Axios Sports

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September 21, 2022

👋 Happy Wednesday! Football is in full swing, the MLB postseason starts in 16 days, the NHL season starts the same day and the NBA season tips off 11 days later. What a time.

Today's word count: 1,718 words (6 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: ⚾️ All rise for No. 60

Aaron Judge

Photo: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Aaron Judge went deep again on Tuesday night, joining Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire (2x), Sammy Sosa (3x), Roger Maris and Babe Ruth as the sixth player in MLB history to hit 60 home runs in a season.

Why it matters: The All-Star outfielder is now one HR shy of tying Maris' American League single-season record of 61, set in 1961.

  • Judge is the third-fastest player to reach 60 (147 team games), trailing only McGwire in 1998 (142) and Bonds in 2001 (141).
  • Roger Maris Jr. and Kevin Maris, sons of the former player, were both on hand in the Bronx, where specially marked balls were used each time Judge walked to the plate.

What they're saying: When Ruth hit his 60th HR in 1927, he said after the game: "Sixty! Count 'em, 60! Let's see some other son of a b*tch match that!" It was pure Babe, notes ESPN's Jeff Passan. "A little arrogant and a lot bombastic."

  • Judge was far more reserved, hesitant to even take a curtain call. After the game — which the Yankees won on a Giancarlo Stanton walk-off grand slam — he was all about the team.
  • "I'm trying to enjoy it all, soak it all in, but I know I still have a job to do out on the field every single day and I just have to keep my head down, keep preparing and stay mentally focused," said Judge.
  • "He hit 60 tonight, and it's like nothing happened," added Stanton. "He's got more work to do, and that's the mindset, and that's how it will always be. It's fun to be a part of."

What to watch: Judge also took over the Triple Crown lead on Tuesday, with his .316 batting average now .002 ahead of Minnesota's Luis Arráez. His 60 HR and 128 RBI are both well out of reach.

P.S. ... The Mets also hit a game-winning grand slam on Tuesday, marking the first time the two New York franchises have done so on the same day.

2. 🏈 NFL power rankings: Week 3

Table: Axios Visuals
Table: Axios Visuals

The 2-0 Bills and Chiefs sit atop our rankings and appear to be in a class of their own, but it's the 0-2 teams that offer the most intrigue at this juncture, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • Where it stands: Five teams are 0-2, and three of them made the playoffs last year: The Bengals (reached Super Bowl), Titans (No. 1 seed) and Raiders (Wild Card).
  • Why it matters: 27 teams started 0-2 in the last three seasons, and none made the playoffs. Those three teams, plus the Panthers and Falcons, begin their uphill climb this weekend.

📊 Fantasy leaders ... Here are the top two fantasy performers at each position so far, per ESPN PPR scoring.

  • QB: Lamar Jackson (62.84 points), Josh Allen (61.16)
  • RB: Nick Chubb (47.6), Saquon Barkley (45.2)
  • WR: Stefon Diggs (71), Cooper Kupp (63.6)
  • TE: Travis Kelce (36.2), Mark Andrews (35.9)
  • D/ST: Bills (40), Buccaneers (37)
  • K: Ryan Succop (24), four tied (22)

🏈 Read: What we learned in Week 2 (NYT)

3. 📺 Hollywood's zeitgeist problem

Data: Axios Research; Note: Award shows include the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globes; NBA, MLB, NHL are multi-game final averages; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios

Viewership for the 2022 Emmy Awards on NBC last week fell to an all-time low of just 5.92 million viewers, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Meanwhile, the NFL had its best opening weekend in terms of live TV viewership in six years, and Amazon believes it "exceeded" its expectations of 12.5 million viewers for its "TNF" debut.

Why it matters: Hollywood doesn't just have a streaming problem — it has a relevancy issue. Award shows don't tap into the same cultural zeitgeist that they used to.

By the numbers: On average, viewership across the four major award shows this year is less than one-third of what it was a decade ago. A similar trend exists for sports championships outside of the Super Bowl.

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara in 2010. Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

🏒 NHL retirements: Zdeno Chara (24 seasons), Keith Yandle (16 seasons) and P.K. Subban (13 seasons) all announced their retirement from the NHL on Tuesday.

🇨🇦 Vax rules: Canada is likely to drop its vaccine requirement for people entering the country by Sept. 30, per AP. That would allow unvaccinated MLB players to play in Toronto if the Blue Jays make the playoffs.

⚾️ Wild stat: Of the 18 active players who have won MVP, only Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout have never won a playoff game. That drought will continue with the Angels officially eliminated from playoff contention.

🏈 HOF nominees: The list of 129 nominees for the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame is headlined by Joe Thomas, Darrelle Revis and Dwight Freeney. That list will be trimmed to 25 semifinalists in November.

5. ⚽️ Arrest made in mysterious attack

Aminata Diallo

Aminata Diallo warms up before a game in March 2022. Photo: Aurelien Meunier/PSG via Getty Images

The mysterious case of French soccer players Aminata Diallo and Kheira Hamraoui is back in the headlines, and the latest update could spell major trouble for Diallo, Jeff writes.

Driving the news: Diallo was arrested again on Friday and charged with aggravated assault for allegedly orchestrating an attack last November against then-PSG teammate Hamraoui.

Catch up quick: On Nov. 4, 2021, masked men dragged Hamraoui from Diallo's car and beat her legs with metal bars.

  • Diallo was arrested a week later when authorities believed she organized the attack in an effort to injure Hamraoui and take her starting spot. Diallo was held for 36 hours, but never charged.
  • Early last week, four men were arrested for their roles in the attack and told police that Diallo ordered it. That led to her re-arrest and aggravated assault charge.
  • A leaked report alleges that Diallo Googled "how to break a kneecap" before the attack. She still maintains her innocence and will now prepare her defense with her lawyer.

What they're saying: Hamraoui opened up about the attack on Twitter after Diallo's latest arrest, posting photos and explaining the depth of her trauma:

"That dark night changed my personal and professional life ... I thought I was going to die. ... Their objective was simple that night: to violently take my work tool by breaking my legs and ending my career."

Between the lines: Diallo, 27, retired from professional soccer after her contract expired at the end of last season. Hamraoui, 32, remains with PSG but hasn't played yet this season.

Looking ahead: If you're thinking this sounds a lot like the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal, you're not alone. Filmmakers have already approached both women about future projects, per NYT.

6. ⚾️ MLB finally lands Twins.com

Homer Simpson Computer GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source: Giphy

MLB has finally acquired Twins.com from Durland and Darvin Miller, the twin brothers who've owned the domain since 1995.

The backdrop: In 2015, Ben Lindbergh of Grantland (RIP) wrote a story about the Miller twins and why they refused to sell for so long.

The Millers told me that they staked their claim to Twins.com so early that they got it for free. It was the era of Internet land grabs, when all one had to do to rope off a URL was be the first one with the impulse. (They admiringly mention a friend of theirs, Jeff, who "scored," and still owns, Jeff.com.)
"As soon as you type in 'twins' on the Internet, you're going to see us pop up," [Durland said]. "I imagined clients asking for their phone number, only to be told to 'just type in twins.'"

Price tag: The league likely paid six figures for the website. They bought Rangers.com in 2015 for $375,000, and Durland told Lindbergh that they'd had offers as high as $750,000.

Where it stands: MLB now has 27 of 30 team domains secured, leaving just Giants.com (owned by the NFL team), Rays.com (owned by a Seattle seafood restaurant) and Guardians.com (up for sale).

7. 📺 Watchlist: Women's World Cup

Sabrina Ionescu and Shakira Austin

Sabrina Ionescu (L) and Shakira Austin in Sydney. Photo courtesy of USA Basketball.

The 19th FIBA Women's World Cup begins today in Australia, as the U.S. begins its title defense against Belgium (9:30pm ET, ESPN+).

  • Group A: USA (No. 1 world ranking), Belgium (No. 5), China (No. 7), Korea (No. 13), Puerto Rico (No. 17), Bosnia and Herzegovina (No. 26)
  • Group B: Australia (No. 3), Canada (No. 4), France (No. 6), Japan (No. 8), Serbia (No. 10), Mali (No. 37)

More to watch:

8. 🏆 The Ocho: Competitive lifesaving

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Source: Giphy

Dedicating yourself to saving lives is perhaps the most noble pursuit on Earth. And for some, the high-stakes profession has become a competitive sport, Jeff writes.

State of play: The 44th Lifesaving World Championships begin today in Riccione, Italy. Competitive lifesaving was also featured at The World Games this past summer in Birmingham, Alabama.

How it works: There are numerous events both in the pool and on the beach that mix a standard swimming race with "saving the lives" of orange dummies, called manikins.

An example: Here's how the 200-meter super lifesaver works in a pool...

  • First 100 meters: Swim 75 meters, dive down to retrieve a manikin and swim 25 meters back to the wall to "rescue" it.
  • Second 100 meters: Swim 50 meters, grab a pair of fins and a tube, secure a floating manikin in the tube and tow it 50 meters to the wall.

The backdrop: The International Life Saving Federation, founded in 1910, grew out of European rescue societies in the 18th and 19th centuries, per SI. Competitions began shortly thereafter and continue today.

  • Yes, but: The federation's mission is far broader than sport. Last year, it worked on a UN resolution to lower global drowning rates.

❤️ Read: What does it mean to win at saving lives? (SI)

9. 🏒 NHL trivia

Nathan MacKinnon

Photo: Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Nathan MacKinnon's new eight-year, $100.8 million deal with the Avalanche is the fourth-richest in NHL history.

  • Question: Who tops the list?
  • Hint: 13 years, $124 million.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🐐 1 G.O.A.T. thing: Roger and Rafa

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal before their 2019 semifinal match at Wimbledon. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Roger Federer says he will play just one doubles match at this weekend's Laver Cup in what would be his last ever professional match.

The intrigue: The 41-year-old Swiss legend said he'd love to play alongside his longtime friend and rival, Rafael Nadal.

"I think it could be quite a unique situation, if it were to happen. For as long as we battled together ... for us [to] come out the other side and have a nice relationship, is maybe a great message to tennis and beyond."

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Judge rules" Baker

Trivia answer: Alex Ovechkin (13 years, $124 million)

🙏 Have a great day! Follow us for more (@kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy). Friends can sign up here. Thanks to Bryan McBournie for copy edits.