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🏆It's the start of something new

May 18, 2020
BLEACHER REPORT
BLEACHER REPORT

The GIST: We watched live sports this weekend, and boy oh boy was it glorious. But (Debbie Downer alert!), unless you’re into soccer or golf, it looks like it will be a while before we see some variety.

Tell me everything!: Hyun Kyung Park won the Korean LPGA Championship, current men’s world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson won $1,850,000 (all for charity!) in the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition skins match, and Germany’s pro soccer league Bundesliga kicked off the season restart with a weekend full of matches. Oh, and there was a NASCAR race yesterday too. Vroom vroom.

  • All of these events were, of course, held without spectators in an effort to maintain physical distancing restrictions. But the players didn’t seem to mind, and so many fans watched from home that TV viewing records were set.

Any progress from other sports?: The MLB has laid out a bunch of new rules for their players and teams for once the season starts (including no spitting and no mascots...seriously), but they’re still pleading with the players union to allow them to plan for a Fourth of July weekend start. They said the league will stand to lose an average of $640k for every game that’s played without fans. Ouch.

Any bad news?: Just a bit. The tennis season suspension has been extended, with the WTA and ATP announcing that all tournaments until late July have been canceled. The LPGA moved their target date from June to late July as well; however, the PGA is holding fast to their June 11th start. Weird flex but okay. And the MLS pushed their training moratorium to June 1st.

Can we end on a good note?: Sure thing. Basketball superstar LeBron James hosted his Graduate Together special this weekend to give the class of 2020 a proper send off, and he invited some friends to the party. Fellow superstar athletes Megan Rapinoe and Alex Rodriguez appeared to say a few words, and former president Barack Obama gave the commencement speech. Cue tears.

🏆What to expect when we’re expecting…

May 18, 2020
KOJI SASAHARA/AP
KOJI SASAHARA/AP

The GIST: In a normal world, we’d be just two months away from the Olympics. But this isn’t a normal world, is it? Instead, we’re looking ahead to summer 2021 and trying to figure out what the heck to expect from the Olympic Games.

What do we know?: On Friday, Olympic organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto gave an update on the postponed Games and warned us that next summer’s Games will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen...but not in a good way. Muto was vague on details but let us know that the 2020 Games will be unconventional. How ominous.

  • Muto said the committee is exploring cuts to certain traditional features of the Games, for both cost-saving and health measures. Most cuts have yet to be decided, but he did mention the torch relay as the first victim. They’ll need a lot of cuts to cover the loss incurred from postponing, which is estimated to be between $2 to $6 billion. Seems like losing money is v. on trend these days (isn’t that right, MLB?).

What don’t we know?: A lot. There are still a ton of questions surrounding the Tokyo Olympics, including how many athletes will be able to compete, where they will stay and, most importantly, how everyone will be kept safe and healthy throughout the Games. And let’s not forget, the Beijing Winter Olympic Games are still set to start just six months later, in February 2022 — while very exciting for fans, it could be a logistical nightmare for organizers.

  • The other big question: will the Tokyo Olympics even happen? This global pandemic is full of unknowns, so unfortunately there’s still a chance for cancelation. But with a potential loss of tens of billions (yup, that’s a “b”) if it's canceled, you better believe the organizing committee will do its very best to stick to the plan.

🏆A celebration to last throughout the years

May 18, 2020
SEAN M. HAFFEY/GETTY IMAGES
SEAN M. HAFFEY/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: It’s mid-May, which means we’re smack-dab in the middle of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month in the US and Asian Heritage Month in Canada. So today we’re celebrating the successes of five North American female athletes of Asian descent who’ve proven their power on a global scale.

Michelle Kwan: This beloved retired American figure skater is hands down one of the greatest figure skaters of all time. Known for her consistency and creative expression (including her beautiful spiral), Kwan is the most decorated figure skater in US history, with nine US championships, five World championships and two Olympic medals under her belt, er, dress.

Julie Chu: Sticking with the ice theme, retired hockey player Julie Chu became the first Asian American to play for the US Olympic hockey team, in 2002. The former captain is a four-time Olympic medalist, five-time World champion and Harvard graduate. What, like it’s hard?

  • Chu and her wife, former Canadian hockey captain Caroline Ouellette (talk about keeping your enemy close…), now coach university hockey together and just welcomed baby number two to the family. S’cute!

Carol Huynh: You don’t want to mess with Carol Huynh. The now retired wrestler is a two-time Olympic medalist (winning gold in Beijing in 2008 before earning a bronze in London four years later) and 11-time national champion. Huynh was her family’s first Canadian-born child after they immigrated as refugees from Vietnam.

Mohini Bhardwaj: Who doesn’t love a comeback kid? Born in Philadelphia to an Indian father and Russian mother, Mohini Bhardwaj was an All-American gymnast at UCLA and a star on the national team before an injury forced her to retire in 2002.

  • Eager to get back competing but low on funds, Bhardwaj found unlikely financial support from actress Pamela Anderson and was able to return to glory and become the first Indian-American gymnast to medal at the Olympics, winning a silver in Athens in 2004. Amazing.

Chloe Kim: At the ripe age of 17, American Chloe Kim became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal when she won gold in the women’s snowboard halfpipe in 2018, taking both the snowboarding world and Twitter world by storm (thanks to her relatable AF tweets).

  • According to her, she is, “so proud to get to represent the Asian American community every time I go out and compete. We're badass, and I hope that the world sees that. It's an honor I wear proudly.”

🏆Let’s get it started

May 14, 2020
ROBERT CIANFLONE/FIFA
ROBERT CIANFLONE/FIFA

The GIST: Okay, don’t look now, but we’re pretty sure we see live sports on the horizon. Like, real, professional, honest-to-goodness sports.

Sports? Here? Now?!: Yes! Let’s start with soccer. Germany’s Bundesliga starts on Saturday, and even if you don’t sprechen Deutsch, you can still be super pumped. Meanwhile, England’s Premier League is looking at a June 1st return, while Italy’s Serie A has a start date set for June 13th.

  • Here in North America, the MLS is looking at running a tournament in Florida, while the NWSL is ramping up to next month’s season start date (knock on wood), allowing individual, on-field practice for players (in states that have relaxed lockdowns, of course). There are still a ton of safeguards in place to ensure safety though, including wearing face masks everywhere but on the field, temperature checks and goal post sanitization.

Cool! Any other sports?: Golf is back too. And it’s a pretty safe sport to play right now considering it’s played outdoors, has individualized gameplay and most players wear gloves anyway. The South Korean women’s golf tour starts today (!!!) with the KLPGA Championship in Seoul. Although no North Americans are playing, three of the top 10 women’s players in the world are, so we’re v. much here for it.

  • The PGA has had a June 11th start date set for a while, and now they have a pretty comprehensive safety plan to ensure everything goes well. They’ve chartered planes for all players, caddies and tour officials to travel to the first four tournaments and will house everyone in a “bubble” environment with regular health checks and testing.

Well, that’s exciting: Tell us about it! The MLB has a tenative plan to return, too. The proposal, which has the 2020 season starting during the Fourth of July long weekend (fun, right?), was approved by team owners on Monday, and now they just need the players’ union to agree (which might not be so easy).

  • The NHL still hasn’t made any decisions, but league commissioner Gary Bettman has high hopes the season will be salvaged. And this week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that he’ll make a decision on the season in the next two to four weeks. So, an announcement announcing another announcement. Cool.

Weird. But you’re telling me I get to watch sports this weekend, right?: We sure are. In addition to soccer and KLPGA, four of the best male golfers in the world are facing off in a charity skins match called TaylorMade Driving Relief. Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will play against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff for $3 million (all of which will go to charity). Practice your golf claps tonight.

🏀And that’s the tea

May 14, 2020
PATRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES
PATRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: New Orleans Pelicans star rookie Zion Williamson is in some hot water. And he’s taking the NCAA down with him.

Sounds drama. What happened?: Last April, first-overall NBA draft pick Zion signed a five-year contract with sports marketing agent Gina Ford of Prime Sports Marketing. A month later, he was allegedly poached by rival agency CAA (aka the biggest talent agency in the world), and in an effort to void his Prime contract, he sued them.

  • Ford didn’t want anything to do with it, so she countersued Williamson and CAA for $100 million, citing breach of contract, among other things. Ford’s team knew they lost a golden goose in Zion, so they planned to do whatever they could to make that money back.

So how is the NCAA involved?: Well, Ford and Prime Sports just submitted a new filing in the lawsuit, and they want all the tea spilled. They’re asking Williamson to admit that his parents accepted money and benefits from Duke University (where he played for one year before being drafted), Nike and Adidas. All of which was, at the time, very illegal.

  • To make matters worse, Ford’s legal team is now looking to depose legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski (the winningest coach in men’s NCAA Division I basketball history). With Coach K under oath, a lot of secret info on the dirty money dealings of an NCAA dynasty could be dished. Sounds like a case for Jessica Pearson.