Guns At The Game And Lessons In Sportsmanship

The sports scandal of the week continues to resonate: NBA star Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards was suspended indefinitely this week after he displayed several handguns in the Wizards' locker room. Guest host Mary Louise Kelly checks in with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman about the fallout.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly in for Scott Simon. Time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

KELLY: It's play off time in the NFL. Three of this weekend's games are do-overs from last week. And on this chilly January weekend, we've got some baseball to talk about. But first, the sports scandal of the week continues to resonate. NBA star Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards was suspended indefinitely this week after he displayed several hand guns in the Wizards' locker room.

Joining me now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Hi there.

KELLY: Hi. So last night the Wizards played their first home game without Arenas, who is their top scorer, and they actually gave their fans something to cheer about for once. What happened?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Actually an inspiring night at the Verizon Center - haven't heard those words much. It started with Washington forward Antawn Jamison grabbing a microphone and addressing the crowd before the game. He told the fans the situation with Arenas was very embarrassing, and being a positive role model is something we don't take lightly. That's what he said. Then he went out and scored 28 points and he helped lead the Wizards back from a 10 point deficit in the final quarter to beat the division leading Orlando Magic.

KELLY: Who would have thought? So�

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

KELLY: �now as we said, the NBA suspended Arenas without pay. He is now facing possible criminal charges. There's been a lot of fall-out since his suspension.

GOLDMAN: Certainly has. Last night Arenas wasn't at the Verizon Center, his image was gone as well. The Wizards removed jerseys from merchandize racks. They edited Arenas out of the team's pre-game video on the score board. And a banner on the side of the arena with his picture on it was taken down. And also yesterday, four teammates were fined $10,000 each for clowning too much with Arenas when he pantomimed shooting teammates with imaginary pistols before a game earlier this week. And then finally, Mary Louise, the Wizards coach has banned gambling on the team plane. Other teams may follow suit. A dispute over a card game involving thousands of dollars apparently prompted the fight that led to that locker room gun situation.

KELLY: Tom, I want to switch gears and look at baseball, which has had to deal, of course, with different image problems like the use of banned performance enhancing drugs.

Former homerun champion Mark McGwuire was one of the players who got caught up in that controversy. He's back in the news - and can it be true - possibly back in the game?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: We don't know about possibly in the game. Well, he is coming back this spring as a hitting coach with the St. Louis Cardinals, possibly as an active player. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa floated that idea putting him on the active roster for the playoffs, although La Russa said it was kind of tongue in cheek. Even if that doesn't happen, Big Mac will be back in the public eye. And he's been out of it pretty much since 2005, that's when he made that disastrous appearance before Congress at a hearing on steroids in baseball when he infamously clammed up and he sure sounded guilty of drug use, although nothing was ever proved.

KELLY: Okay. Well, enough about sports controversy. Let's talk actual sports. This is a big NFL weekend, postseason is here, four playoff games this weekend. Give us the rundown.

GOLDMAN: Well, three games are particularly intriguing because the teams, as you mentioned before, they played each other just last Sunday - the New York Jet stomped the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dallas Cowboys clobbered the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Green Bay Packers dominated the Arizona Cardinals.

KELLY: And what's the thinking behind all these rematches?

GOLDMAN: Well, each game has a different answer. There's no real trend really. And last week's results were somewhat skewed because Arizona and to a lesser extent Cincinnati, they didn't play all their star players for the entire games. They were resting them for the playoffs. I think full strength at home tomorrow, Arizona, despite injuries to a couple of key players, beats Green Bay. The Jets, however, are peaking at the right time. They've got a great defense and a great running attack, which is important in the postseason. I like them to win again. And Dallas/Philly, a great traditional match up, I'm going with a veteran Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb to do a turnaround from last week's disaster. He's got a heck of a lot of playoff experience. I'm taking Philly over a very hot Dallas Cowboys team.

KELLY: All right. The games to watch from NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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