The Pulse: World Cup kickoff and controversy, Giannis-Philly beef and NFL Week 11 primer

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World Cup Update

Go time, for better or worse

The World Cup is finally here. Qatar takes on Ecuador to kick things off at 11 am ET today. The US takes the pitch against Wales at 2 pm ET tomorrow. The Athletic has you covered on all fronts.

But — and who could possibly have seen this coming? — FIFA head Gianni Infantino caused a major stir on the eve of the tournament.

  • Addressing the very late U-turn to ban alcoholic beer from stadiums and what he called the West’s moral “hypocrisy” towards the event, Infantino likened the experience of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people in Qatar to his experience getting bullied for being a redhead.
  • “Today I have very strong feelings,” Infantino said. “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel (like) a migrant worker.
  • He also said he would be open to North Korea hosting a World Cup. Massive, massive yikes.

More links from The Athletic‘s comprehensive coverage:

American Football

NFL stretch run begins

Pop quiz: Can you name the two NFL teams that enter Week 11 undefeated on the road?

You probably came up with the Eagles…but the Jets? Both put their 4-0 away records on the line Sunday in a pivotal week for the playoff picture. The Athletic‘s NFL experts broke down the full slate here, but we pulled out our favorite storylines:

  • A one-week blip for Philadelphia? The Eagles, fresh off their first loss, visit Jeff Saturday and the Colts. Indy would get back to .500 — and into the wild-card race — with a win.
  • A real Jets-Patriots rivalry game. New York hasn’t won in Foxboro since the 2010 playoffs, and it lost to the Patriots just three weeks ago. Will Zach Wilson fare better this time?
  • Dashing from the snow: The Bills escaped Buffalo for Detroit, where they’ll host the Browns indoors. Cleveland allowed 491 yards to Miami last week and could be a nice remedy for Josh Allen’s recent struggles.
  • Game of the week: Cowboys at Vikings. Minnesota seemingly can’t lose, winning seven games in a row — all by eight points or less. Dallas is 6-3 and third in the competitive NFC East, making every week critical.

It’s a big week for fantasy, too, and we’ve got you covered: Jake Ciely’s rankings will be updated this morning, and Renee Miller is answering your last-minute questions here.


Shots and ladders

We have fresh NBA beef. Maybe?

You’ve probably heard by now, but in case you missed it, Giannis Antetokounmpo was at the center of a bizarre postgame scene also involving Sixers backup center Montrezl Harrell on Friday night that culminated in the two-time MVP knocking over a 76ers employee’s ladder .

Read the full play-by-play from Joe Vardon.

Where did things end up? Harrell tweeted that he asked Giannis to leave the court after the game because Philadelphia needed to turn it over; Giannis said it was “unprofessional” to try to stop him from doing his job. This might linger.

So, Pulse readers, what do you say? Let us know in the first Sunday Pulse Poll: Was Giannis in the wrong?

CFB Rundown

Nailbiter Saturday

(Photo: Jerome Miron / USA Today)

The penultimate week of the regular season was all about almost. Ohio State, Michigan and TCU all trailed in the second half before rallying to remain unbeaten.

No. 5 Tennessee was the exception, getting thrashed by South Carolina while quarterback Hendon Hooker left injured. The Vols’ Playoff hopes are done, but the top four should go unchanged this week.

The lack of upsets this week only makes next Saturday more consequential. Here’s what next week means:

  • Ohio State-Michigan is a Playoff game. The winner will be heavily favored in the Big Ten title game and have an inside track at a top-two CFP seed. The loser sweats it out for a week.
  • TCU’s final opponent is still in question. The Horned Frogs play 4-7 Iowa State next week. But who they’ll face in the Big 12 championship game is unclear; it’s either Kansas State or Texas.
  • USC is lurking. Are the Trojans a top-four team? It doesn’t feel like it. But Lincoln Riley’s team will be in prime position if it beats Notre Dame. USC vs. the OSU-Michigan loser could be this season’s big Playoff debate.
  • Spencer Rattler, dream crusher? The South Carolina quarterback tossed six touchdowns in the 63-38 win to kick Tennessee out of contention. Next week, he could do the same to Clemson.

Stewart Mandel has 20 more thoughts on Week 12. Can we fast-forward to next Saturday?

Pulse Picks

  • Time to jump on the Devils bandwagon: They’re the new No. 1 in The Athletic‘s NHL power rankings.
  • Great read from Joshua Kloke on Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan, the outgoing and outlandish heartbeat of the national team.
  • The NFL’s clock is ticking to land a new Sunday Ticket partner. Why is it taking so long?
  • Sam Blum explains why he was one of the two voters to pick Shohei Ohtani, rather than Aaron Judge, for MVP.
  • USA men’s basketball slipped to No. 2 in the FIBA ​​world rankings for the first time as Spain overtook the top spot. Team USA had been ranked No. 1 since the rankings were created nearly 20 years ago.
  • End of the “Moneyball” era: After 25 years as head of the A’s baseball operations department, Billy Beane is moving into a senior advisory role, allowing him to “explore non-baseball sports endeavors.”
  • The NFL must send a strong message after Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s arrest and DUI charge, Mike Jones writes.
  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant, off to a scorching start this season, is week to week after suffering a sprained ankle in Friday’s win.
  • The Dodgers plan to non-tender Cody Bellinger, making him a free agent, just three years after he won National League MVP.
  • What’s new with Victor Wembanyama? We’re tracking his path to the 2023 NBA Draft.

(Top photo: Danielle Parhizkaran / USA Today)


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