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The Week In Sports: How To Have Sports Events While The World Fights Coronavirus


Even though no one's tossed a ball for weeks, it's time for sports.


SIMON: And leagues are itching to return, with private islands and robot umpires. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: No robots here, Scott (laughter).

SIMON: That's too big a line for me to - no, no, no. I'm just going to leave it where it is. In any event...

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...Let me ask you about this major league plan that was floated this week. They would play all games in Arizona, no fans in the stands and robotic umpires.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And we're actually hearing, Scott, that they may play some of the games in Florida as well, so the two spring training sites. As you say, no fans, robot umpires, meaning electronic strike zones registering balls and strikes so the plate umpires could keep their social distance from catchers and batters. You know, players, broadcasters, support personnel would be in a bubble, or bubbles if it's Florida as well, in these two locations for up to several months.

Now, Major League Baseball, the players' union, officials are reportedly - they reportedly like the idea. Health officials have been positive about the plan. But, you know, while a lot of details would have to be ironed out still, Scott, I have not heard any discussion about what will fans who are banned from the stadiums and watching at home - what will they sing in the seventh inning when they stand up and stretch in their living rooms? And I understand you have the answer.

SIMON: As a matter of fact, I do. I've been working on - OK, ready?


SIMON: All right, seventh inning. (Singing) Don't take me out to the ballgame. Don't put me in a crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, but they have to come in a germ-free pack. So let's root, root, root for the robots, the ones who call balls and strikes. For it's one, two - wait; I'm sorry. We got to reboot. Try your pitch again at the new ballgame. What do you think?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Move over, Harry Caray. Oh.

SIMON: Harry Caray's dead, Tom, OK?


SIMON: I'm no - all right. It's easy to move over, but, yes.

GOLDMAN: But that was amazing, Scott.

SIMON: Thank you.


SIMON: Let me, however, ask about, if you call them a sports league, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Dana White wants to take - host these events where people can commit criminal mayhem on each other on a private island. And then the NBA is going to play a game of horse tomorrow. And I wish horses were involved. It's high-priced athletes who are, you know, just going to - I shoot a basket, you shoot a basket.

GOLDMAN: Right, right. If horses were involved, I'd watch that.

SIMON: I'd watch a horse try and do a slam dunk, yes, but go ahead - or a 3-point shot.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, exactly. The game of horse, yes, where one person shoots a basket, the other person matches it and so on. Yes, right here in the U.S., sports star fans will be able to feast on eight NBA and WNBA stars, former and current, playing virtual horse with their own personal home basketball and hoops. ESPN is back in business with this, Scott, televising competition starting tomorrow, wrapping up next Thursday. How excited are we?

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

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.