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Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro receives Pat Tillman Award at 2017 ESPYs

During the 2017 ESPY Awards Wednesday night, comedian and television host Jon Stewart presented U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro with the Pat Tillman Award for service. 

>> Read more trending news 

Del Toro was severely injured while on tour in Afghanistan in 2005 when his military truck drove over a bomb. Del Toro lost most of his fingers and more than 80 percent of his body was severely burned. He went into a coma for three months and was given a 15 percent chance of survival. When he awoke from the coma, he was told he likely wouldn’t be able to breathe or walk again on his own. 

Del Toro not only did both, he also used sports as rehabilitation, later competing in the Invictus Games, a sports competition for wounded service members. In 2014, he won a silver medal in powerlifting, and in 2016, he won gold in the shot put.

He was awarded Wednesday for his perseverance, military service and athletic pursuits, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“He found a way not just to survive against the odds, but to thrive. He is a study in strength, tenacity, bravery and service,” Stewart said, calling Del Toro “a soldier who has gone through pain and struggling you would not believe just to survive and be here tonight.”

Del Toro said he was honored and humbled to receive the award. 

“Receiving this award is still strange for me. I don’t see myself as someone special,” he said at the awards show. “Thank you for letting this guy who just had a bad day at work feel like someone special tonight.”

Del Toro talked about what it felt like to be tapped for the award last month.  

“I’m humbled for even being considered for this prestigious award named after Pat Tillman, a man I admire, but to actually receive this honor is unbelievable,” Del Toro said in a statement. “When I heard that Pat Tillman gave up a career in the NFL to serve his country after the 911 attacks, it gave me so much pride to call him a brother in arms. He truly is a shining example of Service Before Self. To Mrs. Tillman and the Pat Tillman Foundation, I give you my pledge that I’ll always try to live up to the true meaning of the Pat Tillman Award for Service in everything I do, and to represent his spirit to the best of my ability.”

Del Toro still serves in the military as an Air Force technician.

Pat Tillman, a former NFL player, left the league in 2002 to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

U.S. Quidditch Cup, based on Harry Potter books, headed to Texas in 2018

Harry Potter fans, rejoice! The U.S. Quidditch Cup is headed to the Sports Capital of Texas next year.

»RELATED: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter turns 20 | See how to celebrate

The organization announced the news earlier this week, revealing that the event will be held April 14-15 at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex.

>> Read more trending news

“We are honored to host the players, families and fans in Round Rock for the U.S. Quidditch Cup in April 2018,” Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Nancy Yawn said in a release. “How exciting that the year of the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, the Sports Capital of Texas gets to announce that the magical, competitive Quidditch national championships will be held here!”

U.S. Quidditch announced finalists for the location of the cup in May, which included Lubbock, Round Rock and Wichita Falls. The finalists were selected based on bids, which were evaluated on location of the bid, the quality of facilities, the amount of financial support and the level of community support, according to the release. Round Rock beat out the others mainly because of the ample room of its facility, it says. 

Though Round Rock has yet to start its own official team, the Austin area is home to two national championship winning teams: Texas Quidditch and Texas Cavalry. In the 2016-17 season, Texas had more teams registered with USQ than any other single state in the league, according to U.S. Quidditch. 

The Quidditch tournament, which first came to life in 2005, is a real-world adaptation of the game Harry Potter and his friends played in the popular book series. The magical sport involves two teams who “fly on brooms,” competing to score the most goals. It can be described as a cross between rugby, basketball and dodge ball.

Want to learn more about the competition? Find out about tickets and teams here

ESPN anchor draws ire over network’s soft WWE coverage, drops pro wrestling SportsCenter segment

Pro wrestling fans and writers had questioned World Wrestling Entertainment for several weeks after the disappearance of one of its lead announcers from television, Mauro Ranallo, who was suffering from depression.

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer said Ranallo may have been the victim of WWE’s bullying culture, particularly John Layfield, his color commentator who made disparaging remarks about Ranallo following his absence on TV and during an out-of-character segment on the company’s streaming network.

The allegations became more rampant after the release of “Best Seat in The House,” a book by former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts. Roberts alleged Layfield bullied him and others regularly, particularly announcers. This behavior and culture was not only tolerated but encouraged by WWE owner Vince McMahon.

ESPN started covering WWE regularly last year, launching its own pro wrestling section on its website, and with a weekly SportsCenter segment by ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman, a former WWE announcer himself.

ESPN has been questioned for its involvement with WWE, especially its reluctance to cover negative news about the company, almost to the point of sticking to storyline-esque interviews on its programming. The questioning began heating up over the weekend when the story bullying story began to go viral. When asked in a tweet if ESPN would cover the controversy, wrestling journalist Meltzer replied expressing doubt in strong language. 

Coachman wasn’t involved in the discussion, but entered the fray anyway with a shot at Meltzer.

In the middle of his argument, Coachman announced he was dropping the weekly WWE segment from SportsCenter. He deleted the Tweet later, then said he had been planning on dropping it for several weeks because of other projects, but his timing seemed suspect. He pointed fans toward ESPN’s vertical for pro wrestling and WWE coverage.

ESPN has drawn ire for its news coverage, often for its abundance of debate shows during the morning hours and conflict of interest of having TV deals with the companies it covers. The network dropped a planned fictional show based on a pro football team after criticism from the NFL, then later dropped support of a PBS Frontline documentary on accusations the NFL had covered up concussion issues. 

John Cena meets 12-year-old fan with cerebral palsy

WrestleMania 33 is Sunday night, and fans will pack the Amway Arena in Orlando or watch the matches live on the WWE Network. John Cena will be one of the headliners in pro wrestling’s biggest showcase.

>> Read more trending news 

Fans all have their favorites, and John Cena certainly ranks high among WWE fans. Recently, Cena made a 12-year-old fan’s dream come true.

At a WWE card in Johnson City, Tennessee, Cena spotted Payton Marion, who has cerebral palsy, and tossed him a T-shirt and wristband, WVLT reported. After the matches, Cena met with Payton and his father, Justin Marion.

“Payton is super excited about all that, all his friends have been aggravating him, calling him a superstar,” Justin Marion told WVLT. “The fact that my son was able to meet one of his heroes, my heart melts, and it was just crazy.”

Justin Marion explained on Reddit that WWE wrestler AJ Styles set up the meeting between Cena and his son.

“He saw us standing around, and asked if we wanted a picture,” Jason Marion said. “Of course we said ‘yes.’ Then he asked if we got to see everyone.”

When Justin Marion said Payton saw everyone but Cena — his favorite wrestler — Styles invited father and son backstage to the locker room.

Cena arrived and chatted with Payton, capping an exciting night for the boy.

Payton Marion said he uses Cena as motivation during his physical therapy.

Cena is one of pro wrestling’s biggest ambassadors, granting more than 500 requests in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Was there a hidden political message in Lady Gaga's Super Bowl performance?

Lady Gaga’s Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show performance had everything: glitz, drones, killer choreography, star power and possibly, a hidden political message you may have missed.

>> Read more trending stories 

>> For complete coverage of Super Bowl 2017, click here    Prior to Sunday’s big game, Gaga said in a press conference that the only statements she planned on making during her halftime show were the ones she has been true to throughout her career.

“I believe in a passion for inclusion. I believe in the spirit of equality and the spirit of this country as one of love, and compassion, and kindness,” Gaga said. “My performance will uphold those philosophies.”

When the performance rolled around, several news outlets reported the singer stayed clear of politics during the show and social media users applauded her for leaving politics out of it.

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/gaga-gets-political/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/gaga-gets-political.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script> [View the story "Gaga gets political?" on Storify]

It was Gaga’s decision to include “This Land Is Your Land” after opening with Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” 

According to the Washington Post, the song was originally considered a “sarcastic protest song” by legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, who grew up during the Great Depression.

Ironically, the song came about in the late 1930s as a retort to Berlin’s “God Bless America,” which played so often on the radio that it irritated Guthrie, because it seemed to ignore the uneven distribution of wealth in America at the time.

According to NPR, Guthrie originally (and sarcastically) called the song "God Blessed America for Me" before renaming it "This Land Is Your Land." 

The original words to the song included this verse:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me. The sign was painted, said 'Private Property.' But on the backside, it didn't say nothing.  This land was made for you and me.

And this one:

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple, by the relief office I saw my people. As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.

Here’s the 1944 recording, which includes the former verse:

According to NPR, Guthrie’s daughter, Nora, suspected the latter verse was left out of the original recording because of  the government’s “strong-armed reaction to such divisive art” during the early ‘50s.

But the version of “This Land is Your Land” Americans know so well doesn’t contain any of these verses.

And Gaga didn’t sing either last night.

But it’s possible her decision to sing “This Land is Your Land” carried a political message in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive actions, including a travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries and a border wall with Mexico.

Super Bowl: 3 reasons why Lady Gaga's halftime performance will make history

Gaga is just one of those artists you can’t NOT care about. 

>> Read more trending stories  

She’s always changing, always expressing herself through fashion and performance. And she never hesitates to break the status quo. Because of who she is, who she loves and how she communicates with the world, her life — as the public sees it — has become pure art. 

All of this was made even more obvious through her half-time performance at Super Bowl 51. If you missed it, you missed out, but thanks to the NFL, you can redeem yourself.

WOW. Amazing.@ladygaga's #PepsiHalftime Show!#SB51 https://t.co/z9vCKRBKkC— NFL (@NFL) February 6, 2017

With nothing bad to say about her 13 minutes at the Super Bowl, the better question is: What did I love the most?

1. Her tummy

No, seriously. She has a pooch. I know, I know. She’s not overweight, or even sloppy. So why am I mentioning her stomach at all? Because we’re living in a day where young girls and grown women compare themselves to the body types of Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Beyonce every single day. The “Born This Way” babe showed her imperfect-says-society tummy tonight, and not only did I think it was important, I thought it was empowering.

2. She was winded

Sounds like I’m hating, but trust, I’m not. She BLEW, okay? Like she really sang with all her might — and with little help. She jumped off a roof and danced like a maniac but still managed to fit in an angelic “Hi Mom, Hi Dad” during her flawless and passionate piano solo of “Million Reasons.” She proved she’s a real person. 

3. The crowd of lights

The technology during the show had my eyes glued to the screen. I mean, a third of her lighting was from actual people holding lights and executing choreography with their hands and arms. Her performance was inclusive of so many people, not just her little monsters. She never leaves anyone out. 

This performance will go down as one of the best Super Bowl halftime performances ever. 

Super Bowl 2017 commercials: Live updates on the game's best ads

More than 100 million people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl today.

At least a few of those will be watching the game – for the rest of us, it’s the commercials.

>>For complete coverage of Super Bowl 2017, click here 

Budweiser, Wix, Mercedes and Snickers are among the companies set to unveil their million dollar babies. Make that $5 million babies. That’s how much 30 seconds of time will cost the advertisers for Sunday’s game.

We are going to be keeping up with the commercials Sunday, live as they air. Come back here at 6 p.m. ET and join us.

>>RELATED: Atlanta Journal Constitution Radio and TV blogger Rodney Ho on tonight's commercials 

Live updates

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/super-bowl-2017-commercials/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/super-bowl-2017-commercials.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script> [View the story "Super Bowl 2017 commercials live updates" on Storify]

Super Bowl 2017 commercials: Live updates on the games best ads

More than 100 million people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl today.

At least a few of those will be watching the game – for the rest of us, it’s the commercials.

Budweiser, Wix, Mercedes and Snickers are among the companies set to unveil their million dollar babies. Make that $5 million babies. That’s how much 30 seconds of time will cost the advertisers for Sunday’s game.

We are going to be keeping up with the commercials Sunday, live as they air. Come back here at 6 p.m. ET and join us.

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/super-bowl-2017-commercials/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/super-bowl-2017-commercials.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script> [View the story "Super Bowl 2017 commercials live updates" on Storify]

Super Bowl 2017 commercials: Live updates on the games best ads

More than 100 million people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl today.

At least a few of those will be watching the game – for the rest of us, it’s the commercials.

Budweiser, Wix, Mercedes and Snickers are among the companies set to unveil their million dollar babies. Make that $5 million babies. That’s how much 30 seconds of time will cost the advertisers for Sunday’s game.

We are going to be keeping up with the commercials Sunday, live as they air. Come back here at 6 p.m. ET and join us.

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/super-bowl-2017-commercials/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/super-bowl-2017-commercials.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script> [View the story "Super Bowl 2017 commercials live updates" on Storify]

Zac Brown Band to headline pre-Super Bowl concert

Grammy-winning group Zac Brown Band will headline a pre-game concert at NRG Stadium prior to kickoff, the NFL announced Friday.

The Atlanta country rockers will will perform “My Old Man” from their upcoming new album “Welcome Home.”

>> Read more trending stories 

The group will be accompanied by indie-pop group Fitz and the Tantrums on stage before the championship game.

Both performances will air during the Fox NFL pregame show.

>> For complete coverage of Super Bowl LI, click here  

Zac Brown Band and country singer Luke Bryan, who will sing the National Anthem, both have roots in Georgia.

Lady Gaga will perform at halftime.

>> Lady Gaga ups anticipation of Super Bowl on social media 

Other performers who will appear during Sunday's festivities include, "Hamilton" stars Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who will sing "America the Beautiful," according to Billboard.

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