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Saturday Sports: NFL Draft Satisfies When Games Can't

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

They may not be playing sports at the moment, but why let a great theme go to waste? Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Actually, this week, kind of sports - the NFL draft - first round took place Thursday, the second round last night. Here's our No. 1 pick, NPR's Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I am honored. You know, I thought I was going to be top five - but No. 1?

SIMON: Yeah. Well, you know, it's a diminished market at this particular point, (laughter) as I don't have to tell you.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Sorry.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

SIMON: Socially distant accommodations are made for what's usually an NFL extravaganza. I wouldn't watch this on a dare. But you did. It's your job. How did it work?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It was good. It's been good. It's had it all, a moving tribute to frontline COVID-19 workers. There was a message from the voice of authority on coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, giving his blessing to the proceedings. That was important because the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, took some heat for holding this draft on schedule in the midst of a pandemic. And then Goodell himself - a more relaxed version than normal, probably because he was announcing picks from his basement as part of this first-ever fully remote draft - but all in all, Scott, it's been the sports diversion this country has wanted. Sports websites are chattering all about which teams made good picks and bad picks. Thursday's first round - more than 15 1/2 million people watched. That's a record.

SIMON: Wow. Wow.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Yeah.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Look. One of the - do we call this a benefit? Viewers got a peek inside the homes of NFL - and, you know, Commissioner Goodell's basement. You know, I didn't see that shot. I imagined it was wood-paneled or maybe, you know, a stuffed marlin. Or, you know, did he have a lava lamp in the back?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: Jerry Jones, who owns the Cowboys, conducted his business from his yacht. What else did you notice?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Nice one, Jerry - a bit tone deaf, you know, when so many people are hurting financially, of course. But the coaches' houses were fun to see. I mean, we only get to see these guys during games. They look super stressed. And they're screaming at refs. But this humanized them a bit. We saw them with family members. Some were in posh settings, some not, like Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor sitting in a spare room at a desk. A tweet said he looked like the manager of a car rental place. But hey, at least he had the first pick and took LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. So Mr. car rental manager may have the last laugh.

SIMON: Yeah. Good choice?

GOLDMAN: Very good choice - yeah, I personally - I - couple of other ones that I liked - Miami took talented Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick. Now, some say that's a risk because of his injury history. Others say it could be the steal of the draft if Tua stays healthy. And then Tampa Bay, with the 13th pick...

SIMON: Yup.

GOLDMAN: ...Took big Tristan Wirfs, an offensive lineman from Iowa, arguably the most important pick of the draft, Scott, because you know what he's going to be doing in Tampa Bay.

SIMON: Yes, to put his arms around Tom Brady and say, the rest of you get out of here.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: And the Gronk will be joining Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, right?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. The former Patriot Rob Gronkowski, considered one of the greatest and kookiest tight ends in NFL history - they're being reunited. It's going to make Tampa Bay must watch whenever this football season happens.

SIMON: And Notre Dame's great Muffet McGraw retiring as the basketball coach of the women's team - one of the greats and a tireless advocate.

GOLDMAN: For gender equality - yeah. I mean, she's she's retiring after 33 seasons leading the Fighting Irish. She won two national titles - and as you mentioned, a champion of equal rights and a spirited mentor to so many young women. She's only 64. She's got a lot more to do. When asked if she'd consider politics, she said she's too honest for politics.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: But we assume she's going to be doing good stuff.

SIMON: She inspires our daughters. NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.