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John Madden dies: Hall of Fame coach, NFL icon passes away unexpectedly at age 85

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NFL legend John Madden unexpectedly passed away Tuesday morning. The Hall of Fame coach, broadcaster and video game creator was 85 years old. 

Madden is one the most influential figures in NFL history. His highly successful coaching career with the Raiders earned him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Madden also enjoyed a highly-decorated 30-year broadcasting career that included 11 Super Bowls as a color analyst. He formed an iconic broadcasting partnership with Pat Summerall, as the two called eight Super Bowls together. Madden, who famously traveled to games in his “Madden Cruiser,” was also the creator of the iconic video game that bears his name. 

“On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our condolences to Virginia, Mike, Joe and their families,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We all know him as the Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and broadcaster who worked for every major network, but more than anything, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.

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“Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”

While he could have been enshrined much earlier as a contributor, Madden insisted that if he ever received Hall of Fame induction, it would be for his work as an NFL coach. Madden got his wish nearly three decades after he coached his final game. Madden’s bust sits alongside other legendary coaches that includes contemporaries such as Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Hank Stram, Paul Brown, Bud Grant and Don Shula. It also sits alongside the bust of Madden’s coaching idol, Vince Lombardi, who Madden coached against as an assistant on Oakland’s staff during Green Bay’s win in Super Bowl II, Lombardi’s final game on the sideline. 

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Coach Madden,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “Few, if any, have had as great an impact on the sport of professional football on so many different levels as Coach Madden. He was first and foremost a coach. He was a coach on the field, a coach in the broadcast booth and a coach in life. 

“He was dearly loved by millions of football fans worldwide. While it’s a very sad day, it’s also a day we should celebrate the life of a man who brought joy through the game of football to millions. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Madden’s wife, Virginia; their sons, Joe and Mike; and the entire Madden family during this difficult time. The Hall of Fame will forever guard Coach Madden’s legacy. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in his memory.”

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Madden compiled a .759 winning percentage as the Raiders coach, the highest percentage in league history among coaches that have won 100 games. During his 10 seasons as the Raiders head coach, Madden led Oakland to the playoffs eight times. The Raiders never had a losing season under Madden, who posted a 103-32-7 record as Oakland’s coach. Madden coached in iconic games that included the “Immaculate Reception,” “Ghost to the Post,” “Sea of Hands” and the “Holy Roller.” 

“The Raiders Family is deeply saddened by the passing of the legendary John Madden,” the Raiders said in a statement. “Few individuals meant as much to the growth and popularity of professional football as Coach Madden, whose impact on the game both on and off the field was immeasurable.”

Madden coached a bevy of Hall of Fame players that includes Ken Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Dave Casper, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Jim Otto, Bob Brown, Willie Davis, Ted Hendricks, Ron Mix, and Ray Guy. Cliff Branch, a star receiver under Madden, is a senior finalist for induction in 2022. Madden was presented into the Hall of Fame by former Raiders owner Al Davis, who in 1969 hired the then-32-year-old Madden to be his coach. 

The Raiders appeared in seven AFC title games under Madden that included five straight from 1973-77. And after falling short in his first five AFC title games, Madden and the Raiders finally broke through in 1976. After a 13-1 regular season, the Raiders dethroned the Steelers — the team that defeated Oakland in the previous two AFC title games — to punch their first ticket to the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XI, the Raiders dominated the Vikings behind a punishing rushing attack and equally devastating defense. Oakland received an MVP performance from Biletnikoff, who set up three of the Raiders’ four offensive touchdowns. The Raiders won 32-14, and Madden and the Raiders were champions for the first time. 

“They can never take it away from you,” Madden said of his Super Bowl win. “Maybe the fact that we chased it so long made it bigger to us. It was the greatest feeling in the world. There’s nothing that can beat it.” 

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White Sox’s Tony La Russa issues another intentional walk on two-strike count in loss vs. Guardians

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Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa made one of the weirdest strategic decisions of the season in June, when he issued an intentional walk to a batter who his pitcher had already staked out a 1-2 count against. The call backfired, as the next batter unloaded a home run that put the White Sox in a hole from which they could not recover. La Russa defended his decision afterward, and on Friday night he doubled-down, in a sense, by doing the same thing against the Cleveland Guardians as part of a 5-2 loss (box score).

Here’s how it went down:

The White Sox led the Guardians 2-1 entering the seventh inning. Cleveland would subsequently score a pair of runs with two outs in the frame to take a 3-2 lead before La Russa inserted left-handed reliever Jake Diekman. Diekman would then walk two consecutive batters before giving up a single to Andrés Giménez to plate two more runs, making it 5-2 with runners on first and second. At that point, the Guardians rookie outfielder Oscar Gonzalez had a chance to blow the game open.

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Diekman would get ahead of Gonzalez 1-2 before the Guardians’ baserunners succeeded on a double-steal attempt. With first base open and two outs, La Russa called for the intentional walk. It should be noted that Gonzalez, though right-handed, has performed worse against lefty pitchers this season, and that he’s struck out in nearly 40 percent of the plate appearances that have reached two strikes.

Nevertheless, La Russa evidently wanted to force Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s hand with the next spot in the order. Lefty-swinging rookie Nolan Jones was due up, but Francona subbed him out for righty Owen Miller. La Russa then strolled to the mound to replace Diekman with right-hander Jimmy Lambert, who subsequently induced an inning-ending flyout on the second pitch of the at-bat.

The results will spare La Russa from the intensity of criticism that he received in June, but that doesn’t make it a sound process. We know from various studies conducted by smart analysts that microsplits, including those of the platoon and count variety, require regression toward the mean to have any actual predictive value. Maybe La Russa had those numbers on hand from the White Sox’s analytical department, but we’re going to guess that he made his call based on Gonzalez’s two-strike average (.265) and Miller’s average against righties (.262 this year or .242 career). 

After all, if intentionally walking batters who are stuck in two-strike counts was a sound tactical decision based on the numbers, the odds are that the Los Angeles Dodgers or … well, the Guardians would be the ones doing it; not La Russa. 

It may have not factored into the final score on Friday, but the White Sox can’t be thrilled that their manager seems committed to making the same mistake twice.

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Sonya Deville & Natalya face Toxic Attraction in WWE's Tag Team Title Tournament | WWE on FOX

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Natalya and Sonya Deville took on former NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne from Toxic Attraction on Friday Night SmackDown.



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Elks dominate second half, snap three-game skid with win over Redblacks 

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OTTAWA — Taylor Cornelius threw two touchdown passes and the Edmonton Elks scored 21 unanswered points in the second half of a 30-12 win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday.

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Cornelius completed 16-of-27 passes for 208 yards, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker with 6:34 left in the fourth quarter. The win halted a three-game losing streak for the Elks (3-7).

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Caleb Evans threw for 111 yards and rushed for another 82, including a 21-yard touchdown run, but the Redblacks (1-8) lost for the 19th time in their last 20 games.

One of the few bright spots for the Redblacks was a 50-yard reception by Darvin Adams, who played in his 100th CFL game.

An 18-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Kenny Lawler at 11:03 in the third quarter gave the Elks their first lead of the game at 16-12.

Just under eight minutes later, Ante Milanovic-Litre scored on a two-yard run to boost the Elks’ lead to 23-12 following a Sergio Castillo extra point.

The Redblacks entered the third quarter up 12-9 after a less than spectacular first half that began with Ottawa’s PA announcer introducing Edmonton as the Eskimos.

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Lewis Ward made a 46-yard field goal near the midway mark of the first quarter, but a roughing the kicker penalty on Edmonton defensive lineman Jake Ceresna gave the Redblacks a fresh set of downs. A minute later, Ottawa took advantage as Evans ran in for a 21-yard score at the 7:43 mark.

The Elks answered back before the end of the quarter on a 52-yard field goal by Castillo.

In the second quarter, Ward left six points on the board with back-to-back missed field goals from 40 and 47 yards that led to a pair of rouge points. Ward connected from 13 yards out with 4:45 left to give the Redblacks a 12-3 lead.

Late in the first half, the Elks had the ball at the Redblacks one-yard line following a defensive pass interference call.

Quarterback Kai Locksley entered the game for the short-yardage situation but was stopped twice on sneak attempts. Locksley scored on his third attempt on a sweep right play, but Castillo hit the upright on the point after attempt to make it 12-9.

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