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Sports struggle to find meaning without fans

Neymar will play arguably the most important soccer match of his life today — in an empty stadium in Lisbon, Portugal.

The state of play: Millions will watch on TV as the 28-year-old megastar tries to send PSG past RB Leipzig and into the club's first Champions League final, rewriting his narrative and adding to his legacy in the process.


  • But no fans will be in attendance — a surreal environment for the kind of game that Neymar, and all athletes, dream about as children.

Why it matters: Whether it's the Champions League semifinals, the NBA/NHL Finals, the World Series or the Super Bowl, career-defining moments are going to look a lot different for the foreseeable future.

  • The iconic performances that inspire documentaries will still be broadcast in real-time and preserved forever on video and in photos.
  • But the absence of fans changes how they're ultimately remembered.

The backdrop: When Neymar left Barcelona in 2017 and signed a record-breaking deal with PSG, the plan was to step out of Lionel Messi's shadow, win a Ballon d'Or, and be recognized as the best player in the world.

  • That hasn't happened. Since arriving in Paris, not only has Neymar not won a Ballon d'Or, he's faded from contention.
  • "[T]here is a sense that, when we look back on Neymar's career, we will see the flash, the glamour, the extravagance, and little or nothing more: all style, no substance; a generational talent not quite fulfilled," NYT's Rory Smith wrote back in February.
  • A Champions League title would help change the narrative and alter the trajectory of the Brazilian's still-young career.

The bottom line: Greatness in sports is determined largely by context. The roar of the crowd, the energy in the building — it sets the stage for mere humans to become immortal.

  • Without fans in the stands, some of that magic is lost. And, whether you're an athlete competing or a fan watching from home, meaning is harder to find.

Democrats demand Trump release his tax returns after explosive NYT report

Democrats called President Trump to disclose his tax returns following a New York Times report that he allegedly paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and nothing in 10 of the past 15 years.

Details: Trump said the report was "total fake news," that he's unable to release the returns as they're "under audit" by the IRS, "which does not treat me well." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement the report "provides further evidence of the clear need" for a House lawsuit to access the tax returns and "ensure the presidential audit program is functioning effectively, without improper influence."

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Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale hospitalized

Police responded to a home owned by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale in Fort Lauderdale Sunday evening after his wife called to say he "had guns and was threatening to harm himself," officers confirmed to the Sun Sentinel.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Karen Dietrich told the news outlet Parscale was taken to a hospital without incident. He "went willingly under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows police to detain a person who is potentially a threat to himself or others,” per the Sun Sentinel.

Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told Axios: "Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible."

  • Axios has contacted Fort Lauderdale for comment.

Wine country blaze prompts evacuation orders as California endures "critical" fire conditions

Firefighters in the western U.S. were facing "critical fire weather conditions," as a rapidly spreading new wildfire in Northern California prompted fresh evacuations Sunday.

Why it matters: Wildfires have burned a record 3.6 million acres in California this year, killing 26 people and razing over 7,600 structures, per Cal Fire. Utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to 11,000 customers early Sunday and planned outages for 54,000 others later in the day because of fire risks.

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TikTok beats Trump in court, ban won't take effect

A federal court judge on Sunday granted TikTok's request for a temporary restraining order against a ban by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: American will be able to continue downloading one of the country's most popular social media and entertainment apps. At least for now.

Go deeper: WH pushes to uphold TikTok ban

New York Times: Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017

The New York Times has obtained more than two decades worth tax-return data from Trump and the companies that make up his business, writing in an explosive report that the documents "tell a story fundamentally different from the one [the president] has sold to the American public."

Why it matters: The Times' bombshell report, published less than seven weeks before the presidential election, lays bare much of the financial information Trump has long sought to keep secret — including allegations that he paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and has over $300 million in personal debt obligations coming due in the next four years.

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How Trump, Biden plan to score at Tuesday's debate

President Trump has been practicing with flashcards and prepping with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before Tuesday's presidential debate

Behind the scenes: Top aides tell Axios he's been testing his attacks on the campaign trail for weeks, seeing what ignites his crowds or falls flat. One of the biggest themes Trump plans to drive home is his "tough guy" persona, which advisers see as an advantage with voters in key states.

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GOP fears Democrats will attack Amy Coney Barrett as insensitive to “the little guy"

White House aides and Senate Republicans have spent the past week readying binders full of messaging and rebuttals to guide Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a pre-Nov. 3 confirmation. "We knew for days it was going to be Amy," a Senate GOP aide involved in her confirmation process told Axios.

What we're hearing: Beyond the expected questions about her views on religion, abortion and health care, Republicans worry about Democrats painting Barrett as someone who is insensitive and unfair to “the little guy,” one source involved in the talks told Axios.

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Debate commission co-chair: We don't expect moderators to fact-check candidates

Presidential Debate Commission co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said Sunday he doesn't expect Fox News anchor Chris Wallace or any of the other moderators to fact-check President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden at the debates.

What he's saying: "There's a vast difference between being a moderator in a debate and being a reporter who is interviewing someone." Fahrenkopf Jr. said on CNN's "Reliable Sources."

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