Crime And Scandal Top Sports Headlines

On Saturday's docket in sports: the Penn State scandal, college basketball and the kidnapping and rescue of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. Guest host Linda Wertheimer talks sports with NPR's Tom Goldman.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

NPR's Tom Goldman is here with us to talk more about the game, the scandal, and maybe even other sports news of the week. Tom, good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Now, as we just heard Jeff Brady say, the Penn State fans are hoping the game will provide a little ray of light in a dark week. Do you think that's realistic?

GOLDMAN: You know, never underestimate the power of a major sporting event, at the very least, to distract. And for three hours today, there's a good chance that'll happen, especially when the action heats up. Still, it'll be impossible to totally block out what's going on. Joe Paterno won't be there for the first time since he arrived at Penn State in 1950. Another recognizable fixture on the sidelines will be gone - Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, a guy fans could always pick up - he's tall and has bright red hair. He was put on indefinite administration leave yesterday because of his role in the scandal. And then there should be a reminder in the stands at Beaver Stadium. At big home games, Penn State fans often stage what they call a white-out - they all wear white shirts. Today, they're calling for a blue-out - blue T-shirts with a stop child abuse message written on the front. Actually, the entire message is: Stop Child Abuse, Blue-Out Nebraska.

WERTHEIMER: So, what do you think that this home game is going to mean for the players? The fact that it is at home, is that going to be better for them?

GOLDMAN: I think so. You know, having a supportive crowd is really important today. The players are having to work through some very heavy stuff very quickly and then they're expected to perform on top of that. Their limited comments this week have indicated they're rallying together. But you have to think there are differences of opinion, just as they are in the State College community at large about Paterno's firing. The players, obviously, have been dedicated to him - a great football coach - but some may also believe his firing was justified because he apparently was one of many who didn't take decisive action in stopping Jerry Sandusky's alleged crimes.

WERTHEIMER: So, do you think that after the emotion of today's game, is that going to sort of move the whole community past this event?

GOLDMAN: Well, I think there's the hope that that happens. You know, new coach Tom Bradley was quoted this week as saying the game is going to start the healing process and start to get things back on track. That's premature. You only start healing after the illness has run its course, and in State College, it hasn't by a long shot. No doubt, lawsuits are coming. And you've got investigations underway that should be asking some very pointed questions, questions about Jerry Sandusky and his Second Mile program for troubled youth. When he started it in 1977, what was his motivation? He was widely praised for being a kind and caring man. But the kids he alleged abused were from Second Mile - underprivileged kids, perhaps more vulnerable than others. You've got questions about a police investigation of Sandusky back in 1998 that went nowhere, and his alleged actions continued for a decade after that. And, you know, of course, the questions about who knew what and when? Was there a widespread cover-up? Why did so many people inside Penn State and out either not report things they saw or report them minimally? Now, Linda, there's tough talk about rooting out what happened. Can we trust the investigations to do that, when in such a small town dominated by the university and the football program, there are lots of potential conflicts of interest.

WERTHEIMER: Right.

GOLDMAN: So, you know, healing is a ways away.

WERTHEIMER: Well, let's move on to some good news. A happy outcome to a scary story about Venezuelan Major League Baseball player.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Venezuelan police rescued Wilson Ramos yesterday. He's the young catcher for the Washington Nationals who had been kidnapped earlier in the week. According a Venezuelan government official, Ramos was rescued by police and National Guard commandos in a mountainous area of the country. Major League Baseball said Ramos was the first active player kidnapped. It's been a growing issue in Venezuela for the dozens of young athletes from that country who play in the big leagues and for their families. Obviously, the players have lots of money, the kidnappings are because of that, and they haven't always ended well like with Ramos. In a couple of cases, the kidnapping victims have been killed. So, there is relief today from Venezuela to D.C.

WERTHEIMER: The NBA lockout - it's in a holding pattern until next week while everybody looks at the owners' proposal. But who needs the NBA? College...

GOLDMAN: Yeah, right.

WERTHEIMER: ...basketball started last night with a big spectacle.

GOLDMAN: Oh yeah. The college basketball season - last night in Coronado, California, it was a great grand confluence of sports and patriotism, what this country does best. North Carolina played Michigan State on Veteran's Day on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, the ship from which Osama bin Laden was buried at sea. President Obama sat courtside. The players had USA on the backs of their jerseys instead of their names. It was indeed a spectacle. And North Carolina lived up to its number one national ranking with a 67-55 win. Luckily, the weather cooperated. There were no reports of seasickness because the ship was docked.

WERTHEIMER: Now, finally, it has been a while since Tiger Woods was on the good news side of the ledger, but he's doing well in Australia?

GOLDMAN: Well, he was doing well.

WERTHEIMER: Oh, dear.

GOLDMAN: He led Australian Open by a stroke at the halfway mark after two rounds. The golf world was starting to buzz about Tiger being back. He came out for the third round and proceeded to card one over par bogeys on his first three holes. An awful start by his own admission, which he never recovered from. But signs of life this week from Tiger.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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