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Now back to the good part

May 07, 2020
ANDY MEAD/ISIPHOTOS.COM
ANDY MEAD/ISIPHOTOS.COM

The GIST: The COVID-19 pandemic has proven what we’ve already known for a long time: women are damn good world leaders. Now the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is looking to prove that point in the sports world, too.

Awesome! How?: By making the NWSL the first North American league to safely start up again since the whole world basically stopped back in March. The 2020 NWSL season was supposed to start on April 18th before being pushed back indefinitely. But yesterday, the league began the first phase of its “Return to Play Phased Protocol,” allowing players to take part in voluntary, individual workouts in team practice facilities.

  • The league is still holding off on team practices, but plans to start training camps on May 16th. If all goes well, we could see games start back up (without fans in the stands, of course) by the last week of June. Thank goodness.

So great. Why aren’t all the leagues doing this?: While other major leagues are mostly made up of 20-plus teams, field international players and hold games across the US-Canada border, the NWSL has only nine teams with mostly American rosters, all located in the US, making it a good starting point to get the sports world turning again.

  • And because we’re all about silver linings, we can’t help but think of what a great opportunity this could be for women's sports. With other pro leagues in North America still working on contingency plans, the NWSL has the chance to fill the gaping hole in sports networks’ broadcast schedules and sports fans’ hearts. We’re so here for this.

🎮Guide to Esports

May 06, 2020
Guide to Esports

The GIST

Unlike more traditional sports (soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc.) that have been around for decades, esports is a newer ‘sport’ to hit mainstream markets. The simplest way to think about them is as “electronic sports.” Essentially, esports is competitive/professional video gaming. Esports is kind of an umbrella term similar to saying “sports” as there isn’t one specific video game that all competitors play. So take football, basketball and soccer and sub them in for League of Legends, Overwatch and Dota 2. Make sense? 

How are esports organized?

Esports are normally played in tournaments. In their infancy, esports tournaments were predominantly played online. However, in the early 2010s, streaming and esports took off and these gaming tournaments started taking place IRL.

There are currently thousands of tournaments around the world being hosted online and offline where competitors vie for millions of dollars in prize money. That’s right. These high-level gamers are competing professionally for a chance to win millions of dollars for playing their favorite video game. Literally living the dream. Apparently our parents may have been wrong when they said: “Go outside and play, you’ll never get anywhere sitting in front of a screen.”

Back up, what do you mean tournaments?

We totally get it — it’s hard to picture. The same way you play a soccer tournament, gamers play against each other in teams of players or individually. It’s generally round-robin style with the winner of each game moving on to some sort of playoff. Tournaments can be played and watched online, but when they’re hosted IRL, they’re normally played in large stadiums or arenas where fans can watch too. Some tournaments are even held in the same arenas as major league sports like the Barclay’s Centre in New York and the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia. Pretty cool, right?

In fact, both of these venues have hosted the Overwatch League Grand Finals in previous years. In 2018 the winners received a cool $1M and one year later, the grand prize was upped to $1.1M. Millionaires in the making.

How big is esports? Why is it all the rage these days?

Esports is a big, big industry and it’s been rapidly growing for years. By the year 2020, sources estimate the global esports industry will be worth MORE THAN $1.65 BILLION. Damn, that’s a lot of zeroes.

One of the biggest reasons for industry growth is the investments being made by traditional sport owners like Robert Kraft. Kraft owns the New England Patriots, and also purchased pro esports team Boston Uprising, a part of the Overwatch League. The COO of the New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon, also owns the New York Excelsior from the Overwatch League. Three-time NBA Champion Rick Fox, yes THE Rick Fox, bought a League of Legends team called the Gravity Gaming and renamed it Echo Fox. His purchase was largely based on the bond Rick and his son had built while playing League of Legends. What better way to bond over a mutual love of a video game than buying a professional team!? Don’t you wish your dad was like Rick Fox?

The games

Not all video games are played professionally (unfortunately for our talents, you won’t find a Sims league in esports). However, there are a lot of different “leagues” out there. And that’s really the beauty of esports — there is something for everyone. Do you enjoy fast-paced shooting games? You should check out CS:GO. Do you fancy a fantasy-based game where strategy is at the forefront? Dota 2 might be your next obsession. Are you a huge soccer fan? Rocket League is basically monster trucks playing soccer. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and literally anyone and everyone can play.

And that’s why we love esports so much — unlike a lot of traditional sports where physical fitness is key (so a lot of athletes retire around the age of 40), esports players don’t have to worry about ageing out of the game. You can be a professional esports player at any age as you can play the game!

The international superstars

Let’s take a look at some of the top gamers in the world:

Dota 2: Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Germany) has been playing Dota 2 for almost a decade is currently the highest net earner with more than $4M USD in total income. He surpasses every other esports player in the entire industry. Damn!

League of Legends: Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (Korea) is the highest-paid League of Legends player with career net earnings of more than $1.1M USD and adds even more to that playing with his SK Telecom T1 team.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth (Denmark) is CS:GO’s highest-earning player with an impressive career total of almost $1.5M USD. 

Where our girls at?

The sad reality in esports is that, much like many other professional sports leagues, women are still being left out of professional teams. Esports has predominantly been a “man’s world” with issues of sexism and misogyny running rampant. Ugh. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ANY women competing.

Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon (Overwatch), Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey (CS:GO), Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn (Starcraft II), and Kristen “KittyPlays” Michaela (Fortnite) are some of the top female players. Unfortunately, their earnings pale in comparison to the multi-millions made by their male counterparts.

Although women make up half the population of amateur gamers, we’re still incredibly under-represented in pro-gaming esports. Slowly more women are being signed to top tier organizations, but it’s been a very slow process.

Did you know...

  • “The International”, Dota 2’s biggest tournament of the year, has the record for the world’s largest esports prize pool of more than $30M USD! And that’s just at the time of writing, it has continued to go up year-after-year and shows no signs of slowing down.
  • Professional esports players train the same way traditional athletes do. They focus on their health, physical fitness (reaction times are key) and mental stamina.
  • Did you know that esports gaming chairs (yes, if you’re going to be playing a long time you want to make sure you’re well equipped) can cost as much as $3k?! Just wild. Check out the most expensive chairs in the world here.

That’s #thegist of it!

Written by Guest Writer: Gillian Scott

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🏀Guide to Fantasy Basketball

May 05, 2020
Guide to Fantasy Basketball

WTF is fantasy basketball?

So glad you asked! Fantasy basketball is all about building the best (imaginary) basketball team with real NBA players and competing against the other teams in your league to prove who’s best.

Not entirely clear? Let’s compare this to Hollywood then, because we’re suckers for pop culture and why the heck not. We want you to picture your favorite actors. Next, imagine if all of your favorite actors were to suddenly team up and join a movie that YOU have full creative control over. The actors are real, their ability to deliver lines is real, but YOU select who’s on the cast, what parts they play, and how they will be directed. 

For this exercise, replace Ryan Gosling with LeBron James, replace the movie set with a court, and replace line delivery skills with bball skills in your mind. That is fantasy basketball. You have control of your players and your players have control of the game and their ability to produce results.

Sounds fun, how do I play?

To play this fun AF game, you first need to join a league. Your office may already have one in the works, so definitely ask around, but you can also join a league for free online! These websites are some of the best, and most popular out there:

Once you join a league, a “Draft Day” will be set and scheduled by your league’s commissioner (fancy phrase for league organizer). You should aim to do all of your prep work and research before your scheduled Draft Day, as this will be the day that you actually select your team. It’s a BFD.

Before we dive in, you should know that teams are mostly made up of six forwards (SF, PF, F), five guards (PG, SG, G), and two centers (C), for a total roster of 13 players (ten active players + three inactive bench players each day). There are 301 players in the NBA and you only need to pick 13 on Draft Day, so be sure to make your picks count.

Fantasy basketball is generally structured in a VERY similar way to fantasy hockey – if you have not yet checked out our Fantasy Hockey Guide, then we strongly recommend you take a quick jump over and read all about the wonderful world of fantasy sports and the small nuances that come with it. 

Let’s return really quickly to Draft Day, as this day is absolutely critical to your success. There are two types of drafts – the snake draft, by far the most common, and the auction draft. Just like hockey, a snake draft is when each team in the league is assigned a predetermined draft number and selects a player (from the remaining available players) to join their roster on their respective turn. If there are ten teams in your league, then you will draft somewhere between first and tenth, with the tenth drafter also selecting the eleventh pick because the order flips after each round. It will look something like this:    

The whole point of Draft Day is to build your team using the best players available to you. Whether you pick the known high performers or take a gamble on a potential breakout star (aka sleeper pick), Draft Day is all about what you decide. There’s some strategy to this, y’all! But, don’t fret, your picks are not set in stone; you’ll get the chance to make trades or pick up undrafted players during the season to mix your roster up and chase after a baller you couldn’t/didn’t nab in the draft. As always though, beware the buyer as a big trade could require you to give something big up in return…

If you haven’t a clue what to do, most websites offer ADP (Average Draft Position) for each player to help a sister/mister/GISTer out. The ADP is the average spot that the player was taken across all of the drafts run on that website – the higher the ADP, the more in demand that player is, which is a big clue that they might be pretty friggin’ good.

As an owner after the draft, you set up your squad every day and select which players get to play Like Mike and hit the bball court and who gets to sit on the bench. Most often, you’ll play against another team in your league each week in a head-to-head format to see who’s team does the best in a variety of categories – points, threes, rebounds, assists, and steals are some of the most common categories, but it can vary depending on what your commissioner has decided. 

The team who outscores their opponent in each of the league’s categories at the end of every week will earn a point; for example, if Team A had 36 total rebounds for the week and Team B had 32, Team A would earn a point. The team with the most points in their “head-to-head” matchup will earn the dub (win because dub is short form for W) for the week and this will go towards their overall standing in the league. Rinse and repeat this process until playoffs and there you have it, a regular-season of fantasy basketball. 

Wanna get good? Here are some draft tips to get you started

À la Elle Woods & her iconic orange Mac laptop in the 2001 classic Legally Blonde, you’re gonna have to sit down, do some homework, and take some notes in order to slay your fantasy league. So hit the Google and check out these resources: 

🏒

Does that make me crazy?

May 04, 2020
 BILL SMITH/NHL VIA GETTY IMAGES
BILL SMITH/NHL VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The COVID-19 pandemic is making the hockey world do some crazy things. San Jose Shark Joe Thornton shaved off his iconic beard. Montreal Canadien Brendan Gallagher is speaking French. And now the league wants to go ahead with the 2020 Draft before the regular season is even over. Weird.

How does the draft normally work?: The NHL Draft, which allows the league’s teams to select from a pool of eligible players to add to their rosters, is usually held in late June, not long after the Stanley Cup is awarded.

  • The selection order is based on a combination of regular and postseason records, as well as a draft lottery. So in theory, the 2019–20 season would need to end before the draft order can be set.

But the regular season isn’t over…: Exactly. The NHL suspended the season on March 12th and has yet to decide if it will resume the season this summer (yes, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but cancelation is still on the table), meaning draft order can’t really be determined yet.

  • But in an attempt to “execute a major fan-friendly hockey event during a time where there is likely to be no (or very limited) live sports competition,” the league sent out a memo on Friday to outline how the unusual draft would work, ranking teams by points percentage.

Is this a good idea?: Just like most team general managers, we’re on the fence. While this could really make things wonky, we appreciate the NHL trying to give us the sports fix we so desperately need.

Any other COVID-19 news?: Unfortunately, yes. The Little League World Series, which brings together youth baseball teams from around the world to compete for ultimate glory, has been canceled for the first time in its 73-year history. Guess we’ll just have to watch reruns of Big Al’s dingers to get us through.

🏆Lawyer up

May 04, 2020
AARON M. SPRECHER/AP
AARON M. SPRECHER/AP

The GIST: With the NCAA finally tackling the issue of allowing its players to make endorsement money, they’re now being reminded of another major issue plaguing the organization: sexual assault amongst their student athletes.

Oh no, what happened?: Seven women are suing the NCAA for failing to protect them from alleged sexual assaults by male student athletes. The lawsuit, which says that the alleged assaults occurred at Michigan State, Nebraska and an unnamed Division I university, argues that the NCAA had a duty to protect the women and minimize the potential risk of sexual assault among its players.

  • The lawsuit also states that the NCAA failed to monitor its student athletes in accordance to the league’s sexual violence prevention guidelines. The women, three of whom are student athletes themselves, all claim to have reported the sexual assaults after they occurred.

Can the NCAA be held accountable?: According to its sexual violence prevention guidelines, “NCAA member schools have a responsibility to address this issue appropriately and effectively to make campuses safe for all students,” so there’s a good chance the NCAA will deflect this to the schools involved.

  • Regardless, someone needs to be on the hook for this. We’re so sick of the holier-than-thou student athlete culture that can propagate these assaults and we’re so sick of reading these stories. We’re proud of these women for stepping forward and making a difference.