Aug 19, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,421 words (5 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏀 Lakers, Bucks fall in openers

Photo: Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Despite LeBron James' monster game (23-17-16), Damian Lillard (34 points) and the Trail Blazers knocked off the top-seeded Lakers, 100-93, on Tuesday night.

By the numbers: The Lakers missed their first eight threes, and even after officials fixed the crooked rim before halftime, they still struggled, finishing 5-of-32 (15.6%) from deep.

  • "We had some great looks, just didn't knock 'em down," said James. Those words might sound comforting if L.A.'s shooting woes were an anomaly. Unfortunately, they're a trend.
  • The big picture: The Lakers were the NBA's 10th-worst three-point shooting team (34.9%) pre-bubble, and they ranked dead last in seeding games (30.3%).

The bottom line: The last nine NBA champions were top-10 three-point shooting teams. The Lakers are bottom-10.

Elsewhere:

  • Magic 122, Bucks 110: Both No. 1 seeds lost their openers for the first time since 2003 (Pistons, Spurs). The Bucks are 0-5 in their last five playoff games.
  • Rockets 123, Thunder 108: James Harden (37 pts) recorded his 20th career 35-point playoff game, passing Steph Curry for third-most among active players. He only trails LeBron and Kevin Durant.
  • Heat 113, Pacers 101: Jimmy Butler (28 pts), Goran Dragić (24 pts) and Bam Adebayo (17-10-6) led the way for the Heat in this mostly even matchup.

Today's games:

  • 1:30pm ET (NBATV): Nets at Raptors (TOR leads 1-0)
  • 4pm (TNT): Jazz at Nuggets (DEN leads 1-0)
  • 6:30pm (TNT): 76ers at Celtics (BOS leads 1-0)
  • 9pm (TNT): Mavericks at Clippers (LAC leads 1-0)
2. ⚾️ They're unwritten rules for a reason

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Tatís name has long been linked to grand slams. On Monday, another chapter was added to that story, and it was a doozy, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Driving the news: Padres wünderkind Fernando Tatís Jr., hit his first career grand slam in a 14-4 win over the Rangers — his second HR in as many innings and his league-leading 11th of the year.

  • It came on a 3-0 count with the Padres up seven runs in the eighth inning, which seemed to upset the Rangers' dugout and led to pitcher Ian Gibaut throwing behind the following batter, Manny Machado.

After the game, Rangers manager Chris Woodward and even Padres manager Jayce Tingler chastised Tatís for breaking the "unwritten rules" of baseball, prompting an apology from the 21-year-old.

  • Woodward: "I didn't like it, personally. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis."
  • Tingler: "[T]hat's a learning opportunity ... in this game in particular, we had a little bit of a comfortable lead, and we're not trying to run up the score or anything like that."

The state of play: Baseball has been trying to attract a younger generation of fans for years, most notably with its 2018 postseason ad campaign titled, "Let the kids play."

  • With that in mind, we should be focusing on the electric baseball Tatís and other young stars are playing right now. Instead, we're debating whether it was unsportsmanlike for a hitter to reap the rewards of a good at bat.
  • Reminder: Last year, the same Woodward-managed Rangers rallied with a six-run ninth inning. The Rangers also beat the Orioles, 30-3, in 2007, tacking on 16 runs in the final two innings.

The backdrop: Unwritten rules took root as a result of the volatile era during which organized baseball began. Between 1865 and 1901, there were three presidential assassinations and a massive economic depression.

  • That environment gave way to players with short fuses, and on-field disagreements often led to violent outbursts.
  • Over time, the consensus was that it was better to avoid such interactions even if their impetus technically followed the letter of the law.

The big picture: Baseball has an incredibly rich history and still bears a striking resemblance to the gameplay of old, which may factor into why outdated opinions about playing "the right way" have stuck around.

  • A similar dynamic exists in golf, with young players bringing new attitudes and playing styles to the course, and those not always being welcome.

The bottom line: It's really quite simple. Let — and I cannot stress this enough — the kids play.

3. 🏒 NHL playoffs: Caps stay alive; Vegas advances

Photo: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including the go-ahead goal early in the third period, as the Capitals rallied from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, and avoid the sweep.

"If we're going to play like that, we have a pretty good chance to come back."
— Ovechkin, via WashPost

Elsewhere:

  • Flyers 2, Canadiens 0: 22-year-old Carter Hart is the second-youngest goalie to record consecutive shutouts in the playoffs, trailing Hall of Famer Harry Lumley, who did it at age 18(!) all the way back in 1945. PHI leads 3-1.
  • Stars 2, Flames 1: Defenseman John Klingberg scored his first goal since the NHL's restart, and Dallas held on for a crucial Game 5 win. DAL leads 3-2.
  • Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 3: Vegas rallied from an early two-goal deficit to eliminate Chicago. VGK wins 4-1.

Today's games (all on NBCSN):

  • 12pm ET: Blue Jackets at Lightning (TB leads 3-1)
  • 4pm: Hurricanes at Bruins (BOS leads 3-1)
  • 5:30pm: Coyotes at Avalanche (COL leads 3-1)
  • 8pm: Canadiens at Flyers (PHI leads 3-1)
  • 10:30pm: Canucks at Blues (Series tied 2-2)
4. Poll: 🎓 77% of college students say no football

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Harvard, which is going fully remote, says 20% of students in its incoming freshman class are deferring. That's apparently a trend.

  • Driving the news: As the pandemic pushes more universities to remote learning, 22% of college students across all four years are planning not to enroll this fall, Axios' Erica Pandey writes, citing a new College Reaction/Axios poll.
  • Why it matters: Scores of colleges were already approaching a financial cliff before the pandemic began. Steep drops in enrollment could push some over the edge.

Some colleges are planning to welcome students back. And those kids are preparing for a very different college experience.

  • Tailgating is over: 77% say their school shouldn't participate in football and other sports this fall.
  • Less dorm life: Of the students returning to a campus, 56% are living off-campus.
5. 📸 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Michael Regan/UEFA via Getty Images

LISBON, Portugal — Neymar and PSG cruised past RB Leipzig, 3-0, to secure the club's first-ever trip to the Champions League final.

  • Today's semifinal: Lyon vs. Bayern Munich (3pm ET, CBS All Access)
Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

LANCASTER, Ohio — Football players from Lancaster High School take part in offensive and tackle training during practice.

Photo: Richard Heathcote/R&A via Getty Images

TROON, Scotland — American Nelly Korda plays a bunker shot during a practice round ahead of the AIG Women's Open 2020 at Royal Troon, the second major of the year — and first on the LPGA schedule.

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

LONG BEACH, N.Y. — With gyms still closed in New York, members of the Jetty Fitness Club have been training at the beach.

6. 📚 Good reads

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

🏀 Coach K: NCAA can't afford to again lose tourney (Myron Medcalf, ESPN)

"Krzyzewski's comments follow reports that the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament cost the organization more than $375 million."

🚲 An 80-year-old cycling grandma set a world record. Then she was accused of doping. (Rick Maese, WashPost)

"Barbara Gicquel tested positive for a banned substance after a 2019 race, setting off a year-long fight over medication she has taken for years."

⚾️ Weighing a postseason bubble: What MLB can learn from the NHL (Emily Kaplan and Jeff Passan, ESPN)

"The 16-team postseason could begin in two geographic areas with two sites each, with Southern California and Texas emerging as early favorites and New York and Chicago/Milwaukee also possibilities, sources said."
7. Aug. 19, 1951: ⚾️ Eddie at the bat

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

69 years ago today, Eddie Gaedel — a 26-year-old with dwarfism who stood just three-feet-seven-inches tall — drew a walk for the St. Louis Browns in a 6-2 loss to the Tigers.

Why it happened: The Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) were celebrating the American League's 50th anniversary during that day's doubleheader, and owner Bill Veeck was a showman known for his publicity stunts.

  • Between games, Gaedel popped out of a papier-mâché cake as part of the festivities, but Veeck saved the real surprise for game two when Gaedel was called on to pinch hit.
  • Wearing number "1/8" on the back of the batboy's uniform, Eddie stepped to the plate and took an easy four-pitch walk.

The aftermath: Veeck knew Gaedel's contract would never be approved by the commissioner, so he filed it on a Friday before the weekend doubleheader, knowing it wouldn't be checked until Monday.

  • Since then, all contracts must earn approval prior to any player's debut.

Go deeper: The man for whom Gaedel hit (NYT archive)

8. The Ocho: 🚤 Australian dinghy derby
Source: Red Bull Motorsports (YouTube)

Each year since 1981, the southern Australian town of Renmark has hosted an extreme dinghy derby along its 100-km-long river and creek systems, Jeff writes.

How it works: The race takes place on the first Sunday in February. They strip down and soup-up standard fishing boats to get up to about 55 mph, and teams of two (a navigator and a driver) race through the serpentine waterway.

"I couldn't tell you how many trophies we've won — I don't think it really matters. I can tell you we've done about a million hours of practice at six o'clock in the morning in the middle of winter ... and there's not a minute I don't love about it."
— Jody Cole, navigator

🎥 Watch: Five-minute documentary (YouTube)

9. 🎥 Highlights: Tuesday's top plays

Bam's circus shot. Photo: Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

  1. ⚾️ Manny Machado!
  2. ⚾️ Victor Robles!
  3. 🏀 Bam Adebayo!
  4. 🏀 Giannis Antetokounmpo!
  5. ⚽️ Pablo Piatti!
Bonus: ⚾️ MLB trivia

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Kenta Maeda lost a no-hitter in the ninth inning for the Twins, just barely missing becoming the third Japanese pitcher to throw one.

  • Question: Who are the two Japanese pitchers to throw MLB no-hitters?
  • Hint: Both did it this century.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports

The Rose Bowl in 1993. Photo: Ken Levine/Getty Images

Charlie F. (Santa Barbara, Calif.) writes:

"When I taught at UCLA Law School in the 1980s, I enjoyed watching the UCLA home games across town at the Rose Bowl. It was a majestic stadium, and people of every type, race and political leaning cheered our team in unison.
"The aura, great sight lines and beautiful setting made each Saturday a pleasure for me and my young family, and going to the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1 was a figurative cherry on top.
"Over the next 30 years, I built a career in public policy, where I came to the realization that sports — and sportsmanship — is a great analogue to citizenship: appreciation of the game, fair play, respect for the opponent, and teamwork all translate to understanding the democratic process.
"I recently became president of the Rose Bowl Institute — bringing things full circle. We launched the institute earlier this month, which will 'champion sportsmanship and leverage the power of sports to unite us all.'
"Why do I love sports? They are nothing less than a unifier for this polarized country, a way to return to basic values of fairness, respect, integrity and inclusion — and an opportunity for all to serve on the same team: USA."

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or a story about sports having a positive impact on your life? To share, simply reply to this email.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Team Tatís" Baker

Trivia answer: Hideo Nomo (1996, 2001) and Hisashi Iwakuma (2015)