SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And so good now to turn to sports. And where's a sports fan to turn this weekend today in Williamsport, PA? Kids from the South Side of Chicago play kids from near the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas for the Little League World Series U.S. championship. And the college football season begins, too, during a time when the game confronts questions about not paying athletes athletes, athletes cribbing test answers and, as always, concussions. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Hi there, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello.
SIMON: We got the hombres from Jackie Robinson West on the South Side playing a great team of kids from Mountain Ridge of Las Vega for the U.S. Little League title this afternoon. Whatever happens - has this been a "Hoosiers" experience for the country?
GOLDMAN: "Hoosiers" for baseball, yeah. And I think the cinematic theme has shifted, actually, Scott. You had Philadelphia's Taney Dragons with the star of the tournament, Mo'ne Davis. They were the Bad News Bears, you know - a lovable group with all shapes and sizes and genders and - but not enough firepower to stay with the big guys. They lost to both Jackie Robinson West and Las Vegas. Now you've got more of a "Rocky" situation or a "Hoosiers" situation with Jackie Robinson West, the underdog, against the big power Vegas team that everyone fears.
GOLDMAN: Las Vegas already beat Jackie Robinson West 13-2 in an earlier game. And the boys from Nevada have outscored the tournament so far.
SIMON: My guys from Jackie Robinson were just taking their measure. They were just warming up, yeah?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, boys from Nevada have outscored opponents so far, in total, 33 runs to five. So they better take the measure.
SIMON: But it is a World Series. And I have an anecdotal memory that most of the time, it's the teams from outside the U.S. that win. They're great teams from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan. I wouldn't bet against them.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, well - you know, actually, the last - three of the last four years, a team from Japan has one. And it is a good point. The U.S. teams have gotten so much attention - deservedly so - that most have forgotten that there is an ultimate game between the U.S. champ and the international champ. And that game is tomorrow. Today, South Korea and Japan play to decide the international champions. South Korea already has beaten Japan, 4-2. But the experts, Scott - and yes, there are experts on Little League - I think probably the players' moms.
SIMON: Oh, I hope - there's not a betting line is there? It occurred to me with a team from Vegas.
GOLDMAN: Probably - probably is, yeah. Well, the experts are picking Japan because of momentum. Japan thumped Mexico, 12-1, Thursday in an elimination game behind two home runs by Suguru Kanamori. So Japan looks to be the favorite in that one.
SIMON: College football begins today - a game between Eastern Washington University and Sam Houston State. They play on the bright red Roos Field in Washington state. What do you look forward to in the season?
GOLDMAN: Oh, a lot - a lot of the usual - you know, passion and excitement and tradition on Saturday afternoons, academic scandals, coaches getting paid millions of dollars while players still get little or nothing. Although, change is in the works on that one.
GOLDMAN: And this year, a truly unusual and highly anticipated ending to the season - a playoff at the highest level...
GOLDMAN: ...Of college football. A couple of details here on what to look for - there's a lot of attention on the new coach at the University of Texas. Since getting to the national title game and losing in 2010, the Longhorns have not played up to the huge expectations in that state. Charlie Strong is the man brought in to turn things around or, as his off-season motto said, to put the T back in Texas. Another story - Notre Dame has always prided itself as a paragon...
GOLDMAN: ...Of virtue when it comes to college sports. But the university enters this season dealing with another academic issue involving football players. It's the third incident in a little over a year relating to academics and athletics.
SIMON: I'm interested in this, too. For the first time, I gather, fans at some college stadiums won't have to drink all of their beer out of a bathroom plunger - which, you know, is a big thing in games, right?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter). Well, yeah - not the first time ESPN is reporting that more schools...
SIMON: More schools - OK.
GOLDMAN: ...Are going to start selling beer in stadiums because...
SIMON: I just go to games at Brigham Young, I guess - go ahead, yeah.
GOLDMAN: ...Yeah, that's right. Yeah, apparently, because skyrocketing tuitions, apparently, aren't enough and they want to make more money. No, actually, it's for the athletic departments at some of the smaller schools. Good news, though - that we're told that by selling beer during games, it'll inhibit binge drinking beforehand because students can relax and know that they can get a beer or two during the game. So we'll see how that plays out.
SIMON: You know, I am totally unbiased - this game coming up between Las Vegas and Jackie Robinson West of Chicago. Nice to talk to you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter). Good to talk to you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DID YOU SEE JACKIE ROBINSON HIT THAT BALL?")
BUDDY JOHNSON: (Singing) Yeah, boy, yes, yes - Jackie hit that ball.
SIMON: Oh, listen to this theme song. Good luck, guys. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.