He’s ready to rumbbbbbble: Former ASU wrestler Levi Cooper embracing WWE

  • Slug: Sports-Levi Cooper WWE,  800 words.
  • Photos available.

By Edwin Perez
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – One day he is studying accounting at Arizona State. The next he is hitting his “business” partner with a briefcase.

Welcome to the world of former ASU wrestler Levi Cooper, better known these days as “Tucker,” a WWE performer on Monday Night Raw.

“I love ASU and always will,” Cooper said. “Tempe has a very big spot in my heart.” Continue reading “He’s ready to rumbbbbbble: Former ASU wrestler Levi Cooper embracing WWE”

Sprint to the start: Coyotes ready for unique season following shortened training camp

  • Slug: Sports-Coyotes Open Season,  1,000 words.
  • Photo available.

By Michael Gutnick
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Arizona Coyotes had just 10 days to prepare for the shortened 2020-2021 season, which begins tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena.

It wasn’t a typical training camp around the NHL, but coach Rick Tocchet and the Coyotes made the most of their truncated time.

“It’s a crash course,” Tocchet said. “You’re trying to pick your poison on 30 things to go over with. There’s not a lot of time to go through everything, so I had to pick and choose my spots.” Continue reading “Sprint to the start: Coyotes ready for unique season following shortened training camp”

As soccer season nears, ASU’s Barbieri remains stranded in Brazil

  • Slug: Sports-Soccer Player Stranded,  1,580 words.
  • Photos available.

By Harrison Campbell
Special for Cronkite News

PHOENIX – When Pac-12 women’s soccer starts play in the spring, Arizona State could be without veteran midfielder Lara Barbieri. The ASU senior is from Monte Mor, São Paulo, Brazil, where she’s currently stranded, unable to return to the United States because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barbieri has been in Brazil since March, when she flew home after spring break and ASU pivoted to remote learning. For nearly 10 months, she has been waiting and hoping U.S. travel restrictions will be lifted, and she can return to Tempe, her second home. She has even contemplated returning to the U.S. through Mexico, but for the moment all she can do is wait and hope.

There was a period of time where many thought a 2021 women’s college soccer season wouldn’t happen after it was postponed last fall. That changed when the NCAA announced in September that the season would begin Feb. 3. For now, Barbieri is like everyone else – crossing her fingers and scanning for updates.

Continue reading “As soccer season nears, ASU’s Barbieri remains stranded in Brazil”

Four decades after memorable run with ASU, Lionel Hollins still thriving

  • Slug: Sports-Hollins Rewind,1530.
  • File photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By Amna Subhan
Cronkite News

PHOENIX — As confetti sprinkled down on the court inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, most of the Los Angeles Lakers’ players and coaches celebrated their championship together, marking the end to an anomalous season. Assistant coach Lionel Hollins watched his team win on television from his home in Memphis.

The Arizona State basketball alum said a fellow assistant coach Facetimed him in the locker room bringing him into the team celebration. He watched champagne spray across the room from his phone as grown men rejoiced like children. Continue reading “Four decades after memorable run with ASU, Lionel Hollins still thriving”

73 years after Robinson broke color barrier, baseball still struggles to lure African Americans

  • Slug: Sports-African American Baseball,  2,000 words.
  • Photos available.

By Brandon Jones
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Sixty-four years ago today, the New York Times ran this headline on the front page of its sports section: “Jackie Robinson quits baseball.”

It marked the end of one of the most important eras in sports history, one that saw the first African American play Major League Baseball in the modern era.

The barriers Robinson broke remain important, but a recent decline in participation by African Americans has brought disappointment. According to a study by the Arizona-based Society of Baseball Research, participation by African American players in MLB has declined steadily since 1981 and by 2016 that number plummeted to 6.7%, the lowest percentage since 1957. Continue reading “73 years after Robinson broke color barrier, baseball still struggles to lure African Americans”

Phoenix Rising FC believes new stadium will bring improved fan, player experience

  • Slug: Sports-Phoenix Rising Soccer,  700 words.
  • Photos available.

By Edwin Perez
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC hopes 2021 is about more than just improved play on the field. The organization said it is committed to a better fan experience, too.

A club that advanced to the USL Championship in 2020 – before it was canceled because multiple Tampa Bay players tested positive for COVID-19 – also added new players in the offseason, including on Monday winger Prince Saydee, 24, who was mostly recently with Miami FC. But the biggest headline of the offseason so far has been the Rising’s decision to move from Casino Arizona Field to a new stadium at the Gila River Indian Community’s Wild Horse Pass in Chandler.

The stadium will have a 35% capacity increase from the 6,200 of its previous home, permanent bathrooms, paved parking with multiple entrances and exits, a double-sided video screen, more practice fields and improved family and VIP experiences. Continue reading “Phoenix Rising FC believes new stadium will bring improved fan, player experience”

Watching brother win Fiesta Bowl a special moment for Florida State’s Chubba Purdy

  • Slug: Sports-Fiesta Chubba Purdy,  944 words.
  • Photos available.

By Edwin Perez
Cronkite News

GLENDALE – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of college football. Although limited fans were allowed to attend the Fiesta Bowl, it did not spoil the experience for a certain Florida State quarterback in the stands.

Seminoles freshman Chubba Purdy was at State Farm Stadium Saturday to watch his brother, Iowa State quarterback Brock, lead the Cyclones to a victory over Oregon.

“Watching Brock win the Fiesta Bowl and win MVP was such a surreal moment,” Chubba told Cronkite News. “I knew how much it meant for him so I was so happy for him for the whole time.”

Continue reading “Watching brother win Fiesta Bowl a special moment for Florida State’s Chubba Purdy”

Balancing act: Olympic athletes try to ramp up training, avoid injury after COVID-19 delay

  • Slug: Sports-Olympic Training COVID, 1,200 words.
  • 2 photos available
  • Infogram: https://infogram.com/olympic-injuries-1hxj48p5wkgy52v

By Jeffrey Horst
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Arizona State swim coach Bob Bowman has faced many challenges throughout a nearly 35-year-long coaching career, a portion of it guiding Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian.

However, Bowman never had to navigate the postponement of the Olympic Games and all of the potential ramifications of the delay.

Welcome to sports in the COVID-19 era. Continue reading “Balancing act: Olympic athletes try to ramp up training, avoid injury after COVID-19 delay”

‘It’s everything’: Fiesta Bowl turns into memorable day for Brock Purdy, Iowa State

  • Slug: Sports-Fiesta Bowl Game,  832 words.
  • Photos available.

By Jesse Morrison
Cronkite News

GLENDALE – Iowa State’s 34-17 victory over Oregon in the 50th annual Fiesta Bowl was its biggest bowl win in team history. And while it was an important moment for the Cyclones program as a whole, it was extra special for quarterback Brock Purdy.

Purdy, who starred at Gilbert Perry High School, was named Offensive Player of the Game Saturday in the bowl and stadium he dreamed of playing in as a child growing up in the Phoenix area.

“When I went out to the field to warm up, saw the nice tight grass and just driving up into the stadium and seeing State Farm Stadium and walking out there for the first time I was like, man, I really am home,” Purdy said. “And I’ve been to a bunch of Cardinal games and I went to the Pro Bowl that was here. And so to be able to play on that field for me. … I don’t even have words for it. It was amazing. And then obviously to be able to win and have the performance we did as a team. For me, it’s everything.” Continue reading “‘It’s everything’: Fiesta Bowl turns into memorable day for Brock Purdy, Iowa State”

Longtime friends, Valley quarterbacks Purdy, Shough square off in Fiesta Bowl

  • Slug: Sports-Fiesta Bowl Quarterbacks,  838 words.
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By Edwin Perez
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – If anyone has a unique perspective on two of the key players in Saturday’s Playstation Fiesta Bowl, it’s Dan Manucci.
Call him the quarterback whisperer.

“I have been training these guys since seventh grade so I pinched myself to make sure it was true,” the former Kansas State quarterback said. “Two better men cannot be found on this earth.”

When Iowa State’s Brock Purdy and Oregon’s Tyler Shough square off at State Farm Stadium, they won’t do it as strangers. Their friendship began when they played on a club baseball team together coached by former major leaguer Clay Bellinger, father of Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger. Continue reading “Longtime friends, Valley quarterbacks Purdy, Shough square off in Fiesta Bowl”

Sticks and zones: The right hockey equipment can elevate a player’s game

  • Slug: Sports-Hockey Sticks,970.
  • 2 photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By Michael Gutnick
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Johnny Walker is quite particular with his hockey stick.

The Arizona State forward wasn’t happy with his shot at a morning practice last season and marched into the office of equipment manager Jon Laughner with a puzzled look on his face.

“I don’t know what to do,” Walker said.

“Grab somebody else’s stick,” Laughner said. “That’s what they would do in pro hockey. You’re not feeling it with your stick. Just grab something that feels good to you.” Continue reading “Sticks and zones: The right hockey equipment can elevate a player’s game”

Toned down Fiesta Bowl still has meaning for Oregon, Iowa State

  • Slug: Sports-Fiesta Bowl Uniqueness,  948 words.
  • File photo available.

By Jesse Morrison
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Pomp, circumstance and long-standing traditions are aspects of college football bowl games that players, coaches and fans have learned to cherish over the years.

Yet in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports as we know them have looked different. That will include the second day of 2021 as well, when No. 10 Iowa State and No. 25 Oregon square off Saturday in the 50th Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium.

Gone are events normally held in the days leading up to the game. This year, no pep rallies, community outreach events or the annual welcoming of the teams by Fiesta Bowl volunteers are on the agenda. It’s a tough stroke of luck for a game celebrating its half-century milestone. Continue reading “Toned down Fiesta Bowl still has meaning for Oregon, Iowa State”

Digitized health records, safety apps could be game-changer for athletes at every level

  • Slug: Sports-PRIVIT Athletes Privacy,  3,900 words
  • File photos available.
  • https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/4825513/?utm_source=showcase&utm_campaign=visualisation/4825513
  • https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/4825551/?utm_source=showcase&utm_campaign=visualisation/4825551

By Rob Kliefeld
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Most of the 2020 calendar has been marred by uncertainty.

The fickleness of daily routines. The indecision of divided leadership. The precariousness of an American lifeline, sports, as society once knew them.

What has lied beyond the scope of doubt, however, is that formerly marginalized voices are headed to the podium to ignite tangible, national growth. College athletes want a seat at the table. Professionals have weighed the risks of competition in a COVID-19 climate versus the rewards. And adolescents dream on, despite some losing out on Friday nights under the lights and school dances. All in the face of a global pandemic. Continue reading “Digitized health records, safety apps could be game-changer for athletes at every level”

Lending a hand(print): Athletes raise awareness for missing, murdered Indigenous women

  • Slug: Sports-Red Handprint Runners,  1,500 words.
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  • https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/4564425/?utm_source=showcase&utm_campaign=visualisation/4564425
  • https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/4564840/?utm_source=showcase&utm_campaign=visualisation/4564840

By Averi Roberts
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The sight can be jarring: As a runner’s graceful stride brings her closer, her face comes into focus.

A rich, red handprint covers her mouth.

We will not be silenced. Continue reading “Lending a hand(print): Athletes raise awareness for missing, murdered Indigenous women”

A free ride: Erick Cedeño cycles 2,200 miles to experience the Underground Railroad

  • Slug: Sports-Underground Railroad,  1,690 words.
  • Photos available.
  • https://www.instagram.com/p/CIBKj6_BzQb/
  • Map: https://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/underground-railroad-ugrr/#Underground_RailroadoverViewModalT

By Amna Subhan
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Underground Railroad offered enslaved people in the late 18th century a chance at freedom. Some 200 years later, cyclist Erick Cedeño retraced their steps on wheels, seeking his own freedom.

Cedeño first rode the trail in 2014 and completed the 2,220-mile journey from New Orleans to Niagara Falls again in November.

“I wanted to retrace the history of the Underground Railroad because I wanted to engage myself in the experience,” Cedeño said. “I wanted to see what it felt like.”  Continue reading “A free ride: Erick Cedeño cycles 2,200 miles to experience the Underground Railroad”

No fans, no vaccine, no problem: It’s not ideal but Suns excited to showcase new look

  • Slug: Sports-Suns Open Season,  772 words.
  • File photo available.

By Frida Mata
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – After a disrupted 2019-20 season that ended in a bubble at Walt Disney World, the Phoenix Suns have undergone an offseason makeover that they hope will build on their surprising 8-0 run in Orlando that followed the COVID-19 interruption.

The Suns pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul. They made a splash in free agency, signing big man Jae Crowder. They opened a new practice facility, the $45-million Verizon 5G Performance Center.

They even broke out new NBA City Edition alternative “The Valley” jerseys. Continue reading “No fans, no vaccine, no problem: It’s not ideal but Suns excited to showcase new look”

‘My story is not done’: Eddie Johnson begins 20th season as voice of Phoenix Suns

  • Slug: Sports-Eddie Johnson Suns, 1,180 words.
  • File photo available.

By Averi Roberts
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – His story is full of chapters. Some are complete, defined by adversity and accomplishments, and others remain unwritten, blank pages waiting to be filled with more life experiences.

Former NBA standout Eddie Johnson is beginning his 20th year as the color analyst for the Phoenix Suns, who open their season tonight against the Dallas Mavericks. He also is completing his sixth year as a radio host on Sirius XM radio, and is a motivational speaker for businesses.

Johnson grew up in Chicago, first at Cabrini-Green, the now-demolished housing project that became a national symbol of crime and urban struggle, and later on the city’s West Side. After his father left when Johnson was young, the soon-to-be basketball star was determined to prove skeptics wrong and make a name for himself. Continue reading “‘My story is not done’: Eddie Johnson begins 20th season as voice of Phoenix Suns”

Monday Morning Sun Devil: ASU builds for 2021 as line play shows program’s growth

  • Slug: Sports-Monday Morning Quarterback, 1,400 words.
  • Photos available.

By Christian Babcock
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Arizona State’s offense has come a long way since 2019.

Though the 2019 season was a normal one by 2020 standards and featured a full set of spring and fall practices, the Sun Devils offense was stuck in neutral for much of the year.

ASU’s passing game was inconsistent as then-freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels rarely had a clean pocket from which to throw and maneuver. The running game, despite the presence of celebrated running back Eno Benjamin, struggled all season as the young and inexperienced offensive line rarely opened navigable holes for runners. Continue reading “Monday Morning Sun Devil: ASU builds for 2021 as line play shows program’s growth”

They shoot, they score: Coyotes’ goal to increase youth hockey participation a success

  • Slug: Sports-Youth Hockey Growth, 1,400 words.
  • Photos available.

By Jake Santo and Michael Gutnick
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – From “Rookie of the Year” to “Little Giants,” sports movies captivated kids growing up in the 1990s.

One of those was a young girl from Chandler, who fell in love with an unlikely sport.

Hockey. Continue reading “They shoot, they score: Coyotes’ goal to increase youth hockey participation a success”

Over par: Arizona’s golf scene thrives during COVID-19 pandemic

  • Slug: Sports-Golf COVID era, 2,207 words.
  • Photos available.
  • Graphic: https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/4416987/

By Nick Hedges
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Even as courses throughout Arizona stayed open, COVID-19 robbed local golfers of some of the smaller delights of a day at the links.

For example, pulling the flagstick is a sign that a player is about to accomplish the challenging feat of completing a hole. However, many courses have placed a circular piece of foam in the cup to discourage this satisfying tradition to help limit exposure to the coronavirus.

The foam barriers placed in golf holes are one of many changes Arizona courses had to make to keep players and staff safe amid the pandemic. Continue reading “Over par: Arizona’s golf scene thrives during COVID-19 pandemic”