Although “sound and happy,” I’ll Have Another, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, has been pulled from Saturday’s Belmont States, eliminating a chance at the first Triple Crown since 1978.Traner Doug O’Neill said during an interview on the The Dan Patrick Show that the championship horse “has a little problem with his left front leg.” He said the injury was not life-threatening but “not worth the risk” of running the race and risking further damage.The trainer added that the injury was not life-threatening. “It’s a bummer, but far from tragic,” O’Neill said. Asked if his racing career was over, O’Neill responded, “If I had to wager…yes. [The horse] will be seeing a lot of mares and smoking a lot of cigarettes [in his post-racing career as a stud].”The three-year-old colt had not lost in four races this year, including two California starts and the opening two legs of the Triple Crown. Trainers discovered tenderness this morning after an early-morning workout.The news leaves Affirmed as the last Triple Crown winner in 1978. It is the first time since 1936 that the Derby and Preakness winner didn’t run in the Belmont. That year, it was Bold Venture and in 1932, Burgoo King skipped the race.
Tristan Thompson led with 17 points and Kyrie Irving scored 14, taking the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 99-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in a preseason game Tuesday night.Mike Brown returned to the Cavs bench as head coach after he was fired following the 2009-10 season. He then went to the Lakers where he coached five games into the season before he was fired again.The Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 14 points and shooting guard Stephen Graham led the team with 15 points.Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova suffered a sprained right ankle in the second quarter and left the game for X-rays, which came back negative. He made 6 points in nine minutes. More testing is expected for Ilyasova in the coming week.“I’ve twisted that ankle before, but never that bad,” said Ilyasova, who landed badly after getting tangled up with Cleveland’s C.J. Miles. “It really hurts when I step on it. I’ll get a lot of treatment and we’ll see, but it’s the first game and it’s really disappointing.”The Bucks came close to winning without key players including Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh, who are also sidelined because of injuries.
Football season is nearly here, which for many of us means that weekend productivity is about to hit an annual low. Every so often teams will put on contests for tickets or merchandise, but one NFL team is engaging fans in a different way this year. The Indianapolis Colts are offering half a million dollars to whoever can accurately predict the outdoor kickoff temperature for the team’s 20 games, from the preseason through the end of the regular season.Entries are due Thursday at 12:01 p.m. EDT. On top of submitting temperatures, you also need to correctly predict whether the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be open for each home game. And if one of the Colts’ late-season Sunday games is “flexed” to a different time slot, the forecasted temperature you submit needs to reflect that changed kickoff time. Get a single temperature or roof position wrong, and you’re eliminated from contention.My initial reaction to this contest was similar to Carl Reiner’s character’s expression of overwhelming doubt about a plan to rob a casino in “Ocean’s Eleven.” The best public example of a foray into long-range weather forecasting has been done by AccuWeather, which provides 45-day forecasts. However, according to more than one accuracy test, these forecasts have struggled and certainly wouldn’t win AccuWeather $500,000 from the Colts.So is it even possible for anyone to do this perfectly? And if so, just how lucky would that person have to be?One of the best ways to forecast weather far into the future is to use climatology as a guide. Unfortunately, in a contest where you need to be perfect, not just close, climatology can only help so much. But you can at least narrow down the possibilities. Using the weather data archive on Weather Underground, as well as from the Midwest Regional Climate Center, I collected the temperatures at kickoff time from 1984 to 2013 for the dates and sites of the 20 Colts games this season.1The stadiums and the nearest weather observation stations are below:Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis) – Indianapolis International AirportMetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey) – Newark Liberty AirportPaul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati) – Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International AirportMile High Stadium (Denver) – Buckley Air Force Base (Aurora, Colorado) for 1984-1995 and Denver International Airport for 1996-2013EverBank Field (Jacksonville, Florida) – Jacksonville International AirportNRG Stadium (Houston) – Hobby AirportHeinz Field (Pittsburgh) – Pittsburgh International AirportFirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland) – Cleveland Hopkins AirportAT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas) – Dallas/Fort Worth International AirportLP Field (Nashville, Tennessee) – Nashville International Airport Let’s start by addressing temperatures: How much volatility and variability are we dealing with?We can look at each week to see what the spread in observed temperatures has been since 1984. Then, assuming we want to avoid forecasting extreme temperatures as a way to improve our odds, we can also look at the 25th, 50th (or median) and 75th percentiles to narrow down our choices to a more realistic range:A few things stand out: Both the ranges and the boxes tend to get larger as you go deeper into the football season. Temperatures in the summer tend to be a bit more stable than in the fall and winter. Because the jet stream has retreated far enough north in the warm season, you have fewer cold fronts to contend with, and there’s more moisture in the atmosphere. All of this can generally reduce the range of temperatures in the summertime. As the season progresses, the spread in observed temperatures expands. The games on Sept. 21 in Jacksonville, Florida, and Oct. 9 in Houston are the most notable exceptions. Thanks to their southern latitude, those cities still tend to be in a summer-type pattern in early fall, keeping local temperatures a little more stable.Dallas, the site of the Dec. 21 game, has the most volatility at kickoff time of any place where the Colts will play this season. The High Plains tend to see some incredible temperature swings in the fall and winter.So what are the odds of a perfect temperature forecast? The best approach is to guess that this year’s temperature will match the historical average from our 30-year sample. By looking at the standard deviation in the historical sample, we can estimate how likely this year’s temperature is to exactly match the historical average, rounded to the nearest whole number.Getting even one day’s temperature exactly right is quite challenging. Even for the Sept. 21 game in Jacksonville, Florida, which historically has a relatively narrow temperature range, your chances are only about 10 percent. And for the Dec. 21 game in Dallas, which has volatile temperatures that time of year, the chances are just 3 percent. And, of course, it’s even more difficult to get the kickoff temperatures right for all 20 games. The chances are just 1 in 248 septillion.2An alternative method is to narrow things down to the most common outcomes, between the 25th and 75th percentiles of temperatures for our dates, and assume that the temperature will fall at some random integer between those numbers half of the time (the other half of the time, by definition, it will fall outside the 25th to 75th percentile range). This yields an almost identical estimate: one chance in 261 septillion of getting all 20 temperatures right.)By comparison, you have a much greater chance — 1 in 9.2 quintillion — of predicting a perfect bracket for the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and that’s before you improve your odds with the statistics and knowledge of each matchup.Oh, wait. You also have to forecast the Lucas Oil Stadium roof position for each Colts home game. The basic rules are that the roof is closed when precipitation is in the area, wind gusts exceed 40 mph, or the temperature drops below 40 degrees.3To calculate the odds of whether the roof would be closed, I looked at the weather data going back to 1984 to see whether it was raining or snowing in the two to three hours before kickoff, and the three to four hours after kickoff. I also looked at the historical temperatures and reviewed whether the roof — had it existed all these years — would have been closed that day. I then calculated the percentage of times the roof would have been closed over the 30 years. This, of course, is all subject to weather forecasts and a human element. In other words, even if the forecast is wrong, it may be enough to justify keeping the roof closed.And if you haven’t had enough by now, let’s answer this question about flex scheduling. Is it worth it to even bother trying to figure that out? The NFL can “flex” a Sunday game into a different time slot, starting at week five.Since the Dallas Cowboys have already punched their playoff ticket, let’s look at both flexing scenarios for their game with the Colts on Dec. 21. While it’s unlikely the 3:25 p.m. start time will be flexed to 12:00 p.m., the chart at left shows the possibilities.Because the variation in temperature is so small, it probably doesn’t benefit you much to worry about the flex scheduling aspect. At best, you’ll improve your odds a minute fraction.Given the immense number of options that exist in this contest, Colts fans will need more than Andrew Luck on their side if they wish to win. Warren Buffett’s billion-dollar NCAA bracket challenge looks easy by comparison, and offers a much better payoff!My entry in the Colts’ Half A Million Dollar Weather Challenge is below:4The entry I submitted to the contest is different from the one presented here. In this one, I made a few minor tweaks based on better data, but unfortunately I was limited to one entry so I couldn’t resubmit this.
Just two minutes into the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers semifinal game in 2010, a free-kick from distance was flicked behind the U.S. back line, and a Mexican player running forward slotted it into the net. The U.S. looked stunned. Mexico scored again in the 27th minute and would go on to defeat the U.S. 2-1 — the only time it has managed to do so in the two teams’ 31 matchups — nearly eliminating one of the world’s best teams from the 2011 Women’s World Cup. (The U.S. was forced to play a two-games series against Italy to qualify for the World Cup, where it eventually finished second to Japan on penalty kicks.)On Friday night, the two teams will meet again in the CONCACAF Qualifiers semifinal, this time on U.S. soil. Despite handedly beating Mexico in two friendlies last month, 8-0 and 4-0, that 2010 semifinal game serves as a reminder for the U.S.: World Cup hopes can fade in a flash — even for a powerhouse team — with one bad game.We’ve updated our projections, and the U.S. now has a 95 percent chance of beating Mexico and advancing to the finals. That number makes it seem like Friday’s matchup will be lopsided, and it may be. But if Mexico sits in and defends as anticipated, the Americans may find it difficult to score and could be forced into overtime or penalty-kicks.Mexico, however, has not looked as strong at this year’s CONCACAF Qualifiers compared to 2010’s, losing to Costa Rica in group play 1-0. It has only a 4 percent chance of winning the tournament, but a 74 percent chance of placing third — enough to qualify for next summer’s World Cup.Below are the updated expected-win probabilities for the remaining CONCACAF tournament teams:The other semifinal matchup Friday night, between Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago, is evenly matched. Costa Rica is a slight favorite, with a 57 percent chance of beating Trinidad and facing the Americans in the final. The two teams have drawn two out of their five matchups. Costa Rica has beaten Trinidad twice, and Trinidad has beaten Costa Rica once. The last time they met, however, in December 2012, Trinidad crushed Costa Rica 4-0 (how seriously the teams took this game is unclear though, as it wasn’t recorded as an official qualifying or friendly match).The winners of the two semifinal games will play in the championship Sunday, with their World Cup berths already secured. The more interesting match may be the third-place game (also Sunday), when the winner will secure the last reserved CONCACAF spot at the World Cup. The fourth-place team, however, is not automatically eliminated and will play Ecuador in a two-game series for another World Cup berth.
OSU freshman guard A.J. Harris (12) gets low to defend Michigan junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. (10) during a game against Michigan on Feb. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: William Kosileski | Lantern PhotographerThe door to the NCAA tournament remains ajar for the Ohio State men’s basketball team after grinding out a road win over Nebraska on Saturday, but it could be slammed shut if things don’t go well Tuesday night.That’s when the Buckeyes (18-10, 10-5) are set to welcome sixth-ranked Michigan State (22-5, 9-5) to the Schottenstein Center for a must-win matchup amid OSU’s quest to salvage a seemingly lost year after a tumultuous beginning. “Every game is critical,” sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “You don’t go into a game thinking, ‘We can afford to lose this game,’ or anything like that. We’re a very confident team and we feel like we have a chance to beat anybody when we’re on our A-game.”Putting forth their “A-game” is something that hasn’t always been easy for the youthful Buckeyes. The inconsistency that has stained their season has been heavily discussed. It’s hard to have a conversation about this team without mentioning how up and down its season has been. Yet, OSU coach Thad Matta said he has seen his team developing, even if sometimes his players revert to their old ways, namely stagnant offensive sets and high volumes of turnovers.“We were treading water late November, early season. I like the progress that this team has made,” he said, later adding, “We’ve won some basketball games where earlier I don’t think we could’ve won those games.” Why a win matters On the surface, OSU’s 10 wins in the Big Ten appears to be an impressive mark, but a deeper inquiry reveals that only one of them has come against a team with a conference record .500 or above — a Feb. 16 victory over Michigan. Other than that lone game, the Buckeyes have bolstered their resume by beating teams they should beat. OSU needs a marquee win within its conference, hence why Tuesday’s game is paramount.Frankly, two wins over Rutgers, and victories versus Penn State and Minnesota aren’t what the selection committee will use to determine if the Buckeyes belong in the Big Dance. Beating the Spartans wouldn’t punch their ticket — in fact, far from it — but a late-season victory over a top 10 team will cause the committee to start taking notes. Players are aware that they could send a message if they pull off the upset. All season long, the Scarlet and Gray have “had to go longer, go harder than in the past,” Matta said. After all that extra effort to tighten up loose screws, Bates-Diop said the country would finally be able to see if the Buckeyes are able to “compete with a team of their caliber.” They have the confidence to make it happen, he said, but avoiding a pitiful start like against Nebraska is of utmost importance. On Saturday, OSU had only two points at the 11:36 mark in the first half. That slow of a start might result in an insurmountable deficit versus the Spartans. “We gotta have the right mindset from the beginning to even be competitive in a situation like this,” Bates-Diop said.Spartan spotlight The situation that Bates-Diop was referring to is a primetime game against a team that, when healthy, “is as good as anybody,” Matta said. Senior guard Denzel Valentine is the catalyst of it all for coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans. The 6-foot-5 Lansing, Michigan, native is one of the country’s premier talents, as many experts have him in the discussion for player of the year. OSU coach Thad Matta yells out a play from the sidelines during a game against Michigan on Feb. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: William Kosileski | Lantern PhotographerThe high praise stems from Valentine’s ability to leave his fingerprint on nearly every aspect of the game. He leads the Big Ten in scoring per game, with 19.7, and assists, dishing out 7.3 a night. He’s also second on the team in 3-point percentage, connecting on 44.6 percent of his attempts, and rebounding, averaging 7.7 per contest. Within a one-minute sequence, Matta compared him to two of his former players, Evan Turner and D’Angelo Russell, for the seemingly infinite ways he impacts the game. “He does everything,” Matta said. As a team, the Spartans are third in the conference in field-goal percentage, making just below 50 percent of their attempts. But they are the top 3-point shooting team, aided by Valentine and fellow senior guard — and high school teammate — Bryn Forbes, who connects on a conference-leading 48 percent of his 3-pointers. Michigan State’s ability to shoot the basketball with such success is “alarming,” Matta said. Even though OSU will be playing host to one of the nation’s top teams, Matta said the “focus has to be on us.” “I just want to go out and play well (Tuesday) night,” he said. Up next Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the road doesn’t get any easier following Tuesday’s tough test. Their next game is set to come against No. 8 Iowa (20-6, 11-3) on Sunday at home.Tipoff against the Hawkeyes is slated for 4 p.m.
Laczynski skates against a Finnish defender in the 2016 USA evaluation camp. Credit: Courtesy of USA HockeyWhile students were away from campus and taking a break from classes post-Fall Semester, there were still several teams in competition during the break. The featured event was the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Glendale, Arizona, where the No. 3 Ohio State football team took on No. 2 Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal.In the end, 2016 delivered one more punch to the gut of Buckeye Nation before the clock struck midnight as the Buckeyes were embarrassed 31-0. Thus, prompting a change in direction on offense with the hiring of a quarterbacks coach and the expected hiring of former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson for OSU’s offensive coordinator in 2017, first reported by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.Spring Semester has begun, so here’s a recap of news across OSU athletics.Tanner Laczynski wins goldBefore break, OSU men’s hockey freshman forward Tanner Laczynski was invited to tryout for the United States hockey junior team ahead of the World Junior Championships in Canada. Laczynski made the team and contributed to a 7-0 record and a gold medal in the games.Team USA beat Team Canada 5-4 in a shootout in the gold medal match after falling behind twice by two goals at 2-0 and 4-2. Laczynski played in all seven games and scored a goal against Slovakia in the preliminary round.While Laczynski was away from the team, No. 11 OSU lost to Miami (Ohio) at home, then split a series with No. 2 Penn State, winning the first, 3-0, and losing the second, 4-2. The Buckeyes are now ranked No. 10 in the country.OSU hosts Arizona State for two games this weekend.Five Buckeyes declare for NFL draftJunior linebacker Raekwon McMillan, redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker, redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown and junior H-back Curtis Samuel all announced their intentions to forgo their remaining eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.OSU starting quarterback redshirt junior J.T. Barrett is returning to the Buckeyes, along with defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore has yet to announce his intentions to return to or depart from the program.Men’s volleyball begins title defenseThe top-ranked OSU men’s volleyball team began its season this past weekend, raising the 2016 national championship banner at St. John Arena. OSU faced off against the University of Southern California Trojans and the UCLA Bruins.In the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, OSU beat USC and No. 2 UCLA 3-1. Junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen led the Buckeyes with 28 kills, hitting .340. The reigning National Player of the Year also had 11 digs and three blocks. Senior opposite hitter Miles Johnson had 27 kills in two games.OSU hosts George Mason on Tuesday.Men’s basketball sliding fastFollowing a 13-point loss to then-No. 2 UCLA, the OSU men’s basketball team won two nonconference games against Youngstown State and UNC Asheville. On New Year’s Day the OSU men’s basketball team started Big Ten play at Illinois, needing victories to put itself in the NCAA tournament picture. Coach Thad Matta’s team lost in Champaign, Illinois, then dropped a close game to then-No. 20 Purdue, 76-75 at home. On Sunday night, the Buckeyes lost by 10 at Minnesota, beginning 0-3 in Big Ten play.OSU is now 10-6 with no signature wins and will be going forward without junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who is one of the most versatile players on the team. Bates-Diop averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in over 23 minutes this season. He is undergoing a season-ending surgery this week on a stress fracture to his shin.Next up for OSU is a showdown in Madison, Wisconsin at the 18th-ranked Badgers. The Buckeyes then return home for a Sunday game against Michigan State.WrestlingThe No. 4 Ohio State wrestling team improved to 6-0 and 2-0 in conference with a win against No. 17 Wisconsin on Jan. 6. Bo Jordan, Myles Martin, Nathan Tomasello, Kollin Moore, Micah Jordan and Luke Pletcher all won their matches in a 23-15 team victory.OSU hits the mat next on Sunday at Illinois.Women’s basketballThe No. 11 OSU women’s basketball team slugged through a tough nonconference schedule, which featured games at No. 1 Connecticut, a neutral-site game against No. 2 Baylor and home games against No. 14 Miami (FL) and No. 5 South Carolina. Since classes broke, OSU has earned a 4-0 Big Ten record and sits alone in first place.Last time out, junior guard Kelsey Mitchell led the Buckeyes with 26 points in a 96-87 win over Michigan. The National Player of the Year candidate ranks sixth in the NCAA averaging 23 points per game. Mitchell currently ranks fourth all-time in career scoring at OSU with 2,110 points. Jantel Lavender is the all-time leader with 2,818 points.OSU plays at Michigan State on Tuesday.Women’s hockeyAfter ending the first half of the season with two consecutive blowout losses to No. 1 Wisconsin, the Buckeyes regrouped for two wins against Penn State on Jan. 6 and 7. OSU outscored the Nittany Lions 11-0 over the two games.Six different players scored for OSU in its 6-0 victory on Saturday to improve the Scarlet and Gray to 10-10-2 in 2016-17. Under the direction of first-year coach Nadine Muzerall, the OSU defense has improved to No. 4 in penalty kill and No. 13 overall.OSU next plays Bemidji State on Friday and Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink.
In their lone season at Ohio State, Greg Oden and Mike Conley piloted an adventurous ride to the 2007 NCAA Championship Game. Because it’s been 50 years since the program has hung a championship banner, the 2006-07 squad is now the standard by which we evaluate the great Buckeye basketball teams. We might have to adjust our measuring stick. These Buckeyes, of the 20-0 variety, are threatening to exceed the scarlet standard. Whether Buckeye Nation cares, the notion that OSU is solely a football school is under siege. Buckeye basketball is back on the map, and coach Thad Matta is trying to make it the capital of college hoops. As talented as the 2006-07 team was, the current crop of Buckeye ballers is even better. These Buckeyes are more versatile. Six players have led OSU in scoring in at least one game this season. Freshman forward Deshaun Thomas ignited the second-half run Saturday that propelled OSU to victory by nailing a pair of 3-pointers and working his defender in the paint for a layup, all in a span of four minutes. The ability of the 6-foot-6 freshman to score in multiple ways helped to turn a three-point deficit into a six-point lead. Thomas and fellow wing players David Lighty and William Buford can all score inside and out. Those 2006-07 Buckeyes didn’t have that flexibility. Freshman phenom Jared Sullinger can step out and hit a midrange jump shot. When he dressed in scarlet and gray, Oden was anchored in the low post, relegated to dunks and short hook shots. Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris, all capable shooters, didn’t have the size to help Oden in the paint. The 6-4 Lewis and 6-1 Butler preferred to pull up from deep rather than enter the land of the unknown down low. Despite his 6-7 frame, Harris rarely stepped inside the 3-point arc. Foul trouble hasn’t been an issue for these Buckeyes. Sullinger crashed the boards for all 40 minutes Saturday and only picked up two fouls. Those Buckeyes didn’t have the same good fortune. In OSU’s NCAA Tournament run, refs assessed Oden at least four personal fouls in every contest, save the opening-round formality against Central Connecticut State. In narrow victories against Tennessee, Memphis and Georgetown ahead of the title game, foul trouble limited Oden to 18, 24 and 20 minutes, respectively. Three months before OSU’s loss in the National Championship Game against Florida, the Gators chomped Matta’s squad by 26. Alas, those Buckeyes knew their limits. For these Buckeyes, the sky is the limit.
The Ohio State field hockey team opened Big Ten play Friday in dramatic fashion. OSU junior forward Danica Deckard scored two goals in the game, including the game winner with less than two minutes to play, to give the Buckeyes (5-5, 1-0) a 2-1 victory against the No. 11-ranked Michigan Wolverines (6-3, 0-1). With 1:32 remaining in the game, Deckard scored off a penalty corner after receiving a pass from junior forward Berta Queralt. Deckard received the pass at the top of the circle and put the ball in the back of the goal, and the 217 spectators in attendance at Buckeye Varsity Field erupted. Head coach Anne Wilkinson praised Deckard after the game, saying that her finishing was excellent. “(Deckard) was able to maintain composure and when she gets a hold of the ball, it’s tough to stop by any defender,” Wilkinson said. Deckard gave the credit to her teammates, saying, “I think it was just one of those things where my teammates set me up and it was easy to put them in.” Michigan’s lone goal came in the 13th minute of the first half. Senior midfielder Bryn Bain scored off a penalty stroke, which tied the game at 1-1. The Buckeyes held Michigan scoreless for the rest of the game. The Wolverines out-shot OSU 13-9, but the Buckeye defense, led by senior goalkeeper Ally Tunitis, held up. Tunitis finished the game with six saves. “We do have a really strong defense,” Queralt said. “We’ve been playing together for a while. We studied (Michigan) and know who (Michigan’s) key players are and we were able to keep them down.” Deckard agreed. “They do a great job back there,” Deckard said. “We’re lucky to have them.” Holding the Michigan offense to one goal was no easy task as the Wolverines brought a four-game win streak into Columbus and had scored at least three goals in each of the wins. “Michigan’s a top-notch team,” Wilkinson said. “They’re excellent. We did a great job stopping their attack.” Ohio State has now won three games in a row, and four of the last five games against 2010 co-Big Ten champion Michigan. “This game means a lot,” Queralt said. “It was the first Big Ten game. We were Big Ten co-champions last year, so we want to repeat. We liked that experience last year. Winning this game is a really good start and sets us up good for our following games.” Ohio State will travel to play Ball State on Tuesday before returning home to play No. 18 Indiana (7-2, 1-0) Friday at 3 p.m.
The United States men’s national soccer team’s victory against Jamaica at Crew Stadium added another proud chapter to Columbus’ sports history. So proud and frenzied was the game, in fact, that before the 90 minutes had elapsed on the field, some were already speculating about how the atmosphere in the stadium compared to other professional and collegiate sporting events hosted in Columbus.There is no doubt that the U.S. team’s most recent victory at Crew Stadium – the team upped its all-time record at the ground to 6-0-3 by beating Jamaica – is up there with the top sporting events in the city’s history. Whether it’s comparable to a football Saturday at Ohio Stadium is very much debatable, though.To understand how special the atmosphere was during the Yanks’ shutout victory against Jamaica on Tuesday, look no further than the very first words of team manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s post game press conference.“I think first of all, we want to thank that (Crew Stadium) crowd out there in Columbus for their tremendous support,” Klinsmann said. “It was a tremendous atmosphere that pushed the players. All of us really appreciated that. It was fantastic.”Keep Klinsmann’s status in world soccer in mind – he’s played professionally in England’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga. He was a World Cup winner with Germany in 1990 and a European champion with Bayern Munich in 1996.Suffice it to say that the guy knows his soccer, he knows what passionate fan support looks like and while part of his job as U.S. manager is to help stoke the relatively small flame that is American soccer culture, he has no other reason to sugarcoat. And he didn’t on Tuesday. So congratulations to soccer fans in Columbus and all the rest that journeyed to Central Ohio for the game – the performance of the 23,881 fans that jammed into Crew Stadium was just as convincing as the American team’s play on the pitch.I’ll take it a step further, as some members of the press did last night, and say that the atmosphere at Crew Stadium was better than the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opening-round series against the Detroit Red Wings during the 2009 NHL playoffs.Anyone can make that claim easily.With the temporary seating installed in Crew Stadium for Tuesday’s game, a vital World Cup qualifier for both teams involved, the venue held more fans than the Blue Jackets’ Nationwide Arena could ever host (capacity of 18,500 for hockey, according to nationwidearena.com). The Jackets also had a fan base that wasn’t fully invested in the 2009 playoff run, and that’s OK because the team was a heavy underdog against Detroit and was eventually swept, 4-0.American fans, despite seeing the U.S. lose to Jamaica, 2-1, in Kingston, Jamaica, just days before the game in Columbus, had Klinsmann’s promise that the team wouldn’t lose to the Reggae Boyz for the second time in a week. They didn’t, and American fans have come to expect results from their men’s national team against opponents from all over the world. There’s a cautious optimism about the U.S. men’s national team, and that lends itself to a party spirit whenever the squad has a match.It goes without saying that while the U.S. men’s team is far from a juggernaut in world soccer, it is a strong and competitive team, especially in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) region.So in terms of the significance of the event and the passionate crowd support, Tuesday’s game at Crew Stadium tops anything the Blue Jackets franchise has to offer.I’ll even say this – the U.S.-Jamaica game was a better atmosphere than most Ohio State men’s basketball home games.Again, consider the respective stadiums’ capacities – the Schottenstein Center holds 19,500 fans for basketball games and, quite honestly, a lot of those Buckeye contests can be a bore.I’m not talking about the marquee games against big-name opponents such as Duke last season or Kansas this coming season. Big Ten Conference games against Wisconsin and Michigan State certainly might have the U.S.-Jamaica game beat in terms of atmosphere, especially when the Buckeye Nut House student cheering section gets fired up.But are you going to tell me that an OSU basketball game against some of the drab non-conference teams the athletic department brings in is an event you’d be excited to watch? For someone that’s never seen the Buckeyes play live before, maybe you would tell me that. But for Columbus residents and students with season ticket plans, sorry, you’re lying to yourself if you think the average OSU men’s basketball home game tops what Crew Stadium offered on Tuesday.What I can’t do is tell you that the U.S. men’s national team and its fans teamed up to create an atmosphere comparable to an OSU football game at Ohio Stadium. There’s no comparison.Using the same stadium-capacity barometer, well, it would take more than four Crew Stadiums (with additional, temporary seating) to fill the Horseshoe. Even if many Buckeye supporters want to sit on their hands throughout the game, 105,000 people are going to make more noise inhaling and exhaling oxygen than a packed Crew Stadium ever will.So when I overheard members of the Columbus media compare Tuesday’s national team game to the OSU-USC football game at the Horseshoe in 2008, well, there’s a reason I didn’t make that argument the focus of this column. That is a ridiculous and absurd notion.Unlike the OSU men’s basketball team, even the Buckeyes football team’s non-conference games draw massive, passionate crowds. Even on a planet where soccer is king, gatherings of 100,000 or more supporters is a phenomenon that is mostly limited to a select group of American universities with powerful college football programs.There’s no shame in losing out to the tradition and pageantry of an Ohio Stadium football game, though. The U.S. put on yet another memorable performance at Crew Stadium on Tuesday, one that will be remembered as one of the great sporting moments in a city that has had so many.Certainly, Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier provided a performance and accompanying atmosphere that rivals any moment in the history of Columbus’ NHL franchise and even gives the average OSU men’s basketball home game a run for its money.Not bad for a soccer team.
Freshman defender Drew Brevig (4) controls the puck during a game against Michigan March 2 at Nationwide Arena. OSU lost, 4-3.Credit: Ben Jackson / For The LanternAfter four years filled with countless achievements and even more memories, four members of the Ohio State men’s hockey team are preparing for their final home games in the Scarlet and Gray.The Buckeyes (15-11-4, 5-7-4) are set to recognize seniors Alex Szczechura, Travis Statchuk, Alex Lippincott and Curtis Gedig this weekend as they welcome No. 1 Minnesota (23-4-5, 12-2-2) to Columbus.Szczechura, the team’s fifth-highest scorer, sustained an injury last Sunday against Michigan and won’t get to play in this final home stand OSU coach Steve Rohlik said.“(It’s) disappointing,” Rohlik said. “He’s certainly put the time and the effort in here and he deserves to be out there … he’ll be with us out there, he’ll be out there on the ice to get recognized but certainly we’ll miss him out there on the ice.”Rohlik said he’s seeking the right balance of emotion and focus from his players for this important series.“I think the team wants to play well for (the seniors),” Rohlik said. “It’s my job not only to: one, make sure our team recognizes what (the seniors) mean to this program but two, to keep things in check … and control our emotions and go out there in the right frame of mind.”The quartet of seniors is set to be recognized in a ceremony before Saturday’s game, but Statchuk said the reality of his OSU career ending wouldn’t hit him until much later.“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Once the season ends and you’re cleaning out your stall as a senior, I think that’s when it’s really going to settle in,” Statchuk said. “I’ll probably (be) a little emotional, that’s for sure.”The Buckeyes gained two points last weekend in their home-and-home series with Michigan, and currently sit five points behind the Wolverines in fourth place in the Big Ten. Meanwhile the Gophers continued their strong campaign with a sweep of Penn State, and are now seven points clear of second-place Wisconsin.Facing the nation’s No. 1 team while trying to climb in the standings might not be an ideal situation, but Rohlik said his team is eager to test themselves, no matter who the opponent is.“If you want to get to the national tournament, you’ve got to beat the best teams no matter who they are,” Rohlik said. “It’s a great challenge for our guys and I think they’re looking forward (to) it.”When the Buckeyes and Gophers met earlier in the season in Minneapolis, OSU proved themselves to be worthy opponents. In the first game, Minnesota’s sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox kept his second shutout of the season as his team won 1-0. OSU had a two-goal lead in the second game before junior forward Sam Warning netted a hat-trick as the home team ran out 4-2 winners.Since that second game against the Gophers, the Buckeyes are 4-3-3, and Statchuk said this weekend is a great chance for the team to show its credentials with only four games left in the season.“We’re excited to get out there and show the rest of the league and the country that we deserve to be where we want to be,” Statchuk said. “Obviously we have beat the No. 1-ranked team to get there but that’s a challenge we’re willing to accept.”Friday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m., and the puck is set to drop at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.