Sep 10, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

πŸ‘‹ Good morning!

  • 🎬 Tonight, 9pm ET: The premiere of ESPN's latest 30 for 30: "Rodman: For Better or Worse." I got early access and watched yesterday. Review below.

Today's word count: 1,326 words (5 minutes)

1 big thing: πŸŽ“ California vs. the NCAA

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A California bill that would allow college athletes to accept endorsement money moved one step closer to becoming law last night when it cleared the State Assembly by a vote of 72-0.

  • What's next: Once the details are ironed out, the proposed law β€” known as the Fair Pay to Play Act β€” will head to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will have 30 days to sign it. If it becomes law, it will go into effect in Jan. 2023.

Why it matters: This bill would allow college athletes in California to profit from their name, image and likeness β€” whether that's basketball stars signing shoe deals or golfers advertising swing lessons.

  • Similar bills are in their infancy in Washington state and Colorado, and Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) introduced a federal bill in March that would have the same effect, making the Fair Pay to Play Act a "catalyst rather than an end unto itself," per NYT.

The support: The bill's high-profile backers include LeBron James and Draymond Green, both of whom tweeted their support.

  • Green: "California!!! Extremely excited about the bill that passed tonight allowing players to be paid. Finally, we are making some progress and getting this thing right. Kids going to sleep hungry, can't afford ANYTHING yet these Universities are profiting off those same kids. SIGN IT!!"

The opposition: Naturally, the NCAA has come out in strong opposition of the bill.

  • And so have many California schools, who NCAA president Mark Emmert said could be banned from competing for national championships because they'd have an unfair recruiting advantage.

The final word, via the bill's sponsor, Sen. Nancy Skinner:

"To me, this is fundamental fairness. California law basically gives each of us the right that no one can use my name, market my name or make money off of my name, or my photo, without my permission, or without sharing that revenue with me. The only people in the entire state of California for whom that is the case are student-athletes."
2. 🏈 MNF: Saints win thriller; Raiders top Broncos
Photo: Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Saints 30, Texans 28: The insane ending to this game completely made up for whatever the heck Packers-Bears was last Thursday. For the first time in MNF history, the lead changed more than once in the final minute of the 4th quarter.

  • How it ended: Deshaun Watson threw a 37-yard TD to Kenny Stills with 37 seconds left to put the Texans up 28-27. But that gave Drew Brees just enough time to complete a few passes β€” against coverage that was way too soft β€” and set up Will Lutz's game-winning 58-yard field goal.
  • Watch: The final minute.
Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

Raiders 24, Broncos 16: The Raiders responded to a tumultuous week by scoring on a 10-play drive to open the game β€” and they never surrendered the lead, handing the "L" to Vic Fangio and Joe Flacco in their Broncos debuts.

  • Game MVP: Raiders rookie RB Josh Jacobs became the 1st player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 to record 100 scrimmage yards and 2 rush TD in his NFL debut.
3. πŸ€ The FIBA World Cup quarterfinals are underway

Team USA beat Brazil 89-73 yesterday to earn a top seed for the quarterfinals. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

8 teams remain in the FIBA World Cup, with quarterfinal action set to take place today (the first game is already in progress) and tomorrow.


  • Today: Argentina vs. Serbia (7am ET) β€” Spain vs. Poland (9am ET)
  • Tomorrow: USA vs. France (7am ET) β€” Australia vs. Czech Republic (9am ET)

Go deeper:

4. ⚾️ Big Papi back in Boston
Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

David Ortiz threw out the first pitch during the Red Sox game last night, his first appearance at Fenway Park since nearly being killed in a shooting in June.

"I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be here with all of you. I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family. They always have been there. They were the first ones there supporting me."

P.S. ... In other MLB news, the Astros beat the A's 15-0 yesterday β€” one day after beating the Mariners 21-1. They also became the first team in MLB history to hit 6 HR in the first 2 innings of a game (Yordan Alvarez hit an absolute moonshot).

5. 🏈 How Army got so good at football

Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Army's football program has slightly loosened its academic requirements and begun relying more heavily on its prep school, where players can spend a year getting acclimated to the U.S. Military Academy's unique atmosphere.

  • "While Army won't be admitting anyone with a 2.0 GPA or an 800 SAT score … those who might be long on tenacity (and football talent) but short on test scores may be offered a spot at the prep school, which serves largely as a 10-month academic boot camp," writes NYT's Billy Witz.

Why it matters: By taking chances on kids who would have previously been passed over, Army has been able to offset some of the disadvantages it faces in trying to compete in D-I (post-grad military duty, no redshirts, etc.) and become far more competitive.

  • 14 of Army's 22 starters in their double-OT loss to then-No. 7 Michigan spent a year at prep school.
  • Prior to 2013, Army had one winning season in 17 years. Now, they're coming off 3 consecutive bowl victories, a school-record 11 wins last season and a near upset of the Wolverines.
6. 🎬 Review: "Rodman: For Better or Worse"

Photo: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

ESPN will debut the 133rd installment in the Emmy award-winning "30 for 30" series tonight with the highly-anticipated "Rodman: For Better or Worse."

  • Time/Channel: 9pm ET (ESPN2)
  • Runtime: 102 minutes (2 hours with commercials)
  • Preview: Watch the trailer (YouTube)

Quick review: This is one of the most introspective 30 for 30's I've seen (and I think I've seen them all). While director Tom Kapostasy spends a fair amount of time on Dennis Rodman, the basketball player, the film is firmly focused on Dennis Rodman, the human being.

From the director:

"Many of us remember the counterculture persona Dennis created, but explanations for his behavior were, and still are, often reduced to the idea that 'he's just crazy'. ... But when you begin to piece together individual events of his life and the psychology that under-pins them, a much more complex and nuanced picture emerges. That is the story we wanted to tell."
7. Sept. 10, 1989: 🏈 Dickerson races to 10K
Eric Dickerson. Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

30 years ago today, Eric Dickerson became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career rushing yards β€” reaching the milestone in just 91 games. His record still stands today.

Fastest to 10,000 rushing yards:

  1. Eric Dickerson (91 games)
  2. Jim Brown (98 games)
  3. Adrian Peterson (101 games)
  4. Barry Sanders (103 games)
  5. Emmitt Smith (106 games)
  6. LaDainian Tomlinson (106 games)
8. The Ocho: 🏏 The Mike Trout of cricket

Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Steve Smith's incredible batting performances have guaranteed that Australia will beat England in the 2019 Ashes, a 137-year-old series between the two countries.

By the numbers: Through 4 matches, Smith has single-handedly scored 29% of Australia's runs despite missing 1.5 matches with a concussion. His batting average is the 3rd-highest in series history, behind only Don Bradman (the Babe Ruth of cricket) and himself.

The intrigue, per WSJ (subscription):

  • Unique stance: Like Ichiro Suzuki, "Smith's technique is unique in the sport. ... Whereas batsmen are traditionally taught to stand just off the stumps and square to the bowler with their bat down, Smith holds his bat cocked and takes a risky step directly across the stumps to better whip his wrists around the ball. … It's enough to make cricket purists cringe."
  • Past controversy: "He only returned this summer from a one-year suspension from Test cricket for his part in a ball-tampering scheme involving Australian bowlers and a piece of sandpaper shoved down their pants. Smith, the team's captain at the time, accepted his ban in a tearful press conference that launched a thousand memes."

Go deeper: Steve Smith Ashes highlights (YouTube)

Bonus: ⚾️ MLB trivia

Braves CF Ronald Acuna Jr. (38 HR, 34 SB) has a chance to become just the 5th player in MLB history to join the 40-40 club.

  • Question: Who is the only player to join the club this century?
  • Hint: He did it in 2006 while playing in the NL East.

Answer at the bottom.

9. 🏈 Best use of AR

AT&T launched multiple "5G experiences" for fans during the Cowboys' home opener on Sunday, including an augmented reality experience called "Pose with the Pros."

How it works:

  • Step 1: Select 5 Cowboys players to be in your photo.
  • Step 2: Get into position in front of the screen and stay put while those 5 players pose next to you in augmented reality.
  • Step 3: Smile for the camera.
  • Step 4: Give AT&T your email/phone number so they can send you the photos (and, let's be real, a bi-monthly email about "upgrading your cable package" for the rest of your life).

See it in action.

10. πŸ“š If you read one thing...

Read this. Awesome interview.

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "Big Papi forever" Baker

Trivia answer: Alfonso Soriano (Nationals, 2006) ... For reference, the other 3 members are Alex Rodriguez (Mariners, 1998), Barry Bonds (Giants, 1996) and Jose Canseco (A's, 1988)