It's Finally Football Season!

Are you ready for some football? Wait — we're not done with baseball! Or tennis, golf, or lacrosse! The pro football season opened on Thursday — with the Steeler and the Titans. But the "real" show starts Sunday with a full slate. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us to offer his random guesses — er, expert picks — about this 90th NFL season.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, Daniel Pinkwater brings us a new book to read. But first, time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Are you ready for some football? Hey, wait, we're not done with baseball or tennis, golf or lacrosse. Pro football season opened on Thursday - Steelers versus Titans - but the real show starts tomorrow with the full slate of games on Sunday.

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Looking ahead, seems to me that the surgeons at the Cleveland and Mayo Clinics have become more important to teams than their head coaches.

GOLDMAN: And the success of those surgeons may have a lot to do with who we're watching at the Super Bowl come next February. You know, Scott, no knee has become more significant to this season than the one New England quarterback Tom Brady had mangled during last season's opening game.

Now, Brady and the patriots say the knee is good to go. And if so, many are expecting great, great things from them. Now, other NFL body parts will be watching closely.

Troy Polamalu's knee - the all-pro defensive back for the defending champion Steelers - injured that knee Thursday night in that game you mentioned, the season opener. It's said to be a sprain and he'll be out three to six weeks. But that is a very important knee too.

And we'll also be watching numerous body parts on the nearly 40-year-old Brett Favre. He has surgically repaired biceps, tendon. He's playing with a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder of his throwing arm. He may have a cracked rib. If he can play, despite all that, his new team, the Minnesota Vikings, has to be a part of the championship conversation.

SIMON: Yeah. You know, a lot of people with all those injuries would stay home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: You know, you just sing "September Song" and maybe walk their dog around the block or something.

GOLDMAN: Not the warriors of the gridiron, Scott.

SIMON: Thank you for reminding me, Tom Goldman. Quick question, which I know is on your mind - no, I know your mind, it's not - is Jay Cutler an improvement over Rex Grossman?

GOLDMAN: Yes. But is he an improvement over Kyle Orton who Chicago traded to Denver to get Cutler? As you well know, being a Chicago fan, Cutler is the best young quarterback the Bears have had in years. He's got a great strong arm. He has to not to try to be too much of a gunslinger and try to win outright with his arm and risk bad throws.

He also doesn't have the receivers in Chicago that he did in Denver, but he's creating a lot of excitement in Chicago.

SIMON: Yeah, certainly is with our daughters.

Listen, last night, Derek Jeter surpassed Lou Gehrig's record for most hits by a New York Yankee, and he's still going. Now, Derek Jeter is a player you can mention in the same breath as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams.

GOLDMAN: Deservedly so. It's interesting that a number of other teams have a higher record hit total. So, the record-breaking number Jeter reached last night against the Baltimore Orioles - 2,722 - isn't all that fantastic by itself. But as you mentioned, it's the players he passed on the Yankees - Ruth, Gehrig, there's DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra - those are hallowed names.

And it's a great accomplishment for a classy player who basically is Major League Baseball's antidote to the steroids scourge still ripping through the game.

SIMON: We plan to talk about U.S. Open but been raining in New York. So, all of yesterday's matches were postponed. You've got a personal interest in one of these matches.

GOLDMAN: I certainly do. And we are very excited here in Portland, Oregon that Portland raised Travis Parrott won the mixed doubles title this week at the Open with partner Carly Gullickson. Now, here's my six degrees of separation moment.

Back in the day, Scott, I swatted the tennis ball around. A couple of years ago I found myself across the net from Travis Parrott in a pro-am tournament here in Portland. I held my own on a couple of points - meaning basically I didn't fall over. Word is that…

SIMON: You held your own on a couple of points, it takes more than a couple of points to win a tennis match, Tom. Even I know that. Go ahead.

GOLDMAN: Couple of really good points.

SIMON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: But the word is that Parrott, who teamed up with Gullickson at the U.S. Open at the last minute when his original partner pulled out, word is he had me next on the list and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: …had that call come, Scott, I would have put on a tennis dress to play in the mixed doubles at the U.S. Open.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: And I, you know, I should be careful about saying this: you would do the dress justice. I know that.

GOLDMAN: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. And, you know, he wasn't his holy graciousness. He talked about all the - he settled some old scores in that speech, didn't he?

GOLDMAN: He certainly did. I mean, that was, you know, Michael unplugged for a guy who, you know, who was criticized throughout his career for being apolitical, Michael let it fly last night. It was a very interesting speech and very heartfelt.

SIMON: Yeah. All right. NPR sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. And a good guy in a tennis dress. Thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.