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Saturday Sports: Diego Maradona, A Legendary Soccer Star Passes Away

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Boy, football can be a damaging sport. But as the football season rolls on, both college and pro ball are being buffeted by COVID before they can even get to the gridiron. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Howard, college football's most prominent coach out with a positive test this weekend. Baltimore Ravens, including last year's MVP, their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, out this weekend. The NFL's shutting down facilities for a couple of days next week. Did college and pro ball learn nothing from the NBA, WNBA and, for that matter, World Team Tennis?

BRYANT: And World Team Tennis and tennis and the WNBA and the rest of it and the NHL. And it's - it is fascinating. I think that right now, if you really need a score - if you need a scorecard, it's to find out who's playing and who's not playing. Of course, this is Nick Saban's second positive test. He tested positive in October, and then they had determined that to be a false positive based on their protocols. Let's not forget that Ohio State and Illinois aren't playing. And let's not forget that you have a game this week with Clemson and Pitt. So you don't even know who's playing and who's not playing.

And it just - it really does reinforce the idea of what we saw early this summer, as the summer wore on with the other sports that football really did seem, simply, that they were going to power through, that they were simply going to figure it out. And so you see the same thing happening in the NFL as well. And we all saw this coming, and it was happening - it's happening the way the experts said it was going to happen. And the NFL and college football, they really have just decided that whoever - it's like a league of attrition. Whoever's left standing is going to be your champion.

SIMON: In - I was tempted to call it non-COVID college football news, but that's not strictly true because, of course, this is occasioned by all the people who were, you know - who were, kind of, on the reserve list. But last night, Vanderbilt said Sarah Fuller, a very talented soccer goalie, could become the first woman to kick in a Power Five conference game today - Vanderbilt against the University of Missouri. Kind of irresistible not to call her in, isn't it?

BRYANT: Well, kind of irresistible, and also certainly not the type of way that you would want to have one of the great milestones in sport - to - one of those barriers to fall. But at the same time, you play when you have an opportunity to play. And I - once again, this is a - it's one of those moments where people have been wanting to see this for a very long time. And I know that some of the NFL kickers are out giving Sarah Fuller some encouragement to go out there and play and to make the most of this opportunity. And if you're the University of Missouri and you're a Vanderbilt, and this is something that's there for you, let it happen. It's - I don't love the timing, but I love the moment.

SIMON: Diego Maradona died this week, one of the great soccer players of all time - led Argentina to a World Cup in 1986, but also banned for abusing drugs and seen in a leaked video intoxicated, striking his partner. A complicated legacy.

BRYANT: Complicated and absolutely towering, towering figure in Argentina, especially Argentina soccer, soccer around the world. This is one of the giants of the game. And I think that when I watch the Maradona tributes and obviously the documentaries going on with his life, you realize people are very flawed. It does not take away from what they gave us. But what a difficult legacy.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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