Aug 10, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Happy Monday! We're debuting two new sections this morning.

  • 🎥 Top plays: Our take on "SportsCenter Top 10." Daily.
  • ⚾️ MLB snapshot: Weekly Power Rankings, plus lots more. Mondays.

🚨 Driving the news: Cardiovascular experts are growing increasingly concerned about how COVID-19 might affect the heart, which has huge implications for athletes.

Today's word count: 1,971 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🍎 The cost of kids losing gym class

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Gym class will be limited or eliminated for millions of kids as schools go all-online or open with limited offerings this fall.

  • Why it matters: While classroom learning can be done virtually, it's nearly impossible to replicate physical education — which plays a crucial role in kids' physical and mental health — through a screen.
  • And with sports on hold in most states, P.E. is the only physical activity outlet some kids have.

Even schools offering in-person instruction this fall must re-imagine what gym class looks like amid a pandemic, with kids unable to share balls or equipment, and with strict social distancing and sanitation guidelines in place.

  • While tech-savvy teachers have been hosting live workouts on apps like Facebook and Instagram, others wouldn't even know where to begin.
  • Services like Microsoft Teams can simulate what it's like to be in a classroom, with one person talking and others taking notes and asking questions. But how do you simulate dodgeball?

The backdrop: Youth sports organizations helped ensure that kids got their daily 60 minutes of exercise this summer by hosting Zoom workouts, offering virtual training and providing parents with tips and ideas.

  • Some organizations will continue in that role once school resumes. But with youth sports participation on the decline — particularly among lower-income families — the majority of students will rely solely on P.E.
  • By the numbers: Only 38% of kids aged 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in 2018, down from 45% in 2008, per the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

The big picture: Physical activity has been linked to higher academic achievement, elevated self-esteem and reduced stress and anxiety, according to the CDC.

  • Our thought bubble: The social interaction alone is something kids desperately need, particularly when they've been cooped up for months and won't be chatting with friends in hallways or socializing in lunchrooms.

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2. 🏈 Fall football on the brink

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Power 5 commissioners held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the growing concern that fall sports can't be played because of COVID-19.

Driving the news: The Mid-American Conference on Saturday became the first FBS league to postpone fall sports and move them to the spring, and there are rumblings that Power 5 conferences are ready to follow suit.

What they're saying: Athletic directors and industry sources do not sound hopeful about playing football this fall.

  • "In the next 72 hours, college football is going to come to a complete stop," one source told SI.
  • "I think it's inevitable [the season will not be played in the fall]," one Power 5 athletic director told CBS Sports.
  • "It feels like no one wants to [postpone the season], but it's reaching the point where someone is going to have to," one Power 5 administrator told ESPN.

The other side: Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence is among several high-profile players who voiced their desire to play the fall season.

  • "Football is a safe haven for so many people," he tweeted on Sunday. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."
  • "Having a season also incentivizes players being safe ... Without the season, as we've seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions."

The big picture: Following Lawrence's tweets, a dozen players from all five major conferences released a joint statement, expressing their desire to play the 2020 season, while laying out their plans to form a players' association in the future.

"We got down to talking and agreed that both of our goals are aligned with each other. We all want to play this year. We just want to make sure players have a say in this thing."
— Stanford DE Dylan Boles
3. ⛳️ Morikawa, 23, wins PGA Championship
Photo: Christian Petersen/PGA of America via Getty Images

Collin Morikawa, a 23-year-old California native who turned pro just 14 months ago, won the 102nd PGA Championship at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park.

  • Why it matters: Morikawa is just the fourth player to win the PGA Championship at age 23 or younger, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Quite the list.
  • What he's saying: "To close it out in San Francisco, which is pretty much my second home, where I spent the last four years, is pretty special," said Morikawa, who played college golf about 21 miles away at UC Berkeley.

Sunday recap: Morikawa shot a six-under 64 on Sunday, the lowest final round by a PGA champion in 25 years, to finish at 13-under.

  • Leaderboard: 10 players had a chance on the back nine, making for a thrilling Sunday. Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson finished tied for second at 11-under.
  • 🎥 Highlight: On the par-four 16th, Morikawa drove the green with a gorgeous 293-yard tee shot, setting up a seven-footer for eagle, which he calmly drained for a two-stroke lead. Please enjoy.

What's next: The British Open was canceled for the first time since World War II, but the two remaining majors are still scheduled for the fall.

  • Sept. 17: U.S. Open at Winged Foot GC (Mamaroneck, New York)
  • Nov. 12: The Masters at Augusta National (Augusta, Georgia)
4. 🏒 NHL madness: 16 teams remain
Screenshot: @NHL (Twitter)

After a wild, upset-filled weekend, the race to the Stanley Cup has been narrowed to 16 teams, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

East: The Flyers and Canadiens join six returning teams from last year's final eight, while the hometown Maple Leafs lost their sixth straight playoff series dating back 16 years.

  • No. 1 Flyers vs. No. 8 Canadiens
  • No. 2 Lightning vs. No. 7 Blue Jackets
  • No. 3 Capitals vs. No. 6 Islanders
  • No. 4 Bruins vs. No. 5 Hurricanes

West: The Blackhawks, Canucks and Coyotes all made it back to the dance after a combined 13-year playoff drought. The hometown Oilers failed to advance.

  • No. 1 Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Blackhawks
  • No. 2 Avalanche vs. No. 7 Coyotes
  • No. 3 Stars vs. No. 6. Flames
  • No. 4 Blues vs. No. 5. Canucks

The intrigue: The NHL playoffs are known for their unpredictability. Take last year: The top two seeds lost in the first round, and the Blues won the Stanley Cup despite being in last place halfway through the season.

  • Chaos has reigned this year, too, with three of the bottom four seeds advancing out of the qualifying round, and both No. 1 seeds falling to No. 4 after round-robin play.
  • That kind of parity is unheard of in leagues like the NBA, where an eight seed has beaten a one seed just five times since the playoffs expanded in 1984.

The bottom line: The upset-filled restart is nothing new for hockey fans, who are used to playoff surprises. That willingness to accept the improbable makes them the most prepared fan base for 2020. Just sit back and let the madness unfold.

5. ⚾️ MLB snapshot: Tatís dominates; A's on fire

Photo: Denis Poroy/Getty Images

⭐️ Player spotlight: Fernando Tatís, Jr. — the Padres' 21-year-old shortstop with exactly 100 career games under his belt — is already the most exciting player in baseball, Jeff writes.

📊 Power rankings: The Athletics, fresh off a sweep of the Astros and riding a nine-game winning streak, take the top spot this week.

  • 1. Athletics (12-4), 2. Dodgers (11-5), 3. Yankees (10-6), 4. Rockies (11-4), 5. Cubs (10-3), 6. Twins (10-6), 7. Braves (11-6), 8. Indians (10-7), 9. White Sox (8-8), 10. Padres (9-7)
  • 11. Marlins (7-3), 12. Reds (7-9), 13. Rays (8-8), 14. Astros (6-9), 15. Orioles (7-7), 16. Tigers (8-5), 17. Phillies (4-6), 18. Cardinals (2-3), 19. Mets (7-9), 20. Giants (7-10)
  • 21. Nationals (4-7), 22. Brewers (6-7), 23. Rangers (6-8), 24. Blue Jays (5-8), 25. Red Sox (6-9), 26. Angels (5-11), 27. Diamondbacks (6-10), 28. Royals (7-10), 29. Mariners (6-11), 30. Pirates (3-13)

👍 Three up:

  • Dad strength: In six games before taking paternity leave, Mike Trout hit one HR and four RBI. In the six games since the birth of his son? Four HR and seven RBI.
  • Last .400 hitters standing: Rockies RF Charlie Blackmon (.458) and Giants 2B Donovan Solano (.455) are the only qualified hitters batting over .400.
  • Rocky Mountain high: The Rockies have yet to lose a series, and at 11-4, they've matched their best 15-game start ever. The (surprising) key to their success? Dominant starting pitching.

👎 Three down:

  • The Cardinals: The season started over two weeks ago, and St. Louis has played five games. The team-wide outbreak postponed this weekend's series against the Cubs, plus this week's series against the Pirates.
  • Outfield defense: Giants starter Johnny Cueto lost his no-hit bid in the sixth inning when Hunter Pence forgot how to play baseball, and rookie Jo Adell gift-wrapped this HR.
  • Nats grounds crew: They literally couldn't unfold the tarp.

Weekly awards tracker: Aaron Judge, NYY (AL MVP); Shane Bieber, CLE (AL Cy Young); Tatís, Jr., SD (NL MVP); Trevor Bauer, CIN (NL Cy Young)

6. ⚡️ Catch up quick
  • 🏀 NBA: Giannis, LeBron and "The Beard" were named MVP finalists (see all awards), but the "Bubble MVP" goes to Indiana's T.J. Warren (34.8 ppg, 60% FG), who faces his nemesis, Jimmy Butler, tonight (8pm ET).
  • 🏀 More NBA: The Pelicans and Kings were eliminated from contention on Sunday, leaving four teams in a race for eighth in the West: Grizzlies (33-38), Trail Blazers (33-39), Spurs (31-38) and Suns (31-39).
Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • ⚽️ Champions League: Manchester City beat Real Madrid, Lyon beat Juventus, Barcelona beat Napoli and Bayern Munich beat Chelsea, as all four clubs reached the final eight.
  • 🏀 WNBA: Tonight's marquee matchup (9pm ET, ESPN2) will see the first-place Seattle Storm (6-1) take on the third-place Chicago Sky (5-2).
Courtesy: Premier Lacrosse League
  • 🥍 PLL: Down 6-3 entering the fourth quarter, Zed Williams (six goals) and the Whipsnakes scored the next nine goals to beat the Chaos, 12-6, and win their second-straight championship. Coming tomorrow: Interview with head coach Jim Stagnitta.
  • 🏎 Formula 1: Max Verstappen won the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, snapping Mercedes' streak of four consecutive wins. Podium: 1. Verstappen (Red Bull), 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
7. Aug. 10, 1743: 🥊 The original rules of boxing

Bare-knuckle prize fight between John Carmel Heenan and Tom Sayers in Farnborough, England circa 1860. Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

277 years ago today, England's Jack Broughton codified his rules of boxing, giving structure to a sport that had, to that point, been ruled mostly by loosely-organized brutality.

The backdrop: "Fist-fighting dates back to ancient times, when bare-knuckle contestants fought to the death," writes WashPost's Bill Gold.

  • "When a man fell, the other man made sure his opponent would not rise again. Ever. As time passed, rules were imposed to make boxing more humane."

"Mr. Broughton's Rules": He printed and framed these seven rules outside his personal boxing amphitheater in London. To paraphrase:

  • After a fighter is knocked down, the boxers must meet in the middle of the stage (ring) within 30 seconds before resuming the match. After 30 seconds, the felled fighter is ruled beaten.
  • Only the boxer and his second (cornerman) can enter the stage, and the only ways to lose are the aforementioned 30-second rule or if your second calls the match.
  • No hitting an opponent while he's down or anywhere below the waist.

The aftermath: Mr. Broughton's rules stood for about 100 years before being supplanted by the more safety-conscious London Prize Ring Rules. Soon thereafter came the Marquess of Queensberry rules, which are still used today.

🎥 Watch: The first boxing match ever filmed (YouTube)

8. The Ocho: 🌽 "The Tony Romo of Cornhole"
A Boston College-themed cornhole board. Photo: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Cornhole is on TV all the time now, and one color analyst named Trey Ryder can predict, with eerie precision, where the bags will land nearly every time.

  • "A lot of people have described him as the Kirk Herbstreit of cornhole," Jeff McCarragher, his play-by-play partner, told The Ringer's Bryan Curtis. "But I like to call him the Tony Romo."
  • "Ryder, who is just 26 years old, had a path to the microphone that Romo or Cris Collinsworth would recognize," writes Curtis. "He was a very good player who only summited his profession when he became its analyst."

Keep reading.

9. 🎥 Highlights: Weekend's top plays

Bryce Harper makes a diving catch. Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

  1. ⚽️ Messi is not human
  2. ⛳️ Morikawa's epic drive
  3. 🏀 Luka through the legs
  4. 👊 Spinning backfist KO
  5. ⛳️ Slam dunk eagle
  6. ⚾️ Damn, Devers
  7. 🏒 Pavelski's frozen rope
  8. ⚾️ Bryce lays out
  9. 🏀 P.J.'s pass
  10. 🥍 Lacrosse laser beam
Bonus: 🏀 Triple-double trivia

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Luka Dončić notched his NBA-best 17th triple-double on Saturday, with a historic 36-14-19 statline in the Mavericks' OT win over the Bucks.

  • Question: Only two other players have double-digit triple-doubles this season. Who are they?
  • Hint: Russell Westbrook is not one of them.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports
Gary Carter in 1986. Photo: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Larry W. (Holmes, N.Y.) writes:

"Gary Carter, the late Hall of Fame catcher, was an anomaly on the 1986 world champion Mets. He didn't do drugs. He wasn't a prince of the city. And he certainly never used steroids.
"Gary was happily married, a great father, and a man of faith. Many of his teammates thought he was too good to be true. But he was true. Let me tell you how I know.
"In the mid-1980s, I was marketing director for a NYC-based apparel company. To promote the brand, we put together a team of athletes from all over the country — Dan Marino in Miami, John Elway in Denver — to make in-store appearances.
"Gary Carter was our man in New York, and his appearance at Macy's 34th Street a few months after the Mets won the World Series was a huge success.
"During the planning of the event, I met Gary and his wife, but interacted mostly with his agent. So, a few months later, when I reached out to his agent to ask for a favor from Gary, I wasn't sure the request would even be passed on.
Gary Carter and the Mets celebrate winning the 1986 World Series. Photo: MLB via Getty Images
"A good friend of mine was hospitalized, suffering from a cancer that he would soon learn was terminal. He was only 44. We had played baseball together in high school and were both huge Mets fans.
"During one of my visits, he told me Gary Carter was his favorite Met. I couldn't resist. With little confidence that I could pull it off, I mentioned that I knew Gary and would see if he might give my friend a call.
"The agent did ask Gary. And he did call. Unfortunately, my friend was in surgery and missed it. His wife still got to speak with Gary, so I felt good that at least an attempt had been made. End of story? No.
"A week later, when I visited my friend, he was so excited. He couldn't wait to tell me. He had just gotten off a 20-minute phone call with his idol, Gary Carter. They talked baseball. They talked life.
"I couldn't believe it. Gary had called again. With no prompting from me. With no obligation other than a sense of caring for someone he had never met.
"We lost my friend a few months later, and we lost Gary in 2012. I'll never forget either one, and the joy Gary brought to someone in need."

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or a story about sports having a positive impact on your life? To share, simply reply to this email. We'll be telling your stories until they run out.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Currently on repeat" Baker

Trivia answer: LeBron James (13) and Nikola Jokić (13)