Aug 21, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! 21-and-over today. We'll be checking IDs at the door, so please have yours out.

Today's word count: 1,506 (5 minutes)

1 big thing: 🍻 Let's talk about beer

I've come across an abundance of beer-related sports stories recently, so I've decided to share some with you now. Happy Hump Day.

1. 🏈 College football's savior

A decade ago, West Virginia was dealing with a binge-drinking problem at football games. Though alcohol wasn't sold in the stadium, its re-entry policy allowed fans to leave at halftime, lubricate themselves and return for the second half.

  • The solution: In 2011, West Virginia began selling beer inside the stadium and banned re-entry. The results were so good (revenue was up, alcohol-related incidents were down) that more universities followed suit, warming to the idea of in-stadium beer sales as a form of public safety.
  • Meanwhile, average attendance for FBS schools began to decline and has now fallen for five straight years, causing even more schools to embrace beer as a way to get butts in seats.
  • Add those two things together and you can see why the Southeastern Conference lifted its longtime ban on alcohol sales in public seating areas starting this season.

2. ⚽️ Dollar Beer Night magic

In 2017, Phoenix Rising of the USL Championship (one tier below MLS) launched Dollar Beer Night as a way to get fans out to midweek matches. It has turned into something much more.

  • The team has yet to lose or tie on Dollar Beer Night, extending their record to 13-0-0 on Friday. Merchandise is now being sold, the national media (hi) is paying attention and Bud Light even sent the Bud Knight to enhance the fun.
  • Per ESPN: "The club's limit is four beers (48 oz.) per purchase but no limits on purchases and most fans, at least early in the evening, carried one or two. But as the night wore on, more fans opted for convenience, buying three or four at a time."
  • Fun fact: Remember former Chelsea star Didier Drogba? He played for Phoenix Rising last year before announcing his retirement.

3. ⚾️ MiLB's craft beer boom

The craft beer industry has exploded over the last decade and now makes up 13.2% of the beer market by volume. A perfect match for these local operations? Minor league baseball teams.

  • The small size of most craft breweries "matches up well with the marketing budgets of Minor League Baseball," Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, told Front Office Sports. "Teams are always trying to find a deeper local connection and the same goes for breweries."
  • That would explain the growing trend of minor league teams going beyond simply offering beer on tap, and partnering with local breweries to serve up their own exclusive brand of team beer.
2. ⚾️ The year of the third baseman
Expand chart
Data: Baseball Reference; Photos: Getty; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

"Quick: name the best third baseman in baseball. For four years that quick answer would be Nolan Arenado of Colorado. That no longer is the default choice, not with one of the deepest classes of third basemen the game has seen," writes SI's Tom Verducci.

By the numbers: The slugging percentage at the position has never been higher than it is this year (.463), and three of the top nine OPS hitters in baseball are third basemen (Bregman, Devers, Rendon).

  • Arenado ranked fifth in WAR last season, and even though his numbers are almost identical this season, he's now he's tied for seventh.
  • The field is so deep that the highest-paid third basemen in history, Manny Machado ($300 million), is ranked just 14th in WAR despite having a good, if not great, season.
  • Bregman is one of just three players with more walks than strikeouts (Carlos Santana and Mookie Betts).

P.S. ... Fun fact before you go: Matt Chapman was Arenado's backup in high school.

Bonus: 🏒 Chart du jour
Expand chart
Data: Hockey Fights; Chart: Axios Visuals

Thanks to rule changes and teams prioritizing speed and skill, the "enforcer" role has all but gone extinct in the modern NHL.

Go deeper: How important is toughness in the modern NHL? (The Athletic)

3. 📸 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images

DUBLIN, IRELAND — Over 800,000 viewers watched Tipperary clinch the All-Ireland Hurling Championship against Kilkenny this past weekend. Do yourself a favor and watch these highlights. Such a cool sport.

Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA — LaMelo Ball, a likely first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has opted to spend the year playing pro ball in Australia rather than go to college. Yesterday, he trained with his team, the Illawarra Hawks, for the first time.

Photo: Hu Chengwei/Getty Images

SHANGHAI, CHINA — In July, Kyle Giersdorf made headlines when he won $3 million in a Fortnite tournament. That number will be dwarfed this week at The International, a tournament featuring the game "Dota 2." Prize pool: $33 million.

4. 🏈 Keeping "NCAA Football" alive

EA Sports stopped making "NCAA Football" in 2013, but you can still play the game with updated rosters thanks to an unlikely group of caretakers.

From The Ringer's Michael Weinreb:

  • "Editors work off of the shell of 'NCAA Football 14,' the final version of the game … Their avocation involves updating the game's rosters before a given season [which] means re-creating every player (up to 69 per roster) on more than 100 FBS teams, down to their eye color and face mask design."
  • "They spend hours digging through recruiting websites, searching for player images on Google, and finding the statistics of incoming freshman. They have a scale that allows them to convert 100-meter dash times into 40 times. And many of the editors adhere to a ridiculously detailed rating system … which utilizes analytical scales to make subjectivity virtually impossible."

Go deeper.

5. 📚 Good reads

🏈 Touch Football, Sold As Safer, Now Requires A Helmet (NYT)

"In recent years, the NFL and other groups have promoted flag and touch football as safer ways to teach young players about the game, and to keep them from abandoning the sport. But as they do, parents, coaches and players are learning that every sport has risks."

⚾️ We Built The Most Average Team In Baseball (FiveThirtyEight)

"The single most average player in all of baseball … is Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who is on pace for 0.85 WAR, or just 0.00097 wins above average given his position and share of L.A.'s plate appearances."

🏒 The All-Decade Team For All 31 NHL Clubs (ESPN)

"Which players defined the journey for teams from the 2009-10 season to the present? Here is where the All-Decade teams currently stand, with the understanding that we have one more season to go before they are etched in stone."
6. Aug. 21, 1931: ⚾️ The Babe smacks No. 600

Photo: Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images

88 years ago today, Babe Ruth became the first member of baseball's 600 home run club after he knocked one out of the park against the St. Louis Browns.

The big picture: Ruth stood alone in the club for another 38 years before Willie Mays entered as the National League's inaugural member.

The 600 club:

  1. Barry Bonds (762)
  2. Hank Aaron (755)
  3. Babe Ruth (714)
  4. Alex Rodriguez (696)
  5. Willie Mays (660)
  6. Albert Pujols (652)
  7. Ken Griffey Jr. (630)
  8. Jim Thome (612)
  9. Sammy Sosa (609)

Watch: Documentary: The American Hercules (Vimeo)

7. 🏀 NBA trivia

In the history of the NBA, nine players have won at least seven championships — and eight of them played exclusively for the Celtics.

  • Question: Who is the only player with at least seven championships that did not play for the Celtics?
  • Hint: He began his career with the Rockets.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 💦 Meet the world's best cliff diver
Gary Hunt. Photo: Ricardo Nascimento/Red Bull via Getty Images

Seven-time Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series champion Gary Hunt, 35, currently sits atop the 2019 standings and recently became the first man in World Series history to be awarded all tens from the judges (watch the dive). Let's talk to him...

How does one get into cliff diving?

"Lots of divers perform in diving shows and circuses and then make the transition to high diving. There's also the path of an Olympic three-meter or 10-meter diver who transitions to cliff diving."
"Personally, I was a swimmer growing up before switching to diving and competing for Great Britain. Eventually, the 10-meter board wasn't as exciting as it used to be and I began looking for more thrills and that led me to cliff diving."

What do you love most about it?

"Cliff diving is the one sport where you can really see man versus their fears; man versus gravity. It's people who have learned to control their bodies and are willing to challenge themselves up to the most dangerous point, which we've found to be 27 meters (~90 feet)."

How/where do you train?

"During each stop, we have one training day followed by two competition days. So people learning a new dive just have that one day to learn it."
"In the offseason, we're starting to see more 27-meter training facilities pop up, but we often have to train on 10-meter platforms, so we have to cut up our dives into several parts and train each part of the dive."

How many pro cliff divers are there?

"We have about 40 competitive divers at the highest level and after that you have another 40 aspiring cliff divers. The sport is definitely growing."

Is this your full-time job?

"I'm one of the few who do this full time — there's maybe three or four of us. Most divers spend the offseason working in diving shows or circuses or maybe as a diving coach."

Where's your favorite stop on tour? I'll share a photo with my readers.

"In terms of scenery, my favorite place is in Yucatán, Mexico, where we're diving into a cenote, which is basically a hole in the ground. You've got trees and vines everywhere while you're on the platform. It's incredible."
Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images
Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "This is grrrreat" Baker

Trivia answer: Robert Horry