handle bets, on account of his utter disinterest in profiting from his work there. Damn shame, honestly; Tigran loved that weird golden Stand-hurting sword he’d always been swinging around, and something belonging to a regional founder would be a hell of a get to wear around. “We know all the key players in that little downtown scuffle, so let’s hear it! Who’s biting it? Who’s comin’ out? Who’s gonna have the highest bodycount? Is anyone even gonna get IN?”
That Oh No guy, from the Institute, spoke up through that voice changer he almost always had on in his coverings. “I think that… Three people will manage to find their way inside. Nobody on this betting board.”
“Ooh, bold words from our boldest regular!” Worm leaned in close, asking, “how much’re you puttin’ on that?”
“Nothing,” No responded, “I just want to see what comes of it… I’m almost disappointed you needed to ask.”
Peas in a pod, those two. Tigran sighed, figuring he might need to drink through these proceedings, only to glance at Metra, suddenly, seeming to smirk, ears twitching as if that special pitch of hers had picked something up. “What? What’s so fun now, that-”
The heavily reinforced, hidden doorway to the VIP room burst open, bisecting the hollow yet burly door guard as sand and rocks spilled out of its hollow crevasse, the only herald within seconds of a quintet of Stand Users barreling in, led by a trio on two motorbikes as two others, curious but energetic, followed.
“All that you’ve done ends here, Fox!”
Around the same time, Heartache Casino Public Floors
“Uh… Glitch? I think… it might be good if we… go?” William Eyelash was not liking it here very much. His hyperactive coworker and teammate had practically dragged him here after what was otherwise a simple delivery performed in place of Zebra, who had been busy enough delivering food to the other side of the city. William was the one supposed to carry it out, but Glitch had practically jumped at the opportunity to do so.
Glitch herself, meanwhile, seemed to be very content eating some fries which she (very regrettably) had to actually buy instead of simply snatching it away from a poor, unaware bystander, and had already ordered another plate because they were just that good. Security was too tight, somewhat on edge - the moment she got close to someone or something, they immediately turned their attention to her. Still, she didn’t want to deprive herself of one of the many pleasures of life like that, so she didn’t mind paying too much. “Mmrgh..? Why sho?”
“W- well… you know… uh...” William wasn’t sure how to say it - he was scared enough of Glitch’s erratic mannerisms most days, and that was while he tried to steer clear of her. Were he to directly oppose her, he’d have no way of knowing what she’d do! On top of that, he couldn’t help but notice that she seemed slightly… on edge. She was usually hyperactive, but she seemed to be even more eager to jump from one thing to another recently, and to ignore anything that even slightly stressed her out. Considering everything that happened to the staff at the Elephant Bones recently, it made sense for her to be stressed, even if she didn’t really show it usually. “... um, you know the rumors about this place… right? ”
Glitch turned to look at William, tilting her head “Hm? What rumors?”. “Uh... well… about the ED… and the fighting rings… I saw an article about it on the Hermod, and… i- it could be dangerous to be here for too long...” hearing William say that, Glitch seemed to recede for a bit, thinking to herself. “Mmm... well, it hasn’t been a problem yet! Right? Besides, the other chips haven’t arrived yet!” Glitch didn’t want to think much about it - so long as these fighting rings were away from her, she could just ignore them and go on with her life, but if it really was here, then maybe it would be good to avoid this place… but the fries were so good... Glitch took another look at the table she was sitting at and at the plate of fries she’d ordered. She grabbed a handful and ate them. “Mmm… after the second order of chips comes! Then we leave! But only after then!”
“Alright...” William didn’t like this very much, and he couldn’t help but shoot nervous glances around as Glitch finished up. Just about every staff member here was on edge and uncomfortable - he knew how to notice these things, and it would make sense if this place really was connected to the underground. Ugh… Why did he come along with Glitch? He’d just have to hope that the second order would come soon, and then they’d be able leave just as quickly as they came in.
Naturally, as if fate itself had conspired to screw him over, he couldn’t help but pick up on ‘something’. Guards around the floor peered nervously into their phones, and most of them began rushing towards the stairwell. Glitch had noticed as well, her ears picking up on the nervous murmurings of the guards and their hasty footsteps.
“Uhh… G- Glitch, something’s happening, we should-” “Pleh! Can’t you wait just a second! The chips aren’t here yet! This isn’t-”
Before Glitch could finish her sentence, something flew into the room - the body of a security officer, clearly tossed away by some stand, flew from the entrance to the second floor, and landed right in the middle of a group of more security officers.
“Oh god oh god it’s happening oh no oh no oh no oh-” William was, as expected, positively freaking out by now. Meanwhile, Glitch was keeping her ears peeled out, having picked up on something… interesting. The voice of two people she vaguely recognized from “Taste of Fortuna” a month or so back.
“Hey! That’s Agnes! And that other chef whose food is good! Even better than the chips!! What are they doing here, fighting?!”
Soon enough, Agnes and Arpeggi really did pop into the room, their stands summoned as they staved off some guards with them. Much to William’s chagrin, Glitch grabbed onto his hand and summoned [Vida Loca], before hopping onto it, the massive feline hoisting him onto it as well, before running right towards the source of the commotion…
And right into the footpath of a terrifying giant who seemed to suddenly fall from the ceiling, several eyes along its body looking to them as its head rotated 180 degrees. “Well, wouldn’t you like to know?”
Several minutes earlier, A Few Stories Lower - Sound’s Garden Abandoned Subway
“Are you sure this is the place? Seems pretty fucking trashy to me, honestly…”
“That’s what makes it a secret passage, Agnes… They’re not exactly rolling out the red carpet to tell you how to get there.”
“Ugh, Astronomia wasn’t built for this shit. You’re paying if something gets stuck somewhere.”
“You’ve crashed it how many times this month alone?”
Arpeggi Osso Buco sat in the sidecar of a motorbike driven by one Ananas “Agnes” Bayley, through the abandoned subways of the Eastern strip. He’d meant to take this trip alone, like he had before, but of course, this fucking guy had to be the first on the team to learn that he was a Stand User, an active vigilante, and not only in part responsible for a certain cult’s influence plummeting to nothing in Los Fortuna, but had dedicated himself to making an enemy of the blight of the Entertainment District.
“Fuck it, I’m down.”
“You’re… What?”
“I’m down. Fuck those guys. I don’t even need to ask any more questions, they’re an absolute disgrace to be shown up by a real villain, and if you’re hunting their boss down, I’m with you.”
“You are the last person I would want watching my back in a-”
“Or I can tell Gabanna what you’re doing so soon after getting SHOT last time you tried your luck with these guys.”
“…bastard. Okay, just don’t get in the way.”
Minus a near-scare with RCR’s nightmarish train nearly running them down without noticing, and Arpeggi having to explain at some point that it was both private information from a set of informants and news now publicly printed in multiple sources about the higher-ups of this organization, it had mostly gone smoothly since then.
As they drove closer to the underside of Heartache, Arpeggi signaled for Agnes to stop, noting a destroyed set of hollowed-out mannequins of sorts, smoking and smelling like gunpowder.
“Hell is that?” Agnes asked, looking down, but Arpeggi, in turn, didn’t quite seem surprised. Before he could explain, however, another, distorted voice cut through.
“You’re late.”
The revving of a second motorcycle, a sport bike, had quietly synced with Astronomia, and the pair looked up to see a figure clad in orange and black, winglike scarf drooping upside-down, its rider atop the ceiling of the tunnel.
“You.” Agnes spoke with contempt, despite having never seen the Black Angel in person before, only for them and their bike to drop down right in front of them, flipping in midair to land gracefully.
“You didn’t tell me you were bringing a friend, let alone… Him.” The Angel sounded dubious about Agnes’ presence, adding, “since you took time picking him up, I’ve had to start picking off these weird… hollow doll-guards myself. They almost noticed me in time to signal the boss. I really don’t have the time for this today.”
“Sorry about that, he insisted,” Arpeggi wrote off, not wanting to explain the somewhat unsurprising (“ran into one another while doing their vigilante rounds, got to talking about the ED mainly”) story how he and the Angel met, “and he’s here right now… Say what you like about him, you saw that Being So Normal, I assume. He’ll be an asset.”
“I’ll kick your ass-et,” Agnes grumbled, “fighting them alone my ass. Ugh, teaming up with masked hero types like this… Pisses me off. We should be kicking each other’s asses, Angel.”
“Deal with it,” the Angel wrote off, before adding, “our contacts in there… They said basically everyone we might have any reason to get is on that floor with them, watching Downtown.”
“Right, some madman is acting out there,” Arpeggi noted, folding his arms and looking Westward, “I take it that’s why you’re in a hurry? You want to deal with them quickly and head out there next?”
“You got it,” they answered, “and admittedly, there’s a reason I had to come here first… Something I’m going to prioritize the highest, and if we take too long, I’ll have to leave having only done that.”
“You’ve got a grudge, is that it?” Agnes asked, “you wanna punt some fucker before moving on?”
“That’s… not why I’m targeting him,” The Angel noted, before adding, “that sword the Conqueror Worm always has on him… The ‘Sword of Sir Aurel…’ The future of the city might depend on me getting that Downtown. The contacts say he still has it with him, just like on that stream.”
“You’re pissing me off, pretending you don’t care about just one-upping that bastard,” Agnes chided, adding, “act like you’re ‘heroes of justice’ all you want… I’m doing this because these guys piss me the hell off, and seeing them fall will make me laugh. Do all of us a favor, cut the bullshit, and admit you’re gonna enjoy this, yeah?”
The others didn’t say too much more of note, then, beyond the Angel briefly examining Astronomia, putting something all over it that they claimed would ‘make it maneuver better,’ which Arpeggi had to calm Agnes into accepting, especially considering it meant they could ride up stairs with relative ease.
“Alright, from this secret passage, it’s a straight shot up a few flights of stairs to the VIP room… We should be able to burst it down without ever disrupting all the public patrons and fortifications up on 1F. Hold on tight, you got that?”
The motorbikes revved, then, and the Angel’s led Agnes in seeming to leap into the air, driving up and along the walls of the stairwell, before a long-haired figure emerged from the Angel, aiming something at a metal reinforced door, firing into it a few times, and it shifted in place as Pork Soda rushed towards it, placing a tab on the material before ripping it away, liquid metal blasting in the opposite direction the door would fly and swing at rapid speed, swinging like a deadly projectile and cutting more powerful puppet guards away as the three burst in.
Arpeggi called out, “All that you’ve done ends here, Fox!”
Not long after Arpeggi called that out, Fox himself, of course, was quick to stand, as were a few bold-looking members of the crowd, hurrying towards the fighters with his own accompanying doll-guard, small enough to hold in two hands and, with his large frame, swing like a hammer-thrower, lobbing up towards them and bursting open into a mess of pointed rocks as he drew closer, repelling Arpeggi’s immediate attempts to approach.
The swinging door, embedded with odd screws and still gushing metal soda, began to fly towards him, only for the sound of a rifle to fill the room, a single warping bullet putting out every one of the odd screws and careening it to strike Arpeggi back, sending him flying down the stairwell before either the Angel or Agnes could react.
Seido, sitting at his edge of the bar, finished downing his drink, holding his weapon in one hand and grinning a bit, slurring slightly, “thas’ goin’ on your tab, boss…”
Fox smirked, then, rocks and sand swirling around him and beating back the remaining attackers’ efforts to burst forward. “Let’s not fight up here, gentlemen… I’ve set this place up nice for a very special guest. Take it downstairs. Seido, consider yourself on the clock now.”
Worm, then, seemed to realize the Angel was staring at his movements, diving down into the floor below to the terror of the 1F patrons, and the rider hurriedly cut away from the clash, leaving Agnes to fend for himself against the rocky onslaught of Fox, all while Oh No watched and Seido, quickly, lined up another shot. Even on this upgraded bike, he knew the only response to make there. “Fffuck this!”
Pork Soda reached for Astronomia, a tab appearing on its wheel which, as the Stand weathered rocky blows, it pulled, blasting Agnes back into the stairwell, where he hit the wall with an, “oof!” before hopping off of his ride, which crashed and plummeted down as he abandoned it to slide down the railing, doing a cool combat roll to cover Arpeggi and the Angel as they rolled into the first floor, clearly concerned about what Conqueror Worm being there would mean for the patrons. Fox and others were shortly behind, with a certain exception.
Though nobody could hear it, by Metra Doria’s choice, as soon as Seido had spoken that aloud, she’d kicked up the chair she’d been sulking in all ‘party’ long, a pair of headphones appearing along her neck as a blast of sonic energy kicked it directly into the head of the hitman. Her heart skipped a beat, then, and she muttered under her breath, “shit, that actually worked… I got lucky, huh?”
“Entirely,” Oh No agreed, stepping forth himself and stretching, producing a very large, intimidating revolver from his cloak and beginning, idly, to load it, “but don’t treat that as a failing, TD/MD… You saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you had the instincts to take it.” No closed the chamber, starting leisurely towards the stairs after the rest. “This is getting tiresome, isn’t it? You see it too, how dull this has gotten… What potential they’re wasting here. What do you say we speed along what’s been a long, long time coming?”
“Well, wouldn’t you like to know?”
A golden, shining sword appeared out of the giant’s gross hand, and his presence alone made Glitch want to wretch, the smell of the Conqueror Worm fell, and vibes even more rancid.
“We got two more troublemakers here, eh?” Worm asked her and William with an amused tone, “Hell just broke loose here, and you’re tryin’ to run headlong into it! I like that! I like that drive! So what do ya say? Attacka them!”
Glitch didn’t know this guy, but something about his gleeful nature, the way that William murmured to himself in alarm when he spoke those distorted words, made her hairs stand on end, made her want to hiss and immediately turn her attention to him, and it seemed, then, that Worm could sense this.
“Another one who ain’t a fan, huh?” He shook his head. “Disappointing, but typical.”
At that, he ducked into the floor, before attempting to burst out from underneath and drive his blade up into Vida Loca, barely being scraped before hopping away from the rising attack and meeting it with a sharp, harsh claw, beating back his raw strength with her Stand’s own.
“I don’t know who you are, but you’re really not the kind of bad news that’s any fun!” Glitch called out from atop her mount, pulling off in time to avoid the ambush of a hollowed-out guard and note two others bothering William.
“That guy looks underage… He ain’t allowed to be on a casino floor without ID!” Worm declared with amusement, fully expecting what came next as several of the doll-guards attempted to strong-arm him.
“G-get away… Get away from me!” William was freaking out, then, and fairly fearing for his life, allowed Ocean Eyes to manifest, swinging and spraying acid all around, which bounced uselessly off of Worm’s hide, didn’t so much as drop near Glitch or Vida Loca, and melted away the threats in an instant.
The casino floor was pandemonium then, several high rollers, some random patrons, and of course, every named member fighting, Stands flying. Arpeggi expertly caught rocks tossed by Fox, only for him to still control them even as they were made to burn by NEXT LEVEL 2, though this eroded away much of the sands of his barrier, backed up by Agnes as he very competently kept a rocky barrier up regardless, Metra standing close by, shifting her eyes. The Black Angel tried to drive headlong into Worm, continuing his mess of a situation, while Glitch, mostly, managed to sneak off on her own, trying to find a way to support William and calm him out of whatever this was.
“Don’t move,” a modulated voice behind her said, and she heard something click behind her.
“Mrr?” She turned, then, facing the barrel of Oh No’s revolver head-on.
“This might be a bit loud… But it’s about time this ended.”
Before Glitch could react, No had pulled the trigger twice. Neither shot so much as grazed her, but seemed to hit tables, cameras, walls, ricocheting about in apparent chaos, before finally…
“I… What did…” Blood ran down the organizational ringleader’s outfit, bleeding both from a massive wound to the back of his knee and opening a massive hole in his shoulder, as the rocks he had been flinging around dropped like… Rocks.
Tigran’s voice was the next thing to ring out through the casino, now mostly abandoned bar the combatants.
“TOBY!!!”
Fox hadn’t even heard the shots fired, thanks to Metra, let alone noticed their angles; after all, the only one he knew of who could make a shot like that was knocked out and drunk upstairs, not to mention loyal to Tigran’s paychecks.
No twirled his gun around, holstering it and patting the bewildered Glitch on the shoulder. “Thanks for holding still… Didn’t want to hit you and ruin it all, after all. Hmmhmmhmahaha!"
“You… You motherfuckers!” Tigran wanted to cry then, especially as the others drew closer, seeing everyone who had fought against an ally of his here as little more than an enemy. Still, though, facing them off, he had to calm himself.
“Stand down,” Arpeggi demanded, “you’re outnumbered, completely.”
Tigran, rather than giving up, began to speak again. “You know, as the owner of this casino, I know the power of ‘games’. You see, if you call it a ‘gamble’, that sounds so… negative, no? So you call it nothing more than a simple ‘game’. That’s what draws people in. Getting people to play ‘roulette’ is harder, but if you call it a ‘roulette game’ and mask it correctly, it’s so, so, easy… However, the moment the ball is launched, it doesn’t matter, does it? No difference between a ‘gamble’ and a ‘game’... the ‘contract’ is the same - you abandon your money for ‘entertainment’ and for a slim ‘hope’ that you’ll succeed this time and make bank… It’s all thanks to these ‘games’... All of you lot, don’t you think so? Aren’t ‘games’ great? Hell, I’ve got an idea for one we can play right now…”
“Wh- what the hell are you talking about!” Arpeggi shouted out in anger. “I’m not putting up with this shit! You want a ‘game’?! Sure, fine! Here, how about this one - I go up to you, and have fun beating the shit out of you!” rushing towards Tigran, Arpeggi readied a punch and swung towards him - only for his fist to stop in midair, hitting against some kind of invisible barrier. He reeled back from the impact, stumbling backwards, feeling… weak. A look behind him revealed that Agnes, Glitch, William, and even Metra, the Angel, and No seemed to be feeling the same, struggling to remain upright.
“Y- you ‘agreed’... heh…” Tigran’s previously panicked expression quickly faded, replaced by a wide grin. “You agreed to it! You agreed to the ‘game’!” By now, Tigran broke out into uproarious laughter. “Always! They always fall for it, tempted by ‘games’! You… you idiot! I put the answer right in front of you, and you still missed it! ‘Games’, by their very nature, are tricks! Illusions! And my [The Grid] has the power to facilitate that! By agreeing to the game, my [The Grid] forces you to participate! There’s no escape now - you’re trapped in this ‘game’ of mine!”
As he realized he had screwed them all right at the last moment, Arpeggi’s vision began fading, and he fell onto the ground with a thud, blacking out.
???, an hour later, Heartache Casino VIP room
“Alright! Seems like our contestants for the first impromptu match of the day are waking up!”
“Plrrr..?” Out of nowhere, Glitch found herself standing straight, awake, somewhere unfamiliar. She tried to listen to see what was going on, only hearing the groans of William, Agnes, and Arpeggi, indicating that they were in a similar position to her. Of course, there was also that voice - she was… a ‘contestant’. It wasn’t hard to roughly figure out what exactly she was a ‘contestant’ of. She, and...
“...William!” Behind her was a whimpering noise, evidently William, and the sound of droplets of some kind of liquid splashing onto the ground, clearly [Ocean Eyes]’s acid. Ahead of her were Agnes and Arpeggi, talking between themselves about what the hell happened. Arpeggi sounded mad. Agnes… she wasn’t sure how he sounded. But she gathered enough from their conversation to understand that somehow, they were currently inside of a roulette wheel. Or rather, she, and everyone else, was shrunk, and placed into a roulette wheel.
“Now, this match is simple - a deathmatch to see who manages to survive! However, since we’re at the heartache casino… there’s an appropriate twist involved! See, our combatants for today are fighting on a roulette table, and meanwhile, our spectators for today are placing ‘bets’ to see which colors win out! Representing ‘red’, we’ve got our very own ‘Fox’! On black, meanwhile, we’ve got ‘Tigran Sins’, who set this match up!”
She summoned [Vida Loca] besides her, taking a look through the stand’s eyes and seeing the environment for herself. She was dwarfed by the room, trapped inside of this small roulette wheel. There was nowhere to run. William’s whimpers had escalated into sobbing, as [Ocean Eyes] hugged him from behind. Arpeggi and Agnes were arguing by now, shouting at each other. She took a deep breath.
“Now… I won’t keep you waiting any longer, since I just know everyone here’s excited to see what happens! So...”
First, Glitch got tossed into Los Fortuna and found a new home there, with the rest of the staff at the Elephant Bones. Then, they started getting into fights with other stand users - Shelldrake, Effie, Byte, William. She hadn’t been in one yet, but she knew very well the effects of them. Her friends had gotten hurt, some such as Father Blue even dying. Then the situation in the slums got worse, her home becoming less and less safe by the minute, her friends getting extorted and forced to work for ODIN, and now she and William were trapped here.
“Three… Two… One...”
She needed to get out. She needed to fight. She needed to win. She could overhear Agnes and Arpeggi bickering on the other side of the wheel, but knew that they were going to try and fight her and William as well. They had to. They’d been trapped by that man’s stand, and none of them knew what could be done against it, if anything.
[Vida Loca] stood behind her, a constant vibration coming out of it and creating a loud hissing noise that was soon mimicked by [Ocean Eyes], drowning out William’s sobs. She knew full well that, even if he was her friend, William was also a dangerous killer, meek though he might have acted. As hard as that whole situation was to grasp, she understood something else - that the more she stayed near [Ocean Eyes], working alongside it, the safer she was. She and William had to get out of this. And if they wanted to get out of this...
They would have to fight for their lives.
OPEN THE GAME!
(credit to magistelles for the image, both the censored and uncensored version!(CW: trypophobia))
Location: A roulette wheel in Heartache Casino, upon which players have been forcibly placed.
The map here is roughly similar to the image of the roulette wheel above. The outer brown layer represents the rim, the yellow layer being the wooden slopes down towards the center, the black layer being the numbers, the red layer being the pockets, the next layer being sloped wood up towards the center, and the center being a metal tower.
The map is 30 by 30 meters relative to the players, with the dotted tile being 5 by 5 meters.
The diamonds are the metal bumpers, about half a meter tall, and the blue circle is a weighted metal roulette ball which is a meter tall, both heights relative to the players.
The metal tower in the center is 8 meters tall relative to the players and the outside walls are 5 meters relative to the players. Players can not go past the rim of the roulette wheel.
Goal: RETIRE your opponents!
Additional Information:
There is an invisible barrier keeping the players and their Stands inside the roulette wheel. Everything else will pass through as normal, but the players and their attacks will be blocked by this barrier. The barrier is cylindrical around the entire roulette wheel.
The roulette system is currently automatic, 5 seconds after the ball falls into a pocket or stops moving entirely, it will start rolling again at top speed clockwise. The max speed of the ball is equivalent to B SPD and the ball is A DUR. You can expect it to make around 8 revolutions around the wheel before losing most of its speed if it is unimpeded by the players.
If the ball is destroyed or unable to roll, a new one will be thrown in from outside.
Team Combatant JoJolity
The Graveyard Shift William Eyelash “W-Well, I'll be going now...” You’re being forced to fight, and you don’t want anything to do with this! During the match, try to stay on the backlines as much as possible, assisting from there!
The Graveyard Shift Tiger “Glitch” Ricky "Nowadays, 30,000 yen is gone after you make one or two trips... So all that's left is to make more money, or go flat broke." You are being forced to fight here, and you hate it, so you might as well do something to cause the casino to lose money! Do whatever you can to constantly rig the roulette in favor of odds!
BADD GUYS Arpeggi Osso Buco "Does that alien not know what 'holding back' means?" You were tricked by that asshole, and now you’ve got to fight these two bystanders?! Fuck, this makes you irritated. Destroy as much of the area as possible over the course of your strategy!
BADD GUYS Ananas “Agnes” Bayley "I did say this seemed fun, but I wasn't talking about Cee-lo. I meant that it'd be fun taking your 30,000 yen from you." That girl over there is trying to rig the game, so play the agent of chaos and rig it towards the other end! Do whatever you can to constantly rig the roulette in favor of evens!
Link to the Official Player Spreadsheet
Link to Match Schedule
As always, if you would like to interact with the tournament community and be among the first to get updates for the tournament, please feel free to PM a member of our Judge staff for an invite to our Official Discord Server!
submitted by Dungeon_Dice to StardustCrusaders [link] [comments]

Offseason Blueprint: the Los Angeles Lakers may win the title tonight, but their ambition won't end there

The NBA season is nearly over: be it 1, 2, or 3 more games left. With the offseason looming around the corner, we've been looking ahead with our OFFSEASON BLUEPRINT series. In each entry, we preview some big decisions and make some recommendations for plans of attack along the way.
Like the NBA, we've officially come to the end of the road and to our final team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
step one: know it will never be All Quiet on the Western Front
The Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of fans, but also plenty of people who enjoy watching them struggle (some even run their own sports websites.) It feels like they've been a punching bag for almost a decade now. Even when the team landed a coup and signed LeBron James, there were plenty of skeptics and haters picking at the roster and fanning the flames of front office tension. Even when the team followed that up with a trade for Anthony Davis, there were STILL doubters and haters camped at the gates.
At the end of the day, LeBron James and company only had one way to shut them up: win.
Now, no one can criticize them anymore. Whatever they did to get here -- it worked. LeBron James deserves a huge amount of credit for this presumptive title (no offense, Miami) but there's plenty to go around. Anthony Davis reminded the world that he's a friggin' beast. Frank Vogel did a great job getting the defense to play on a string, especially on the perimeter. The maligned bench with Rajon Rondo, Markieff Morris, and Kyle Kuzma even stepped up in a major way on the road to the Finals.
While the team may be drenched with champagne by the time you read this, they still won't be satisfied. LeBron James went back to Cleveland to win a title. He didn't go to L.A. and recruit Anthony Davis to win a title. He wants to win multiple titles. He may get his 4th ring after this year, which means he'll only be 2 away from catching Michael Jordan. If he can do that, then there won't be any doubt about his GOAT status. And honestly, it's possible. James still looks like a top 5 player (if not 1 overall), and Anthony Davis is in the heart of his prime. With a decent supporting cast around them, they're going to be in title contention for the next two or three years.
However, the Lakers can't get complacent. They deserved this title, but they didn't exactly beat Murderers' Row to get here. In fact, their playoff opponents had the weakest seed value and weakest W-L percentage of any title team since 2000. Next season may be tougher sledding. The L.A. Clippers could be a real threat with better coaching and better rotations. The Milwaukee Bucks could be a real threat with better health. Health permitting, the Brooklyn Nets have the star power and the depth to be a force themselves. It's going to be a dogfight next season. The Lakers still may be the top dogs in that fight, but they're going to have to scrape and claw to get that bone again.
step two: convince your free agents that It's a Wonderful Life
LeBron James is a champion for player empowerment, but that concept is going to put his L.A. Lakers in a precarious position this offseason. Some decisions with be out of their hands. The team has an inordinate amount of player options for next season, with 5 separate players having the right to opt "in" or "out" of their contracts. Let's take a look at each of those one individually.
The most important, of course, will be Anthony Davis. He has the choice whether to opt in to his $28.7M salary. It's weird to say, but $28.7M is a bargain. Davis is a 27-year-old superstar. He deserves the new max and then some. From the Lakers' perspective, the only question will be timing the extension in the best interest of Davis and the team as a whole. If they wait until next offseason to give him a full max, they may have some more wiggle room in salary to bring in extra free agents (in Offseason 2021, not Offseason 2020.) Perhaps they can convince AD to wait until then to accrue more years. At the same time, uncertainty isn't their friend. If the Lakers disappoint next season and LeBron James hits a wall (unlikely, but theoretically possible) then perhaps Davis doesn't want to stay tethered to this older roster for the long haul. Perhaps his relationship with James -- great now -- bleeds into resentment over time. Who the heck knows. Superstar pairings don't always end with "happily ever after." Even that remote concern would make me push for a max extension for AD ASAP.
The second most important player option will be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. When the Lakers first signed them, it raised some eyebrows and potential tampering conspiracy theories. These days, his $8.5M player option looks like a good value. KCP shot well this year and played hard on defense. Effectively, he looked like the player that Danny Green was supposed to be. Your hope here is that the Lakers have built enough goodwill with KCP and his representatives to make this a friendly negotiation. Whether that means he opts in, or whether that means he signs a long-term deal, it's a relationship that needs to continue.
step three: but convince others to ride off like Shane
Conversely, there are a few player options that the team may try to talk players out of taking. Avery Bradley missed the bubble for personal reasons, but the Lakers' backcourt did just fine without him. At this stage in their careers, Alex Caruso is probably better at the 3+D guard role. Still, it's going to be up to Bradley whether to return or not. He can opt in to his $5.0M player option. The value is OK in the broadest sense, but perhaps the Lakers are rooting for him to test the market elsewhere. The Lakers should take a hard line here and not offer him extra years; if Bradley leaves to chase a long-term deal, so be it. If he opts in, he may be used as a potential trade chip.
Meanwhile, JaVale McGee has a $4.2M player option himself. McGee started 68/68 games in the regular season, but he didn't always look like their best option in the playoffs. As he ages (now 32), he'll continue to struggle with certain matchups. I don't think McGee can match that $4M anywhere else, so trying to convince him to opt out may be a losing proposition. Again, if McGee opts in, then the Lakers need to consider utilizing his salary as a potential trade piece.
Some of those decisions -- whether they want to keep Avery Bradley and JaVale McGee -- may hinge on some other free agents on the team. Backup PG Rajon Rondo has his own player option of $2.7M. All season long, I'd been talking about Rondo as a potential liability for the team. Instead, he justified some of that "Playoff Rondo" talk. Between Rondo and Caruso, you'd prefer Caruso getting extended minutes. Between Rondo and Bradley, it's more of a debate. Rondo deserves more than $2.7M, so I expect him to opt out. Presumably, he appreciates the role and limelight here in L.A. and wouldn't play hardball. If he's amenable to a short-term, reasonable deal, then you'd want to keep him in house. If his playoff hype spirals into outsized offers (anything over $6M or so) then you should thank him for his service and wish him well.
The Lakers should treat backup C Dwight Howard (an unrestricted free agent) in a similar way. Now 34, he's become a role player. Moreover, his role -- as the more traditional center -- is no longer a valuable one either. Still, he's pretty good at that role -- arguably better than JaVale McGee. The team shouldn't over-invest in this one-two punch though. If Howard wants to re-sign for a bargain basement deal, great. If he expects a mid-sized contract or an extra year, then he may be on the move again. For both Rondo and Howard, I'd stand firm on 1 year deals. However, the team can potentially add in "team option" years on top of that. The purpose would be less to entice them into staying and more to make them potential trade chips (in terms of salary matching) later on down the road.
The Lakers will have more free agents to discuss. Markieff Morris is an interesting one; he looked like a shell of himself after some injuries, but he showed signs of life in the postseason. If that's legit, then he could potentially be a good rotational player for the team (when they go "small" with AD at the 5.) The verdict from team doctors will be crucial to determining his value. Alternatively, vets like J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters don't appear to have any value at all. Fortunately, they don't have player options either.
step four: solve the mystery of The Third Man
All season long, we heard that the Lakers would need a third star to emerge if they were going to win the title. Kyle Kuzma never got there, but it didn't matter. Perhaps we've just defaulted into a more familiar era of the NBA. Shaq and Kobe won without another "star." Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won without another "star" (Dennis Rodman was more of an ultra role player.) With Kevin Durant removed from Golden State, perhaps the bar has been lowered back to reasonable heights for NBA title teams.
Still, the Lakers need to figure out who Kyle Kuzma is, and what his role should be. He averaged 16-6 as a rookie, but showed some signs of a "good stats / bad team" kind of player. That fear hasn't gone away. Since then, Kuzma's shot 30% and 32% from three over the following two years, and played poor defense overall. ESPN real plus/minus metric graded him as a -0.4 and -0.7 defensive impact, while box plus/minus had him at -1.2 and -1.0. That same BPM metric graded him below replacement level overall (-0.2 VORP).
Kuzma has played OK in these playoffs, but he hasn't had a major role. In fact, his minutes per game is down to 23.2 in the postseason so far, with 0 starts drawn. It's clear that Frank Vogel and the team don't believe he's the 3rd best player on the team. He may not even be the 4th or 5th best player.
You may ask: who cares? Kuzma isn't a world beater, but the Lakers beat the world anyway. Still, it's an important question hanging over their heads. Kuzma is under contract for one more year, and then will enter restricted free agency (at a time when they will be a lot of cap space out there.) Based on name value, he's going to get a decent contract.
If the Lakers don't believe he's worth decent money, it may be time to trade him now. (Realistically, the time to trade him was last offseason, but what can ya do.) Kuzma's $3.5M salary is easy to move, and the team can attach other contracts like McGee, Bradley, and Quinn Cook ($3M) to match a deal anywhere from the $3M-$15M range if need be.
What can the Lakers get for Kuzma on the open market? It's hard to tell. He's a polarizing name, so it may depend on whether their trade partner reads reddit or not. I'd call up Detroit and ask about Luke Kennard. If Houston's blowing it up, I'd ask about Robert Covington. If Minnesota's locked into Anthony Edwards at # 1, maybe they'd be open to trading Malik Beasley in a sign and trade. If you want to play dirty, you can tell Portland that Gary Trent Jr. (newest client of Klutch) is going to sign with the Lakers next season no matter what, so they may as well recoup something for him now. Fair? Ethical? Ehh. But hey, it's proven to be effective before.
step five: encourage others to hunt for the Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Lakers don't have much cap space this offseason, but that's not a major problem. They're not going to have to list job openings on monster.com -- available players are going to flock to them. The most obvious reason to join the Lakers would be to chase rings. However, it goes deeper than that. There's not a lot of teams with cap space this offseason, but there are plenty with space next season.
If you're a free agent who's not getting a lot of attention, there's one great way to get attention: play with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. You can inflate your stock for next offseason, when hopefully you cash in.
If I ran the Lakers, my first call would be to a veteran like Darren Collison. Collison took the season off to pursue his faith, but reportedly he may return next year. If so, he'd be a dream fit for this Lakers' rotation. Collison can run the point when LeBron James rests, but he can also serve as a complementary spacer. The former UCLA standout has become a very reliable shooter -- hitting over 40% from deep in his last four seasons. He's undersized and sometimes outmatched on D, but the team has Alex Caruso ready to match up with bigger guards. Collison's skill set would merit $10+ million in a good market, but perhaps NBA teams are going to want to see him "prove it" after his extended absence. If that's the case, the Lakers can thank their lucky stars and Jehovah for delivering him into their laps.
Other veterans who may be drawn to the Lakers like a moth to the flame would include: the underrated E'Twaun Moore (NO) and likable vet Courtney Lee (DAL). Moe Harkless (NYK) could probably get more elsewhere, but he may decide to bet on himself and inflate his price for next season.
Since Anthony Davis still prefers playing PF, depth at center will be more important for the Lakers than other teams. As mentioned, JaVale McGee will probably be back (barring a trade) and Dwight Howard may be as well. If not, the team could try to recruit a player who wants to boost their stock. Nerlens Noel (OKC) could benefit from the spotlight like that; better yet, his agent happens to be some dude named Rich Paul.
Overall, the Lakers need to keep pushing and trying to improve, be it through free agency, through trades, or through the draft (where they have the # 28 pick.) This team may have been good enough to win the title, but as mentioned, one title isn't going to satisfy this star, this team, and this fan base. Hollywood's all about excess, and the goal will be to overindulge over the next few years.
other offseason blueprints
ATL, BKN, BOS, CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, HOU, IND, GS, LAC, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NO, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHX, POR, SA, SAC, TOR, UTA, WAS
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[Manga] Welcome to the U19 Club: The Wonderful World of Shonen Jump Table of Contents Speculation

If you’re a manga fan, you likely know about Weekly Shonen Jump - one of the most popular magazines in Japan, this weekly anthology of comics provided us such classics as Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece. Indeed, because of the prestige of WSJ, many aspiring mangaka submit their creations to Jump, hoping they can hit it big.
However, while WSJ is popular, it is also one of the most cutthroat publications out there. Because of its size, it can usually only carry around 20 different series, excluding oneshots and the like. If your manga gets published in WSJ and doesn’t immediately become a hit, editors will cancel it as soon as possible to search for another hit instead.
Anyway, on places like manga, 4chan’s /a/ board, and Twitter, a sort of speculation started. You see, every issue of Jump has a table of contents page, which simply shows the location of each series in the issue as well as the weekly author comments. However, while the order changes from week to week, the general trend is that the most popular series are located near the front, where they’re more accessible to readers, while the less popular ones are in the back.
Of course, many editors and writers for Jump have noted that the head editor is the one who has the final say in the table of contents order, so they stress that it isn’t a barometer. However, one aspect of WSJ is that the print versions (probably digital versions too, though I haven’t checked) include a survey card in each issue - readers can submit which three chapters they enjoyed the most this week, alongside any sweepstakes offers or popularity polls. And there have been plenty of cases where a series ranks fairly high on the ToC and then suddenly drops to the bottom on chapter 8, which has led people to realize that it usually takes seven weeks to accurately tally survey results. So while it may not be 100% accurate, it allows people to speculate over which series are thriving and which are likely to be cancelled.
Case 1: The start of the U19 club
Of course, as mentioned above, the cutthroat nature of Jump means that low-performing books will be cancelled in about three to four volumes. However, at the time there was no real way to describe this phenomenon. That all changed in 2017.
See, at the time, WSJ was going through a massive series exodus. Popular series such as Bleach, Toriko, and Kochikame had all ended in 2016 (note: the latter had been running for 40 years), and Jump really needed something to prop up sales. To that end, they announced an unprecedented event where, for six weeks straight, they would add a new series in each issue. Usually, whenever series get serialized in Jump, they’re done in groups of two or three, so it was clear that WSJ was looking for at least some hits.
Enter U19, a series that made readers wonder how the hell it got approved in the first place. The premise is that adults have converted Japan into a 1984-like dystopia involving abusive discipline and selective breeding in order to strengthen the country and bring it back to its World War II-era glory. The main character finds out that his love interest has been deemed an elite student while he’s an F-rank, and when she is separated from him he develops a power called Libido, which manifests as a sewing needle that grows more powerful when he sees her. Then he is joined into the ranks of the U19 club, an underground resistance full of people under the age of 19 with similar Libidos.
The description I gave it in the previous paragraph does not do this series justice. The art was fairly amateur, the concept of Libidos were just quirks from My Hero Academia with a different name, the villains were written to be cartoonishly evil, and in general it didn’t seem like the author knew what they were doing. It quickly was cancelled after 17 chapters, but a edit of one of the spreads by a 2chan user, where the members of U19 were replaced by characters from other short-running series, eventually blossomed into a meme. From then on, the U19 club became the unofficial way to refer to any series doomed to end in less than 19 chapters. People who saw the TOC rankings would soon gravitate to the bottom of the list, speculating over which series were likely to join the club.
Case 2: The battle of the gag manga
Okay, when I mentioned the idea of the table of contents, there was one part I glossed over. While the lower-ranked series were almost doomed to fail, for a couple of years the last series to be featured in the ToC would usually be a small comedy series. The idea being that no matter how unsettling or uncomfortable the rest of the books are, at the very least the magazine will always end on a happy note. For the longest time, this position was filled by Isobe Isobee Monogatari, but then it ended in 2017.
So in a September 2018 issue, to the surprise of everyone, two gag series premiered in the same issue at the same time. The first, I’m From Japan, was about a young boy who is obsessed with the various prefectures of Japan and uses them in fighting styles. The second, Teenage Renaissance David, reimagined the Michelangelo sculpture as a hot-blooded high school student. It was clear that Jump was hedging its bets on a new gag series to be their mainstay, but the question was: which one?
There was obviously a regional gap for this issue. Japanese fans were more likely to enjoy I’m From Japan, simply because the various puns and in-jokes made more sense to them. Western fans found Teenage Renaissance David better, because the classical art references were more familiar. What compounded the issue even more is that every issue, the two series would switch places - one would be in the middle of the magazine, while the other would be near the bottom. Compounding this issue was the unbelievable fact that in December of the same year, I’m From Japan was confirmed to have an anime in development (for reference, most Shonen Jump manga only get an anime greenlighted after at least a year of serialization, while IFJ had only been around for a few months at best - meaning an anime was planned before the series even started).
While western fans were in disbelief, people soon came to the realization of why IFJ was promoted over David - tourism. The fact was that IFJ basically had every chapter talk about the top exports, notable attractions, and famous people of each Japanese prefecture - which made it perfect in terms of advertising people to go to those prefectures in question. Ultimately, Teenage Renaissance David ended after 35 chapters, while I’m From Japan was transferred to sister magazine Saikyo Jump... only to end after 45 chapters. In the end, nobody won, although the author of Isobe recently started a new serialization that may become the new gag series.
Case 3: Chew Harder - The Tale of Samurai 8
While most of the titles I’ve been talking about so far have been obscure, you most likely know about Naruto. The ninja manga was published in Jump in 1999, and author Masashi Kishimoto made it into a massive work spanning over 70 volumes and 15 years. It’s arguably one of the most popular series to have ever ran in Jump.
So it was surprising to hear that after Naruto ended, Kishimoto noted that he actually had plans for a new series. In late 2018, more information came out - his new publication would be called Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru, and it would be a science fiction title centered around cybernetic samurai. Notably, due to wanting a break from drawing, he would only write the series while one of his former assistants, Akira Obuko, would be doing the art.
Considering that such a famous author would be writing another series, Jump immediately went to advertising S8 however it could. Animated YouTube ads done months before the series actually started, expansive murals in subways, even putting pamphlets of the first chapter in other Jump manga. While it had done some promotional acts for other manga before, it was on a completely different level with Samurai 8. In essence, they were setting it up to be one of the core pillars of Jump before it even started.
And then the series actually started. While some people were optimistic, others noted that it wasn’t exactly a good start for the series. From the first chapter alone, the reader is bombarded with samurai lore that would honestly be better suited for explanation across chapters rather than in a massive exposition dump. The plot also became more complex - while the first chapter of Naruto framed the conflict as a plucky young ninja possessed by a demonic nine-tailed fox wanting to become the head of his village, the first chapter of Sam8 framed the conflict as a sickly young boy who wants to become a samurai, only to suddenly get a cybernetic body after committing seppuku and then he is told by a blind samurai master in a cat’s body that he must find the seven keys to Pandora’s Box, an artifact that could endanger the whole galaxy. The artstyle used to portray cybernetics made pages look cluttered, which made fight scenes difficult to understand.
In essence, while Samurai 8 had the prestige of being written by the author of Naruto, everything else seemed to be changed - not necessarily for the better. Compounding this were two separate facts. The first is that when the first and second volumes of the series were released simultaneously (another marketing stunt to encourage binge reading), Kishimoto wrote in the first volume that he would compare reading Samurai 8 to chewing dried squid - if the flavor doesn’t come out, just chew some more (i.e. buy the second volume, I swear things will get better I promise). The second was an interview with one of the former editors of Naruto, which revealed that many of the most popular parts of Naruto were editor suggestions rather than Kishimoto’s own work. Compounding this was an interview with the Samurai 8 editor, who seemed to revere Kishimoto; this made fans believe that he wasn’t policing Kishimoto’s work as much, similar to how George Lucas made the original Star Wars trilogy with the help of various editor suggestions and then the prequel trilogy with virtually no supervision.
The effects were noticeable. In 4chan, it became a meme to refer to Kishimoto’s chewing comment whenever Samurai 8 was discussed. TOC-wise, it dropped in the rankings until it was almost always near the bottom. Sales were night and day compared to Naruto, and ultimately, after the constant promotions over other WSJ series, Samurai 8 ended after five volumes and 45 chapters. Which seems okay enough until you realize that I’m From Japan, of all series, was compiled into six volumes.
Case 4: Time Plagiarism Ghostwriter
In May 2020, the same issue when one of Jump’s more popular series Demon Slayer ended, a new series called Time Paradox Ghostwriter started.
The premise of it went like this: An amateur author whose manga has been rejected by publishers constantly gets his microwave struck by a bolt of lightning, which turns it into a time machine. When he opens it up, he sees that it contains a copy of Weekly Shonen Jump from ten years in the future. Upon seeing that its premiere series, White Knight, is the perfect manga, but believing it to be a dream, he copies the first chapter the following day and sends it to his editor, who immediately greenlights it as a series. Suddenly the amateur author must contend with the high expectations pushed onto him - as well as the original author of White Knight, who is surprised that someone else has used her idea.
Maybe it was because of the premise alone. Maybe it was because it was one of the few Jump manga out there which didn’t fall into the typical conventions of being a battle, sports, or gag manga. Either way, TPGW immediately became popular in the west, with many people talking about how they love it. Many were immediately convinced that TPGW could immediately become a top seller for Japan. So, seven weeks after the first chapter, people were eager to see the first ratings for the series - only for it to debut in the bottom half of the magazine and drop lower every issue afterward.
People were surprised, to say the least. Why was a series with such an amazing premise flopping? Pretty soon, people came to a conclusion as to why this was happening: plagiarism. More specifically, in a magazine primarily aimed at young boys, the first few chapters tried to justify the main character plagiarizing White Knight and still paint him as a good guy, by having people constantly tell him that so many people are in love with WK and it would be a disservice to stop now. Even the original author, after meeting the main character, writes off the similar plot between his White Knight and hers as a fluke. And given how the Kyoto Animation Fire, one of the worst mass murders in Japan’s modern history, was caused because someone thought KyoAni had stolen their idea, it makes sense that people would be hesitant to like a series which pushes all of its consequences to the side.
So anyway, the first volume of TPGW was released, compiling all the magazine chapters while removing any reference to plagiarism in the text itself. Even then, it sold terribly. The author quickly tried to pick up the pace of their manga, glazing over plot points and moving the story at a breakneck pace, but it was too little too late. The series ended in only 15 chapters - unusual for Jump, as even more recent U19 series have gotten more time before getting axed. People were upset, claiming that Japan just didn’t have as good of a taste as the west and being upset that the previously-mentioned gag manga by Isobe’s author was immediately started the week after. So yeah, people were upset.
Anyway, that’s the long and short of some notable instances of Jump drama. I could add in some more stuff, like the quick cancelling of Act-Age or the drama surrounding mangaka like Kentaro Yabuki and Haruto Ikezawa, but I’ve written enough as is.
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Myles Gaskin Post-Game Analysis: Looking Ahead

Last Thursday I wrote a post analyzing the Gaskin RBBC situation pre-game. I intended to write a post-game sooner but I got busy and so here we are now. So, let's get straight to it.
On Thursday night we saw Gaskin truly separate himself from the pack.
Attempts:
vs Jaguars Attempts Yards Avg TD
Myles Gaskin 22 66 3.0 0
Matt Breida 3 4 1.3 0
Jordan Howard 3 1 0.3 1
Other 8 67 N/A 1
Total 36 138 1.5 2
Receiving work:
vs Jaguars Targets Receptions Yards Avg TD
Myles Gaskin 5 5 29 5.8 0
Matt Breida 0 0 0 0 0
J. Howard 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 5 29 N/A 0

These numbers reaffirm something many of us already now know. Myles Gaskin has, until proven otherwise, secured the lead role in the Dolphins backfield and it isn't close. Looking back on the previous two weeks, this trend was becoming apparent and is now solidified. Let's look at another interesting statistic.
Redzone Attempts:
Last 2 Weeks Redzone Attempts Goalline Attempt Yards TD Percentage
Myles Gaskin 2 0 11 0 16.7%
J. Howard 5 5 1 2 41.7%
Matt Breida 3 0 9 0 25%
Other 2 0 N/A 0 16.7%
Total 12 5 21 2 100.1%

vs Jaguars Redzone Attempts Goalline Attempt Yards TD Percentage
Myles Gaskin 9 0 18 0 69.2%
J. Howard 3 3 1 1 23.1%
Matt Breida 0 0 0 0 0%
Ryan Fitzmagic 1 0 1 1 7.7%
Total 13 3 20 2 100%

Looking at the data paints an interesting picture, many are under the impression that Jordan Howard will vulture away Gaskin TDs. While Howard certainly has vultured 3 TDS so far this season it is on a disgusting 8 attempts for 2 yards and 3 TDs line. Howard is almost exclusively used for goalline situations. Gaskin meanwhile has seen an encouraging uptick in RedZone usage, commanding an impressive 69% of touches against the Jaguars among rush attempts in the RZ. Gaskin is bound to get his, just don't hold your breath from 1-yd out.
Another encouraging area for Gaskin is his receiving work, to reiterate:
vs Jaguars Targets Receptions Yards Avg
Myles Gaskin 5 5 29 5.8
Gaskin continues to catch his targets at an astoundingly efficient rate. Gaskin is 4th in receiving yards with 91, T-3 in targets with 16, and 1st in receptions with 15 for the Dolphins team. Additionally, Gaskin commands a healthy 16.7% target share for the Dolphins and runs a route on 67% of pass plays run.
An interesting question to consider going forward is, how will OC Chan Gailey utilize Gaskin as the primary back as the season progresses? Looking back to Gailey's offenses to the Bills in 2010-2012 and the Jets 2015-2016 the running back position was utilized heavily in the passing game. For these statistics, I will combine and total the top two RBs each year during Gailey's tenure per team.
RB utilization:
RBs under Gailey Attempts Yards Targets Receptions Yards Receiving TD/Rushing TD
Bills 895 4386 286 210 1759 8/24
Jets 666 2918 218 165 1256 6/18
Total 1561 7304 504 375 3015 14/42
As evidenced here, backs in Gailey's offense are expected to be reliable pass-catchers and are targeted heavily. This lends itself to Gaskin's skillset as a smaller pass-catching back. A very interesting bit of information I gathered looking through these statistics is that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting QB in every single one of these years under Gailey. So a continuation of previous trends can be reasonably expected.
Last but not least, let's look into Gaskin's upcoming matchup with Seattle. As predicted last week, the Jaguars continued their efforts as a solid defensive front against the run. Allowing only 3.4 ypc on 29 attempts for 100 yards between the RBs. However, the Dolphins managed to get things done off of a couple of Minshew turnovers and an unimpressive pass defense. As suspected, Gaskin faced resistance on the ground but was able to make up for it through the air for PPR owners. Looking forward Gaskin faces an even tougher matchup on the ground against a formidable Seahawks run defense ranked 2nd in the league with 66.7 yards/game that only allowed 34 yards on 14 attempts for Elliot last week. However, we are once again looking to bet on Gaskin to produce through the air against a Seahawk's pass defense ranked dead last with 430 yards/game that allowed the Cowboys 472 yards through the air. The Seahawks also struggled to get to Dak through an ailing Cowboys' oline but managed to put a little pressure on Prescott.
Receiving stats by RBs last 3 weeks:
vs Targets Receptions Yards Avg TD
Falcons 10 7 11 1.6 0
Patriots 7 4 47 6.7 0
Cowboys 12 7 19 2.7 0
Total 29 18 77 N/A 0
Based on these statistics, the Seahawks allow a 62.1% completion rate to RBs. However, they do not seem to allow very much yardage after the fact. The Falcons failed to capitalize on their 7 receptions, Rex Burkhead for the Patriots managed to have a solid receiving day from a PPR standpoint, and finally, Elliot also appears to have failed to capitalize on his opportunities but achieved PPR worth due to his high number of receptions. I would like to point out that, after watching the entirety of the Cowboys' game, Elliot uncharacteristically dropped at least 3 easy passes from Dak that could've gone for solid gains and an additional 3 points.
Taking everything into consideration, this will be Gaskin's toughest matchup to date. Gaskin faces an ever tougher and better coached run defense. But, following the trend, Gaskin has opportunities against a weak Hawk pass defense. Look for Gaskin to get checkdown work against a soft Hawk's secondary and hope for more receiving work while tempering your expectations on the ground. If the Dolphins fall behind quickly against the overwhelming Hawks' offense a positive game script can boost Gaskin's PPR work. On a side note, I expect the Dolphins receivers and possibly Gesicki to have a great week against a weak secondary, while the battered Hawks' stars safety Jamal Adams and CB Quinton Dunbar deal with injuries that may keep them out this week.
Edit: Almost forgot, if the numbers don't speak to you, please listen to an endorsement from one of fantasyfootball's very own.
"Miami dolphin fan here and someone that watches Gaskin very closely, I also happen to work at SeaWorld... Miles is silky, SILKY, mahi-mahi, and a big BIG boy. Big ass boy. Swims hard as a man (SWIMS HARD), and the Fins are aware of this slick porpoise boy. They will feed him, feed him often, and hard, and he will squeak head off. Unbelievable."
- u/rybono
TL;DR - Gaskin secures Dolphins backfield while increasing RZ usage in a favorable Chan Gailey offense, but faces a tough test against the Seahawks.
Sources:
Last Week's Analysis
Dolphins vs Jaguars Stats
Dolphins RB Stats
Dolphins RB Goaline Usage
Dolphins RB RZ Usage
Gaskin Receiving Percentage
Chan Gailey Jet's Offensive Breakdown
Chan Gailey Dolphin's Expectations
Chan Gailey Bill's Stats
Chan Gailey Jet's Stats
NFL Rushing Defense Rankings
NFL Receiving Defense Rankings
Seahawks vs Cowboys Stats
Seahawks vs Patriots Stats
Seahawks vs Falcons Stats
Elliot Dropped Passes
Seahawks Injuries
Seahawk's Injury Report
Gaskin Week 3 NextGen Attempts
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TIL President Jimmy Carter wrote an Op Ed to push for Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame

I had never seen this before but thought it was really interesting.
https://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/p_rosed.shtml

It's Time to Forgive Pete Rose

By Jimmy Carter
USA Today © — Monday, October 30, 1995
It's October again, and despite the Million Man March, peace talks in Bosnia, O.J.'s future, hurricanes and train wrecks, our family's passion has been focused on baseball and the World Series that ended Saturday. There was a vast abyss last fall with no World Series, and still a diminished luster on the game as players and owners prepare to resume their endless contract disputes.
But there was something else amiss, underscored by the heroic achievements of Cal Ripken Jr. and Greg Maddux. An equally remarkable player - Pete Rose - is barred from recognition in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Election to the Hall of Fame has never been an affirmation of impeccable character, but rather a recognition of extraordinary achievements on the diamond. This is what makes the case of Pete Rose, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, so agonizing.
One of society's most difficult decisions is whether to extend forgiveness to someone who has committed a crime or made a serious mistake. In international diplomacy, it is often necessary to grant amnesty to former oppressors and corrupt officials in order to reconcile antagonists and bring peace, justice, and respect for human rights to a troubled nation. U.S. presidents are responsible for the ultimate decisions about pardons and paroles for convicted criminals who have served a portion of their sentences. A most difficult decision for me was amnesty for draft avoiders to help heal the trauma of Vietnam. President Gerald Ford made the politically costly choice of pardoning President Nixon to address the national wounds of Watergate.
In every case, it is necessary to assess the offense, extenuating circumstances, evidence of reform or restitution, and the willingness of victims to forego continuing punishment of the guilty.
For at least five generations, our family members have been avid baseball fans. We were particularly proud of Ty Cobb, a fellow Georgian, and simply let the negative aspects of his character fade into relative unimportance when compared to his achievements on the diamond. It was with mixed emotions that we observed Pete Rose getting his 4,192nd hit on Sept. 11, 1985, breaking one of Cobb's seemingly invulnerable records. But we recognized Rose's extraordinary spirit and determination. Few players ever made greater use of their natural talents or brought more enthusiasm to the game.
Rose gambled on sporting events and was convicted of tax evasion. We shared America's disillusionment when we learned that he had brought disgrace and punishment on himself and on the game he had previously honored. Although he served his prison sentence for the federal crime, he is still banned from baseball's eligible list and therefore cannot be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Recently, I have reread the May 9, 1989 investigative findings of John Dowd in "the matter of Peter Edward Rose," a report requested by the respected baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti. Dowd held a high career position in my administration, and his credentials are impeccable. I find the testimony (mostly from convicted felons) about Pete Rose's betting on sports events to be convincing and disheartening, but evidence about specifically betting on baseball is less than compelling.
There is substantial indication that Commissioner Giamatti also had some reasonable doubts. When the commissioner announced their mutual understanding that Rose would be banished from the game, there was no finding that he had bet on baseball. However, in answer to a reporter's question, Giamatti expressed his opinion that Rose had committed this crucial act. Although admitting the other charges, Rose has vigorously denied this allegation.
All this is a matter of record, and we cannot minimize the seriousness of the proven offenses. However, in a careful but determined manner, it is now time to explore an act of amnesty or parole. This would only involve the placing of Pete Rose back on the baseball eligibility list, and need not now include any immediate decision on his election to the Hall of Fame.
Let us consider the four key factors mentioned above:
Rose's offense: It is fruitless to rehash the already belabored facts. A major degree of guilt has been conceded.
Extenuating circumstances: The most important are the marvelous (not just superior) achievements of Pete Rose as a player during his long career, aside from his subsequent service as a manager. No player has over-hustled more, or been more committed to the game of baseball. After breaking Ty Cobb's record, Rose went on to a total of 4,256 hits in an unequaled 3,562 games and 14,053 times at bat, for a lifetime batting average of .303. He also held 31 other major and National League records.
Reform or restitution: Pete Rose served his prison time as required, and has subsequently led the life of a proper and law-abiding citizen. He is gainfully employed, and has complied with the special restraints placed on him by Commissioner Giamatti. In painful dignity, he has suffered many other actual and indirect punishments.
Victims' forgiveness: The primary victims of the crime are the millions of dedicated fans who support baseball and are very protective of the game's reputation and integrity. A 1994 article in Sports Illustrated reported a telephone poll of Americans in which 97% of respondents said that Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. I have found virtually no fans who disagree.
This ultimate question can be answered at a later time, either by a vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America or by members of the Baseball Hall of Fame Committee on Baseball Veterans. Now, even in the confused environment of major league baseball, Pete Rose should at least be declared eligible for later consideration. Then, his own attitude and performance can shape the final decision.
I have never met or communicated with Pete Rose, but would like to join with other Americans to help give him - and the game of baseball - this opportunity for redemption.
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