👋 Good morning!
Today's word count: 1,372 (~5 mins)
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Heading into the 2019 college football season, Clemson and Alabama have once again separated themselves from the pack.
The intrigue: Clemson won last year's title game in a dominating fashion, 44-16. As a result, the Tigers are the faces of college football and appear to have the upper hand over the Tide heading into this season in a way they haven't in years past.
P.S. ... Five of the 10 best players in the country play for either Clemson or Alabama, according to SI's recently released rankings. No other school has more than one player in the top 25, let alone the top 10.
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images
Throughout the Northern Ireland capital of Belfast, "a grotesque tangle of concrete, steel, metal, brick and barbed-wire fencing" separates neighborhoods, writes ESPN's Ian O'Connor.
Why it matters: "Until the walls come down — and there is no plan for their removal — the youth of Northern Ireland need role models who refuse to be defined by the beliefs or causes that segregate them," O'Connor writes.
The bottom line: The 148th Open Championship is arguably the biggest sporting event Northern Ireland has ever seen, and the hometown kid — now a 30-year-old man — will be playing for much more than himself.
More players to watch:
⚡️ Update: McIlroy got off to a rough start, recording a quadruple bogey on the first hole.
⚾️ MLB: Kid catches ball in stands. Kid gives ball to another kid instead of keeping it for himself. They high five and hug. Love this.
🎬 Hollywood: LeBron's agent, Rich Paul, has been named the head of United Talent Agency's new sports division — a hire that shows the growing trend of athletes being at the helm of entertainment.
🏈 NFL: The Broncos became the first team to open training camp when rookies and veterans reported for work yesterday. Camp dates for all 32 teams.
🎮 Esports: 100 Thieves, an esports organization and lifestyle brand co-owned by Drake, just raised $35 million. Some of that capital will go toward a 15,000-square-foot training facility in L.A. that's basically a giant man cave.
Last season, the WNBA's 105.6 offensive efficiency rating was its highest in 20 years. This season, that number has dropped all the way down to 99.2, writes Axios' Mike Sykes.
Why it matters: Offense and star power are the two things we know put butts in seats. The WNBA is lacking a bit of both right now, which isn't ideal for a league trying to grow its audience.
"His height, his flaws, his story — it all makes Mayfield seem more real to them, like he's a human playing a position normally reserved for superheroes."
⚾️ What Made Roy Fly (SI)
"Roy Halladay's father taught him two things: to pitch, and to fly. One gave Roy life. The other killed him."
💨 The World's Fastest (Old) Man (NYT)
"Running next to Allie can be a humbling experience. From the moment he starts, he just goes away, sprinting off, as if on air. Septuagenarians are not supposed to go this fast."
43 years ago today, Romania's Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast in Olympic history to score a perfect 10.0 following her performance on the uneven bars at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Watch: Comaneci's 1976 performance
On Tuesday, the Nationals' Juan Soto hit his 39th career HR, breaking a tie with Ken Griffey Jr. for the fourth-most dingers before turning 21.
Answer at the bottom.
A classic car gets flagged off from the Great Wall of China during the 2013 "Peking to Paris" race. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images
"First run in 1907, the Peking to Paris race was originally intended to test the endurance of the newly emerging automobile," writes NYT's Noele Illien.
On Monday, I asked you to share a memory that illustrates the power of sports. For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing your stories.
Tom Dayvault (High Point, N.C.) writes:
My family was in Atlanta watching the Braves play at Fulton County Stadium on the 4th of July in the late 80s. My eight-year-old daughter learned how to score the game and recorded every pitch.
The Braves won — definitely not guaranteed in those days — and they turned the lights out for a magnificent fireworks show. I had a longneck in one hand, leaning back in my seat, fireworks exploding and my daughter in my lap when she turned and whispered ... "Dad, it doesn't get any better than this." Sports, man.
See you tomorrow,
Kendall "Now THIS is a home run" Baker
Trivia answer: His former teammate Bryce Harper