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Travis Etienne’s Louisiana homecoming a mixed bag

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NEW ORLEANS — Travis Etienne’s homecoming of sorts to Louisiana was a mixed bag.

Emotionally, the experience was a roller coaster. He and his family received death threats prior to the kickoff Monday. 

“One person said we had less than 24 hours to get out of Louisiana,” Etienne’s mother, Donnetta, told the The Greenville News.

His team played a back-and-forth game with LSU to close out the first half. And, an early first half lead evaporated behind a LSU 21-point second quarter, resulting in a 42-25 loss in Monday’s national championship.  

Physically, the game ebbed and flowed in-and-out of his favor Monday night, highlighted by only a fistful of touches in the first quarter (five carries for 22 yards) and a limited amount of breathing room from the LSU defense.

All of which, became a high of success in the second quarter and into the half — sparked by Etienne’s a 29-yard second quarter carry up the Clemson sideline — giving him 64 yards at the half on 10 carries.

In the second half? 14 yards rushing. 

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Mentally, memories and reflections of Etienne’s upbringing in Jennings, Louisiana, hugged his psyche with the bittersweet bliss of nostalgia. 

“It is a very small town. It takes a village to raise a kid. I know everybody around there. Everybody was able to — back in the day, if I was doing something, my neighbors were able to spank me until my mom got there. It kept me humble, kept me — made me who I am today, made me appreciate things a little more, be thankful for the opportunities in life,” Etienne said. “Just being here, not many get the opportunity to have that in life. I’m thankful, grateful for that. It has just helped me with my outlook on life.”

Either way you dice it, one thing was undeniable about Etienne’s return, and his first time playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it was well-awaited and not a total wash.   

“It is very exciting, just knowing the opportunity I have to come back to my home state and be able to possibly win a national championship here, which is really great,” Etienne told the press at Saturday’s media day. “It’s something you couldn’t think of, something you couldn’t even script up in a movie. I can’t thank nobody but God for the opportunity I have. Going out, executing, making the most out of my chances.”

Etienne did that Monday night, irrespective of the outcome of the game. He was the same back he’s been all season: great speed-to-power conversion, tough to take down on the first hit and still the “one that got away,” in the eyes of LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

And his numbers and opportunities were more than likely curtailed because Clemson was playing from behind. 

Etienne finished the game with only 78 yards rushing on 15 carries, but became Clemson’s all-time leading rusher, passing Raymond Preister (3,966). Etienne’s 4,038 career yards rushing makes him the Tigers’ first ever 4,000 yard rusher and the ninth player in ACC history. 

“It’s amazing to block for a guy like that,” tackle Tremayne Anchrum said. “He’s such an amazing player and a really dope dude, and to get him over that hump in his home state was amazing. It may not have been the result that we wanted but it’s an honor and privilege to block for Etienne.”

So, to say Etienne’s homecoming was a total disappointment would be false. There were marks he left and a name he etched into the record books, and what better place to do it than at home — the very place he and his family was given “24 hours” to leave. 

Follow The Greenville News’ Andre Toran on Twitter @AndreToran.



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Rob Gorodetsky, popular sports gambler, charged with defrauding investor of nearly $10 million

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Federal prosecutors allege that illegal activity was behind the luxurious lifestyle of high-stakes gambler Rob Gorodetsky. Charges filed to the U.S. District Court in Chicago on Tuesday, state that Gorodetsky is being accused of defrauding an investor of almost $10 million.

The 27-year-old got his fame through putting large bets on sports games– “$350,000 on NFL Sundays, $100,000 on MLB games and tens of thousands of dollars on the NBA, WNBA, tennis, soccer and high school sports,” according to a 2017 profile in USA Today — while palling around and gambling with celebrities like Drake, Scott Disick and Dan Bilzerian. He’d also flaunt his wealth on Instagram and often wear a hat with a GAMBLR logo on it.

But federal documents say that this lifestyle was all thanks to a scheme he hatched up where he defrauded an unnamed investor from 2014 to 2018 for $9.6 million. While a lot of the money was used for his exorbitant gambling habits, approximately $2 million was used for cars, jewelry, travel and living and entertainment expenses. The scam itself is not made clear.

Gorodetsky is not only being charged with wire fraud, but also for filing a false tax return. He allegedly filed a return in 2017 that falsely claimed his total income for the year was $10,520. For reference, that was the same year as the USA Today profile that reported he had “wagered well over $1 million on a range of sporting events and tens of thousands of dollars more on blackjack and roulette.”

His arraignment and plea hearing have been set for Feb. 5, and he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.





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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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