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Saturday Sports: NFL Playoffs, Remembering David Stern


It's time now for sports.


FADEL: Well, the NFL playoffs are here. Is the Super Bowl a realistic goal for the teams that kick off the postseason this weekend? And we remember the man who ruled the NBA with an iron fist and compassion. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins me now. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Happy New Year, Leila.

FADEL: Happy New Year. OK, so we're excited. The playoffs are starting, but the teams that play this opening weekend aren't ones we'll likely see later on in this season, is that right?

GOLDMAN: I want to make sure you really are excited.

FADEL: Very excited (laughter).

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You know, in recent years that has been the case, that the teams playing this opening weekend aren't the ones we'll see later on. Since the 2013 season, the two teams that played in the Super Bowl did not play on this first weekend, the so-called wildcard weekend. And all those Super Bowl teams had byes the first week.

Now there, of course, were exceptions. The last team that played on wildcard weekend and made it to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 season. In fact, the the Ravens won that Super Bowl, too.

FADEL: So do any of this weekend's teams have a chance to run the table like the Ravens did?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, all of them believe they do. But realistically, one or two. I would say the New Orleans Saints. They're playing very well. They're a team to keep an eye on. And, of course, you can never rule out the New England Patriots...

FADEL: Right.

GOLDMAN: ...Winners of six Super Bowls since 2002, including last season, although the Patriots have looked a little less than a dynasty in the last month or so.

FADEL: The Patriots. So we can't talk about the Patriots without talking about Tom Brady. Might this be it for him?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, the Patriots host Tennessee tonight. This is the first time in a decade New England is playing on a wild card weekend, an indication the Pats haven't been as mighty this season. If they are truly vulnerable and they lose to Tennessee, it could be Tom Brady's last home game, and that would be a big deal. He's 42, although he's said he wants to keep playing past this season. He could be a free agent at seasons end. And if the Patriots don't resign him and decide to go younger at quarterback and start a new era, then Brady could sign with another team.

Now that said, New England's favored tonight. The Patriots would love nothing more than to quiet the doubters and start the march to yet another Super Bowl. But, you know, it's a game people may want to watch just in case.

FADEL: So let's pivot and take a minute to talk about NBA Commissioner David Stern. He passed away on New Year's Day. What are your thoughts on his legacy?

GOLDMAN: Oh, well, it was a vast legacy. His impact was profound in 30 years as commissioner, which ended in 2014. You know, I think it's worth recalling 1991 when the great Lakers player Magic Johnson told the world he was HIV positive. Stern embraced Magic at a time when the world wondered whether it was safe to even touch people who were HIV positive or had AIDS.

The public and NBA sponsors were wary, but Stern supported Magic. He paved the way for him to play in the 1992 All-Star Game and the '92 Olympics, where Magic was a star in that star-studded dream team. Stern educated himself and teams and players about the disease. And, you know, Leila, this whole process helped change the conversation and attitudes about HIV and AIDS.

FADEL: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

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

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.