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Saturday Sports: Normalcy Returns To Sports World After Year Of Canceled Games

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And I wait all week to say, and now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: A kid from San Diego pitches the team's first no-hitter. NCAA basketball tournaments over - some aftershocks persist. And the Summer Olympics seem to be a go. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Howdy, partner.

SIMON: Well, howdy, partner. Joe Musgrove, who grew up in El Cajon in Greater San Diego, struck out 10, hurled the franchise's first no-hitter. Everyone's been quoting Aaron Sorkin - the line from "Moneyball." How can you not love baseball?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: Kind of says the game is back.

GOLDMAN: How can you not love Joe Musgrove? Let's update that - first no-hitter in the more than 50-year history of the Padres, a team he grew up rooting for. The irony, Scott, is he didn't feel that great going into the game. He said afterwards...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...I think I kind of slept weird last night, and I told my catcher, let's stick with the game plan, and we'll adjust as we need to go. Well, no adjustment necessary. As you said, struck out 10 Texas Rangers batters, no walks. The only batter who got on base was when Musgrove hit him with a pitch. Other than that, pretty near perfect.

SIMON: Yeah. But March Madness, of course, was over on Monday. Unprecedented scrutiny now in the NCAA for a number of reasons. Do we think that's going to let up even as the games come back?

GOLDMAN: I don't think it's going to let up. You know, you had players speaking up about athlete compensation and other issues during the men's and women's tournaments like never before.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And they vow to keep up the activism. You, of course, had the Supreme Court hearing arguments in a case essentially challenging the NCAA's strict rule of amateurism, which many believe is outdated, and a decision is expected in the coming months. And then in July, Florida will become the first state to enact legislation allowing college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness. And other states are poised to do the same. So, yeah, seems like the momentum's going to continue.

SIMON: And issues raised about gender inequalities aren't going away - are they? - in more than just weight rooms.

GOLDMAN: You're absolutely right. You know, in fact, yesterday, the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, published an opinion piece titled "Beyond The Weight Room," where she implores what she calls the sports ecosystem to stop accepting the deficiencies in investment and marketing and TV and other media coverage for women's sports. And many agree with her and are thankful that University of Oregon basketball player Sedona Prince posted that video on social media showing a skimpy weight rack. And, you know, it did kind of open the floodgates.

SIMON: Tom, we just heard in the newscast that Tokyo is under lockdown because of a surge in coronavirus.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: We're a hundred days out from the Olympics in Tokyo.

GOLDMAN: Right (laughter).

SIMON: And what should - I don't know. Do we still call them the 2020 Games that had to be postponed because of coronavirus? Japan seems committed and unwavering. What does that mean for organizers and athletes?

GOLDMAN: You know, it means get ready. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee this week held a media summit offering up scores of athletes on Zoom calls for reporters to talk to who are going forward. And some of those athletes included some from one of my personal favorites, softball. It was last in the Olympics in 2008. It's back now because it's a big sport in Japan. But there's no guarantee for the future of the games. The problem is it's not popular in Europe, which has a lot of votes within the International Olympic Committee. So softball teams at these games hope to put on a great show to get those European votes and hopefully make the sport a regular Olympic event.

SIMON: I hope so. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

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