Jan 29, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Yesterday, I asked you to name the second-most random football player you could think of. Got a ton of great responses, but my two favorites were Reuben Droughns and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Perfect level of randomness.

Today's word count: 1,229 words (5 minutes)

1 big thing: 💔 Collective grief and the torments of regret

Photo: Paul Buck/AFP via Getty Images

According to David Kessler, co-author of "On Grief and Grieving," sadness over the death of a public figure is often so strong because it is permitted.

  • "Collectively, right now, men have permission to cry — or be visibly moved," he said, per Elemental. "Can we normally talk about our grief with strangers in a Starbucks or a bookstore? No. But we can now."
  • Kessler also suggests that celebrities connect us to our own life. Yes, we mourn Kobe, but perhaps we also mourn the loss of our own youthful, carefree days spent watching him hoop.

Why it matters: There's something profound about collective grief. When someone who knew Kobe speaks, it reverberates, because we felt like we knew him, too.

What they're saying: During a tribute on TNT last night, Shaquille O'Neal got emotional about losing his "little brother."

  • "All us up here, we work a lot. And I think a lot of times we take stuff for granted. Like, I don't talk to you guys as much as I need to," he said through tears.
  • "That's the only thing I wish. [That] I could just say something to him again," he added, mentioning that the last time he'd spoken to Kobe was on the night of his final game in April 2016.
  • "It definitely changes me. ... I really have to now just take time to call and say, 'I love you.' ... I'm gonna try to do a better job of just reaching out and talking to people, rather than always procrastinating, because you never know."

The bottom line: Reach out more. Be more emotionally intimate. Say those things you've always wanted to say.

ICYMI: More on Kobe...

Bonus: 🏀 All 13,733 of Kobe's made field goals
Screenshot: @kirkgoldsberry (Twitter)


2. 💵 Gambling operator buys stake in Barstool

Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Penn National Gaming has agreed to buy a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for $163 million — a deal that values the company at $450 million.

  • Details: Penn National will buy the 36% stake in cash and stock, and three years later, it will pay another $62 million to bring its stake to 50%, per WSJ.

Why it matters: With the gaming industry rushing to capitalize on the coming online sports betting boom, this deal joins an operator of 41 gambling properties in 19 states with a sports and lifestyle brand focused on young men.

What they're saying: "It's a stunning deal for the digital media industry, coming as many publishers are retrenching after a round of ultimately disappointing Facebook-fueled optimism and investment," writes Vox's Peter Kafka.

  • "And it's a big payoff for the Chernin Group, which had reportedly invested some $25 million to buy controlling stakes in Barstool in 2016 and 2018."

Watch: Barstool founder Dave Portnoy announced the deal on Twitter.

Coming up ... I'll go deeper on this tomorrow. Lots to discuss.

3. 🎾 Meanwhile, at the Australian Open
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Men: Rafael Nadal was knocked out earlier this morning by 26-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem, who will face 22-year-old German Alexander Zverev in Friday's semifinal.

  • Coming up: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic face off in the other semifinal late tonight/early tomorrow (3:30am ET).
Photo: Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Women: Simona Halep (above) needed just 53 minutes to defeat Anett Kontaveit 6-1, 6-1 and will play fellow two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza in tonight's semifinal (11:30pm ET).

  • Also tonight: 21-year-old American Sofia Kenin takes on hometown hero and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty for a spot in the final (10pm ET).
4. 🏈 Super Bowl roundup

Photo: Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The forever cycle of Chiefs fandom has been broken (Rany Jazayerli, The Ringer)

"Kansas City is about to play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. This is more than just a breakthrough for a long-suffering franchise. It's the culmination of a journey that defines an entire fan base."

Who the hell is Raheem Mostert? (Tyler Dunne, B/R)

"For the longest time, Mostert confided the details of his upbringing only to the tightest of tight inner circles. Now, he feels a duty to spread the word. He knows his story — especially right now, right when people are discovering who he is — can inspire."

The most VIP Super Bowl weekend costs $1.5M, includes butler (Kelli Kennedy, AP)

"[N]o place caters to the rich and famous quite like glitzy Miami. ... One package includes a 4-day cruise around the Caribbean on a private yacht after the game for $720,000."

The most balanced team in the Super Bowl isn't the favorite (Michael Salfino, FiveThirtyEight)

"One team competing this weekend in Super Bowl LIV has proven all season that it is one of the most dominant, well-balanced squads in NFL history. It's the team widely expected to lose."

Tales from Patrick Mahomes' high school no-hitter (Andy McCullough, The Athletic)

"He was the first pitcher I've ever faced throwing 95 mph. It had me kind of shaking in the back of the box. I'm used to maybe playing catch with guys who throw that hard, but not trying to put a bat on it."

🎥 Watch: "Loretta" (Google Super Bowl commercial)

5. 🏥 Coronavirus hits college sports
Expand chart
Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Miami University (Ohio) postponed its men's basketball game last night and its women's basketball game tonight following news that two students who traveled to China over winter break are being tested for coronavirus.

6. 📊 By the numbers
  • 🏀 371 days: On Jan. 23. 2019, Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo ruptured his quad tendon, setting off a prolonged recovery period. 371 days later, he's set to make his long-anticipated return tonight against the Bulls.
  • ⚽️ 24 years: Trézéguet scored in stoppage time to lift Aston Villa past Leicester City and into the Carabao Cup final, where the club will try to win its first major trophy since 1996, which was before the birth of many of the jubilant fans who stormed the field yesterday.
  • 🏀 15th time: No. 5 Florida State's 61-56 loss to Virginia is the 15th time this season that a Top 5 team has fallen to an unranked opponent. There were six such losses all of last season. (Wild stat: UVA contested 49 of FSU's 54 FG attempts.)
7. Jan. 29, 1936: ⚾️ Baseball's first HOF class

Babe Ruth (left) and Ty Cobb at the Polo Grounds in 1920. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

84 years ago today, the Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first five members: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Matthewson.

Why it mattered: When the news was broadcast to the world in the Sunday papers four days later, a new national dialogue was born and the words "Hall of Famer" truly came to life.

More inaugural classes:

  • NHL: Lord Stanley, Hobey Baker, Art Ross, Georges Vezina and 10 others (Class of 1945)
  • NBA: James Naismith, George Mikan, Phog Allen, Hank Luisetti and 13 others (Class of 1959)
  • NFL: Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, George Hallas, Curly Lambeau and 13 others (Class of 1963)
8. The Ocho: 🇯🇵 Sumo Cinderella

Tokushōryū Makoto, a virtually unknown wrestler from Nara, Japan, just became the lowest-ranked competitor in 20 years to win the "Emperor's Cup," which is basically the Super Bowl of sumo.

  • "Even Tokushōryū couldn't believe what happened," writes SB Nation's James Dator. "Spectators said the wrestler was vacillating between tears and bouts of laughter — unable to comprehend what he had accomplished."
  • "Tokushōryū entered the tournament with the rank of No. 17 maegashira, the lowest tier in the tournament. He was expected to compete, largely as match-filler, not win the whole thing.

🎥 Watch: Full fight (Twitter)

9. 🏈 Super Bowl trivia

Question: Which of the following artists is not scheduled to perform during this year's Super Bowl festivities?

  • Shakira
  • Demi Lovato
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Ariana Grande

Answer at the bottom.

10. Vote: ⚾️ Should the NL add a DH?

"There is a growing belief amongst NL GM's that a DH will be instituted for the NL as early as 2021," The Athletic's Jim Bowden reports. How do you feel about that?

Click to vote:

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Welcome back Vic" Baker

Trivia answer: Ariana Grande