👋 Good morning! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,646 (6 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Athletes Unlimited is a new network of leagues that hopes to reinvent women's sports by bucking the traditional city-based model in favor of a more modern approach.
How it works: Women's sports leagues have typically mirrored their respective men's leagues, but Athletes Unlimited replaces the "pink it and shrink it" strategy with a reimagined model that leans into modern fandom (think: fantasy sports and athletes being more popular than teams).
🎙 Interview: I spoke with Patricof about how Athletes Unlimited was born and what fans can expect moving forward.
KB: What was the impetus behind starting Athletes Unlimited?
"Two things: We think there are huge opportunities in women's sports, and we also think there's a new way to create sports leagues that addresses the structural and cost inefficiencies that come with trying to be in multiple cities, especially when you have to rent stadiums."
KB: Why softball and volleyball?
"We looked for sports with a proven following and an existing landscape that would allow us to attract the top players in that sport.
"Softball has had huge success at the collegiate level, and the viewership numbers on ESPN have been impressive. As for volleyball, more high school girls play volleyball than basketball and 900 million people play it worldwide. There's a massive opportunity."
KB: What is the single biggest advantage of this model?
"Storytelling. Athletes will be in the same market for six weeks, so we're with them for the course of 42 days and we see every one of those days as an opportunity to capture and create content, both on and off the field.
"I'm a big believer in making sports culturally relevant, so we're thinking about food, we're thinking about music, we're thinking about film, and how we integrate all of that."
KB: How will COVID-19 impact softball's launch in August?
"In Chicago this summer, we're going to heavily limit interaction. No fans will be permitted at practices or games, and we're taking everything we were going to do on-site — youth clinics, things like that — and moving it online."
What to watch: Patricof says the focus for now is on women's sports, but that he and Soros believe this model is the future of team sports more broadly (outside of the big four), and that they could ultimately expand to men's sports, as well.
Here are some of the athletes and other sports-related figures we've lost to COVID-19. May they rest in peace.
The NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate (APR) report on Tuesday, which offers a snapshot of academic performance over a four-year span.
Men's D-I sports: Golf, ice hockey and lacrosse have the highest four-year APRs, while FBS football, basketball and FCS football have the lowest.
Women's D-I sports: Gymnastics, lacrosse and swimming have the highest four-year APRs, while softball, track and field and basketball have the lowest.
Go deeper: APR results cost 15 D-I programs postseason ban (ESPN)
TURIN, Italy — Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo poses for a photo during a training session.
SOUTHAMPTON, England — Southampton's James Ward-Prowse wears a mask during training.
SEVILLE, Spain — Real Betis players compete during a training session, which was limited to groups of 10 players.
We're ranking the all-time rosters for all 30 MLB teams. Note: Rosters based only on time spent with this specific team. Thoughts? Email me at email@example.com.
We all know Cal Ripken's biggest claim to fame is his consecutive games streak (2,632), but focusing on that sells short just how dominant he was on the field. His nine-year peak (age 22-30) saw him average 7.2 WAR, 34 2B, 26 HR and 94 RBI while winning two MVPs, one of which was an 11.5 WAR season — the 11th best ever for a position player.
On the mound: SP Jim Palmer* (68.5)
Huge thanks to Tom Stone, whose book 'Now Taking the Field: Baseball's All-Time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises,' provided the inspiration for these rosters.
48 years ago today, the Indiana Pacers defeated the New York Nets, four games to two, to win their second American Basketball Association (ABA) title.
ABA Finals by year:
The big picture: Following the 1976 season, the NBA and ABA merged, with the NBA agreeing to accept four of the remaining six ABA teams: the Nuggets, Pacers, Nets and San Antonio Spurs.
🎥 Watch: The life and times of the ABA (YouTube)
The top 3:
I have reached peak "Ocho." Apparently, this is called "control line flying," in which a model aircraft is connected to an operator by a pair of control lines/cables.
Please enjoy (without getting too dizzy).
The last time an AFC player won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was all the way back in 2006, which is nuts.
Answer at the bottom.
Corey R. (Columbus, Ohio) writes:
"In 2016, the Cubs and Indians met in the World Series, and I made the trips to Chicago and Cleveland just to be outside of the stadiums for each game, taking in the fanfare. What a week!
"On Wednesday night, I'm sitting in a bar across the street from Progressive Field watching the game with a few friends. In the 6th inning, I said 'Let's go. We're getting in.'
"Long story short, the three of us made it in and watched from the outfield fence. I asked my buddy to snap a photo of me doing my pose 'The Corey,' and while he took the picture an AP photographer snapped one of his own.
"Later on, the photographer informed me that his photo was getting picked up all over the country by various media outlets.
"Not only did I get to witness history and see my beloved Cubs finally break the curse (and in extra innings in Game 7!!), but I forever became immortalized in Cubby history."
✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or an example of sports having a positive impact on your life? If you'd like to share, simply reply to this email. We'll be telling your stories until they run out.
Kendall "Go O's" Baker
Trivia answer: Vince Young