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The Week In Sports


And we go now to sports. A certain long-cursed baseball franchise clinched their division title this week. And now the tough part begins. And the Paralympics are poised for a successful end to some great games. NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman, joins us. Hi there, Tom.


SIMON: Let's sweep out all the romance, sentimentality and legend about the Cubs. And there's not much left.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: This is a team whose success is the fruition of a master plan, isn't it?

GOLDMAN: A seven-year plan, in fact. Seven years ago is when the Ricketts family bought the team and put all the right pieces in place, from modernizing facilities to getting the best and brightest baseball minds - in particular, head of baseball operations Theo Epstein - to developing young - great, young players and adding important veteran free agents and getting a great manager, Joe Maddon.

Scott, the playoffs often defy best-laid plans. But you sure get a sense the Cubs are going to finally end the longest title drought in American major sport, 108 years - and if not this year, then soon after. The team is young, really good and built to last.

SIMON: Thankfully, we have time to talk about this in the succeeding weeks. I want to turn now to the Paralympics - be wrapping up in Rio tomorrow. There was a lot of concern they were going to be a flop and run out of money. That hasn't happened.

GOLDMAN: A month ago, Paralympic organizers reported only 12 percent of tickets sold. As of yesterday, they had sold 80 percent of the available 2 and a half million tickets. There's been a huge swell of interest certainly helped by the average price per ticket being about three and a half bucks.

But the crowds are coming. They're beating some Olympic attendance numbers. And a Paralympic spokesman told me they are cheering like crazy. A big reason, he said, is the level of athletic performance.

One example - in the final of the men's 1,500-meter run for minimally visually impaired runners - that means they ran without guides - the top four finishers all beat the winning time that Olympic 1,500-meter gold medalist Matt Centrowitz, Jr. ran in Rio last month.

Many don't think of the Paralympics as a place for high performance sport. But these games seem to be changing that perception.

SIMON: And Marieke Vervoort, the wheelchair racer of Belgium, won a silver in the 400 but got a lot of attention for other reasons, too.

GOLDMAN: You know, she has a painful progressive spinal disease. And it was first reported she had plans to end her life after the games. But in Rio, she clarified death was not imminent. But she said in 2008, she signed official papers that would allow her to kill herself. Assisted suicide is legal in Belgium.

She said doing that gave her control in the face of a disease that has robbed her of control. And as a result, she chose to keep living. Here she is.


MARIEKE VERVOORT: If I didn't had got those papers, I think I did already a suicide because it's very hard to live with so many pain and suffering. So I'm really glad with those papers. And I'm still alive and still can enjoy every little, little moment in my life.

GOLDMAN: And Scott, a great moment for Marieke Vervoort - in her last race in Rio today, she won a bronze medal in the 100-meters with the season-best time.

SIMON: Before we go today, Tom, W.P. Kinsella died last night - a great writer - Canadian. He wrote over 30 novels. I think he was best known for "Shoeless Joe," his novel about dream of a baseball universe and afterlife in the cornfields of Iowa - became the movie "Field of Dreams." Let me quote maybe his most famous lines.

I'm going to begin to tear. The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has been erased like a blackboard, only to be rebuilt and then erased again. But baseball has marked time while America has rolled by. W.P. Kinsella - he - well, we'll miss him. I will. Thanks very much for being with us, Tom.

GOLDMAN: And if you build it, they will come. You're welcome.

SIMON: OK. Tomorrow on WEEKEND EDITION - efforts to develop a safer football helmet. That could also protect BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.