There’s a special kind of asshole roaming around the mountains of North Carolina’s High Country right now. The Boone Area Cyclists reported earlier this week that a bunch of tools were stolen from their tool trailer at Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park. The thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of equipment—all stuff that was purchased through grants or donations. Essentially, they took everything but a handful of shovels. This is a volunteer organization that builds bike parks and trails. Bike parks and trails that a lot of kids like to ride. Because, as most of you know, riding bikes on trails makes kids happy. So essentially, this thief (or thieves) just stole happiness from children.I’m trying not to be too judgmental here. We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of. I can think of several years during my late teens/early 20s that would probably make my mother weep with shame. But stealing trail building tools? That’s a new kind of low. A rock bottom kind of low. I put this guy in the same category as a bike thief. There’s a special ring of hell reserved for people who steal bikes. And now that ring of hell needs to make room for this tool-stealing douchebag. I mean really, stealing tools? How much meth can you buy with a mattock anyway? The Boone Area Cyclists are carrying on with business as usual, and have work days planned for the near future. They’ve set up a donation page so the public can help them replace the tools that were lost. Check it out and consider helping these volunteers out. The singletrack that they’re building and maintaining in and around Boone literally makes the world a better place. Don’t let some asshole with sticky fingers ruin that.
Ocean Infinity has signed an agreement with XPRIZE to provide high-resolution baseline maps against which competitors for the Grand Prize of the USD 7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will be judged.The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is an international competition designed to advance ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration. For this final phase of the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, teams are given 24 hours to map at least 250 km2 of the ocean seafloor to depths down to 4,000 meters.Ocean Infinity will be providing the ocean seafloor maps, against which competitors’ technologies will be judged, in the final field-testing round for the Grand Prize.Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO, said: “At Ocean Infinity we are proud to deploy our know-how and technology for the benefit of science, education and charitable uses. Today’s announcement of the partnership with XPRIZE is the latest in our series of such initiatives. We are delighted to provide the high-quality imagery of the ocean seabed, against which competitors will be judged. We have set the bar high with the best technology and techniques that exist in the commercial market today. This is a great project for us as we look to share knowledge and learning, while enhancing outcomes not only for our business and our clients but also for the scientific community at large. We wish all of the teams the best of luck.”Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D., executive director of Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Ocean Infinity for this final phase of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. Ocean Infinity is a pioneer in commercializing the technology and outcomes that this XPRIZE is all about and is a leader in high-quality deep-sea surveying. “The competitors are developing technologies to help our understanding of the extreme environments on our planet, with the goal of rapidly mapping the deep sea floor at such high resolution. We are providing them with a competition area that is full of mystery and geological features that will offer a true test of their technologies.”
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MORE: What are Clowney’s Hall of Fame chances?Clowney has been considered one of the most athletically gifted players since he entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. Due mostly to injuries, he struggled to meet sky-high expectations in his first couple seasons, but he has since developed into an excellent run-defender and an improving pass-rusher.Houston will be content to have him play under the one-year tender, unless he surprisingly agrees to a deal worth less than $20 million per year before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. The rumblings are the team wants to see another season of good health and elite-level sack production (in Donald/Mack/Von Miller 15-plus territory) before it commits to a long-term deal at top-market rates.I don’t see the Texans being ready to have Clowney join the $23 million-per-year stratosphere of Mack and Donald, or perhaps even Miller’s $19 million per year, especially when the Texans’ best defensive player, J.J. Watt, is earning $16 million per year. Watt produced 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season. (Clowney had nine sacks and one forced fumble.)And based on personal experience, I can’t fault the Texans and coach Bill O’Brien for wanting to see more production and good health from Clowney — who has played a full, 16-game schedule just once, in 2017 — before giving him a huge contract with massive guarantees.MORE: Texans-Colts now among NFL’s best rivalriesAs Vikings GM in 1998, I was in a somewhat similar position with running back Robert Smith. We had placed a transition tag on our leading rusher, giving us the right to match any offer while guaranteeing him the average salary of the 10 highest-paid backs. (We didn’t have the franchise tag available to place on Smith. That would have tendered him at the average of the top five at his position.)I would have liked to see Smith have another big year, as he was coming off his first 1,000-yard season and had not yet been a Pro Bowl selection. Smith had been hurt early in his career, although his ACL injuries were more serious than the knee issues Clowney has had.I had to match an offer from Seattle that would make Smith the highest-paid back in the league. Of all the deals I ever negotiated, I was most nervous about signing this contract.Fortunately, It worked out well for both Smith and the team. He produced two Pro Bowl seasons, including 2000, when he led the NFC in rushing. The franchise tag has always been a tricky subject and mechanism to navigate. It enriches an elite player yet often precipitates angst among players and agents who react negatively to being denied free agency and potential huge guarantees on a long-term deal.Some players play out the year under the franchise tag and hope for a long-term deal while others fight the tag. For Le’Veon Bell last year, being hit with the franchise tag for the second consecutive year propelled him to a season-long holdout.Clowney is coming off a $13 million salary under his fifth-year option. He didn’t play the Mack card and refuse to report last year, so I don’t expect him to turn down the one-year franchise tender from Houston. As Bell is learning, a player can’t make up for the wages lost from missing a season. And with Clowney’s injury history, no-showing the offseason program and training camp won’t help him have that signature season to prove he is worthy of a Mack- or Donald-like contract.MORE: NFL uniform rankings for 2019This a risk-reward game. Given Watt’s injury history, the Texans could not afford to let Clowney hit free agency and risk losing a premier player in his prime. It helps Houston to be a couple years away from having to pay top quarterback money to Deshaun Watson, and by then, Watt’s career might be winding down. So Clowney is affordable for the short and long term. If I were Clowney’s agent, I would fight hard for the long-term deal before the July 15 deadline. But with an offer worth more than $20 million per year likely not forthcoming at this point, playing under the one-year tender will work in Clowney’s benefit if he has a great 2019 season.That will make it easier for the Texans to pony up top-market money for a young star who can sign a long-term deal in 2020 and still get another lucrative contract in five more years.Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on negotiation and sports business/sports management. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL. One of the most intriguing NFL contract situations of 2019 involves the Texans and talented edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who is getting the franchise tag and not the top-market deal he is seeking — at least not yet.Clowney, 26, is worthy of an eight-figure contract. But his performance is not yet at the level of Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald, the NFL’s highest-paid defenders, and a long-term deal signed this year likely would reflect that. This is why the franchise tag makes sense for both the player and the team, especially since Houston has the salary cap room to absorb the tender amount.