<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:04:42 -0400 Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:04:42 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Cop With Cancer Named Honorary Captain of Connecticut Tigers]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:39:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/CancerCopBaseballPic00000000.jpg

A detective sergeant from Norwich forced to retire because of his cancer diagnosis has been named honorary captain of the Connecticut Tigers.

Ed Beckham served the Norwich Police Department for 22 years.

"After hearing Ed's story, being one of the local police officers here that do the security here at the stadium, we thought what greater way to bring him out, bring him on the club," said Eric Knighton, general manager of the Detroit Tigers farm team.

With his 12-year-old son E.J. beside him as agent, Ed Peckham signed a one-day contract with the Tigers, a single A team. He'll have plenty to do even if he doesn't actually play Friday, on First Responder Night.

"I'm just excited that my dad gets to be part of the team," said E.J.

During the game, he'll be in the dugout after some batting practice. But with his daughter singing the Star Spangled Banner, he won't be the only member of the Peckham family in action.

"It's going to be fun watching my daughter sing, and just this whole experience has been awesome," said Peckham. "My biggest thing is my family and what they've had to go through with all of this."

<![CDATA[Jets Fans Fly 'Cheaters' Banner Over Patriots Practice]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:45:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Jets-Fans-Patriots.jpg

The Jets fans behind last year's campaign to get the team's general manager fired have a new target: The New England Patriots.

The group that runs the website NYJetsFans.com flew a banner over the Patriots' training camp in Foxborough, Massachussets, that said “CHEATERS LOOK UP!” on Thursday. The sign includes the Twitter handle “@JetsFanMedia.”

A spokesman for the group, Jason Koeppel, told Metro.us before the flight Thursday that they were going to fly the banner because “the time has come for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft to start dealing with reality.”

“Sports fans are not stupid. We have seen this act before from disgraced former superstar athletes. People like Lance Armstrong and Ryan Braun who challenged the system after they got caught red handed. Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, A-Rod, Roger Clemens -- the list of people who lied after they got caught cheating is sadly endless,” Koeppel said.

Koeppel’s group was also responsible for the “Fire John Izdik” billboard that was placed near MetLife Stadium last season. The group is also trying to have the Jets bring back Fireman Ed, the team’s unofficial mascot who stopped going to games after the 2012 season.

The flight of the banner comes two days after the NFL upheld a four-game suspension for Brady in connection with the team’s use of under-inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Brady has maintained that he had no role in the alleged football-deflating conspiracy, and the NFL Player’s Association has filed suit against the league in federal court over the suspension.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[US Olympic Committee Exploring LA-SF Joint Bid: Sources]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 02:40:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/196*120/01-08-2015-olympics-los-angeles-coliseum-flag.jpg

With Boston now out of the 2024 Olympics race, Los Angeles is exploring a new bid that could include Bay Area cooperation.

The United States Olympics Committee has reached out to San Francisco’s Olympics bid committee regarding a joint bid with Los Angeles, multiple sources within the San Francisco 2024 Olympic Bid and the USOC told NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai.

“Discussions are taking place,” one of the sources said, but "a lot will have to happen in the next six weeks." 

According to the Chronicle, Giants CEO Larry Baer, who led San Francisco's bid to host the games, got a call from LA sports agent Casey Wasserman on Tuesday to ask about the possibility of submitting a joint proposal to the U.S. Olympic Committee in September.

"I'm not saying we are going to do it, but we are certainly open to discussing it," Baer told the publication.

Tony Winnicker, who has worked with the office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Olympics efforts, acknowledged that the city might also be open to the possibility.

Sources say the USOC plans to vet the unique proposal at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur from July 31 to Aug. 3.

Boston's bid to host the games had been selected to move forward in January over those by San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

The U.S. Olympic Commitee ended Boston's bid after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Monday that he was not ready to sign a host city document that would force taxpayers to cover any cost overruns. 

NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Steve Powell/Allsport
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<![CDATA[Connecticut Residents React to Tom Brady Suspension]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:24:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/TLMD-tom-brady-patriots-st.jpg

Tom Brady's statement on Facebook this morning that he did nothing to warrant a four-game suspension over the "Deflategate" scandal seems to be uncompromising but even some rabid Patriots fans don't buy it.

Connecticut resident Bill Reardon said the time off is well deserved, however.

"Especially with what just came out regarding the cellphone and destroying any evidence," Reardon said. "It just kind of makes it look more suspicious. I still think he's a dynamite player."

"Tom Brady's a great guy, he's got great poise, great character," said Devin Booth of Old Wethersfield. "I'm seeing no positive proof as to what he's done wrong. It's he says she said and I hope he stands his ground."

He's hoping Tom Brady will appeal the suspension in civil court. But Brady also faces the court of public opinion.

"I think that it's in his best interest to deny this and sort of move past it," said Nakhia Henry, from Newington. "I think he can deal with it. It's quite more than my paycheck so I think he'll be fine."

Segundo Rivera said Brady should sit out for at least a year.

"He cheated, he cheated. He threw the ball for them. He cheated. he cheated. I believe he cheated," Rivera said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hartford Yard Goats Announce 2016 Schedule]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:01:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Yard+Goats+logo_1200.jpg

The future Hartford Yard Goats have announced their schedule for 2016.

There will be 71 games at their home field, Dunkin' Donuts Park, which is under construction in Hartford with the goal of finishing it for next year's season. Hartford's new Minor League baseball team, currently still the New Britain Rock Cats until they move to the capital city, will take on clubs affiliated with the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets.

The Yard Goats are a Double-A Eastern League team affiliated with the Colorado Rockies.

In the team's debut home game, the Yard Goats will take on the Flying Squirrels from Richmond, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants on April 7 at 7:05 p.m., according to a news release from the Yard Goats. The game will be the first in a four-game series.

The Flying Squirrels will also partake in a seven-game "homestand," including a series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Yard Goats will have its last home games of the regular season on Sunday, Aug. 28 against the Harrisburg Senators, affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

The Yard Goats' season closes with an eight-game stretch in Richmond, Virginia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Portland Sea Dogs, affiliated with the Red Sox, will play the Yard Goats in April, June and July. The Trenton Thunder, the Yankees' farm team, will play two series, six games in total, in May and August. Hartford will also host the Binghamton Mets in July and August.

Fans can see the Yankees and Red Sox affiliates May 31 to June 6 in a back-to-back series. The Yard Goats will also play the Yankees and Mets farm teams during a seven-game homestand scheduled for July 4 to 10.

You can already purchase season Yard Goats tickets at www.yardgoatsbaseball.com or call 860-224-8383. Field, front row field box, stadium club, home plate club and home plate swivel seats are available and you can watch every game from the same seat.

Fans can pick out their seat at a private season ticket-holder event scheduled for next spring. Tickets cost at minimum $710 or $10 a game. There will be other benefits and events for season ticket-holders.

Photo Credit: Hartford Yard Goats]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Owner on Brady Decision]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:50:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-461747308.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick addressed the media Wednesday morning as the team officially kicked off training camp. 

The media availability came a day after the NFL's decision to uphold Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated footballs during the AFC championship game.

"The decision handed down by the league is unfathomable," Kraft said. He added: "I was wrong to put my faith in the league." 

Belichick dodged questions about the Deflategate controversy, saying there's "nothing really to talk about there." He said the team will continue to get ready for the 2015 season. 

Kraft said that "Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and a great ambassador of the game." 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the New England quarterback told an assistant to destroy Brady's cellphone on or just before March 6. Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells on that day.

Brady released a counter-statement Wednesday morning saying, "I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January."

Calling the appeal process "a sham," Brady's agent, Don Yee, said Goodell "failed to ensure a fair process" in upholding the quarterback's four-game suspension.

The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks. 

Kraft said he regrets not appealing the NFL penalties against the team. 

Devin McCourty says Robert Kraft speaks for the Patriots. They all support Tom Brady. Wide receiver Matthew Slater says the Patriots are a family and stand behind each other, including Tom Brady.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said "I think the NFL needs to get their priorities straight."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Social Media Reacts to Tom Brady's Suspension]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 02:49:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_258466475816.jpg

Patriots fans are steamed after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady's four-game suspension Tuesday for his role in the Deflategate controversy.

The league, in a 20-page ruling, said the four-time Super Bowl champion “willingly obstructed the investigation” and also “participated in a scheme to tamper with evidence by destroying his cell phone.” The text messages were critical to Wells' investigation because they may have shown key information and communication between Brady and the equipment managers blamed for deflating footballs.

New England fans took to social media to defend their team and its star quarterback, while others hailed Goodell's decision.

The players' union has said it expects to challenge the decision in court. The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks after the team used underinflated footballs during their romp over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game in January. The have yet to appeal that penalty.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[USSSA Softball Tournament Held in East Hartford]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:34:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/SoftballChampPic00000000.jpg

The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) is hosting the Fastpitch National Championship for the first time ever in East Hartford.

Forty-four teams from across New England have congregated at the Pratt & Whitney field to play for the title. The tournament ends Saturday, with a rainout day on Sunday.

States represented include Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

"[We want to] be able to pull the win together," said 12-year-old Jordan Hogan, a player from one of Norwalk's Elite teams.

The tournament falls during Connecticut’s hottest week of the summer so far.

"Other than the heat, it’s beautiful," said Wallingford resident Joanne Dorsey, who came to watch her daughter play in the tournament.

Weather models show extreme heat will stick around through Thursday, with temperatures expected to rise over 90 degrees before cooling down Friday.

"We have a full-time sports trainer here behind you, and between him and all the ice that we have and the plentiful water, everybody will be well taken care of," said USSSA State Director David Rocha.

The hot weather, along with the extra foot traffic, is giving East Hartford an economic boost. All but one hotel in the area is sold out.

"All of our retailers components, whether it’s the Dunkin Donuts, the Pho 99 and the food establishments in and around the area, are doing a great job," said Mayor Marcia Leclerc. "Certainly, they're echoing the sentiments this type of foot traffic through East Hartford is amazing."

<![CDATA[WATCH: Half-Court Shot Wins $10K]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 18:58:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/219*120/willie+cole+shot.jpg

A recent high school graduate from Chicago made an epic half-court shot during a youth basketball tournament over the weekend to win a $10,000 prize.

Willie Cole, 18, sunk the shot with ease during Nike’s Chi League All-Star at Whitney Young High School on Sunday.

Despite having a $10,000 prize on the line, Cole appears calm as he steps toward the line and shoots, as seen in video provided by Nike. A swoosh is heard as the ball falls through the net and the crowd erupts with excitement. Players rush the court to congratulate Cole.

The Chi League All-Star event spotlighted some of the best youth, pro-am and high school basketball players in Chicago.

It’s not clear what Cole, a graduate from TF South High School, will do with his winnings.

Photo Credit: Nike, Inc. ]]>
<![CDATA[Tom Brady, NFL in Deflategate Settlement Talks: Source]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:32:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/461977230.jpg

Tom Brady is engaged in settlement talks with the NFL, a source familiar with the talks tells NBC News' Peter Alexander.

Last week, there were reports that the NFL Players' Union had pitched to Commissioner Roger Goodell a possible settlement between Brady and the League.

All of this is playing out as the NFL mulls Brady's four-game suspension, which the quarterback appealed. The NFL determined he was aware of team staffers deflating footballs in the AFC Championship game.

Goodell and Brady last met on June 23 during a suspension appeal hearing.

The Patriots paid a record $1 million fine and were stripped of two draft picks, including a No. 1 selection next year.

The Patriots did not challenge their punishments.

Photo Credit: FILE - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boston's Olympic Loss Could Spell Win for L.A.]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:21:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/TLMD-boston-olympics-2024-render.jpg

Now that the U.S. Olympic Committee has dropped Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games, Los Angeles is emerging as the back-up city.

“Los Angeles could bid with a couple of years notice,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College and the author of “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup.” “They don’t need seven years notice. They have almost all their venues already intact.”

In a statement Monday the committee's CEO, Scott Blackmun, said the federation was still interested in mounting a bid for the Summer Games. He did not mention a specific city.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that his office had not had recent conversations with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"I continue to believe that Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city and we have always supported the USOC in their effort to return the Games to the United States," he said in a statement. "I would be happy to engage in discussions with the USOC about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation."

The U.S. Olympic Commitee ended Boston's bid after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at a Monday morning press conference that he was not ready to sign a host city document that would force taxpayers to cover any cost overruns. The U.S. Olympic Committee had wanted him to sign the contract as soon as possible, he said. But he said he would not without more financial information about the Games and was willing to let the committee choose another city over Boston.

The host city contract, which does not need to be signed until 2017, guarantees that the International Olympic Committee will not be held responsible for any cost overruns.

The U.S. Olympic Committee’s board members had also wanted to know whether Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker supported Boston’s bid. Baker spoke to committee officials on Monday but said beforehand that he would have no answer for them because he was waiting to see a full report from a consultant commissioned to analyze the bid.

The deadline to officially submit bids to the International Olympic Committee is Sept. 15. San Francisco and Washington D.C. also competed to be the U.S. selection. A source told NBC Bay Area that it was now too late for San Francisco to submit a bid that could win. Jack Evans, a D.C. council member, said that the city was still vying to be chosen.

“We in the District would still be very interested," Evans said.

Officials from the U.S. Olympic Committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier Alan Abrahamson, a sportswriter, said that the U.S. Olympic Committee ought to kill Boston’s bid, Abrahamson, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, called it the most dismal effort he had seen in 16 years of covering the Olympics.

“Los Angeles is America’s Olympic city,” said Abrahamson, who wrote a column on the topic on his website, 3 Wire Sports. “It hosted the Games twice in 1932 and 1984. The Games are a part of the fabric of civic life in Los Angeles.”

Politicians, businesses and the people of California are behind the Olympics, he said. And like Zimbalist, he said Los Angeles could be ready with little notice.

“Los Angeles could host the Games on maybe two years notice and do a fantastic job,” he said.

Before Boston's bid derailed, Zimbalist said that Baker’s position was key because the state not Boston would have to be the Games’ guarantor.

“Nobody ever expected Boston to actually provide a guarantee,” he said. “They don’t have the resources to do it. Their budget is much too small.”

Zimbalist said that he thought Walsh, who had been closely affiliated with the pro-Olympics group, was trying to cover himself should the U.S. Olympic Committee reject Boston.

“I think that he’s trying to step out in front of that train and say, ‘I was first, I never wanted to put the Boston’s taxpayers at risk,’” Zimbalist said.

Boston’s bid had been expected to go to a statewide referendum next year. The organizers had said that if the majority of voters in Massachusetts and Boston did not vote in favor of it they would pull the bid. A group, No Boston Olympics, had formed in opposition to hosting the Games.

Photo Credit: Boston2024.org]]>
<![CDATA[Top Sports Photos 2015]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:31:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_425804299638_Sports_Soccer.jpg Click to see dramatic game action photos from professional football, hockey, basketball, baseball and more.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dustin Plunkett: Special Olympics Saved My Life]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:07:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/7-26-15-dustin+plunkett.JPG

Many athletes can attest to the difference sports made in their life, but for former Special Olympics World Games athlete Dustin Plunkett, sports saved his life.

Plunkett, 33, was born with an intellectual disability and cleft palate that affected his speech. Growing up, he was ridiculed for his disabilities.

"It was really tough on top of getting bullied every single day of my life. I was called retard, slow, stupid, dumb," Plunkett told NBC4 on Friday.

But Plunkett now is a far cry from the boy who was bullied by his peers. He's a former athlete at the Special Olympics World Games, member of the Special Olympics of Southern California's board of directors and now an ESPN analyst for the Special Olympics.

As a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics, Plunkett has traveled the world as a public speaker and has stood by Yao Ming at the World Games as well as President Barack Obama at the White House.

"I’m around people that are just like me, I'm around people that were bullied and ridiculed every day of their life growing up," Plunkett told NBC4 in December. "This is our safe place."

Plunkett credits the Special Olympics for not only changing his life, but saving it. When he was going through a pregame medical screening in 2004, a dentist noticed the poor condition of his teeth, and he was later diagnosed with gum cancer.

"If it had gone one more month long, I wouldn't be alive today," Plunkett said last year.

Plunkett has been involved with the Special Olympics since 1996 and has coached athletes in basic sports skills and as the assistant basketball coach for Southern California's Lakewood Special Olympics program, according to the organization.

"I was told I was going to be worth nothing in my life," Plunkett said. "And now look at me."

Photo Credit: Jorge Diaz]]>
<![CDATA[N.J. Teen Wins 1st Gold at Special Olympics]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:04:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/150726-noah-dellas-special-olympics.jpg

A 17-year-old from South New Jersey hit the water first at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach and never looked back, winning the triathlon that kicked off the 2015 Special Olympics World Games on Sunday.

Noah Dellas took just under an hour and 13 minutes (1:12:58) to complete the half-mile swim, 20 kilometer bike, and 5k run.

Asked in the finishing chute how he felt, Dellas replied simply, "OK." It was his second thrill of the weekend, after seeing his swimming inspiration, Olympic legend Michael Phelps, at Saturday night's opening ceremonies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Coach Lisa Rumer, who trained all four Team USA members in the international field of 22, recalled Dellas’ shyness during the first few months after he began training.

"As he understand that we cared and wanted him to succeed, and he started to create goals because he knew he could do it, that's when he branched out and really took hold of his passion," Rumer said.

Among the women, New Jersey teammates Amy Noctor, 27, and Courtney Dreyfus, 18, finished second and third, respectively.

The Special Olympics were created for athletes with intellectual disabilities, such as Asperger's and Downs syndrome. There is a broad spectrum among the 6,500 athletes who have come from 165 nations.  The World Games are being held in greater Los Angeles for the first time in four decades.

In a tent cooling off after their race, Noctor and Dreyfus both spoke of how the Special Olympics movement has helped them overcome challenges they face and broadened their daily lives.

"You can just be you. You don't have to hide anything and you can push beyond your boundaries," said Dreyfus.

Amy's parents dedcribed the progress they've seen in her.

"Amy does not make a lot of friends on her own, but when she comes here she meets a lot of people and talks to them," said Mathew Noctor, Amy's father.

"She's become more independent, more sure of herself," said Heidi Noctor, Amy's mother.

"It's given me a life. It's the best part of my life right now," said Amy.

"Amen," added her father.

The first ever World Games triathlon featured another innovation: allowing non-Special Olympic athletes on the course as a "unified" event. Pro Triathlete Heather Jackson said it proved mutually inspirational for both groups of athletes. Jackson also marveled at the enthusiasm of the fans in the finishing chute - "more than for some pro triathlons," she said.

Among team sports, beach volleyball was also unified, enabling some non-Special Olympic athletes to play on the same team. The initial reaction of spectators was positive.

"I just think it's a great idea," said volunteer Tracy Lambert.

Events continue across the Southland through next weekend.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[Surfer Catches A Wave On Fire]]> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 21:56:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Surfer_Catches_A_Wave_On_Fire_1200x675_491314243896.jpg Jamie O'Brien got the idea to surf while on fire from Instagram.]]> <![CDATA[WATCH: Surfer Rides Wave on Fire]]> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 21:57:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Surfer+Of+Fire.jpg

Jamie O’Brien is a professional surfer who’s known for catching big waves … and his even bigger personality. O’Brien is the star of the Red Bull TV Web Series, "Who is JOB 5.0." He wanted to make this season really stand out, so while in Tahiti for an event he finally got to do something he’s been toying with for more than a year.

O’Brien solicited ideas for the show from fans on his Instagram account. One of them really caught his eye.

“They said, ‘It would be cool if you lit yourself on fire,’ and I thought, might as well,” O’Brien said. “So I went in to Red Bull and I said, Hey I want to light myself on fire and go in to a barrel at Teahupo’o, and they looked at me like … Are you for real?”

Oh, he was for real, alright. O’Brien put on 15 pounds-worth of clothing, from thermal suits to sweatshirts and a wetsuit and, with the help of nearly two-dozen people, lit himself on fire and took off through a massive barrel.

As you can see in the video, some of the flames crept up to the side of his face, giving him a bit of a burn and scorching part of his eyebrow (the fire was eventually extinguished by the spray of the waves). But the experience from Jamie’s perspective was otherworldly.

“(When) you’re on fire in the barrel, the whole wave lights up fluorescent orange,” said O’Brien, after pulling off the ride of a lifetime. “It’s a really crazy feeling that you can’t even explain.”

I’m not sure what Jamie could possibly do to top this. But, I’m sure a few people who follow him on Instagram will be able to come up with something.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Red Bull]]>
<![CDATA[Special Olympics Kicks Off]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:38:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-481983578.jpg

Seven thousand athletes representing 177 countries gathered to kick off the 2015 Special Olympics World Games at the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night, marking the largest event hosted by the city since the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

First Lady Michelle Obama, along with a slew of other celebrities, attended Saturday's opening ceremony, which included performances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne, Cody Simpson and Nicole Scherzinger.

"It's all about doing the best that you can do, the best that you're capable of and sharing in the joy," said Bob Gladwell of the Lake Arrowhead Rotary Club. "And you spend time with the athletes here and you know you get so much more than they get."

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Athletes will compete in 25 sporting events during the games, concluding on Aug. 2. More than 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the free events.

Dylan Rae of Australia is a Special Olympics bowler who isn't competing, but traveled to LA to cheer on his fellow Australians.

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"It just gives Dylan an opportunity to socialize with his peers and also to be a bit independent and enjoy sports just like everybody else can," Julie Rae, Dylan's mother, said.

Coaches and competitors have been attending welcome parties around Southern California since last week. The torch, also known as the Flame of Hope, has been making its way through California and will make its final stop in LA at the opening ceremony.

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NBC4 reporter Kate Larsen contributed to this story.

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<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut Takes Third in Annual TV Softball Tournament]]> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 14:25:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Team+NBC+Connecticut+softball+1200.jpg

NBC Connecticut fielded a team for the 5th annual Connecticut TV Softball Tournament, a friendly tournament to raise money for charity.

The event was held at Mill Woods Park in Wethersfield.

WTNH won the first game 21-4 against NBC Connecticut.

NBC Connecticut won the consolation game against WFSB 11-5.

The public was invited to watch and cheer on their Connecticut broadcast news stations and support a good cause.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[No Family Speech at Seau Induction]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 17:04:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Seau-as-Charger-72499459.jpg

Junior Seau's family will not be invited to speak when the linebacker is inducted into the NFL's Professional Football Hall of Fame in August, according to several published reports.

Seau, considered by many to be the greatest linebacker in NFL history, will enter the HOF August 8 with Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff and Ron Wolf.

Unlike the others, Seau will be honored with only a video presentation, according to a report published Friday in the New York Times.

On May 2, 2012, Seau was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in his Oceanside home right along the shore. His death occurred less than three years after his retirement from football.

Seau's family filed a wrongful death suit claiming his death was the result of brain disease caused by violent hits during football.

Then, his relatives opted out of a settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit and are still fighting with the NFL in court over what they say was a decades-long deception about concussions and brain injuries.

His former wife, Gina, and his four children want more information to emerge about the debilitating effects of head injuries, according to their lawyer, Steven M. Strauss, a partner with the Cooley law firm in San Diego.

Before his death, Seau told family members that if he ever made it into the HOF, he wanted his daughter Sydney to to introduce him, the NY Times reports.

“I just want to give the speech he would have given. It wasn’t going to be about this mess. My speech was solely about him,” she told the paper.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Curry Wishes 'Happy Birthday' to Boy Fighting Cancer]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 13:54:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/202*120/stephmain1.png

Hundreds of birthday cards arrived last weekend for a nine-year-old Texas boy fighting a rare type of cancer, according to KWTX. The wishes kept pouring in from friends, family and well-wishers all weekend

Then on Wednesday, Taliq got a message from his favorite NBA player.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry wished Taliq a happy birthday and speedy recovery via a video message on Twitter.

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Taliq's mother Tanisha wanted to make his tenth birthday a special one because she believes little words of encouragement will help him battle his cancer, KWTX reported. So she asked everyone she knew — and strangers — to send him birthday cards.

Doctors diagnosed Taliq with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma on Feb. 18. DIPG is a type of brain tumor found in the pons, part of the brainstem on the lower back of the brain, KWTX reported. Taliq gained 55 pounds since his diagnosis.

Taliq's mother said that the birthday cards and gifts — some which arrived all the way from Australia — immediately made him feel better. Taliq didn't complain about a headache for the first time in months. "Tears just came to my eyes because as a mother, I have been waiting four months to wait to hear him say those words," she told KWTX.

Taliq's mother Tanisha has set up a Go Fund Me site for her son.

Photo Credit: Tanisha Davis via Go Fund Me/Stepen Curry
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<![CDATA[Barry Chasen]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 18:50:22 -0400 Kevin Nathan interviews Barry Chasen, an umpire in his 50th year of service to Connecticut youth baseball.]]> <![CDATA[Travelers Championship Moves to August Because of Olympics]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:14:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Bubba+Watson+1200.jpg

The Travelers Championship will be in August instead of June in 2016 because golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

The tournament will be held from Aug. 1 to 7 to accommodate the Olympic year PGA TOUR.

"Golf's return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 will affect the majority of PGA TOUR events taking place from June through August," Travelers Championship tournament director, Nathan Grube, said in a tournament. "By working closely with the PGA TOUR, we identified the best timing for recruiting a strong player field and finishing the planned modifications to TPC River Highlands."

The 2016 summer Olympics will be in Rio De Janeiro from Aug. 5 to 21. http://www.rio2016.com/en/the-games/olympic

The August date also allows for the completion of a multi-million dollar course project at TPC River Highlands, according to the statement.

"We're already looking forward to another great tournament that will generate significant funds for charity in 2016," Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Travelers, said in a statement. "With the 2016 PGA Championship in New Jersey the week before our event, we're expecting the 2016 Travelers Championship field to be as strong as ever."

Photo Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Requests Extradition of Former FIFA VP]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 23:24:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_473903051335.jpg

The U.S. formally requested the extradition Wednesday of Trinidad and Tobago lawmaker Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice president at the center of the world soccer corruption scandal, the country's attorney general said. 

"The process is now for me to examine the documentation and consider the evidence and decide whether to issue the authority to proceed," Attorney General Garvin Nicholas said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The U.S. said it would seek Warner's extradition on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. 

<![CDATA[Simmons Lands HBO Talk Show Deal]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:34:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/simmons5.jpg

The man formerly known as "The Boston Sports Guy" is set to join HBO, according to the New York Times.

Simmons will start working for HBO in October and will host a talk show that will begin airing next year. He's also expected to do podcasts for the cable network.

ESPN announced in May that it would not be renewing Simmons' contract. At ESPN, Simmons helped create the "30 for 30" sports documentary series and launched the sports and culture website Grantland.

He got his start writing for the Boston Herald and for Digital City Boston in the 1990s, where he was known as "The Boston Sports Guy." He is also a former writer for "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pippen, Shaq in Heated Bulls-Lakers Instagram Battle ]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:49:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/pippen+shaq.jpg

Oh no he didn’t! Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O’Neal are in a bit of an Instagram war and things are getting heated.

Shaq started the war of words (and Photoshop) when he posted that he thought an all-time Lakers team would beat an all-time Bulls team “by fifty.”

His post was accompanied by a photo of Bulls players Derrick Rose, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant compared with Shaq’s pick of the best Lakers players: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Shaq and Kareem Adbul.

His words didn’t go unnoticed as the Bulls legend quickly chimed in.

“Sorry @shaq but I don’t get caught up in hypotheticals. All I know is we won 6 titles, twice the amount you claimed while in LA…” Pippen wrote in an Instagram post.

That’s when things really started to heat up. Shaq later shared two posts, one of which alleged that Jordan was the only reason the Bulls’ titles were won, calling Pippen, "Robin," and Jordan, "Batman," with the hashtag #youwereok.

He then shared an image of Pippen’s face on a T-Mobile Sidekick saying “Anybody need a T MOBILE SIDEKICK. I GOTTa PRETTY GOOD ONE #BESTSIDEKICKEVER.”

Just when you thought Shaq may have won the battle, though, Pippen shot back with a slam dunk.

"Easy big fella... if only you were as good at free throws as you are talking smack! @shaq" he wrote in one post.

“Speaking of being a sidekick… if I recall correctly you know a thing or two about that as well. @shaq” he said in a second post.

Shaq has since fired off a series of posts calling Pippen a “bum,” renaming him “Scottina Pippen” and posting a video of himself scoring.

Pippen has not yet responded. Who do you think will win the battle?

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA['World's Largest' Corn Maze Design Pays Tribute to Stanley Cup Champs]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:54:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hawks+maze.jpg

The “world’s largest” corn maze now has a design fit for champions.

Richardson Adventure Farm, a Spring Grove-based farm that claims to be home to the world's largest corn maze, made a last-minute switch on this year’s design, changing it from an Alice in Wonderland tribute to one that honors the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions.

George Richardson said the corn maze is typically cut into the field before the hockey season is even over, but heavy rainfall this year delayed the process.

“When they finally won the Stanley Cup we called our maze designer, ‘I know you’re going to kill me, but could we switch our whole entire design,’” Richardson said.

The farm was given two days to submit their new design and sure enough, it worked. The farm owners received permission from the Blackhawks to use their logo and within a week, the design was cut into the field.

The maze covers 28 acres and features the Blackhawks logo, two hockey players, the Chicago skyline and “Champions 2015.” In total, there are more than 9 miles of trails within the maze, Richardson said.

“We knew the Blackhawks design would be really cool,” Richardson said. “We’re very excited.”

The maze will be open from Aug. 29 through Nov. 1.

Photo Credit: Richardson Adventure Farm]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Authorities End Prosecution of Barry Bonds]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 21:43:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/457272930_8.jpg

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday formally dropped its criminal prosecution of Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball's career home run leader.

The decade-long investigation and prosecution of Bonds for obstruction of justice ended quietly with the DOJ's one-paragraph court filing announcing it would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a lower court's reversal of his felony conviction.

A jury convicted Bonds in 2011 of obstruction of justice for giving a meandering answer to a federal grand jury when asked about injections. A federal appeals court overturned that conviction in April.

The DOJ could have asked the high court to take the case. Instead, the DOJ said the reversal of Bonds' conviction would stand.

Bonds attorney Dennis Riordan decline comment early Tuesday, saying he needed to speak with his client before discussing the case publicly.

Major League Baseball had no immediate comment on the Justice Department decision.

The U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco didn't respond immediately to a phone call seeking comment. The San Francisco office obtained an indictment of Bonds in 2007, charging him with lying to a federal grand jury about performance-enhancing drug use.

A jury convicted him of obstructing justice because of the answer he gave when he was asked if his personal trainer Greg Anderson ever injected him with steroids.

"That's what keeps our friendship,'' Bonds replied. "I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see.''

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April said that answer didn't amount to obstruction. The court said the answer wasn't "material'' to the sprawling federal investigation into sports doping centered in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A federal judge sentenced Bonds to 30 days of home confinement, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service in youth-related activities and a $4,000 fine after the 2011 trial and conviction. Bonds served the home confinement before his conviction was overturned.

Bonds ended his career after the 2007 season with 762 career home runs, surpassing Hank Aaron's long-standing record of 755.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Connecticut Athletes Head to CrossFit Games In California]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 15:54:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Team_Competes_in_Crossfit_World_Championship_1200x675_487559235765.jpg

The quest of the CrossFit Games is to find the “Fittest On Earth” and athletes from around the world will compete in Carson, California starting on Tuesday.

The elite field of contenders was narrowed down from more than a quarter million athletes to just dozens.

To make it to the competition in Carson, individual athletes had to first qualify and rank among the top of the worldwide Open competition, then finish among the top five in their respective regional competition.

This year, the East Regional competition – including athletes from the Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada – was moved from the Reebok world headquarters outside Boston to the XL Center in Hartford and CrossFit Milford was the only Connecticut team to make the cut to the games in the team division.

Coach and owner Jason Leydon said the home field advantage helped boost morale among his athletes.

“To turn around and see that energy and to see them all go nuts, it just pushed everybody even more,” Leydon said.

Milford is also sending four athletes in the masters division for athletes who are over 40 years old.

One of them is Elizabeth Warren, a New Haven teacher and mother of three who discovered CrossFit after a knee injury sidelined her from marathon training. It gave her a new arena to compete, and, she said, a healthy example to set for her kids.

“I walked in the gas station the other day and some guy said, ‘Oh, you’re in pretty good shape’ and my daughter said, ‘That’s my mom! That’s my mom,’” Warren said. “She’s proud of being strong. I teach her all the time the importance of being a strong girl and a strong woman.”

And rather than dreading getting older, Warren says CrossFit gave her a reason to embrace it.

“Oh yeah I was waiting, I couldn’t wait to turn 40 ‘cause I knew this is what I wanted to do,” she said. “This was my plan. ‘When I turn 40, I’m going to try out for the Masters. When I make it, I want to go to the Games.’”

Warren and the other CrossFit Milford athletes have been training year-round for an event that’s largely a mystery – the CrossFit Games workouts typically aren’t revealed until right beforehand, meaning athletes need to be prepared for anything.

“That’s the essence of CrossFit -- being ready for everything and anything,” Leydon said.

Events could include Olympic lifting, running, gymnastics, swimming, calisthenics or more.

It’s up to CrossFit Games director Dave Castro to decide and to eventually reveal in the dramatic workout announcements. But as NBC Connecticut’s Heidi Voight learned at the East Regional, he doesn’t give away his secrets easily. She asked Castro for a hint at what was in store for the Games. His answer?

Simply… “CrossFit.”

The CrossFit Games are broadcast on ESPN beginning Tuesday, July 21 through Sunday, July 26. Follow the leaderboard at http://games.crossfit.com/leaderboard.

<![CDATA[FIFA Chief Showered With Cash in Stunt]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:35:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/072015-sepp-blatter-fifa-cash-stunt.jpg

Sepp Blatter, the outgoing president of scandal-scarred FIFA, settled in for a press conference on Monday and got a surprise instead — a shower of cash tossed by a prankster, NBC News reported.

A British comedian walked up to Blatter at the appearance in Zurich and told him the cash was to support a North Korean bid for the World Cup in 2026. He tossed the wad of bills after an alarmed Blatter demanded: "Where is my security?"

Blatter announced earlier this year that he would relinquish his post after FIFA executives were indicted by American prosecutors on corruption charges. FIFA will elect a new president in February.

Photo Credit: Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images]]>