👋 Welcome back! Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Let's sports.
Today's word count: 1,862 words (7 minutes)
"The Last Dance" premiered on ESPN last night, marking the first time in nearly two months that individual families — and the sports world as whole — sat down to watch something together.
Why it matters: In addition to entertaining millions of self-quarantined fans, the 10-part documentary will give ESPN a tentpole event to build its programming around, while providing sportswriters and other content creators (i.e. all of social media) with fresh source material during these sports-less times.
"There's going to be an entire new crop of memes, GIFs and vernacular from this MJ doc. When everyone watches content together, it births a new lexicon online."— @tylersteinhrdt
My thoughts after two episodes:
The big picture: "The Last Dance" — and more specifically, Michael Jordan — is the perfect vehicle to remind us what sports can provide, what athletes can symbolize, and what we lose when athletic competition is ripped away from us.
The bottom line: As a culture, we love well-crafted narratives, larger-than-life characters and iconic moments. Sports are the most prolific source of all three, and the first two episodes of "The Last Dance" made that abundantly clear.
Heading into the 1997-98 season, Michael Jordan publicly said the Bulls should get to defend their title until they lose it and that he wouldn't play for any coach other than Phil Jackson.
By the numbers: The Bulls had the NBA's highest payroll at $61.3 million, which was $7.4 million more than the second-place New York Knicks and $32.8 million more than their Finals opponent, the Utah Jazz.
Head-to-head: Here's how the 1997-98 Bulls payroll compares to the 2018-19 Warriors payroll, the year before both dynasties broke up.
1997-98 Chicago Bulls: $61.3 million payroll
2018-19 Golden State Warriors: $146.3 million payroll
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Amid the uncertainty surrounding the return of sports and the constant updates from leagues about when play might resume, don't lose sight of the most important factor of all: a second wave is almost certainly coming, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
Driving the news: Based on league statements, more sporting events than ever are temporarily scheduled for the fall, which could result in the most action-packed sports calendar imaginable.
Background: We need only look back 100 years, to the influenza pandemic of 1918, for the exact playbook of how this could occur.
What they're saying: "Second waves are inevitable in pandemics when you don't have a vaccine," Carlos Del Rio, who chaired the panel that guided the NCAA to shutting down sports this spring, told WSJ (subscription).
The state of play: This last point bears out the paradoxical nature surrounding our current predicament. Whether due to social distancing efforts or summer weather, infection rates will eventually go down. But this early in the pandemic's cycle, that reality might act as a false positive of sorts.
The big picture: Ultimately, one of the hardest things to cope with right now is the uncertainty of when it will end, which makes plans to restart leagues nebulous at best.
"The answer is none of us know at this point what the situation is going to be like in the fall."— Anthony Fauci
The bottom line: The coronavirus doesn't care when sports come back.
Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images
The world's biggest soccer stadium is being built in Guangzhou, China, at an estimated cost of $1.7 billion, with construction having started on Thursday.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Landscaping companies, gun stores, golf courses, live wrestling matches: Businesses considered "essential" in one state aren't designated the same way in others, write Axios' Marisa Fernandez and Courtenay Brown.
108 years ago today, Fenway Park officially opened for business, with the Boston Red Sox beating the New York Highlanders (later, the Yankees) 7-6 in 11 innings.
The backdrop: As we covered last week, Fenway was the Platonic ideal of the jewel box ballpark — borne out of necessity as baseball's popularity outgrew the rickety wooden stadiums of the previous 40–50 years.
The bottom line: Fenway's age and beauty are simultaneously at odds with each other and inextricably enmeshed. While some poor fan might sit in the bleachers and curse his horribly obscured view, another might simply smile and say to herself, "Isn't baseball great?"
♟ The quarantine chess tournament that could change the game forever (David Hill, The Ringer)
"After the FIDE Candidates tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus, world champion Magnus Carlsen decided to take things into his own hands. His version of chess could speed the game up permanently."
💔 It was the hottest basketball sectional. Then attendees started dying of coronavirus (Kyle Neddenriep, IndyStar)
"It was the hottest ticket in the state of Indiana for high school basketball. ... But on that night of March 6, there were five people in the gym who later died after testing positive for coronavirus. There's no way to know if they contracted it at Lawrence Central. But families are left to mourn."
🇺🇸 Missing Boston, and a bus ride, on marathon day (Matthew Futterman, NYT)
"Everyone who has run the Boston Marathon has a favorite moment. ... Me? I love the bus ride to the start line. It's what I will be missing most on Monday, when 30,000 other runners and I were supposed to be massing behind Hopkinton High School, waiting to start the granddaddy of all marathons."
Rooftop tennis in Lugaria, Italy — the original source of pesto!
Meanwhile, one floor down...
Michael Jordan won twice as many NBA Finals MVP awards (six) as anyone else.
Answer at the bottom.
Alyssa S. (Parsippany, N.J.) writes:
"In 2018, my husband and I made the spontaneous decision to head to Boston from New York for the Red Sox World Series parade. The streets were lined with people on a crisp October morning. It was Halloween, but that holiday fell second to Parade Day.
"As the parade ended, we decided to head to the Bleacher Bar near Fenway for some lunch and drinks. Best. Decision. Ever. A chance encounter between my husband and a police officer in the bathroom led us to one of our most memorable sports moments.
"The officer told him that the Duck Boats carrying the Red Sox would be pulling up shortly to finish off the parade. As we stood on Lansdowne Street, television crews and photographers began to congregate, and we started walking down the street.
"First we bumped into Alex Cora, who opened his arms for what could only be described as a 'bear hug.' A little further down, David Price was wrapping up an interview, and I patiently waited to ask for a picture. He grabbed my hand and had me running down the street to find Brock Holt to join in (attached is the resulting photo).
"Where was my husband during all this you might ask? He was running behind us — in complete awe over what was happening. These athletes, who we idolize and watch on TV every night — they were just as excited to celebrate with us as we were with them."
✍️ Submit your story: What's your fondest sports memory? Could be anything! Reply to this email letting me know. We'll be telling your stories all month.
Kendall "Inject this song into my veins" Baker
Trivia answer: Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, LeBron James