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ESPN The Magazine 11.10.14

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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Who says the triple option is boring? Not these midshipmen! Not after those other Midshipmen, the ones on the gridiron, pummeled Virginia Military Institute 51-14 on Oct. 11 to break a three-game skid in front of some 33,800 relieved Navy fans. The 4,400-strong brigade, which takes up the north end of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for all home bouts, started its game day well before kickoff. Following pregame tradition, the officers-in-training depart from the United States Naval Academy about an hour prior, march down Annapolis’ Taylor Avenue, then hang a right, straight into the stadium. From there, they take their seats—and on this day, at least, we’re pretty sure they liked the view. HOW TO BECOME AN ESPN INSIDER! 1 Turn back to the cover and find your account number on the…

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[ tongues wagging ]

Is J.J. Watt single?” “Who is Derrick Rose dating?” “Does Jonathan Toews have a girlfriend?” Type any of these questions into a search engine and the same website pops up: Click through and you’ll tumble down a rabbit hole of old-school message boards called Girlfriend Forums, in which anonymous commenters speculate on the love lives of professional athletes. Talk-Sports’ design—Times font, bolded hyperlinks, pallid blue background—feels anachronistic, like an Angelfire page that was never snuffed out. Yet this weird little corner of the Internet has thrived for nearly a decade. Talk-Sports’ creator, a Canadian programmer named Randy Charles Morin, says the site has thousands of active users, who he claims have scooped reporters on news involving athletes such as Tiger Woods and Adrian Peterson. “I’ve been threatened to be sued,…

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[ lucky son of a gun ]

In 2010, Michael Vick had a magical season. A regular starter for the first time since spending 21 months in prison, Vick passed for more than 3,000 yards in just 12 games, ran for another 676, accounted for a total of 30 touchdowns and tossed just six picks. Meanwhile, Eli Manning led the NFL with 25 interceptions, throwing for fewer yards per attempt and per game than Vick did. For good measure, Vick drove the Eagles to a stupefying Week 15 comeback over Manning’s Giants during which Philly scored 28 points in the second half of the fourth quarter to win 38-31. Somehow, one analyst looked at those results and decided Manning was due to lead his team to a better 2011 than Vick. “Vick wasn’t anywhere near as good as…

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WHO The Gnarwhals (white tees) taking on the Rolling Blackouts WHAT Unicycle Football League game WHEN Oct. 5, 4:24 p.m. CT WHERE Gold Crown Billiards parking lot, San Marcos, Texas Marcus Garland, a 38-year-old laboratory analyst who grew up a rabid Houston Oilers fan, first conceived of football on a unicycle in 2008. And yes, beers were involved. Six years later, the now-80-person UFL (including cheerleaders) has grown from two teams to eight, with Garland as president. The five-on-five flackle games (part flag, part tackle) are played Sundays, August through April, culminating in the Stupor Bowl, a not-so-subtle nod to the altered state that typically permeates the trenches. As if balancing isn’t tricky enough. “The hard part is learning to ride the unicycle,” says Garland, aka Larry Gunn. (Everyone has an alias.) “Once you’ve got that down, the…

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It finally happened: Laundry inspired a contest. The brain trust at Red Bull was mesmerized by the cluster of clotheslines in the streets of Naples, Italy, so it conceived tricklining. The sport combines gymnastics and slacklining on 50 mm-wide nylon highlines strung between the balconies of old buildings. At the second annual meet, held Oct. 11 in the Sicilian city of Catania, Carlos Neto of Brazil flew through a laundry list of innovative tricks, including this double front flip, which won Best Trick and secured the overall win for Neto. Now, that’s a clean performance. —ALYSSA ROENIGK 5 Slacklines used at the event. There was a mix of parallel and crossed lines so competitors could perform more complicated tricks. A 62-by-50-foot air bag served as a safety net. 183.7 Total length, in feet, of the…

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safety first

Sometimes football just seems unfair. Right in the middle of the NFL's golden QB era, the league saw fit to crack down on DB physicality. The result has been predictable: QBs are throwing more scores and fewer picks per game than ever before. What in the name of Vince Lombardi is a coach to do? Increasingly, the answer involves finding top safeties with the skill to cover monster pass catchers and the strength to crush shifty running backs. “The spread offense has forced the game to evolve so much so quickly,” says an NFL scout with multiple Super Bowl rings. “Safeties are more important now than ever.” Here's why a team's last line of defense is quickly becoming one of its first priorities. 1 THROWING DOWN The rise of passing offenses has…