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L.S.U. Wins the Title the Way It Won All Season: Behind Joe Burrow

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But Orgeron imbued in his team a swagger — “We coming,” he declared two years ago after getting beat by Alabama — and Burrow flourished with a full off-season surrounded by N.F.L. talent at every skill position, and a scheme that was poached from the New Orleans Saints. Burrow set an N.C.A.A. season record with 60 touchdown passes.

“The first time I met Joe, I didn’t know who this dude was,” said guard Damien Lewis, who arrived as a transfer the same time as Burrow. “This is our quarterback? He was silent, kept to himself. But once he got out there, I was like, ‘O.K., we got something.’”

That L.S.U. had something with Orgeron was not immediately apparent, either.

Five years ago, he was at home in Mandeville, across Lake Pontchartrain, watching his son play high school football and cooking up gumbo after being passed over at U.S.C. after leading the Trojans to six wins in eight games as the interim coach.

“I remember sitting on the sofa at my house, I had a year to reflect,” Orgeron said. “I remember watching SEC games going, I can compete with these guys given the right place.”

He added: “Man, people are going to talk and all that, but you can’t let it affect you. I use that as internal motivation. People, they tease me the way I talk, tease me the way I look and it’s kind of funny. The things that I was doing at Ole Miss I was ridiculed for, and now I punch myself in the jaw and everybody at L.S.U. likes it.”

L.S.U.’s offense took a few shots to the jaw before getting itself right.

Though Clemson was trying to win its third championship in four seasons, Coach Dabo Swinney was well justified this time in playing his familiar lil’ ol’ Clemson card, knowing the game would be played nearly 80 miles from L.S.U.’s home stadium.

Clemson fans turned out, as they regularly do, transforming one end zone into a sea of orange. But as anyone who roamed the streets of the French Quarter in the days leading up to the game might have surmised, this was L.S.U.’s town.



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A Rare Good First Week at a Grand Slam for the American Men

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Sandgren, who unlike Paul stayed under the radar by playing college tennis, said Paul deserved patience as he developed. “When you’re young you sometimes don’t make the most optimal decisions; everybody’s guilty of that to some degree,” Sandgren said. “The more disciplined you can be, your odds are better.”

Sandgren has been more disciplined, but has streaky results. For a player of his low profile, never reaching the Top 40 in the ATP rankings, Sandgren has amassed a remarkable collection of big wins at Grand Slam events, including a run to the quarterfinals here in 2018. His win over Berrettini was his fourth victory against a top-10 opponent at a Grand Slam in six matches, a winning percentage few others could touch. Calling himself a “realist with a pessimistic bent,” however, Sandgren sought ways to play down his win over Berrettini.

“I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s early in the year, and I don’t think he’d played an event,’” Sandgren said. “So that’s in the back of my head, that he’s not match tough. I’m searching for my own asterisks so I can pin myself down a little.”

Sandgren was particularly proud of his physicality against Berrettini, never flagging in the five-set match. After a toe injury last fall, Sandgren spent his off-season in the gym, improving his stamina and adding the muscle he said he needed to justify being the only man other than Rafael Nadal to wear sleeveless shirts here.

“Well, I’ve been working out — I think I can pull this off,” Sandgren said.

Reinventing his image among tennis fans may prove even harder work. During his 2018 run here, Sandgren drew scrutiny and criticism for his social media posts, in which he engaged with several far-right political figures and theories. After he was eliminated, he opened his news conference with a statement railing against the news media for “demonizing” him.

Sandgren said he now followed politics “less passionately.”

“I’m relatively good at one thing, which is playing tennis,” Sandgren said. “I wouldn’t want another interest I have, or a hobby — and following politics is a hobby — to bring that side of me down.”



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Las Vegas Doubles Down on Sports, Live and Broadcast

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At the Park MGM, the recently updated Moneyline Sports Bar & Book looks more like a neighborhood sports bar — albeit with bigger and more numerous screens — with large booths where groups can gather and a “tailgate menu” offering cheeseburgers and nachos. The teller area, where the betting takes place, is in the entry foyer.

Up the street, The Linq Hotel + Experience has updated its sports book to include “Fan Caves,” living room-style areas available for rent with 98-inch televisions guests can control, video games and nightclub-style bottle service. The resort is also building a studio for the sports network ESPN overlooking the Strip, to be completed next spring. (Its sibling resort, Caesars Palace, now has a Bleacher Report Studio producing content for the popular sports app and steaming service.)

“We wanted to create an actual living room experience where fans can be social together,” said Chris Holdren, the chief marketing officer for Caesars Entertainment, which runs The Linq, Caesars Palace and several other resorts. “In traditional sports books, you were lined up and if you wanted to high-five after your team scored, it meant going down the aisle.”

Making casinos more game-day friendly may expand their appeal. Research by the American Gaming Association found that sports bettors are generally younger, more affluent, more ethnically diverse and better educated than the general population of the United States.

In terms of live sports, Las Vegas has the W.N.B.A. Aces, pro soccer’s Lights, and Triple-A baseball’s Aviators, as well as pro hockey. Major League Baseball exhibition games have been held in Las Vegas nearly every year since 1991 and will take place again in February and March 2020 in the newly constructed Las Vegas Ballpark. Still, only 4 percent of visitors attended a sporting event in 2018, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Operators here expect that to change given the popularity of football, America’s favorite spectator sport, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. The Raiders organization said that it has already sold 99 percent of the licenses to buy season tickets. Leading up to the team’s debut, Las Vegas will hold the NFL Draft, April 23 to 25.



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In 18 Minutes, Zion Williamson Shows Flashes of the Future

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NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson was apprehensive in the first half of his first regular-season game with the Pelicans. He deferred to teammates. He passed out of traps. He did not use his 6-foot-6, 284-pound frame to demolish smaller defenders or propel the crowd to its feet with his dunks. Instead, he seemed determined to blend into the existing framework of his team.

It was Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center, and no one could blame Williamson for being tentative against the San Antonio Spurs. About three months removed from knee surgery, he had only recently resumed practicing. And now he was making his much-anticipated N.B.A. debut as the latest star on the league’s global stage.

At halftime, Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry intervened.

“I told him I wanted him to be a little more aggressive and to enjoy the moment,” Gentry recalled.

Williamson heeded that message in the fourth quarter, when he engineered a ridiculous stretch of basketball pyrotechnics. He pulled up in transition from the 3-point line. He plowed to the basket for a put-back layup. He went to the free-throw line as “M.V.P.” chants filled the arena. He scored on seven straight possessions, cluttering the box score with 17 points in just 3 minutes 8 seconds.

“He started to be who everyone thinks he is,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said.

Williamson, the top overall pick in last year’s draft, finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in a modest 18 minutes of playing time. But he had to watch the latter stages of the Spurs’ 121-117 victory from the bench, the victim of a minutes restriction as he works his way into playing shape. The crowd expressed its displeasure. Gentry said he had no choice.

“The medical people said that was it,” Gentry said. “He wasn’t happy about it. I don’t think anybody would be happy about it if you were playing at the level he was playing.”

Outrageous expectations have shadowed Williamson since he was in high school, and the remarkable thing is that he keeps meeting them — and even exceeding them. In four preseason games for New Orleans, he averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.4 percent from the field.

But he had surgery in October to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, which sidelined him for the first half of the season while raising questions about his long-term durability. Williamson, whose body has the general dimensions of a vending machine, is a science experiment in high-tops: How can someone so large be so explosive? Is his brand of spring-loaded athleticism sustainable over the grind of an 82-game schedule?

New Orleans is a football city, but Williamson’s presence has captivated sports fans here. He offers fresh hope for a long-suffering franchise — if only he can stay healthy. That has become the refrain for fans like Larry Blake, 64, a sound editor who has been a season-ticket holder since the team’s inception in 2002.

Williamson was also asked whether he was excited to get back to a sense of normalcy, now that he had gotten through his big debut. Before he could answer — “Man,” Williamson said — Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who had accompanied him to his postgame news conference, piped up.

“It’s not going to be normal for him,” Holiday said. “The way he played is something he can do every day.”

That is the hope, anyway.





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