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New Sports And Old Problems At The Olympics

First, we check in with the Tokyo Olympics, which are still set to officially begin on Friday — although games will have already begun in softball and soccer, and the Tokyo organizing committee chief has stated the Olympics could still be canceled at the very last moment. It’s not been a smooth ramp-up to say the least; perhaps only the International Olympic Committee thought it would be, given that the world is still very much struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. But once major leagues and big tournaments like the Euros proved that it was possible to play through the coronavirus, it might have been impossible to stop the wheels of sports (and lucrative live television broadcast contracts) from spinning onwards. The specter of the virus will definitely make it harder for us to enjoy these games, but there is a lot to enjoy, including new sports like skateboarding and surfing. 

Next, we take one last look at the NBA Finals while they’re in progress. The Hot Takedown team disputes any notions that the Suns and the Bucks are merely lucky to have gotten this far and that super-teams like the Lakers, Nets and Clippers were preordained to be champs without their pesky injuries. The Lakers only played themselves into a seven-seed, the marquee names on the Nets played almost no time together in the regular season, and the Clippers are the Clippers. (They’re cursed until proven otherwise.) But one thing that’s great about this finals series is that it will undo a curse no matter what happens and end a title drought for either Milwaukee or Phoenix. Atlanta may still be the longest-suffering city in search of a championship, but Phoenix and Milwaukee have been out in both the metaphorical (and literal) cold for decades. As we gear up for Game 6 and potentially Game 7, it’ll be great fun to watch which fanbase finally gets to destroy its demons.  

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, in honor of the Seattle Kraken drafting their roster on Wednesday, Neil looks at the rare phenomenon of expansion drafts. There have been precious few in the age of analytics, and the most recent — when the Las Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL — was also by far and away the most successful. But then again, a league like the NHL has every incentive to build a draft process that slightly favors the expansion team so that they can be good right away. The NFL could stand to add another L.A. team and leave them to flounder for a decade or two. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.