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Saturday Sports: NFL back under the microscope, U.S. women's basketball team win


Thankfully, it's time for sports.


SIMON: The Mariners make the playoffs for the first time since cargo pants were popular. U.S. women's basketball team dominates again, but another horrific injury in the NFL. Tom Goldman joins us.

Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Scott, honored to follow cankerworms.

SIMON: Well, and you're setting up a new play by Tom Stoppard. So we've got you in quite a quite a cherished position. Cal Raleigh - pinch hit, one swing, walk-off home run for the Mariners last night.

GOLDMAN: According to ESPN stats, Cal Raleigh is the first player in MLB history to hit a pinch-hit, walk-off home run to clinch a playoff spot for his team - the first playoff spot for Seattle since 2001, breaks the longest postseason drought for an MLB team. Finally, Scott, baseball joy up here in the Pacific Northwest, where many of us still do wear cargo pants.

SIMON: (Laughter) Yes, I know. It's a fashion statement. Look. NFL's being questioned again about whether or not it follows its own concussion policies. The great Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a hard hit to his head after he fell after a hard tackle from the Cincinnati Bengals - diagnosed as a concussion, his second injury in just five days - raises the question, why was he even on the field?

GOLDMAN: That's a question many are asking right now. The answer we are being given by Tua, by doctors, by Miami's head coach is that when he hit his head on the turf in a game last Sunday, then got up, wobbled, stumbled, it was not a concussion but instead a back injury, to which the viewing public said, you're kidding, right? But they weren't. Tua was allowed back in the game, and he was allowed to play just days later on Thursday night. The NFL's chief medical officer says Tua was checked every day from Monday to Thursday for concussion symptoms, which apparently weren't there.

Then Thursday night, in front of a national audience, Tua gets slammed to the ground. He's lying on his back with his fingers twisted and frozen - a horrible scene - an indication of head trauma, according to neurologists, who also say once you have a concussion, it's easier to have a subsequent one. But we are being told the Thursday concussion was not his second concussion in less than a week. The NFL Players Association is investigating. We eagerly await the results. In the meantime, Scott, another concussion controversy in the NFL.

SIMON: And I got to say, it's made it hard - these controversies - these injuries to human beings have made it hard for me to watch football.

GOLDMAN: I can see why. But, you know, I don't think you're in the majority. The NFL has made it easier to love the game with all its violence by making real improvements in equipment, concussion protocols, independent neurologists at games. It seems to be enough to reassure fans that the league's on top of this issue. So it hangs on to its status as the country's No. 1 spectator sport. Whether it stays popular as a sport to play might be another thing. You can bet a new batch of parents out there watched Tua this week and said, nope, that's not for my kid.

SIMON: Very early today, Team USA won the 2022 Women's World Cup in basketball. That's great for them. Is it for basketball?

GOLDMAN: Maybe not. You know, look. All hail the U.S. women who won their eight 2022 World Cup games by an average of 41 points a game. Since 1994, the U.S. has lost one game in international competition. That's World Cups and Olympics. That's extraordinary dominance. But for those of us who love great competition, it would be nice to see the rest of the world catch up the way we've seen with women's soccer with the U.S. Maybe someday that'll happen with women's basketball, but not right now.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.