Sport Seattle, led by Russell Wilson, are favourites to win next month's Super Bowl

For devotees of the NFL, this is as good as it gets – the divisional round of the play-offs, four games pitting the regular season’s finest against four challengers already battle-hardened by victory in last weekend’s ever-treacherous wild-card round. And in 2014 there’s an extra twist: the prospect that one of the longest, most painful droughts in US sport might be near an end.

Glasvegas' James Allan: 'There's no end to the Boss's abilities'

The first piece of music I ever bought was "Streets of Philadelphia". I was 11. It's a love song. A message of love, highlighting pure community and freedom of faith. I like those things. I really do. When I was a little boy, I never wanted to admit I liked music or girls. I was really crippled by shyness and for reasons I don't understand now, I hid the tape from my mum. I was attracted to his obvious soul, good heart and pure genius. The movie Philadelphia and the Care Bears cartoons broke my heart and made me want to show compassion to others.

The Roots, Royal Festival Hall, London

Collaboration’s all you need

Hollyweird: Mario Lanza

Everything about Mario Lanza was enormous: his talent, his prowess on stage, his ego, his lifestyle, and, often, his weight.

Neighbours who beat 'rape' man escape charges

Philadelphia's police commissioner says there will be no charges against neighbors who beat a man sought for questioning in the rape of an 11-year-old girl.

Neil Young: After the gold rush, the harvest

Sixties hippie, country-rock superstar, grunge godfather, modern protest singer... Neil Young's career is remarkable. Andy Gill gives thanks that the first segment of his huge retrospective is here at last

London legacy job goes overseas

A deputy mayor from Philadelphia will head the company set up to ensure the long-term use of London's 2012 Olympic facilities.

Bruce Anderson: The system isn't that broke - it only needs a slight fixing

An eruption of Poujadist anger will not improve our system of government

Hip-hop offers a new message

The aggressive image hides an intelligent aspect, says Ian Burrell

Researchers find first common autism gene

Researchers have found the first common genetic link to autism and said yesterday it could potentially account for 15 per cent of the disease's cases.

Death Row calling: The man broadcasting to save his life

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a US journalist, faces renewed calls for him to be put to death. Ian Burrell reports

The Ten Best NBA Playoffs

On Wednesday night the marathon 2008-2009 NBA regular season came to a close.

Hearst threatens to close historic 'San Francisco Chronicle'

San Francisco could become the biggest city in the US without a daily newspaper if the San Francisco Chronicle's owner, Hearst, follows through on a threat to shut its doors.

Album: Charles Evans, The King of All Instruments, (Hot Cup)

The instrument in question is the mighty baritone sax, which Philadelphia-born Charles Evans turns into a quartet, chamber group or bari-choir through judicious overdubbing on this intermittently amazing solo recording.

Obama heads along a historic trail to the White House

Crowds line 135-mile rail route to Washington
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Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor