SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: (Singing) Ah, to remember the kind of September.... The seasons are flipping, and so Serena's poised to win again, not just today. NFL season opens in earnest, and the real Olympic spirit still lives on in London. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Seasons are flipping, I fear you are too.
SIMON: Tom, I'll make the jokes here, please.
GOLDMAN: Thank you.
SIMON: We have a couple of hard news stories to get right into this morning. There's two men's semi-final matches and the woman's final still to go at the U.S. Open, but play's being delayed because of the weather. This being noted, is Serena Williams just in another dimension than any other player at this point?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, and she's going to have to be in another dimension tomorrow because the finals has been postponed because of the weather to Sunday. You know, yes, another dimension. Consider what Sara Errani said. She's the player Williams stumped in the semifinals in a little over an hour. Errani suggested maybe it's time for Serena Williams to try the men's draw, at least at lower levels. Since losing in the first round of the French Open in May, Williams is 25-1. She has won Wimbledon, an Olympic gold.
She plays the number one seed Victoria Azarenka in the final. Williams holds a 9-1 record in matches versus Azarenka; a really good chance for a tenth win tonight.
SIMON: And the other breaking story this morning is that Stephen Strasburg's season is over. The Washington Nationals' star, who helped pitch them to a multi-game lead of the National League East is going to be set down for the rest of the year, including the playoffs. It's his first season back after elbow surgery; what they call Tommy John surgery. And Davey Johnson, the manager, indicated that that was the day-to-day speculation alone that was causing some - on top of everything else - that was causing wear on Stephen Strasburg.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, and this follows a horrible outing by Strasburg last night, in which the Nats lost. Yeah, it wasn't the elbow. It was all the talk about the shutdown that was getting him down. He felt that he was letting his team down by not being available during the post-season, in this breakout season for the Nats. So, yes, manager Davey Johnson said let's just shut it down now.
SIMON: I want to contrast this with how Atlanta has treated Kris Medlen recovering from the same surgery. They brought him along in the bullpen. They didn't use him as a starter until July 31st. He's now the hottest pitcher in baseball. He hasn't given up a hit in five games. If Atlanta wins that wildcard spot in the National League East, Kris Medlen is going to be in the playoffs. Was that, with the advantage of hindsight, a wiser way of handling the pitcher coming back from this surgery?
GOLDMAN: Well, yes. You mentioned the ifs. If Atlanta gets to the post-season, if Atlanta wins the World Series and Medlen contributes, yes, it was a good way, the better way perhaps. If that doesn't happen, and if Washington wins the World Series without Strasburg, and Strasburg leads the Nats to multiple World Series over the next five to ten years, then no. The Nats were, you know, took the better path. We have to see how this plays out. Obviously, there is anger in Washington for shutting Strasburg down. Win now is the cry. But there are also lots of case studies of guys who pitched too much too soon after surgery and never were the same as they were before the injury. Do you risk blowing up Stephen Strasburg's career because of that need to win now? Fascinating dilemma.
SIMON: Yeah. Well, you mentioned the need to win now. I mean, the way baseball franchises trade and interact and the way - the New York Yankees aren't in the playoffs every year - this could be the Nationals one chance.
GOLDMAN: It could be. But I think their general manager is banking on the fact that this guy is a phenom, he's still in his early 20s. If you tend to him properly, he's going to give you more chances in the future.
SIMON: Payton Manning in a Denver Broncos' uniform. Is that enough to put them into the Super Bowl? Well, he's got to have some people to throw the ball to; to quote, you know, Gisele Bundchen, "quarterbacks can't throw and catch at the same time." But do you see Denver winding up there?
GOLDMAN: Still strange to see him in an orange jersey, that's for sure. You know, huge spotlight on Payton Manning, and the consensus is that he's still got magic left in that right arm, and in his head; a great strategist, of course, and there's talk even that he could lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl.
SIMON: Finally, Tom, the Olympic season ends tomorrow with the close of the Paralympics Games in London. However, not a lot of us living here in the United States may know that.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, because Americans will have gotten about five and a half hours of highlight shows. No live broadcast of events by the time this thing ends. Compare that to the host country, Great Britain, which will end up showing a reported 500 hours on several platforms. Obviously, our TV networks don't think viewers would be that interested. But consider how coverage done the right way might change that interest level. And here's an excerpt from the magazine City Journal.
(Reading) The Paralympics are an invitation to watch, ask and learn. As people have asked questions, the press and the athletes have obliged with answers. How is it that a person who can't walk can control a horse? How can a person propel herself in a pool using only her legs? With knowledge and familiarity come respect and admiration. Viewers watching women's swimmers on TV in a London bar last Thursday were marveling not at a freak show but at physical prowess.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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