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Axios Sports

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,738 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏀 The Raptors are at home in Tampa

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tampa's recent run of championship berths has the city buzzing, and while it prepares to host Super Bowl LV, it's also renting a small piece of Titletown to the temporarily-displaced Toronto Raptors, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

The state of play: Amalie Arena, home of the NHL's Lightning, ultimately surfaced as the Raptors' home away from home, and the city has rolled out the red carpet to make them feel welcome.

  • Training: The brand new JW Marriott, next door to Amalie, converted its luxury ballroom and entire fourth floor into the Raptors' training facility and operational headquarters. One rule? No full-court heaves (the ballroom's chandeliers, like the jumbotron at Jerry World, could come into play).
  • Lodging: Another Marriott, across the street from the JW and connected by a tunnel, housed most of the team upon their arrival. Some decided to stay there for the duration, while others have moved to nearby neighborhoods like Hyde Park and Harbour Island.
  • Game day: The arena itself has all the trappings of home, including the Raptors' 2019 championship banner in the rafters and the team's new court design, featuring their signature word, "North," in 25 different languages (Toronto is the most diverse city in the world, per the BBC).
Practice court in the JW Marriott ballroom. Courtesy: Toronto Raptors

The big picture: The Raptors, already the only team based outside the U.S., know the value of home as less a location than a state of mind.

  • "'We The North' isn't necessarily an idea of you living in Toronto," said Kevin Mones, creative director at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. "We've had the notion that the north isn't a destination; it's a declaration."
  • Team Tampa — as the collective of the city's teams refers to itself — believes success for one is success for all, and has gladly welcomed the Raptors into its ranks for however long their stay lasts.

The bottom line: The Raptors are still the north — just with a dose of southern hospitality.

Go deeper: Inside the Raptors' frantic relocation (The Athletic)

2. ⚾️ Hall of Fame voters pitch shutout
Table: Axios Visuals

There will be no Class of 2021 in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as voters pitched a shutout on Tuesday, rejecting all 25 candidates for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

  • By the numbers: The top three candidates — Curt Schilling (71.1%), Barry Bonds (61.8%) and Roger Clemens (61.6%) — all fell short of the 75% needed.
  • What they're saying: Schilling, who was just 16 votes short, shared a letter on Facebook ripping baseball writers and asking to be taken off the ballot in 2022.

Top vote-getters:

  • Schilling: 71.1%
  • Bonds: 61.8%
  • Clemens: 61.6%
  • Scott Rolen: 52.9%
  • Omar Vizquel: 49/1%
  • Billy Wagner: 46.4%
  • Todd Helton: 44.9%
  • Gary Sheffield: 40.6%
  • Andruw Jones: 33.9%
  • Jeff Kent: 32.4%

Of note: This is just the ninth time the Baseball Writers' Association of America did not elect a Hall of Fame candidate, and the fourth since rules were changed to eliminate the runoff elections in 1968.

What's next: Voters have 10 years to consider candidates, and Schilling, Bonds and Clemens have lingered on the ballot for nine.

  • So next year's election will be the writers' final referendum on all three controversial players.
  • If they're not elected, their fate will fall to a 16-person panel of Hall of Famers, team officials and historians known as the veterans' committee.

Go deeper:

3. ⚽️ Europe's richest soccer clubs hit by virus
Data: Deloitte; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Europe's 20 most lucrative soccer clubs earned $9.97 billion in 2019-20, down from $11.31 billion the previous year, per Deloitte's 24th annual Football Money League report, Jeff writes.

  • The state of play: That 12% drop was driven mostly by broadcast revenue deferrals, comprising a $1.14 billion decrease year-over-year. Matchday revenue also fell drastically, down $312.6 million.
  • Movement: The top 10 featured the same clubs in a slightly different order, while Zenit (Russia) and Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany) pushed West Ham (England) and Roma (Italy) out of the top 20.

Top 20, by country:

  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: 7 clubs
  • 🇩🇪 Germany: 4 clubs
  • 🇪🇸 Spain: 3 clubs
  • 🇮🇹 Italy: 3 clubs
  • 🇫🇷 France: 2 clubs
  • 🇷🇺 Russia: 1 club

Read the report.

4. ⚡️ Lightning round
Source: @NBATV (Twitter)

💔 Sekou Smith, a longtime NBA reporter and TV analyst known for his friendly demeanor, died Tuesday of COVID-19. He was 48 years old.

🏈 Mel Kiper Jr. debuted his first NFL mock draft (subscription). He has the Jets taking Alabama WR DeVonta Smith at No. 2, the Dolphins taking LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase at No. 3, and the Falcons taking BYU QB Zach Wilson at No. 4.

⚾️ J.T. Realmuto signed a five-year, $115.5 million deal with the Phillies, topping the previous record for highest annual pay for a catcher (Joe Mauer).

🙏 Caris LeVert had successful surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his kidney. The growth was discovered during a routine physical exam after his trade from the Nets to the Pacers — a trade which "could've possibly saved me," said LeVert.

5. ⛵️ Vendée Globe: Down to the wire
Courtesy: Vendée Globe

The Vendée Globe — "the most grueling sailing event ever conceived" — is set to conclude as soon as this afternoon, Jeff writes.

The backdrop: On Nov. 8, 33 sailors embarked on the ninth edition of this around-the-world race from Les Sables-d'Olonne on the west coast of France.

  • Eight have been forced out for various reasons, and most of the remaining 25 are fighting less for a spot on the podium than the honor of being among those select few to actually finish such an epic journey.
  • One of those eight was Kevin Escoffier, whose boat was destroyed on Day 22, leaving him alone on a raft for 11 hours before fellow Frenchman Jean Le Cam — currently in eighth place — found and rescued him.
  • Paying it forward: Le Cam, 61 years old and competing in his fifth Vendée Globe, was similarly rescued in the 2008-09 edition.
Some of the skippers participating in this year's event. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

The state of play: The top six contenders are locked in what appears will be the closest finish ever, and the drama is multiplied by the different closing routes each has chosen to take.

  • Two strategies: Nos. 1–3 traveled the eastern route, which was faster at first but now hitting some wind; Nos. 4–6 went north, opting for the path that would give them the best closing sprint.
  • Worth noting: Boris Herrmann (No. 2) and Yannick Bestaven (No. 5) both also helped search for Escoffier, and will thus be awarded time compensations when they cross the finish line. In other words, there's a good chance the podium will differ from the exact finishing order.

May the best boat win.

Go deeper: Rescued at sea (NYT)

6. 😷 One year of the coronavirus
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Axios Visuals

One year ago today, a novel coronavirus was barely beginning to catch the public's eye. There were just over 2,000 confirmed cases worldwide, mostly in China, and five cases in the U.S., Axios' Sam Baker writes.

The big picture: The sea of red says it all. Today, there have been over 100 million cases worldwide, led by the U.S. with over 25 million.

7. 📈 Wall Street's own populist revolt
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

A popular rebellion, organized by the powerless against the powerful. It might have failed in Washington, but certainly seems to be working on Wall Street, Axios' Felix Salmon and Courtenay Brown write.

Driving the news: The market value of GameStop closed at more than $10 billion on Tuesday, on record volume of more than $26 billion.

  • The winners: A ragtag group of traders from Reddit and TikTok, led by a man calling himself "Roaring Kitty."
  • The losers: Hedge-fund short-sellers wh0 are learning John Maynard Keynes's lesson the hard way — "The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

Of note ... Why is this story appearing in a sports newsletter? Because Mets owner Steve Cohen, a hedge fund mogul, is involved.

  • Melvin Capital, a fund run by one of Cohen's former lieutenants, is getting hammered by the coordinated "buying attack" in what's known as a short squeeze.
  • Cohen's Point72 Asset Management, along with another hedge fund, Citadel, have invested $2.75 billion into Melvin to help bail them out.
8. Jan. 27, 1991: 🏈 "Wide right"

Scott Norwood after missing aa 47-yard field goal wide right. Photo: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

30 years ago today, the Giants beat the Bills, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium.

  • The game was close the whole way, with Buffalo taking a 12-10 lead into halftime and New York grabbing the 20-19 lead with eight minutes left in the game.
  • Jim Kelly led the Bills in a two-minute drill to set up a game-winning, 47-yard field goal attempt, but Scott Norwood missed wide right as time expired.

What came next: The cursed Bills went on to lose the next three Super Bowls by an aggregate score of 119-54. They haven't made it back since, but the future is bright in Buffalo.

Game notes:

  • MVP: Giants RB Ottis Anderson (21 carries, 102 yards, TD; 1 catch, 7 yards)
  • Coaching royalty: Bill Parcells and his defensive coordinator, Bill Belichick, won their second Super Bowl together.
  • Defensive stars: Buffalo's Bruce Smith and New York's Lawrence Taylor would end their careers with a combined 21 Pro Bowls, 16 All-Pro selections, six DPOYs and an MVP.

🎥 Stream: "Four Falls of Buffalo" (ESPN+)

9. ⚾️ Hall of Fame trivia

Plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport

  • Question: Only three players have ever received at least 99% of the vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Who are they?
  • Hint: All three were inducted this century.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 💔 Remembering Kobe
Courtesy: L.A. Times

Thanks to everyone who shared their feelings one year after the crash. I wish I could include them all, but I only had room for a few.

  • Dave M. (Saratoga, California): "As a man who rarely cries, it was notable that I was on the verge of tears for about a week after hearing about Kobe and Gigi. A year later and I still can't believe we'll never hear that hearty chuckle again. The dude had game. And I'm not talking basketball game, I'm talking life game. He was a self-described work-in-progress that led the way for all of us. I'll never stop missing him."
  • Patti F. (Waukegan, Illinois): "The most shocking part to me as a parent is that Kobe was just taking his kid to a game. Something so many of us have done. Although my travels were by car, not helicopter, I can recall many snowy drives to and from swimming or wrestling meets when I questioned if I should be on the road. But I was. Because that's what we do for our kids. Kobe was just taking his daughter to her game."
  • Linsey C. (Lincoln, Nebraska): "I didn't start following the NBA until his final years in the league so I didn't see 'peak' Kobe. The Kobe I knew, and was a fan of, was him as a father to his four daughters. I am heartbroken that Natalia, Bianka, and Capri have to live the rest of their lives without their dedicated father, and even more heartbroken that Bianka and Capri have to live without ever truly knowing him."

Further reading:

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Dinosaurs love the beach" Baker

Trivia answer: Mariano Rivera (100%), Derek Jeter (99.74%), Ken Griffey Jr. (99.32%)

  • Correction: In yesterday's trivia question, I mistakenly left out Michael Jordan as an answer.