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Belmont Stakes: 50 Questions for the 150th Running

Whether you’re a zealous horseracing fan or a neighsayer, you’re likely to get caught up in what has been called the “Test of the Champion” — and we’ve got you covered.

When the bell rings on June 9, the horses that thunder forward will make history as part of the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes. And this year’s race offers a Triple Crown contender in Justify, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

But perhaps that’s putting the cart before the horse. For the uninitiated and the indifferent, there’s so much more to the Belmont Stakes than horses running around a track.

What’s in a Belmont Jewel? Has there ever been a tie? What does celebrity chef Bobby Flay have to do with horse racing? Grab your derby hat and saddle up. This is your guide to everything Belmont Stakes.

1Why is the race a big deal this year?

Besides this being the 150th running of the race, there is a chance Justify could win racing’s elite Triple Crown — victories at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. (That’s Justify up there winning the Preakness on May 19.)

2Can I get in?

The New York Racing Association announced in late May that all reserved seats are sold out. Too many people jockeying for a prime viewing location, it seems. (You were warned about the puns.)

Basic general admission tickets are available for Saturday and cost $30. Clubhouse admission tickets run $60. If you’re feeling fancy, you can buy a box seat starting at $425. Visit www.belmontstakes.com/tickets for more information on Thursday and Friday admission.

Remaining Saturday general admission tickets are sold day-of at the track entrance, cash only. But don’t say we didn’t warn you — some years (like a Triple Crown or a big anniversary, hint hint) attract large crowds and the NYRA has said admission will be capped at 90,000.

The arena is handicapped accessible. ADA compliant seating and parking is available via the festival’s website or by calling 844-NYRA-TIX.

3What does my ticket get me?

Lots, depending on your price point. You’ll need a ticket for each day you go (there’s an option to buy a three-day pass if horseracing is your thing).

Saturday general admission gets you access to the grounds, concessions and the grandstand apron, a viewing patio by the track. Clubhouse is a step up, with premium viewing areas and limited seating on the second and third floors. Box seats overlook the finish line and winner’s circle with exclusive perks.

The festival offers a variety of other packages with varying amenities and extras like assigned seating and access to special areas of the park.

4Money is no obstacle. What tickets should I buy to have the best experience?

First off, congrats on that! Second, if you’re willing to pony up (sorry) $1,949, you can buy a Gold Clubhouse VIP package. It comes with admission, full service in the ulta-exclusive Diamond Room (featuring an open bar, gourmet buffet and jockeys), third floor seating, an “Official Belmont Experiences Gift,” access to an on-site trip director, a two-night hotel stay and transportation.

5OK, hold your horses. What's the most economical option?

Go with the general admission ticket — the grounds offer plenty of activities and amenities, plus track-side access if you’re willing to squeeze through the crowd.

6Can I bring my kids?

Yes! There’s no reason to saddle your in-laws with the kids. Children under 12 receive free admission. Parents are welcome to bring diaper bags and strollers and the grounds feature a playground.

7Can I bring my dog?

Nay! (Horse humor.)

8Any other restrictions on what I can bring? And please end the answer with another lame horse pun.

Backpacks, large bags, signs, drones, grills, fireworks, umbrellas, selfie sticks and weapons are banned. Also be sure to leave your glitter, air horns and laser pointers at home. For a full list of banned items, visit belmontstakes.com.

Bringing any of these items will make your day unstable.

9Is there parking? Any other ways to get there?

Yes, there is parking, but it’s limited and you need to buy a pass. Passes for Friday run $12 for general lots to $25 for more exclusive lots. Saturday prices run $40 to $150. Two-day passes are $77-$170.

There’s an LIRR station at Belmont Park. You can also take the bus.

10Weren't there major LIRR issues at the race a few years ago?

In 2014, when there were record-breaking crowds gathered to watch California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid, exiting attendees waited for more than three hours at the Belmont Park’s Long Island Rail Road station.

“We’ve never had that kind of ridership before at Belmont. . . . Thirty-six thousand people arrived at Belmont between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and they all wanted to leave within the same 60 minutes,” an LIRR spokeswoman said at the time.

LIRR officials said they had only expected abut 20,000 riders, which is roughly how many race attendees used the rails after the last Triple Crown contender ran in 2008. Officials said they had hoped many would stay for the last race and concert and riders had been warned that of long waits — even with extra trains scheduled — because only one track was going in and out of the station.

In 2015, the LIRR rolled out a new Belmont Stakes service plan, including a $5 million upgrade of the dilapidated station with new platforms, stairs and ramps, and reconfigured service. That year, the LIRR moved the 30,000 fans gathered to watch American Pharoah’s Triple Crown win with relative ease.

This year, the LIRR expects to carry as many as 35,000 riders to the park and it is boosting service to meet the high demand. It is adding 21 eastbound trains to Belmont beginning before 10 a.m., and will operate westbound trains from the park about every 15 minutes after the race. Read more about the railroad’s plan here.

11Whoa. (Horse joke). So will this be a traffic nightmare?

Come on, this is Long Island. Expect gridlock conditions in and around Belmont Park.

In addition to the expected congestion on Hempstead Turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway, the planned closure of Plainfield Avenue from Hempstead Turnpike to Vanderwater Avenue from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. is expected to worsen traffic conditions.

Lines are also expected to be long for parking, which will range in price from $40 to $150.

And according to lore, Belmont is responsible for LI’s “first great automobile logjam.” According to belmontstakes.com, “the crush of horse-drawn carriages and automobiles filled with people trying to get to Belmont Park for opening day was so great” when Belmont Park opened in 1905 that Long Island experienced its first huge traffic back-up.

12How many people usually attend?

It depends on the year. Triple Crown years tend to see bigger crowds. In fact, the attendance record — 120,139 — was set when a Triple Crown was expected in 2004. This year, hower, the NYRA has capped attendance at 90,000.

13Do famous people go?

It’s not the Kentucky Derby, but you may spot a familiar face or two. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay is a horse owner and breeder. In past years, actors Bill Murray, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick and former President Bill Clinton have attended.

14Do I have to dress up?

It’s not quite as high fashion as the Kentucky Derby, but the Belmont Stakes does have what officials call a tradition of “elegant attire.” Beyond the grandstand, guests are asked to dress in varying degrees of “proper attire,” from collared shirts and no “abbreviated wear” to suits and dresses in the most exclusive areas of the festival.

15Do people wear big hats like at the Kentucky Derby?

You bet — that’s part of the fun of dressing up. There’s usually a fashion contest, too.

16Why do people wear big hats to horse races, anyway?

American horse races were inspired by British ones, where dress codes were strict and included hats, according to the Kentucky Derby Museum. The races were also popular among wealthy people, who were eager to dress up. Dress codes may have relaxed since the 19th century, but the appeal of a show-stopping hat hasn’t waned.

17Who was the first horse to win the Triple Crown?

Sir Barton won the Belmont Stakes in 1919 to become the first Triple Crown winner before the term even existed. “Plagued with soft feet that caused him to lose his shoes during a race, Sir Barton was a cranky colt who mostly disliked humans,” says belmontstakes.com.

18How rare is a Triple Crown?

Only 12 horses have ever won it. The most recent winner was in 2015, when American Pharoah was the first in 37 years.

19So, what's Justify's story?

At both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the 1,280-pound Justify held his ground courageously and refused to let an opponent get past him. In the Kentucky Derby, he left behind Good Magic after setting hot fractions with the rabbit Promises Fulfilled. In the Preakness, Justify went head to head with Good Magic before shaking him off and turning back a late move by Bravazo.

Bred in Kentucky, the undefeated chestnut colt has made fewer starts before the Belmont Stakes than any of the 12 Triple Crown champions. Unlike them, he didn’t race as a 2-year-old. (See question 24.)

Justify will be trainer Bob Baffert’s fifth shot at one of the rarest trophies in sport. Three years ago, Baffert ended a 36-year Triple Crown drought with American Pharoah.

Can Justify become the 13th thoroughbred immortal? “The Test of the Champion” will be his sixth race crammed into less than four months. No other horse ever made his career debut in February and went for the Triple Crown that June.

Justify arrived in New York on June 6. He is ridden by jockey Mike Smith.

20Who is Big Red?

That’s Justify’s nickname at the barn.

But trainer Bob Baffert told horseracingnation.com in April that the nickname was about the horse’s appearance and not the name’s historical significance — it was also the nickname for Secretariat.

21What about Secretariat?

Secretariat is one of the most famous horses to win the Triple Crown. In 1973, he won the race by 31.5 lengths — a world record for a 1.5-mile dirt race, according to belmontstakes.com

22Does Secretariat have any LI ties?

According to the Lexington, Kentucky-based Jockey Club, Secretariat is a distant relative of the Long Island horse Messenger. Messenger, known as “the great progenitor,” lived from 1780 to 1808 and was the father of our country’s racehorses, according to Newsday archives. He was the “founding sire” of harness racing and the most prominent contributor to the nation’s thoroughbred stock. He lived much of his life on a Locust Valley farm, and among the horses that can be linked back to him are Eclipse, Man o’ War and Spectacular Bid.

23Is Secretariat still honored in horseracing today?

There’s a tribute to Secretariat at Belmont Park. The “Secretariat Pole” is 31.5 lengths from Belmont’s finish line — in honor of the length of his victory — and is painted blue and white in honor of his stable, according to belmontstakes.com. It was erected in 2013 for the 40th anniversary of his win.

24What is the Apollo Curse?

In 1882, a horse named Apollo won the Kentucky Derby. Apollo had never raced as a 2-year-old, the most common age for most prominent horse races.

In the 136 years since, no horse had ever won the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old. That was, until Justify – who started racing at 3 – won the Derby on May 5.

Prior to the Derby, Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, told the Los Angeles Times that the curse didn’t scare him. “I don’t really ever think about that,” he said. “There are so many other curses out there. … Now black cats, they kill me. I can just feel it too. Point Given [in 2001] on the way out to the track, a black cat ran in front of him. Real Quiet, [in 1998] before the Triple Crown race, I was driving in here and a black cat ran in front of me. They should not allow black cats on the backstretch.”

25They've really been doing this for 150 years? Has anything changed since the first running?

The first Belmont Stakes was held in The Bronx on a Thursday in 1867. The race later moved to Saturdays and didn’t come to Elmont until Belmont Park was constructed in 1905 (it was not run from 1911-1912 and temporarily moved to Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens for 1963-1967). The race course has also varied in length and today’s course is slightly shorter than the original, from 1 5/8 miles to 1.5 miles.

In the early years of the Belmont, the race was run clockwise (as races are run in England) over a fish hook-shaped course which included part of the current training track. The first counterclockwise Belmont Stakes was run in 1921, according to Newsday archives.

A Belmont Stakes-winning horse is significantly more valuable today, too. The owner of the winning horse took home a whopping $1,850 in 1867, according to NYRA. Estimates vary, but that prize has the buying power of $30,000-$40,000 in 2018 money, a fraction of the $800,000 Tapwrit took home in 2017.

26Hey, we're in the home stretch! Can we celebrate with a horse joke?

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Why the long face?”

27Why is it called the Belmont Stakes?

The Belmont Stakes is named after New York financier August Belmont, according to belmontstakes.com. Not because it’s in Elmont.

28How important is the Belmont Stakes to horseracing?

It’s the longest dirt stakes (1 1/2 miles) in American racing, and it can crown an immortal if the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness completes the sweep in Elmont.

29The Kentucky Derby has mint juleps. Does Belmont have a drink?

For Belmont, the drink is a little more complicated than the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, which has the black-eyed Susan. Since 2011, the official cocktail has been called the Belmont Jewel, a blend of Woodford Reserve bourbon, lemonade, pomegranate juice and orange zest. But past years have seen the race cycle through other recipes.

Previous attempts at a winning signature cocktail included the Big Apple (used very briefly in the 1970s), the White Carnation (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, soda water and cream) and the Belmont Breeze (bourbon, sherry, lemon and orange juices and mint).

30Can I bring in my own food and drink?

As long as you are not seated in a hospitality area, outside food is fine. You can also purchase drinks, pretzels, hot dogs, ice cream and more from food trucks, concession stands and park cafes.

However, you cannot bring your own alcohol.

31How about tailgating?

Nope, you can’t do that either. Generally, no horsing around.

32Is there a map of the grounds?

Sure is! You can find one here.

33What time does everything start the day of the race?

Gates open at 8:30 a.m. The races on Belmont Stakes Day start at 11:35 a.m. The main race will start at 6:37 p.m.

34How long does the race last?

The race is typically over in about three minutes. Tapwrit won the 2017 Belmont Stakes with a time of 2:30.02.

35How do I place a bet?

Bring cash to a teller at a mutuel window, which is the old-fashioned way. You specify how much you want to wager, and how. For example: “Give me $10, win, place and show on the 5 (use the horse’s program number, not its name).” The total of such a bet is $30. Good luck!

Credit cards are no good, by the way. You also can bet online through an Internet account.

36How do I pick a horse?

That’s up to you. Some people meticulously study the past performances of horses and read the race day program to predict winners. Others choose less straightfoward metrics, such as horse names or the jockey’s uniform colors.

37Who's running?

The post positions were announced June 5 at Citi Field. They are:
1 Justify
2 Free Drop Billy
3 Bravazo
4 Hofburg
5 Restoring Hope
6 Gronkowski
7 Tenfold
8 Vino Rosso
9 Noble Indy
10 Blended Citizen

38What if I bet $150,249,400 this year?

Well, then you would already be a winner in one sense. Then the all-time Belmont betting record was $150,249,399 placed on the race won by Tonalist in 2014.

39How do they name horses anyway?

Well, there are 17 restrictions noted on The Jockey Club’s registry website. They include:
-Names consisting of more than 18 characters (spaces and punctuation count);
-Names consisting entirely of initials;
-Names consisting entirely of numbers;
-Names ending in “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or similar horse-related terms;
-Names of living persons unless written permission to use their name is on file;
-Names of persons no longer living unless approved by The Jockey Club;
-Names of winners in the past 25 years of grade one stakes races;
-Names of racetracks or graded stakes races

Race horses are named at age 2, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Before that, they are usually called by nicknames or by their mother’s name and the year they were born. For example, American Pharaoh was once called “Littleprincessemma 2012,” the Post reported.

40And the jockeys - any rules for them?

Belmont Stakes horses must carry 126 pounds, and they carry lead pads in the saddles. The lead weight is the difference between the rider’s weight and 126 pounds; most weigh no more than 116 pounds or so.

41Any cool Belmont trivia that I can use to stump (and win money from) my friends?

Sure! Even though female racehorses are uncommon and only about two dozen have ever run in the Belmont Stakes, it was a filly who won the very first Belmont – Ruthless in 1867.

(The race has been won by female racehorses on two other occasions – Tanya in 1905 and Rags to Riches in 2007. And female jockeys are even rarer. None are expected this year, and the only female jockey ever to ride a Belmont winner was Julie Krone in 1993, riding Colonial Affair.)

42Has there ever been a tie?

No, but a handful of races since 1905 have come close. In 1936, 1962, 1998 and 2016, the winners achieved victory by a margin of a nose, according to NYRA records. Another six or so races were won by a head and the winner was ahead by just their neck in about nine.

43I'm not going to see a horse get hurt, am I?

No promises. Dozens of horses are injured or killed each year racing or training to race at state racetracks. New York State publishes an annual report of the injuries and deaths.

44If the Belmont Stakes is one horse race, what's Belmont Stakes Day and what's the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival?

The festival includes three days of races, leading up to the official running of the Belmont Stakes. Thursday and Friday offer races and admission at discounted prices. Saturday, also known as Belmont Stakes Day, offers races, food trucks, concessions, live performances and more activities, plus the big race.

45Does anything else happen at the event other than horseracing?

It’s mostly horseracing, but you can sample food trucks, sip cocktails and enjoy the weather. The event also includes performances by Billy Joel tribute band Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot on Friday and Third Eye Blind and the cast of Broadway musical “A Bronx Tale” on Saturday.

46My buddy wants to go double or nothing on that trivia. What else ya got?

On five occasions, the Belmont had just two horses in the field — 1887, 1888, 1892, 1910 and 1920.

47I hear the Islanders are moving to Belmont. Have they started building the arena?

Construction on the Islanders’ new arena and surrounding retail development project at Belmont Park remains on schedule to start as early as next spring, according to the Empire State Development Corp.

48What does Belmont Park offer people on days other than the Belmont Stakes?

The track is open from early May until around July 20, when Saratoga opens for six weeks. After Labor Day, the Belmont fall meet runs until late October or early November. The track usually is open four days a week, with roughly nine races at day. Saturday cards showcase the best horses.

49What's the best way to follow the race?

You can get the latest on all things Belmont right here on newsday.com, on the Newsday app, with Newsday breaking news alerts, in Newsday’s Sunday paper and on Newsday’s social media. Of course.

NBC will broadcast the Belmont Stakes in a program that will run 5-7 p.m. on Saturday.

50How about a ... photo finish?

Sure! Here’s a look at Newsday staff photographer J. Conrad Williams Jr.’s award-winning photograph of American Pharoah winning the Belmont in 2015 – and the first Triple Crown in decades.

Super Bowl LII Eagles fan reaction videos

Fans took to social media during and after Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watch their fan reaction videos below:

NFL Route Tree

NFL Route Tree

Each movement by a wide receiver is carefully coordinated, and they all stem from one thing: the route tree.

The route tree is a simple way for an offense to teach, organize and quickly call plays. It was developed by Don Coryell while coaching at San Diego State in the 1960s. He brought it to the NFL in the 1970s as a head coach with the Cardinals and Chargers.

Odd-numbered routes break out to the sideline, even-numbered ones into the middle. An offense can use these numbers to quickly tell the receivers what routes to run on a play. For instance, a call that has the number “958” means that one receiver runs a “go” route (9), one runs an “out” route (5) and one runs a “post” route (8).

Click on each tab below to learn more about each route in the route tree, as well as the best players (active or retired) to run each pattern.

1 Flat

Flat Play

A flat is a short, quick-hitting route run close to the line of scrimmage. The receiver takes a step upfield, then quickly breaks out toward the sideline. It’s called a flat route because it’s run into the area between the sideline and the hash marks, known as the flat.

Usually, flat routes are run by running backs out of the backfield, tight ends and speedier, more elusive receivers, since the play’s result mostly will depend on what they can do after they make the catch.

Flat routes are effective when a defense commits to covering deep or as a checkdown option against heavy pressure. They’re also good when a team needs to quickly gain a few yards and stop the clock during a two-minute drill. In addition, flats often are paired with one or two other routes as part of a combo route — “stick,” “flood,” “spacing,” “curl-flat” and “slant-flat,” among others — designed to put stress on a specific defender and force him to choose who to cover.

Best to run the route: Roger Craig

2 Slant

Slant Play

A slant is the inside-breaking relative of the flat route (meaning, it’s a short, quick route close to the line). Here, a receiver takes three steps upfield, then cuts in at a 45-degree angle and runs toward the middle of the field.

Slant routes are good for speedier, shiftier receivers who can quickly shake defenders and do damage after the catch. Odell Beckham Jr. is a perfect example — he’s made a habit of turning 5-yard slants into 60-yard touchdowns.

Slants are good against a defense that is playing off coverage and giving the receiver a cushion, or against man coverage (since the receiver’s inside break should give him a step on his defender). An offense also can throw the slant route against a blitz-happy defense, since the quarterback doesn’t have to wait for his receiver to get far downfield and can get the ball out quickly.

Best to run the route: Beckham, Jerry Rice, Andre Reed, Art Monk

3 Comeback

Comeback Play

A comeback is an intermediate route that usually covers about 10-15 yards. As soon as the receiver reaches the top of the route , he plants, turns out and runs back toward the sideline to make the reception.

The key part of a comeback route is the timing between the quarterback and the receiver. In an ideal situation, the ball should be at the receiver as soon as he turns around at the top of the route, so the quarterback needs to anticipate the break. The receiver’s ability to sell a “go” route also helps — the receiver wants to make the cornerback think he has to cover deep before making his cut. That would make the defender off-balance and create natural separation as the defender tries to recover.

A well-run comeback route can help a team beat man coverage. Like the other outside-breaking routes, it’s good if a team needs to drive down the field in a two-minute drill since the receiver already is close to the sideline to stop the clock.

Best to run the route: Michael Irvin, Steve Largent, Terrell Owens, Jarvis Landry

4 Curl

Curl Play

The curl — also called a “hook” or a “button hook” — is largely the same as the comeback route, with one key difference: When the receiver reaches the top of the route, he plants and turns back in toward the middle of the field. When run closer to the line of scrimmage (about five to eight yards downfield), a curl becomes a “hitch” route.

The curl relies heavily on timing and the ability to sell the go route. As soon as the receiver plants and turns, he should expect the ball to be there. At the same time, if he can convince the cornerback that he’s going deep, the inside break will be that much more effective as the defender has to react and make up ground.

The curl route is good against man coverage, for the above reason. It’s also part of several combo route concepts, including “curl-flat,” “smash,” “spacing” and “spot,” among many others.

Best to run the route: Michael Irvin, DeAndre Hopkins, Hines Ward

5 Out

Out Play

The out can be run at pretty much any level of the field, though it’s usually run at about a 10-yard depth. The receiver runs straight ahead when the ball is snapped, then once he reaches the top of the route, he sharply cuts 90 degrees toward the sideline.

Here, the receiver needs to be aware of the distance between him and the sideline — and be prepared to toe-tap to stay inbounds if the pass is outside. The cut also is important — if it’s not crisp enough, the defensive back will know what’s coming and can jump the route.

Out routes are very common in two-minute drills and other time-saving situations since it’s a great way to get a decent amount of yards and stop the clock. They can beat both man and deep zone coverages — the outside break should fool the defender in man, while a shorter out route could allow an opportunity for some yards after the catch against a deep zone such as Cover 4.

Best to run the route: Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter

6 In

In Play

An in route (also called a “dig”) is the inside-breaking version of the out route.

An in route becomes a “drag” route when: (a) it’s run closer to the line of scrimmage with no stem, and (b) the receiver rounds off the route instead of sharply cutting inside.

The break on an in route needs to be crisp or else the receiver risks the defender diagnosing the play and putting himself in better position to jump the route. It also helps to have a receiver who can make catches in traffic since the middle of the field often is flooded with players.

Ins are very good against man coverage since the defender will have to recover against a strong-enough cut. Depending on the depth of the route, they can work against zone coverage — shorter routes can exploit deep coverage, while deeper ones can attack the area between the linebackers and the safeties. In routes also are used in several combo route concepts such as “levels” and “Mills”, while drag routes are popular in “mesh” combo routes or as checkdown options for a slot receiver or tight end.

Best to run the route: Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter

7 Corner

Corner Play

A corner route, also known as a flag route, attacks the deep portion of the field. The receiver runs straight ahead for 10-15 yards, then cuts 45 degrees and runs diagonally toward the sideline. It’s called a corner or a flag route because it often is run to the pylons (which were flags in the old days) in the corners of the end zone.

The receiver should be able to create separation with his cut. He can sell an inside-breaking route against the cornerback by turning his head inside toward the quarterback right before he plants his foot and cuts outside. The quarterback often will wait for the receiver to make the cut before throwing and should place the throw to the receiver’s outside shoulder to help avoid defenders.

Corner routes are great against Cover 2, since there are coverage holes along the sidelines between the corner (who is covering the flat) and the safety help over the top. They’re also useful whenever the offense needs to get out of bounds on a chunk play, and are common in the “smash” combo route — the inside receiver runs a corner route, while the outside receiver runs a hitch — and other concepts where the defender has to choose whether to cover deep or shallow.

Best to run the route: Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Odell Beckham Jr., Jordy Nelson, DeAndre Hopkins

8 Post

Post Play

The post is the inside-breaking variation of the corner route. The receiver runs 10-15 yards downfield, then cuts 45 degrees inside and runs across the middle of the field. It’s called a post route because the receiver is running toward the goalposts.

A common variation of the post route is the “skinny post” or “bang 8,” in which the receiver runs a less severe angle than usual — in essence, narrowing the route.

The receiver should be able to handle catches in traffic, since he’ll likely have a safety bearing down on him. And like the corner route, the receiver should be able to create separation from his initial defender on the cut.

Posts are good against defenses with a single-high safety, such as Cover 1 or Cover 3, since the inside break allows the offense to attack the defender over the top. They can work against man, but the receiver needs to get good inside positioning on the defender and the quarterback needs to loft the pass over any underneath defenders. Skinny posts are good against Cover 3, since the narrower route can attack the small seam between the outside cornerback and the safety responsible for the deep middle third of the field.

Best to run the route: Torry Holt, Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice, Al Toon

9 Go

Comeback Play

This route has many names — you’ll also hear it go by “fly,” “streak” and “clearout” — but it’s the simplest of them all: a straight line downfield.

There are three ways a go route can play out: a pure over-the-shoulder throw-and-catch, a jump ball or a back-shoulder catch. The first is a result of pure speed — the receiver speeds by the defensive back, and the quarterback hits the receiver in stride. The second usually happens on underthrown passes, traditional over-the-top fades in the end zone, or instances where the receiver has a clear size advantage and can outmuscle his defender. The third is all about ball placement — the quarterback throws it behind the receiver, who adjusts based on where both he and the ball are in relation to the defender.

Of course, faster receivers such as DeSean Jackson are better at burning defensive backs, but bigger receivers also can have success on go routes. Jordy Nelson has mastered the back-shoulder fade concept with Aaron Rodgers, while Mike Evans uses his size and 37-inch vertical leap to make deep contested catches over defenders.

Go routes can beat both Cover 2 and 3, since the defense has only two (Cover 2) or three (Cover 3) defenders dropping back deep. So, if an offense sends enough players downfield, they should outnumber the defense. Go routes also can serve as decoys to take defensive backs out of the play and free up space for shorter underneath routes.

Best to run the route: Randy Moss, Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, Tyreek Hill, Jackson, Evans, Nelson

Production: Nick Klopsis (with Bob Glauber) Design: James Stewart

Nick Fanti: Life in the minors

'I knew he was special'

Chapter 1

'I knew he was special'

When Nick Fanti began playing baseball as a child, he didn't want to go anyway near the pitcher's mound. By his senior year at Hauppauge High School, the lefthander was attracting scouts for his pitching ability. Now he'll try to use that to get to the majors.

Lakewood BlueClaws/Mike Dill

The Fanti famiglia

Chapter 2

The Fanti famiglia

As the youngest of five and the only boy in the Fanti family, Nick Fanti said it was like he had five moms growing up. The tight-knit group made an effort to travel the 120 miles from Hauppauge to Lakewood, New Jersey, to see Fanti pitch as often as possible. Fanti also had support from his host family, the Hoffmans, who are BlueClaws season-ticket holders.

Lakewood BlueClaws/Mike Dill

'Can you do it in three months?'

Chapter 3

'Can you do it in three months?'

Lakewood pitching coach Brian Sweeney, who's also the coach for Team Italy, asked Nick Fanti, 20, if he would be able to pitch in the World Baseball Classic in three or four years. Then in December 2016, Sweeney asked Fanti if he could pitch in the 2017 WBC in March. Fanti threw a scoreless inning and struck out Mets utility man T.J. Rivera in his lone relief appearance against Puerto Rico.

WBC Inc.

The no-hitter

Chapter 4

The no-hitter

Fanti made a name for himself on Long Island when he threw back-to-back no-hitters in high school. On May 6, he added his first professional combined no-hitter when he went 8 2/3 innings without giving up a hit against the Columbia Fireflies. His roommate, Trevor Bettencourt, closed out the game with a strikeout to preserve the no-no. Two months later, Fanti tossed a no-hitter of his own against the Charleston RiverDogs.

Lakewood BlueClaws/Mike Dill

The last game

Chapter 5

The last game

After the BlueClaws beat the Kannapolis Intimidators in the final game of the season, Fanti said goodbye to his teammates, fans and host family and headed back to Long Island for the offseason -- one step closer toward achieving his dream.

Lakewood BlueClaws / Mike Dill

Tale of the tape: Aaron Judge vs. Jose Altuve

Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve are two of the leading candidates to win the American League MVP award, announced after the World Series.

But for the next week or so, they will be opponents in the ALCS. Here is the long and short of it when comparing Judge and Altuve.

Height

Jose Altuve is 5-foot-6

Aaron Judge is 6-foot-7


Jose Altuve stats

  • Regular season
  • .346 average
  • 24 home runs
  • 81 RBI
  • 112 runs
  • 204 hits
  • 32 steals
  • .410 OBP
  • .547 slugging

  • Postseason (through ALDS)
  • .533, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 walks

Longest home run:

435 feet

May 15 at Marlins Park off Miami’s Dustin McGowan.

Average distance of home runs:

378.29 feet

Aaron Judge stats

  • Regular season
  • .284 average
  • 52 home runs
  • 114 RBI
  • 128 runs
  • 157 hits
  • 9 steals
  • .422 OBP
  • .627 slugging

  • Postseason (through ALDS)
  • .125, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 walks, 16 strikeouts

Longest home run:

496 feet

June 11 at Yankee Stadium off Baltimore’s Logan Verrett.

Average distance of home runs:

415.48 feet

How the Yankees, the World Series and the presidency are connected

The Yankees are the most storied franchise in sports, having won 27 World Series. The next winningest team in baseball is the St. Louis Cardinals with 11 titles.

Despite having won a title an average of every four years during their history, a strange trend has emerged in the last 59 years. Since 1958, the Yankees have not won a World Series with a Republican president in the White House.

During that stretch, they have won at least one championship almost every time a Democrat was president (the lone exception being Lyndon Johnson).

Here’s a look at the strangely coincidental run the Yankees and the White House have had over the past six decades:


Republican Donald Trump (2017-present)

This is the first MLB postseason with Trump in office and the Yankees trail the Indians in the ALDS, 2-1.


Democrat Barack Obama (2009-2017)

1 championship.

The Yankees won the World Series in 2009. It was the only World Series the Yankees played in during Obama’s presidency.


Republican George W. Bush (2001-09)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series and to the Florida Marlins in 2003.


Democrat Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

4 championships.

The Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series, then the San Diego Padres in 1998, the Braves again in 1999 and the Mets in 2000.


Republican George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

0 championships.

The Yankees did not reach the playoffs in any of these seasons.


Republican Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost the 1981 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Democrat Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

2 championships.

The Yankees won back-to-back World Series, beating the Dodgers in both 1977 and 1978.


Republican Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost the 1976 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.


Republican Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

0 championships.

The Yankees did not reach the World Series in any of these seasons.


Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

0 championships.

The Yankees lost the World Series in 1963 to the Dodgers and in 1964 to the Cardinals.


Democrat John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

2 championships.

The Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 World Series and the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series.


Republican Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)

3 championships.

The Yanks won the World Series in 1953 to cap off a run of five straight titles. They won again in 1956 and 1958. The Yankees also lost three World Series in this span, 1955, 1957 and 1960.

How athletes and the sports world are reacting to President Donald Trump

Last Friday night, during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that [expletive] off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired.”

That set into motion a series of actions at Sunday’s NFL games across the country, with some players kneeling or locking arms in a sign of solidarity.

On Monday, Trump’s feud with the NFL shows no signs of abating, with the president tweeting early Monday morning: “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”

Athletes and analysts continued to share the opinions on the situation. Below is a collection of comments from stars such as Tom Brady, LeBron James and Drew Brees.

LeBron James

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin

Magic Johnson

NFL analysts

NBA MVP Russell Westbrook

Wizards guard Bradley Beal

Warriors coach Steve Kerr

Bob Costas

Aaron Rodgers, others after Sunday’s games

Saints QB Drew Brees

Warriors guard Stephen Curry

Patriots QB Tom Brady

Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson

NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Bills center Eric Wood

Sarah Sanders, White House spokeswoman

Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals

The Yankees, the Mets and 3 MLB games in NYC today

The Yankees host the Royals at Yankee Stadium at 1:05 p.m., followed by the Mets with a doubleheader against the Braves at Citi Field starting at 4:10 p.m.

Game 1: Yankees vs. Royals — Game story | Boxscore

Game 2: Braves at Mets, Game 1, 4:10 p.m. | Boxscore

Tonight: Braves (Fried) at Mets (Lugo), Game 2, Shortly after Game 1 ends

NFL preview 2017

OPENING KICKOFF

The New York football dichotomy for 2017

It’s a case of Giants up, Jets down, but the disparity has never been this great, the gulf never as wide between the two teams. Never. The Giants are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Jets are a stripped-down version of an NFL team. Read Bob Glauber’s season-opening overview of the state of football in New York.

Commissioner Glauber?

What would Newsday football columnist Bob Glauber change about the NFL if he were in charge? Have a look at his five ideas to improve the NFL.

Best of the NFL

Who are the five best players in the NFL? The five best quarterbacks? Defensive backs? Punters? Newsday football columnist Bob Glauber picks the five best in just about every category you can think of as the 2017 season kicks off.


THE GIANTS

Giants’ goal: Fifth Super Bowl trophy

Ben McAdoo made that the unabashed goal when he became head coach last season. The Giants went 11-5 and made the playoffs, all positive steps for a franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs in four years.

Q&A with Eli Manning

Giants QB Eli Manning sat down with Newsday’s Tom Rock to talk about this year’s team, the 10-year anniversary of his first Super Bowl win, how he might want his career to eventually end and the biggest changes he’s seen in 14 seasons.

Giants’ ends are near

During one of the preseason practices this summer it looked like Jason Pierre-Paul gave up halfway through a pass rush. Established veteran, sweltering grind of camp, little to prove. Who could blame him for coasting for a rep? But that’s not what happened. Read Tom Rock’s story.

The Marshall-Manning connection


Brandon Marshall joked this week that Eli Manning has a lot of work to do if he wants to dethrone Ryan Fitzpatrick as the best quarterback he’s ever played with. Read Tom Rock’s story.


How the NFC East stacks up for the Giants


NEW YORK GIANTS: Last year, GM Jerry Reese addressed the defense, adding free agent difference-makers Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. This year, he added to the offense with free agents Brandon Marshall and Rhett Ellison and first-round tight end Evan Engram in hopes of helping Eli Manning. The one big if: the offensive line. If that group improves, then this could be a special season. Maybe a Super one.


DALLAS COWBOYS: It was an extraordinary bounce-back season for the Cowboys in 2016 as they went from last to first thanks to the brilliant play of rookie QB Dak Prescott and rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott. But teams that experience a tremendous leap forward one season often regress the next. The Cowboys will be an important test case, especially considering Elliott’s looming suspension for domestic violence. Prescott has shown veteran resourcefulness The defense overachieved last year, and it will have to be more of the same.


DALLAS COWBOYS: It was an extraordinary bounce-back season for the Cowboys in 2016 as they went from last to first thanks to the brilliant play of rookie QB Dak Prescott and rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott. But history shows teams that experience a tremendous leap forward one season often regress the next. The Cowboys will be an important test case for that, especially considering Elliott’s looming suspension for domestic violence. Prescott has shown veteran resourcefulness, so his performance will be the major key. The defense overachieved last year, and it will have to be more of the same for Dallas to make it back to the playoffs.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Carson Wentz was so good as a rookie, the Eagles wasted no time anointing him the starter and trading Sam Bradford. Wentz showed plenty of potential, but he also made his share of mistakes. Wentz should flourish now, especially with WRs Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. On defense, the front seven is among the best, and includes Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. Cornerback depth is a problem. With a couple of breaks, the Eagles could earn a wild card.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Carson Wentz was so good as a rookie that the Eagles wasted no time anointing him the starter and trading Sam Bradford to Minnesota. Wentz showed plenty of potential in 2016, although he also made his share of mistakes. Now that he’s used to the NFL game, Wentz should flourish, especially with new receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. On defense, the front seven is among the best, and includes Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. Cornerback depth is a problem. Look for the Eagles to show significant improvement, and with a couple of breaks get in position for a wild card playoff berth.



WASHINGTON REDSKINS: It’s a transition year of sorts in Washington, which is one reason Kirk Cousins wasn’t ready to commit to a long-term contract. He lost receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency, although the Redskins hope 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson and Browns free agent Terrelle Pryor can pick up the slack. Jordan Reed is a big-time tight end. Josh Norman is the most recognizable player on a defense that is mostly non-descript. But the Redskins hope new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky can help.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS: It’s a transition year of sorts in Washington, which is one reason Kirk Cousins wasn’t ready to commit to a long-term contract. He lost receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency, although the Redskins hope 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson and Browns free agent Terrelle Pryor can pick up the slack. Jordan Reed is a big-time tight end. Josh Norman is the most recognizable player on a defense that is mostly non-descript. But the Redskins hope new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky can help.


Elsewhere in the NFC

Giants 2017 schedule

GameDateOpponentTimeNetwork
Week 1Sept. 10at Cowboys8:30 p.m.NBC
Week 2Sept. 18Lions8:30 p.m.ESPN
Week 3Sept. 24at Eagles1 p.m.Fox
Week 4Oct. 1at Buccaneers4:05 p.m.Fox
Week 5Oct. 8Chargers1 p.m.CBS
Week 6Oct. 15at Broncos8:30 p.m.NBC
Week 7Oct. 22Seahawks4:25 p.m.CBS
Week 8Bye   
Week 9Nov. 5Rams1 p.m.Fox
Week 10Nov. 12at 49ers4:25 p.m.Fox
Week 11Nov. 19Chiefs1 p.m.CBS
Week 12Nov. 23at Redskins8:30 p.m.NBC
Week 13Dec. 3at Raiders4:25 p.m.Fox
Week 14Dec. 10Cowboys4:25 p.m.Fox
Week 15Dec. 17Eagles1 p.m.Fox
Week 16Dec. 24at Cardinals4:25 p.m.Fox
Week 17Dec. 31Redskins1 p.m.Fox

THE JETS

The right direction?

It’s true that the 2017 season likely promises more grief than anything for the Jets, but if we are to look at the bright side — and after all, isn’t that what preseason is about? — it’s that there might be an endgame to all this misery.

Q&A with Jamal Adams

The Jets took Jamal Adams with the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft in April, and even though he was slowed by an ankle sprain in camp, coaches are eagerly awaiting the impact the 21-year-old safety will make this season. Adams discussed his first few months as a Jet in a Q&A with Newsday.


Robby Anderson on fast track


Following the release of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and Quincy Enunwa’s season-ending neck injury suffered in early August, second-year wide receiver Robby Anderson moved to the forefront of a young Jets pass-catching corps.


How the AFC East stacks up for the Jets

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: As if winning a fifth Super Bowl wasn’t enough, the Patriots loaded up even more in the offseason by acquiring WR Brandin Cooks, RB Rex Burkhead and LB David Harris. The loss of WR Julian Edelman to a knee injury was a big blow. But the Patriots have won without key players before. With Tom Brady at age 40, they begin as the clear favorites to win it all again.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: As if winning a fifth Super Bowl title wasn’t enough, the Patriots loaded up even more in the offseason by acquiring WR Brandin Cooks, RB Rex Burkhead and LB David Harris. Yes, the loss of WR Julian Edelman to a season-ending knee injury was a big blow. But the Patriots have won without key players before. With Tom Brady playing as well as ever at age 40, they begin as the clear – and justifiable – favorites to win it all again.


MIAMI DOLPHINS: Ryan Tannehill’s season-ending knee injury in the preseason seemed to doom the Dolphins’ chances, but coach Adam Gase convinced QB Jay Cutler to put off his broadcasting plans. Cutler was at his best when Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator. This is a team with talent at the skill positions – WRs Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, and RB Jay Ajayi. The defense is solid with ageless Cameron Wake. Miami can contend for a wild card spot.


MIAMI DOLPHINS: Ryan Tannehill’s season-ending knee injury in the preseason seemed to doom the Dolphins’ chances, but head coach Adam Gase convinced QB Jay Cutler to put off his broadcasting plans and play in 2017. Cutler was at his best when Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator. This is a team with talent at the skill positions – particularly WRs Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, and RB Jay Ajayi. The defense is solid, with ageless Cameron Wake the team’s best pass rusher. There’s no reason Miami can’t contend for a wild card spot.


BUFFALO BILLS: Rex Ryan’s two-year run ended with a whimper, and the Bills cleaned house further by firing GM Doug Whaley. In come coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane, and a significant roster transformation. The Bills traded WR Sammy Watkins and CB Ronald Darby, and there will be more moves. QB Tyrod Taylor remains – for now. High-priced DT Marcell Dareus has already run afoul of the new coaching staff, having been sent home before a preseason game. This rebuild is going to take some time.

BUFFALO BILLS: Rex Ryan’s two-year run ended with a whimper, and the Bills cleaned house further by firing GM Doug Whaley. In come coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane, and a significant roster transformation. The Bills traded WR Sammy Watkins and CB Ronald Darby, and there will be more moves. QB Tyrod Taylor remains – for now. High-priced DT Marcell Dareus has already run afoul of the new coaching staff, having been sent home before a preseason game. This rebuild is going to take some time.

NEW YORK JETS: Woody Johnson will be spending the next few years as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, but before he left, the Jets’ owner ordered a house-cleaning the likes of which we haven’t seen. Ever. The Jets dumped nearly every high-priced, under-performing veteran — Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Breno Giacomini and David Harris, among others — and traded Sheldon Richardson to Seattle, leaving a bunch of unproven younger players in their places. With one notable exception: 38-year-old QB Josh McCown starts the season as neither Christian Hackenberg nor Bryce Petty convinced Bowles they were ready.

Elsewhere in the AFC

Jets 2017 schedule

GameDateOpponentTimeNetwork
Week 1Sept. 10at Bills1 p.m.CBS
Week 2Sept. 17at Raiders4:05 p.m.CBS
Week 3Sept. 24Dolphins1 p.m.CBS
Week 4Oct. 1Jaguars1 p.m.CBS
Week 5Oct. 8at Browns1 p.m.Fox
Week 6Oct. 15Patriots1 p.m.CBS
Week 7Oct. 22at Dolphins1 p.m.Fox
Week 8Oct. 29Falcons1 p.m.Fox
Week 9Nov. 2 Bills8:25 p.m.NFL Network
Week 10Nov. 12at Buccaneers1 p.m.CBS
Week 11Bye   
Week 12Nov. 26Panthers1 p.m.Fox
Week 13Dec. 3Chiefs1 p.m.CBS
Week 14Dec. 10at Broncos4:05 p.m.CBS
Week 15Dec. 17at Saints1 p.m.CBS
Week 16Dec. 24Chargers1 p.m.CBS
Week 17Dec. 31at Patriots1 p.m.CBS

BACK IN THE DAY …

…the Giants were the All-Collegians …

On Sept. 9, 1925, New York All-Collegians team secretary Harry March told the lunch crowd of reporters he was “confident that after this season professional football will be a permanent institution in this city.” History has proven March right, even though it took a shaky inaugural season and more lean years in the 1930s and ’40s before the Giants and the NFL took hold of the nation’s sporting culture starting in the mid-1950s. Read Neil Best’s story about the Giants’ first season.

…and the Jets were the Titans

The New York Titans were born in 1959, a charter member of the AFL, fronted by Harry Wismer, an oil executive who in 1953 had been the play-by-play announcer for the first prime-time, national NFL package, Saturday nights on the DuMont Network. They debuted in 1960 and became known as the Jets three seasons later. Read Neil Best’s story about the Jets’ first season.


NFL AND THE MEDIA

Tony Romo gearing up for new career

Newly retired Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo chose the less-comfortable path, because after eight practice games — five in a studio, three in person, none on the air — he is leaping into the deep end of the sports television business.


Here comes Rex!

Rex Ryan, the former Jets and Bills head coach, says about his new ESPN analyst role: “They’re going to have to cut me off. Hey, that’s OK. They told me to be myself, so that’s what I’m going to show up and be. If they cut me off, they cut me off.”


Beth Mowins blazing new trail

Even in 2017, with female announcers increasingly commonplace, Beth Mowins’ assignment for Chargers vs. Broncos on Sept. 11 on ESPN is a significant milestone — the first nationally televised NFL game called by a woman.

Waggles, options and zone reads

With his “Spider 2 Y Banana” calls, “Monday Night Football” analyst Jon Gruden has become the king of football speak. Every broadcast features football terminology you may be familiar with and some classic sport-specific language that will leave you wondering if they rewrote all the grammar rules you learned in school. Newsday’s Nick Klopsis helps explain what some of the terms mean.

Staff predictions

AFC playoff teams AFC champ NFC playoff teams NFC champ Super Bowl LII
Bob Glauber Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chiefs, Raiders, Texans Patriots Giants, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Cowboys, Panthers Packers Patriots
Tom Rock Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Raiders, Chiefs, Texans Raiders Giants, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Lions Giants Raiders
Laura Albanese Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chargers, Raiders, Bengals Patriots Giants, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Cardinals, Cowboys Packers Packers
Neil Best Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chiefs, Dolphins, Chargers Titans Cowboys, Packers, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Lions Packers Titans
Barbara Barker Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders Patriots Giants, Packers, Falcons, Saints, Cardinals, Buccaneers Packers Packers
Joe Manniello Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chargers, Bills, Jaguars Patriots Giants, Packers, Falcons, Cardinals, Buccaneers, Saints Cardinals Cardinals

NYSAC and MMA: First-year issues and improvements

Gian Villante discussed two very different sets of hiccups ahead of his fight at the UFC’s Long Island debut on Saturday.

First up, those irritating ones he was unable to shake in the days leading into his last two fights.

The second set, however, belonged to the New York State Athletic Commission, which is in its first year regulating mixed martial arts.

“It’s difficult, they do some things differently, but they’re new at this, so you can’t blame them for having their hiccups in the beginning,” Villante said. “They’re going to have their hiccups in the beginning and stuff like that but they’re still early on.”

NYSAC has made its share of mistakes in these initial months, most notably Daniel Cormier’s towel on the scale trick and the confusion over replay, referees and what’s a legal strike in the Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi fight. But, with each event, things seem to be improving.

New York became the final place in North America to remove its ban on MMA when the State Assembly passed the bill in March 2016. A month later, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill at a Madison Square Garden ceremony. In November, the UFC hosted its first New York show at MSG, setting attendance and live gate records for the venue and promotion.

NYSAC has overseen no less than seven major professional MMA events in total, and UFC on Fox 25 last Saturday at Nassau Coliseum went off without incident. It was the fifth trip to New York for the UFC, and regardless of previous missteps, the promotion has no qualms about continuing to bring events here.

“Yeah, there’s little things with the commission, whether we just need to coordinate it all, but each show has gotten easier and easier and they’re running fine,” said Marc Ratner, UFC vice president of regulatory affairs. “I’m very, very pleased with it.”

In the beginning

As weigh-ins and medical checks for the UFC’s first show on Long Island wrapped up Friday morning, Ratner sounded comfortable with how the state has embraced the sport in the first year.

“There was a pent-up awareness and people wanted to see it,” said Ratner, who led the charge for MMA legalization. “It took us eight years to get OKd here. We can tell from the television ratings, the number of pay-per-view buys, this is a great area for us to promote in. When we finally got here, we had the biggest show we’ve ever had here.”

In an email ahead of Saturday’s event, NYSAC spokesman Laz Benitez said the response to legal MMA in the state has been positive.

“Fighters want to fight in New York, the world’s biggest stage,” Benitez wrote. “As for promoters and fans, the State has already hosted six at-or-near capacity cards, so the demand is there and the reaction has been tremendous.”

As positive as the numbers and responses have been, all sides acknowledge the unique challenge of building a new operation.

“The biggest inherent challenge was indeed just that, starting a new product from scratch, although our experience with boxing was helpful,” Benitez said. “The Commission began from the ground floor to develop a game plan that would be fully executable once the sport was legalized.” Ratner believes any issues are part of a learning curve and that even the little things take time to pick up.

“First of all, we’re doing an early morning weigh-in, this is different,” Ratner said. “We’ve got to see if they’re going to use a digital scale, if they’re going to use what we call a meat scale. Doctors, how long’s it going to take to do every medical. Little small things, nothing extraordinary.”

UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden broke promotional and arena gate records as Conor McGregor won his second UFC title against Eddie Alvarez in the main event. That card on Nov. 12, 2016, was monumental for many reasons. But it also highlighted issues a new set of regulators can face.

“Fighter safety and the integrity of combative sports in New York State are our top priorities,” Benitez said. “And after exhaustive work, preparation and consultation with a multitude of industry experts, the commission put together a framework in time for the sport’s debut last November at Madison Square Garden that achieved those goals.”

The commission’s work resulted in a set of regulations unique to the state, causing some confusion at the start. Under New York’s rules, fighters who don’t make weight still must be within a certain range for the fight to be held. This rule was partially responsible for the cancellation of a bout between Kelvin Gastelum and Donald Cerrone last November. It also forced Jim Miller to come in above 156 pounds for his lightweight bout after opponent Thiago Alves missed the limit by more than six pounds.

When the UFC visited Albany last December, Ratner said a miscommunication left the fighters without a doctor on site who could perform stitches, a typical fixture at UFC events.

“We pride ourselves in having one of the doctors stitch and in Albany, we couldn’t get a doctor to stitch there, we had to have [fighters] wait in the hospital,” Ratner said. “It’s a big convenience for the fighters to not have to wait in the hospital. We always ask for one New York licensed doctor who can stitch. We pay for all that stuff, there was just a miscommunication and we couldn’t get the person there on time.”

Following February’s UFC 208 at Barclays Center, Holly Holm filed and lost an appeal after referee Todd Anderson did not penalize Germaine de Randamie for strikes Holm deemed to be thrown after the round ended. There also was scrutiny of the judging in de Randamie’s win, as well as Anderson Silva’s win over Derek Brunson.

But at UFC 210 in Buffalo last April, the miscues reached their pinnacle. The event nearly lost a fighter over the state’s rule banning female boxers with breast implants from competing. NYSAC reviewed Pearl Gonzalez’s medical records and cleared her to fight that afternoon.

More notably, it was the site of Cormier’s infamous towel grab. After first weighing in at 206.2 pounds — over the 205-pound limit for a light heavyweight championship fight — Cormier weighed in again a couple minutes later. That is allowed under NYSAC guidelines for a championship fight, but not a non-title fight, a fact expressly stated in a boxing guidelines memorandum but not spelled out in the state’s MMA guidelines posted on their website.

A couple minutes later, Cormier put his hands on the towel covering his naked body from view while weighing in for the second time. He was 205 pounds.

“We learned that if you’re going to have a towel around a fighter to make sure that he doesn’t have his hands on it,” Ratner said. “That may have happened before, but this was pretty crazy that it did happen. And sadly, it was tough on the commission.”

In a meeting five days after UFC 210, NYSAC amended language in its guidelines to state a fighter “shall not make physical contact with any person or object other than the scale.”

UFC 210 also put Long Island’s Weidman at the center of controversy. Weidman’s fight was paused after he took two knees to the head from Mousasi originally deemed illegal by referee Dan Miragliotta. But after the use of video review, the strikes were deemed legal and Weidman was ruled unable to continue by doctors. Weidman was handed a TKO loss.

Weidman and others were under the impression replay wasn’t allowed in New York, but it wasn’t strictly banned. NYSAC officials later said the use of replay was justified.

“There was a question of did they have replay or don’t they have replay in the Weidman fight,” Ratner said. “The commission told me they didn’t, then they said they did afterwards.”

Weidman appealed the decision, which was denied in the weeks ahead of UFC Long Island.

Benitez did not comment on specific incidents, but said the NYSAC is learning from each event it oversees.

“As with every new venture and opportunity, there have certainly been instances that the commission has learned and grown from,” Benitez said. “The commission also tapped into an existing pool of established referees, judges and inspectors with MMA experience, making the transition more seamless.”

Improving with time

NYSAC took a publicity hit for these incidents, but there have been some notable improvements, especially at weigh-ins. At Bellator NYC’s weigh-ins in June, Sergio Da Silva repeatedly tried to shift his balance and fool the scale to come in on weight. Three different NYSAC officials told Da Silva to stop the antics, step off the scale and start again.

The commission also was quick to stop Eryk Anders from touching the towel during his weigh-in for UFC Long Island last week.

For the most part, fighters appear understanding of the learning curve.

Villante, who fought in Albany last December, thinks the commission would be smart to seek guidance from New Jersey, the first state to adopt unified rules for the sport back in 2001.

“If they can learn a little bit from (New Jersey State Athletic and Control Board counsel) Nick Lembo over in Jersey, I think that’s one of the finest-run commissions. If they can learn a little bit from those guys, maybe, the next state over, I think that’d be a great thing,” Villante said. “But they’re learning on the fly, which is tough to do, but they’re getting it and I think, in time, it’ll get better and better.”

Benitez said NYSAC consulted numerous commissions in drafting their plan and remains in contact with other states as well as the Association of Boxing Commissions.

Patrick Cummins fought in New York for the second time on Saturday, defeating Villante by split decision. The Pennsylvania native was on the Buffalo card but had no issues getting ready to fight.

“I felt good with the commission. I know there were a lot of problems, especially during that Buffalo card,” Cummins said. “But, me? It didn’t affect me much, so, I don’t know. I don’t know whether to be thankful or to say that, yeah New York’s doing a great job.”

Darren Elkins, who defeated Dennis Bermudez in Saturday’s co-main event, said he understands what New York is going through after fighting in the early days of legal MMA near his hometown.

“I’m back in the day when there was no commission where I came from in Indiana, Chicago and that area. When we first got the commission, they had a lot of snags and they had a lot of things going on, too,” Elkins said. “It’s just working out the kinks, that’s what they’ve gotta do. When they figure that out, it’ll go all smooth. We’re so used to these commissions that have been around for a long time that we’re just not used to seeing something this new.”

The insurance issue

Still, the newness of it all has caused some fighters to pause. New Jersey’s Jim Miller fought in New York twice. Those will be his last fights here, he said.

“I think they’re just trying to reinvent the wheel,” Miller told BJPenn.com Radio in April. “It’s not that they’re doing things that are unsafe or anything like that. They’re trying to take really good care of the fighters. But they’re kind of being really overbearing with it, and a lot of these rules you don’t hear about.”

NYSAC requires additional neurological and blood examinations ahead of fights compared with other commissions such as New Jersey.

Ratner doesn’t see anything wrong with adding new protections, but he does hope to see commissions come up with a universal rule set to help ease confusion here and elsewhere.

“One of the problems, whether it be boxing or MMA, and I’ve been advocating this for 25 years or more, we don’t have standardized medical testing or standardized rules in every state,” Ratner said. “Now we don’t even have unified fight rules, but standardized medicals are extremely important. And I’m a states-rights guy, but we should be able to have the same blood tests, licensure, same hepatitis, HIV, same kind of stuff about MRIs, license calendar year. And every state is a little bit different, and there’s no reason for that.”

Ratner also noted that each show NYSAC oversees is high-visibility due to a $1 million life-threatening traumatic brain injury insurance requirement set by the state legislature, leaving few learning opportunities on smaller stages.

“They don’t have small fights. Every fight is a big fight, whether it’s us or it’s boxing,” Ratner said. “I know that the commission is working on the rules now to make it better insurance-wise. Whether they can do that or not, I don’t know. But what you want is small fights, too, to work on things.”

Benitez said the commission is continually assessing all policies and procedures, but any change to the insurance requirement would need to be approved and passed by the state legislature.

“This is unique coverage in the combative sports world,” Benitez said.

Fight on

New York may be among the strictest states, but Ratner has not yet heard of fighters turning down fights here.

“I’ve had fighters tell me they don’t want to fight in certain places like in Mexico because of the altitude or something like that, but no, it’s fine here,” Ratner said.

Benitez said the state also is not aware of any licensees shying from New York because of medical guidelines.

For some fighters, thinking about where they compete goes against their fighting mentality.

“I never think twice about taking a fight. As soon as something’s offered, I take it, that’s my style,” Cummins said. “I feel like just because it’s so new to New York, it’s going to be tough, but I’m hoping they have things figured out now. No towel blunders this time around.” Elkins said he leaves it to the people who sign his check to make those decisions.

“Honestly, I’ve seen some of the things that are going on there, but all you can do is move forward,” Elkins said. “When they ask you to fight somewhere, it’s work, man. It’s either that you work or you don’t work, and I like to work and I like to compete. So, I took it. Is there concern? A little bit, but hopefully I keep things in my own hands and I don’t have to worry about anything.”

Bermudez believes fighters who do things the right way should have nothing to worry about.

“Everything I do, I just show up and do me,” Bermudez said. “I’m not a panicky, worrying kind of guy,” Bermudez said. “I don’t cheat the system in any way, shape or form so I have nothing to be concerned with.”

Gastelum was back in New York for a main event after his weight issues and NYSAC rules forced him off UFC 205 at the Garden.

“There was a little bit of hesitation, but at the same time, this was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Gastelum said.

Even Weidman, Long Island’s biggest star who defeated Gastelum in Saturday’s main event, had people close to him telling him to avoid fighting in his home state. But, fighting at Nassau Coliseum was too much to pass up.

“Definitely a little hesitation, more hesitation with, like, my team, the people around me who care about me, they don’t like the way the New York commission dealt with a lot of stuff,” Weidman said. “Behind the scenes, with me, with the way the fight went down, with that and other things. There were some people that were like, ‘You’re not fighting, I don’t care, you’re not fighting in New York.’

“And I just did it.”