☕️ Good morning! Russell Westbrook (20 points, 20 rebounds, 21 assists) recorded the second 20-20-20 game in NBA history in the Thunder's 119-103 win over the Lakers last night.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Less than two months after playing its first games, and with the postseason just two weeks away, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) has suspended all football operations. Here's the email that went out to all the players and coaches.
Why it matters: The Alliance is the latest in a long line of upstart football leagues that tried and failed to feed Americans a side of football with their football. It's demise will be the subject of much debate in the coming months.
The backdrop: A quick timeline detailing how this all went down.
What happened: According to The Action Network's Darren Rovell, AAF founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian had a plan to develop the league for three years before becoming a feeder system to the NFL.
What they're saying: League co-founder Bill Polian is pissed.
"When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action."— Bill Polian (via Twitter)
The bottom line: The AAF created a quality football product that appears to have ultimately been undone by a lack of funding and, later, a lack of a singular vision for the future.
The AAF's failed business model is making headlines, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate the product it put on the field.
Now ex-AAF quarterback Jack Heneghan writes:
"Hey everyone, this is Jack Heneghan, formerly of the Arizona Hotshots. With practice canceled and my scheduled suddenly wide open, I'm writing in to share my perspective on the quality of AAF football, which in the midst of all this, has gone unappreciated.
"Yesterday's news took most of us by surprise, primarily because of how focused we were on our team and individual goals as we game-planned for the last two regular season games and playoffs.
"Football-wise, the AAF was impressive. Few, if any, players would have been out of place on at least an NFL practice squad, many of our coaches and personnel executives had held similar positions in the NFL and the quality of work put in by our training, video, and medical staff members was second to none.
"Yes, some games were sloppy, but for teams that didn't come together until the first week of January, putting together film that compares to the second half of most NFL preseason games is more than a minor achievement.
"Judged strictly on the goal of building a developmental football platform, the AAF was on the way to success, if not already there. On a personal level, I know that my year in the AAF, even while playing very little as a backup quarterback, made me a better player than I was during my time in NFL camp last year.
"While yesterday's news was shocking and left many of us pondering our futures (NFL, XFL, retirement?), we played enough football here to know that the on-field product is not what doomed the AAF."
From throwing his opponent's balls into bunkers to exaggerating his 2.8-stroke handicap, Donald Trump's alleged penchant for cheating on the golf course is the subject of retired sportswriter Rick Reilly's new book, "Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump."
Why it matters: "It's a way to look at Trump in an apolitical way," Reilly told me by phone yesterday. "It's not about his presidency, but rather a way to look at his soul."
Details: One of the book's stories focuses on the time Trump played golf with the old ESPN "Monday Night Football" crew. It's him and Jon Gruden versus Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski.
The bottom line: There's something refreshing about a Trump-related story devoid of politics. Instead of immediately retreating to our corners, we're able to, hopefully, examine this at face value and decide for ourselves what to make of it.
P.S. ... For all of our D.C. readers, Rick is doing a book signing at Solid State Books near Union Station at 7pm ET tonight.
Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is one of MLB's few slugging catchers. Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images
As teams emphasize defense behind the plate, offensive catchers have become an endangered species in Major League Baseball.
By the numbers: In 2018, MLB catchers produced a .233 batting average and a .678 OBP, both the lowest figures of the 30-team era, per NY Times.
What's happening: While slugging catchers like Philadelphia's J.T. Realmuto are still highly valued, teams are increasingly thinking about catcher as a defensive position.
The big picture: In addition to affecting the value of current big league catchers, this shift in thinking is also affecting the future catchers of the world.
"The guy who may be a midrange defender but can swing the bat a little bit, we may be thinking about shifting him out from behind home plate because we want the bat to play — and we've become so strict on [framing] analytics that we're almost unforgiving in some cases."— Pirates GM Neal Huntington
P.S. ... With more teams prioritizing framing, skills like throwing have been deemphasized for catchers. Could that result in an uptick in stolen bases? The Ringer's Michael Baumann thinks so.
Bye, Ernie. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images
From Mike Sykes: Ernie Grunfeld's 16-year reign of mediocrity over the Wizards is finally over. The team dismissed its longtime president yesterday — a decision that feels long past due.
The backdrop: Under Grunfeld, the Wizards have never won 50 games, never made a conference finals and they've missed the playoffs as often as they've made them.
Mario Lemieux with the Hart and Art Ross trophies. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
31 years ago today, Mario Lemieux (168 points) won the NHL scoring title, beating out Wayne Gretzky (149 points), who had won the previous seven years in a row.
The big picture: Lemieux's 168 points still ranks eighth all-time, and the 199 points he put up the following season ranks fifth.
Go deeper: NHL's all-time points leaders
Answer at the bottom.
Photo: Preston Keres/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Every year, ultrarunners descend upon a small town in the Tennessee backcountry to participate in The Barkley Marathons, widely considered to be the toughest — and wackiest — endurance event on Earth.
Details: The race, which began in 1986 and has slowly grown from a casual underground affair into a global cult obsession, is limited to 40 runners who must register through a secretive process that includes a $1.60 entry fee.
🎬 Watch: "The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young" is one of my favorite documentaries. You'll have to rent it through iTunes or YouTube, but here's the trailer.
Pro-tip: Download The Action Network app to become a master at all this stuff.
1. Will Jon Lester allow Over/Under 2.5 runs against the Braves?
2. Who will cover the spread between DePaul (-5.5) and South Florida in Game 2 of the CBI Championship Series?
3. Who will cover the spread between the Rockets and Clippers (-1.5)?
🎰 Play now: Make your picks (cutoff time: 7:20pm ET)
Yesterday's results: 23.7% correctly predicted that Bryce Harper would hit a homer in his return to D.C. That bat flip tho … 51.7% correctly predicted that the Warriors (-8) would cover the spread against the Nuggets. They won 116-102 … 64% correctly predicted that James Harden would score under 39.5 points. He scored 36.
Kendall "Westbrook forever" Baker
Trivia answer: Nebraska (former player is Ty Lue)