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League of Legends World Championship 2020 quarantine features cold food, smoker struggles and Among Us

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When Riot Games announced that the 2020 League of Legends World Championship would take place despite a global pandemic, the announcement was met with excitement but also curiosity regarding what the event would look like.

“Our on-going planning included — and still includes — closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, regular coordination with our team in Riot China and an external risk advisory organization (among others), and using the guidance from the CDC, World Health Organization and local and federal governments to prioritize safety,” Riot’s global director of esports operations Tom Martell said.

Worlds, which was originally set to take place across several cities in China, was reduced to two venues in Shanghai: the Shanghai Media Tech Studio for most of the tournament, which began Friday, and the new Pudong Football Stadium for the finals on Oct. 31.

Unlike the strict bubble environment of the NBA, which included six individual phases to ensure the season resumed safely with players confined to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Riot’s Shanghai bubble environment isn’t as restricted. Instead, players first undergo a period of mandatory self-isolation upon entering the country and then their movement throughout the city is limited.

“I haven’t really been able to go out much, but I was positively surprised by how they’re just handling COVID here,” Team Liquid mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen said. “It’s very professional, a lot of medics around, and just the way when we got into the country with security and medics everywhere, with the testing, etc. They seem to be doing really well with COVID here at least, so that was something I was pleasantly surprised by.”

Read more: League of Legends World Championship 2020: News, updates, stats and more | Ten years of worlds: A League of Legends World Championship oral history

Players from around the world were placed in a hotel to quarantine upon their arrival in China and underwent a 14-day mandatory isolation period. After that, players were allowed to rejoin their teams and moved to the event’s official hotel for the remainder of worlds as long they hadn’t contracted COVID-19. Thus far, no player or staff member has contracted the virus.

Players from China’s LoL Pro League teams, who have been relatively isolated at their respective gaming houses since returning to competition in Shanghai in the spring, have also joined players from around the world at the event’s hotel.

Quarantine procedures ticked up amid a scare early on in the preparation period ahead of worlds, but with no cases reported, the event has gone forward as planned so far.

“[Riot] met us in the lobby at the first day, and we signed a bunch of stuff before going to our individual rooms,” SuperMassive’s content manager Tunç Demirçelik said. “We had to stay there for 14 days. We had to take our temperatures twice everyday — one at morning and one at noon. At first we were doing it by ourselves, but at the third day they informed us that there were two COVID cases in our flight, so from then on, doctors came to our room every day and checked our temperatures themselves.”

Throughout the quarantine period, players’ main complaints were about the food and internet connection.

“I just sat in my room, played a lot of League of Legends. That was it,” Jensen said. “It wasn’t really anything special. I didn’t like the food too much, but besides that, it was OK. It’s a quarantine. We’re just there. We had our computers, so we played a lot of League of Legends but not really any interesting stories.”

“I liked it, but other teammates, they didn’t like it that much,” SuperMassive coach Lee “GBM” Chang-seok said. “I liked the food. I liked the rooms. They gave us basically everything that I need. We have eight people here, and six of them, they lost so much weight. I think you can guess why.”

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The quarantine period was particularly rough for cigarette smokers, sources told ESPN.

“They were in withdrawal for the first five days,” one team staff member said. “We couldn’t even open the windows because they said there are a lot of bugs around the hotel.”

However, it wasn’t doom and gloom for everyone. Some players embraced quarantine. While in self-isolation, they were still able to practice by playing solo queue and go about their day relatively similar to how they would if they weren’t in quarantine.

“I enjoyed quarantine,” Unicorns of Love mid laner Lev “Nomanz” Yakshin said. “It was probably the best time in my year. It was really good for our team. We relaxed. Every day during bootcamp I would see my teammates’ faces. So it was really good to chill [away] from them, just play scrims and be on my own and play solo queue.”

“It pretty much is what it is,” Legacy Esports jungler Leo “Babip” Romer said. “It kind of went past pretty quickly, but then again, while I was there I was like, ‘Ugh how many days left?’ After I was like, ‘Ah that wasn’t too bad.’ It’s not much different to what we actually do anyway, so just playing all day, no human interaction, there’s not much difference. It wasn’t bad at all.”

The lack of social interaction did take its toll on some players. For these players, there was a dramatic difference between being housed with teammates post-quarantine and living in complete isolation for 14 days.

“Quarantine for me was kind of boring because I enjoy too much being with the guys here. I tend to joke a lot with them and I feel pretty lonely,” Rainbow7 jungler Brandon Joel “Josedeodo” Villegas said. “When I’m alone I tend to be like thinking or doing things I’m not used to because I’m not used to being a lonely person. I just wanted it to end so we could be together again.”

MAD Lions bot laner Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság echoed this sentiment.

“Right now I’m used to it, but in the beginning it was pretty hard because I hate being alone, and being alone in a room for 14 days was really hard for me,” Carzzy said.

The European teams, including MAD Lions, took advantage of the recent popularity of the multiplayer game Among Us to play together online and socialize despite being separated.

“We had some fun playing Among Us with some G2 members, Rogue members, Fnatic members, just EU crew I guess,” MAD Lions support Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser said. “That was really fun. With our staff members back in EU too in Madrid. Of course, they had to deal with some time zone issues and stuff like that, waking up at like 5 a.m. to play Among Us with us, that was kind of weird, but it was really fun.”

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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