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The Week In Sports: NCAA Basketball, Minor League Baseball


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The NCAA tournament down to eight teams. And this year's Cinderella - Loyola Chicago with Sister Jean, their 98-year-old courtside chaplain and cheerleader. And baseball makes an unexpected entry into the omnibus spending bill. Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. Thanks. A lot better because, otherwise, it's been a grim winter for Chicago sports fans, (laughter) you know, between the Bulls and the Blackhawks. Look. We're down to the Elite Eight. Tonight, Loyola faces off against Kansas State. This is the first time an 11 and 9 seed have made it to this round?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right. And it's an example of the craziness we've seen with lower seeds winning a number of games. And may I add, Scott, I hope you have already bought your Sister Jean bobble head doll.

SIMON: I've ordered it. I've ordered it. How did you know? Yes (laughter).

GOLDMAN: Well, they're apparently going for more than $300 bucks on eBay. And if the Ramblers keep winning, the price is going to go through the roof. You know, it's not just winning but the way Loyola Chicago has been winning. The Ramblers have won each of their three games on last-second shots.

SIMON: By one point - it's amazing. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And they've won the three games by a combined four points. So, Kansas State, beware a close game at the end. The Ramblers are perfecting the art of buzzer beater upsets.

SIMON: Let me try a cheer. OK, ready?


SIMON: Two, four, six, eight - Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary are mighty great (laughter)? What do you think?

GOLDMAN: We're going to make you into a bobble head. Go on.

SIMON: Oh, it's been proposed - there'd be a lot of sentiment for that. Is this the craziest NCAA tournament ever? No? Right? Yes?

GOLDMAN: Not really. Not really, I mean, even though this tournament always will be remembered for the first-ever 16 seed upset over the 1 seed, University of Maryland, Baltimore County over Virginia, of course. And today, Loyola of Chicago, an 11 seed, may make it to the Final Four. But that happened as recently as seven years ago when VCU made it as an 11 seed. Since then, there's been a 10, a couple of nines make it to the Final Four. And last night, Scott, we saw some usual suspects. Kansas, Duke, Villanova make it to the Elite Eight, as well. So those perennial powers are kind of balancing out the earlier craziness.

SIMON: And in the women's tournament, UConn traditional power is doing well. But Louisville, slamdunk Stanford - they sure look strong. Who else should we be keeping an eye on?

GOLDMAN: Well, how about some Oregon schools, Scott, if I may?

SIMON: Oregon has something to say - yeah.

GOLDMAN: Talking to you from Oregon. Last night 6 seed Oregon State Beavers beat Baylor, a 2 seed that had had been on a 30-game win streak. And on the other side of the bracket, the University of Oregon, another 2 seed, looks very good with guard Sabrina Ionescu leading the Ducks to two wins so far.

SIMON: Congress passed an omnibus spending bill this week. There was a part called Save America's Pastime Act. My first thought, oh, America's pastime - online gaming. But, in fact, it's about Minor League Baseball - right?

GOLDMAN: It is. And it's not good for Minor League players. Buried away on page 1,976 of the bill is this act, which essentially exempts baseball from federal labor laws that would require Major League Baseball to pay all minor leaguers at least an annual minimum wage salary and overtime, which it doesn't do at this point. Major League Baseball considers minor leaguers short-term, seasonal workers. And therefore, it says, federal guarantees of minimum wage and overtime don't apply.

SIMON: Yeah. You've done minor league stories, right?


SIMON: I'm always find - by the minor leaguers', like, dinner because their per diems are so small. Otherwise, they'd just eat a tube of Pringles.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, right. And, you know, that's no diet for champions - right?


GOLDMAN: And there's a lawsuit challenging Major League Baseball on this issue. It's been around since 2014. And now that this provision has been wedged into the spending bill and made into law - makes it tougher for the minor league plaintiffs and this suit.

SIMON: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAKZ MILLER'S "PUT 'EM HIGH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman
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.
Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.