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Why Patrick Mahomes makes his home in Kansas City, not New York City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes was just 5 years old in 2000 but still recalls the reaction of the fans at Shea Stadium when his father, Pat, with an ERA of over 5.00, would come in to pitch for the New York Mets.

It made an impression on the younger Mahomes that maybe the big city wouldn’t be the best place for him if he someday played sports professionally.

“He started pitching badly, and right away when he got in the game, he started getting booed,” Mahomes said. “I got to see that firsthand as a young kid.”

When Mahomes signed his 10-year contract extension over the summer, it almost guaranteed he would play most — if not all — of his career in Kansas City, one of professional football’s smallest markets, with a metropolitan population of 2.14 million people. After Green Bay, Kansas City is perhaps the closest thing the NFL has to an anti-New York, and it could be the home of one of the league’s biggest stars through the 2031 season.

In fact, Mahomes — a regular around town — has expanded his involvement in the city with his 15 and the Mahomies Foundation, which benefits Kansas City-area children, as well as becoming a part owner of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

Mahomes signed such a long extension for football reasons, of course. In February, the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years and appear set for a dynastic run. Mahomes loves playing for coach Andy Reid and with this group of teammates. He said he has faith that 42-year-old general manager Brett Veach will continue to build a championship team around him after all of his teammates have moved on and even if the 62-year-old Reid decides at some point in the next 12 years to retire.

But as part of the deal, he’s also getting Kansas City. It’s a town where he says he can still go out at times without being bothered. He’s choosing Kansas City over places such as New York, Los Angeles and even Dallas, which isn’t far from his hometown of Tyler, Texas. He said he’s fine with that part of it, too.

“People have been generous here,” Mahomes said shortly before the Chiefs started training camp. “They’ve been nice to me and my family, and so I’m excited to have my future here. You go to some sports cities and if you’re playing badly on Sundays, it’s like they hate you and your family. Then you come to Kansas City and it doesn’t even matter. They care about the person you are and how you treat other people. It’s cool to be in a city like this.”

Mahomes could be paid as much as a half of a billion dollars over the 12 years of his contract, and that still might end up being a steal for the Chiefs. Not just because of Mahomes’ talent, but because the quarterback salary market might have left his deal far behind by 2031. But Veach and the Chiefs didn’t have to talk Mahomes into staying. It was something he wanted.

“He understands that there needs to be a sense of long-term thinking,” Veach said. “[He said,] ‘I want to win a long time here in Kansas City. There are only certain ways that this can be possible, and this is what’s important to me. I know I’m going to be taken care of the rest of my life, but I want to leave behind a legacy. And Kansas City is the place I want to do it.'”

Mahomes, whose face can be seen during commercial breaks on Sunday almost as often as during Chiefs games, wouldn’t be the first top NFL quarterback to play most or all of his career in a smaller city and still enjoy plenty of national attention. Brett Favre played 16 seasons in Green Bay. Peyton Manning spent much of his career in Indianapolis. Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers. In terms of national popularity or endorsement opportunities, those players were not hurt by playing in a smaller market. It didn’t harm the league, either. At Super Bowl LIV, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked what he thought of Mahomes’ playing in Kansas City.

“Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me,” Goodell said. “Not only is he an incredible player, but he is an incredible young man. Wherever he plays in the NFL, he’s going to have an impact. I’m proud to have him as a Kansas City Chief. I guess there are 31 other teams that wouldn’t mind having him, either.”

Mahomes has been such a success during his two full seasons as an NFL starter that it’s easy to conclude he could thrive playing anywhere, including New York. In 2018, his first season as a starter, he made the transition with ease. He became only the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and was named the league’s MVP.

Last year, his stats were more modest, but he was spectacular in the playoffs and in Super Bowl LIV, where he was named the game’s MVP.

Playing in Kansas City could give Mahomes a better chance to succeed long term. Dick Vermeil, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles and later the Chiefs, recently said the fan bases of the teams are similar with regard to their passion and loyalty. The difference, he said, is that Chiefs fans are far more forgiving when the local team loses and the star players don’t fare well.

Reid coached in both cities, as well. He was with the Eagles for 14 seasons and is now in his eighth season with the Chiefs.

“I know he loves it here,” Reid said. “He understands the benefits of community. We saw that when he came here and how he reached out and put himself out there with the community. It’s a great place for him to live. I think the fans respect him, and when he needs a little space, he can get the space, but at the same time, he can still be the quarterback of this franchise.

“He could survive anywhere. He’s wired that way. But this is a good place for him. I think he’ll thrive here.”

Mahomes began to take over Kansas City not long after he replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback in 2018. He appeared in local television commercials and on cereal boxes. Before the pandemic, Mahomes could be seen around town at baseball or soccer games, NASCAR races or concerts. This summer, he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Brittany, in one of the suites at Arrowhead Stadium.

Mahomes further planted a flag in Kansas City over the summer by purchasing a piece of the Royals. And it’s not like the Royals and owner John Sherman, who took over the team in 2019, went looking for Mahomes. It was Mahomes who contacted Sherman.

“He saw this as a way to double-down on Kansas City,” Sherman said. “When we acquired the team last November, we put together a great ownership group here … all people who loved baseball and loved Kansas City. Patrick kind of met that criteria. He did it for the right reasons. I felt like it was good for Kansas City, good for the Royals and also good for him. He’s got an interest in the game, and I think he also sees this also as a way to learn a little bit about the business of the game.

“He comes from a baseball background. He clearly loves the game. He chose football for his profession, but he’s certainly embracing Kansas City in a big way. That means a lot to us.”

Mahomes could have asked to join the ownership group of 29 other baseball teams. But he said he wasn’t interested in owning a team anywhere besides Kansas City.

“One hundred percent,” he said. “I’m going to be here a long time. I want to keep doing what I can to put roots down and trying to make the franchises, the Chiefs and the Royals, the best they can be. I wanted to be a part of the Royals baseball team. Being at the games, knowing the atmosphere in Kansas City, how much everybody loves the Royals and the Chiefs. I thought it was a good fit.

“I’m going to be in Kansas City for a long, long time, and I want to make sure that people know that as much as they’re passionate about the Chiefs and how we play, I’m passionate about being a part of Kansas City. If that’s through my foundation, trying to help the kids in Kansas City, playing game days here at Arrowhead Stadium or just being a part of things like the Royals, I want to find ways I can ingrain myself into the city that has shown me so much loyalty and passion every Sunday.”

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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.”

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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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