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Saturday Sports: NFL's comeback, Brittney Griner trial

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Phillies go up by one. The Astros take off. A comeback tomorrow night in the NFL. But is that a good idea? And Brittney Griner awaits another hearing in Russia. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Well, our pleasure. Wait, let me take a vote. All right, you won by one. National League - Phillies lead the series 2 to 1 over the San Diego Padres. What a night for second baseman Jean - Zhan (ph), as we French say - Segura.

GOLDMAN: Crazy night. He's playing in his first postseason in 11 years in the majors and making the most of it. In one inning, he had an error, a run batted in, actually had two RBIs on a single.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And he was picked off at first base - in one inning. First time that's happened in playoff history. There were some boos; it's Philadelphia. But elsewhere in the game he had two fantastic defensive plays. So mostly there's Philly love for Jean Segura.

SIMON: Yeah. Look, I think the American League Championship Series has been terrific. The Yankees happen to be down two games to nothing against the Astros. I think there ought to be a statute of limitations on resentment of the Astros sign stealing during the 2017 World Series. Is it time to note what an amazing team they've been over the long term?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, it is. This is the sixth straight year they've made it this far to the American League Championship Series, one step away from the World Series. You know, a handful of players have been there for those half-dozen years. But the Astros keep replenishing the lineup with new faces. They have a great system. We keep seeing the results in October, like this one. The series now shifts to New York, where the Yankees certainly can turn things around. But Houston is tough again.

SIMON: Yeah. So let me ask the next question.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)

SIMON: OK. Just a joke. We can assume no banging on garbage cans during their home games.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, I'm afraid so. Yeah. So that means no more banging for you. As part of the cheating scandal aftermath, Major League Baseball took steps throughout the league to prevent the illegal use of electronics to steal signs. That's what the Astros did. For the last several years, there have been security people watching for shenanigans, like banging on garbage cans and people monitoring phone lines to dugouts to prevent any illegal communications.

SIMON: NFL - Tua back tomorrow - the Miami Dolphins quarterback who missed just two games after a horrific concussion last month. They're playing the Steelers - Sunday night football game-winning 29 - 21 million people will be watching. I don't know how I feel about that. How is the league handling his return?

GOLDMAN: You know, it's fair to say the NFL will be holding its breath during this nationally televised game, obviously not wanting Tua Tagovailoa to get injured again, but also not relishing a lot of talk about the controversy surrounding his injuries. It'll be interesting to see how broadcasters handle it, how much they'll talk about the concussion issue or the debate over whether Tua should or shouldn't continue his playing career. There are those who think he's taking a huge risk by continuing.

He, himself, says his doctors have told him the risk is low for developing a degenerative brain condition like CTE, at least compared to players like offensive and defensive linemen, who were banging heads on every play, you know? But it's - the science at this point is inexact, hard to predict what will happen in the future. Although the consensus is, Scott, repeated, concussions are not good.

SIMON: Yeah. Brittney Griner spent her birthday week this week still in detention in Russia over drug possession charges. Do we know what's ahead? Are people - is Russia counting on people not being able to pay attention in the long term?

GOLDMAN: Well, there's a hearing next week on her appeal of her nine-year conviction. Her lawyers aren't optimistic about a successful appeal, maybe a reduction in the sentence, they hope for. According to the few who visited her, she's been anxious and depressed about not getting out any time soon. There's a basketball hoop at her prison, and her lawyers offered to bring her a ball so she could shoot around. But she said, no, it's too painful to think about.

SIMON: Yeah. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Tom, thanks so much. Talk to you soon, my friend.

GOLDMAN: Well, you're welcome, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF GROVER WASHINGTON JR'S "MISTER MAGIC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.