Expression Blend

The real impact of the new mega-sports app, plus Phil Mickelson’s lofty claim


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Good morning! How many holes-in-one do you claim?

On Your TV: The streaming solution or a waste of money?

Every year seems to bring a new quasi-solution to the neverending morass of watching live sports on television. Where do I find this game? Is that streaming? Oh, didn’t you hear all those games are on [insert app] now? The cable bundle is dying, and no one has been able to actually replace it. 

Yesterday brought another “solution,” which could have a massive effect on the industry at large: ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery are teaming up to launch a new, stand-alone streaming app to air their combined content. Two initial questions, answered: 

  • Wait, what’s included? Every ESPN property and every Fox sports channel, plus Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS and even truTV. So, every essential sports channel outside of CBS, NBC and Amazon.
  • How much will it cost? Unclear as of now. We’ll get to this in a sec.. 

So is this The Big One? Or is it just more of the same? I asked Andrew Marchand, The Athletic’s newest sports business and media reporter, to help us contextualize: 

This could be so impactful on multiple levels. What are the most important cascading effects of this, to you?
Andrew: I think it feels impactful, but it is not actually going to be. At least in the near term. The reason? It will probably cost in the $50 range per month. You can basically receive everything it is offering [plus non-sports content] for $72 a month with YouTube TV.

This might be a little simplistic, but: Are we just recreating cable?
Andrew: That’s the lede to my column, so good question. Yes and no. We are starting the Great Rebundling. There are combo deals everywhere, but we are not yet to a point that we are solving the sports fans’ problem of simplifying their viewing experience and doing it at an affordable price. This is a step in that direction, but further consolidation is needed.

We are calling this The Great Rebundling from now on, by the way. See our full explainer here, and don’t miss Andrew’s upcoming column on the move.

News to Know

Kershaw’s return
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will return to the team in 2024, a source confirmed to The Athletic, choosing to stick with the only franchise he’s known for his entire career instead of signing with his hometown Texas Rangers. Maybe more interesting: The 35-year-old’s new contract has a player option for 2025, which means he could share a rotation with Shohei Ohtani. In other franchise icon news, Jose Altuve agreed to a five-year, $125 million extension with the Astros.

A twice-botched transfer
New USMNT striker Duncan McGuire has had quite a week. McGuire, who began the year at MLS side Orlando City, thought he was heading to second-tier English team Blackburn Rovers twice since last week, only to find himself stationed in England with no team to play for. The first agreement fell apart due to financial issues, but the second might be more painful: Administrative officials at Blackburn accidentally clicked “Save” on the transfer submission instead of “Submit,” and subsequently missed the transfer deadline because of it. 

Tom Bogert and Oliver Kay have a must-read story of how the entire saga has unfolded. The good news? Blackburn is appealing the decision and hopes to have McGuire in uniform shortly.

More news

  • Two big hires for Jim Harbaugh in L.A.: Jesse Minter will follow him from Michigan as defensive coordinator, while longtime honorary Harbaugh brother Greg Roman will serve as offensive coordinator.
  • Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman backtracked a bit yesterday, saying that she would welcome the A’s to Las Vegas after previously saying the team should stay in Oakland.
  • Wrigley Field will host the 2025 Winter Classic, the NHL announced yesterday. Already excited for that.

Pulse Polls: Phil Mickelson’s outrageous claim

For the last 24 hours, I’ve tried to wrap my head around the number and simply cannot get there. 

In this year’s LIV Golf media guide, Phil Mickelson claims — as spotted by Golf Digest — to have 47 holes-in-one to his name. Forty-seven! Just … how? The thoughts rattling around my brain: 

  • OK yes, this man does play golf for a living. Maybe that’s right. If I possessed professional-golf talent, played over 200 rounds per year and was 53 years old, maybe there’s a chance I’d get 47.
  • But then we look around. Tiger Woods’ count? Twenty, with three in PGA events. Arnold Palmer had 21. Jack Nicklaus also claims 20. How is Phil doubling these guys despite having “only” five in PGA events? The only pro golfer to publicly claim more is former pro Mancil Davis with 51, and his claim was dubious enough to earn a polygraph test (he passed).

When I read about Mickselson’s claim, the first thing I thought of was former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il’s supposed 38-under-par round, which was allegedly the Dear Leader’s first time playing golf and featured five holes-in-one. 

Am I a hater? Maybe for that comparison, but I still find Mickelson’s ace tally hard to believe. That means it’s time for a Pulse Poll: Do you believe Phil Mickelson? 

  • Yes. The man is a golfing legend. 
  • No. This is unprovable. 

Make your voice heard here.

Watch This Game

NCAAM: No. 16 Alabama at No. 12 Auburn
7 p.m. ET on ESPN2
The Crimson Tide might not be as good as they were last year, but they’re still leading the SEC standings — for now. The rivalry is great no matter what, but conference stakes make it better. 

NBA: Pelicans at Clippers
10 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Clips might be the best team in the NBA, which is still sort of jarring. The Pelicans are 29-21 and feel like they could beat anyone or lose to anyone on any night. This should be fun.

Pulse Picks

Kyle Shanahan is watching you. If you’re a 49ers employee, that is. In the team facility, the coach carries on a tradition his father started: having live feeds from every meeting room streamed to the head coach’s office. I started this story thinking Shanahan was insane and left thinking it actually made sense. Great Super Bowl week read here.

Is Brock Purdy the new Drew Brees? Matt Barrows asked Brees. Interesting story. 

Did you know the Chiefs and 49ers aren’t staying on The Strip in Vegas? Tashan Reed has a helpful local lesson on where the teams are staying — and why. 

LeBron’s annual pressure play for roster changes is in full swing, as Sam Amick reports, but it’s unclear if James is fully endorsing a move for Dejounte Murray yet. 

Steph Yang has a really interesting look at the shoe brand designing the soccer cleat made specifically for women

Bianca Smith made history as the first Black woman to coach in pro baseball. After a two-year stint with the Red Sox, she turned down a contract extension for a more daring route. Brittany Ghiroli talked with Smith about her unexpected path and future

Speaking of TV news and the Super Bowl: Richard Deitsch did a fun Q&A with the CBS announcing crew, which seems to be handling the outside criticism just fine. Also, I want to gamble with Tony Romo.

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(Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)

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