Jake Paul beats Tyron Woodley in split decision: Round-to-round fight coverage

Is the rematch on?

Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley is live!

See below for our round-by-round coverage of the fight.

Jake Paul at the press conference earlier this week.

And we’re off. Woodley swings wild to open. Is now trying to walk Paul down, but the size difference is noticeable. Paul is trying to lead with the jab and is doing so effectively. Woodley seems a little frozen and struggling with the range. Paul on the other hand is getting comfy in there.

Our score: 10-9 Paul

Paul lands with a big right to open, but Woodley is trying to cut him off. Paul is not having it. Low activity round so far and Woodley is biting too hard on the feints. Not much happening here and Woodley is down another round.

Our score: 10-9 Paul

Already a better round for Woodley but Paul comes back. Woodley is trying to get inside and gets countered for it. Paul is looking good so far, this could be a long night for Woodley.

Our score: 10-9 Paul

Paul’s punches looking a little less discipled now. Tyron seems like he can get inside better now and is landing the better shots.

Woodley lands a big shot and Paul is rocked. He almost goes down and desperately tries to recover. He makes it out of the round but man… Now we have a fight!

Our score: 10-9 Woodley

Paul looks very tired now and this could be a big problem because Woodley is just getting started. This could be an interesting final three rounds. Woodley should be pressing but he’s slowing down here. Still, this is Woodley’s round.

Our score: 10-9 Woodley

Paul seems to have regained a bit of steam here, landing shots on Woodley and getting his combinations going. Woodley has slowed down and seems to be chasing a one shot kill. This is anyone’s round to steal, but in the end it looks like Paul took it.

Our score: 10-9 Paul

Woodley’s corner is urgent. It appears they know they need a KO at this point. He comes out more aggressive but it doesn’t take much to put him back in his shell. But Paul’s punches are sloppy and surely Woodley could counter here. 

Paul looks tired but Woodley simply isn’t doing enough here.

Our score: 10-9 Woodley

Final round and surely Woodley needs a stoppage here. He comes out with some tight offence and lands some shorts, but it’s not enough. Paul can easily cruise to a victory here. Woodley is pot-shotting now when he really needs something definitive. 

In the end he wins the round on my scorecard, but he has almost certainly lost the fight.

Our score: 10-9 Woodley

Jake Paul wins by split decision

Amanda Serrano, one of the pound-for-pound best female boxers on the planet.

Our co-main event is the sole women’s fight on the card.

Amanda Serrano, the champion, is the overwhelming favourite in this contest. Yamileth Mercado hasn’t been given much of a chance by oddsmakers here, but this is boxing and anything can happen.

But Serrano is one of the best female boxers ever. She hasn’t lost in over 10 years and I can’t imagine her losing here.

Okay here we go. This could be a real showcase for Serrano. Can’t wait to see what she can do in this spotlight.

Serrano comes out super aggressive, huge volume early. But she gets a little stung by a great shot from Mercado. Doesn’t appear to phase her though. Quite a tight round all up.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Mercado isn’t exactly out of her depth in this fight, but she is losing. Serrano is marching forward and landing heavy shots, Mercado is landing a few here and there, but Serrano takes the round.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Fantastic exchanges here with Mercado and Serrano trading blows. Mercado has a chin on her, but she’s also landing here. This fight is being fought at a tremendous pace.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Serrano is slowing the pace down here and pot shotting her jab a little more. She’s managed to catch Mercado coming in a few times. Nice round from Serrano, but Mercado maybe stole the round at the end there with a flurry.

Our score: 10-9 Mercado

These rounds are rattling in, with the two minute rounds. Mercado has earned Serrano’s respect. Serrano isn’t just running in for knockout shots, she’s trying to out-box Mercado and it’s working. Great shots at the end of the round there.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Serrano boxing well from the outside, but Mercado landed one helluva body shot. In fact both women are landing to the body frequently. Serrano is really finding her range here and looked to have hurt Mercado at one point.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Serrano is looking really sharp now. Completely taking over the fight with her jab. This feels like Serrano’s most comfortable round.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Mercado is making this more of a dogfight, digging some real body shots at close range. This is a different type of fight. A much closer round, but Serrano still takes it.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Mercado is hanging in here. She’s done a great job in this fight. But Serrano is walking Mercado down now, landing huge body shots. She’s teeing off on Mercado now. Serrano’s best round yet.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Last round. Both fighters appear keen to leave it all on the canvas here. Serrano stings Mercado badly and she looks hurt. Mercando is hanging on by a thread here it seems but she survives. Great finish to a great fight.

Our score: 10-9 Serrano

Serrano wins 97-93, 98-92, 99-91 via unanimous decision.

The up-and-coming heavyweight Daniel Dubois.

This is a heavyweight fight between two well tested fighters with solid record. Daniel Dubois is the current WBA interim heavyweight champ. His only loss came at the hands of Joe Joyce last year. Joe Cusumano is a more experienced fighter. At 33 he’s 10 years the senior of the 23 year old Dubois.

These are some big boys. 

Blam! Cusumano goes down early after a series of hard shots from Dubois. He’s back up and ooft, they’re swinging. Cusumano goes down again, then for a THIRD time and it’s all over in round 1. 

Damn, this Dubois guy can hit. That was a wild, wild round of boxing.

Daniel Dubois win via TKO in the first round.

Ivan Baranchyk during an open workout.

This should be a good one. A well matched fight between two up-and-comers. Baranchyk is ranked the fourth best active light-welterweight in the world by The Ring, Love is still undefeated. This should be a high level scrap.

Baranchyk is the aggressor early feinting Love to the ropes with jabs, but Love lands with a straight down the pipe. Love started to loosen up in the second half of the round with slick defence and sharp shots. Baranchyk landed heavy in the last 30 seconds. 

Tough one to call.

Our score: 10-9 Love

Baranchyk come out more aggressive in the opening seconds, but Love is landing. A couple of nice body shots and a great uppercut. Also the check hook is money for Love, he’s landing it over and over. He’s taking over this fight.

Our score: 10-9 Love

Again Baranchyk comes out with urgency, but he’s missing big against Love. Just great footwork. He has gotten caught a couple of time though. 

And whoa… Baranchyk unloads. He’s stunned Love but he manages to stay on his feet. Baranchyk is going hard now, this is clearly his round. Huge moment. Massive flurry at the end there and Love catches Baranchyk clean with a wild hook that almost floors him. Wow. What a round.

Our score: 10-9 Baranchyk

Baranchyk is just clipping Love now. The shots Love was evading now seem more dangerous. Love is standing his ground more now, though and is outlanding Baranchyk. Great round for Love who appears to stun Baranchyk and then pauses to admire the shot.

Our score: 10-9 Love

Love’s check hook can’t miss at this point. His counters are sharp and Baranchyk is struggling. He’s still marching forward though — this is a great fight.

Just when Love seemed to be landing at will, Baranchyk landed clean and hard. Man this fight rules.

Our score: 10-9 Love

A much quieter round in the first minute. Love getting the best of the exchanges so far, with guard splitting straights. Love appears to have recovered just fine from that big shot at the end of the fifth round.

Our score: 10-9 Love

Love smells blood here, he’s marching forward for the first time in the fight, wailing on Baranchyk. Love is just too slick for Baranchyk, whose punches have lost a bit of sting. Baranchyk misses a massive shot and falls over. He needs a knockout now you suspect.

Whoa, an incredible counter shot sends Baranchyk to the floor right at the end of the round. Incredibly clean shot.

Our score: 10-8 Love

And Baranchyk’s corner waves it off. The fight is over. Montana Love takes it by TKO.

Yes, he’s related to Tyson Fury.

Tommy Fury is the brother of current heavyweight king Tyson Fury. He’s a lot younger, a lot more handsome and he’s currently unbeaten with six wins. Anthony Taylor’s record isn’t quite as inspiring with seven wins and five losses… in MMA. Also this fight was changed from a six round contest to a four round fight at the last minute.

Let’s see how this one plays out. Many are saying Fury is next for Jake Paul if he gets past Tyron Woodley and he’s a dramatic, overwhelming favourite for this one.

Man, the height and size difference here is pretty intense. Fury looks like he’s getting quite the layup here. 

Fury is leading with a sharp jab and quickly lands heavy to the body. Taylor walked into a sharp uppercut and is slowly starting to get lit up here. The uppercut seems like a good shot for Fury and Taylor is swinging wild.

Our score: 10-9 Fury

Well the predicted round 1 KO didn’t happen.

Fury is landing with sharp punches, but the old MMA style overhand right is there for Taylor, who is getting outworked here. He’s running out steam and energy. He survives the 2nd round, but hard to imagine him surviving this fight.

Our score: 10-9 Fury

Taylor is spirited here and comes out aggressive. He slips early, but it’s not ruled a knockdown. Fury is going hard to the body here, which is smart because he’s struggling to find the head. This is probably Taylor’s best round but he’s still getting pieced up here. 

Our score: 10-9 Fury

Well, maybe this will go the distance!

If Fury doesn’t get the knockout here, or at the very least a knockdown, it’s not a good look for him. He lands a few big shots, but Taylor clinches and survives. 

Taylor makes it to the bell as the crowd boos.

Our score: 10-9 Fury

Fury wins by decision 40-36 on all scorecards

Grab two pairs of NFL or MLB gloves for just $15 shipped

These logo-emblazoned utility gloves make an excellent (and useful) stocking stuffer.

Before you get too excited, be warned that not every NFL team is represented in the glove sale but 18 are, including the most storied franchises, such as the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Cowboys and ‘Niners. You have fewer options for MLB teams: just the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Tigers, Twins and Indians (who are soon to change their name).

You also can’t pair NFL gloves with MLB gloves, so you’ll have to pick two from the same sport. We haven’t gotten our hands in these gloves yet and so can’t speak to their quality, but they score high marks on Amazon, where the same gloves sell for $13 a pop.

CDC eases travel restriction on Japan and other countries ahead of the Olympics

The agency says people should be fully vaccinated before traveling.

The CDC’s Level 4 risk assessment advises against all travel to a country and recommends being vaccinated if you must go there. Level 3 is more forgiving. The risk is still high, but the CDC doesn’t strictly recommend against it for vaccinated people.

The State Department has updated its travel recommendations to match.

Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes share the cover for Madden NFL 22

The latest version of Madden is almost here, but the biggest changes are reserved for next-gen consoles.

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are the cover stars for Madden 22.

Madden NFL 22 marks the first time in over a decade that two people were featured on the same cover. Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald previously were the dual-cover stars for Madden NFL 10.

Moving beyond the cover, EA is touting a few improvements to differentiate this year’s edition from prior games. All versions of Madden 22 will be seeing improvements to Franchise mode to enable more detailed staffing and strategy control, as well as new cinematics. EA says it will continue to expand the franchise mode after launch, with a September update promised to provide improvements to scouting.

The biggest changes, however, will be in a new “dynamic gameday” experience that is exclusive to next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. EA says these changes will be impacting all modes throughout the game, from local games against the computer and online versus friends to franchise modes.

There will be new sideline animations in Madden 22.

As part of the “gameday” adjustments, the company has boosted the crowd and presentation elements of Madden 22 while adding additional localized changes to the on-field game, such as increasing passing and kick distance in Denver to account for the altitude while lowering short-term stamina for the visiting team.

A new “momentum” function has also been added to the next-gen versions that can impact the players on the field based on how the game is going and better imitate the pressure of NFL gamedays.

Away teams will have two of these momentum perks, what EA calls “M-Factors,” while home teams will get three as a bit of a home-field advantage. The home-specific perks will vary for each of the NFL’s 32 teams and can provide boosts for your team or disruptions to an opponent when triggered. Playing at home with the Minnesota Vikings, for instance, will get you a small speed boost in the red zone when the fans are doing their “Skol” chant. Visitors to Chicago will have a harder time kicking, while preplay play art on third and fourth down will be difficult to see in Seattle if momentum is on the Seahawks side.

The modifiers will vary based on each game and the situation you find yourselves in. Clint Oldenburg, gameplay producer for Madden 22, says there are roughly “40 plus” M-Factors in the game with more coming post-launch.

No player, not even cover stars Brady and Mahomes, will be immune to the impacts of the “M-Factors.” Games at neutral locations, like a Super Bowl, will not have extra perks for the home team.

In an expansion of an idea first introduced in the next-gen editions of Madden 21, EA says it will also be updating team and player tendencies throughout the season using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. In Madden 22, this feature will also appear in the game as a way to make game plan decisions pregame and adjustments at halftime by pulling data from how your opponent has played or is playing.

For next-gen consoles, Madden 22 will retail for $70. Older consoles, PC and Stadia players will be able to get the game for $60.

UFC 267 Blachowicz vs. Teixeira: Start time, how to watch or stream online

What UFC 267 lacks in star power, it makes up in compelling fights.

We last saw Blachowicz when he retained his title against Israel Adesanya.

Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira sits atop this card and while it’s almost strange to see Teixeira in a light heavyweight title fight, there’s little doubt he deserves his shot. Petr Yan vs. Cory Sandhagen is for the interim UFC bantamweight crown and is, for my money, a guaranteed banger of a contest. Two great strikers with phenomenal chins facing off against one another — absolutely can’t wait.

But almost every fight here is worth your while. Khabib Nurmagomedov’s protege Islam Makhachev takes on Dan Hooker and we have the long awaited return of rising star Khamzat Chimaev.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Be careful with this one! The times are very different compared to most UFC PPV events.

The UFC 267 main card starts at 2 p.m EDT (11 a.m. PDT) on Oct 30. Here are all the details from multiple timezones…

The UFC now has a partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 267, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 267 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 267 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

Like all UFC fight cards this is subject to change. We also expect they’ll split this into “Early Prelims” and “Prelims” at some point down the line.

UFC 265 Derrick Lewis vs. Cyril Gane: When it starts and how to watch

UFC 265 features a title bout between two strikers with markedly different skillsets.

Derrick Lewis and his post-fight interviews are the stuff of legend.

That said, this is still a compelling fight. Derrick Lewis is one of the UFC’s most recognisable stars and Cyril Gane is maybe the most technical striker in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Regardless of the reasons why the UFC set this fight up, it’s definitely going to be worth watching.

The remainder of the card features a few gems. A title fight between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena was unfortunately cancelled after Nunes tested positive for COVID-19, but Jose Aldo and Vicente Luque are both fighting on the undercard. Both always deliver high octane fights.

The UFC 265 main card starts at 10 p.m EDT (7 p.m. PDT) but here are all the details from multiple timezones.

The UFC now has a partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 265, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 264 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 264 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

As always, this fight card is subject to change. We’ll try and keep this as up-to-date as possible.

Bobby Green vs. Rafael Fiziev

Vince Morales vs. Drako Rodriguez

Alonzo Menifield vs. Ed Herman

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Penne

Manel Kape vs. Ode Osbourne

Miles Johns vs. Anderson Dos Santos

Victoria Leonardo vs. Melissa Gato

Johnny Munoz vs. Jamey Simmons

Here’s how to stream live NBA games on ESPN, TNT and more

This holiday, you don’t need cable to watch all of your team’s games from the comfort of your home.

While you absolutely don’t need cable to watch basketball this year, it still might be the easiest and cheapest choice depending on where you live.

Read more: NHL in 2021: How to watch and stream hockey without cable

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors during a recent game.

Die-hard sports fans are beholden to regional sports networks, or RSNs, that carry the majority of the games for their local team. These RSNs are usually included in local cable packages, so most cable subscribers never have to worry about gaining access to the broadcasts on these channels: They can simply turn on the TV and watch the game.

Cord-cutting basketball fans have a tougher path. Because of rights agreements, most live TV streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV don’t carry many RSNs. DirecTV Stream is the exception. It has nearly every RSN, particularly the Bally Sports channels (formerly Fox Sports) offered by Sinclair, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan.

Read more: DirecTV Stream review: Expensive, but the best option for streaming NBA and NHL

Ultimately, depending on your location, getting a cable subscription that includes ESPN, TNT and the local RSN might actually be cheaper and easier than streaming — especially if it’s bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.

For NBA fans looking to watch a ton of out-of-market basketball, a subscription to NBA League Pass has a lot to offer. You can get the whole NBA slate for $199 for the season, with commercials and one device, or $249 for the season with in-arena feeds instead of commercials, and the ability to watch on two devices at once. Those interested in following only a single team can buy a Team Pass for $119 for the season.

The key catch here is “out-of-market.” Most fans are in-market, meaning they follow the local team, and unfortunately for them RSNs have broadcast exclusivity in the region that they cover. That means local NBA games are blacked out on NBA League Pass.

If you’re living in Los Angeles, for example, you won’t be able to watch Lakers or Clippers games on NBA League Pass. The same goes for Knicks fans in New York, Bucks fans in Milwaukee and so on. The only way to watch most of those home team games in your home market is to get a service that has the local RSN, namely Spectrum SportsNet, Bally Sports SoCal, MSG Network or Bally Sports Wisconsin.

Services like NBA League Pass use IP addresses to block out games in viewers’ regions — you’ll just get a black screen if you try to watch those games. That’s why League Pass is ideal for those who want to follow one or more of the teams based in cities other than their own, aka out-of-market teams, but for local fans it’s not as useful.

In another twist, the NBA TV network will broadcast 107 games this season that will be considered national for those out-of-market. This means that you will still be able to watch your local team play on your RSN, but viewers around the country will need NBA TV in order to watch the game — it will be blacked out on League Pass.

Luckily, League Pass subscribers have the option of adding NBA TV to their package for an extra $60 a year or $7 a month. This is most likely one of the cheapest ways to get NBA TV for the out-of-market fan.

YouTube TV is the only live TV streaming service that includes NBA TV in its base channel lineup. DirecTV Stream, FuboTV and Sling offer the channel only on higher-priced tiers or in special add-ons; see below for details.

For those determined to watch their local basketball team without a cable or satellite TV subscription, a live TV streaming service is the best bet. While it is pricey, DirecTV Stream is the best option for most people, particularly those where the local games air on Bally Sports networks.

Below is a chart of all of the NBA teams in the US and their corresponding RSNs.

Note: None of the (US-based) services carry the RSN for the Toronto Raptors. Fans looking to watch Fred VanVleet and co. need to use NBA League Pass to get all the games that are not either on your local RSN or on a US national broadcast.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: If you don’t recognize the name of some of these channels, don’t worry. As mentioned, the Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s to rename them.

DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, ABC, TNT and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN as well as NBA TV. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 10 RSNs for basketball. It also includes ESPN, but not TBS — which might be a problem for some basketball fans. But you can add NBA TV for an extra $7 a month with the Fubo Extra Package or pay for the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier, which includes Fubo Extra. Check out which local networks and RSNs it offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers six RSNs for basketball, along with all of the national broadcasts including NBA TV. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu Plus Live TV costs $65 a month and carries six RSNs for basketball, along with ESPN, ABC, TBS and TNT, but not NBA TV. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch basketball. You can, however, use Sling to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, and both plans offer TBS, but neither of them gives you access to ABC. NBA TV is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan, or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

Field of Dreams swings a TV reboot from The Good Place creator

The Kevin Costner classic gets another turn at the plate as Peacock greenlights a TV series written by Michael Schur.

Kevin Costner (left) in Field of Dreams.

Mike Schur seems like a safe pair of hands, although the material may be a little different from his usual speciality: As well as creating The Good Place, Schur co-created sitcoms Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The original Field of Dreams, meanwhile, was an emotional and fantasy-inflected story (with a bunch of funny lines). You can watch it on Peacock now if you need a reminder.

Based on the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, the Oscar-nominated Field of Dreams was written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Costner played a farmer who hears voices in his head telling him to plow his cornfield into a baseball diamond, attracting the spirits of baseball players involved in World Series match-fixing in the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Costner emerged from the cornfield to deliver a spine-tingling intro to the 2021 Field of Dreams game, below.

MLB has promised a return to Iowa in 2022. Reports say the Cincinnati Reds will play the Chicago Cubs.

Thank you, Tokyo Olympics, for bringing us the ‘beast mode’ we all needed

Many wanted the Tokyo Olympics cancelled, but in the end, they were incredible.

The best.

Pushing past the flimsiest steel barrier ever constructed, into a restricted area he clearly shouldn’t have had access to, Boxall ripped off his required mask and proceeded to… dry hump a fence like The Ultimate Warrior circa Wrestlemania 6?

Like I said. Beast Mode.

The best part: In the background, a Japanese Olympic official, doing her level best to provide resistance, raises her hands like a frightened gazelle and then succumbs. Slowly those raised hands are lowered, evolving into confused claps. OK, she seems to say. You’re here now. There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m just going to try and enjoy this front row seat to Beast Mode, starring Dean Boxall.

In this metaphor, Boxall is the Tokyo Olympics. Both as an event and an idea. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic both probably shouldn’t be here. As the world reels from the effects of the delta strain and global vaccine hesitancy, this is the Olympics no one asked for. Dean, what are you doing here? Bugger off, Dean. Now is not the time.

High jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi gave each other their gold medals. This is too much.

Me? I’m the Japanese official. We’re all the Japanese official. Nervous, unsure how to react, ultimately acquiescing to this moment completely out of our control. Even in Japan, the host country, people were protesting the Olympics. First we collectively raised our hands in passive resistance. Seconds later we were all clapping.

And we were clapping because Dean Boxall is awesome. Reckless, sure. But so awesome. The Olympics were reckless too — but also awesome.

This is what the Olympics delivers: Beast Mode direct to your screen and your heart. It’s in the business of providing iconic moments like Boxall’s. Moments that simultaneously inspire and subvert our sense of what’s possible. Weird shit, displays of pure athleticism.

Two men collapsing into one another’s arms when they realize they can share a gold medal instead of duelling to the death for it. Skateboarding girls cheering each other on, making quick friends in the face of fierce competition. Runners stumbling, falling over in potentially race-ending collisions, miraculously recovering to win races.

Incredible, awe-inspiring moments.

Maybe it’s because we live in a universe where moments like these are worshipped, contorted and shaped into GIFs, tweets and memes in an infinite social media content spiral, but it somehow feels like we’ve had more of these moments compared to previous Olympics. That these Olympic Games have meant more than we ever could have expected when we cynically, reluctantly invited them into our homes.

Personally, as a man living in Sydney, a city wrestling with strict lockdowns that could potentially last for months, the Olympics was been a salve I didn’t realize I needed. It was a welcome distraction as I juggled home-schooling, work and a near-permanent dread at the daily ritual of waiting for Sydney case numbers to drop so we can all go back outside and live relatively normal lives.

There were a million reasons why the Olympic Games shouldn’t have happened in 2021. A million reasons why we shouldn’t have watched and supported what is arguably an irresponsible event run for the wrong reasons. But it’s also equally possible that — this year — the Olympics were more useful than ever.

The Tokyo Olympics probably shouldn’t have happened because of COVID-19. But I’m also happy it happened — because of COVID-19. If that makes sense.

None of it makes sense.

But right now, sport — with its simple rules and digestible outcomes, with its warm blanket of normalcy and straightforward narratives of triumph over adversity — is maybe the only thing that makes sense.

The Olympics, much like Dean Boxall, busted its way into our homes and televisions and refused to leave. An unwelcome guest. But, like the uncertain Olympics official dealing with the uncontainable Boxall as he dry humped a fence, I’m glad the Olympics forced their way into my life. I couldn’t have done lockdown without it.

Before the billionaires and oligarchs, the unlikely story of football’s first foreign owner

Way before international money flooded in, the first American owner in English soccer came to the rescue of a dying club.

Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

This international spending spree started when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003, but the largely forgotten first step toward today’s globalized era occurred way back in 1984. Football clubs were traditionally owned by local businessmen until California lawyer Bruce Osterman bought Tranmere Rovers, a proud but impoverished team in the unemployment-lashed north of England. It was the beginning of a new era — but you wouldn’t have known it at the time.

“The game as a whole was at its nadir,” remembers Mark Palios, a former footballer turned businessman who played for Tranmere in those dark days of the 1980s. “Gates were low, there was hooliganism, there was a complete lack of investment. It was a sick industry.”

What followed is more than a quirky footnote in sporting history — it’s a story of conflict between passion and business that any fan of any team in any country will recognize. Palios played an unexpected secret role in the ensuing drama, only to face a horribly familiar crisis threatening the club three decades later.

Mark Palios played for Tranmere in the 1970s and 1980s, taking an unexpected role in the drama behind the scenes — before returning to the club 30 years later.

Former Tranmere player Ken Bracewell was coaching a professional team in San Francisco in the early 1980s when he was approached by attorney and keen amateur goalkeeper Bruce Osterman. The glamour had faded from The National American Soccer League’s 1970s heyday, so Bracewell was surprised when Osterman wanted more than a chat about soccer teams — he wanted to buy one.

Why would a Californian lawyer want to invest in an impoverished sports team on the far side of the Atlantic?

“I was young and it seemed like a good idea,” says Osterman, now in his late 70s. “I had some extra money as I’d done well in my law practice,” he remembers in his unhurried California drawl over the phone from his home near San Francisco. “Tranmere was in real trouble so it was a number to purchase the team that I could afford.”

Tranmere chairman Bruce Osterman filmed at Prenton Park for a TV documentary.

Tranmere’s stadium Prenton Park is only a brief ferry ride away from footballing titans Liverpool and Everton, but in 1984 it might as well have been on a different planet. Barely clinging to professional status at the wrong end of the English leagues, with no money and plummeting attendances, Tranmere had special permission to hold matches on Friday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons so locals wouldn’t disappear to watch the team’s more glamorous neighbors.

“Tranmere will never compete with Liverpool and Everton,” one of the club’s managers later said. “They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere as a deadly submarine.”

In 1984 Tranmere was about to emulate a submarine in the worst possible way: by going under.

Osterman took advantage of the strife and a disastrously weak pound to buy the club, installing Ken Bracewell in charge. “I relied on Kenny for the day-to-day things,” Osterman recalls, “because frankly what the hell did I know?”

Bruce Osterman (crouching third from left, wearing glasses), lines up with a team of sports journalists playing a friendly at Prenton Park in August 1986. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the chap on the far left: popular TV and radio pundit Ray Stubbs, who played and worked at Tranmere.

Today’s game is full of players, managers and owners from other countries. In the 1980s it was more insular. English clubs were banned from European competition throughout the second half of the 1980s, foreign players like Tottenham’s Argentine duo Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were still a novelty, and there wouldn’t be a foreign manager until Jozef Vengloš arrived from Czechoslovakia to join Aston Villa in 1990.

Having staved off the club’s short-term woes, Bruce Osterman showed up at Tranmere for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. There was occasionally a language barrier with the distinctive Merseyside accent. “I used to go to sportsman’s dinners for people who had shares in the club, and I was usually the brunt of the after-dinner comedian,” Osterman remembers. “I know he was speaking English but I couldn’t understand a word!” Osterman’s family came too, although his wife found herself excluded from men-only areas such as the boardroom and team coach. “She tolerated my doing this, but it wasn’t a pleasant time for her,” Osterman admits.

Journalists were delighted by the sight of the bespectacled 43-year-old chairman diving around in the training field mud, while players mischievously blasted balls at him. This was all highly unusual, but still — Tranmere were saved.

In the days before television revenue, a lesser club’s main income was ticket sales. Larger-than-life characters attracted paying fans through the turnstiles, so Osterman made the unexpected choice to appoint Frank Worthington as the team’s player-manager.

Worthington, who died in March 2021, had two decades of experience on the field but had never managed a team. The mulleted Elvis fan was certainly an entertainer, a prodigious goalscorer and even more prodigious playboy. His autobiography, suggestively titled “One Hump Or Two,” lists more nightclubs than football clubs. Worthington joked that when he took charge at Tranmere the players thought they’d be in trouble if they got home before 2 a.m.

Larger-than-life character Frank Worthington playing for England.

In his first game before the Prenton Park faithful the dashing player-manager bagged three goals in a 6-2 victory, and he ended up scoring 20 that season. He also made shrewd use of Osterman’s limited budget — one of Worthington’s acquisitions, Ian Muir, remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer. But defence was poor and Tranmere couldn’t afford new blood.

“We didn’t have the players or the money,” Osterman admits. “I had no idea of the difficulty of handling a team even in the fourth division.”

One player understood the economics of Osterman’s situation more than most. Tenacious midfielder Mark Palios was a local lad in his second stint at Tranmere when Osterman arrived. Unlike most footballers, who typically spend their time between matches wasting money, Palios worked a unique parallel career managing money as he trained to be an accountant.

Mark Palios playing for Tranmere the night they beat Arsenal in 1973.

One day Tranmere’s directors walked into Palios’ office looking for advice. They wanted to push Osterman out. The surprised player found himself in the awkward situation of offering advice on the club’s financial future mere hours before pulling on his team shirt and running onto the pitch.

Tranmere’s cash flow crisis came to a head when the well-intentioned but overstretched Osterman tried to sell Prenton Park to make way for a supermarket. Fans, directors and local authorities turned against him.

The American dream had soured.

Thirty years later, in 2015, history repeated for Tranmere Rovers — and for Mark Palios. The club was again in dire straits on and off the field. And just like in the 1980s, a new owner stepped in. But this time, it was Palios who bought the club.

After combining his playing days with a successful accounting career, Palios had been CEO of the Football Association. A specialist in turning around failing businesses, he and his wife Nicola now tackled Tranmere’s turmoil.

Palios began a three-step process he’d applied to many dying companies: Find cash for breathing space. Use that breathing space to fix the business. And finally, bring in new investment.

Most important, the club had to break the cycle of lurching from savior to savior. Palios compares football clubs to gamblers gifted more chips who continue betting on the same old numbers. To really fix the ailing business, Mark and Nicola had to make new bets.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios and vice chair Nicola Palios took charge in 2014.

Back in 1985, Palios quit Tranmere and distanced himself from the boardroom shenanigans to avoid a conflict of interest. Ultimately the directors exploited changes to insolvency legislation to get rid of Osterman, Bracewell and Worthington, earning Tranmere another dubious distinction as the first football club to go into administration under the new laws.

In 1987, a new buyer offered less than Osterman paid for the club. Luckily for the American, a strengthened pound took the sting out of the loss.

A new owner and manager took over, but Tranmere’s troubles weren’t over. To ensure survival they had to beat Exeter City on the last day of the season or be disastrously dumped out of the professional league.

Kickoff was delayed as 7,000 fans crammed into one of Prenton Park’s signature Friday night matches on May 8, 1987. Mark Palios was there, although in another bizarre twist he could have been on the field — for either side. Exeter previously tried to sign him, while injury-plagued Tranmere desperately searched for Palios to see if he could help out in the crucial match. “We didn’t have mobile phones in those days,” Palios jokes. “[Tranmere] should have asked the administrators — they knew where I was…”

As the sky darkened above the floodlights neither side could break the deadlock — until six minutes from time, when Ian Muir’s pinpoint cross was headed home by defender Gary Williams. At the final whistle, the delirious crowd poured onto the pitch.

After this fairytale escape, new manager John King — another former Tranmere player, who coined the “deadly submarine” nickname — kicked off a resurgence in the 1990s. The team went to multiple finals at Wembley, rising through the divisions and almost surfacing alongside Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Ian Muir (right), signed by Frank Worthington and still Tranmere’s top scorer, celebrates the first of Tranmere’s many trips to the hallowed Wembley Stadium in the 1990s.

Sadly the golden era didn’t last, and in 2015 a run-down Tranmere sank out of the professional league entirely. Under different leadership that could have destroyed the club, but Mark and Nicola Palios had a plan to stay afloat. They developed new revenue streams which didn’t rely on a benefactor’s deep pockets, earned money from the stadium not just on matchdays, and built on the club’s standing in the community with training schemes for vulnerable youth. “The business model I’ve tried to produce is football-agnostic,” Palios explains. “So if I go, the business stays.”

The club is into phase three of the Palios plan: tempting investors. Palios contemplates leveraging the local area’s rich footballing heritage for projects such as a hotel, and perhaps even leaving Prenton Park (an idea that backfired for Osterman). Palios has his eye on building a new stadium at the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters dockland regeneration scheme, one of the largest development projects in Europe.

Tranmere returned to Wembley in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019, when Connor Jennings scored another last-gasp goal to secure Tranmere a second successive promotion.

Palios notes these long-term plans are “embryonic” and depend on factors like promotion to higher leagues, millions added to the bottom line, and major investors.

“It’s a way off,” Palios says of his potential vision for the future, “but if somebody comes in with serious money, you have to have a business plan. And the one thing I won’t do is limit ambition.”

To bring things full circle in terms of foreign backers, the Palios’ have shared photos of themselves courting international investment since this interview. This time Tranmere’s seeking funding from soccer-mad Indonesian businessman Simon Nainggolan, also known as Simon N.

The chaos at Bury and Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows how precarious the football business can be even with TV money and global investment. At Tranmere, smart commercial decisions and dedicated supporters kept the club alive. To fans’ delight, under manager Micky Mellon — yet another former player — the team won promotion in 2018 and again in 2019 (only to be summarily relegated again when the Covid pandemic ended the next season early).

Devoted Tranmere Rovers fans celebrate.

Bruce Osterman still practices law, although he stopped playing soccer at 60. “If I had to do it all again I would,” he says of his experience with Tranmere. “No foreigner had ever done this before, and I met a lot of great people. It was an adventure for me.”

For today’s US-based investment consortiums, owning a sports team is all about profit. For Bruce Osterman, it was an adventure. And for Mark Palios, sport offers a unique combination of both business and passion. When fans tell him they’re proud of the club, he says, “that’s the reward.”