First-year Mammoths experience arena football excitement level – Press Herald

WORCESTER, Mass. — From the lower bowl of the DCU Center, Betsy Sierra leaned forward in her seat at halftime of her first indoor pro football game Saturday night. She had made a 45-minute drive to see her son, Niko, a linebacker for the Maine Mammoths.

“It’s fun,” she shouted. “High energy. A lot faster than I thought.”

Sierra needed to shout to be heard over the din inside the arena, where a rapper, Kid Ink, was performing during halftime of the first game in Mammoths history, a 51-24 loss to the Massachusetts Pirates.

Both teams are expansion franchises of the six-team National Arena League. The Mammoths play their first game in Portland at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena against the Carolina Cobras.

Niko Sierra played college football at Sacred Heart, then three years of indoor pro football before joining the Mammoths.

“Tonight was great,” he said after the game. “It’s always fun when there’s a lot of people. Nice and loud. They get into it.”

Player introductions for the home team came with flashing lights and smoke-belching cannons. The oblong field measured 50 yards between goal lines with end zones that curved along the lines of the hockey rink that’s home to the ECHL Worcester Railers.

With Plexiglas removed from above the hockey boards – padded and covered in advertisements – fans have a much more intimate feel for the action. Players are free to interact over the boards and frequently trade high-fives. Trenier Orr, a defensive back for the Mammoths, found himself trading barbs with a leather-lunged patron who seemed never to be without an oversized beer can.

“Oh, man, I don’t know what he was saying,” said Orr, who last played organized football for Sam Houston State in 2016. “He was probably getting on my butt, just trying to make me go a little harder. But it’s all love, man. We need people who are going to talk a little junk. It’s all fun and games.”

Orr had one of the two interceptions for the Mammoths but his biggest contribution came on the opening kickoff, which caromed off the left goal post and back onto the field. Orr raced down and grabbed it before getting knocked over the boards for a 45-yard onside kick recovery.

Maine quarterback Jonathan Bane’s first pass was a 5-yard touchdown to Devin Wilson and the Mammoths led 6-0 before a minute elapsed.

Bane threw two more touchdown passes, one to Wilson and another to Maurice Dupree. But the Pirates also intercepted Bane three times, recovered a fumbled snap, sacked him four times and forced him into 20 incompletions.

Only once did the Mammoths use a designed running play. The Pirates rushed at least 10 times, scoring three of their eight touchdowns on the ground. The game included three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, two on Maine and one on Massachusetts. The Mammoths also had consecutive delay-of-game penalties to thwart one drive.

“We’ve only got about four guys who have been in this situation before so I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Mammoths Coach James Fuller, in his 20th season of indoor football. “I thought we started off OK, traded some scores. But offensively we just didn’t produce. It’s not what we wanted to do but it’s something to learn from with a young team.”

As with any venture in its early stages – the second-year league added the Pirates in November and the Mammoths in December – not everything ran smoothly. Programs failed to include jersey numbers for the Pirates. Referees often appeared confused about rules, resulting in several lengthy delays. In lieu of press-box spaces for media, there was a turntable and a disc jockey spinning vinyl.

An hour after the game, as Mammoth players milled around neither a bus nor promised postgame pizza appeared. Eventually the driver was located and a call was made to a nearby Domino’s. The team made it back to Portland at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

“There’s always going to be some hiccups from a behind-the-scenes perspective,” said NAL Commissioner Chris Siegfried, who came up from Florida for the game. “But from a fan’s perspective, I thought it was a really good show. … You know, I can’t root for either team, but it’s always good for the home team to win the home opener, from a business standpoint.”

No one from the host team or the DUC Center – which has a capacity of 14,800 – could provide an attendance figure. One local veteran observer pegged the crowd at approximately 5,500. By the end of the nearly three-hour proceedings, about half of those folks had left.

Still, there was palpable excitement outside the arena before the game and a fevered curiosity within.

“Man, it was electrifying,” said Orr, reflecting on the difference between arena football and his collegiate experience. “The biggest difference I would say is the atmosphere and the energy that the arena brings to the players. You could feel everything. You could hear everything.”

Wilson, who caught two touchdown passes for the Mammoths, played for the NAL’s Jacksonville Sharks last summer. He also spent a year in the Canadian Football League. After his second score, he offered the ball to a group of boisterous Pirates fans, only to pull it back when one of them reached for it.

“They were kind of heckling us the whole game,” Wilson said with a laugh. “So it was kind of cool. Just having fun with the fans. That’s what it’s all about in this game.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

Johnny Manziel shows some his skills of yore in pro football return – USA TODAY

NJ bill aims to ban tackle football for children under 12, but could it actually pass? –


According to new research conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s O’Donnell Brain Institute, just a single season on the gridiron is enough to trigger measurable changes in the brains of some school-age football players.

Major changes could be coming to football in New Jersey, at least if a proposed bill passes through the state legislature.

On Wednesday, a new law, A3760, was proposed to the New Jersey Assembly’s Women and Children Committee that would ban tackle football for children under 12 years old.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, the primary sponsor of the bill, cited the greater risks of children developing neurological diseases by playing contact sports at a younger age as a top reason the legislation was introduced. 

The proposal would still allow kids under the age of 12 to play touch and flag football. 

Similar legislation has been put forward in California, Illinois and New York

Story continues below poll

State senator Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, who recently was a big factor in former Gov. Chris Christie’s pocket veto of the controversial co-op law, disagreed with the need for the bill and predicted it would not pass.

Sarlo suggested that safety awareness is on the rise throughout all levels of football, and said that should be the focus of improving player safety rather than banning tackling for younger levels. This includes providing more educational programs to youth coaches to ensure the proper tackling techniques are being taught.

“Most towns are now putting 8-year-olds in pads, but it’s very controlled,” Sarlo said. “I believe its all gonna come down to the leagues, education and awareness and limiting the amount of time they are hitting in practice, and you need to work on form tackling.

“I think the high schools and the NJSIAA can do more educational programs for their recreational programs. Clearly, we are losing kids in football, but I don’t think you need to ban it, but you have to make sure you have the right coaches in there.”

EDITORIAL: We need to change youth tackle football, not ban it

COOPER: New Jersey could be getting North, South football champions

The legislation was brought up briefly at a monthly Morris County Youth Football League meeting on Wednesday night. Mark Van Winkle, Jefferson Youth Football’s events manager and MCYFL rep, grew up playing football, and his 7-year-old son, Mark Jr.,  is supposed to start playing tackle football in the fall. Jefferson youth coaches talk with high school coach Jerry Venturino regularly, making sure both programs are in sync.

“I don’t know what limitations they would have. Obviously, running the same plays wouldn’t be (possible),” Van Winkle said. “Coaching flag for the past two years, and watching the Super Pee Wee and Pee Wee kids, there’s a big difference with the game in general. It’s completely changed. You’re talking about someone being able to run through somebody, versus having to run past somebody.”

Morristown Wildcats president Brian Klinger was unaware of the pending legislation, but brought up many safety measures the New Jersey Suburban Youth Football League has implemented. All coaches are USA Football heads-up certified, and the NJSYFL eliminated kickoffs to “keep the game shorter and safer.” The league is going to vote on a proposal to have linemen in a two-point stance – hands on knees – rather than the traditional three-point version, to encourage them to lead with their hands, rather than their heads.

“If the New Jersey legislature decides to eliminate it, you’ve got to follow the rules,” said Klinger, who noted though the Wildcats haven’t noticed a change in enrollment over the years, other programs are missing teams at certain grade levels.  

“I don’t know if it’s going to pass. It sounds sort of far fetched. … I’d vote against it. At the end of the day, I’d hate to see football go by the wayside, because it’s a great sport for kids to learn. All the stuff that comes out of it is good. The camaraderie you develop over youth and high school football is unlike every other sport.”

State senator Benjie Wimberly, D-Paterson, is the head football coach at Hackensack and he also disagreed with the bill.

“All my kids played tackle football, and head injuries….[Vainieri Huttle] is a pretty good person, I think she got caught up in it,” Wimberly said, citing youth coaches who told him there are more concussions in cheerleading than football.

Wimberly also shared the belief that he thinks the bill will not pass.

“I talked to [Vainieri Huttle] about it, we will have some more sit-down talks on it,” Wimberly said. “I have talked to some other legislators, I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

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Iranian TV censors Italian football badge – BBC News

Iranian TV censors Italian football badge

Screen capture of Iranian TV showing censorship of AS Roma's club badge

Image copyright
Iranian TV/Mehdi Rostampour

Image caption

The Capitoline Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus proves too much for Iranian censors

Eagle-eyed viewers have noticed that Iranian state television censored the logo of an Italian football club during its coverage of UEFA Champions League football.

While AS Roma were being roundly beaten by FC Barcelona in the competition’s quarter-finals last night, people watching Iran TV’s third channel noticed that producers had blurred out a female wolf’s teats on the club badge.

The team from the Italian capital’s logo is the image from ancient myth of Rome’s twin founders Romulus and Remus being suckled by the Capitoline Wolf.

However, that appeared to be too much for bosses at Iran’s Voice and Vision organisation, and the club’s badge appeared on screen with the nipples clearly blurred.

The move was greeted with taunts and mockery on social media.

“In 3,000 years, Remus and Romulus were only deprived of their mother’s milk, but Iran’s state broadcaster deprived them of even a wolf’s milk,” Denmark-based Iranian sports journalists Mehdi Rostampour wrote on his Telegram channel.

“People could have been provoked by the wolf’s breasts!” said one Twitter user, while another mocked the producers’ prudishness by claiming “We could have touched ourselves”.

However, one user expressed their lack of surprise: “They’re so meticulous.”

Image copyright

Image caption

AS Roma players train in front of an uncensored club badge

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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Al Pacino on his latest HBO biopic subject: Penn State football legend Joe Paterno – USA TODAY


The Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that took down Penn State’s illustrious college football program is getting the HBO movie treatment. Al Pacino is set to star in the project, with Barry Levinson attached to direct and exec produce. Pacino will play Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history who becomes embroiled in the sexual abuse scandal surrounding his longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Al Pacino can turn a 10-minute photo shoot into a bravura performance. 

The actor, ever the artist, asks a stylist not to fuss too much with his hair — “I don’t mind. It’s the imperfections.” — and praises the versatility of the tuxedo while posing with Barry Levinson, who directs him in HBO’s Paterno (Saturday, 8 ET/PT). The movie  charts the downfall of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of a former subordinate’s arrest on child sex charges.

But it’s the comfort Pacino feels with frequent collaborator Levinson (Rain Man, Diner) that’s most apparent as the two discuss everything from contemporary politics to Roman aqueducts before a photographer asks them to move closer together.

“It’s not like you’re a stranger,” Pacino jokingly chides as the director moves closer. “We’re pals,” Levinson says, putting his hand on Pacino’s shoulder.

Al Pacino, left, plays the title role in HBO’s ‘Paterno,’ which is directed by friend and frequent collaborator Barry Levinson. (Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY)

Trust led the Oscar winners to return to HBO for their third biopic after 2010’s You Don’t Know Jack, about assisted-suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian, and 2013’s Phil Spector, which Levinson produced. Pacino won Emmys for Jack and for playing real-life lawyer Roy Cohn in HBO’s Angels in America.

“Al’s always willing to try something. ‘What happens if we do this?’ ” says Levinson, 75.  “There’s a certain experimentation. Some things may work; maybe something doesn’t work. It makes it fun.”

“I trust him completely,” says Pacino, 77. “That’s important to an actor. The thing I’ve learned with Barry is to see if you can keep from censoring yourself.”

Paterno covers a two-week period in 2011 that saw the demise of the legendary coach, then 84,  who goes from setting a college win record to being fired after Jerry Sandusky’s arrest on charges of sexually abusing boys during and after his tenure as Paterno’s defensive coordinator.  Paterno came under fire for not stopping or taking more than minimally required action on  Sandusky.

As the crisis intensifies, Paterno’s home  becomes a bunker for the increasingly beleaguered coach, his wife (Kathy Baker) and his adult children (Greg Grunberg, Annie Parisse and Larry Mitchell). The film also tracks Sara Ganim (Riley Keough), the young Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the scandal.  (Ganim was a consultant on the film.). 

“It’s an incredible fall from grace. You’re talking about the king of Happy Valley,” Levinson says, referring to the coach’s supreme status in State College, Pa. “Here’s a man who talks about education, a humanitarian. He’s at the height, the winningest coach in college football history, and within a week he’s fired and then goes in for the diagnosis of cancer. And you go, ‘Wow!’ ”

What Paterno knew about Sandusky’s criminal behavior has been a frequent topic of debate. The film goes into detail about Paterno being informed about a 2001 incident, which he reported to university authorities — but not to police — without taking further action, and and alludes to an alleged victim’s contention that he reported abuse by Sandusky to Paterno in 1976. Paterno’s family denied he knew of any incidents before the 2001 allegation.

In its decision to fire Paterno, Penn State’s board of trustees said he met legal requirements in notifying Penn State authorities about the 2001 incident but not a larger moral responsibility. 

Levinson says he avoided taking a stance on Paterno’s complicity. “He obviously had information. Now, which way did he deal with that information? How much did he know or didn’t know? I think that’s what makes it fascinating.”

Paterno was complicated and contradictory, says Pacino, evident in a scene in which he seems oblivious to Sandusky’s behavior, and another when he shrewdly but coldly advises a university representative to cut ties with two Penn State officials accused of lying about and failing to report Sandusky’s behavior. 

“He goes to denial and then guilt and then a kind of contrition. (That) can happen sometimes within a scene,” Pacino says. “He’s trying to figure out two things: what he did that has allowed this to happen and how do you cope with it? ”

Levinson says TV is now the place for complex adult dramas.

Theaterical films “don’t really do stories about people,” he says. “You’re doing something that is, in a sense, considered not commercial enough theatrically, but more people will see it than will see something” in a theater.

Pacino, who will appear with Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, due in 2019, says he relishes playing real-life characters (he portrays real-life union boss Jimmy Hoffa in Irishman), especially on the premium-cable network. It sounds like there will be more after Paterno.

“HBO is, like, my studio. I can go to them with anything,” he says. “It’s comforting to know they‘re there and they take these chances.”


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