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Good morning! Remember ESPN’s “Playmakers”?
While You Were Sleeping
Still the same old Angels
How many times can we do this bit? It feels old at this point. And yet, it keeps happening. Two incredible, independent facts about last night’s Angels-Mariners game:
- Shohei Ohtani started the game on the mound, throwing four scoreless innings. He also hit his MLB-leading 40th home run. He remains the unicorn. As MLB researcher Sarah Langs pointed out, Ohtani is the first player with a stolen base and a home run in a game he started on the mound since Mudcat Grant did it in 1964.
- The Angels lost, 5-3, thanks to Cade Marlowe’s ninth-inning grand slam.
What more can Ohtani do? Throw a complete game? Duplicate himself and bat twice in the lineup?
Since going all in at the trade deadline, the Angels have lost three straight. Go Groomsmen.
Real Live Football
We’re so back
Last night, the feeling was crisper than ever: We’re back. The long, football-less drought is over. We had real NFL players playing on a real field.
Then 30 minutes elapsed, and another familiar feeling set in: This is preseason football. The Jets and Browns went toe-to-toe in Cleveland’s 21-16 win with lineups full of backups. They’re important reps for guys trying to make an impression, but as far as meaningful football goes, this isn’t it.
Some actual worthy observations, though:
- The Browns may have something in Dorian Thompson-Robinson? The rookie quarterback from Big Ten powerhouse UCLA was competent in the win, something that can’t be said for Kellen Mond, who started the game. Expect Thompson-Robinson to get more playing time this preseason.
- Zach Wilson … still has work to do. It’s easy to forget about Wilson amid the Aaron Rodgers hoopla, but this is a mega-talented No. 2 draft pick we’re talking about here. He showed a flash of brilliance — a 57-yard completion — while also looking shaky on other throws. It was better than last year’s performance, I guess.
Big Ten expansion moves forward
The conference authorized commissioner Tony Pettiti to seek more information on adding Oregon and Washington, sources confirmed to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach. It’s a narrower focus than yesterday’s report, which included the possibility of adding Stanford and Cal.
Diana Taurasi is still electric
The WNBA legend surpassed 10,000 points in vintage fashion last night, scoring 42 points — the first time she’s scored more than 40 in a game since 2010 — in a win over the Dream. Taurasi is the first player in league history to eclipse 10,000 points, still clearly going strong at 41 years old. Read more on her ridiculousness here.
Brady joins the fad
Tom Brady is the latest famous American to buy into a lower-tier English soccer club, becoming a minority owner of Birmingham City this week. The club plays one division below the Premier League. It sounds like Brady will be a hands-on owner, too.
That time ESPN made a serious drama
There is a certain generation of sports fans who will read every word about the ESPN show “Playmakers,” yours truly chief among them. It occupies such a rare space: It was a smash hit, it got canceled after one season and, looking back, it’s incredible the show even got made.
For those unfamiliar, “Playmakers” was a dark, gritty, envelope-pushing show focused on a fictional pro football team. Issues covered: substance abuse, domestic violence, homophobia and more. It was good TV.
Chris Vannini has a must-read oral history on the show today, which of course I devoured. Some favorite nuggets:
- The famous scene in which Leon (played by Russell Hornsby) and Demetrius (Omar Gooding) raced had some real-life effects. Gooding said he heard a “pop in my hamstring” on his last heat and called the scene “the most taxing thing I’d ever done.”
- The show was so popular that Tom Cruise paid for a mural of the show to stay up an extra six months because he wanted it to be in his movie “Collateral.” “That’s when I knew we were hot,” Hornsby said.
- While the show ran, ESPN gave no notes about the actual content — just the football facts. “All they cared about was making sure the numbers were right for linebackers,” said writer Michael Angeli.
There’s plenty more in the full story, including a wild moment where Warren Sapp allegedly accused one actor of “telling too much truth.” Make some time for this one today.
The Women’s World Cup has seen some incredible upsets. Who’s next? Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner break down all the knockout-round odds, and peg USWNT as upset suspect No. 1.
Meanwhile, Kimberly McCauley tries to tell us why all hope isn’t lost for USWNT yet as the team prepares for Sweden this weekend. Gulp.
Jayson Stark takes full stock of what we learned at the trade deadline and looks ahead to the postseason. He makes a compelling case for why we should be rooting for the Angels.
WWE SummerSlam is this weekend. Don’t miss our expert predictions.
I thought this was interesting: A look at how NHL teams have maximized the value of entry-level contracts.
Next season, the PGA Tour is returning to a calendar-year schedule for the first time in a decade, one of a few changes announced yesterday. Read more details — including winners and losers of the new arrangement — here.
That’s … Skip Holtz’s music? Northwestern is bringing in the former college football head coach as a special assistant while the program navigates its ongoing hazing scandal.
Georgia star linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson says there’s “no culture about speeding” in the program, which isn’t the ideal offseason headline for the two-time defending national champs.
Tickets for Lionel Messi’s first MLS road game, against FC Dallas, are going for $9,000.
(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/ USA TODAY)