Jan 6, 2020

Axios Sports

πŸ‘‹ Good morning! For the first time since 2013, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the New England Patriots have both failed to win a football championship. Their poor fans.

In today's edition: Tom Brady's uncertain future; lacrosse and track and field on the rise; planning your 2020 golf vacation; the Ice Climbing World Cup and much more. All in 1,571 words (~6 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏈 Tom Brady, the free agent

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

"The fog hung in the air and swathed the field of Gillette Stadium, muting the colors and making you think, inevitably, of ghosts. It all felt like ... the past. Until the Tennessee Titans yanked [it] so powerfully into the present."
β€” Sally Jenkins, WashPost

Two decades of brilliance and unthinkable levels of success β€” for Tom Brady, for Bill Belichick, for the Patriots and for the city of Boston β€” may have come to an end on Saturday night.

Why it matters: Brady will be a free agent this offseason for the first time in his illustrious career, giving way to a winter of speculation about whether the soon-to-be 43-year-old is done in New England β€” or done with football, period.

  • In his postgame press conference, Brady didn't sound like someone who had just played his last game. "I would say it's pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely," he said when asked if he plans to retire. So odds are he's back in the NFL next year. But crazier things have happened.
  • In a bizarre twist, Saturday's game ending in a pick-6 may have been the best thing that happened to New England all night, as Brady doesn't seem like the type to go out like that. But again, who knows?

What he's saying: "I just don't know what is going to happen. I'm not going to predict it," said Brady in his final answer of his final press conference this season.

  • "No one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football. ... I love playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. Again, I don't know what it looks like moving forward, so we'll take it day by day."

The bottom line: At no point this century has the thought of Brady changing teams felt even remotely plausible. Now, the odds are 3/2, with the Chargers getting some early buzz β€” an outcome my brain won't even let me process.

Go deeper: Tom Brady the pragmatist controls his NFL future (Peter King, NBC Sports)

2. 🏈 More from Wild Card Weekend
Expand chart
Logos: Sports-Logos.net; Chart: Axios Visuals

For the third time ever, an NFL postseason round featured multiple OT games; for the second straight year, the Saints exited amid controversy; and for the first time in their lives, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill and Deshaun Watson won NFL playoff games.

Titans 20, Patriots 13: 31.4 million people watched Derrick Henry (182 rush yards, TD) wear down the defending champs, while Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee defense unleashed the hyenas.

  • Fun fact: Ryan Tannehill has five career victories over Tom Brady, second only to Peyton Manning (six).

Texans 22, Bills 19 (OT): Three years after leading Clemson to a 14-point comeback win over Alabama in the 2017 national title game, Deshaun Watson performed another magic trick, rescuing the Texans from a 16-0 hole.

Vikings 26, Saints 20 (OT): Two years ago, the Saints' season ended on a miracle. Last year, it ended on a missed call. This year, controversy clouded the outcome once again β€” yet another tragic ending for Drew Brees, Sean Payton and company.

  • Former NFL ref Terry McAulay: "It is illegal for an offensive player to extend his arm or arms and create clear separation from the defender. That was OPI."
  • NFL VP of officiating Al Riveron: "There is contact by both players, but none of that contact rises to the level of a foul."

Seahawks 17, Eagles 9: Jadeveon Clowney knocked out Carson Wentz, then D.K. Metcalf (160 receiving yards, the most by any rookie in NFL playoff history) knocked out the Eagles.

  • By the numbers: Seattle improved to 11-2 in one-score games this year, tying the 2015 Broncos for the most one-score wins in a season (Denver won the Super Bowl that year).

Looking ahead ... Divisional round preview, betting lines (ESPN)

3. πŸ“ˆ Lacrosse and track and field are on the rise
Expand chart
Reproduced from NCAA Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

Over the past decade, the NCAA men's and women's sports with the largest net gains in participating teams (across all divisions) are lacrosse and track and field, per NCAA data.

  • The other side: Gymnastics, rifle and skiing all saw a decline in both men's and women's programs, while tennis, fencing, water polo and women's rowing (men's rowing isn't sanctioned by the NCAA) saw virtually no increase.

Further reading:

  • Football in, football out: "Officials at tiny Anna Maria College say starting a football program was one of their best decisions. At Northeastern, it has been good riddance." (NYT)
  • HS sports falling: Participation in high school sports dropped in 2018-19 for the first time in 30 years. (Axios)
  • Girls' wrestling rising: High school girls wrestling is on the upswing, and an NCAA committee recently recommended that it be labeled an "emerging sport," the last step before a sport becomes official at the college level. (WSJ)
4. πŸ“Έ Photos from abroad
Photo: Peter Kovalev/TASS via Getty Images

OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC β€” Canada beat Russia 4-3 in the World Junior Hockey Championship final, avenging a 6-0 loss in the group stage and giving the Canadians their eighth gold medal this century and record 18th overall.

  • Gold medals this century: Canada 8x (2020, 2018, 2015, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005), U.S. 4x (2017, 2013, 2010, 2004), Russia 3x (2011, 2003, 2002), Finland 3x (2019, 2016, 2014), Czech Republic 2x (2001, 2000), Sweden (2012).
Photo: Greg Bowker/Getty Images

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND β€” Close friends and former world No. 1s Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki teamed up as doubles partners for the first time, winning their first round match at the ASB Classic.

  • Meanwhile, in singles: Coco Gauff beat Slovakia's ViktΓ³ria KuΕΎmovΓ‘ 6-3, 6-1 to stay on course for a quarterfinal meeting with Williams, who plays Italy's Camilia Giorgi in her first round match tomorrow.
Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND β€” A spectacular goal from 18-year-old Curtis Jones helped Liverpool to a 1-0 victory in the third round of the FA Cup over Merseyside rival Everton (their home stadiums are separated by less than a mile).

  • Wild stat: The last time Everton beat Liverpool at Anfield (September 1999), Jones hadn't been born yet.
5. ⛳️ Plan your 2020 golf vacation

Justin Thomas poses for a picture with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Photo: Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Justin Thomas beat Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele in a three-man playoff to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii this weekend.

  • By the numbers: It's the 26-year-old's third victory in his last six PGA Tour starts, and the 12th of his career, giving Thomas more wins than any other active player under 30.

Looking ahead: It's a new year, which means it's time to experience new things. If you've never organized a weekend trip to a PGA Tour event, make 2020 the year you do. Here are 12 upcoming stops with serious "golf vacation" potential:


  • Jan. 23–26: Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines Golf Club in San Diego)
  • Jan. 30–Feb. 2: Waste Management Phoenix Open (TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.)
  • Feb. 6–9: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.)
  • March 12–15: The Players Championship (TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Verde Beach, Fla.)


  • March 25–29: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas)
  • April 9–12: Masters Tournament (Augusta National in Augusta, Ga.)
  • April 16–19: RBC Heritage (Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C.)
  • May 14–17: PGA Championship (TPC Harding Park in San Francisco)


  • June 18–21: U.S. Open (Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.)
  • July 16–19: The Open Championship (Royal St. George's Golf Club in Kent, England)
  • Aug. 13–16: The Northern Trust (TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.)
  • Aug. 27–30: Tour Championship (East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta)

Go deeper: Full PGA Tour schedule

6. πŸ€ NBA numbers

Credit: MLG Highlights (YouTube)

πŸ’Έ $100,000

Lakers fan Evan Brooks knocked down a $100,000 half-court shot at Staples Center during a break in last night's Lakers-Pistons game (LeBron had a triple-double in a 106-99 win), and this wasn't some lucky bank shot, either. That's silky.

πŸ”₯ 17-1 at home

Goran Dragić (29 points and 13 assists) led the Heat past the Trail Blazers, 122-111, as Miami improved to an NBA-best 17-1 at home. For reference, they won 19 home games all of last season (19-22 record). Absolutely love watching this team play.

πŸ† 2 sixth men

Montrezl Harrell (34 points) and Lou Williams (32 points) β€” the two frontrunners for the Sixth Man of the Year award, which Williams has won the last two seasons in a row β€” combined for 66 points off the bench as the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers squeaked past the Knicks, 135-132.

7. Jan. 6, 2014: 🏈 The final BCS title game
Jameis Winston and Jimbo Fisher. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images

Six years ago today, Jameis Winston and No. 1 Florida State beat Tre Mason and No. 2 Auburn, 34-31, in the 16th and final BCS National Championship Game.

  • Famous Jameis: Winston became the 15th player in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy and the national title in the same season β€” a club that Joe Burrow will attempt to join a week from tonight.
  • What they said: "You're dead now, BCS ... You were, above whatever else we may say about you, a more formal variation of insane, random guesswork," wrote SB Nation's Spencer Hall at the time.

πŸŽ₯ Go deeper: Game highlights (YouTube)

8. The Ocho: 🧊 Ice Climbing World Cup
Valeriia Bogdan and Maria Tolokonina of Russia compete in the Women's Speed Final. Photo: Fred Lee/Getty Images

The 2020 Ice Climbing World Cup wrapped up yesterday in Changchung, China, with participants competing in both speed and lead disciplines.

  • Speed (above) is "best described as a vertical version of the 100-meter sprint (reach the top as fast as you can)," per OZY.
  • Lead (below) is "judged on technique and masterful moves (get up there fast, but make it look cool too)."
Heeyong Park of Korea competes in the Men's Lead Final. Photo: Fred Lee/Getty Images
Eimir McSwiggan of Ireland (unreal name) competes in the Women's Lead Final. Photo: Fred Lee/Getty Images

Go deeper: Ice climbing begins to hit its peak (OZY)

9. πŸ“… '90s trivia
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Saturday, 42-year-old Vince Carter became the fifth active player in the four major North American sports to play in four different decades.

  • Question: Can you name the other four active players who debuted in the 1990s?
  • Hint: One NFL, three NHL.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🏈 Tua's decision: Stay or go?


At some point today, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa will announce whether he's returning for his senior season or declaring for the 2020 NFL draft. What do you think he should do?

Click to vote:

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Recovering lax bro" Baker

Trivia answer: Adam Vinatieri (NFL), Patrick Marleau (NHL), Joe Thornton (NHL), Zdeno ChΓ‘ra (NHL)

  • P.S. ... In Friday's question, I incorrectly stated that all six active NFL head coaches who began their NFL head coaching careers in 2010 or earlier have won Super Bowls. I forgot about Andy Reid (hired by the Eagles in 1999), who has yet to win one. Forgive me.