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Saturday Sports: The Fate Of The Tokyo Olympics


No matter what happens during the week, I love to say it's time for sports.


SIMON: Vaccinations in Japan start in February. The prime minister says he's determined the Olympic Games will go on. Will they? And more inroads for diversity in sports organizations this week. Zero players make it into baseball's Hall of Fame. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us.

Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Let us start with the 2020 - that have now become the 2021 - Olympics, if they occur. Just six months from the projected start date, Japan really wants to put on the games. Can they?

GOLDMAN: The nearly $30 billion question, Scott - that's the reported price tag for the games so far.

SIMON: Well, that's why I asked you, my friend. I, you know...

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Well...

SIMON: I know all - billions are relying on you, yeah?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Japanese and Olympic leaders insist they can do it, which is, of course, what they said last year until they postponed the games. Next month, they will unveil the first version of the pandemic playbook detailing how they're going to pull this off. Now, there are doubts, though, with a pandemic still raging, with Tokyo and other areas under a state of emergency. And even if the decisions made to carry on with the games but without fans, you would still have thousands of athletes, officials, coaches, media from around the world coming to Japan with the potential, if the pandemic's still not under control, of turning the games into an enormous superspreader event.

SIMON: I have to ask - a couple of advances for women in U.S. sports this week.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, we - and we've talked about that recently - more and more women making inroads in male-dominated sports. And that did continue. Baseball's Milwaukee Brewers made Sara Goodrum the main hitting instructor for the team's entire minor league system. The Washington Football Team officially announced Jennifer King as the assistant running backs coach. She's the first Black woman to be a full-time NFL coach. Also, three NFL teams recently hired Black men as their new general manager. That's an important behind-the-scenes job. But in the more visible head coaching position, only two of seven recent vacancies were filled by people of color. And still, just three teams out of 32 have Black head coaches in a league with about 70% Black players.

SIMON: Finally, Baseball Writers' Association of America voted this week. Nobody got into the Hall of Fame - first time since 2013. Steroids is the reason for some, but I think it's safe to say Curt Schilling, the old Boston Red Sox pitcher, talked himself out, didn't he?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, the man with a bloody sock, right? It appears that way. He has said and tweeted some incendiary things in recent years, including support for the mob attack on the Capitol this month. Schilling, along with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two men linked to banned drugs - they all have Hall-of-Fame-worthy credentials. But - and they were the top vote-getters this time, but just not enough to get in. In recent years, Scott, the character issue, which is part of the criteria for electing players to the Hall, has dominated the conversation. And the endless controversy, frankly, is driving away some of the baseball writers who vote.

And Scott, we have a few seconds left.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Speaking of Hall of Fame, I want to just talk about a man who made the Basketball Hall of Fame. It was announced yesterday that longtime Temple University head coach John Chaney died at 89 - a great man beloved by his players.

SIMON: Yeah, great man, great coach. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

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

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.