Week In Sports: Leagues Toe The Line Between Health And Sports
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The fact that there are no sports doesn't mean it's not time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Pro sports and public health; are leagues measuring up; and remembering a Harlem Globetrotter legend. We're joined now by NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks for being with us, my man.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: How are you?
SIMON: Well, it should have been opening day for Major League Baseball this week. In my dreams, the Cubs defeated the Brewers - matter of fact, a three-game sweep - MLB streamed past opening day games and maybe celebrate a little too much with the new agreement on salaries and free agency.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it's an agreement prompted by this interrupted season, Scott. It covers issues like service time for players, salaries, the draft, but, you know, the big point is it's an agreement with compromise by both players and management. Baseball knows squabbling over huge sums of money is not a good look right now when so many people are suffering. The game hopes to be back in mid-May. The agreement reportedly says nothing will happen until critical public health targets are hit, including an end to bans on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions in the U.S. and Canada.
SIMON: Of course, the International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Summer Games until next year. And in NBA news, Steph Curry did a very good interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci. What can I tell you? He can put me out of this job. I can't put Steph Curry out of his job. We've got a clip, don't we?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You haven't been working on your 35-foot shot, Scott?
SIMON: Well, I'm cooped up in the apartment, otherwise I would be.
GOLDMAN: It was a hit. Curry's representatives reached out and Fauci said, yeah, I'll talk to you. Nearly 50,000 people watched live on Instagram Live and including many young NBA fans, a demographic that might not watch daily White House briefings or be on the CDC website all day. And they learned. They learned from Curry's questions and Fauci's answers, like this one when Curry asked, is coronavirus different from the flu?
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
ANTHONY FAUCI: The reason it's different is that it's very, very much more transmissible than flu and, more importantly, it's significantly more serious.
GOLDMAN: Now, Scott, one side note - people who watched this saw that mini basketball hoop on the wall above Dr. Fauci.
GOLDMAN: And according to one of his assistants, it was not a prop. It's a permanent fixture in the office.
SIMON: I have been in his office, yes.
GOLDMAN: Did you see it? Did you shoot on it?
SIMON: I did not. No, I did not. I tower over Dr. Fauci. I dunked.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Well, let me tell you, they told me he's a longtime - a lifetime sports fan, basketball and baseball. And he was team captain on the basketball team at Regis High School in New York City. They actually sent me an action photo of Fauci dribbling between two bigger defenders. And, Scott, maybe I'm projecting, but he sure looks like the tenacious kid who'd be voted most likely to lead the fight against a pandemic.
SIMON: That's - he's John Stockton. You know, he uses his elbows and sinks those long ones.
SIMON: Is the NFL a little out of step compared to the other leagues?
GOLDMAN: You know, a little. The NFL was the one major pro sports league that didn't have to shut down games because this is the off season. But this week, they said the draft is going on, and there was a warning the commissioner issued. He said if people criticize that plan, they could face disciplinary action. General managers don't like the plan. So, you know, the lack of squabbling I mentioned with baseball seems to be happening a bit with the NFL.
SIMON: The great Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters died at the age of 77. A great athlete and a great entertainer and a symbol, wasn't he?
GOLDMAN: He really was. You know, in a 2016 USA Today column, he wrote about the team's bigger mission. The all-black Globetrotters faced racism often in the segregated South. Neal said the team helped ease racial tensions actually. He wrote this - even if we once weren't welcomed in restaurants and hotels, we have always been welcomed on the court in front of people who wanted to have a good time.
SIMON: Yeah. Well - and he gave that to a lot of people.
SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.