Information is the first step in making decisions, and for the New York Giants, Jon Berger was a big part of the information section of the front office. Berger held the role of senior director of football information, and had one of the longest running careers within the front office. While other figures were removed as the Giants entered a rebuilding phase, Berger held onto his job – until now. The breakup, however, has been described as amicable.
Berger had previously been the director of information technology for the Giants for 21 years before moving into his information director role. That, of course, placed him in football’s IT field before it was nearly as prominent as it is today.
While iPads and computers are common tools within a front office or coaching staff these days, the information department of an NFL team used to be far more obscure and Berger seems to be one of the first staff members to work in such a role for the Giants. In total, Berger was with the organization for 38 years.
The split between him and the organization comes some time after Dave Gettleman promised to involve analytics more in the running of the team back in 2019. Many didn’t believe Gettleman at the time, but the Giants moving on from their current name at director of football information may be a signal that they intend to bring in someone younger and more promising to aid in the analytics department.
After all, the organization has seemingly become more forward thinking over the past year or so with the hiring of Joe Judge and an overhaul of the coaching staff. It only makes sense that the front office may follow in the same direction.
The New York Rangers and their fans have waited for this since March 5th, 2020, the last time fans saw the Blueshirts play in person. The roughly 2,000 fans in attendance were treated to a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.
A couple of weeks ago, the state of New York announced that fans would be allowed to attend games at 10% capacity. Friday night marked the first home game that the Rangers had the opportunity to welcome fans. The fans that attended were treated to a Blueshirt offensive outburst and well as an outstanding physical effort.
Having fans obviously energized the Rangers, as they outhit the Bruins 17-8 after the first period. They finished up the game outhitting Boston 32-28.
New York Rangers set a season-high in goals scored
Julian Gauthier started things off for the Rangers with his second goal of the season. He recorded his first career NHL goal against Boston on Feb. 10 at MSG.
Ryan Strome scored a goal off an excellent pass from Alexis Lafreniere, who picked up his first NHL assist. After a Patrice Bergeron goal, The Rangers scored twice within twelve seconds at the end of the second period. Colin Blackwell tipped in an Adam Fox shot for a power-play goal. Chris Kreider then scored the fourth Rangers goal just twelve seconds later.
Strome picked up three points in the second period with his goal and picked up assists in the other two goals. He is leading the Rangers in 5-on-5 goals (six) and even-strength goals (six) this season. He extended his point streak to four games.
For Blackwell, he has now recorded a point in four of the last five games (three goals, one assist). He has also tallied a point in seven of 10 games with the Rangers (four goals, three assists).
The New York Rangers were very grateful for having fans in the stands
After the game, Ryan Strome talked about having fans back at MSG. “It was crazy, honestly. 2,000 people or whatever it was felt like it was very full. I had some goosebumps during the national anthem and it has been a while since I felt those. They definitely brought us energy.”
After the game, head coach David Quinn echoed Strome’s comments about having fans in attendance. “I don’t think that any of us expected the impact that they would make. They were incredibly loud and passionate. When you heard about how many people they were going to allow you would not think they would have an impact. But they did have an impact. We can’t thank our fans enough and we appreciate the support give us.”
The two teams will play again on Sunday at MSG with a noon puck drop.
The UFC has finalized one of the more anticipated women’s title fights of 2021. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was the first to report that the promotion has verbal agreements in place for the strawweight title fight between Zhang Weili (21-1) and Rose Namajunas (9-4).
The matchup will take place at UFC 261 on April 24th. The title fight is the second women’s title fight on the card. This week we learned that the promotion had also finalized the title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade.
While this was always the fight to make, it wasn’t the easiest road getting here. Rose Namajunas is the clear number one contender in the strawweight division. She solidified her spot when she got redemption against Jessica Andrade at UFC 251.
However, Dana White came out and said that he wasn’t sure if Namajunas wanted the fight. The promotion had actually kicked the tires on moving on from this matchup, but ultimately the fight got done.
Namajunas is a former UFC strawweight champion and her reign was cut short by a Jessica Andrade slam. That was her only loss since 2016 and she’s already avenged that loss. She is clearly the second best fighter in the strawweight division right now.
UFC’s new superstar
Over the last couple of years, Zhang Weili has taken the UFC by storm. In August of 2019, Weili finished Jessica Andrade in the first round to become the strawweight champion. She is the first UFC champion from China and she won the title in China.
From there, Weili had the Fight of the Year in 2020 against the former long-time champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Weili was pushed to the absolute limit, but in the end, she was able to win a split decision to retain her UFC strawweight title.
Being on this card to me isn’t a coincidence. Dana White has publicly said that he wouldn’t mind seeing Weili move up to 125 pounds to challenge Valentina Shevchenko should she beat Rose Namajunas. I believe the UFC is putting these two title fights together hoping a superfight materializes.
This fight should be incredible given the skillsets of both of these ladies. Namajunas looked like she was poised to be the champion for a long time before that Andrade slam. Now, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating Weili at 115 pounds. This should be a good one on April 24th.
In an earlier press conference, New York Yankees skipper Aaron Boone stated that Clint Frazier would likely be the starting left fielder for the team this season. It’s been an opportunity a long time in the works and a very deserving one for the 26-year-old slugger.
However, Frazier could have a relatively short leash. A failure to perform could lead to him going to the bench, as the Yankees have plenty of other outfielders such as Mike Tauchman, Brett Gardner, and Jay Bruce to replace him.
With both his bat and his defense, Tauchman should put up a good fight against Frazier for playing time. He bat .277 with 13 home runs in 2019 but struggled a bit in 2020. However, his power has already seen improvement this season, going yard off Gerrit Cole in a simulated game this week.
Tauchman’s also a lefty, something the Yankees don’t have very many of. If Frazier struggles, Boone could plug Tauchman in to give the team a valuable boost.
It took the entire off-season, but the Yankees finally got a deal with Brett Gardner done last week. He’s on a one-year contract with a player option but isn’t expected to be a regular starter this season. His offense has noticeably declined, batting just .223 last season, but remains a valuable defensive option.
If the Yankees need proven defense, expect Gardner to get some reps if Frazier isn’t performing.
Bruce is definitely on the outside looking in with the Yankees, but a strong spring training could give him a shot to make the roster. His power is extremely valuable, slugging over 300 home runs in his career, and is a major run production machine. He’s just 33, so he could have a few more years left in the tank.
The clear downside with Bruce is his defense, but with his power, he could be an option if Frazier struggles.
She’s hoping that her next fight would be for the title after her heart-stopping win against VanZant.
“I’m still on Cloud 9 obviously. I’m more motivated than ever that’s why I’m out here in Puerto Rico training. That [win] has changed my life,” Hart told Empire Sports Media via zoom call.
While she hopes her next fight would be for the title, she’s also setting her sights on Jenny Savage, who made a scene during Hart’s KnuckleMania post-fight interview.
“After I won over [Randine] Eckholm in BKFC 14, I called Paige out and Paige took it the liberty to come to the ring with me, so I really think that anyone who has the guts and the courage to come to the ring and challenge me in the ring when I’m on my fight night deserves to lose to me,” Hart said.
“Jenny Savage came in and was pretty disrespectful coming to the ring on my main event moment. So honestly, I wanna say Jenny Savage is next. I gotta show her the same thing I had to show Paige. You don’t come to the ring with me on my fight night.”
The brewing rivalry between the two bare-knuckle boxers apparently started after Hart got the Paige VanZant fight which Savage also wanted.
It picked up steam when Savage made her BKFC debut last December with Hart as a guest fight commentator.
Hart said she went to Savage to congratulate her on her second-round stoppage of Sheena Starr at BKFC 15. She was complimentary of the Tennesee Gangster’s “really good overhand.” But Savage instead took offense and answered back: “That’s not my best punch. You haven’t seen my best punch yet.”
“I just want whoever is next. I can’t say anybody specifically because I don’t know. Do I want Britain Hart? No, because I beat her. I know I’ll beat her again. I know she’s made some improvements. But she’s made improvements against people that are nothing close to my level. So I feel like she needs a little bit more time in order to catch up, to be able to have some chance in a fight with me,” Ferea told mymmanews.com recently.
Hart was visibly pissed upon learning Ferea’s comments and blew her top.
“It’s a ridiculous statement. Anybody could look at that Paige VanZant [fight]. Christine, I’m sorry to hate on you, like mad respect to you. The fact that I beat a UFC veteran, a UFC athlete who trains in the American Top Team, again on what level are you putting yourself on? Misfit isn’t undefeated in the BKFC. She’s beatable. Helen [Peralta] did it. The fact that she’s already saying she’s a level above fighters that come from the UFC and Bellator and other things like that, just shows where her mind is and her mind is not in the right place,” Hart said.
Hart said that she’s tired of Ferea’s flip-flopping statements and added that Ferea’s win against her isn’t convincing enough not to warrant a rematch.
“She’s flip-floppy. ‘One minute, I’m retiring from BKFC, and then the next minute, oh give me someone next. Britain Hart is the same fighter, Britain Hart has made improvements.’ I’m tired of her back-and-forth, wish-washy stuff. The rematch? Yeah for sure. Again, she didn’t knock me down. I never hit the canvass with her. I got a doctor’s stoppage with that cut under my eye. The fact that she even wants to say that’s a glorious knockout is just ridiculous. You don’t have to like me as a fighter and like her as a fighter,” Hart said.
Ferea holds a 3-1 record in the BKFC and was the first woman to win the Police Gazette title. Her lone loss came at the hands of Peralta in 2019 in what is considered to be one of the best BKFC fights of the year.
Ferea last saw action in September last year when she stopped Callie Cutler via second-round TKO. She stunned everyone when she announced on her Instagram last January that she’s retiring from BKFC.
But she was quick to come out of retirement and announced that she’d be fighting in May.
“I guess she’s just salty that she’s not the center of the attention and the limelight is not on her. So she’s gonna come up with any story she wants. She knows she does not want to fight me. Of course, she doesn’t want to fight me because I’m getting better. I just beat Paige VanZant. I don’t know what she’s on. She lost mad respect from me. I can’t respect someone who changes their statements. Be real. Be yourself. All her entitlement. If you want that humble pie and a wake-up call, then you got me. If you don’t want it, then we all know why,” Hart said.
Both are intriguing matches. But whichever BKFC decides to hold next, Hart is ready for it.
“We have big plans out here [in my training camp]. And when I get back to the US, I’ll train every day because I’m coming for that title. I’m coming for my redemption. I’m coming for anyone who steps in the ring and challenges me,” Hart boldly declared.
The matchup will take place at Bellator 258 which will take place on May 7th. James Gallagher was turning into Bellator’s version of Conor McGregor just a couple of years ago. The brash Irish contender is actually a teammate of The Notorious one.
Gallagher had confidence and he was trying to ride the Irish momentum of Conor McGregor. However, the path wasn’t as smooth for Gallagher. Gallagher was being fast-tracked by Bellator, but then he ran into Ricky Bandejas after an injury layoff.
Bandejas shocked everyone by stopping the Irishman in the first round. Gallagher took the loss well and has since rebounded extremely well. Since that loss, Gallagher has gone 4-0 inside the Bellator cage.
Standing across from Gallagher on May 7th will be Patrick “Patchy” Mix. Mix just fought for the bantamweight title back at Bellator 246 against Archuleta. Early on, it looked like Mix was going to become the Bantamweight champion.
The grappling of Patchy Mix is something to behold. His incredible skill on the mat allowed him to control the early portions of his title fight. However, his gas tank ultimately failed him and Juan Archuleta captured the Bellator bantamweight title by decision.
Now, Mix will have his opportunity at redemption. It’s clear that Bellator is setting this up as a title eliminator with the main event being the bantamweight title fight. Whoever wins this matchup on May 7th is going to be the first in line for a crack at whoever wins the belt in the main event.
The New York Giants are on a mission to rebuild and revamp their offense this offseason. New York’s offense was terrible in 2020. The Giants averaged only 17.5 points per game this past season, an average that cannot translate to a winning season in today’s NFL.
Dave Gettleman and company have vowed to add playmakers to the Giants’ offense. But in addition to New York’s lack of playmakers, they also had a lack of pass protection. The Giants’ offensive line was nearly incompetent in pass protection last season.
The Giants’ pass-block win rate in 2020, according to ESPN, ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win-rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. So while the Giants prioritize upgrading Daniel Jones’s weapons, they, maybe more than anything, need to fix the offensive line in front of him.
Daniel Jones was a much-improved quarterback in his second season. But if the Giants want to see Jones take that next step and have that year-three breakout, they need to fix the offensive line. Daniel Jones had a Pro Football Focus 91.5 passing grade when kept clean in 2020. That is an elite grade. When under pressure, though, Jones’s grade was 46.9.
Unfortunately, Daniel was under pressure more often than not. The Giants should make it a top priority to find competent offensive linemen and keep Jones clean in 2021. As we inch closer to the NFL Draft in April, there are a number of offensive lineman prospects that the Giants should target within the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
NFL Draft offensive line targets
The 2021 NFL Draft class is filled with offensive line talent. This is one of the best offensive line classes in recent years. At the top of the class is a premier offensive tackle talent in Penei Sewell out of Oregon. Penei is an elite prospect who is unlikely to fall to eleven, but the Giants should pray that he is there for the taking.
With New York seemingly destined to go wide receiver in round one, it is in the second and third rounds that they should focus on the offensive line. Prospects like Wyatt Davis and Creed Humphrey stand out on the interior. Jackson Carman and Walker Little could be options in those rounds as well.
Of course, the Giants already have young, promising players on their offensive line that need to develop. Nick Gates flashed great potential in his first season starting at center in 2020. Rookie Matt Peart also looked good in limited playing time at right tackle. But general manager Dave Gettleman has said before that he is not afraid to draft over players. So if one of these offensive linemen, like center Creed Humphrey, is the best player on the board when the Giants are on the clock, they are realistic options.
Regardless, the offensive line is not a positional group that the Giants can wait on. They need to address it and fix it immediately. Taking chances on late-round prospects rarely works out on the offensive line. If Gettleman and the Giants are serious about amending the offensive line, they need to target prospects within the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Perine, poised to be the New York Jets’ top rushing option, expressed his support for the incumbent quarterback on NFL Network.
New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine appears to have a future in the organization. He hopes the guy who handed him his first NFL carries has one as well.
With calls for Sam Darnold’s departure reaching a bit of a fever pitch with both Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson potentially seeking new homes, Perine put his support behind the incumbent starter when it comes to the team’s future during an appearance on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.
“No disrespect to any of the quarterbacks within the draft, but I actually had a chance to play with Sam and was able to be in a backfield with him. I know what he brings to a team,” Perine said in a response to co-host Nate Burleson. “He’s a great leader…We’ve just got to put good weapons around him, and he can very well succeed and be one of the top quarterbacks in this league.”
“He’s a great vocal leader, a great guy to be around, competitive and I’m ready to look forward to him,” Perine said. “I hope he’s on our team this year…being my starting quarterback.”
Perine joined the team as a fourth-round pick out of Florida last season, shortly after earning MVP honors in the Gators’ Orange Bowl victory over Virginia. Injuries and a late bout with COVID-19 limited Perine to 10 games, during which he tallied 232 yards on 64 carries, two of which went for a touchdown. With Le’Veon Bell already gone and Frank Gore and Ty Johnson up for free agency, Perine is set to be the Jets’ top returning rusher.
The 120th overall pick of April’s draft praised his chemistry and training with Gore, saying he hopes the fellow Florida collegiate legend dons a reflective green chrome helmet as well.
“Coming into the NFL, you just try to find that routine. A guy who’s played 16 years, he has his routine,” Perine responded to Kim Jones. “I just tried to learn everything I can, whether it’s watching film, watching his routine, seeing how he’s such a great player. Honestly, I can tell why he’s played 16 years in this league, just by the way he takes care of his body, how he moves in day in and day out. I’m hoping he can be on the Jets as well.”
Set to enter his second season, Perine is likewise excited to welcome in head coach Robert Saleh and his new gang of assistants. He addressed the new regime in an opening question from Peter Schrager, recalling their Week 2 showdown with Saleh’s 49ers back in September.
“They had a ton of energy,” Perine recalled. “I feel like he can bring that energy toward the Jets. We need that, that great positive energy to have, to be a successful team this here.”
Donahue, a New York Knicks superfan, anxiously waited for 352 days for this moment to arrive.
“It was tough, Donahue told Empire Sports Media while he was preparing to attend his second straight Knicks game last Thursday. “Everything has been tough the last 11 months — personal trials and tribulations. When you’re going through something personal, and you don’t have [any place to go] — for me, my favorite place to go in the world is the Madison Square Garden. So to not have that for 11 months, it’s tough.”
The music in The Garden hit different for Donahue in an emotional return. It was a bittersweet moment for him.
“I was thinking about my little sister, who passed away from brain cancer back in August at the age of 21, and how I’ve been bringing her to Knicks game all her life. And she’s not here physically with me anymore. Even when she was not with me at the games, she was texting me, telling me to bring her home popcorn or food, or asking me who I saw because people at The Garden are family to me. I was thinking about her the whole time,” Donahue said.
The Knicks superfan found solace in The Garden, where the special bond and fandom he shared with his sister Gianna Gregoire will forever be remembered.
A season ticket holder since 2004, Donahue had become one of the most famous fans at the world’s most famous arena, even parlaying his passion into a career when he hosted a Knicks-centric podcast show for SNY. His first indoctrination to The Garden’s mystic began during the Knicks’ Finals run in 1994. In 2001, just as the Knicks started their plummet to the dark ages, Donahue remained loyal and started regularly going to the games.
This season is one of the better times to be a Knicks fan. The Knicks are winning some games.
They are playoff hunting instead of tanking.
Imagine the Knicks fans’ agony of not having the chance to watch their beloved team rock The Garden on some nights.
“The waiting part was tough, man! You’re used to going to games. I’ve been a ticket holder for 29 years, so it kinda sucked not being able to get into your normal routine, and the fact that the team was playing really well made it even worse. We haven’t seen good basketball in a while,” another Knicks superfan Greg Armstrong told Empire Sports Media.
Armstrong, a ShopRite supermarket manager, has been a Knicks fan since the 1973 championship team, which he said he followed religiously on Channel 9.
Basketball is a religion in New York. If Rucker Park and the other city playgrounds are the chapels, the Mecca is the basilica.
“We all know what basketball means to the city. We’re excited about it. There’s nothing like it, there’s no place like the Madison Square Garden, there’s no place in the league like that,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau before Tuesday’s game. “Our fans are our lifeline.”
Every Knicks game equates to a day of worship for the fans. Pilgrims from all over New York and even from outside of the five boroughs come together and transform The Garden into a basketball paradise where players love to indulge.
For almost a year, the fans were confined to watching the games on TV, following and passionately debating every news and rumor on social media.
So last Tuesday, that joy, which COVID-19 took away, returned, albeit only experienced by a small group of Knicks fans.
“Being one of the few [people] to attend was special because it was like our own private experience and one that I’ll look back on as a once in a lifetime (I hope!),” David Perlmutter told Empire Sports Media.
“My first thought last [Tuesday] night was wow, no one is here! I knew it was only 10 percent, but until I arrived, I could not grasp the size of The Garden compared to 10 percent attendance. It was like we were part of an incredibly private club, which I guess I kind of was.”
After the game, a Knicks spokesperson told reporters that their first attempt at bringing back some sense of normalcy was a success. The sold-out crowd of 1,981 were able to clear all health protocols.
“Everyone was wearing a mask and following the rules, and at one point, my friends and I were congregating in the lobby, and they told us to split up,” Armstrong said.
“It was strict, but it was smooth. You have to make sure you have your COVID-19 test result with you, show your ID, and stuff like that. I didn’t have any problem nor noticed anybody who encountered a problem,” Donahue added.
If Donahue shared his Knicks fandom with his late sister, Perlmutter shares his passion with his son. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop them from continuing their father-and-son bonding last Tuesday.
“I was with my son Levi who is 6 yrs old, and he has been coming with me since he was 2+ with noise-canceling headphones. Since I’ve been going to games with him, I have very little interest in going to any games without him. Watching the game through his eyes is my favorite thing to do,” Perlmutter said.
Perlmutter, a managing partner of the Forrest Hills Financial Group, has been a Knicks fan since 1992 and a season ticket holder since 2005. But last Tuesday, he saw The Garden in a different light.
“It was the first time I was able to tour The Garden, which was cool. We went up to the bridge to get a close-up view of the retired banners and walked through the Bud Light district. I have never been before to both areas despite having been able to attend hundreds of games. It was a unique experience to watch my son run around all these areas without worrying about losing him in a crowd or him bumping into people,” Perlmutter said.
With only a limited number of fans allowed initially, The Garden had a small-town church vibe where everyone knows each other.
“It’s great to be back. It’s not how it used to be, but hopefully, it will again soon. I was with my good friend Elgin (Swift). I enjoyed it, and it was a time to catch up with some people. I saw some of the security guards, ushers, and team employees I haven’t seen in a while. I saw some fans I hadn’t seen in a while. Considering the situation, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t as hectic or as crazy as I may have thought. It was an extremely smooth night,” Donahue said.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but I love our team. Of course, we’re not a championship team. But we’re a team that plays hard, plays defense, personifies our head coach Tom Thibodeau. It kinda makes fans feel a little nostalgic about the 90s team we love so much because of the type of defense they play,” Donahue said.
While a Knicks win could have been a perfect ending for Donahue’s emotional return to The Garden, he was appreciative of the experience and put things in proper perspective.
“I just didn’t want to lose the first game back. I’m a die-hard Knicks fan. I don’t even want to lose a preseason game. I’m definitely upset after the game as far as losing. I want that win so bad. But all in all, when I got home, I was thankful that I was back to The Garden, thankful that I got to see some of the New York fans’ faces. And just thankful to be alive, just thankful and cherish every moment that we have in this beautiful life,” Donahue said.
In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 20 we will see a battle between two top eleven light heavyweights. Top contender, Nikita Krylov (27-7), takes on Magomed Ankalaev (14-1) in a fight that promises to be entertaining tomorrow night.
Ankalaev will walk into the cage as the eleventh ranked light heavyweight in the UFC. A native of Dagestan, Ankalaev is 5-1 since he made his debut with the promotion back in 2018. The lone loss was a triangle choke loss to Paul Craig that came literally one second before the final bell.
Since that fight, it’s been smooth sailing for Ankalaev in the UFC. He’s 5-0 with four stoppages and he’s coming off of arguably his most impressive win at UFC 254. Ankalaev took on Ion Cutelaba in a rematch from earlier in 2020.
In the first fight, Ankalaev rocked (or appeared to rock) Cutelaba and the ref stepped in. Cutelaba was irate because he said he was playing possum. The UFC ran the fight back and Ankalaev left no doubts in the rematch knocking Cutelaba out cold.
Standing across from Ankalaev tomorrow night is Nikita Krylov. Krylov is actually on his second stint with the UFC. He made his original debut with the promotion back in 2013. Krylov went 6-3 and the promotion let him walk. After going 4-0 with four stoppages after that, the promotion brought him back.
Since coming back, Krylov has fought four times. He’s 2-2 but his losses are to the current champion and the current number one contender. He’s defeated Johnny Walker and avenged a loss from early in his career against Ovince St. Preux.
UFC Vegas 20 Prediction
The UFC Vegas 20 co-main event is going to be a lot of fun to watch and I’m expecting the fight to take place on the feet. Krylov has good grappling, however, Ankalaev’s takedown defense should neutralize any takedown attempts from Krylov.
With that in mind, I’m thinking about my prediction with this being strictly a standup fight. Both men are well-versed on the feet. With Krylov, I love his creativity and I love his use of kicks. You’ll see some high kicks with some spinning kicks thrown in at UFC Vegas 20.
I was really blown away with what I saw from Ankalaev in his last performance. The speed and power in his striking was impressive, but also his distance control and defense was something to behold.
I really believe that both of these light heavyweights are very evenly matched. I can see both men getting a decision with ranking up points in this one. However, I ultimately believe that Ankalaev will land the more powerful shots and that will allow him to get the win tomorrow night.
Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev by Unanimous Decision