Oct 28, 2020

Axios Sports

👋 Good morning! The Lakers and Dodgers won championships 16 days apart. What a bizarre year.

Today's word count: 1,936 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: ⚾️ The Dodgers did it


The Dodgers spent the past four postseasons losing to the eventual World Series winner. This postseason, they won the only game that mattered, and are champions for the first time since 1988, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Recap: Blake Snell stymied L.A. for the first half of the game (5.1 IP, 9 K and just two hits), and the Rays clung to a 1-0 lead thanks to yet another Randy Arozarena HR. Then Kevin Cash happened.

  • The Rays manager pulled Snell after allowing a single on his 73rd pitch of the night because he was about to face the Dodgers' lineup for the third time.
  • Instead, he called on reliever Nick Anderson, who entered having allowed a run in six straight relief appearances. He exited after extending that streak to an MLB-record seven, leaving the Rays in a 2-1 hole.
  • Mookie Betts provided the insurance run with an eighth-inning bomb and Julio Urías closed it out with 2.1 perfect innings for the save.
"That was one of my better games I've pitched in a long time, honestly. ... I get it's a third time through the lineup, but, I mean, I think I'm going to make the adjustments I need to make ... I believe in what I was doing."
— Snell
Blake Snell was not thrilled about being pulled so early. Photo: Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

MVP: Clayton Kershaw was a candidate to win on narrative alone, but Corey Seager hoisted the hardware. You be the judge:

  • Seager: 8-20, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 6 BB
  • Kershaw: 2-0, 2.31 ERA, 14 K, 3 BB

Game notes:

  • Betts joins Lenny Dykstra (1993) and Lou Brock (1968) as the only players with four SB and multiple HR in a World Series. He's under contract through 2032!
  • Since 2015, every World Series champion besides the 2018 Red Sox snapped a decades-long drought: The 2015 Royals (29 years), the 2016 Cubs (107), the 2017 Astros (54), the 2019 Nationals (49) and now the 2020 Dodgers (31).
  • Arozarena extended his records for most HR (10) and hits (29) in a single postseason, and incredibly he'll retain rookie status into next season.
  • The ball that secured the final out is expected to be worth around $250,000, per Sportico. Last year's was worth twice as much because it was the Nats' first championship.
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Go deeper:

2. 😷 Turner tests positive, joins celebration

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 2020 MLB season began with Juan Soto being scratched from the Nationals' lineup due to a positive COVID-19 test. It ended with Justin Turner exiting Game 6 due to a positive test of his own — and then joining the trophy celebration.

What happened:

  • In the second inning, MLB learned that Turner's Monday sample had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The league expedited the testing of his Tuesday sample, and when that was also positive, they sent word to the Dodgers.
  • "The commissioner's office called Dodgers owner Mark Walter. Walter called president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Friedman called manager Dave Roberts," SI's Stephanie Apstein writes.

After the bottom of the seventh, Roberts pulled Turner, who was placed in an examination room with his wife, Kourtney, and told he was in isolation.

  • But he chose to join his teammates on the field anyway, where he posed for photos with the trophy and sat on the grass in the center of the team picture.
  • "I don't think there was anyone that was going to stop him from going out," said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. There probably should have been.

The bottom line: It's unclear what MLB would have done if the Rays forced Game 7. It's also unclear how COVID-19 infiltrated baseball's month-long playoff bubble when the NBA and NHL went nearly three months without a single case.

3. 🥎🏐🥍 What's next for Athletes Unlimited

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Athletes Unlimited, a network of women's sports leagues that uses fantasy-style scoring, successfully completed its first season of softball last month.

Why it matters: While most leagues scrambled to create one-off bubble tournaments, Athletes Unlimited didn't have to change too much about its model, which was already designed for short, single-site seasons.

  • "Our vision was always to host each season in a single market and build storytelling and other elements around that," co-founder and CEO Jon Patricof tells me.
  • "Not having in-person fans certainly changed things, but ticketing revenue was never a huge part of the equation for us anyway."
  • "If you put medical/testing aside, the pandemic changed call it 10% of our model; whereas for most other leagues it changed 90% of their model."

What's next: Athletes Unlimited will take what it did with softball this summer and try to apply that model to two other sports next year — possibly with fans in the stands this time.

  • Volleyball: February 2021 (Nashville)
  • Lacrosse: July 2021 (TBD)

The big picture: There are clear avenues for growth in women's sports, and the pandemic has helped revealed them.

  • WNBA ratings are up.
  • NWSL ratings are way up.
  • The NWHL is maturing in promising ways.
  • And now, softball, volleyball and lacrosse have a new professional home.
4. 🔍 Apparel spotlight: Adidas

Photo: Oliver Morris/Getty Images

This week, we're examining the sports apparel industry through the lens of some of its biggest players.

Adidas' stock continues to rise thanks to the industry-wide digital sales spike, but its subsidiary Reebok is struggling and a sale appears imminent, Jeff writes.


  • Stock price: $317
  • 2020 H1 sales: $9.85 billion (26% decrease from 2019)
  • CEO: Kasper Rørsted (2016–present)
  • Top sponsored athletes: Lionel Messi, James Harden, Patrick Mahomes

Founding story: As we mentioned in Monday's Puma spotlight, brothers Rudolf and Adolf Dassler began making shoes in their parents' house in Herzogenaurach, Germany, in 1919. After a falling out in 1949, Adolf started his own company and named it after himself (Adi-Dassler).


  • 1950: The Samba, Adidas' first and still most popular shoe, is released ahead of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil and named for the country's indigenous dance.
  • 1952: Dassler buys the trademark rights for his three-stripe logo from Finnish sportswear company Karhu for ~$200 and two bottles of whiskey.
  • 1967: Adidas forays into casual wear with the still-iconic Franz Beckenbauer tracksuit, named for the German soccer legend.
  • 1970: The World Cup uses Adidas' new Telstar ball, featuring the now-classic, 32-panel black and white design. Adidas remains the official World Cup ball.
  • 1986: Run-DMC releases "My Adidas," which reaches No. 5 on Billboard and earns the group an endorsement deal. It was the first non-sports partnership for a sportswear brand and created a lasting link between Adidas and hip hop.
  • 1995: Adidas goes public on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, valued at roughly $2 billion.
  • 2004: The "Impossible is Nothing" ad campaign launches, headlined by Muhammad Ali and the "Long Run" commercial.
  • 2005: Adidas acquires Reebok in a deal valued at $3.8 billion.
  • 2013-14: Kanye West and Pharrell Williams sign with Adidas, strengthening the company's position at the intersection of sports, hip hop and fashion.

Where it stands: After leading last decade's sneakerhead boom with its Kanye and Pharrell partnerships, as well as the über-popular Boosts and NMDs, Adidas surpassed the Jordan Brand as the No. 2 sneaker brand in North America in 2017.

  • Yes, but: Nike took it personally, punching back by inking deals with designers like Virgil Abloh and Kaws and rapper Travis Scott, while also releasing the VaporMax and React to compete with the Boost and NMD.
  • Meanwhile, "Adidas grew too fast for its own good [and] kept spitting out the same versions of what made them money before," wrote Complex's Matt Welty in December 2018.
  • Four months later, Adidas returned a punch of its own by partnering with Beyoncé, whose second athleisure collection drops tomorrow.

Coming up:

  • Monday: Puma
  • Yesterday: Nike
  • Tomorrow: Under Armour
  • Friday: Mystery brand (???)

🎥 Bonus: Watch a quick history on the evolution of Adidas' various logos, including the three stripes, trefoil (1971), three bars (1991) and word mark (2005).

5. ⛳️ Callaway acquires Topgolf

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Golf giant Callaway acquired the rest of sports entertainment company Topgolf in an all-stock deal Tuesday, with the latter valued at ~$2 billion, Jeff writes.

The backdrop: Topgolf was founded in 2000, and just six years later Callaway made its first investment, which included an exclusivity deal across all locations. In 2018, Callaway increased its stake to 14%; now it owns the entire company.

Details: Topgolf transforms the traditional driving range with a gamified experience, where players earn points by hitting targets. Most aren't coming to work on their game; they're coming to eat, drink and hang out with friends.

  • Revenue: $1.1 billion in 2019
  • Customer demo: Over 50% of Topgolf's 23 million guests last year identified as non-golfers.
  • Scale: 71 locations across five countries, 30 states and Washington, D.C., are either open or coming soon.

The big picture: This deal will help Topgolf scale its operation and give Callaway access to millions of prospective golfers, all while providing a case study for the industry as it finds new ways to appeal to younger and more casual players.

  • 18–34 year olds represent 25% of on-course golfers (24.1 million), but 40% of the 9.9 million off-course golfers (i.e. Topgolf), per the National Golf Foundation.
  • Meanwhile, 15.7 million people who didn't play on a course last year said they'd be "very interested" in doing so in the future. Callaway hopes its Topgolf presence will help convert some of those folks into customers.
"Topgolf is the best thing that happened to golf since Tiger Woods. It's going to be the largest source of new golfers for our industry."
— Callaway CEO Chip Brewer
6. 💵 Now open: The world's biggest sportsbook
Courtesy: Circa Las Vegas

Circa, the first ground-up resort built in downtown Las Vegas since 1980, opens today with what's being billed as the "world's largest sportsbook."

  • The book: The three-story, 1,000 seat auditorium faces the world's largest TV screen, and the top floor is filled with media studios, where sports betting networks like VSiN will broadcast live shows.
  • The rooftop: On top of the resort is a multilevel pool called "Stadium Swim" with a 40-foot tall screen, swim-up bars and poolside mobile wagering kiosks.

The state of play: The pandemic crushed Vegas' tourism industry this spring, and gaming revenue plummeted as casinos and sportsbooks sat dormant for months. Most are back open now, but they're operating at limited capacity.

🎥 Watch: Tour the Circa Resort & Casino (YouTube)

7. ⚡️ Lightning round
Screenshot: @LATimesWharton (Twitter)
  • 🏈 UCLA's eating good: As the centerpiece of an athletic department facing a growing deficit, UCLA football has "gorged itself on food spending that has no rival nationwide," L.A. Times reports. The Bruins spent $5.4 million on non-travel meals last year. National champion LSU spent $381,000.
8. Oct. 28, 1900: 🇫🇷 The Olympics end in Paris

American athletes at the 1900 Olympics. Photo: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

120 years ago today, the 1900 Olympic Games — the second occurrence of the modern Olympics — came to a close in Paris.

  • The games were spread out over five months and featured obscure events like pigeon shooting, hot air ballooning, tug-of-war and motorcycle racing.
  • Women participated for the first time, competing in sailing, tennis and golf.
  • Host nation France fielded 72% of all athletes (720 of the 997) and won the most medals. The U.S. won the second-most medals, despite fielding fewer than 8% of the participants (75 of 997).

The backdrop: The games were held as part of the Paris Exposition of 1900, a massive "world's fair" featuring groundbreaking innovations like escalators, talking films and diesel engines.

  • The World's Fair overshadowed the Olympics to such an extent that "many athletes never knew they had actually participated in the Olympic Games," the IOC website says in its section on the 1900 Paris Games.

Travel back in time to Paris, 1900...

Paris during the 1900 Exposition. Photo: Roger Viollet via Getty Images
A poster for the 1900 Paris Exposition. Photo: Fotosearch/Getty Images
A restaurant at the floor of the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Roger Viollet via Getty Images

Go deeper:

9. ⚾️ World Series trivia

Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Dodgers broke a 31-year World Series drought, which was shockingly just the 10th-longest in MLB.

  • Question: Who are the top nine?
  • Hint: Five AL, four NL, ranging from 34 to 72 years.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 📺 Chart du jour
Data: eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic will drive cable and satellite TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever, according to the most recent data from eMarketer, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Bye baseball, see you next spring (I think?)" Baker

Trivia answer: Indians (72 years), Rangers (60), Brewers (52), Padres (52), Mariners (44), Pirates (41), Orioles (37), Tigers (36), Mets (34)