World Cup fans ready to celebrate despite stadium beer ban
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Fans are pouring into Qatar to watch and be part of the first World Cup in the Middle East. A last-minute decision to not serve beer with alcohol at stadiums was largely welcomed by the country’s conservative Muslims and shrugged off by giddy fans. Meanwhile, the country’s vast Asian labor force also enjoyed the celebrations as the end of the tournament likely will see an economic slowdown. Qatar has faced criticism over its treatment of laborers, though Doha has made changes to its employment laws.
Qatar bans sale of beer at World Cup stadiums in about-face
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar has banned the sale of beer at World Cup stadiums. It was a sudden U-turn on the deal the conservative Muslim emirate made to secure the soccer tournament only two days before the opening game. The move was the latest sign of the tension of staging the event in the autocratic country where the sale of alcohol is heavily restricted. It’s also a significant blow to World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser and raised questions about how much control FIFA retains over its tournament. When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to FIFA’s requirements of selling alcohol in stadiums. But the details were only released in September, just 11 weeks before the first kickoff. Friday’s statement from FIFA said non-alcoholic beer will still be sold at stadiums.
Virginia basketball back on court, honors shooting victims
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Virginia’s basketball players wore sweatshirts in warmups Friday that honored three Cavaliers football players who were fatally shot nearly a week ago. The names of those players were on the backs of the shirts, and their jersey numbers and the words “UVA Strong” were on the front. The game against Baylor in the Continental Tire Main Event semifinals in Las Vegas was Virginia’s first basketball game since the campus shooting Sunday in which the three football players were killed. The Cavaliers canceled Monday’s home game against Northern Iowa.
Titans offensive coordinator arrested for speeding, DUI
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing is free on bond after being arrested on charges of speeding and driving under the influence early Friday morning. Downing was released from the Williamson County Jail just before 7 a.m. CST on $2,500 bond after being booked in about two hours earlier. The Tennessee Highway Patrol pulled over Downing. The arrest came just hours after the Titans beat the Packers 27-17 in Green Bay on Thursday night. Downing’s offense turned in its best performance this season as Tennessee won for the seventh time in eight games. The Titans say in a statement they are gathering information.
Lamar Jackson misses practice, but Harbaugh says he’ll play
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Lamar Jackson missed practice because of an illness, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh says the Ravens’ star quarterback will be fine for Sunday’s game against Carolina. Jackson has yet to miss a game this season. The Ravens listed him as questionable for Sunday on their injury report. Baltimore did not rule anyone out on that injury report. Tight end Mark Andrews and running back Gus Edwards are questionable as well. Andrews was a full participant at Friday’s practice. Cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis is doubtful after missing two straight practices.
Dodgers cut 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cody Bellinger has been cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers, making the 2019 NL MVP a free agent. Rather than offer him arbitration, the Dodgers decided not to tender a 2023 contract to Bellinger. The 27-year-old outfielder earned $17 million this season, when he batted .210 with 19 homers, 150 strikeouts and a .654 OPS in 144 games. Bellinger likely would have received a slight raise in arbitration, but the NL West champions chose to let him go instead. While prized for his defensive prowess, Bellinger has endured a stunning regression on offense over the last three seasons.
Packers caught in tailspin ever since London trip
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers were tied for first place in the NFC North when they headed to London last month as 8 1/2-point favorites over the New York Giants. They haven’t been the same since. Green Bay blew a 14-point lead that day and lost 27-22 in a game that ended with Aaron Rodgers injuring his right thumb on a foiled Hail Mary attempt. That started a seven-game stretch in which the Packers have gone 1-6. The Packers’ slide continued Thursday night with a 27-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Although they’re not out of playoff contention, they have a tough remaining schedule.
Bills’ McDermott keeps things light amid heavy snow fall
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Bills coach Sean McDermott is trying to keep things light as a major snowstorm hits Buffalo and disrupts the team’s schedule. He says the lake-effect storm that’s already dumped more than a foot of snow in some places can be a bonding experience for his team. The Bills are preparing to dig themselves out and travel on Saturday to Detroit. That’s where they will be the “home” team for a game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Buffalo is 6-3 and coming off two consecutive losses.
With heavy hearts, No. 16 UVA beats No. 5 Baylor in Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Armaan Franklin scored a career-high 26 points, and No. 16 Virginia used a big second-half run to knock off No. 5 Baylor 86-79 in the team’s first game since three Cavaliers football players were killed in a campus shooting. Virginia’s players wore sweatshirts in warmups that honored the victims from Sunday’s shooting, which led to the cancellation of the Cavaliers’ scheduled home game a day later. Virginia went on a 21-2 run in the second half and twice went ahead by 22 points. Franklin scored 10 points during that burst. Keyonte George scored 20 points for Baylor and LJ Cryer had 19.
Column: Enjoy a couple of months without Bama and Nick Saban
The Alabama Crimson Tide will play a football game Saturday that means … well, absolutely nothing. Not being cruel. It’s just the way things work in Tuscaloosa. The SEC championship is out of reach. Any hopes of claiming a spot in the College Football Playoff are gone. Which means there’s no chance of Bama winning its seventh national title since Nick Saban arrived. Which means, of course, that the season is effectively over for the Tide. It’s been a dozen years since Alabama was in this spot, playing a regular-season game with no potential impact on the national championship race.