Jan 28, 2021

Axios Sports

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Today's word count: 1,642 words (6 minutes).

1 big thing: πŸ€ The NBA's second screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tonight's NBA doubleheader will be broadcast on TNT, which means the network will almost certainly draw more viewers than its competitors throughout the evening.

  • Yes, but: While the battle for the "first screen" (broadcast) has already been won, the battle for the "second screen" (social media) will happen in real-time.

Why it matters: With an increasing number of young NBA fans following the league mostly through social media, the content published on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms during games is now almost as important as the game itself.

The state of play: In 2019, 88% of Americans were using "a second digital device while watching TV," according to Nielsen. That number is likely higher for live sports β€” and it's absolutely higher among younger viewers.

What they're saying: "It's no longer enough to say, 'Hey, the game is at 7:30 on this channel, tune in,'" says Julian Patterson, Bleacher Report's senior director of social.

  • "There's a high likelihood that if you're watching the game on your TV, you have your phone in your hand. And you might have a laptop or tablet in your lap, too. So there are three screens competing for your attention," he added.
  • "With Bleacher Report and our other brands like House of Highlights, we're trying to create a holistic ecosystem that compliments the game experience and is interconnected between those devices."

Of note: Bleacher Report is one of the most engaging sports brands on social media. It's also owned by Turner (which owns TNT), making tonight an opportune time for the two to combine forces and own every screen.

Between the lines: While publishers like Bleacher Report and ESPN produce content during games, NBA team accounts do the same.

  • All the while, individuals like Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) β€” who's known for uploading clips almost immediately by filming his TV screen with his phone β€” are adding to the content-palooza.
  • In the end, so much content is created that one can get a fairly good grasp of what happened each night in the NBA without ever turning on a game.

The bottom line: The battle for the "first screen" is won ahead of time, and it's all about money. The battle for the "second screen" takes place on a nightly basis, and it's all about engagement.

Tonight's doubleheader: See you on Twitter (@TheKendallBaker)...

  • 7:30pm ET: Trail Blazers at Rockets
  • 10pm: Warriors at Suns
2. 🏈 Super Bowl in the time of COVID

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With 10 days left until the big game, there's been a lot of talk about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Super Bowl β€”Β and, by extension, Tampa Bay, Axios' Selene San Felice and Ben Montgomery write.

The state of play: A lot of the news has focused on big commercial sponsors like Bud Light and Coke dropping out along with reduced capacity limits, but Super Bowl Host Committee president Rob Higgins isn't worried about any of that.

  • He doesn't want to think about what could have been. Instead, he told us he appreciates what the Super Bowl is: a much-needed economic boost.
"This is really a shot in the arm when the community needs it most. ... Every community in the country would love to be hosting this Super Bowl right now with how their tourism and hospitality industries have been impacted by the pandemic. That we're the ones who get it is really important."

Higgins pointed out some of the game's scores:

  • Airline bookings have more than doubled over recent months.
  • Hotels have booked the most rooms since the pandemic started.
  • Its social legacy initiative has backed local charities, like Feeding Tampa Bay, which has seen a 400% increase in demand since the pandemic began.

The big picture: As for the super-spreader potential, Higgins said he's committed to being an example for the rest of the world on how to safely put on a huge event.

  • NFL-sponsored events, like the Super Bowl Experience along downtown's Riverwalk, will be outdoors and distanced, with enforced mask usage.

🚨 Subscribe ... Do you live in Tampa Bay? Axios Tampa Bay launched this week. Sign up!

3. πŸ€ Tonight in Miami: Virus-sniffing dogs

A Malinois dog being trained to sniff out COVID-19. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

The Heat will use coronavirus-sniffing dogs to screen fans ahead of tonight's game at AmericanAirlines Arena, when ~1,500 season ticket holders will be permitted inside for the first time this season.

  • Why it matters: The Heat are the first NBA team to try this approach, which has been used at airports in Chile, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.
  • By the numbers: A German study last year found that trained dogs were able to sniff out COVID-19 with 94% accuracy.

Details: "Fans arriving for the game will be brought to a screening area and the detection dogs will walk past. If the dog keeps going, the fan is cleared; if the dog sits, that's a sign it detects the virus and the fan will be denied entry," per AP.

  • If guests are allergic or uncomfortable around dogs, they can submit a rapid antigen test instead, which can be processed in less than 45 minutes.
4. ⚑️ Lightning round

Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

πŸ€ Candace Parker β€” one of just three players in WNBA or NBA history to win MVP, Finals MVP, DPOY and ROY (Michael Jordan, Tamika Catchings) β€” is signing with her hometown Chicago Sky after 13 seasons with the L.A. Sparks.

🏈 The Texans have hired Ravens assistant David Culley as their next head coach. Culley has been in the NFL since 1994, but never held a coordinator job.

⚽️ The NWSL is bringing back the Challenge Cup after its success as a stopgap this summer. It will begin on April 9 and be followed by a 24-game regular season beginning May 15.

🏈 Tennessee has hired UCF's Josh Heupel as its next head coach, reuniting him with his former athletic director, Danny White, who the Volunteers hired last week.

πŸš” The Seahawks waived OT Chad Wheeler on Wednesday, following his arrest Saturday on suspicion of felony domestic violence assault. Just horrifying stuff.

5. 🌍 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA β€” In a potential Finals preview, Tobias Harris hit the go-ahead jumper with three seconds left to lift the first-place 76ers past the first-place Lakers, and hand L.A. its first road loss of the season.

  • New king out West ... The Jazz (14-4) beat the Mavericks for their 10th straight win and took a half-game lead over the Lakers (14-5) for first place in the West.
Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

DUBAI, U.A.E. β€” Another week, another sporting event in the Gulf states. England's Paul Casey (above) is tied for third after one round at the Dubai Desert Classic, trailing Spain's Sergio Garcia and South Africa's Justin Harding.

Photo: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

ADELAIDE, Australia β€” Novak Djokovic and other tennis players remain in quarantine ahead of next month's Australian Open.

  • πŸ“† Start date: February 8
6. πŸ’ The NWHL's Lake Placid bubble
Courtesy: Michelle Jay

The NWHL's bubble season is underway in Lake Placid, New York, with all six teams participating in a two-week sprint towards the Isobel Cup, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • Dates: Jan. 23–Feb. 5.
  • Venue: Herb Brooks Arena, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics where the U.S. "Miracle" team won gold.
  • Lodging: Teams are split between two hotels with everyone confined to their rooms when not playing.
  • Format: Five-game regular season followed by a seeded, two-game round robin to determine four playoff berths; playoffs are single elimination.

By the numbers: The bubble comprises 170 people and is expected to cost $2–3 million, per Sportico. That includes ~$1 million in player salaries with the $150,000 salary cap remaining static despite the shortened season.


  • Minnesota Whitecaps (6 pts)
  • Toronto Six (5 pts)
  • Metropolitan Riveters (4 pts)
  • Connecticut Whale (4 pts)
  • Boston Pride (2 pts)
  • Buffalo Beauts (1 pt)

The state of play: The six-year-old league felt playing a season of any length was paramount to sustaining momentum, and its gambit has been backed by a flood of new sponsors and a groundbreaking TV deal.

  • Sponsorship revenue is split 50-50 between the league and players, meaning players have a say regarding which sponsors are chosen and sponsors feel better knowing the true impact of their investment.
  • NBC Sports will broadcast the playoffs, which will mark the first time professional women's hockey has been shown live in the states on a major cable network.

The backdrop ... Amid all this excitement, the league has found itself embroiled in a feud with one of its biggest supporters, Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini.

Watch every game on Twitch.

7. πŸŒ‡ Top 20 megacities
Data: Macrotrends; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Sports are universal. Every corner of the globe can lay claim to something, and the 20 most populous cities are no exception, Jeff writes.

Some highlights...

  • Tokyo (No. 1): The Tokyo Racecourse, which hosts the Japan Cup, Japanese Derby and other major horse races, is the third-largest sports venue in the world (223,000 capacity).
  • SΓ£o Paulo (No. 4): The Saint Silvester Road Race is the most prestigious street race in Brazil. The 15K, held annually on Dec. 31 (Saint Silvester's Day), was rescheduled for the first time since its inception in 1925 due to the pandemic.
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh (No. 6): Their national sport is called kabaddi, also known as ha-du-du, and is essentially a combination of tag, capture the flag and wrestling. It's nuts.
  • Lagos, Nigeria (No. 18): Hakeem Olajuwon grew up in Lagos playing soccer, before picking up basketball at age 15. As a goalie, he nurtured the footwork and shot-blocking skills that made him an NBA superstar.
  • Manila, Philippines (No. 19): Sabong (cockfighting) is a legal, billion-dollar industry here. During the pandemic, e-sabong (betting on livestreams) has boomed, pushing Congress to impose a new tax to aid in economic recovery.
8. Jan. 28, 1990: 🏈 Super Blowout

Jerry Rice celebrates a touchdown. Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

31 years ago today, the 49ers routed the Broncos, 55-10, in Super Bowl XXIV. It remains one of, if not the worst Super Bowl ever.

"If the Pleiadians or some other alien race finds our planet in 200 years and discovers NFL Films, let's hope this isn't the one film canister they discover."
β€” Elliot Harrison, NFL.com

Games notes:

  • Dynasty: This was San Francisco's second straight Super Bowl, and fourth since 1981.
  • MVP: Joe Montana (22/29, 297 yards, 5 TD). This was his third win, second only to Tom Brady (4).
  • GOAT: Jerry Rice (7 receptions, 148 yards, 3 TD) remains the career Super Bowl leader in receptions (33), receiving yards (589), TD (8) and points (48).

Go deeper:

9. 🏈 NFL trivia

Photo: Otto Gruele Jr/Allsport/Getty Images

Speaking of Joe Montana,Β he won both MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the 1989-90 season, making him one of just six players to accomplish the "MVP double."

  • Question:Β Can you name the other five?
  • Hint:Β None this century; just one non-QB.

Answer at the bottom.

10. πŸŽ₯ Wednesday's top plays


  1. ⚽️ Gorgeous chip
  2. πŸ€ Jeff Green!
  3. πŸ›Ή Tony's 720
  4. πŸ€ Kyrie's crazy finish
  5. πŸ€ Ferocious follow

Watch all 5.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "We don't deserve dogs" Baker

Trivia answer: Bart Starr (1966), Terry Bradshaw (1978), Emmitt Smith (1993), Steve Young (1994), Kurt Warner (1999)