Axios Sports

A large foam finger.

May 12, 2021

👋 Good morning! Drew Robinson, who lost his right eye in a suicide attempt last year, homered last night and it was wonderful.

💬 Let's chat: Do you live in Oakland? I'd love to speak with you about the latest A's relocation news, and the recent exodus of teams. Reply to this email and we'll chat.

Today's word count: 1,256 words (5 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: ⚽️ Man City clinches EPL title

Data: Premier League; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Premier League; Chart: Axios Visuals

Manchester City secured its third Premier League title in four years on Tuesday following Manchester United's loss to Leicester City, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

The big picture: This is Man City's seventh league title, putting them in a tie with Aston Villa for fifth-most behind Manchester United (20), Liverpool (19), Arsenal (13) and Everton (9).

  • Goalkeeper Zack Steffen is the first American to win the Premier League. Congrats, Zack!
  • This is Pep Guardiola's ninth league title in 12 seasons as manager of a top-tier club, with three each at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.

The state of play: Both Manchester clubs have already clinched spots in next year's Champions League — unless they're levied two-year bans for their role in the Super League debacle.

  • Six teams are still alive for the final two Champions League spots: Leicester City, Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton.
  • Leicester City has two games left, both against teams also fighting for those spots (Chelsea and Tottenham).
  • West Ham must win out for a chance at the club's first top-four finish, but they'll have a decent shot as all three games are against bottom-seven clubs.

Looking ahead: Manchester City plays Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29 — the third all-English final in history (Manchester United def. Chelsea in 2008; Liverpool def. Tottenham in 2019).

2. 🤸‍♀️ Change is coming to gymnastics

Illustration of a gymnast on a beam that is sloping up and down

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The status quo of elite female gymnastics, which has been questioned for decades, may finally be ready to change, Jeff writes.

The state of play: Gymnastics is steeped in tradition, but the Larry Nassar scandal has led to a reexamination of many of its outdated norms, and there have already been some encouraging signs of change.

  • Apparel changes: Three German gymnasts donned unitards at last month's European Gymnastics Championships — a symbolic gesture "for all gymnasts who might feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal leotards," wrote one of the athletes on Instagram.
  • Culture of abuse: Aside from the heinous sexual abuse, coaches have long made their athletes endure physical pain while training, leading to mental and physical burnout. But after hundreds went public about Nassar, thousands opened up about the sport's toxic culture.
  • Prevention and protection: The IOC recently established a certification course to create a legion of international safeguarding officers. There's still a lot of work to be done, but it's a good start.
  • Age is just a number: Gymnastics used to favor a balletic aesthetic, which called for smaller, and thus younger athletes. But the sport has evolved, challenging the notion that one's prime is as a teenager. Just ask 32-year-old former Olympic medalist Chellsie Memmel, who came out of a nine-year retirement and hopes to qualify for Tokyo.

Looking ahead: Simone Biles recently left Nike for Athleta, which will fund Biles' post-Olympic Gold Over America Tour that she's planning to mount herself, rather than the usual tour backed by USA Gymnastics.

  • Biles' powerful voice is one of many speaking out against USA Gymnastics, which she believes is "more interested in avoiding responsibility for Nassar's abuse than in finding the truth," per NYT.
  • Her Athleta-funded tour could help reshape professional opportunities for gymnasts and usher in a new era for the sport.

3. 💉 Axios-Ipsos poll: Vaccinated fans

Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Note: 3.2% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Note: 3.2% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

57% of U.S. adults believe proof of COVID-19 vaccination should be required to attend a sporting event, per the latest Axios-Ipsos survey, Jeff writes.

  • Coincidentally, 58% of American adults have received at least one shot, which President Biden hopes to increase to 70% by July 4.

What they're saying: The fully vaccinated NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN he "would not hesitate to go to an outdoor baseball game. My risk would be extremely low, particularly if I wear a mask."

The state of play: Vaccinated-only fan sections have begun popping up, allowing for a safer way to increase capacity at sporting events.

  • Teams with such a section include three of MLB's California teams (Dodgers, Giants, Padres), as well as the NBA's Heat. Starting May 19, the Yankees and Mets will join them.

Looking ahead: While most events currently require just a negative test, some are planning to enact stricter policies later in the year.

  • "Our goal is to have a 100% full house for the Bills and the Sabres starting in the fall," Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said last month.
  • "Our plan is that unless you are vaccinated you will not have entry to the stadium. It is easy. It is safe."

4. 📺 Report: Nielsen undercounted audiences

Illustration of a hand measuring a play button

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nielsen likely undercounted TV audiences during the pandemic, according to a review by the Media Ratings Council, the de facto industry watchdog.

  • MRC found a "consistent pattern of underreporting of viewing" in February of this year and estimates that Nielsen undercounted the key 18–49 age demo coveted by brands by 2% to 6%.
  • Nielsen stopped sending field agents to homes during the pandemic, and the belief is that the sample started to include homes whose residents may have moved, leading to inaccurate results, per Variety.

Why it matters: Viewership numbers dictate advertising dollars, and networks use that money to pay leagues for the right to air live sports. That money then trickles down to players in the form of salaries.

The big picture: The revelation is likely to intensify "a growing rift between [Nielsen] and the TV networks who depend on it to set discussions with advertisers that help undergird billions of dollars in advertising," writes Variety's Brian Steinberg.

5. ⚾️ Top prospects and farm systems

Wander Franco
Wander Franco. Photo: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Hope you're enjoying Minor League Baseball Week. Three stories down, two to go.

Top prospects: 1. Wander Franco (SS, Rays); 2. Adley Rutschman (C, Orioles); 3. Spencer Torkelson (1B/3B, Tigers); 4. Jarred Kelenic (OF, Mariners); 5. Julio Rodríguez (OF, Mariners); 6. MacKenzie Gore (LHP, Padres); 7. Bobby Witt Jr. (SS, Royals); 8. C.J. Abrams (SS, Padres); 9. Ke'Bryan Hayes (3B, Pirates); 10. Nate Pearson (RHP, Blue Jays).

Top farm systems: 1. Rays, 2. Tigers, 3. Mariners, 4. Marlins, 5. Orioles, 6. Padres, 7. Blue Jays, 8. Pirates, 9. Diamondbacks, 10. Royals.

📆 This week:

6. 📸 In photos: Aquatic Championships

The European Aquatic Championships are underway in Hungary, and I'm not sure any event has produced stranger photos. Some highlights:

Aquatics Championships
Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images
Aquatics Championships
Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images
Aquatics Championships
Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images
Aquatics Championships
Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

Moving on...

7. ⚡️ Lightning round

Mets player celebrating

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

⚾️ Mets folk hero: Patrick Mazeika, who hit a walk-off fielder's choice against the Orioles on Tuesday, is the first MLB player over the last 100 years to have multiple walk-offs before his first career hit.

🏟 Vegas gonna Vegas: The Raiders are adding a huge nightclub behind one of the end zones at Allegiant Stadium, complete with two DJ booths, 42 televisions and bottle service. See photos.

⚾️ Amazing streak: Nevada's Tyler Bosetti, a senior third baseman, has homered in nine straight games, breaking a 30-year-old D-I record.

💔 RIP, Colt: Colt Brennan, who set numerous NCAA records as Hawaii's QB and finished third in the 2007 Heisman Trophy balloting, has died at age 37. Heartbreaking.

🐎 Preakness odds: Despite a failed drug test, Medina Spirit will still run in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, where he is the favorite to win.

8. 📆 May 12, 1979: Evert's historic streak

Chris Evert

Chris Evert (R) congratulates Tracy Austin. Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

42 years ago today, 16-year-old Tracy Austin beat No. 2 ranked Chris Evert in a third-set tiebreaker in the semifinals of the Italian Open.

Why it matters: The defeat ended Evert's 125-match clay court winning streak, which remains the longest single-surface streak for men or women in the Open era (since 1968).

  • For reference, Rafael Nadal's men's record was 81 consecutive clay wins (2005–07).

By the numbers: Evert's streak, which ran from August 1973 to May 1979, cemented her as perhaps the greatest clay court tennis player of all time. Folks, she went six years between losses. Think about that.

  • Evert won 94.6% of her career matches on clay (382-22) and lost just eight sets during the 125-match streak.
  • After losing to Austin, she won another 72 straight matches on clay, pushing her clay-court record from August '73 to May '81 to an absurd 197-1.

Go deeper: Chris Evert, the "Ice Maiden" (B/R)

9. 🏀🏈 Draft trivia

In 1984, the Cowboys and Bulls both drafted the same athlete, but he never played for either team.

  • Question: Who was he?
  • Submitted by: Mike in Chicago

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🎥 Tuesday's top plays

Soccer goal

Luke Thomas' perfectly-placed volley helped Leicester City beat Manchester United. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Wander Franco is such a classic baseball name" Baker

Trivia answer: Carl Lewis