This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan. And if it's anything like last year, tomorrow's Super Bowl will reach more than 111 million viewers, in this country alone. And while the game ends for the fans tomorrow night, for players, the effects will likely linger on.
And the Superbowl, as Howard mentioned, is going to cap another enormously successful NFL season in terms of TV ratings and profits. But the league also faces some fundamental questions about player safety. President Obama and dozens of players are questioning whether sons should be encouraged to play football. Against this backdrop, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met the media yesterday for what's known as its annual State of the League press conference. NPR's Mike Pesca attended, and has this report.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.
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SIMON: There's a football game tomorrow. Have you heard? The 47th Superbowl starring the San Francisco 49ers, the Baltimore Ravens and a couple of guys named Harbaugh who say please, please, enough about us. Talk about our players. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us now from the studios of member station WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts. Morning, Howard.
The Superdome in New Orleans has hosted heavyweight fights, papal visits, and — after this weekend — seven Super Bowls, an NFL record. But no event looms larger in the dome's history than Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that turned the stadium into a teeming shelter of last resort.
During the storm, reporters spared no hyperbole when describing scenes of human suffering. The Superdome, in particular, was described as a "hellhole" and "apocalyptic," and it was sort of true.
Fans of the Baltimore Ravens are fired up for this tomorrow's Super Bowl, even if the team is the underdog - errragh(ph) against the San Francisco 49ers. But NPR's Allison Keyes tells us fans all around Baltimore are draping pretty much everything in a sea of purple and black.
ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Purple Christmas lights, a case of team memorabilia including signed helmets and a stuffed Raven? It's clear that fans at the Red Brick Station Pub in White Marsh, Maryland are serious about their football.
You might look for a player along the sidelines in the Super Bowl on Sunday named Alex Smith and wonder, as he might, if he'll be the next Wally Pipp or Ken Mattingly.
Pipp was the Yankee first baseman in 1925 who had a headache and was told to take two aspirin and sit out the game. A young player named Lou Gehrig took his place — and stayed at first base for 14 years, becoming one of baseball's most storied players.
Pipp wound up working in a screw factory. He was a good sport who told fans in later years, "I took the two most expensive aspirin in history."
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. With the Super Bowl this weekend, football fans are renewing a perennial debate about the game's best players, but not just this year, of all time. Jerry Rice is arguably the best wide receiver. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who will play Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens, gets mentioned, alongside Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus, even Lawrence Taylor.
A few years ago, before "CTE" was as much a part of football conversations as "quarterback rating" or "wild card spot," I had a conversation with some friends about unsettling news stories that linked the sport to brain injury.
As we spoke, an avowed hater of sports piped up. "Football, as it's currently played, is completely indefensible," she said.