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Sports: Keeping And Losing Winning Streaks


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.


SIMON: The Miami Heat are still on a tear. They extended their win streak by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers last night, but in hockey the Chicago Blackhawks win streak was upended last night by the Colorado Avalanche. But the Heat and the Hawks have both been on a roll - kaiser, sesame or onion.

Team USA lost to Mexico in the world baseball classic and a major league legend set to retire. NPR Sports correspondent, Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Morning, Scott.

SIMON: Last night, the Miami Heat pushed their winning streak to 17 in a row defeating the Philadelphia 76ers. Anyone going to beat this team ever?

GOLDMAN: Woo-woo-woo. That's the sound of the Miami Heat express. Seventeen in a row, Scott. Actually, little known fact - maybe NBA fans have remembered this - the second team in the NBA this season to win that many. The L.A. Clippers won 17 in a row. But neither of those teams, including Miami, has gotten close to the gold standard; the L.A. Lakers who won 33 straight in the 1971-'72 season.

Scott, with Miami we're seeing the best team in the league, the defending champs in full flight. LeBron James is dominating the NBA the way it was said he always would. So it's a sight to behold. It will be exciting to see how long this thing can go on.

SIMON: Speaking of streaks, the Chicago Blackhawks finally have a loss, or at least a tally in the loss column after 24 wins, wins and/or ties to start this season. You'll explain this, but did this really lift up the sport of hockey when it needed it?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, it helped. I mean, there was that nasty lockout and I think people went into the regular season kind of grumbling about it, hockey fans less so. They returned in droves to the arenas. You know, but it was fun. They came up about ten games shy of the single season record for most consecutive games earning at least a point.

Now, this whole earning a point thing is one of the problems with this streak. It's not a simple as a win streak. Yeah, you win a number in a row and that's great. Well, you see, during this streak, the Blackhawks actually lost three games in overtime, but you still get a point if you get to overtime and lose in overtime. So the point streak was alive even though they didn't win all those games, and this is why some sports fans grumbled about his points streak, although hockey fans loved it.

SIMON: Now that is so complicated. I can see why the people who play the game just take out their sticks and start hitting each other.


SIMON: How are you supposed to keep track of this stuff anyway?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, I know. And I was expecting you to take out your stick and start hitting me, and I thank you for not doing that.


SIMON: Listen. In baseball, something besides spring training to talk about. The World Baseball Championships have begun and the U.S. team opened pool play with a loss to Mexico. A surprise, right?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. A stunner, really, Scott. You know, because the USA, while it doesn't have every all-star on this team, it's a lineup stocked with some really good players and former all-stars and some former MVPs. But with that said, not to worry. You play three games in the first round. It's a round-robin with the other teams in your pool, and then the top two teams in the pool advance.

So while this is a setback, the USA's a good enough team to rally and still have a good enough record to move on.

SIMON: Finally, one of the greatest pitchers ever to hold a baseball will apparently retire after this season, Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. You'll notice, I didn't make that just relief picture. One of the greatest pitchers.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Fantastic. Although we do know him as a reliever and unstoppable reliever; the kind of guy the Yankees always talked about shortening the games. Always said we've just got to get to Mo. We've got to get to Mariano Rivera, whatever inning he's coming in, which in past years was earlier than the 9th inning, but we've just got to get there. Game over. He's just, he's automatic, you know.

A wonderful, humble guy. An absolute force on the mound. How many years we've watched him jog in from the bullpen, get to the mound with that placid expression on his face and then throw his trademark cut fastball past batter after batter. He wasn't a Houdini pitcher. He didn't hide pitches and, you know, nip the corners, that kind of thing. He would blow that fastball past guys. They'd know it'd be coming, and they still couldn't hit it.

Phenomenal pitcher.

SIMON: Interesting note, he's going to be the last player we'll see on the field wearing number 42. Maybe we should explain this. He was one of about a dozen players that were permitted to keep wearing 42 when it was retired in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson. And he is the last of those players who will retire. Rachel Robinson said on Friday, and I love this quote, "I've always been proud and pleased that Mariano was the one chosen to wear that number because I think he brought something special to it."

GOLDMAN: That's absolutely true. Couldn't have been worn by a better guy, absolutely.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: Pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.