Mar 6, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

πŸ‘‹ Happy Friday! Let's sports.

  • Tune in Sunday (6pm ET/PT) for a new episode of "Axios on HBO" featuring a peek into Joe Biden's secret governing plan and tennis great Billie Jean King and more top women athletes on leveling the playing field.

Today's word count: 1,320 words (5 minutes).

1 big thing: ⚾️ The murky future of in-game video

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

In the wake of the Astros scandal, Major League Baseball must decide how best to police in-game clubhouse video β€” and it has until Opening Day to announce any rule changes.

  • In the most extreme example, all TVs in the clubhouse and video room would reportedly be turned off during games, with the one exception being a TV in the training room that carries the broadcast on an eight-second delay.

Why it matters: Players have grown accustomed to (legally) using technology during games, with hitters and pitchers often going into the clubhouse between innings to study video of their previous at-bats and make adjustments.

What they're saying: Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez told SI that the potential in-game video ban is "a joke" that would "take our game back 30 years."

"I think what people don't get is there is a new generation that revolves around technology ... To me, studying my swing and making changes, that's what makes me who I am. I got released doing it the other way."

The other side: Angels 1B Albert Pujols would welcome a return to the days of his youth when players watched footage before and after games, not during them, he told The Athletic (subscription):

"If they want to take it away, then let's go back to old school. ... I think a lot of guys would like that. And I think at the end, you'll find that it's more relaxing. You don't have to think so much. You can trust your skill."

The bottom line: In 2019, MLB banned non-broadcast cameras from ballparks in an attempt to eliminate the illegal use of in-game video. In 2020, the league may have to eliminate β€” or at least limit β€” the legal use, too, as it tries to regain the trust of baseball fans.

2. ⚽️ USA 2, England 0
Screenshot: @USWNT (Twitter)

The USWNT opened its 2020 SheBelieves Cup run last night with a 2-0 victory over England β€” a rematch of the 2019 World Cup semifinals, which the Americans won 2-1.

  • Game recap: The two teams went into halftime tied at 0-0, but Christen Press and Carli Lloyd scored back-to-back goals in the 53rd and 55th minute to blow things open.
  • What's next: USA vs Spain (Sunday, 5pm ET), which could be an even more entertaining game if Spain's impressive 3-0 win over Japan is any indication.

Starting XI:

  • Alyssa Naeher (Stratford, Connecticut)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (St. Louis)
  • Abby Dahlkemper (Menlo Park, California)
  • Kelley O'Hara (Fayetteville, Georgia)
  • Crystal Dunn (Rockville Centre, New York)
  • Julie Ertz (Mesa, Arizona)
  • Lindsey Horan (Golden, Colorado)
  • Rose Lavelle (Cincinnati)
  • Carli Lloyd (Delran, New Jersey)
  • Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, New Jersey)
  • Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates, California)
3. πŸ₯ The parity of men's college lacrosse

Photo: M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From 1978 to 2009, five schools β€” Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, North Carolina and Virginia β€” won every Division I men's lacrosse national championship. Since then, they have won just three.

  • Meanwhile, four first-time champions were crowned last decade β€” Duke, Loyola (Md.), Denver and Yale β€” and three of the current top 20 teams β€” No. 2 Penn State, No. 7 Maryland and No. 19 Ohio State β€” play in the Big Ten, a lacrosse conference that didn't even exist until 2015.

What's happening: Lacrosse has been the fastest-growing high school team sport for the past two decades and has expanded far beyond its east coast roots, but the number of men's D-I programs has remained relatively flat, especially compared to the women's game (75 men's D-I squads vs. 118 for women).

"With a larger talent pool to draw from and a similar number of programs competing for recruits, a lot more teams are now landing what used to be top-10 talent. It's kind of flattened that pyramid at the top and allowed programs like ours to climb the ladder."
β€” Mike Murphy, Penn men's lacrosse coach, tells Axios

Between the lines: While football powers like Florida, USC and Oregon have added women's lacrosse programs in recent years, they haven't added men's teams partly due to Title IX.

  • "Vast football squads, without any female equivalent, must be balanced with several women's teams; creating another men's team only makes the math more difficult," writes NYT's Matthew Gutierrez.

The big picture: Michigan, Utah and Marquette are the only three big-time athletic programs that have gone D-I in men's lacrosse this century, but as the sport continues to grow in popularity, more could follow their lead.

This weekend:

  • Tonight: No. 14 Villanova at No. 9 Penn (7:30pm ET, ESPN+)
  • Saturday: No. 17 Denver at No. 12 Notre Dame (Noon ET, ACCN)
  • Sunday: No. 2 Penn State at No. 5 Cornell (4pm ET)
4. 😷 Tokyo 2020: Keep calm and climb on

Staff members clean down the competition area during the sports climbing test event. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Several test events have been canceled in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics, but Friday's test for sports climbing went ahead, albeit with just a handful of people in attendance.

  • "Instead of professional athletes scaling the climbing walls, as per the original plan, route setters and other officials took part so organizers could 'test operational readiness,'" per Reuters.


  • Qualifying events: Multiple Olympic qualifying events have been postponed or canceled, which could force officials to rely on seasonal leaderboards or world rankings to determine who makes the team.
  • March Madness: The task the NCAA faces is "like a Rubik's Cube" because of how many locations are involved, one member of the newly-formed coronavirus advisory panel told WashPost.
5. πŸ“Έ Yesterday in photos
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO β€” Stephen Curry scored 23 points in his first NBA game in more than four months, but Norman Powell (career-high 37 points) and the Raptors spoiled his return, winning 121-113 to clinch a playoff spot.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

NEW YORK β€” Mika Zibanejad became the third Ranger ever (and 45th player in NHL history) to score five goals in a game, leading New York to a 6-5 overtime win over Washington to pull his team into the thick of the playoff race.

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ORLANDO β€” Matt Every shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead into Round 2 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 36-year-old native of nearby Daytona Beach has two career PGA Tour wins, and both came at this tournament (2014 and 2015).

6. 🍿 Now playing: "The Way Back"

Members of "The Way Back" cast. Photo: Adam Christopher/NBC via Getty Images

Ben Affleck stars as an alcoholic construction worker who finds renewed life purpose as a basketball coach in "The Way Back," which opens in theaters today.

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
  • Running time: 108 minutes
  • What they're saying: "Ostensibly a story about a man with substance use issues who finds solace in coaching a ragtag high school basketball team, the new film β€” like all Affleck movies β€” becomes a window into the soul of the actor," writes The Ringer's Adam Nayman.

πŸŽ₯ Watch: Trailer (YouTube)

7. March 6, 1985: πŸ₯Š Tyson wins first pro fight
Photo: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

35 years ago today, 18-year-old Mike Tyson made his professional boxing debut, defeating Hector Mercedes via first-round TKO in Albany, New York.

  • "Iron Mike" fought every month, sometimes twice a month, for the rest of 1985, winning all 14 bouts by KO, with only four going beyond the first round.
  • Less than two years later, Tyson became the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title at the age of 20 years, four months and 22 days.

Checking in on Mike: On a recent episode of his podcast, "Hotboxin' with Mike Tyson," the 53-year-old was moved to tears reflecting on his post-career life during an interview with fellow boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard.

"I know the art of fighting, I know the art of war. That's all I've ever studied. That's why they feared me when I was in the ring. I was an annihilator. It's all I was born for."
"Now those days are gone. It's empty, I'm nothing. I'm working on the art of humbleness. That's the reason I'm crying because I'm not that person no more ... I hate that guy. I'm scared of him."

Go deeper: Watch the full episode (YouTube)

8. The Ocho: πŸ” 32 Big Macs in 38 minutes
Screenshot: Joey Chestnut (YouTube)

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut has won 12 of the last 13 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contests. Now, he's getting into the hamburger game.

9. πŸ€ NBA draft trivia
Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In yesterday's trivia question about Naismith College Players of the Year from non-Power 6 schools, I mistakenly omitted Andrew Bogut (Utah was in the Mountain West back then). To make up for it, here's some Bogut-related trivia...

  • Question: Who was drafted right behind him at No. 2 overall in the 2005 NBA draft?
  • Hint: Still active.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🏈 The vote is in

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Yesterday, I asked where you think Tom Brady will sign this offseason. Almost two-thirds of you believe he'll be returning to New England.

The results:

  • Patriots (62.6%)
  • Titans (9.7%)
  • Chargers (9.4%)
  • Raiders (8.7%)
  • 49ers (5.6%)
  • Other (4.0%)
Kendall Baker

Enjoy the weekend,

Kendall "Currently on repeat" Baker

Trivia answer: Marvin Williams