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Today's word count: 1,939 words (7 minutes).
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Remote work is not a new concept, and neither is having a home office. But the abrupt switch to telecommuting en masse due to COVID-19 has accelerated shifts in how work is conducted — and fundamentally changed how we view our jobs.
Driving the news: The NFL had its awakening this weekend during its virtual draft, where coaches and general managers were shown working from home, oftentimes with their children in the background.
What they're saying: In addition to revealing how much can be accomplished from the comfort of one's home, the virtual NFL draft — and the limited offseason — has also inspired coaches and GMs to think about making permanent improvements to their work/life balance and working smarter rather than longer.
The big picture: The NFL is a cutthroat business full of Type-A personalities who spend every waking hour seeking out an edge over their opponents. But the coronavirus disrupted that and "left everyone questioning the wisdom of spinning their wheels nonstop," writes Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel.
The bottom line: Remote work is still uncommon in the U.S. (3% of Americans primarily worked from home in 2017) and there's ongoing debate about its effectiveness. But it has given millions a glimpse of a different way of life amid this pandemic, even the buttoned-up NFL.
For the 14th straight year, the SEC led all conferences with 63 NFL draft picks, tied for the second-most ever in the modern draft era behind last year's 64.
The other side: Entering Thursday, FCS schools had produced an average of 18 picks per draft since the NFL shifted from 12 to seven rounds in 1993, with a high of 29 (1996) and a low of 12 (2003). This year, they produced just six.
The six FCS draftees:
The state of play: The cancellation of pro days and general chaos created by COVID-19 appears to have hurt FCS prospects, with teams favoring the "less risky" FBS prospects who they likely had much more information about.
The bottom line: Some FCS players will sign as undrafted free agents or join practice squads, but plenty of talented players who may have realized their dreams this weekend if not for the pandemic are left with no clear next step.
"The Last Dance" continued last night with Episodes 3 and 4, which focused on Phil Jackson's ascent to head coach, the Bulls' rivalry with the "Bad Boy" Pistons and Dennis Rodman's transformation into Chicago's X-factor.
The highlight: At one point, Rodman talks about his eerily perfect sense of where the ball was going after it bounced off the rim — a talent that made him one of the best rebounders in NBA history. It reminded me of this wonderful passage from The Ringer's Brian Phillips:
"It's probably an understatement to say that no one has ever played basketball the way [Rodman] did. He didn't so much reinvent the game, or the power forward position, as find an entirely different sport in its margins. It was as if he were a writer who'd discovered a legible, but hitherto unnoticed, language in the white space at the end of every line."
"To me, a missed basketball shot looks like 'haha, whoops, boing.' To Rodman, a missed shot presented itself as a comprehensible set of information: the speed, angle, and spin of the ball, the point of contact on the rim or the backboard, the tendencies of the shooter.
"He had an elite baseball pitcher's understanding of the aerodynamics of a ball in flight, only instead of throwing the pitch, his job was to materialize at the end of it. ... What he was doing made no sense, but everyone who watched him immediately understood what he was doing. In sports, that's a kind of greatness."
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Boxing resumed in Nicaragua on Saturday night with a televised eight-fight card in front of a live, though sparse audience.
MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany — Borussia Moenchengladbach supporters are sustaining their club by buying cardboard characters that will be displayed at the stadium should the Bundesliga continue with closed-door matches.
NEW TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan — The Fubon Guardians — aided by a mascot and cheerleading section in an otherwise empty ballpark — smashed three dingers to beat the CTBC Brothers, 5-4, in CPBL action.
Nolan Ryan in 1983. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images
37 years ago today, Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan notched his 3,509th career strikeout, passing Hall of Famer Walter Johnson to become baseball's new strikeout king.
By the numbers: Ryan's career was a baffling case study in success and longevity.
But the most ridiculous stat of all? Despite all of those aforementioned accomplishments, Ryan never won a single Cy Young award.
🎥 Go deeper: Career highlights (YouTube)
🏃♂️ To run my best marathon at age 44, I had to outrun my past (Nicholas Thompson, Wired)
"Running is the simplest of sports: right foot, left foot, right foot. But the simplicity opens up complexity. There's no ball to focus on, no mat to land on, no one charging toward you with their shoulder down. And so your attention shifts inward."
🎾 How I found common ground with my immigrant dad on a clay court (Sopan Deb, NYT)
"Most of my childhood friends from our predominantly white New Jersey suburb have a story about how their love of sports began — usually involving their fathers. Shaun's played catch with him for hours in the backyard ... Matt's brought him up watching Knicks games in the basement ... Not me, though. I had to find another way in."
🎮 Esports and the dangers of serving at the pleasure of a king (Matthew Ball)
"[I]t's important to temper expectations around COVID-related lift to esports, especially whether the rising tide will be evenly distributed. NASCAR iRacing, for example, is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, [while major esports] still require education and are clearly synthetic. League of Legends is enormously difficult to follow, fantastical, and obviously not real."
For the first time in its 125 years history, the Penn Relays — the most popular track meet in America, and among the biggest in the world — was canceled, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
The backstory: The University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field was opened specifically for the first Penn Relays on April 21, 1895, and became the site of the nation's first scoreboard.
What they're saying: If you've never been, you can't quite imagine the spectacle and impact of this event that I was lucky enough to compete in as a high school senior back in 2006.
This year’s event: In place of the historic track meet, the UPenn and esports company Gen.G hosted the Digital Penn Relays over the weekend, with virtual events held inside a digital Franklin Field built within the popular video game, Minecraft.
Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Jets draftee James Morgan is the second Florida International QB drafted in the past three years (Alex McGough), making FIU one of four schools with multiple QBs drafted since 2018.
Answer at the bottom.
Lucas H. (Kingston, N.Y.) writes:
"I've been a fan of the Green Bay Packers for nearly a decade. In 2013, I portrayed Paul Hornung in a community theatre production of 'Lombardi,' a play by Eric Simonson based on the book ''When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi' by David Maraniss.
"Fast forward three years. A few of my friends and I went to our first game at Lambeau Field on a snowy day in December and I bought a Hornung jersey to honor the occasion.
"My friends and I went inside a bar down the street from the stadium to warm up before the game. After unzipping my coat, a fellow fan noticed my Hornung jersey and told me he was in the next room signing autographs.
"I walked to the next room and, sure enough, there was Paul. I told him that I portrayed him in the play, had him sign my jersey and we took a photo.
"It was such a surreal experience to meet a legend that I had tried to embody on stage. To make it even more special, the Packers played one of their best games of the season, beating the Seahawks 38-10. It's a day that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
✍️ 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 "This league!" Baker
Trivia answer: Oklahoma (Mayfield, Murray and Hurts); LSU (Etling and Burrow); Washington State (Falk and Minshew)