Remembering Grant Wahl; are you ready for the Pro Padel League? Talks for Suns and Mercury heat up and The Match thrives under the lights
Good morning. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, December 12th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Let's start with what to make of the sad, sudden, scary death of US soccer writer Grant Wahl, who died Friday night while covering the World Cup in Qatar after he suffered what medics called a cardiac arrest. He was transferred to the hospital where he died. This is all my friends and sources have been talking about all weekend. Grant Wahl, only 49. He was very, very well-regarded. He was so good at his craft, a brilliant reporter and writer who understood soccer and the business around soccer better than anyone in my opinion. Now, Grant Wahl had been in Qatar for weeks, but reportedly had not felt well the entire trip and had visited a medical clinic where he said he was suffering from a terrible cough and other respiratory issues and cited heavy stress.
But then there was the seizure, cardiac arrest, on Friday night, just a gut punch of a loss. And there are a ton of questions about his death as Grant Wahl was not shy in speaking out against the Qatari government, including a post the day before he died, where he said the Qatari government didn't care about the death of migrant workers. And he criticized the government and its leaders. Grant Wahl's brother feels there's something not right about the death. He said his brother was healthy going over to the country, but had received death threats while there. He said straight out, "I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed." Remember prior to the US Wales match, during the first week of the World Cup Grant Wahl was initially not allowed into the stadium. He was detained for 30 minutes for wearing a shirt, depicting a soccer ball surrounded by a rainbow.
So many questions around this awful tragedy. Grant Wahl's tragic death will stay with all of us who appreciated and respected his work, who appreciated and respected his work ethic and his talents and his loss will sting for a very long time.
Let's move on. We know the buzz created by Pickleball. Well, here comes Padel. The Pro Padel League is a new North American League for the racket sport. They have announced that they'll have their first team in Los Angeles. It will be owned by EEP Capital. The venture capital firm has raised 15 million in funding to support the growth of the sport in the United States. It is one of the world's fastest-growing sports and the Pro Padel League has plans to announce five more teams in the coming weeks in cities across America. The league will begin its debut season in Miami early in 23.
So what is Padel? Padel is a mix between tennis and squash. It's usually played doubles on an enclosed court. You're surrounded by walls of glass or some other substance, but the court is about one-third of the size of a tennis court, a very fast game. I know a lot of people who love Padel and it's continuing to grow in the United States as are so many racket sports.
Let's shift over to a lot of news around the NBA. First, I keep hearing that Robert Sarver is looking for a lot of money for the Phoenix Sons and the Phoenix Mercury, and we're starting to hear a bit more about a possible deal. Two venture capitalists have submitted a bid to buy the Sons and the Mercury for $3 billion, that's according to The Wall Street Journal over the weekend. And that bid could include financing from Tech Mogul, Peter Thiel, as well as sovereign wealth funds such as the Qatar Investment Authority.
And remember, the NBA recently said it would accept investments from pension and sovereign wealth funds. So that's according to The Wall Street Journal. Sources said that the group is one of a handful of potential buyers for the sons and the Mercury. Second round bids are due in January.
Staying with the NBA, the League and the Players Association have decided to extend the December 15th deadline that each side has to give notice of plans to opt out of the CBA at the start of the '22-23 season. So talks on a new CBA are ongoing and an extension of the deadline into February is expected. So both sides have about eight weeks. The current seven-year CBA expires after the '23-24 season. But the two sides continue to talk and they want to try to reach a new long-term CBA, which of course would be very healthy for the sport. So look for the NBA and the NBPA to continue talks on a new long-term deal.
Meanwhile, viewership of the NBA continues to grow outside of North America, and Reuters reported that NBA viewership numbers in China are at levels close to where they were before Chinese State broadcaster CCTV took the NBA off the air following a 2019 controversy created by Daryl Morey's Tweet supporting Hong Kong.
Remember, after Morey tweeted in support of the protest in Hong Kong, Chinese media stopped showing NBA games and that blackout stretched out for more than two years. But viewership in China continues to grow. Overall NBA viewership outside North America continues to grow as well. The numbers were up 122% in Portugal and 81% in Italy. That's compared to the previous year. It's up 36% in Mexico and 31% in the Philippines among some other numbers. So the global growth of the NBA in a strong, strong position.
Let's shift to the NHL. More diversity when it comes to the NHL's ownership ranks. As Samantha Holloway has joined her father, David Bonderman as the co-owner of the Seattle Kraken and Holloway will assume the team seat on the NHLs Board of Governors. This is big news. Holloway becomes the NHLs third principal female team owner joining Ann Walton Kroenke at the Avalanche and Kim Pegula at the Sabres. Samantha Holloway says she plans to be fully engaged with the team. She's relocated from Denver to Seattle with her husband and two children to be an onsite presence. So a new name in the Krakens ownership group as Samantha Holloway becomes co-owner.
Here's something you rarely hear about, an NFL stadium being paid off early. Yes, the reserve funds for the Vikings US Bank Stadium has been so successful that the state of Minnesota could pay off the bonds for the six-year-old stadium this spring, 20 years ahead of schedule.
Now the Reserve Fund will hit nearly 370 million dollars and the cost to pay off the debt entirely is about 377 million dollars. So the Reserve Fund has been funded by taxes on charitable gambling, including those electronic pull tabs that were legalized by the state to pay for the state share of US Bank Stadium. So when the stadium was built, six years ago, the state issued almost 500 millions in bonds. The Vikings were responsible for the remainder of the 1.1 billion dollar cost. And now you're seeing the state successfully pay off this debt earlier than expected. It shows the success of US Bank Stadium, which really has changed. That downtown has been a facility that has really recruited and put on some of the biggest events in sports, of course, including the Super Bowl. So the success of US Bank Stadium continues.
And finally, a few notes to finish up with more signs of health around women's sports as attendance in the UK's women's Super League is up 200% compared to last year. Remember, this comes after this summer's very successful Euro 2022 success. That event drew record crowds to women's soccer matches over the summer and they're continuing to come out and support women's soccer in the UK.
And finally, the seventh iteration of The Match unfolded Saturday evening. And I frankly thought it was one of the best. You had Tiger and Rory. You had them playing Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. It was 12 holes. It was at Pelican Golf Club in Florida. But the best part, it was under the lights.
The match was completely played at night. It played and showed great on TV. The setting was very cool, and I bet you'll see more and more golf events at night. It was that entertaining. So I found The Match to be a pretty good iteration in its seventh episode.
Overall, the golfers talked some trash. It was great to see Tiger out there, and again, I found it very entertaining. One of my favorites so far of all the various versions of The Match. If you watched it, let me know what you thought.
So that is your morning Buzzcast for Monday, December 12th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.