Axios Sports

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August 13, 2021

🎉 Happy Friday! You made it.

Today's word count: 1,774 words (7 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: ⚽️ Europe kicks off

Photo illustration of Harry Kane, Pedri, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Erling Haaland
Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Paris Saint-Germain Football (PSG), Mario Hommes (DeFodi Images), Juventus FC (Juventus FC), Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images, GES-Sportfoto/Getty Images

The European club season has arrived in earnest, with three of the "big five" soccer leagues kicking off this weekend, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

The state of play: France's Ligue 1 began last week, Italy's Serie A begins next week, and the English Premier League, German Bundesliga and Spanish La Liga all kick off today.

League-by-league preview...

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 P󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿remier League:

  • Reigning champ: Manchester City took back the crown for their third title in four years.
  • Key storyline: This will be the first full season since April's Super League debacle. How will the 12 would-be breakaway teams — half of which are in England — be received by their peers?
  • Most intriguing player: Harry Kane is tired of losing, and if Tottenham — who haven't won a trophy since 2008 — are willing to deal him, he may be on his way to Man City.
  • Top Americans: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea); Zack Steffen (Man City)
  • How to watch: NBC Sports
  • Good read: How good can Liverpool be a full strength? (FiveThirtyEight)

🇪🇸 La Liga:

  • Reigning champ: Atlético Madrid won for the first time since 2014.
  • Key storyline: It's been nine years since Atlético, Barcelona and Real Madrid didn't finish top three in some order. With Barça losing Messi and Madrid losing Zidane, the field is more wide open than usual.
  • Most intriguing player: 18-year-old Pedri, Barcelona's ascendant star, is coming off an incredibly busy summer that saw him break into soccer's upper echelon.
  • Top Americans: Sergiño Dest (Barcelona); Yunus Musah (Valencia)
  • How to watch: ESPN+, with select games on ESPN and ABC
  • Good read: La Liga's problems are much bigger than Messi's departure (The Ringer)

🇩🇪 Bundesliga:

  • Reigning champ: Bayern Munich won their ninth straight title.
  • Key storyline: An unprecedented coaching carousel has seen seven of the league's top eight clubs change coaches.
  • Most intriguing player: This will likely be the final Bundesliga season for Borussia Dortmund wunderkind Erling Haaland, who's already "dreaming" of a future in the Premier League.
  • Top American players: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig); Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
  • How to watch: ESPN+, with select games on ESPN and ESPN2
  • Good read: Jesse Marsch, an American coach in the Bundesliga, begins his next chapter (WashPost)

🇮🇹 Serie A:

  • Reigning champ: Inter Milan put an end to Juventus' streak of nine consecutive titles.
  • Key storyline: A.C. Milan will look to a duo of vets — Zlatan Ibrahimović, 39, and newcomer Olivier Giroud, 34 — to end their decade-long league championship drought.
  • Most intriguing player: Until Cristiano Ronaldo retires or switches leagues, this title is his. Who am I to disagree with his 326 million Instagram followers?
  • Top Americans: Weston McKennie (Juventus); Bryan Reynolds (Roma)
  • How to watch: Paramount+, with select games on CBS Sports
  • Good read: Olivier Giroud and 10 of the game's most underappreciated strikers (ESPN)

🇫🇷 Ligue 1:

  • Reigning champ: Lille won their fourth league championship, stopping PSG's streak at three.
  • Key storyline: Messi's arrival. He won't debut with PSG for a couple weeks, but Paris has already given him a hero's welcome.
  • Most intriguing player: Italy's Gianluigi Donnarumma, the star of Euro 2020, is joining a PSG squad that already has a stud keeper in Keylor Navas.
  • Top American players: Konrad de la Fuente (Marseille); Tim Weah (Lille)
  • How to watch: beIN sports
  • Good read: How Neymar, Messi and Mbappé will work (The Athletic)

2. ⚾️ What a night: Field of Dreams game delivers

Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson walks through the corn field. Photo: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

From the gorgeous production to the Hollywood finish, MLB's "Field of Dreams" game was a resounding success. Seriously, it couldn't have gone much better.

  • Recap: Tim Anderson hit a walk-off homer to lift the White Sox past the Yankees, 9-8, in just the second game this season with multiple go-ahead bombs in the ninth inning. Overall, 16 of the 17 runs scored came via home run.
  • Wild stat: This was the 15th walk-off homer ever hit by the White Sox against the Yankees. The first? Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the stars of "Field of Dreams." Unreal.
Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge went deep twice. Photo: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

What's next: The owners of the field envision Little League, high school, college and minor league games being played there in the future. They also hope the MLB game becomes an annual affair.

Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa.

Field of Dreams field
The "Field of Dreams" field. Photo: Quinn Harris/MLB Photos via Getty Images

3. 🏙 New census data: Top 10 U.S. cities

Illustration of an iconic "I heart city" mug with a bar graph in place of the heart
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the first time, all 10 of the largest U.S. cities have more than 1 million people, per Thursday's 2020 census data dump.

The top 10:

  1. New York
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Chicago
  4. Houston
  5. Phoenix
  6. Philadelphia
  7. San Antonio
  8. San Diego
  9. Dallas
  10. San Jose

Of note: San Antonio, San Diego and San Jose only have one "Big Four" sports team (though the 49ers play near San Jose). Yes, I know media markets/metro areas tell a different story than city populations, but it's still interesting.

Go deeper: Census winners and losers (Axios)

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

Reebok and Adidas logos
Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • 👟 Adidas sells Reebok: Authentic Brands Group, which owns the rights to numerous brands including Sports Illustrated and Brooks Brothers, has acquired Reebok from Adidas for $2.5 billion.
  • 🏀 Kawhi's new deal: Kawhi Leonard is staying with the Clippers on a four-year, $176.3 million max deal that includes a fourth-year player option.
  • 💉 Vaccine requirements: New Orleans is believed to be the first NFL city that will require attending fans to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test from the previous 72 hours.

Plus...

  • 📈 Disney stock spikes: Disney stock jumped in after-hours trading after a strong earnings report. ESPN+ subscriptions are up 75% on the year, thanks largely to the Disney bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu).
  • 🥍 PLL in Albany: This weekend in Albany, New York, the Premier Lacrosse League will celebrate lacrosse's Indigenous heritage, highlighting Native American players, culture and causes.

5. 🎓 Snapshot: NIL compensation for July

Illustration of a letterman jacket with a dollar sign on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We're just over a month into the NIL era, and the landscape is evolving by the hour. It's still very much the wild west — and the college football season hasn't even started yet.

By the numbers: A few D-I athletes earned six-figures in compensation for July, but the average was $471, per marketing platform Opendorse. D-II athletes averaged $81 and D-III athletes averaged $47.

  • How the money was earned: 46% came from social media promotions, with 29% coming from licensing NIL rights, 10% from signing autographs, 6% from making appearances, 6% from creating content, 1% from hosting camps and 1% from selling products.
  • Who the money went to: 79% went to football players, 9.6% went to men's basketball players, 5.5% went to women's volleyball players, and 1.3% went to men's lacrosse players. All other sports were less than 1%.

Latest headlines:

  • Full tuition: Utah-based protein bar company, Built, will pay full annual tuition for all 36 BYU football walk-ons. All other players will be compensated, and BYU will wear Built-branded practice helmets.
  • Dr. Pepper deal: Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei has signed a deal with Dr. Pepper to appear in its national "Fansville" ad campaign this fall.

6. 🇺🇸 Photos across America

TD run
Rhamondre Stevenson breaks away for the score. Photo: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

FOXBOROUGH — Rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson had two TD runs, including a late 91-yard score to help the Patriots beat Washington, 22-13, in preseason action.

WNBA celebration
Seattle's Kennedy Burke poses after the win. Photo: Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

PHOENIX — Breanna Stewart led the Storm past the Sun, 79-57, in the WNBA's inaugural Commissioner's Cup title game. Each member of the Storm gets a $30,000 bonus, while the Sun received $10,000 each.

Pete Alonso home run
Pete Alonso is congratulated by teammates. Photo: Adam Hunger/Getty Images

NEW YORK — The Mets swept the Nationals in a doubleheader, winning Game 2 on a Pete Alonso walk-off bomb. With the Phillies, Braves and Mets separated by just one game, the NL East race couldn't be tighter.

7. 🏁 IndyCar, NASCAR head to Indianapolis

Racetrack
Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

IndyCar and NASCAR will share the same track on the same weekend for the first time ever, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) hosting the historic event, Jeff writes.

  • IndyCar: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix on Saturday (12:30pm ET, NBCSN)
  • NASCAR: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday (1pm, NBC)

Details: Both will navigate the IMS road course — a 14-turn, 2.4-mile track built along the infield of the enormous, famed oval that hosts the Indianapolis 500.

Between the lines: IndyCar is optimized for such a track, but NASCAR rarely races on a road course like this. When you see the difference between the cars, you understand why.

  • Design: IndyCars' cockpits and wheels are both open, while NASCAR's stock cars look more like what you see on the street.
  • Weight: Stock cars were born out of bootlegging, and needed to be able to take a beating in police chases. They're still built that way, weighing twice as much as their more aerodynamic IndyCar counterparts.
  • Speed: The lighter IndyCars tend to reach 235–245 mph, while stock cars only reach 200 mph due to mandatory restrictor plates.

The bottom line: Add it all up, and you get one car well-prepared for this weekend's event and another whose results may vary. Should be a fascinating few days for racing fans.

8. 📆 Aug. 13, 1919: Man o' War's lone defeat

Man o' War
Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

102 years ago today, Man o' War — widely considered the greatest race horse of all time — lost the only race of his career at the hands of the aptly-named Upset.

What happened: Man 'o War entered his seventh career race with a 6-0 record, but the Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York presented a new challenge for the budding superstar.

  • There were no starting gates, just a loose barrier that caused a delay as horses kept breaking through prematurely.
  • They finally started the race when officials deemed enough horses at or near the line, but Man o' War was among those still circling back to the line when the rope dropped.
  • Try as they might, Man o' War and jockey Johnny Loftus couldn't make up the bad start, though they still lost by only a neck.

The aftermath: Man o' War is a horse racing legend and won his final 14 races, including the second two legs of the 1920 Triple Crown after surprisingly skipping the Kentucky Derby.

  • As for Saratoga, Man o' War's upset by Upset was just the first in a string of shocking defeats there, earning the track its notorious nickname: Graveyard of Champions.

Fun fact ... In 1920, the New York Times named co-athletes of the year: Babe Ruth and Man o' War.

🎥 Watch: Magnificent Man o' War (YouTube)

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Chris Davis
Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Chris Davis, who retired Thursday, is one of 10 players to hit at least 53 HR in a season this century.

  • Question: Can you name the other nine?
  • Hint: Only two are still active.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🏀 Wild idea: American Giants

American Giants poster
Courtesy: American Giants

A group of sports business veterans wants to assemble a basketball team made up of entirely seven-footers and have them tour the world.

  • The team, called "The American Giants," would play challenge games against other professional teams.
  • Jerry Saperstein, whose father Abe founded the Harlem Globetrotters, is listed as a co-founder on the group's website.

Enjoy the weekend,

Kendall "MLB crushed it" Baker

Trivia answer: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, José Bautista, Ryan Howard, Giancarlo Stanton, Pete Alonso, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez.

🙏 Thanks for reading. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @thekendallbaker and @jeffreytracy.