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#032 01.09.20
Hey, what’s up, hello! It’s so nice to see you! If your New Year’s resolution was to stay up-to-date on all the sports, you’ve come to the right place.
  • One more thing: in honour of the NFL playoffs, we’re hosting an NFL Playoff Bracket! It’s completely free to play, is a great way to learn about the playoffs and you’ll have the chance to win a coveted GIST swag bag. Make your picks here. It’s easy. 
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  quote of the day  

“He brought me out of my seat. I’ve told him before that he does that to me. And he did that tonight. It was one of those special moments by a special player.”
—Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky on Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid’s v. sick career-highlight goal during Monday’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. When the “Great One” is saying that stuff about a player, you know sh!t is real. 

  football   

The party’s just begun

The GIST: The race to the Super Bowl LIV (Roman numerals speak for 54) continues with this weekend’s Divisional Round. So, here’s #thegist:
 
Quick, remind me how the playoffs work: The NFL is made up of 32 teams split into the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Each conference is further divided into four divisions: the East, West, North and South. 
  • Six teams from each conference (or 12 total) make it to the playoffs: the top two teams from each conference at the end of the regular season — who earn an automatic bye to the Divisional Round — as well as the winner of each division and the next two best teams in each conference. Get more info here.  
Got it. So who’s playing who?: In the NFC, the No. 1 San Francisco 49ers are playing host to the No. 6 Minnesota Vikings while the No. 2 Green Bay Packers are welcoming the No. 5 Seattle Seahawks to town. Over in the AFC, the league-best Baltimore Ravens are hosting the No. 6 Tennessee Titans, and the No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs are playing the No. 4 Houston Texans. 
 
Tell me about the NFC?: Minnesota’s quarterback (QB) Kirk Cousins should have more confidence in his ability to outduel 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo (who’s making his first career playoff start) after last round’s overtime win against the New Orleans Saints. However, the Vikings might be without top wide receiver (WR) Adam Thielen due to yet another injury. Looks like the truth won’t be the only thing that hurts when this one kicks off on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET. 
  • The Seahawks and Packers cap things off on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET, and this game has all the makings of a classic. These two teams have had some tense showdowns in the past and with the NFC Championship game on the line, we might be treated to another. Buckle up. 
And how about the AFC?: The Titans are in for another challenge after taking out the New England Patriots last week: the league-leading Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson have been ready and waiting to take the field. We doubt that Tennessee can pull off another upset, but we’ll see how it all turns out on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET. 
  • Meanwhile, the Texans and Chiefs matchup will showcase some of the game’s top young QBs in Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, who both have their eyes on the AFC Championship. They’ll battle it out on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET. 

  tennis   

Start of something new

The GIST: Sure, January is cold (for most of us) and long and mostly boring, but with it comes the start of the tennis season, so can we really complain? This week, some of the world’s top women are playing in the Auckland Open in New Zealand, while the men are in Australia for the ATP Cup.
 
How’s it going in NZ?: So great. The Auckland Open is the warm-up for the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open (the other three Slams are the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open) which starts January 20th. The women’s Auckland tournament is well underway, with the quarter-final matches being played today (but technically tomorrow NZ time). 
  • Unfortunately, despite putting up an impressive first-round win, our 15-year-old American phenom Coco Gauff was outmatched in three sets by German Laura Siegemund in yesterday’s round of 16. Don’t worry, Coco, we’re still loco about you. 
What about Serena?: Of course, Serena Williams is killing it. And this tournament, she’s competing with Caroline Wozniacki. Yes, after Wozniacki announced she’ll be retiring after this year’s Australian Open, the former world No. 1s and off-court besties decided to play doubles together. Goals AF. Oh, and they’re both playing in the singles tournament too, so this could make for an interesting (but also exhausting) championship weekend!
 
You mentioned the Australian Open. Are the bushfires affecting tennis?: The wildfires in Australia are truly devastating. The Australian Open in Melbourne is just 11 days away and due to its proximity to the affected areas, event organizers have announced a contingency plan to ensure safe play for the athletes and fans. In the meantime, we’re giving shoutouts to Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios for doing their parts to help in the relief efforts

  everything else   

I smell drama

NBA: Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is all about that bass drama. Kerr was fined $25,000 yesterday for verbally abusing an official, as well as failing to leave the court in a timely fashion following an ejection during Monday’s game. The Warriors have lost five straight and sit at the very bottom of the Western Conference standings, so we get his frustration.
  • The drama doesn’t stop there. Over in Philadelphia, 76ers star Joel Embiid (pronounced JO-ELLE EM-BEAD) made his teammates (and us) physically ill when they saw his dislocated finger (warning: this link is not for the faint of heart) during Monday night’s game. “I nearly threw up when I saw that,” said Embiid’s teammate Ben Simmons. Surprisingly, Embiid returned to the game. Guess you only need nine good fingers to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Super Bowl: Should politics and sports be kept separate? It’s an age-old question with no easy answer...unless you ask Donald Trump or Michael Bloomberg. The two rich AF presidential candidates are each planning to fork out $10 million on 60-second ads to run during the Super Bowl. We’ll be sure to schedule our bathroom breaks for exactly those times.
 
MLB: Despite being in the middle of the MLB off-season, there’s a scandal brewing. In addition to the league’s ongoing investigation of the Houston Astros sign-stealing (when a team deciphers the hand and body signals of the opposing team’s catcher, pitcher and coaches to predict the next pitch) during last year’s playoffs, the league is investigating the Boston Red Sox for sign-stealing during their World Series-winning 2018 season. 
  • While it’s not technically illegal to sign-steal in the MLB, teams aren’t allowed to use technology to do so. The Red Sox are being accused of using video replay during games to decode their opponents’ signs, and they were also fined in 2017 for using an Apple Watch to relay stolen signs. What don’t those watches do?

  what's up this week  

Today: The Youth Winter Olympic Games (like the regular Olympics but with incredibly athletic teenagers) begin today. The opening ceremony, live from Lausanne, Switzerland, begins at 2 p.m. ET. Watch live at NBCSports.com to see Team USA’s 96 athletes, led by biathlete Lexie Madigan, kick off the event before the real action starts tomorrow.

Tonight: If you love drama as much as we do (no shame, of course), the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder matchup will have it all. It’s new Rocket Russell Westbrook’s first return to OKC after playing with the team for 10 years, and new streaking Thunder star Chris Paul will play host to his former Houston team at 9:30 p.m. ET. 

Friday: Get ready for women’s college basketball showdowns all weekend. No. 1 UConn and No. 6 Baylor face off at 7 p.m. ET the night before, but all the other top five teams — Oregon, Oregon State, South Carolina and Stanford — continue the action from 8 p.m. ET. You won’t want to miss any potential shakeups, so click here for the schedule. 

Saturday: The NFL may take up a lot of attention, but they’re not the only games you should keep your eyes on this weekend. No. 3 Kansas (who’s undefeated at home) hosts No. 4 Baylor (who’s on an 11-game win streak) in a men’s college basketball matinee at 1 p.m. ET. 

Sunday: No one said the LA Clippers aren’t good, but they’ve had a bumpier season than expected — including some rare controversy surrounding “Board Man” Kawhi Leonard — while the Denver Nuggets are finally finding their groove. Watch these teams battle for Western Conference dominance at 8 p.m. ET. 
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