👋 Happy Friday! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,789 words (7 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A reboot of one of America's most infamous sports leagues kicks off this weekend, with billionaire wrestling mogul Vince McMahon betting once more that football fans are hungry for more football.
What they're saying: Whereas the old XFL leaned on gimmicks and stunts when it first launched (and failed) 19 years ago, the new XFL is presenting itself as a league focused entirely on quality of play and the on-field product.
What to know...
1. The teams: The XFL will have eight teams in 2020, divided into two divisions. Washington, New York, St. Louis and Tampa Bay are in the East division, while Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle are in the West.
2. The rules: The XFL is marketing itself as a faster version of the NFL and has publicly stated that it wants games to be played in under three hours.
3. Season format: Teams will play a 10-game schedule with five home and away games (no bye week). The top two teams in each division will face each other in a one-game division championship (April 18–19), followed by the league championship game (April 26).
4. TV coverage: Thanks to deals with ESPN/ABC and Fox, the XFL is much better positioned than the AAF, which debuted with strong ratings on CBS last year but faded when games moved to smaller platforms (and then imploded).
5. Sports betting: Unlike the NFL, the XFL will allow its broadcasters to openly talk about betting lines, and they will be show on-screen during telecasts. Meanwhile, on the radio, the league has partnered with VSiN (Vegas Stats & Information Network) and iHeartRadio to create audio "BetCasts," which will cover live games through a wagering lens.
The bottom line: When the XFL debuted at the turn of the century, sports fandom was much more regional, Facebook and Twitter hadn't even been invented yet and sports betting was illegal outside of Nevada. Two decades later, the landscape has completely changed — and so has the XFL's approach.
Mets COO Jeff Wilpon (left) and board chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon. Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
The Mets released a statement last night saying they intend to find another buyer after the proposed sale to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, who currently has an 8% stake in the team, fell apart.
What they're saying:
Between the lines: The deal included a provision that would have allowed Fred Wilpon, the Mets' managing owner, and his son, Jeff, the team's COO, to remain in their roles for five years after the completion of the sale.
But, but, but: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred push backed against reports blaming the Wilpons, saying that "the assertion that the transaction fell apart because of something that the Wilpons did is completely and utterly unfair."
P.S. ... Speaking of dysfunctional New York sports franchises, NBA agent Leon Rose is expected to be the next Knicks president.
Stat of the day: There are 128,000 more women participating in NCAA athletics today than 30 years ago.
D'Angelo Russell is now a Timberwolf. Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images
The NBA trade deadline is officially in the books, with a flurry of activity resulting in the top two picks from the 2015 draft joining forces, the Clippers beating out the Lakers for Marcus Morris and the Cavs acquiring Andre Drummond for a bag of peanuts, among other moves.
BILBAO, Spain — Two days after Lionel Messi (above) spoke out against Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal, the club suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao that eliminated them from the Copa Del Rey. Rough week.
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Golden Knights erupted for a season-high seven goals against the Panthers to help Marc-Andre Fleury (above) move into sole possession of fifth-place on the NHL's all-time regular-season wins list.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Bill Murray (above), Tony Romo, Wayne Gretzky, Justin Verlander and Eli Manning are among the celebrities participating in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
10 years ago today, Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas and the Saints beat Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai and the Colts, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV (highlights).
"Four years ago, who ever thought this would be happening when 85% of the city was under water? Most people left not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back, or if the organization would ever come back. We just all looked at one another and said, 'We are going to rebuild together. We are going to lean on each other.' This is the culmination in all that belief."— Drew Brees
Vetekina Malafu of Old Glory DC scores a try in an exhibition match against Navy last month. Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Major League Rugby kicks off its third season this weekend, with all 12 teams in action across North America.
What to watch: Three expansion teams — Old Glory DC, Rugby ATL (Atlanta) and New England Freejacks — will be making their debut, along with some impressive global talent.
Weekend slate (full schedule):
Russell Westbrook scored 41 points in the Rockets' 121-111 win over the Lakers last night, becoming the 46th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points.
Answer at the bottom.
Enjoy the weekend!
Kendall "What an ad for NBATickets.com" Baker
Trivia answer: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Reggie Miller