There’s a big showdown going on this weekend in the world of flat track roller derby. A New Hampshire team known as the Skate Free or Die All Stars are heading to New York for a bout billed as the Suburban Brawl.
Duke freshman Austin Rivers, seen here in the Blue Devils' loss to Lehigh in the NCAA tournament, is leaving school for the NBA draft. The trend of athletes spending only one year in college has hurt the sport, says Frank Deford.
This year's Final Four seems more like Best in Show at the Westminster. Such pedigree: Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville –– four of the very top dogs in the history of the sport. Well, it's a Meryl Streep kind of year, isn't it?
But if the Final Four might delight fans by giving them aristocracy in its teams, unfortunately the whole of college basketball is plagued by anonymity in its players, and external issues that have diminished the popularity of the game.
Good grief. This year, there has been more buzz about Mad Men than about March Madness.
The University of North Dakota's Brad Eidsness makes a save during a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Since 2005, there have been a series of lawsuits and legislative actions over the nickname for the school's athletic teams, the "Fighting Sioux."
Credit Cheryl Corley / NPR
One of the 2,400 Fighting Sioux logos located throughout the University of North Dakota's hockey arena.
The state Supreme Court in North Dakota is about to consider this question: Can lawmakers require a college to name its sports teams after a Native American tribe?
For decades, University of North Dakota teams have been known as the "Fighting Sioux." It's a name some see as an honor and others find demeaning. Now, the long fight over the Fighting Sioux may be settled in a courtroom.
On the Murray State University campus in Kentucky, warm weather has arrived. Students are out on the quad skateboarding, riding bikes, playing Frisbee and listening to music. But what are they talking about? Basketball.
"I think Murray State can go to the Final Four," one student says.
The MSU Racers have been in the tournament before, but with just a single loss this season and the highest tournament seed in the program's history, expectations are greater than ever.
The Egyptian national soccer team's American coach, Bob Bradley, attends his team's friendly match against Kenya in the Qatari capital, Doha, in February. The Egyptian team won 5-0.
Credit Karim Jaafar / AFP/Getty Images
As an American coaching a foreign team, the language barrier is one of the challenges Bob Bradley faces. He relies on Arabic-speaking assistants to translate for his players, most of whom don't speak English.
Anti-Americanism is on the rise in Egypt these days. A highly publicized trial is under way in Cairo against U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups, and Egyptians are making it clear they reject any American involvement in their country's affairs.
There's one exception, however: an American living in Cairo whom Egyptians are counting on to shake things up. His name is Bob Bradley, and he's the New Jersey-born coach of Egypt's struggling national soccer team.
In the closing minutes of a game last month, Purdue University's Robbie Hummel was fouled by Penn State's Matt Glover. College basketball needs to find ways to make its games' final moments more exciting, says Frank Deford.
One thing that distinguishes most team sports is that the game is suddenly played differently at the end. Often, this adds to the fascination, too. Nothing, for example, gets a rise out of me like when the hockey goalie skates off the ice with a minute or so to go, his team down a goal, leaving an open net.
In championship soccer, tie games go to a shoot-out, which is totally alien with all that came before. Neat stuff.
Making it to the NBA or any pro sports league is an expensive, potentially dangerous undertaking with extremely tough odds. For homeschooled kids, the likelihood of a career in sports is especially tough. For years, many states barred kids from outside the public school system from playing on their athletic teams. Now, 25 states allow homeschooled students onto varsity teams, signaling a change in attitudes - along with more room for debate on whether and how to integrate them.
Coaches and managers, as a group, have always been pretty straightforward types. We don't think of generals or preachers as humorists — and, after all, that's pretty much what coaches are, a hybrid of the military and the pulpit.
But at least in the past, there were always a fair complement of coaching characters: old cracker-barrel philosophers, feisty wise guys and even a few sardonic intellectuals.
Dave Zinkoff — or simply "The Zink" — was perhaps the most distinctive public address announcer in sports when, years ago, he called games in Philadelphia, especially for the city's NBA teams. Just his declaring that there were two minutes left in the quarter made you feel that, never mind that quarter, doomsday was but 120 seconds away.
But nothing The Zink cried out was so resounding as when Wilt Chamberlain would make an emphatic slam.
Members of the Arlington Heights High School baseball team swing their old-style aluminum bats during the 2009 season in Fort Worth, Texas. This year, high school players will use a different type of metal bat that's designed to reduce injuries.
Baseball practice has just begun at many high schools across the country, but this year, the game is different. The National Federation of State High School Associations has adopted a new standard for baseball bats that is expected to change the way the game is played.