The Perfect Catch

February 11, 2020

Good Morning Team 👋

Two things before sports:

– The Perfect Catch: We can dial up the newsletter and throw it deep every morning, but spam filters might intercept the pass. To help make every morning a perfect catch, move today’s letter to your primary inbox and add team@thesportsletter.com to your address book. Catch, secured. 💪

– Changes Coming: Just like your team’s fresh new jerseys, we’re getting a new look to improve some features and readability. Keep your eyes peeled. 👀

Letter Rip!

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XFL

Photo: Michael Owens / Getty Images

XFL: Week 1 Review

How the XFL Blew Out the AAF in One Weekend

As you already know, Vince McMahon’s XFL made its Week 1 debut over the weekend on the heels of Super Bowl LIV. And yes, it felt crazy to begin another new football season just five days after crowning a champion, just like last year’s AAF, but America loves football. How much it loves football will be the question.

The Week 1 XFL ratings were similar to last year’s AAF experiment. Saturday’s opening game on ABC saw an average of 3.3 million viewers, and the game peaked at 4 million by the fourth quarter. That’s more than the Raptors-Celtics NBA game on Christmas Day, but it’s still similar to last year’s AAF opener. The two ESPN broadcasts averaged 2.9 million.

What the AAF didn’t do? Sell as many tickets in their entire 2019 season as the XFL did in Week 1. You read that correctly. All four XFL arenas nearly breached 20,000 ticket holders, including some games in D.C. and Seattle where tickets were more than $100 apiece.

What did we learn? There’s plenty of “traditional football” still in tact, but it’s faster and more entertaining thanks to the rules and style of play. Also, teams in struggling/non-existent football markets, like Washington D.C. and St. Louis, found another hometown hopeful to root for…

Reader Thoughts

– “Felt like a fast paced college game where everyone cared on a different level; players, coaches, and fans. It’s also very interesting and encouraging to see DC fans (transplants from all over) rally to the Defenders…” — Pete (Falls Church, Virginia)

– “St. Louis has football again and the Battlehawks are 1-0! I love it! — Billy (St. Louis, MO)

Most spring football leagues have looked like a hit on opening weekend, but we’ll see if the XFL rallies together 3-4 million viewers and packed stadiums again in Week 2.

Additional Storylines
Front Office Sports: Slow & Steady is XFL’s Approach to Growing Fanbase
Yahoo! Sports: The XFL Had a Good Opening Weekend, But Can It Build On That Success?

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MLB

Photo: Patrick Smith / Getty Images

A New MLB Postseason?

Increase From 10 to 14 Teams & Opponent Selection Show

Love it or hate it, baseball keeps changing. The game’s purists haven’t had much fun lately, from home run spikes to sign-stealing, and it could get worse. Monday’s news broke after a discussion last month where Major League Baseball proposed an expanded postseason format as part of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The current CBA expires in 2021, but the new playoff concept has many in an uproar with changes to the number of teams and a choose-your-opponent wild-card round.

New Postseason Format (TBD)– 10 to 14 Teams: Seven AL and NL teams, including three divisional winners and four wild cards.

– Selection Show: The top AL and NL teams would receive a first-round bye, but the No. 2 seed in each division would choose their opponent among the bottom three wild card teams for a Best-of-3 series. The 3-seed would choose second, pitting the final two teams against each other. The selection show would take place on the final night of the regular season.

– Home-Field Advantage: The higher seeds in the wild card round would host all three games.

Additional Reads
SI: Why MLB is Proposing Expanded Postseason

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NCAAB

Photo: Rey Del Rio / Getty Images

Fall of the Spartans

Preseason No. 1 Drops From Top-25

From Final Four hopes to a three-game skid, the Michigan State Spartans have fallen out of the Top-25. MSU hasn’t won in the month of February, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier this week. They’ll travel to #22 Illinois tonight (9:00 pm ET) before hosting 9th-ranked Maryland on Saturday. Meanwhile, the top nine teams remained the same in the men’s rankings. The women’s Top-10 got a shakeup but still features the same top three. Here’s the latest with one month until conference tournaments:

Men’s AP Top-10
1. Baylor (22-1) | 2. Gonzaga (25-1) | 3. Kansas (20-3) | 4. San Diego State (24-0) | 5. Louisville (21-3) | 6. Dayton (21-2) | 7. Duke (21-3) | 8. Florida State (20-4) | 9. Maryland (19-4) | 10. Seton Hall (18-5) | Full Top-25 (AP)

Women’s AP Top-10
1. South Carolina (23-1) | 2. Baylor (21-1) | 3. Oregon (22-2) | 4. NC State (22-1) | 5. UConn (20-3) | 6. Mississippi State (22-3) | 7. UCLA (21-2) | 8. Stanford (21-3) | 9. Louisville (21-3) | 10. Maryland (20-4) | Full Top-25 (ESPN)

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COLLEGE HOOPS HIGHLIGHTS 

Monday’s Marquee Matchups

Men: Duke Stays Dominant
In the aftermath of an overtime thriller on Saturday, #7 Duke stayed dominant with a 70-65 win over #8 Florida State on Monday. The Blue Devils have now won six straight and they won’t face a ranked team again until the ACC conference tourney. (ACCN)

Men: Baylor Belongs at No. 1
Top-ranked Baylor improved to 22-1 on the year after a win over in-state rival Texas (52-45). The Bears have now won 21 straight after starting the year 1-1, but they’ll get a test against #14 West Virginia this Saturday. (Stadium)

Women: South Carolina Upends UConn
#1 South Carolina beat #5 UConn for the first time in program history on Monday night (70-52). It marked the third loss of 15-plus for UConn this year, which is the most in a single season under head coach Geno Auriemma since 1993. (ESPN)

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PRO SPORTS HIGHLIGHTS

Win Streak Watch

🏀 NBA: Raptors Break Canadian Record
Toronto’s win streak reached new heights after beating the Timberwolves on Monday in D’Angelo Russell’s Minnesota debut (137-126). The Raptors’ 15-game win streak is a record for a Canadian franchise across the NBA, MLB, or NHL. (HoH)

🏒 NHL: Lightning Survive for 7th Straight
Nikita Kucherov was the hero for Tampa Bay on Monday. The Lightning beat the Blue Jackets (2-1) thanks to Kucherov’s OT winner just 31 seconds into the extra period and extended their league-best win streak to seven games. (NHL)

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HEADLINES
Oakland Police Officer Suing Raptors President Masai Ujiri for Alleged Assault
(USA Today)

USA Basketball Reveals Preliminary Olympic Roster
(Bleacher Report)

Angels GM Confirms Deal With Dodgers for Joc Pederson Now Off
(ESPN)

Former Chargers QB Philip Rivers ‘Officially’ Becomes Free Agent
(CBS Sports)

Penguins Acquire LW Jason Zucker From Wild in Exchange for 2 Players
(Sports Illustrated)

Former MLB Pitcher Sues Astros for Sign-Stealing, Ruining Career
(NBC Sports)

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