👋 Good morning! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,883 (7 minutes).
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Virtual competitions, re-runs of classic games and, most recently, sports documentaries are being used to fill a much-needed void for both TV networks and fans during the coronavirus pandemic, Axios' Sara Fischer and I write.
Yes, but: All the substitute programming in the world isn't going to make up for a loss of live sports. In the past 90 days, each of nine top cable sports networks has lost more than 25% of its audience as compared to January, per data from Samba TV.
Driving the news: ESPN's "The Last Dance," which chronicles Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls' 1998 championship run, averaged a record-breaking 6.1 million viewers on Sunday night, the network said Monday.
Why it matters: The MJ doc brought families — and the sports world — together around a single event for the first time in months and the 10-part series gives ESPN a tentpole to build its programming around for the next five weeks (though Thursday’s NFL draft will spawn plenty of coverage, too).
The big picture: Without live sports, networks have had to get creative to fill their airwaves. Some experiments have worked (CBS' Masters rewind drew 2.2 million viewers), some started off strong, but have since lost steam (virtual racing) and others have failed (ESPN's H.O.R.S.E. challenge drew just 686,000).
What to watch:
Only 53% of the major sports events originally scheduled for 2020 are likely to take place this year, according to new projections from sports marketing agency Two Circles.
By month: Here's the percentage of originally scheduled events that took place (January–March) or are projected to take place (April–December).
Even with organized sports on hiatus, plenty of sports-related businesses have soldiered on, hoping to weather the storm and come out the other side of this pandemic relatively unscathed, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
The state of play: "We have hundreds of mom and pop stores [selling on our platform], so we've been trying to support them and put their stories front and center," Brendan Candon, CEO of online marketplace SidelineSwap, tells Axios.
What they're saying: I spoke with Wendi Bowman, general manager of the Tulsa branch of Play It Again Sports — a retailer with over 300 franchises nationwide. She spoke with me from her store, which is still open thanks to Oklahoma's laws regarding essential businesses.
Jeff: Have you noticed any changes in what's selling right now?
"Well, our disc golf courses are still open ... so we've been selling a couple hundred dollars a day in discs. If I could get more weights in, I'd make a fortune. I got a bench delivered last night, and it was sold before I got in this morning."
Jeff: How do you feel about the business going forward?
"I'm hopeful. We got approved for our SBA loan this week, our vendors have been receptive to payment plans, our landlord forgave April rent ... I think we're gonna be okay. "
Next up was Eli Golder, owner of EdgeTek Hockey — a small hockey shop outside Minneapolis, with a second location ready to go as soon as this crisis abates.
Jeff: What's business been like since everything shut down?
"Normally, we do $20,000-$30,000 a month, mostly in store. But right now, SidelineSwap is our main source of income, and that's been slow because people don't want to spend money."
Jeff: How have you had to adjust to this new normal?
"The only sports stores here in Minnesota that are considered essential are the ones that sell bikes. So if you sell bikes, you kinda lucked out. ...We've found some ways to work around it by opening by appointment only. We'll repair your skates ... convert them into rollerblades ... things like that."
Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Driving the news: Green did make one glaring distinction between the two teams: Kevin Durant and his expiring contract. While the 1997-98 Bulls were at least on the same page — this was going to be their final year together, "The Last Dance" — KD never made a public decision, leaving the 2018-19 Warriors in limbo.
"You can't just leave the elephant in the room, because what happened was the question came to us every day, like every time we spoke to the media. ... And then you kind of had Kevin, [saying] like, 'I don't know what I'm going to do next year, and it don't matter.' But it does matter, because you're not the only person that has to answer that question.
"And due to that, there was always an elephant in the room amongst us, as opposed to with [the Bulls], they didn't have that elephant. [GM Jerry Krause] had said it was Phil's last year. Phil had told them this was the last dance. Mike already said, 'Well, if Phil ain't coming back next year, I'm not either.' So everybody knew it was Mike's last year.
"They didn't have that elephant. Whereas I think we had a huge elephant sitting in the room, and Steve [Kerr] was trying to address it as best as he could, but it was kind of out of his hands."
Photo: Gene Wang/Getty Images
Jeff writes: Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League is one of the only leagues in the world currently operating, so it's probably time we learn a little bit about the CPBL.
Background: Baseball gained popularity in Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s, when their little league teams won 13 LLWS titles between 1969-1988 and their national team medaled in the now-defunct Intercontinental Cup.
Between the lines: Today, the league consists of five teams, all owned by large corporations, including three of the original clubs from 1990.
The big picture: The CPBL's status as an active league underscores the much larger political tension that has long simmered between Taiwan and China.
"For Beijing, Taiwan's successful pandemic response poses dual challenges, undercutting the Communist Party's claims to superiority over liberal democracies, and bolstering a sense of local identity among the many Taiwanese who object to China's efforts to isolate and assimilate the island."— Chun Han Wong, WSJ
What's next: The Korean Baseball Organization, which is regarded as having a higher level of play than the CPBL, is targeting May 1 for Opening Day.
Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Eight years ago today, White Sox pitcher Philip Humber threw a perfect game in a 4-0 win over the Mariners.
By the numbers: 22 of those 23 perfectos have been thrown by a variety of Hall of Famers, über-successful journeymen, or one-hit wonders having a career year (coughDallasBradencough).
The big picture: There have been 303 no-hitters in MLB history, but just 23 of them were perfect games. Somehow, the three most recent ones all happened between April and August of 2012 (Humber, Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez), and this one was thrown by the unlikeliest of pitchers imaginable.
The bottom line: In a game where even the best players fail ~60% of the time, it only makes sense that a below-average starter, just 17 months shy of throwing his final big league pitch, can for one glorious day be nothing short of perfect.
🎥 Watch: All 27 outs of Humber's perfecto
Zach Skidmore, a part-time personal trainer in Jackson, Ohio, constructed the "Lumber-Jacked Gym" in his backyard entirely out of timber.
Utah State QB Jordan Love (who is 6-foot-4) could go in the first round of the NFL draft after leading FBS with 17 passes intercepted in 2019.
Answer at the bottom.
Members of the 1990 Colombia national team. Photo: Mark Leech/Getty Images
Kevin Mills (born in Bogotá, Colombia) writes:
"My fondest sports memory is probably one of my first ever memories in general. It was June 1990 and I was only seven years old. Colombia had qualified for their first World Cup in 28 years, which felt like forever in a country obsessed with soccer.
"On that June afternoon, Colombia faced off against Germany (the eventual world champions) in the last game of the group stage in Milan, Italy. We needed only a tie against a mighty German team to qualify to the knockout stage.
"As the 85th minute came and went with the score tied at zero, all of Colombia could feel the feat materialize. Germany had already qualified, and with just five minutes to go, they would surely let their foot off the gas.
"But in the 88th minute, Germany scored. I remember running to my room and breaking down in tears as I punched my pillow. There's something about the pain of sports defeat that's different at that age. It felt like the end of the world.
"A couple minutes later, I returned to watch the last minutes of the game. I had no hope. Two minutes of stoppage time were given, and as the clock struck the 92nd minute, it was time for my beloved Colombian national team to say goodbye.
"But then ... in the game's final seconds, with their last gasp of breath, Colombia gained possession some 90 yards away from Germany's goal. What happened next was pure magic. You don't need to understand Spanish to enjoy the narration. Pure elation is a universal language.
"I ran to the kitchen straight to my mother's arms. I cried just as much as I had five minutes ago, but this time they were tears of joy. Man, what a great memory."
✍️ 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 all month.
Kendall ""Florida man cited for trespassing"" Baker
Trivia answer: Dan Marino