All posts by Dillon Meehan

Hartford Had It’s Moment This Weekend, But Will It Last?

This weekend marked the first home series for the Hartford Yard Goats, Connecticut’s newest professional sports team.

Despite being the Hartford Yard Goats last season as well, the team was forced to play all of their games outside of Hartford due to Dunkin’ Donuts Park not being built in time for the season.

In the days leading up to the game, it was announced that the 6,000 seat ball park had sold out, and 2,000 standing room only seats were being sold for $8.

It’s an optimistic sign for a city that has been looking to revitalize itself, and natives of Hartford can see it come to fruition.

“I do think this is going to help the city,” said Alexx Dennis, a 23-year old East Hartford resident who spent much of his life living in Hartford. “Although it was a long and bumpy road to finally get the stadium built, I think that it will be beneficial for the city and possibly the state as a whole in the long run. I know I’ll go to a few games this summer.” 

Residents are being cautiously optimistic about another planned revitalization of the state capital, especially after seeing many failed attempts.

“I mean, I hope. But the science center and other hotels that have been in downtown for some years now, and haven’t provided enough attraction for everyone to enjoy,” said Joel Rivera, a 27-year old Hartford resident who has spent his entire life living in the city. “The Yard Goats on the other hand, have a good chance to bring in a new crowd. I’ve seen people from all over the state in the first three games. Definitely more people who aren’t from Hartford rather than actual residents though. Which I guess is a good thing for the city.” 

But bringing in professional sports teams aren’t the only thing the city is doing to improve itself. The residents are also aware of how else the city is helping the youth.

“I think they’ve been doing a decent job as a late. For example, schools are doing a lot more for the youth than like what I had as a kid. There are new tools for better education, better after-school programs and uniforms which helps crack down on bullying in my opinion. But also a lot of people feel like it’s more gentrification going on in the city rather than actually helping. Starting in downtown Hartford and working its way out into the more urban areas,” added Rivera.
Although the team was swept by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, each game featured a large crowd. However, it is only the first three games of a long season, so the jury is still out on whether the team will have a long term positive impact on the team.

Will Project Scorpio Be Enough To Save Microsoft?

by Dillon Meehan

In May of 2013, then-head of Xbox Don Mattrick, unveiled the Xbox One, Microsoft’s successor for the Xbox 360.  It was supposed to give the company a leg up against their competitors, specifically Sony and their system, the PlayStation 4. However, it was the opposite.

The rumors of mandatory Kinect usage, the need for the system to always be connected to the Internet and the banning of used games from working on another system, were all true.

It was a PR disaster for the company, by mid-June after E3 – the video game equivalent of the Super Bowl – the Xbox One’s grave was already dug. Their competitors, Sony, had a slightly more powerful system that did not require constant Internet activity. It allowed gamers to share used games with their friends, and didn’t require a camera that was always listening to you even when the console was “off.” To top it all off, it was $100 cheaper.

Less than a week after E3, Microsoft – with their tail between their legs – backtracked on their ridiculous demands.

A few weeks later on July 1.  2013, Don Mattrick had left Microsoft to join Zynga and become their CEO, a position he would resign from a year and a half later.

In March 2014, it was announced that Phil Spencer had been selected as the new head of Xbox. The former intern-turned executive, had spent nearly three decades with the company and promised to turn the company in a new direction, and he has. But the damage was already done.

Fast forward to early 2017, the PS4 has outsold the Xbox One nearly 2-1.  The estimates are around 50 million PS4s in the wild, compared to 30 million for Microsoft.

However, Spencer and the rest of the Xbox team plan to change that with Project Scorpio. At the end of Microsoft’s E3 presentation in 2016, a sizzle reel teased an upgraded Xbox One with the code name “Project Scorpio.” It was touted as the “most powerful console ever,” that would deliver native 4k graphics and be set to release in “holiday 2017.”

In the first week of April, Microsoft gave Eurogamer and Digital Foundry an exclusive look at the system. So far, it has lived up to the hype. The system is four and a half times more powerful than the original Xbox One that launched in fall 2013, and nearly twice as powerful as the PS4 Pro, Sony’s more powerful version of their PS4 which launched in fall 2016.

For Microsoft to make this system a massive success and to try to cut down on Sony’s lead, it needs to have a $400 price point. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen. Since it’s announcement, it has repeatedly been referred to as a “premium” system for hardcore gamers.  In English, that means $500.

Now maybe that is simply Microsoft attempting to be coy, then have a massive reveal at E3 with a $400 price point. However, that is very unlikely. During their tech reveal, Eurogamer estimated $500 as well.

Apart from price point, there is also an issue about exclusive games.  Software sells hardware, it’s that simple. Nearly 20 years ago, Steve Balmer purchased a Bungie from Apple so that Halo could be developed for Microsoft’s first game console, the Xbox. The rest is history, as the Halo series became a staple for their systems.

But that was 20 years ago, as Microsoft is now in dire need of exclusives and their new “killer app.” The Halo and Gears of War franchises are still strong, but not what they were during the days of the Xbox 360. Apart from those, the only games Microsoft has that cannot be matched by Sony are the Forza series and Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive.

While Sony doesn’t have games in the first or third person shooter genre that match up Halo or Gears of War, they offer plenty more than Microsoft. They have the Uncharted series, The Last Of Us, Horizo: Zero Dawn, Neir: Automata, Bloodborne as well as the upcoming Spiderman game as well Hideo Kojima’s newest game, Death Stranding.

On June 11, Microsoft will have their last chance to win fans over for this generation. Not only will they need the right price point, they will need the right games as well.

Premier League Week 32 Recap

by Evan Sobol

This week’s action featured all top-five teams earning a victory and top club Chelsea extending their lead to seven points.

Although Manchester United has not lost a match since Oct., goals have been hard to come by. Prior to Sunday’s match, the Red Devils have only scored 43 goals, well behind the other top clubs. United’s offense woke up this week with a 3-0 victory at last-place Sunderland.

United’s first goal came in minute 30, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Sweden international met a pass by Ander Herrera, and scored from just outside the box with a shot that curled into the right side of the net. It was his 17th goal of the season, good enough for fourth in the league, tied against Chelsea’s Diego Costa. Manchester got off to a hot start after halftime, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring his fourth goal of the season in minute 46. The former Dortmund star took a left-footed shot that went past Sunderland’s goalkeeper into the right side of the net. Forward Marcus Rashford secured the victory for United with his goal in minute 89. Ibrahimovic provided the assist on the short-range goal. It was Rashford’s fourth goal of the season in his 12th substitute appearance.

Sunderland’s performance was overshadowed by Sebastian Larsson’s red card in minute 43. The midfielder was booked following an aggressive slide on United’s Herrera. This left Sunderland down a man for the rest of the match. Their offense produced just nine total shots, and held just 29 precent of possession. Forward Victor Anichebe had a goal opportunity in minute 40, with a shot to the left side of the net that was saved by United’s David De Gea.

With the win, Manchester United moves up to fifth in the table. It was the club’s first victory since March, 19. If the offense continues to produce like they did on Sunday, they can continue their push for a spot in the top-four. Paul Pogba’s play has been disappointing recently with his last Premier League goal being in December. His hefty cost has resulted in him still finding spots in the starting lineup. If Pogba steps up, the offense will improve. The Red Devils’ next match will be a tough test as they host league-leaders Chelsea on Easter Sunday. United’s last loss was a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea. The Blues have won two straight.

Sunderland continued their disappointing season with the defeat. They currently sit at last place in the table and face relegation to the English Football League next season. They barely escaped relegation last season with a 17th place finish. Being relegated gives the club an opportunity to rebuild and grow their young players. Their next match is against West Ham United.

Liverpool bounced back from their draw against Bournemouth on Wednesday with a 1-2 victory at Stoke City. The win keeps them ahead of Manchester City, who is just two points behind in fourth place.

Two late goals secured the comeback victory for the Reds. Midfielder Philippe Coutinho scored in minute 70 with a shot from the center of the box into the left side of the net. It was the Brazil international’s ninth goal of the season. Forward Roberto Firmino scored just two minutes later with a stunning goal. He met a pass by Georginio Wijnaldum that went over Stoke’s defense. Firmino then scored with a curling goal from just outside the box, being his tenth goal of the season.

Stoke scored first with a goal by Jonathan Waters in minute 44. The Ireland international met a pass by Xherdan Shaqiri in the center of the box and scored with a header. It was Waters’ fourth goal of the season. Stoke had an opportunity to tie the match in minute 74 with a close-range attempt on goal by forward Saido Berahino. Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saved the shot.

Liverpool’s successful season continues. Their balanced, unselfish attack puts them among the best. They sit behind second-place Tottenham by five points, and first-place Chelsea by 12. A top-two finish is not out of reach, but it will be hard to catch up. Tottenham have won six straight. The Reds’ next match is against West Bromwich Albion, who currently sits at ninth in the table.

The loss was Stoke’s fourth straight and sets them back to 13th in the table. Their last victory came on March, 4. against relegation-facing Middlesbrough. Their next match is against Hull City who is just outside of the relegation zone at 17.

Other notable matches next week include Southampton- Manchester City and Tottenham- Bournemouth.

 

North Carolina Wins Sixth NCAA Tournament

by Kyle Flynn

March Madness – arguably the pinnacle of American sports – is what everyone is waiting for all year long regardless of age, gender or interest in sport. Filling out a bracket and rooting for crazy upsets while pulling for an alma mater to go all the way, is a thrill like no other.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are possibly the most storied university in the realm of college basketball, and best team in the 68-team field in 2017. They carved their path to the championship game by beating Texas Southern, Arkansas, Butler, Kentucky and Oregon.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs, the mid-major school that has always been a Final Four hopeful, made it into the Elite 8 this season for the first year. This year was an anomaly for the Bulldogs, as they finished the regular season with just one loss before defying all odds and making it all the way to national title game against the Tar Heels. Gonzaga defeated South Dakota State, Northwestern, West Virginia, Xavier and South Carolina to get to the final game.

This was the eighth ever national championship game that featured two number one seeds, and as expected, it came down the wire. North Carolina, who lost the 2016 title game at the buzzer to Villanova, was looking for redemption against the Zags. This year’s rendition of the championship had a total of 46 made shots and 44 fouls called. Many would agree that the game was too much in the referees hands, as the officiating was so tightly called that neither team was able to get a great rhythm going in the game. Joel Berry II, Carolina’s star guard finished with 22 points, six assists and three rebounds. Berry made all four of North Carolina’s three-point tries, and became the first player to score 20 points in back-to-back title games since Bill Walton (1972-73).

The two sides were trading blows and exchanging leads throughout the game, especially during the second half of the final game of the 2017 season. In the second half, Gonzaga went eight entire minutes without scoring a basket, but was able to create foul calls and get to the free throw line to keep themselves in the game.

Nigel Williams-Goss was Gonzaga’s top scorer in the game with 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but he shot just 5-17 from the field. Only one other Gonzaga player finished the game with more than 10 points (Perkins, 13).

Tar Heels frontcourt stars Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks, who average 34 points per game during their tourney run, finished with just 23 points on 9-24 shooting. Meeks blocked a shot in the final minute of the game, which led to North Carolina being crowned champion for the first time since 2009.

The victory was head coach Roy Williams third national championship win and 100th overall tournament victory.

Joel Berry II earned MVP honors for his performance in the Final Four, while dealing with an ankle injury.

This was North Carolina basketball’s sixth national championship win in their school’s history, third most in history behind UCLA (11) and Kentucky (8).

NHL Turns Down the Olympics

by Tyler Roaix

The National Hockey League made waves with commissioner Gary Bettman’s announcement that the league would not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

There are several factors that leave the NHL and its owners reluctant to allow their players to compete in the Olympics. The first is simply that the players could get hurt. In reality, if a player suffers an injury requiring them to miss an extended period of time, the NHL team ultimately has to face the brunt of that burden.

Another major hurdle in the way of a deal, is that the NHL wants the International Olympic Committee to somehow compensate the league to essentially rent out its players. The two sides have fiercely debated over who should pay various expenses, such as travel and insurance.

One final concern for the NHL is a unique one. Whenever the Winter Games come around, the league puts its season on hold while its players are overseas. Typically the break is roughly two and a half to three weeks, but it makes it difficult to schedule the rest of the season. It forces teams to have more back-to-back situations that players are accustomed to. In a physical sport like hockey, that kind of wear-and-tear can take a serious toll on a player’s body.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was quick to show his displeasure in Bettman’s announcement, stating that he didn’t care what the league had to say. He still plans to take part and play for Russia. Several players have also expressed their dissatisfaction. Some are also following Ovechkin, saying they will compete regardless of what the league thinks.

As a hockey fan, it’s hard not to be disappointed in the NHL’s decision. The Olympic Games are when we get to see the very best from each country go at it. It adds another layer to the idea of competition. There is something special about fighting for the title of “Best in the World” that a regular NHL season could never give.

Bearing this in mind, what this means for the NHL next season is also worrisome. The league stated they are moving forward as if they won’t be participating. This means that when they generate the schedule, there won’t be any break or layoff as there normally is in an “Olympic year.” So what happens if a player, like Ovechkin, decides to go anyway? What would that mean for the Capitals? Would the NHL reprimand him in some fashion? These are all questions that have to be troubling fans, players, owners and even Bettman himself.

If both sides are unable to come to an agreement before the games get underway in South Korea next winter, it would be the first time since 1998 that the NHL doesn’t participate. Although it sure seems like the NHL will stand its ground, nothing is definite.

After all, there was a similar situation before the 2014 Games until the sides came together months before the start. As a fan, you have to hope that some sort of deal can be made. Because if not, it could get very ugly.