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Saturday Sports: College Football, Carli Lloyd


And time now for sports.


SIMON: The 78-game winning streak comes to an end. Football season about to begin. Will it include Carli Lloyd of U.S. women's soccer on the field and new calls over the dangers on the gridiron?

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And down under, the Australian national basketball team defeated the U.S. men's basketball team 98-94 last night. The spirit of Luc Longley abides. Now, this...


SIMON: This...

GOLDMAN: Luc (laughter).

SIMON: This is the first U.S. loss since 2006 - a warmup game. But some of the best basketball players in the world these days are from outside the U.S., so we can no longer assume U.S. - you know what I mean - can we?

GOLDMAN: Goodness (laughter). We cannot. Hey, some exhibition, Scott. Fifty-two thousand people were at the game in Melbourne. How about that? First time Australia beat the U.S. in men's basketball. This was a warmup for the upcoming World Cup.

A lot of the top NBA stars have pulled out of the competition. This is a huge NBA season coming up, as you know, with everyone assuming the league is wide open with all the crazy player movement and Golden State finally being vulnerable. So a lot of the top stars want to get their rest and be ready. But Scott, no excuse - Australia beat U.S. fair and square. And yeah, the World Cup victory is not a lock - going to be fun to watch.

SIMON: Official beginning of Division I college football season today. Clemson, Bama, blah, blah, blah. And what about Boise State?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter). Your mighty Broncos in their blue turf. They haven't cracked the top 25 in the preseason polls, but...

SIMON: I noticed.

GOLDMAN: ...Those are preseason polls. And at the end, they may be in the thick of things. Most likely, though, it will be blah, blah, blah - Clemson, Alabama - throw Georgia in the mix, too. And what is a certainty - count on fans who are sick of the usual suspects to clamor, once again, for more than four teams in the season-ending playoff.

SIMON: Carli Lloyd, one of the stars of the U.S. women's soccer team, drilled a 55-yard field goal this week in a video that went viral. Can the NFL ignore someone who can kick a 55-yard field goal?

GOLDMAN: Well, it shouldn't. I mean, you know, Lloyd obviously has a live right leg. She's proved that over and over for the U.S. women's national team. Now, nailing a 55-yarder in practice certainly is different from having a bunch of huge people screaming toward you, trying to block the kick during a game. But - and you pointed this out earlier, Scott - she knows pressure.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: She's seen it all. And pressure is such an enemy of placekickers in the NFL.

SIMON: This week, Robert Cantu, who's a neurosurgeon, Mark Hyman, a professor of sports management, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that urges the U.S. surgeon general to issue a warning about the dangers of tackle football for youngsters. I read this at your recommendation - a very compelling and important piece, I thought.

GOLDMAN: Very much so. A reminder, as football season gets under way, that it's still dangerous for younger kids to play tackle because of the repeated hits to the head. Cantu and Hyman note football and all sports have gotten safer due to the increased awareness about head injuries. But they cite studies showing the earlier kids play tackle and start getting those smaller subconcussive head hits that add up over a career, the earlier the onset of cognitive and mood and behavioral problems for the ones who are affected. Not all football players are affected, obviously.

Now, while the authors say high school football is still very popular, there is evidence that youth participation is declining. And an interesting note, Scott - new numbers by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association say participation by kids in baseball and softball went up by nearly 3 million between 2013 and 2018.

SIMON: Good - baseball. 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.
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