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ESPN The Magazine’s Super Bowl Preview Issue, on newsstands Friday, focuses on the game as the defining cultural moment of the year for sports fans—the event that brings families and friends around TVs all over the world to see how the season-long drama will end. Editor-in-chief Alison Overholt notes, “Our work to get this issue ready for fans has had nearly as much drama and tension as the football storylines we’re following, and we hope readers love it as much as we do.” The issue is anchored by Kevin Van Valkenburg’s essay on how fans should think about quarterback Tom Brady’s polarizing legacy and Scott Eden’s feature about how quarterback Matt Ryan emerged as a star after years of mixed results. Also included are three pages of statistical breakdowns on whether Brady’s Pats or Ryan’s Falcons hold the competitive edge, from two-minute-drill effectiveness to QB performance under pressure to matchups to watch. Pulling back from the game itself, Tom Junod weighs in with a meditation on the national anthem and its significance at the center of American sports. The issue includes non-Super Bowl features as well, such as Shaun Assael’s investigative report on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the world’s most popular video games and an inspiration for the biggest gambling market you’ve never heard of, and Kevin Arnovitz’s story about the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, perhaps the NBA’s most enigmatic star.
DON’T MISS: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the most popular video games in the world, both to play and to watch. It’s also an inspiration for the biggest gambling market you’ve never heard of, with more money flying around than with daily fantasy and less regulation to curb it. And any kid who wants in on the action can. This is the story of how a video game set off a global gambling epidemic. By Shaun Assael (http://es.pn/2k8SvFD)
Issue highlights and features:
This Time It’s Personal: What it means to love, and hate, Tom Brady. By Kevin Van Valkenburg
Rising Up, Flying High: A legacy-making game for Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense. By Scott Eden
The Ultimate Super Bowl Preview: A a head-to-head breakdown of how the Patriots and Falcons stack up: http://es.pn/2iSYLoF.
Best Trip Ever: Houston
Any fans headed to Houston for the Super Bowl? We’re here to make sure you get the local experience. We asked players and coaches from the local sports teams to share their favorite spots in town.
Super Bowl Around the World
The Mag put together a list of the fun places NFL fans in other countries gather to watch the Super Bowl and an anecdote about the places we’ve chosen to highlight.
Our Flag Was Still There
A meditation on the national anthem and its significance ahead of the most important national anthem of our time: the one at Super Bowl LI. By Tom Junod
Additional issue highlights and features:
Forward: DeMarcus Cousins is perhaps the most naturally talented big man the NBA has ever seen, with abilities that transcend generation and scheme. He is also, to put it mildly, the league’s most enigmatic star on the league’s most dysfunctional team. (This is Cousins’ seventh season. He’s had six coaches, three GMs and two ownership groups.) So, in truth, as much as the Sacramento Kings have a DeMarcus Cousins problem, Cousins has a Kings problem. And we look to expose both sides. By Kevin Arnovitz
X Games: At 21, freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace is already an X Games veteran. But in the past couple of years, the Aspen native has been plagued by unlucky injuries and a mystery illness that attacked his liver and gallbladder and nearly killed him. We talk to him about these experiences and finally coming into X Games Aspen healthy—with one eye on the 2018 Winter Olympics. By Alyssa Roenigk
Zoom: With breathtaking tricks and sweeping backdrops, action sports produces images that seem not only to defy gravity but also reality itself. Vote now for your favorite photograph at XGames.com/Zoom and tune in to the X Games Aspen live broadcast on Sunday, Jan. 29, to find out the winner.
NBA: In the latest installment of The Walk-In, we spend some time with Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson as he enters the arena for a game against the Nets. By Stacey Pressman
Soccer: Ahead of Bruce Arena’s first game back in charge of the USMNT, we use data and interviews with key players in U.S. Soccer to look back on the past 10 years since Arena’s firing—and ask whether his rehiring is actually a step forward for the team.
The Numbers: With the Super Bowl and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions coming up, Peter Keating looks at how to compare football stats across eras. His simple method says that Ken Stabler, who was the league MVP in 1974 with 26 TDs and 12 INTs, would have thrown for 44.2 TDs and 8.1 INTs with the same performance this season. Keating adds that today’s elite QBs stand up to the test of time.
The Truth: Howard Bryant’s new column focuses on George Karl’s promotional book tour and the coach’s controversial takes on players and fathers, revealing that, despite his longevity in the game, Karl still has no understanding about the lives of the players he’s coached. What’s worse, he doesn’t seem to care to understand. That lack of engagement, bordering on resentment, is pervasive among the coaching ranks, and it’s unacceptable. Coaches, many of whom are white, make their living off the backs of players, many of whom are black, and have a responsibility to understand their players’ lives.
Stadium Food Deconstructed: The Mag features the recipe for the Texas short rib grilled cheese at NRG Stadium, home of the Super Bowl, along with an interview with Food Network’s Eddie Jackson.
Esports Confidential: Ahead of the new League of Legends season, we asked 33 players plying their trade in North America and Europe about various aspects of life in esports, from money to drugs to relationships.