Axios Sports

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June 24, 2022

🎉 Happy Friday! Weekend mode almost activated.

Today's word count: 1,945 words (7 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: 🏈 Texas lands Manning

Screenshot: @ArchManning (Twitter)

Arch Manning will don orange and white in college, just not the same shade his uncle Peyton wore.

Driving the news: Manning — the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class with a perfect rating of 1.000 — is headed to Texas in a massive coup for Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns.

Why it matters: Manning is arguably the most impactful signing of the modern recruiting era, and will bring immeasurable hype and hope to a program desperate to be a contender again.

  • The New Orleans native has a $3.1 million NIL valuation, the highest among any high school football player and third overall behind Bronny James ($6.1 million) and Bryce Young ($3.1 million).
  • Ninth on that list is Quinn Ewers, the former No. 1 overall recruit who transferred to Texas from Ohio State and is expected to be the starter this fall.

The big picture: Coming off a brutal 5-7 season, the Longhorns have secured their biggest commitment since Vince Young, the No. 1 recruit in 2002 who led them to the 2005 BCS national title.

"Manning was built in a college football hype machine. He's 6-feet-4, has a solid 220-pound frame, a rocket arm, golden-brown hair and is a member of the first family of football."
"[His] commitment makes you want to scream from the top of your lungs: 'TEXAS IS BACK!!!' That's become a running joke. But ... Texas is clearly taking a giant step in the right direction."
— Ari Wasserman, The Athletic (subscription)

The bottom line: Arch Manning's first-ever tweet was the answer the college football world had been waiting years to hear. Georgia had appeared to be the favorite — but in the end, it was their future SEC rival.

2. 🏀 NBA draft: Banchero goes first

Paolo Banchero with Adam Silver. Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Duke's Paolo Banchero was a surprise selection by the Magic with the No. 1 pick in Thursday's NBA draft. But most scouts agree: Orlando got the most NBA-ready player on the board.

  • Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren went second to the Thunder, as projected. Auburn's Jabari Smith, widely expected to be the top pick, went third to the Rockets.
  • Rounding out the top 10: 4. Keegan Murray (Kings), 5. Jaden Ivey (Pistons), 6. Bennedict Mathurin (Pacers), 7. Shaedon Sharpe (Trail Blazers), 8. Dyson Daniels (Pelicans), 9. Jeremy Sochan (Spurs), 10. Johnny Davis (Wizards).


  • Duke owns the night: The Blue Devils had four players taken in the first round, one shy of the record (2010 Kentucky). Banchero is the fourth Duke player to go first overall in the common draft era (Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson), the most of any school.
  • Knicks fiasco: New York's labyrinth of moves — which included roughly 11 different picks — confused and frustrated fans. It all seems to point to one thing: the pursuit of Jalen Brunson.
  • Sharpe and Hardy: Sharpe was the No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class, didn't play at Kentucky and went No. 7 overall. Jalen Hardy was the No. 2 recruit, skipped college to play for the G League Ignite and fell out of the first round. Big win for the "go to college" crowd.

Go deeper:

3. ⚾️ MLB standardizes "muddying" process

Muddied baseballs
Photo: Fred Vulch/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

MLB's baseballs have been rubbed with a special mud from the Delaware River for decades to improve their grip. Now, the procedure for doing so will become universal, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Driving the news: The league sent a memo to all 30 teams this week detailing how balls must be prepared in an attempt to improve consistency. A minimum of 13 dozen are readied for each MLB game.

The new process: Mud must be applied to each ball on the day it will be used for a minimum of 30 seconds, with the same mud-to-water ratio, to ensure it's worked thoroughly into the hand-stitched leather.

  • Balls must also be stored in a humidor for a minimum of 14 days before use and must remain there until roughly 30 minutes before first pitch, removed only for mud application.
  • Posters depicting what a properly mudded ball should — and shouldn't — look like already hang in every clubhouse.

State of play: The baseball has been a talking point all season, as has become the norm. Players have complained about slickness differing from ballpark to ballpark, and MLB says clubhouse video confirmed that teams were applying their mud differently.

The backdrop: Baseballs have always come out of the package too glossy to be thrown reliably, so pitchers have long sought ways to improve their grip — shoe polish, dirt, tobacco juice, any substance they could find.

  • In the 1930s, a coach for the Philadelphia A's found some mud near his home in New Jersey, rubbed a small dab on the ball and found it had the perfect, pudding-like consistency to improve grip.
  • By the 1950s, every team was using this "Magic Mud" and one family, the Bintliffs, have been harvesting it ever since from the banks of a secret stretch of a Delaware River tributary.

The last word: Jim Bintliff, 65 — the third generation to harvest the mud — has always appreciated how clubhouse attendants apply the mud in their own unique way. But standardization is also good for business:

"The fact that they're trying to get a uniform process with the mud tells me that they know they need it."
— Bintliff, via SI

🎥 Watch: How to muddy a baseball (YouTube)

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

Candace Parker
Photo: Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

🏀 Third triple-double: Candace Parker set a WNBA record with her third career triple-double on Thursday, but said it's a mark others will break very soon. "The game is changing."

⚽️ 26-man rosters: It's official: The 2022 men's World Cup rosters will be expanded from 23 to 26 players, and teams can make five substitutions per match, up from three.

🇷🇺 Nike takes stand: Nike says it plans to permanently close all its businesses in Russia in the coming months.

🎉 Messi's 35th: Lionel Messi turns 35 today. Great time to dive into his career records and milestones.

🏏 Wild wicket: New Zealand cricketer Henry Nicholls created a moment so unlikely it will probably never happen again.

5. ⚾️ Ole Miss magic: Rebels into CWS Finals

Ole Miss celebrating
Coach Mike Bianco celebrating with fans. Courtesy: Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss beat SEC West rival Arkansas, 2-0, on Thursday to advance to the CWS Finals for the first time in program history.

The backdrop: No one saw this miracle run coming — at least no one outside the Ole Miss clubhouse.

  • The Rebels climbed to a No. 1 ranking early in the season before tumbling out of the top 25 and falling to 7-14 in SEC play.
  • They were bounced from the SEC tournament after one game and were the last at-large team selected into the NCAA Tournament field.
  • Dylan DeLucia wasn't even in the rotation over the first half of the season. On Thursday, he became the first SEC pitcher since 1993 to throw a CWS shutout.

What they're saying: I love this quote from Rebels coach Mike Bianco on what makes baseball special:

"I think baseball is such a neat game where you can't call timeout at the end and give it to your best player, design a play to throw it to him or let him take the final shot. Baseball's that game where you get to the ninth inning, the lineup is the lineup. With two outs, the runners are on and you can't bat [your best player]. You can't devise a play."

What's next: Ole Miss will face Oklahoma in a best-of-three title bout beginning tomorrow night.

6. ⛷ Nordic combined's uncertain future

Nordic combined
Photos: Adam Pretty/Getty Images; Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

One of the oldest Winter Olympics sports is in danger of being eliminated, Jeff writes.

Driving the news: The IOC executive board is expected to vote this weekend on the future of Nordic combined, one of the 16 original Winter Olympic events in 1924.

State of play: Nordic combined, which combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing, faces two existential crises in the eyes of the IOC: gender equality and relevance.

  • It's the only winter event without a women's competition, and while women's Nordic combined has made strides in recent years, the IOC remains skeptical that it merits Olympic inclusion.
  • And so, in an effort to ensure gender equality, it may drop the sport entirely. "Without the women, it could be a challenge for us to keep the boys," Nordic combined race director Lasse Ottesen told NYT.

Between the lines: The IOC is also trying to create a program that appeals to younger viewers, and Nordic combined simply doesn't move the needle the way that Alpine, freestyle and snowboarding do.

Go deeper: How it feels to compete in the only Olympic sport not open to women (On Her Turf)

7. 🌎 The world in photos

In Gee Chun
Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

BETHESDA, Md. — In Gee Chun shot an eight-under 64 for a five-stroke lead after the first round of the Women's PGA Championship, tying a record for the largest 18-hole lead at a women's major.

Aaron Judge celebration
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

NEW YORK — Aaron Judge hit a walk-off single to lift the Yankees past the Astros, 7-6, on the eve of his unusual in-season arbitration hearing that will determine his 2022 salary.

  • State of play: Judge is asking for $21 million, New York has offered $17 million, and the arbitrator must pick one or the other. Either way, MLB's HR leader will be a steal.
Surfing huge wave
Three-time world champion Gabriel Medina, a Brazilian, getting some serious air during Thursday's action. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

SAQUAREMA, Brazil — After two years away, the World Surf League Champions Tour has returned to Brazil for one of the biggest celebrations in surfing: The Oi Rio Pro.

8. 📺 Watchlist: "Rise" comes to Disney+

Antetokounmpo brothers
Thanasis, Kostas and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Photo: David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

"Rise," the new movie based on the Antetokounmpo brothers, premieres today on Disney+.

  • Details: The film chronicles Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas' journey from Nigeria, to Greece, to becoming the first trio of brothers to all win NBA championships.
  • Fun fact: The actors playing Giannis and Thanasis are real-life brothers, Uche and Ral Agada, born in New Jersey with a Nigerian father. This is their first movie. Watch the trailer.

More to watch:

9. 🏀 NBA trivia

Banchero, Holmgren, Smith
Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith. Photo: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Freshmen went with the first three picks in Thursday's NBA draft, the first time that's happened since 2017.

  • Question: Who went 1-2-3 that year?
  • Hint: 76ers, Lakers, Celtics.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🙈 1 naked thing: Nude pickleball

Photo illustration of Michelangelo's Statue of David holding a pickleball paddle
Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

Pickleball is exploding in popularity — even among nudists.

Driving the news: Clothing-optional resorts are advertising their pickleball facilities, hosting tournaments and installing courts to meet demand, Axios Tampa Bay's Ben Montgomery writes.

  • Caliente Club and other Tampa Bay resorts host the popular Nightfall Pickleball every Monday at 5pm. "Grab your balls!" the flyer says.
  • "We tell people, just bring your tennis shoes," Mike Sullivan, a USA Pickleball ambassador and a resident of Cypress Cove Nudist Resort in Kissimmee, told Pickler.

Yes, butt: "All of them balls in play could be confusing!" someone posted on the Talk of the Villages message board.

Enjoy the weekend,

Kendall "More of a clothed tennis guy" Baker

Trivia answer: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum

🙏 Thanks for reading. Follow us on Twitter: @kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy. Tell your friends to sign up.