23 hours ago

Axios Sports

๐Ÿ‘‹ Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,841 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: โšฝ๏ธ Super League collapses

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Plans for a European Super League fell apart on Tuesday, just two days after the proposed soccer competition was announced.

How it went down: Manchester City, one of the six English Premier League clubs set to join the 12-team breakaway league, was the first to confirm it was out.

  • Within hours, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Liverpool announced that they, too, were walking away.
  • Inter Milan and Atlรฉtico Madrid followed, leaving the remaining clubs โ€” Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan โ€” with little choice but to abandon the proposal.
  • Just after midnight in Europe, the Super League released an official statement confirming the project had been suspended.

What they're saying:

  • Arsenal: "We made a mistake, and we apologize for it."
  • Tottenham: "We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal."
  • Manchester United: "We have listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders."
  • Liverpool: "I want to apologize to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours," owner John Henry said in a video address.
Chelsea fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge. Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images

The state of play: The Super League, which would have upended soccer's structures and economics, was met with fury. Players spoke out against it, fans launched protests, and politicians threatened legal action.

  • FIFA and UEFA, which oversees soccer in Europe, threatened to ban Super League players from global events like the World Cup. "Either you are in, or you are out," said FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
  • The Super League didn't do itself any favors with its shockingly poor launch strategy. Outside of Real Madrid's Florentino Pรฉrez, owners never faced the press, and the lack of planning is truly remarkable.
  • Note to self: When unveiling a proposal to reshape the world's most popular sport, come equipped with more than a press release.

What's next: A scheme years in the making collapsed spectacularly in two days. Now what?

  • There's a sense that the Premier League could be irreparably damaged. "How can we ever work with these people again?" a source told The Athletic (subscription).
  • And if the clubs really did sign binding 23-year agreements, as was reported, can they simply withdraw or is it more complicated? Will UEFA welcome them back? Will their domestic leagues punish them?
2. ๐ŸŒ† Poll results: America's next sports city

Downtown Louisville. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Louisville, Kentucky, is the U.S. city most deserving of a major sports team, according to the results of yesterday's poll.

Top 10:

  1. Louisville
  2. Omaha, Nebraska
  3. Richmond, Virginia
  4. Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia
  5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  6. Birmingham, Alabama
  7. Hartford, Connecticut
  8. Charleston, South Carolina
  9. Des Moines, Iowa
  10. Honolulu, Hawaii

Notable Louisville teams ... The Kentucky Colonels played in the ABA (1967-76), the Louisville Breckenridges played in the NFL (1921โ€“24), and Racing Louisville made its NWSL debut earlier this month.

Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore played for the Colonels from 1971 to 1976. Photo: Focus on Sport via Getty Images

๐Ÿ“† Coming up: Louisville hosts the Kentucky Derby in 10 days.

3. โ›ณ๏ธ PGA to reward its most popular players

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The PGA Tour has introduced a "Player Impact Program" โ€” a $40 million bonus pool to reward its most popular golfers at the end of each year, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

How it works: The program took effect on Jan. 1 of this year and will "recognize and reward players who positively move the needle" off the course, a PGA Tour spokesperson told Golfweek.

  • The money: The $40 million will be split among the top 10 golfers as measured by "Impact Score," which combines five popularity metrics.
  • The metrics: Google search popularity, Nielsen brand exposure rating, Q score, MVP Index rating and Meltwater mentions.
  • The payouts: No. 1 earns $8 million, with the rest going to Nos. 2โ€“10 in a cascading scale based on their relative scores.

For reference ... Here's who would have split the money in 2019: 1. Tiger Woods, 2. Rory McIlroy, 3. Brooks Koepka, 4. Phil Mickelson, 5. Rickie Fowler, 6. Jordan Spieth, 7. Dustin Johnson, 8. Justin Thomas, 9. Justin Rose, 10. Adam Scott.

The big picture: Much like soccer, there's been a long-gestating Premier Golf League that would bring elite golfers together into a new tour with massive, guaranteed paydays.

  • Though the PGL has repeatedly failed to launch, the PGA's Impact Program is seen as a preemptive measure to ensure its best players have every reason to stay put.
  • And, rather shrewdly, the program includes the PGA providing experts to help golfers manage their personal brands and social channels, giving the players a better chance at cracking the top 10 while also increasing the Tour's visibility.

What they're saying: "In pro golf, there is a dynamic that exists in no other sport or business," one player agent told ESPN.

  • "The needle-movers, the guys who are responsible for revenue, go out and compete at the risk of not being compensated. Tom Cruise doesn't shoot a movie for free and see how it goes."
  • "Tiger Woods could play in golf tournaments, sell a million dollars worth of tickets, be responsible for a large part of a television contract. And he still has to shoot scores to get paid."

The other side: Some players are frustrated by what they view as a "rich get richer" program. "Why not do something to help all of the players? The FedEx Cup already takes care of the top," said one player with multiple Tour wins.

4. ๐Ÿ€ Zags new era: One star in, one star out
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Arrival: Chet Holmgren, a center from Minnehaha Academy (Minnesota) and the No. 1-ranked senior in the country, committed to Gonzaga on Monday.

  • Looking ahead: Holmgren, a seven-footer with Kevin Durant-like ball skills, is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
  • Scout's take: "As unique as they come," one NBA scout told SI. "You can't see him through the lens of a big man. He's a legit wing with guard skills but the reach and toughness to produce in the paint."
Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Departure: Jalen Suggs, a fellow Minnehaha graduate who enjoyed a stellar freshman season at Gonzaga, has declared for June's NBA draft.

  • Looking ahead: Suggs is a projected top-three pick alongside Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and USC's Evan Mobley.
  • Sign of the times: Suggs is auctioning off an NFT of his iconic Final Four buzzer-beater, along with the shoes he wore when he made it.

The big picture: The Holmgren and Suggs announcements mark an inflection point for Gonzaga, which has been a powerhouse for years but never had this much access to one-and-done, five-star talent.

"This is the double-edged sword of super-power status. Gonzaga now has access to the kind of bluechip recruits everyone covets. But these also are players ... that tend to come and go quickly."
"Years ago, Duke and Kentucky moved to the forefront of one-and-done recruiting. While it has paid some dividends ... the process of climbing off the one-and-done hamster wheel is tricky."
"Can a place that was built on counter-programming the super powers join them, while still retaining the differences that make it special?"
โ€” Pat Forde, SI (subscription)
5. ๐Ÿˆ QB spotlight: Justin Fields

Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Five of the top 10 picks in next Thursday's NFL draft could realistically be quarterbacks. This week, we'll meet those signal-callers.

Justin Fields looked like a lock for a top-three pick after obliterating Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal in January. Now? Your guess is as good as ours, Jeff writes.

Bio: The six-foot-three-inch, 228-pound, dual-threat from Kennesaw, Georgia, was the No. 2 recruit out of high school, trailing only fellow Georgian Trevor Lawrence.

  • He stayed close to home and backed up Jake Fromm as a freshman at Georgia before heading to Ohio State with an immediate transfer waiver.
  • He led the Buckeyes to the CFP both years, recording 78 touchdowns (15 rushing) against just nine interceptions. His 178.8 career passer rating is the fourth-best mark ever.

The big picture: For a host of reasons, he's back to playing second fiddle not only to Lawrence, but perhaps as many as three other QBs in this historically stacked class.

  • Some fear he lacks field vision and too often throws to his first option, but Fields' counter-argument is pretty solid: "We have some of the best receivers in the country. So if my first and second read is there, I'm not going to pass [it] up."
  • That "Ohio State effect" is something of a cautionary tale, though. The Buckeyes' perennial receiver talent can make life easy on QBs, and the three drafted in the past decade โ€” Terrelle Pryor, Cardale Jones and Dwayne Haskins โ€” haven't exactly quelled scouts' fears.

Go deeper:

6. โšพ๏ธ 40 strikeouts. No walks.

Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Brewers starter Corbin Burnes continued his record-setting start on Tuesday night, striking out 10 batters in six scoreless innings of a 6-0 win over the Padres.

Why it matters: Burnes, who leads all MLB starters with a 0.37 ERA, has recorded 40 strikeouts this season without walking a single batter.

  • No other starter in the history of baseball has ever recorded more strikeouts before issuing their first walk of the season.
  • Burnes is also the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1901) to have 40 strikeouts and no walks in any four-start span.

The backdrop: Following the 2019 season, Burnes abandoned the windup and started pitching exclusively out of the stretch โ€” a change that has produced spectacular results.

  • Burnes went from an 8.82 ERA in 49 innings in 2019 to a 2.11 ERA in 59.2 innings in 2020, when he finished sixth in NL Cy Young voting.
  • And now, he's doing things no starting pitcher has ever done in the history of a sport that dates back centuries.

More MLB:

  • Labor talks: MLB and the MLBPA met Tuesday for their first official negotiating session just over six months before the sport's CBA expires, ESPN reports.
  • Mock draft: Draft experts have Vanderbilt aces Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker going No. 1 and No. 4 in July's draft, with three high school prospects joining them in the top five.
7. ๐Ÿ“Š By the numbers

Giphy

โšฝ๏ธ 93 days: Apple has kindly given us a sneak peek at the second season of "Ted Lasso," which comes out in 93 days (July 23). Watch the trailer.

๐Ÿ€ 7 straight: The Knicks have won seven games in a row, the NBA's longest active streak. Nobody saw this coming.

๐Ÿ’ 1-279: The Penguins led the Devils 6-0 entering the third period and barely held on for a 7-6 win, becoming the first team in NHL history to win after being outscored by five or more goals in the third period. Teams were previously 0-279 in such scenarios.

8. ๐Ÿ“† April 21, 2012: Philip's perfecto

Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Nine years ago today, Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history in the White Sox's 4-0 win over the Mariners.

The backdrop: This was Humber's second start of the year, but it hardly portended what was to come.

  • Of the 142 pitchers that threw at least 100 innings in 2012, Humber ranked dead last in ERA (6.44) and his perfect game was his only scoreless outing that season.
  • By 2014, Humber was out of the league. He currently works as a commercial real estate agent in Tyler, Texas, according to his LinkedIn,

The big picture: This was the first of three perfect games in 2012 (Matt Cain in June; Fรฉlix Hernรกndez in August), which brought the total to 23.

  • There hasn't been one since, marking the longest gap since 1981. Even crazier is that six of the 23 happened in a four-season span (2009โ€“12).
  • Recent close calls: Carlos Rodรณn (White Sox) and Joe Musgrove (Padres) have both thrown no-hitters this season that came one hit batter shy of being perfect games.

Go deeper:

9. ๐Ÿ€ NBA trivia

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Chris Paul, who surpassed Magic Johnson on Monday for fifth on the NBA's all-time assist list, also ranks in the top five in steals.

  • Question: Only two other players rank in the top five in both steals and assists. Who are they?
  • Hint: Both played college hoops on the West Coast.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ๐ŸŽฅ Tuesday's top plays

Photo: Denis Poroy/Getty Images

  1. โšพ๏ธ What a catch
  2. ๐Ÿ’ What a save
  3. ๐Ÿ€ What a dunk

Watch all 3.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "What a disaster" Baker

Trivia answer: John Stockton and Jason Kidd