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Basketball Playoffs And Preakness: The Week In Sports


You know, BJ Leiderman does our theme music and nowhere is his artistry more apparent than in the theme for sports.


SIMON: Speaking of sports, the Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks both won tickets to the NBA semifinals last night. Of course, we've also got hockey playoffs underway. And tonight, eight horses run the Preakness at Pimlico.

A very good time to talk with NPR's Tom Goldman - good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good time to talk to you, too.

SIMON: Yes, I always treasure these moments together. And you know, we have to begin by noting a sad note. Garo Yepremian has died, former Miami Dolphins kicker, a former tie-maker from Cyprus - one of the first European soccer players to come here - and a slight, bald, spirited, charming guy.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, a very good, accurate kicker. Sadly best-known, of course, for making the flub that almost cost the Dolphins their perfect season in 1973 in the Super Bowl versus Washington. Garo Yepremian had a field goal attempt blocked, he picked up the ball and big mistake - tried to throw it, fumbled, the ball picked up by a defender and run back for a touchdown. Still the Dolphins hung on and won and had their perfect season. And in a 2007 interview, Yepremian was quoted as saying, every airport you go to, people point to you and say here's the guy who screwed up in the Super Bowl. If it was anybody else he would go crazy, but fortunately, I'm a happy-go-lucky guy.

So, sad day today.

SIMON: Yeah. Basketball now. Before the playoffs started, Golden State was the team to beat. They made it into the Western Conference final. Wasn't the easy route that people thought it would be. What happened?

GOLDMAN: Memphis appeared to have figured them out for a couple of games. But then Memphis's best offender, Tony Allen, got hit with a bad hamstring injury and that was it. And Golden State has kind of shown, you know, why going into the NBA playoffs it was considered the best. Now Golden State as you said has moved on to the conference finals. Atlanta did so as well in the East. We're only waiting for one more team - the winner of the Clippers versus Rockets who play game seven tomorrow, thanks to Houston's epic comeback Thursday night. Down 19 late in the third quarter, they looked done, and then they came back and won.

SIMON: I have to say one thing at this point in the playoffs.


SIMON: I'll say it three times.


SIMON: Cleveland rocks, Cleveland rocks, Cleveland rocks.

GOLDMAN: How do you really feel, Scott?

SIMON: (Laughter). I'm on the fence.

GOLDMAN: They rock, but they do so very gingerly. So many key injuries. Remember at the start of the year, the ballyhooed big three...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...New big three for the NBA - LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving? They're now down to a big one, with Love out with an injury and Irving nursing a hurt knee. That big one of course is still the best player on the planet, LeBron James. And it's going to be fascinating going forward to see if he can do this with a cast of role players. And if he does, his legend would grow that much more.

SIMON: What's the story of the hockey playoffs so far as you see it?

GOLDMAN: The headline story, four teams left. Two oldsters, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers...

SIMON: Two experienced teams - former Stanley Cup winners. I know that's what you meant to say.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter). They started in the 1920s, as opposed to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks, two warm-weather teams started in the '90s. The Rangers and Lightning start things out today. I'm going to give the nod to the Rangers. They were in the Stanley Cup finals last year - a little experience. Chicago and Anaheim, two top offensive teams in this postseason. I'll give the nod to Chicago for experience and also because you're from Chicago and you control my microphone.

SIMON: (Laughter). Actually, our director, Mr. Wharton, who's from North Dakota controls both of our microphones.

GOLDMAN: Close enough to Chicago.

SIMON: I'm amazed we ever get on the air, with Ned calling these signals.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: Speaking of which, American Pharaoh runs again today of course in the Preakness. He won the Kentucky Derby but didn't draw such a great position, did he?

GOLDMAN: He's favored - it'll be tough. He drew the dreaded number-one post position along the rails, where dreams of victory often get hemmed in. The last horse to win the Preakness from that position was Tabasco Cat in 1994. But Pharaoh may be good and fast enough to do it. If he does, of course talk of the Triple Crown intensifies.

SIMON: Yeah. But there's only one equine milestone going on today - Elise Simon is in a horse jumping competition. My heart's in my throat.

GOLDMAN: Go Elise.

SIMON: Yeah. Right, you said that, I didn't. And she'll note the difference. NPR's Tom Goldman. How do fathers do this? NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks very much. You've been through this, haven't you?

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Not with horses though. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.