Sports

The action on and off Louisiana's playing fields.

Sarah Thomas has officiated football games in the NCAA and for the NFL's preseason and training camps. For the 2015 NFL season, she'll reportedly be a full-time official.

The news was broken this morning by Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson, who called it "a ground-breaking move." Thomas, 42, is a Mississippi native who has been widely regarded as a contender for a regular NFL contract.

Under the bright lights on a cold November Friday, the Panthers of River Rouge High are about to play for the district championship.

On the other side of the field, the visitors' stands are packed. The River Rouge side is pretty empty as the Panthers take the field.

The Panthers' head coach, Corey Parker, is used to this. He works it into his pregame speech.

"All we have is us!" he shouts, as his players bounce with nervous energy. "Fight for each other, love each other, let's go get it Rouge!"

As the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots prepare to face off at the Super Bowl on Sunday, a scandal about under-inflated footballs is still dominating headlines.

While that subject has been a trending topic on Twitter, it is just the latest in a series of controversies this season. So many recent stories about the nation's most popular sport have focused on domestic abuse and sexual assault allegations, as well as the dangerous effects of concussions and other long-term health consequences for players.

Nothing in sport reflects the changing demographics of the country more than college football — most especially the decline of the Big Ten Conference and the ascendance of the Southeastern Conference.

Big Ten territory represents steel mills and coal mines, blue collars and black smoke, where America's pigskin heroes used to be weaned on frozen fields. But the SEC, in the growing Sun Belt, has completely taken over. Mississippi State is the No. 1 team in the country. Excuse me: Mississippi State? This is like Antiques Roadshow soaring to the top of television ratings.

Theater should be as thrilling as a football game, as far as playwright — and Chicago Bears fan — Andrew Hinderaker is concerned. In fact, Hinderaker is so fascinated with the influence of football on society, he wrote a play about it called Colossal, which opens this week in Minneapolis. Productions in Dallas, New Orleans and Boston are planned for early next year.

When an NFL defender picks off a pass and runs it back for a touchdown, the celebration is often spirited. But referees in Monday night's game took exception to Kansas City's Husain Abdullah actions after he slid in the end zone and prostrated himself, imposing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

The play quickly became a hot topic on social media, where many criticized a penalty for what qualifies as a quiet gesture in the NFL, where excited players are known to point at themselves, others, and the sky, sometimes while making crude gestures.

The virgin Astroturf is springy underfoot, and the neon yellow goal posts stretch up into the blue September sky. The Comets should be playing well.

They're not.

After seven years of away-games, the football team at Cody High School in Detroit has their own field. The facility at Cody was in such terrible shape that they couldn't play there.

That changed Friday night. Unfortunately, the Comets homecoming did not start well.

On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell broke a week of silence following the release of a video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee.

Goodell apologized for his role in the NFL's handling of the matter.

The NFL built its fortunes on a series of ever-expanding TV contracts worth billions of dollars showing hundreds of games to tens of millions of fans. Now a tabloid news shop has brought all conversation about the NFL to a standstill by posting a silent video lasting less than four minutes.

The Little League World Series kicked off this week in Williamsport, Pa., and one pitcher in particular has been drawing national attention. Mo'ne Davis, a 13-year-old playing for a Philadelphia team, is just one of two girls playing in this year's series — and she has already made history. On Friday night, Davis became the first female pitcher to throw a shutout in the Little League postseason.

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