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Rory McIlroy and the U.S. Open he will never escape — even though he tried

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Within seven minutes of Bryson DeChambeau’s ball landing in the cup, the ripping sound of tires skirting on pavement whipped through Pinehurst Resort as Rory McIlroy’s courtesy Lexus SUV pulled out of his 2011 U.S. Open champion parking place and drove away from the day he’ll never escape. He stared into the distance as his agents and caddie spoke around him. No interviews. The 35-year-old Northern Irishman simply tossed his clubs and workout bag into the trunk, slipped into the driver’s seat and threw it into reverse. The U.S. Open ended at 6:38 p.m. At 7:29 p.m., McIlroy’s Gulfstream 5 took off, leaving the Sandhills of North Carolina without his fifth major championship but with the collapse that will define him forever.

Just 90 minutes earlier, McIlroy strutted down the 14th fairway prepared to redefine his career. Ten years without a major. Ten years of pain and close calls, a man who won four majors by the time he was 25 then fell short again and again. And here he was, with five holes remaining at the U.S. Open, leading Bryson DeChambeau and the field by two strokes.

But Rory McIlroy did not win the 2024 U.S. Open.

Three bogeys and a pair of missed three-foot putts later, McIlroy lost it to DeChambeau. It will be remembered far more than any of his four wins.


Chewing a nutrition bar walking off the 14th tee, McIlroy leaned over to peek at the 13th green to his right. McIlroy had a two-shot lead because he had just birdied 13 as DeChambeau — playing in the final group as the 54-hole leader — had bogeyed No. 12. But DeChambeau put his drive safely on the par-4 13th with a putt for eagle, and McIlroy wanted to get a look. DeChambeau ultimately birdied to get back within one.

McIlroy entered Sunday at Pinehurst three shots back of DeChambeau. He was not supposed to win this, but he seemingly went and grabbed it. For 13 holes, we saw the version of McIlroy many pleaded for during the past decade. He looked like a killer, or some version of it. He opened with a birdie on the first hole and birdied Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 13 with lengthy putts. He was winning this major.

But golf is not a sport kind to the premature formation of narratives.

He parred No. 14. Then, he bogeyed the par-3 15th after overshooting the green, but that was acceptable. It was one of the hardest holes of the day, and DeChambeau bogeyed it too.

It was on 16 that the fear kicked in. McIlroy had a simple-seeming par putt from two feet, six inches. And he missed. It wasn’t really close, rounding the left edge. Yet McIlroy remained on a mission to stay calm. The instant it missed, he flattened both his palms to give the “calm down” signal. Yet throughout the Pinehurst No. 2 a familiar sentiment was whispered. Not again.

And no matter how hard he tried to steel himself, McIlroy sent his tee shot on the par-3 17th into the left-side bunker. Credit to him, he hit a beautiful, soft pitch out from the sand and saved par.

But what happened next signaled it might be over far before it truly was.

McIlroy put his putter back into his bag, leaned over to grab his driver and his eyes bulged into a fearful grimace. The game plan was out the window. The thoughts that got him here were gone. He was flying blind.

See, McIlroy had a plan this week. He talked about it nearly every day from Tuesday through Saturday. Boring golf. Disciplined golf. Bogeys will happen, so never get flustered. “Just trying to be super stoic,” McIlroy said Tuesday. “Just trying to be as even-keeled as I possibly can be.” And he was for 71 holes, through it all. His tournament could be defined by how impressive that demeanor was, making the kind of ugly, tough par saves he historically missed.

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But somewhere between 16 and 18, McIlroy stared into the headlights and wasn’t prepared to look away. He was now a different golfer. His eyes looked like they were playing through each heartbreaking scenario, in turn putting them into fruition. Maybe then, we should have known.

So, for some inexplicable reason, McIlroy pulled out driver. Why, oh why, did he want his driver? The day before, he hit a 3 wood and left himself only a 133-yard wedge shot in. There was no need for extra length on the 449-yard hole. Maybe McIlroy, likely the best driver of the golf ball in recent memory, thought this would be his signature moment. Maybe he was chasing even though he was tied. Either way, McIlroy launched a drive too far left — into Pinehurst’s infamous native area, just in front of a patch of wiregrass. He had no play. He punched out an awkward little roller up to the front of the green. And again, his short game came to play with a nice little chip to three feet, nine inches from the 18th pin.

He missed. Again.

It was as if Bill Buckner let a second ball go through his legs. There is no explanation nor any defense. McIlroy’s short, softly hit putt broke right immediately and rode the right edge of the hole. Rory McIlroy had just bogeyed three of the final four holes to hand away the 2024 U.S. Open, giving Bryson DeChambeau room to earn it with an incredible up and down out of the 18th bunker to par and take the title. If McIlroy made both three-foot putts, he wins the U.S. Open. If he makes one, he goes to a playoff. But he made neither.

McIlroy signed his scorecard in the scoring tent and watched the finish on TV with the slightest, faintest sense of hope. He ate another nutrition bar during DeChambeau’s bunker shot. His hat sat loosely crooked on top of his head for the final putt with hands on his hips. He took one last nervous, sick-to-his-stomach gulp down his throat before the putt fell in. When it did, he turned, looked down, swallowed once more and exited out the door behind him. He gathered his belongings and made his way to the Lexus.

The golfer known for his ability to speak eloquently on all subjects declined to speak to media. There was nothing left to say.


McIlroy’s career began with a collapse. He was just 23 and entered Sunday at the 2011 Masters with a four-shot lead but shot a disastrous 80 to fade away. People will always remember that day, but he won the U.S. Open two months later. It was the first of four majors in as many years. He seemed on pace to chase the greats.

He’s never won a major again.


Rory McIlroy had a two-shot lead with five holes to play Sunday. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

But unlike so many other sports figures who burned bright early only to fade out, McIlroy’s game didn’t dissipate. He’s remained one of the three or four best players in the world for most of these last 10 years. He’s won 26 PGA Tour events. He’s finished top 10 at 21 of the 37 majors since. By most metrics, the past three years have been his best. He just couldn’t win. Most wouldn’t have even called him a choker. First, he just got off to a bad starts and finished hot. Then, the last three years, somebody else grabbed it from him. At the 2022 Open Championship, he shot a perfectly fine Sunday 70. He just couldn’t hit the 50-50 birdies, and Cameron Smith did to shoot a 64 and steal it. At the 2023 U.S. Open, he entered one back of Wyndham Clark. They shot the same Sunday score. He didn’t hand these away.

The 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst? Rory McIlroy choked.

McIlroy has made some enemies in his time, and two of the people he’s bumped heads with most are Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, two players as synonymous for their epic collapses as they are for their eight combined majors. Norman is most famous for his six-shot 1996 Masters disaster. Mickelson famously double-bogeyed the 18th hole at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot to give it to Geoff Ogilvy. Now, McIlroy will live forever with those two men.

There aren’t many comparisons in sports to the path of McIlroy. There aren’t other athletes or team dynasties that won multiple titles immediately, stayed at the top of the sport but became known as chokers at the end of their run. The Patriots won three more titles after the Super Bowl losses to the Giants. The core of the 2004 Yankees was aging, and they won again five years later. Jordan Spieth didn’t give majors away after his third major before the age of 24 — his play declined.

The hardest part with McIlroy is always thinking he might get the next one. He is still that good. He still has a runner-up finish at a major each of the past three years. And there’s this idea that if he keeps putting himself in contention, the cards will eventually fall his way.

But on Sunday, something changed. McIlroy is 35 now, and maybe the muscle memory has faded over the last decade. How to put your entire dreams into something and have it work out. How to prove a narrative wrong or hit the perfect shot with thousands of fans living and dying with every swing.

Rory McIlroy sped off out of the Pinehurst Resort parking lot early Sunday evening not just a man in heartbreak. He drove off as forever the man who missed those two putts.

(Top photo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)





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The Acolyte Continues George Lucas’ Akira Kurosawa Inspirations

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Leslye Headland also cited a direct reference to “Yojimbo,” Kurosawa’s most western samurai film. Sergio Leone remade it shot-for-shot into the spaghetti western “For A Fistful of Dollars” and its influence is evident in characters like Han Solo and in many other parts of the “Star Wars” universe.

In “Yojimbo,” Kurosawa uses the dust and the wind to tell visual elements of the stories, and the streets of the town Toshiro Mifune’s bodyguard character finds himself in are particularly dusty. As the Jedi track down Mae on Olega after her murder of Jedi Master Torbin, they corner her in a dead end that looks like a color version of the set from “Yojimbo,” replete with a dusty street. Just as Kurosawa uses the wind and dust to key us into the emotions of the storytelling, Headland does the same here while telling a character-focused story about a mastery of the Force.

As Master Sol manipulates the Force and fights with Mae, the dirt and dust goes undisturbed. When Yord joins the fight, everything he does in the Force kicks up a considerable amount of dust. Uncontrolled and unrestrained, Mae causes an explosion of the dirt of the street and uses it to escape. This sort of storytelling comes right from Kurosawa and adds a unique layer that will work only subconsciously on most viewers, but is powerful nonetheless.



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Forty years after drafting Mario Lemieux, the Penguins feel his impact every day

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Eddie Johnston, the general manager who drafted Mario Lemieux 40 years ago this month, had only one concern when he announced the historic selection at the old Montreal Forum — and it wasn’t whether Lemieux would pull a Penguins jersey over his head.

Lemieux did not.

Ironically, Lemieux’s first act with the Penguins was to somewhat distance himself from a franchise he would spend the next four decades personifying, influencing and owning on and off the ice.

“That was his agents, not Mario — he didn’t want to do it,” Johnston said. “Mario and I never talked about it. Not that day. Not to this day.

“I’d done my homework. Now, you hear about generational prospects. No, Mario wasn’t generational. He was once in a lifetime, and not just as a player — as a person.

“We (the Penguins) aren’t here without Mario.”

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Perhaps you’ve heard something similar before. For those unfamiliar, consider the circumstances in Pittsburgh preceding Lemieux’s arrival in 1984:

  • The Penguins were nine years removed from bankruptcy.
  • They averaged fewer than 8,500 fans during the 1982-83 season when they finished with only 45 points and a minus-137 goal differential despite a sixth-best 81 power-play goals.
  • They practiced at a suburban high school rink, then one of only a few around Pittsburgh.
  • They had never made it past two rounds of a postseason and were most known for two crushing playoff losses to the New York Islanders — a blown 3-0 series lead in 1975 and a 3-1 third-period lead in an overtime loss in a decisive Game 5 in 1982.
  • Their owner, Edward DeBartolo, Sr., favored selling the franchise to support the more successful, and popular at the time, Pittsburgh Spirit, an indoor soccer team that also played at Civic Arena.

“When I played for the Oilers, we loved coming to Pittsburgh,” Paul Coffey said. “It was a great sports town. There were Steelers shirts and Pirates hats everywhere. All the same colors, that black and gold. We’d play the Penguins, and the games weren’t very competitive, to be honest, and I’d tell the guys after the game when we were having a few pops, ‘Man, if they ever figure out the hockey thing here, this will be a destination.’

“Well, they figured it out. The answer was Mario. I don’t think any player in our game has meant more to a city or franchise.”

That is a big statement, though it comes from a past teammate of Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman — so Coffey, a Hall of Famer like those three, is a qualified expert. And it’s not as though Coffey is alone in that opinion.

Scotty Bowman, the NHL’s most accomplished coach, won one of his nine Stanley Cup championships behind the bench with Lemieux’s Penguins in 1992. The Penguins had won their first title in 1991, and Lemieux, coming off a back surgery in 1990 that diminished his wow-gosh shiftiness and afforded him only two more seasons playing in at least 70 games, had been dubbed the new “Mr. Hockey” by Sports Illustrated after averaging 2.05 points per game en route to consecutive Stanley Cup/Conn Smythe wins.

“That was what people called Gordie Howe,” Bowman said. “To give that to Mario, and he deserved it, was special.”

Arguably, he and the Penguins were at their peak, even with his bad back. He began the 1992-93 season with 39 goals and 104 points in 40 games before missing two months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease (now called Hodgkin lymphoma).

He returned after eight weeks of treatment, and virtually no time on the ice, to score 30 goals and 56 points in his final 20 games.

“He wanted Wayne’s (single-season points) record,” said former Penguins great Kevin Stevens, referring to Gretzky’s 215 points. “He was going to wipe it out if you ask anybody on our team.

“If Mario doesn’t get cancer that season, he might have got 100 goals and 230 points. I’m not kidding. And we win the Cup again, and he goes down as the greatest ever — even over Wayne.”

In the decades-old debate of Gretzky or Lemieux, Gretzky wins pretty much everywhere but Montreal and Pittsburgh. It’s Pittsburgh where Lemieux is universally viewed as the greatest, and not because of his three Hart Trophies, six Art Ross Trophies and those two Cup wins.

“He’s Paul Bunyan in Pittsburgh,” Bryan Trottier said. “I mean, the story of Mario has so much that you wouldn’t believe it’s real.

“He was never healthy by the time I got to Pittsburgh (1990). He had the back. He had the cancer. His hips were a mess. He couldn’t tie his own skates. Through all of it, he was still the best player in the league, but it went beyond that with Mario.

“He literally made the Penguins what they’ve become.”

Again, perhaps you’ve heard something similar before. For those unfamiliar, consider the circumstances in Pittsburgh following Lemieux’s Hodgkin’s disease diagnosis in 1993:

  • He played in only 22 games in 1993-94 and sat out the 1994-95 season.
  • He returned to capture another Hart Trophy, his third, and two more Art Ross Trophies, his fifth and sixth, but retired for three-plus seasons after the 1996-97 season.
  • He was not paid the bulk of a then-record contract because of ownership’s financial issues.
  • Amid ownership strife and crippling debt, the Penguins declared bankruptcy a second time and were at risk of being relocated or dissolved in the late 1990s, and Lemieux was their largest owed creditor.

“The Canadiens and Rangers were willing to pay him $25 million to play for them one season,” Johnston said. “He could have done it and made most of his money. But there was no chance. Not Mario.

“The Penguins meant too much to him.”

So, after doing the once-thought impossible by bringing the Penguins even with the Steelers and Pirates in popularity in the early 1990s, Lemieux ended the decade by forming an ownership group to purchase them from bankruptcy. A feel-good story — except that previous ownership had taken renovation money for Civic Arena instead of getting in on the sports facilities legislation that Pennsylvania politicians passed for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia’s teams. Lemieux owned the Penguins, but they remained in a bleak financial situation, especially with Jaromir Jagr’s hefty contract and an unfavorable revenue arrangement at their arena.

“Things weren’t great even after he had control of our team,” said Mike Lange, the longtime voice of the Penguins. “I’ll tell you, if Mario doesn’t come back in 2000, I don’t know if we make it long enough for ‘The Kid’ to arrive however many years later.”

Lange means Sidney Crosby — “Sid the Kid,” whom the Penguins drafted first in 2005. A lot was asked of Crosby, but it was nothing compared to what had been asked of Lemieux.

“Not even close,” said Crosby back in 2016. Crosby played with Lemieux briefly before the latter retired for good in 2005 and spent a couple of seasons living in Lemieux’s guest house.

“I mean, when you think of everything we have here — this (practice) facility, the (current) arena, the expectations — it’s all from what he did for the Penguins. It’s a special thing with Mario and this franchise. I don’t know if people outside of Pittsburgh really appreciate what it is. It’s unique. You just don’t see it very often.”

Michael Farber, who wrote about Lemieux often for Sports Illustrated, cited Babe Ruth with the New York Yankees and Bill Russell with the Boston Celtics as the only comparable athletes to Lemieux in terms of influencing a franchise. Unlike Lemieux, both finished with stints elsewhere — Ruth as a player with the Boston Braves, Russell as a coach/general manager with the Seattle SuperSonics.

Lemieux remains a minority owner of the Penguins.

His ownership group sold to Fenway Sports Group a few years ago, but Lemieux kept a fractional share. He’s not involved in any day-to-day decisions. However, as was evident when he returned for Jagr’s jersey retirement this past February, there is one Penguin who stands above all.

The Penguins carefully planned Lemieux’s participation in Jagr’s jersey retirement ceremony. He did not want to take away from Jagr’s big night. Still, when it came time for Lemieux to be introduced to a sellout crowd at PPG Paints Arena that evening, extra time was built in because the Penguins’ game night operations crew anticipated fans would want to give Lemieux a lengthy standing ovation.

They did. They always do.

“Of course they do,” Trottier said. “It’s not just that Mario was a great player for the Pittsburgh fans. It’s that they saw him deal with the health struggles. They see his charity doing work with the local hospitals. They know he saved the team twice.

“And, let’s be honest, the Penguins became the Penguins — high-flying, high-scoring, big stars like Jags and Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin — because of Mario. The identity of the franchise is still based on what he was and did.”


Mario Lemieux waves to the crowd at Jaromir Jagr’s jersey retirement ceremony in February. (Justin Berl / Getty Images)

Forty years after drafting Lemieux, Johnston shared his one concern from that day in the Montreal Forum. He had planned to announce the pick in his native French tongue, but he was nervous his excitement would “mess it up.”

He did not.

“I’d spent so much time telling Mr. DeBartolo how special Mario was. He finally said, ‘Eddie, he’s just one man — no one person can live up to what you’re telling me,’” Johnston said.

“I told him, ‘Just watch. Mario’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to this team. They’ll be talking about him long after we’re gone.’”

They are, and perhaps nobody captured Lemieux’s importance to the Penguins better than Farber.

“Ruth and Russell are pretty good company,” Farber said. “Even if you want to look at just hockey, you get to Wayne, as you always do when you discuss Mario. But Wayne belonged to the sport.

“Mario belongs to the Penguins. And he has since he finally put on that jersey.”

Lemieux did don the Penguins crest a few days after the 1984 NHL Draft. There is a picture of him in it, standing atop Mount Washington, Pittsburgh’s skyline as the background.

Johnston loves that photo.

“Mario, wearing our jersey, our city — that’s all you see, and it’s perfect,” he said.

(Top photo: Allsport / Getty Images)



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Inside Out 2’s Box Office Success Proves Pixar Must Keep Making Original Films

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A recent Bloomberg report cast doubt on Pixar maintaining its status as a place that could birth a true blockbuster original. The report notes that Pixar is going to focus more on sequels, spin-offs, and even reboots of successful franchises such as “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo.” When it comes to originals, they will “focus less on autobiographical tales” such as “Luca” or “Turning Red” (both of which were met with widespread acclaim). The studio will “instead develop concepts with clear mass appeal.”

Granted, this report came out before the blockbuster success of “Inside Out 2.” Who knows how or if that will change the current thinking at Disney and Pixar. But what doesn’t change is the cold, simple fact that this movie does not become a blockbuster success unless the first “Inside Out” gets made in 2015. Pete Docter’s film, on paper, does not scream “hit.” And yet, a movie about the internal emotions of a young girl went on to make $858 million worldwide on its way to an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. That original hit set the stage for an even bigger sequel that is now saving theaters from a particularly brutal summer season.

Simply put, if Pixar truly does become more risk-averse and franchise-dependent, the next “Inside Out” is unlikely to make its way out into the world. If we lose out on that, then we don’t get “Inside Out 2.” To get franchises, new ones must be created. Pixar, dating back to the groundbreaking success of “Toy Story” in 1995, has been arguably the best in the business at creating new franchises — period. That shouldn’t end just because Disney had a couple of rough years.

Not to be lost in the conversation about “Inside Out 2” is the success of “Elemental” last year. Even though the Pixar original opened with a seemingly disastrous $29.6 million domestically, it went on to have one of the most improbable runs at the box office in history, finishing with $496.4 million worldwide. That’s proof that original projects still perform well for the studio.



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England start Euro 2024 with a win – but there was that familiar issue of losing control

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Jude Bellingham wasn’t having it. He wasn’t having Serbia forcing their way back into this match and, once it was over, he wasn’t having anyone rain on his or England’s parade.

It was put to him in the post-match news conference that while the first half against Serbia had shown why England are among the favourites to win Euro 2024, the second half had shown the shortcomings that might ultimately be their undoing.

“I don’t really agree with that,” said the 20-year-old, England’s goalscorer in their 1-0 victory in Gelsenkirchen. “The first half shows why we can score goals against any team and the second half shows why we can keep a clean sheet against any team.”

Bellingham said there was “always a negative theme” in terms of public and media reaction to England’s performances — “and sometimes rightly so” — but he preferred to accentuate the positive.

They had to “hold on at times and suffer a little bit” in the second half at the Veltins-Arena, he said, but they had won the game. And “this team is still new”, he added, “gelling together with every game”.

He made some good points. Not so much those about what England had proved by beating Serbia, but certainly those about this being a new squad and about the desperation in some quarters to criticise performances and, in particular, manager Gareth Southgate at every opportunity.


(Christopher Lee – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

It was impressive to see such a young player talking in such forthright terms, determined to challenge and reshape the narrative around his team. He wasn’t going to shrug his shoulders and let journalists talk down his team’s prospects.

But it wasn’t as convincing as his typically assertive performance on the pitch. England played well for half an hour, taking the lead when Bellingham charged into the penalty area and finished off an excellent move with a bullet header from Bukayo Saka’s cross, but their early momentum faded and was never recovered. The second-half performance was passive; Serbia substitute Dusan Tadic said England had “offered themselves to us”.

All of this would be far easier to gloss over if it didn’t seem symptomatic of a long-term trend. There are so many things Southgate has changed for the better over the past seven-and-a-half years, but there are still so many occasions when, having taken charge of a game, his team gradually lose the initiative, retreat and find themselves clinging on unconvincingly.

It happened against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final, away to Spain in the Nations League later that year, Italy in the Euro 2020 final, Italy again in a Euro 2024 qualifier in Naples last year. England still managed to hold on to win two of those games, but not the two that mattered most when the stakes were highest.


(Michael Regan – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

How far do you want to go back? European Championship eliminations at the hands of Iceland in 2016 and Italy in 2012. It happened against the U.S. in their opening game of the 2010 World Cup. It was the theme of their World Cup campaign in Germany in 2006 when they ended up hanging on for a stodgy win over Paraguay in their opening game and had a similar experience against Ecuador in the round of 16 before succumbing to Portugal in the quarter-final here in Gelsenkirchen.

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England’s 58 years of hurt – by the players who lived it

There is a technical issue in terms of the type of midfielders England have had, but it also seems to be part of the national team’s psyche. England lost quarter-finals from winning positions against Portugal at Euro 2004 and Brazil in 2002. First half good, second half not so good — as their then-coach Sven-Goran Eriksson used to say.

England had three shots in the first half-hour last night and then just two (a long-distance effort from Trent Alexander-Arnold and a Harry Kane header that was pushed onto the crossbar) for the rest of the game. They had 71 per cent possession for the first half-hour but then just 44 per cent for the rest of the game. The drop-off wasn’t quite as stark as that qualifying game in Naples last year (when England completed 233 passes in the first half and only 96 in the second), but it was still troubling.

The balance of the midfield was encouraging for the first 30 minutes, with Bellingham the dominant figure all over the pitch, Alexander-Arnold looking short and long with his passing and Declan Rice always moving, always doing the simple things well, always on the scene quickly whenever possession was lost.

But Alexander-Arnold’s influence faded. So did that of Saka, after an excellent first half, and Phil Foden, who was quieter throughout. The balance of the left-hand side, with Kieran Trippier filling in at left-back while Luke Shaw tries to build up his fitness, wasn’t right, but the issues went beyond that. Southgate put it down to a loss of energy among his team — “and that didn’t surprise me,” he said, “because of the lack of 90 minutes that a lot of the players have had recently.”

A team’s opening game of a tournament can often be like that. Being quick out of the blocks matters far less than building momentum as the tournament goes on.

England have done that well under Southgate. The last European Championship, when they looked rather laboured against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic in the group stage before beating Germany, Ukraine and Denmark en route to that fateful final against Italy, was a case in point.


(Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

That is why Bellingham and his team-mates were entitled to enjoy their victory here. “You look across the past few tournaments we’ve had and it’s always crucial to get the first win,” Trippier said afterwards. “It gives us great momentum and belief. It shows the character of the boys. We’ve learned a lot today, but the most important thing is the three points.”

Everyone who spoke afterwards — Southgate, Bellingham, Trippier, Alexander-Arnold, Rice, Kane — mentioned the character and resilience England had shown in the second half. When the pressure was on, they defended well. Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Trippier and Rice all made important interventions, but perhaps the most pleasing performance was that of Marc Guehi, the Crystal Palace centre-back who justified his selection.

Rice called it “a game of two halves” but said that “in the end, I thought it was comfortable”. “We have built this team off clean sheets,” he said. “At the last Euros, we had five out of seven games. We have real defensive solidity and it is about doing it on the night. To win that game tonight was a really good start for us. We just have to use the ball a bit better in the second half when it starts to get tough.”

That always seems to be the big issue for England: retaining control of games rather than allowing initiative and momentum to be lost. Rice spoke about it as if it was something that will be rectified on the training ground over the next few days before they face Denmark in Frankfurt on Thursday.

But sometimes it feels like something in England’s DNA. It is something Southgate and his players, for all the national team’s undoubted progress of recent years, still have to overcome. At least, having started their campaign with a win, they can seek to address it from a position of strength.

(Top photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)



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ILM Is Making Great Animated Movies Again, Including Transformers One

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After “Strange Magic” became a colossal failure, only grossing $13(ish) million on a budget close to $100 million, the future of ILM in animation looked dire. But almost a decade later, they have returned with a vengeance.

First, there’s the recently released Netflix movie “Ultraman: Rising.” Directed by Shannon Tindle and co-directed by John Aoshima, “Rising” is a bold new reimagining of the iconic Japanese tokusatsu hero. The film follows Ken Sato, an egotistical baseball player who takes up the mantle of Ultraman from his father and works to defend Tokyo from kaiju. He has to learn what it truly means to be a hero after he reluctantly adopts a baby kaiju upon defeating her mother, resulting in an emotionally-packed, visually stunning film about parenthood.

Then, later this year, Paramount will release “Transformers One,” the first theatrically released animated movie in the franchise since 1986. Directed by Josh Cooley, the film tells the origin story of Optimus Prime and Megatron as they go from best friends to sworn enemies at a time when Cybertron was at peace. 

Sure, both these movies are based on beloved and very profitable franchises rather than strictly original films. However, they also manage to stand out from the IP-obsessed Hollywood landscape thanks to their unique stories and ILM pushing the boundaries of 3D animation.



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MLB City Connect: All 29 uniforms ranked, from the so-so to the sublime

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Editor’s note: This column has been updated to include the Los Angeles Dodgers’ second City Connect entry, which was introduced Monday afternoon.

When the Minnesota Twins took the field last Friday, they became the 28th team to debut their MLB City Connect uniforms, capping off the first round of Nike’s planned three-year cycle of city-inspired fits. (It will begin again this week as the Dodgers debut their second iteration.) The two teams not participating in this round were the New York Yankees, who don’t mess around with their classic look, and the Oakland Athletics, who are in a complicated situation with the city they are supposed to connect with.

Eight teams debuted new uniforms this season: the Twins, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit TigersNew York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays.

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MLB City Connect series: All 20 uniforms ranked, including the newest ones from 2023

With each new uniform set introduced, many opinions have been espoused online and at the ballpark. All versions seem to have their detractors and defenders, stirring up purists and progressives alike.

It’s hard to find a consensus for something like this, but our panel — featuring MLB writers C. Trent Rosecrans, Tyler Kepner and Stephen J. Nesbitt and Culture writer Jason Jones — took the baton from last year’s cohort and made a case for its favorites, discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of the complete City Connect slate.

Our writers ranked each uniform using a scoring system of 1-30 (1 being the best), and those totals then were averaged and ranked. Here are their takes:



Joe Kelly. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

The uniforms, in addition to showing love to the Hispanic community, celebrate Fernando Valenzuela and his outstanding rookie season in 1981, which resulted in a World Series championship.

On-field debut: Aug. 20, 2021

C. Trent Rosecrans (29): Just lazy. While I’m not an all-out hater of dark jerseys on dark pants, the switch to white pants from blue pants was an improvement. But the fact they needed to change it tells you all you need to know about how much effort was put into these.

Tyler Kepner (29): With all of Hollywood to use as a theme, slapping “Los Dodgers” on a blue jersey (over blue pants, no less) was almost aggressively dull.

Stephen J. Nesbitt (29): Odds are, if you go to a game at Dodger Stadium and sit at least 10 rows back, you’ll forget these are City Connects. It’s hard to miss them when they’re gone if you barely noticed them in the first place.

Jason Jones (16): I like “Los Dodgers” but as a Los Angeles native, “Los Doyers” would have been better. They’re not terrible, but not great. Kinda in the middle. More black on the jersey might have helped.

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Dodgers unveil Fernandomania ‘City Connect’ uniforms

28. Detroit Tigers (24.75)


Tarik Skubal. (Junfu Han / USA Today)

An homage to the Motor City’s ingenuity, these unis feature several car-inspired details, including tire treads, VIN tags and road signs.

On-field debut: May 10, 2024

Rosecrans: (26): At least in other hype videos, they pretend to like the new uniforms, but in this one half the people are wearing regular Tigers gear and they rap about the Old English D, which only has a cameo on the uniform’s sleeve patch. The tire tracks look like the people wearing this have been run over, which may be an appropriate metaphor for the last decade or so of Tigers baseball, but it’s hardly inspiring.

Kepner (27): This predictable “Motor City” theme is begging for the Jaws of Life. It’s yet another dark jersey over dark pants combo, with a cap that looks like a mid-level prize option at a carnival.

Nesbitt (27): In case the “Motor City” nickname didn’t get the theme across, you’ve got tire tracks down the placket (?), a VIN tag on the cap and helmet (??), and a sleeve patch designed like the M-1 road sign (???). We get it! Cars! It could have been worse, I guess. Shocked that the designers didn’t just slap “SOUTH DETROIT” across the chest while they were at it.

Jones (19): I’m fine with “Motor City” but it goes overboard with the car references. Who wants a jersey with tire marks?! Might as well have used a license plate for names on the back.

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Behind the Tigers’ City Connect jersey design: Paying homage to the Motor City


Connor Joe. (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

Incorporating the colors of black and gold is a Pittsburgh sports thing. Also, notice in the shirt the asteroid, which references the city’s “steelmark” logo.

On-field debut: June 27, 2023

Nesbitt (25): These are bright and loud, but not novel. Going with black and yellow in a city where every team wears black and yellow is safe. That’s fine. But this franchise has a rich history of interesting and unusual uniforms from which inspiration could have been drawn.

Kepner (16): The yellow-over-black works really well; it’s the combo the Pirates wore in their last World Series victory, Game 7 in 1979 World Series. But “PGH” is just so lazy. Give us a new pirate, or go back to that rugged rapscallion from ’79.

Rosecrans (28): There’s no better example of being so close yet so far away than this thing. It’s much like the Braves in that it’s almost more of a throwback than a City Connect, but at least the Braves’ uniform looks good on its own. This does not.

Jones (29): I guess it’s illegal for teams from Pittsburgh to not wear black and yellow. The huge “PGH” feels like someone’s initials. These are too basic.

26. Philadelphia Phillies (23.5)


Bryson Stott. (Bill Streicher / USA Today)

Taking its palette from the city’s official flag, the blue-and-yellow kit incorporates some of Philly’s most famous historical iconography.

On-field debut: April 12, 2024

Nesbitt (23): These were billed as “unapologetically Philly.” Nothing says Philly like a font pulled from our founding fathers’ documents. Nothing says Philly like a disconcerting blue gradient. Nothing says Philly like a numeral style that makes Trea Turner’s number look like a question mark. So edgy. So historic. So unapologetically Philly.

Rosecrans (20): This is one where I think it’s important to see the uniform on the field. I defended this when it was announced and we saw the studio pictures. I was wrong. Seeing this on the field, it’s, well, a series of choices. The biggest difference between glamor shots and game action is just how utterly ridiculous the gradient from blue to black looks with the jersey going into the pants. The hat is elite, but it’s not enough to save everything beneath it.

Kepner (26): The stylish caps can’t save this hot mess. From the jagged wordmark to the bizarre numerals to the ridiculous color scheme, it’s a certified phiasco. According to the official press release, “Philly has always been a place unafraid to revolutionize, start anew and work hard to make change.” Maybe so, but it’s also a place that sees through pandering nonsense like this.

Jones (25): Nothing about these really makes me think “Philly.” I guess the Liberty Bell on the hat? Keep this uniform on Phillie Phanatic and I’m fine. It looks like a costume for the mascot.


Brett Wisely. (Sergio Estrada / USA Today)

The Golden Gate Bridge is on the sleeves of the jersey. There’s also a story with the fog gradient throughout the uniform.

On-field debut: July 9, 2021

Kepner (14): There was real potential here with the bridge-and-fog theme. It’s a clean look, but without another color, it seems unfinished. Subtle black accents would have punched it up.

Rosecrans (19): These have always looked incomplete to me. Still do.

Nesbitt (28): Devastatingly poor execution. Using fog as a gradient theme is, in theory, an inspired choice. But these come out looking awkward and cheap. The bridges look bad. The fonts of the “SF” and “G” logos clash. It all just looks like a big L.

Jones (27): Players look like containers of orange sherbet on the field. The bridge had real potential if these were designed knowing the A’s would be leaving Oakland after this season. Welp, it’s a swing and a miss.

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San Francisco Giants’ City Connect uniforms feature Golden Gate Bridge, fog


Gunnar Henderson. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

Basic black uniforms connecting with the city’s arts culture courtesy of mosaic designs. “You can’t clip these wings.”

On-field debut: May 26, 2023

Rosecrans (11): My initial reaction was that it was a bit generic, as if it should have a UPC sleeve patch, but it’s grown on me. It’s fine.

Kepner (21): It’s a boring jersey — the kaleidoscope of colors is mostly hidden on the inside collars and sleeves — but the set looks much better now that the team has switched from black pants to white. The “B” on the hat is sharp; they should use this style (rendered in orange), as their alternate insignia instead of “O’s,” with its upside-down apostrophe.

Nesbitt (26): At least the Reds tried. The Orioles’ all-black unis are readable, but the only interesting elements are the socks and the sleeve piping.

Jones (28): Yawn. The colorful parts are barely noticeable.

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Unveiling the Orioles’ City Connect uniforms: Odd, slightly clever, underwhelming


Jordan Wicks. (Matt Marton / USA Today)

In an attempt to unite Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, “Wrigleyville” was born.

On-field debut: June 12, 2021

Kepner (19): I like how the “Wrigleyville” lettering mimics the famous marquee outside the ballpark. But those dark pants — ugh! They should ditch them for white pants with a stripe of green Wrigley ivy crawling up the side.

Rosecrans (23): I lump this one with the White Sox because they both look more like bad souvenir stand jerseys than actual uniforms. The use of the star from the Chicago flag inside the C on the cap is solid, but that can’t make up for the rest.

Nesbitt (21): For such a storied franchise, in an iconic stadium and a colorful city, this is remarkably unspectacular. If I were a Cubs fan going to a game and they were wearing this boring all-blue (yet not Cubbie blue) uni, I’d be bummed.

Jones (18): It’s not bad. It’s also not spectacular. I don’t hate it. But it doesn’t do much for me.

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Cubs unveil Wrigleyville ‘City Connect’ uniforms

22. Minnesota Twins (20.0)


Jorge Alcala. (Matt Krohn / USA Today)

The blue and yellow color scheme and ripple pattern on the jersey pay tribute to the elements of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

On-field debut: June 14, 2024

Kepner (28): There’s so much they could have done to weave in the natural beauty of a Minnesota summer, but by plunging into the deep waters of a “ripple effect,” the whole thing drowns. As for the postal code “MN” wordmark, I’d stamp it: RETURN TO SENDER.

Rosecrans (21): This has big end-of-the-cycle energy, when all enthusiasm for a project is over and you just want to put something out so it’s done. While not terrible, it’s just … there. Here are a few suggestions I think could help:

  1. White pants.
  2. Remove “10,000 LAKES” from the side of the hat.
  3. Sleeve patch as primary logo.

Boom. You’re not getting an A if you make those changes, but you don’t have to worry about bringing down your final grade so far that it gets uneasy.

Nesbitt (16): Forgot how many lakes? It’s on the side of your cap, in 10,000-point font.

Jones (15): Fan of the details on the jersey, even though these could be mistaken as knock-off Seattle Mariners jerseys at a glance. A top-tier decision would have been to go with purple for Prince.

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‘They are sick’: Twins ditch traditional colors as City Connect jerseys finally unveiled


Justin Verlander. (Troy Taormina / USA Today)

Houston has a respected reputation for its space education. “Space City” has similar font as the NASA logo from the 1970s.

On-field debut: April 20, 2022

Kepner (20): Do people in Houston ever say they’re from “Space City”? Wouldn’t that name work better for a self-storage facility? I love the lettering and numerals, which evoke the NASA wordmark. But given the Astros’ history of innovation — like the glorious “Tequila Sunrise” jerseys of the 1970s-80s — they should have used something more whimsical than navy-over-navy.

Nesbitt (11): Each element of this City Connect uni is, on its own, quite agreeable. The yellow-to-orange gradient is everywhere from the cap to the socks. The NASA “worm” font is fun. The uni number on the pants is a nice throwback touch. But the dark blue background steals from all that goodness. If Nike reprints this as a white jersey, it would soar up these rankings.

Rosecrans (22): When Ronel Blanco was throwing his no-hitter, I was distracted by the way the placket fell between letters and looked like it said “SPACIE CITY.” I like elements of this one, but it’s just too much blue. Maybe using an orange hat, or at least an orange crown with a blue bill would break up all the blue a little.

Jones (20): The colors are great. Space City? I could do without that. How about “H-Town” on the front? The “H” on the hat is the best part.

20. New York Mets (18.0)


Jose Quintana. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

An homage to all boroughs, these unis take inspiration from the people, bridges and transit that power the city

On-field debut: April 27, 2024

Kepner (15): It’s better up close than in action, because the names and numbers are hard to read in the black-over-dark-gray style. I love the bridge on the hats and helmets, but they should have leaned into the purple a little more, especially for the cap emblem.

Rosecrans (13): They look better on the field — the purple accents are great — but the helmet alone bumps up their ranking. While I don’t like the bridge motif on the hat, I love it on the batting helmet. The best part is the subway map in the lining of the hat. As is the case with too many of the City Connects, the best parts are hidden from view.

Nesbitt (22): Why go with “NYC” across the chest? “Queens” is right there. It’s only faintly Metsy. And it’s a flop, for me.

Jones (22): The “NYC” style lettering and colors remind me of a Negro Leagues jersey. Feels like this was a missed opportunity not going with “Queens” and leaning more into the purple accents. More Queensbridge could have led to a great partnership with rap legend Nas.

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Behind the Mets’ new City Connect jersey design: Why is it NYC instead of Queens?

19. Toronto Blue Jays (17.75)


Tim Mayza. (Dan Hamilton / USA Today)

These ‘Night Mode’ themed uniforms feature vibrant colors meant to reflect Toronto’s energetic nightlife and illuminated skyline.   

On-field debut: May 31, 2024

Kepner (24): White outlines could have accentuated the fun skyline motif, but without them, we’re left with an illegible blur from more than a few feet away. And have I mentioned that black jersey/black pants is a tired act?

Rosecrans (16): The evolution of my reaction to this one:

Hat leaks: So good! This could be the best one yet!

Jersey leaks: So bad! This could be the worst one yet!

Official release: Oh yeah, not good.

On-field debut: Better than expected.

Nesbitt (19): Cool colors. Entirely illegible. Rinse, repeat.

Jones (12): I really like the design. It probably would have worked better against a white, gray or light blue backdrop, but I still like it. Maybe it is just because I really like Toronto as a city and seeing the skyline makes me happy.

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Blue Jays unveil City Connect uniforms


Jesús Tinoco. (Jim Cowsert / USA Today)

The uniform is a nod to Texas’ independence day. The jersey also features a peagle, a mythical creature blended from the minor-league logos of the Dallas Eagles and Fort Worth Cats (originally called the Panthers).

On-field debut: April 21, 2023

Kepner (12): The hat is a jumbled mess, and the number “0” looks weird, but this set does have an 1800s-Texas kind of vibe; you could picture a cowboy wearing it as he struts through the double doors of a saloon. Also, they created an animal! It’s a panther-eagle mix called a peagle. I’m all in on the peagle.

Rosecrans (10): I think this uniform is similar to my feelings about the movie “Talladega Nights” — the parts are better than the whole. You can tell a team is onto something when the merchandise associated with the uniform is more successful than the uniform itself. If the peagle hoodie were black instead of navy, I’d already own it.

Nesbitt (24): When the headliner of your City Connect is the mythical creature you created for a sleeve patch, and the warm-up act is a lid with a hilariously oversized “TX,” you’ve swung and missed.

Jones (24): Looks like the jersey was meant to be worn with Wrangler jeans and an oversized belt buckle. Don’t get me started on the peagle. It just confuses me.


Justin Martinez. (Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

“El Camino de las Serpientes”: The way of the serpent. These uniforms show love to the Sonoran Desert and Arizona’s Hispanic culture.

On-field debut: June 18, 2021

Nesbitt (20): The “Serpientes” script is nice. Really nice. But there’s a missed opportunity for a snake logo on the cap, and overall the uniform is overwhelmed by the desert-sand backdrop.

Rosecrans (18): There are maybe five people on Earth who remember the movie “Megaforce,” but it was some weird early-80s paramilitary fantasy movie that featured some weird desert camouflage and everything was that sand color. This reminds me of what Megaforce’s softball uniforms would look like. That’s not a compliment.

Kepner (25): I can see what they’re going for with the sand color scheme, but they take it too far when they use it for the pants, too. Credit, at least, for using the Spanish word for “snakes” rather than the lazy “Los _______” format we often see in MLB and the NBA.

Jones (7): “Serpientes” on the jersey is one of the best things in the City Connect series. Especially with a snake used to spell out the word. It also leans into the Hispanic culture of the region, and the gold jersey is different.

16. St. Louis Cardinals (16.75)


Dylan Carlson. (Jeff Curry / USA Today)

A more traditional and understated take on a City Connect, save for the center-stage homage to St. Louis’ favorite son, Nelly.

On-field debut: May 25, 2024

Nesbitt (18): Having studied all 28 designs, I’ve come to appreciate a safe approach. This looks like a Cardinals jersey. It’s not better than what they already have, but not atrocious, either.

Kepner (18): What a shame they didn’t perch the birds on the Gateway Arch, as designer Cameron Guzzo suggested on Instagram. And while the younger demographic in St. Louis might use the phrase “The Lou,” to everyone else, it means “the bathroom.”

Rosecrans (27): Milquetoast and uninspired. It’s a spring training jersey and an airport souvenir stand hat.

Jones (4): Nelly’s music introduced me to St. Louis culture in the early 2000s. He said, “I’m from The Lou and I’m proud!” So just like “The A” for Atlanta, this Cardinals jersey resonates. This isn’t overly creative, and I’m fine with it.

What can I say? City nicknames on City Connect jerseys work for me — except for Space City.


William Contreras. (Benny Sieu / USA Today)

“Brew Crew” always has been a team nickname. MKE is the abbreviation for Milwaukee’s international airport. Look closely and notice the city’s area code within the MKE.

On-field debut: June 24, 2022

Nesbitt (12): I like these! The grill is genuinely great. The caps are a bit of a bother. I once came home from Milwaukee with a free Brewers T–shirt that had “MKE” across the chest. No one knew what it meant. Stop trying to make airport codes happen.

Kepner (13): The MKE/414 mashup and the pointy wordmark don’t do it for me. I’d have preferred an all-out, gut-busting tribute to sausage varieties. Nothing goes better with brew.

Rosecrans (24): I’ve always hated “Brew Crew” as a nickname, but it’s even worse seeing it here. The airport code/area code hat logo is just too forced and jumbled. This one would jump about five places if the hat used the same grill logo that’s on the sleeve.

Jones (11): Brew Crew is one of the more fun nicknames in baseball (I know Rosecrans disagrees). The “MKE” on the hat isn’t my favorite, but the colors are vibrant and different enough from the usual Brewers look for me.

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Brewers reveal new City Connect uniforms

14. Cincinnati Reds (14.75)


Alexis Diaz. (Katie Stratman / USA Today)

Cincinnati’s uniforms represent a modern-day visual of the city. Looking to the past is the opposite of what they tried to do here.

On-field debut: May 19, 2023

Rosecrans (2): Yep, I’m going full-on homer with this one. I was skeptical when I first heard that the Reds’ City Connect was going to be all black, in part because I hate the black drop shadows on the Reds’ regular uniforms … but man, it’s been a breath of fresh air, even for a team that wore 29 uniform combinations in one season.

Nesbitt (17): The all-black look is fabulous in studio lighting or framed on your wall. But designers need to take pains to make an all-black uniform work in games, and this doesn’t pass that test. The “CINCY” and number font are unreadable.

Kepner (23): Black hats, black jersey, black pants — lighten up, guys! The new logo is a nifty, modern twist on the classic wishbone-C, but the whole thing is just too dark.

Jones (17): The cap is cool, but the more I look at it, the more the uniform reminds me of something I’d create in a video game.

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Reds’ City Connect uniforms give an often nostalgic team opportunity to look forward

13. Tampa Bay Rays (14.25)


Yandy Diaz. (Mady Mertens / USA Today)

A skateboard-influenced design meant to evoke the counterculture energy of the team’s home.

On-field debut: May 3, 2024

Rosecrans (3): I ordered my hat the day it was announced. I absolutely love it. The green accents are fantastic and I think if the numbers were that same color and more visible, this might take the top spot. The hat logo is the best the Rays have ever had and it should exist well beyond the three-year cycle.

Kepner (22): Using black letters and black numbers on black jerseys makes no sense. Paired predictably with black pants, the whole thing just looks like a black void from a distance, like a Spinal Tap album cover. And yes, I understand that referencing a 40-year-old movie proves the point that these unis are made for a younger generation.

Nesbitt (9): Stitch for stitch, this is one of the coolest designs yet, with a dope logo, a cap tip to skateboard culture and neon flourishes all over. Worn best when players are decked out in colorful belts, sleeves and high socks. Without those, the look loses much of its sizzle.

Jones (23): I feel the glow with this one. I don’t mean that in a good way. Reminds me way too much of the New Orleans Pelicans’ fusion of black and neon this season, which I was not too fond of either.

12. Los Angeles Dodgers II (13.25)


Freddie Freeman. (Courtesy of Jon SooHoo / Los Angeles Dodgers)

A second wave of City Connect Dodgers uniforms pays homage to the city and its ties to the organization since moving from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1958 — including the front workmark and the number typefaces.

On-field debut date: June 22, 2024

Rosecrans (25): What do you get when you combine the branding of Disney and Pop Tarts? Well, the new Dodgers Brand Connect! But hey, at least they didn’t make it “The Doyers.”

Kepner (8): You gotta love the nonsensical “storytelling” that accompanies each of these uniforms. The Dodgers say their front typeface has an “upward trajectory (that) speaks to the city’s pursuit of what’s above and beyond.” Also, that upward trajectory looks exactly like the DirecTV typeface. The uniforms feature a “galaxy of stars,” we’re told, which represent “the brilliance and diversity of Los Angeles.” Also, they look like sprinkles on an ice cream cone. Laughable explanations aside, I actually really like this one, as City Connects go. As a one-off, the name-under-number style on the back is kind of fun, and the Dodgers still look like the Dodgers, which is more than most teams can say.

Nesbitt (15): For a second effort, it’s not a home run. But the sprinkles look should at least sell well at the team store, and the cap logo, name-on-back positioning and color scheme are all moderately interesting elements.

Jones (5): This is a much better effort. Love the blend of the old and the new. The blending of the “LA” and “D” is nice. The look feels very Hollywood and futuristic. It’s baseball meets “Star Trek.” The hat is the best part, but I like the overall look.


Kenley Jansen. (Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

Going against the grain — no red — Boston pays homage to Patriots’ Day, as well as the Boston Marathon.

On-field debut: April 17, 2021

Rosecrans (8): You know the theory about how your first pizza will always be your ideal pizza? This is kind of like that — it was the first City Connect and as such, it’s what I think of when I think of the City Connect. That said, I still actually like it. While it’s a huge departure, it makes sense with so many of the Patriots’ Day touches and the marathon. I like that it’s completely different and is more about the city than the ballclub.

Kepner (17): Yes, these are the colors of the Boston Marathon. So maybe do it as a one-off on Patriots’ Day. Any more than that, and it’s out of step for a city and ballpark with many more sources of inspiration.

Nesbitt (14): As a two-time Boston Marathon attendee (not to brag), I think this is a cool idea and unique look. But there’s so much history in Boston — and so much Red Sox uni history — that I think if designers took another crack at this, they’d come up with something more evergreen.

Jones (13): No red on a Red Sox jersey is bold. I’m sure there’s a UCLA alum somewhere with this cap who doesn’t care that it represents Boston or has anything to do with the Boston Marathon.


Hunter Renfroe. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

Dark blue meshing with light blue. It’s a tip of the cap to why it’s called the “City of Fountains.”

On-field debut: April 30, 2022

Kepner (10): A rare conservative offering with the KC emblem patterned on the city flag and rendered like a fountain. And this has my favorite unseen element: “HEY HEY HEY HEY” on the inside collar, in tribute to the Beatles’ Little Richard cover that plays after every home win.

Nesbitt (13): This one doesn’t demand deep analysis. The fountain-inspired logo is neat, but the overall look doesn’t sing. It’s all right, but tame for an alternate. Nothing grabs your attention.

Rosecrans (17): Nez is right.

Jones (10): I’m a big fan of the color scheme. Give me all shades of blue.

9. Cleveland Guardians (12.25)


José Ramírez. (Ken Blaze / USA Today)

The classic color scheme, textured pattern and Art Deco influences are a nod to Cleveland’s famous Guardians of Traffic.

On-field debut: May 17, 2024

Kepner (1): I’ve felt all along that the Guardians should do more with the actual “guardians” — the bridge statue figures near the ballpark — to help folks embrace the 2021 rebrand. It’s hard to rally around a “flying G” insignia, after all, and this set includes a new logo that should become permanent. As for the uniform itself, the racing stripes are a welcome callback to the “Major League” era, the art deco font is classy, and I love how they weave little home plates into the CLE lettering.

Rosecrans (14): One of the things I’ve liked about the City Connects is trying to get away from the tired red, white and blue color scheme that is too prominent in baseball. Cleveland had a chance to do something new when they renamed themselves but just did the same old, same old.

Nesbitt (8): The more I see this one in action, the better it is. Each element is distinct and in agreement with the rest of the design. No one’s asking for the organization to lean harder into the “Guardians of Traffic” bridge pillars, but I’m digging the Art Deco font and the 1990s vibes.

Jones (26): I imagine it’s not easy figuring out what to do with the Guardians’ name because there isn’t much history with it yet. They tried, but ultimately these feel like the pants from the movie “Major League” and a jersey that’s still in the works.

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Behind Guardians’ City Connect design: A nod to an iconic Cleveland landmark

8. Chicago White Sox (8.75)


Jared Shuster. (Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

Dark gray, white pinstripes and gothic font prove to be a winner. Notice the “Chi” — also in gothic lettering — where “Sox” normally is on the cap.

On-field debut: June 5, 2021

Kepner (9): The White Sox claimed black-and-white as their color scheme in late 1990, and they’ve owned that look ever since, setting a trend that far too many teams have clumsily tried to imitate. I’ll make one exception for dark-jersey-over-dark-pants, and this is it.

Nesbitt (10): It’s very White Sox. If you like that, great. If you don’t, you still probably find this design inoffensive.

Rosecrans (15): I get why they did it and why some people like it, but it looks like a knock-off White Sox jersey you’d find on a clearance rack. And the hat? Huge downgrade, even if it’s just the three letters. It seemed cool when they did it, but it hasn’t aged well.

Jones (1): The black White Sox jerseys have long been a favorite. My affinity goes back to Snoop Dogg wearing a team jacket in the “Deep Cover” video in 1992, followed by Dr. Dre wearing the cap in the “Nuthin But A G Thang” video. I’m not from Southside Chicago, but if I was, I’d proudly wear this jersey to the ballpark.


Kevin Pillar. (Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

There’s a California beach theme within these uniforms. The left sleeve has asymmetrical stripes that remind some of retro surfboards.

On-field debut: June 11, 2022

Kepner (3): This feels straight out of SoCal in the ’60s, when the Angels arrived on the scene. The swirly, bubbly letters, the beach-blanket sleeve stripes — it looks like something you’d see on “Gidget.” Fun, fun, fun.

Nesbitt (4): Just delightful. It’s simple yet sharp, winking at the surf and skate culture while not completely throwing out the classic Angels look.

Rosecrans (6): You could’ve told me this was the team’s new everyday uniform and I’d just think they upgraded. It doesn’t feel City Connect-y enough but it’s hard to knock it for being just a good, solid baseball uniform. And hey, it’s better than the Dodgers, and how often can you say that about the Angels?

Jones (21): Feels very old-school in a way that doesn’t work for me. Could it be my Dodgers bias? Probably. I don’t like the Angels claiming Los Angeles from Orange County. Lean into Anaheim and the OC next time.

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Angels unveil City Connect jerseys on a beach

6. Seattle Mariners (7.5)


Luis Castillo. (Stephen Brashear / USA Today)

This uniform honors the city’s original MLB team, the Pilots, and it features Mount Rainier on the sleeve and a trident on the cap.

On-field debut: May 5, 2023

Nesbitt (1): There’s this line from a radio program I listened to as a kid: If you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best. That’s what the Mariners have done, bringing the Seattle Pilots back to life. For all the wildness, weirdness and wackiness of Seattle baseball, the Pilots got the look right. The trident logo. The chest font. The piping. Chef’s kiss.

Kepner (6): The jersey and hat are so sharp that the black pants (while horrible) don’t ruin it for me. The 1969 Pilots and the early Mariners teams didn’t win very much, but I’m always in favor of honoring a city’s baseball history. And I’m a sucker for the trident.

Rosecrans (9): I love the Pilots-inspired wordmark, but I don’t like the black, especially on the bill of the cap. There are very few caps I like where the bill is a different color than the crown and going from the blue to the black is jarring. There is just way too much black and blue together for me.

Jones (14): The cap is top-notch. It’s my favorite part of the uniform. The colors and font on the chest are all nice touches. And it’s a bit of a throwback. That’s big for someone who loves throwback jerseys and still wears them when relaxing.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

‘My Oh My’: Mariners’ City Connect uniforms capture essence of future nostalgia


Ha-Seong Kim. (Denis Poroy / USA Today)

binational fan base is celebrated with these uniforms. Many of the team’s fans hail from San Diego, Tijuana, Mexico and Baja California.

On-field debut: July 8, 2022

Nesbitt (5): Wonderfully whimsical color scheme. Bravo. Pink and mint dominate the design. There’s yellow trim and name-on-back lettering, and most accessories seem to be yellow. It’s a lot. But it all works on the white uni. Different sleeve colors — who woulda thought!

Rosecrans (7): I’m not sure this would work anywhere else, but in San Diego it’s fantastic.

Kepner (11): Before they finally switched back to brown, the Padres’ uniforms had gotten so maddeningly boring that I can’t complain about their wacky City Connects. These uniforms are pretty silly, but they’re also lively and fun. Nothing wrong with that.

Jones (6): This is perfectly San Diego. That’s the best way to summarize this look.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Padres release City Connect uniforms


Lane Thomas. (Geoff Burke / USA Today)

“Back in bloom”: The Nationals use a well-known signature of the city in their alternate uniforms.

On-field debut: April 9, 2022

Rosecrans (4): Pink is underutilized in sports uniforms. Gray has been overutilized, especially in the last decade. These two work in harmony on this gorgeous set. While I’m not a fan of airport codes (or what looks like airport codes) on uniforms, the rest is enough to make up for it. (If they’d just used “DC” on the breast, it’d be an easy No. 1 for me.)

Kepner (7): The cherry blossoms work perfectly here — distinctively D.C. and a new element to a baseball uniform. The pink-and-gray combo is a welcome contrast to Nike’s default dark, tough-guy costumes. Don’t love “WSH” though.

Nesbitt (7): Heartbreaking that this set is going away after the 2024 season. It’s a beauty.

Jones (8): I’m usually meh with gray uniforms. For some reason, I like the pink and gray combo. It’s a great combination for a suit-and-tie for church and works surprisingly well for the uniform.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Nationals reveal new City Connect jerseys

3. Atlanta Braves (5.5)


Matt Olson. (Mady Mertens / USA Today)

Hank Aaron chasing his 715th home run in 1974 reminds many of this uniform. “The A” offers a look of nostalgia for older fans. 

On-field debut: April 8, 2023

Kepner (5): You’ve gotta appreciate a uniform that honors Hank Aaron breaking the home run record in 1974. I’ve never cared for the lowercase “a” from those caps, so I love that they replace it here with the current “A.” Extremely well done.

Nesbitt (2): Most City Connects feel as if the design process began with outlawing anything remotely signature about the team’s current look. Not here. Crisp white unis with blue and red accents and hidden tributes to Hammerin’ Hank? Looks sublime. That’s all I care about here.

Rosecrans (12): So close to being good — the ’70s Braves uniforms are gorgeous. But there’s something about the unoriginality that makes me dislike it. But what I really dislike is the “The A.” I think there’s a difference between City Connects, throwbacks and alternates. This one is more throwback than City Connect.

Jones (3): Adding “The” next to the “A” puts this one over the top and makes it one of the best of the bunch. Almost all my friends say they are going to “The A” and not Atlanta. I know this is a tribute to Hank Aaron, but “The A” gives it just the right amount of modern flavor.


Josh Bell. (Rhona Wise / USA Today)

The uniform is a slightly modified tribute to the Cuban Sugar Kings, a Triple-A team that won a championship in 1959.

On-field debut: May 21, 2021

Rosecrans (1): Wonderful. No notes. Better than what they normally wear and anything they’ve worn before. The story makes it even better.

Kepner (4): It’s the only red jersey I can think of with white pinstripes, so it pulls off the rare trick of being unique yet uncluttered. Love the crown on the cap.

Nesbitt (6): The crown logos are a nod to the Havana Sugar Kings, a Cuban team that was the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate from 1954 to 1960. It’s bold and it works. Miami, baby!

Jones (9): I’m a sucker for jerseys with heavy historical connections. The nod to the Havana Sugar Kings is a winner here. The colors are bold, as they should be when representing Miami.


Ryan Feltner. (Rhona Wise / USA Today)

The Rocky Mountains, a predominantly green appearance and the letter font have these uniforms looking similar to the state of Colorado’s license plate.

On-field debut: June 4, 2022

Kepner (2): It doesn’t try to do too much: it’s the Colorado license plate, with matching wordmark and mountain range — not Rockies colors, but richly evocative of the state. Bonus points for the clever flourish of a double-black diamond ski patch on the sleeve.

Nesbitt (3): I don’t want an alternate uniform that feels like it was drawn up by a dozen creatives in a conference room. I want one that feels like it came from the days when everyone sent in designs to the local newspaper, and a sixth grader would win with something garish and unreasonable and … perfect. That’s what this is. A beer-league softball uniform in the big leagues.

Rosecrans (5): The hat looks like it was made by Patagonia and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked them better with the green pants, which is probably an unpopular opinion. Green is underused in baseball, so it’s nice to see it.

Jones (2): This is nothing like the traditional Rockies uniform. No black, gray or purple and that’s what makes this edition stand out. It’s distinctly Colorado from the cap on down. No complaints here.

go-deeper

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Rockies unveil City Connect alt uniform

(Illustration by Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photos by Megan Briggs and Scott Kane / Getty Images, and Nic Antaya / MLB Photos)





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A True Story Inspired The Horror Movie Open Water

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“Open Water” is loosely based on the true story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan. In 1998, the Lonergans went out on a scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. During the trip, a headcount went wrong and the Lonergans were accidentally left behind. The crew of the boat did not notice their absence until two days later, when they found some of their belongings, but no bodies were ever recovered and both are presumed dead. 

Now, a popular belief is that the Lonergans were killed by sharks, but their vest and tanks, which would have helped them stay afloat were later found — and there were no clear tooth marks that would indicate a shark attack. So as much as “Open Water” sells itself as a true story, it likely starts and ends with the initial “left alone at sea” part and not with the savage animal attacks (like these other creature features).

As a result of their disappearance, the government of Queensland introduced stricter regulations for scuba diving trips, like requiring independent confirmations of headcounts from captains and dive masters.



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Caitlin Clark eventually got it right, but she needs to consider the agenda around her name

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INDIANAPOLIS — Athletes often speak in generalities as a defense mechanism. Rather than go in-depth on a potentially controversial topic, or even address the issue at all, they provide non-answers, using cliches and pre-programmed talking points to stay at a safe distance.

A part of me would like to believe that that’s what Caitlin Clark did Thursday morning when I asked if she was bothered by fans using her name as a weapon in the culture wars dividing the country. The Indiana Fever’s star guard didn’t close the door on the subject; she refused to even open it.

“No,” she declared. “I don’t see it. I don’t see it. That’s not where my focus is. My focus is here and on basketball. That’s where it needs to be, that’s where it has been, and I’m just trying to get better on a daily basis.”

Clark backtracked five hours later, telling reporters that “people should not be using my name to push those agendas,” but the damage had already been done. Connecticut Sun wing DiJonai Carrington was among those who spoke out against her initial comments, saying on X: “Dawg, how one can not be bothered by their name being used to justify racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia & the intersectionalities of them all is nuts. We all see the sh*t. We all have a platform. We all have a voice & they all hold weight. Silence is a luxury.

It’s not surprising that Clark would initially attempt to avoid the topic. She’s a rookie struggling to find her way on a new team in a new league, at a time when the shots that fell so consistently in college are now missing the mark with greater frequency. Instead of being the go-to closer, which contributed to her massive popularity at Iowa, she sometimes is on the bench in the waning moments because of turnover issues.

But you don’t get to hide behind basketball when you’ve been anointed the transcendent, rising tide who will lift the WNBA to greater prosperity. And you definitely don’t get to do so when people are using your name as a means of pushing racism, misogyny, homophobia and other societal ills. To whom much is given, much is required, indeed.

The subject is sure to raise its head again Sunday when the Chicago Sky come to town. Chicago players Chennedy Carter and Angel Reese have been targets of Clark supporters following separate incidents with Clark. Sky players said Carter and other team members were harassed at a team hotel days after leveling Clark with a dirty hip-check on June 1. And Reese has drawn ire from some Clark fans for mocking Clark during LSU’s national championship win two seasons ago.
But they’re not the only Black women who have come under attack or been marginalized by those seeking to defend Clark. Teammate Aliyah Boston deleted one of her social media accounts because she was tired of being bombarded by “couch coaches,” many of whom sought to divert attention from Clark’s early struggles by pointing out Boston’s deficiencies.
Las Vegas Aces center A’ja Wilson is widely regarded as the WNBA’s best player and a high-character ambassador for the game and its players. But when she answered that race is a “huge” factor in why Black players have not received the same type of attention or marketing opportunities as Clark, social media went to work, with one person writing: “My advice to A’ja Wilson, instead of crediting this young lady’s popularity to race in a league where 60 percent of the players are Black, you should thank Caitlin Clark because without her, I wouldn’t know who you are or be talking about your sport.”

There is a tradition in professional sports that high-profile rookies are to be tested. Veterans go at them hard to see what they’re made of. Doesn’t matter the sport or the gender. But when Carrington fouled Clark and mocked the rookie for what she perceived to be an embellishment of the contact, much of the social media commentary was predictable. “Caitlin Clark was targeted by black players again Monday, this time in Connecticut,” one person wrote. “Suns (sic) guard DiJonai Carrington violently checked Clark then mocked her after the blatant foul. The crowd booed. If the races were reversed Carrington would’ve been ejected.”

Clark did not make the comments, but I was curious about her feelings about people using her name as a divisive tool. Her initial response Thursday morning: “It’s not something I can control, so I don’t put too much thought and time into thinking about things like that. And, to be honest, I don’t see a lot of it. Like I’ve said, basketball is my job. Everything on the outside, I can’t control that so I’m not going to spend time thinking about that. People can talk about what they want to talk about, create conversations about whatever it is, but I think for myself, I’m just here to play basketball. I’m just here to have fun. I’m trying to help our team win. … I don’t pay much mind to all of that, to be honest.”

But is she being forthright? It must be said that Clark is 22 and dealing with tremendous demands and expectations. That definitely should provide her with a level of grace. Still, her comments were troubling because they lacked awareness and empathy toward Black peers who do not have the privilege of distancing themselves from the isms they are regularly confronted with.

Carrington likened her silence to luxury. I see it as complicity.

Perhaps she didn’t want to fully address it because of the sensitivity involved? Or maybe she was following the advice of her inner circle, including advisors who might believe it’s more profitable to say nothing? It worked well for Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, though it sent the message that money was more important than morality. But the initial unwillingness to stand against hate and harassment was always going to be problematic in a league that is predominately Black, and has a sizable LGBTQ+ population.

By happenstance, her comments came on the same day the Women’s National Basketball Players Association posted a column on The Players’ Tribune that highlighted how proud its members are of their history of fighting against social injustices. “Our work has always been bigger than basketball,” it stated at one point.

That’s why it was important that Clark revisited her comments late Thursday, an hour or so before tipoff against the Atlanta Dream. She ran the danger of losing the respect of some of her peers, particularly at a time when more and more prominent White players are speaking out as allies in the fight against racism and homophobia.

It would have been conspicuous and problematic for a league that prides itself on inclusion and acceptance to have its most visible player standing silent on the sideline when legendary WNBA guard Sue Bird spoke out in a 2020 CNN piece, or UConn guard Paige Bueckers addressed it during her 2021 ESPYs acceptance speech, or former LSU guard Hailey Van Lith last March called criticism of her Black teammates racist, or with Los Angeles Sparks rookie Cameron Brink last week saying, “I will acknowledge there’s a privilege for the younger White players of the league.”

No one is asking Clark to be a social activist or to be a prominent face in the fight for respect, but it is important for her to at least denounce those who might use her name to espouse hate and division.

“It’s disappointing, it’s not acceptable …,” she said before tipoff of people using her name to push agendas. “This league is a league I grew up admiring and wanting to be a part of. Some of the women in this league were my biggest idols and role models growing up. … Treating every single woman in this league with the same amount of respect is just a basic human thing that everybody should do. Just be a kind person and treat them how you would want to be treated.”

It may have taken her time to express those sentiments, but that should not overshadow that she ultimately got to the right place. It was a positive step for her and the league.

(Photo: Greg Fiume / Getty Images)





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Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis Finally Has A Release Date

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Lionsgate has handled distribution for several of Francis Ford Coppola’s previous projects, including “Apocalypse Now Final Cut,” “The Conversation,” “The Cotton Club Encore,” “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” and “One From the Heart: Reprise.” In a statement, Coppola said:

“One rule of business I’ve always followed and prioritized (to my benefit) is to continue working with companies and teams who over time have proven to be good friends as well as great collaborators. This is why I am thrilled to have Adam Fogelson and Lionsgate Studios release ‘Megalopolis.’ I am confident they will apply the same tender love and care given to ‘Apocalypse Now,’ which is currently in its 45th year of astounding revenue and appreciation.”

Meanwhile, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chair Adam Fogelson spoke of how his company strives “to be a home for bold and daring artists, and ‘Megalopolis’ proves there is no one more bold or daring than the maestro, Francis Ford Coppola.”

With its grandiose story, “Megalopolis” is shaping up to be one of many sci-fi movies that could blow fans away in 2024. Coppola’s first film since 2011’s “Twixt” is set in an alternate version of New York called New Rome, and sees Adam Driver play artist Cesar Catilina, who has a vision to reinvent the city and establish a utopian alternative. There’s also superpowers involved and, according to the “Megalopolis” trailer, giant statues come to life. Sign us up!



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