Apr 7, 2020

Axios Sports

👋 Good morning! Thanks for all the incredible feedback on yesterday's edition — glad so many of you enjoyed it. We'll definitely be doing more of those.

Today's word count: 1,682 words (6 minutes).

1 big thing: 😷 Sports will be back, but when?

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's been 26 days since the sports world effectively shuttered, and fans are eager to start watching games again, but not quite as eager to attend them, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.

Data: Morning Consult National Tracking Poll of 1,512 sports fans, April 3-5, 2020; MOE ± 3%; Chart: Axios Visuals

Driving the news: According to a new Morning Consult poll, 51% of fans think live sports will return between June and September, while only 8% think the void will bleed into 2021.

Yes, but: Many of those same fans are wary of how long it will take for them to feel comfortable attending those games, with 35% saying they'd need until at least October — and 22% saying they'd need until next year.

Data: Morning Consult National Tracking Poll of 1,512 sports fans, April 3-5, 2020; MOE ± 3%; Chart: Axios Visuals

What the leagues are saying: Until testing increases and infection and death rates drastically decrease, leagues won't be working on much more than conjecture. Still, here's the latest:


  • MLB: Sources tell Axios that MLB is deliberating on the following dates: Spring Training restarts June 15, season begins without fans July 1, fans return Aug. 1. There's also another crazy plan where all 30 teams would isolate themselves in Arizona and play fan-less games starting in May.
  • PGA: Under a new proposed plan, the PGA Championship will be held in early August, the U.S. Open will be held in mid-September and the Masters — originally scheduled for this week — will be held Nov. 12–15.
  • NBA: Players like Danny Green remain optimistic ("We're for sure gonna have a season, so all the things you see on the news, don't believe it"), while insiders like Brian Windhorst sing a different tune ("The pessimism is really growing").
  • NHL: The league has reportedly tossed around the idea of finishing the season and postseason in North Dakota.
  • MLS: No official updates since March 19, when the suspension was extended to May 10 based on the CDC's ban of large gatherings.
  • UFC: President Dana White said that he's close to a deal to stage fights on a private island. Fighters would arrive via private plane, presumably with coronavirus tests before arriving.


  • Premier League: They hope to complete the season in a concentrated timeline across June and July by quarantining clubs and playing all matches on a handful of fields.
  • KBO: Korea's top baseball league is ahead of the pack, playing intrasquad scrimmages and targeting April 20 for a fan-less start to the regular season.
  • NPB: Japan's top baseball league was tracking towards the same timeline as the KBO, but pressed pause when three players tested positive in late-March.

The bottom line: Whether your favorite league is offering a pessimistic or optimistic update, I recommend taking everything with approximately 6,500 grains of salt. In the immortal words of Ygritte: "We know nothing, Jon Snow."

2. ⚽️ Former Fox execs charged in bribery scheme

llustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In October 2011, the American soccer world was stunned to learn that the World Cup broadcast rights, which ESPN had owned since 1994, would be moving to Fox for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Driving the news: According to a federal indictment handed down by U.S. prosecutors yesterday, two former Fox executives participated in an alleged scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to secure those rights.

  • One of the executives charged is Hernan Lopez, who is now the founder and CEO of podcast company Wondery, which helps produce The Athletic's daily podcast, among other shows.

The big picture: In addition to the charges related to Fox's broadcast rights, the indictment also alleges that representatives from Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA officials to secure hosting rights, confirming long-held suspicions.

  • In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, choosing their long-shot campaigns over strong contenders like England, Spain and the U.S.
  • More than half of the 22 FIFA members who voted that day have since left the organization under ethical or criminal investigation, so this level of corruption was suspected for years. Now it's in black and white.
3. ⚡️ Catch up quick
Screenshot: @tigers (Twitter)
  • ❤️ RIP, Mr. Tiger: Al Kaline, who spent his entire 22-season Hall of Fame career in Detroit and was known as "Mr. Tiger," died in his home Monday. He was 85. "When you talk about all-around ballplayers ... best I ever played against," said Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson in 1974.
  • 🏈 This just in: "Hard Knocks" is planning to feature two teams for the first time this summer (assuming there's training camp): the Rams and Chargers.
  • 🏀 Watch: Sportscaster Brandon Gaudin made his own "One Shining Moment" from home. Hilarious.
  • 🎾 Read: The U.S. Tennis Association has asserted it can police itself when it comes to abuse cases. The story of one coach raises doubts.
  • 🎥 Get hyped: Tua's hype video.
4. 🎮 Esports is surging, but faces news risks

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Gaming and esports are seeing a major upticks during the coronavirus pandemic, as more people look for ways to occupy their time at home, and bond with friends and family virtually, writes Axios' Sara Fischer.

Why it matters: While esports has been growing steadily, the lack of live sports is causing it to steal attention from traditional sports leagues.

My thought bubble ... Esports leagues have long modeled themselves after traditional sports, transforming the industry from one based solely on virtual competitions into one with live in-person events, sold-out arenas and even city-based franchises.

  • That maturation process helped esports cross over into the mainstream, but it also exposed the industry to risks that it wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise (i.e. live event and travel bans).
5. 🥇 Time machine: The first modern Olympics
The Opening Ceremonies at Panathenaic Stadium, which was restored from the ruins of the original Olympic stadium built circa 330 BC. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece — which began 124 years ago yesterday — are remembered for kickstarting the greatest sporting tradition on Earth, but the event bore little resemblance to the truly modern Olympiad, particularly in terms of the talent (or lack thereof) that was on display.

"Unlike today's athletes, who train years with single-minded determination for the chance to represent their countries ... the men (and they were all men) who competed at the 1896 Games treated the world competition as more of a diversion than the culmination of any quest. In some cases ... they were accidental Olympians."
— Mark Bechtel, SI
Photo: Getty Images

Thomas Burke, a 21-year-old Bostonian, won the 100 meter race with a time of 12 seconds flat (current world record: 9.58).

Photo: Getty Images

Robert Garrett, a 20-year-old Baltimore native, took first place in the discus with a throw of 29.15 meters (current world record: 74.08 meters).

Photo: Getty Images

Winners were given a silver medal, while runners-up received a copper medal. Retroactively, the IOC has converted those to gold and silver, and awarded bronze to third place.

6. 📺 Watching ESPN during lockdown
Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

"A few years ago, ESPN made a bet that viewers want the NFL, and all sports, to be an escape from politics. The past few weeks have tested that idea," the New Yorker's Louisa Thomas writes:

"There is no way around it: everything is connected; we are all conduits for money, culture, politics, viruses. There is not really a sports 'angle' to COVID-19, because there is no angle into anything that is all-encompassing.
"There is no escape into sports, because there are no sports. But, then, sports were never an alternative to the real world. They were always a reflection of it."

Go deeper: Interview with ESPN's EVP of programming, Burke Magnus

7. April 7, 2003: 🏀 Melo, 'Cuse win the title
Photo: Sporting News via Getty Images

17 years ago today, freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse past Kansas, 81-78, to win the NCAA championship in his lone college season.

Why it matters: It was Syracuse's first — and still only — national championship, which is somewhat surprising given the program's "powerhouse" status.

  • By the numbers: Anthony's 20 and 10 were the difference against Oklahoma in the Elite Eight, and he scored a career-high 33 points in Syracuse's Final Four win over Player of the Year T.J. Ford and Texas, setting a record for most points ever scored by a freshman in Final Four history.
  • 🎥 Highlight: Sophomore Hakim Warrick blossomed into one of the nation's best players as a junior and senior, but his best college moment was this clutch block of a potential game-tying three with two seconds left in the title game.

The big picture: Syracuse's long-tenured coach, Jim Boeheim (1976-present), is inarguably among the greatest college basketball coaches in history, having racked up 1,065 career wins (second only to Coach K).

  • While his standing among the elite would never be questioned, this lone title helps him push aside any talk of there being a hole in his résumé.
  • In fact, you have to go all the way down to eighth on the all-time wins list (Bob Huggins, 899) to find a coach who hasn't won a championship.

Go deeper: How Carmelo changed the NCAA tournament forever (B/R)

8. The Ocho: 🏐 Kiara, the volleyball pooch
Screenshot: @kiarathevolleydog (Instagram)

Kiara, a retriever and black Labrador mix, has become a viral sensation thanks to her remarkable volleyball skills.

What they're saying: "If nothing else, Hollywood may have reason to pick up where the final installment of the 'Air Bud' series — in which the lovable golden retriever unveils amazing volleyball abilities in 2003's 'Air Bud: Spikes Back' — left off," writes WashPost's Des Bieler.

9. 🏈 NFL trivia

Hidden hint: Somehow, this guy wasn't unanimous. SMH. Giphy

Question: The NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame unveiled the 2010s All-Decade Team yesterday. Can you name the eight unanimous selections?

  • Hint: Two offensive skill players, two offensive linemen, three defensive players and one specialist.


  • QB: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers
  • RB: Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson
  • WR: Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones
  • FLEX: Darren Sproles
  • TE: Rob Gronkowski , Travis Kelce
  • OT: Jason Peters, Tyron Smith, Joe Staley, Joe Thomas
  • OG: Jahri Evans, Logan Mankins, Zack Martin, Marshal Yanda
  • C: Alex Mack, Maurkice Pouncey


  • DE: Calais Campbell, Cameron Jordan, Julius Peppers, J.J. Watt
  • DT: Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh
  • LB: Chandler Jones, Luke Kuechly, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Bobby Wagner, Patrick Willis
  • CB: Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman
  • S: Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle
  • DB: Chris Harris Jr., Tyrann Mathieu


  • P: Johnny Hekker, Shane Lechler
  • K: Stephen Gostkowski, Justin Tucker
  • PR: Tyreek Hill, Darren Sproles
  • KR: Devin Hester, Cordarrelle Patterson

Answer at the bottom.

10. 📸 The view from quarantine
Courtesy: Daniel

Daniel in Apex, North Carolina: "I love your history edition today and shared it with my grandkids (8 and 11), who I'm holed up with in Apex, N.C."

  • "We've been playing an old Sports Illustrated game (Superstar Baseball), circa 1971, that I played with my college roommate, and I've combined that with Ken Burns' Baseball documentary as a way to teach them the history of the game."
Courtesy: Gayle

Gayle in San Diego: "Mario A. Boxer (named after the legendary Mario Andretti) enjoying a sunny day."

Courtesy: Dermot

Dermot in Jersey City, New Jersey: "Looking across the New York Bay. Keep safe."

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Seriously, you should listen" Baker

Trivia answer: QB Tom Brady, RB Adrian Peterson, OT Joe Thomas, OG Marshal Yanda, DE J.J. Watt, DT Aaron Donald, LB Von Miller, K Justin Tucker