Tom Goldman

A new era in college sports begins this week.

Following Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness — known by its abbreviation "NIL" — at least seven states will put into effect NIL laws, on Thursday. The laws allow athletes to make money for things like endorsement deals, signing autographs and social media content.

College sports are about to change dramatically and Congress needs to act quickly in order to ensure fairness.

That was the message Wednesday on Capitol Hill, at a lengthy senate hearing about new state laws that'll allow college athletes to make money off the use of their name, image and likeness. The money would not be from the athlete's school.

NBA fans have been flooding back into arenas for the playoffs.

The presence of ticket-purchasing and merchandise-buying humans, missing for more than a year during the coronavirus pandemic, has been a welcome sight for the cash-strapped league. Players have loved feeding off the excitement of live audiences.

Basketball fans love two types of March Madness matchups.

David vs Goliath. The classic little school against big school with the hope that little prevails.

And then there's power vs power. While we may lose the shock of an underdog win, we gain the potential awesomeness of two complete, deep basketball teams going at each other and seeing who's left standing.

In other words, Gonzaga vs Baylor 2021.

For college basketball fans, March Madness is back and a historic wait is over. Last year, for the first time ever, the wildly popular men's and women's Division 1 basketball tournaments were canceled because of the pandemic. Play starts today in the main draw of the men's tournament; the women start Sunday.

A year's worth of pent up excitement is about to burst, although still muted somewhat by the coronavirus.

Here to help guide, an A – Z of March Madness.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now, as they say on T-shirts all over America, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

It appears, with less than five months to go, the Tokyo Olympics will happen.

Organizers continue to insist the Games that were postponed last year, are on, despite lingering uncertainty.

When Tiger Woods conquered the golf world a couple of decades ago, it spurred a wave of minority participation in a game historically closed to people of color.

That wave still hasn't hit the sport's highest levels.

But some are making inroads, including African American golfer Kamaiu Johnson.

When the 27-year-old tees off on Thursday, in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it'll mark his debut on the PGA Tour.

Sunday, the Super Bowl will offer up history when the Kansas City Chiefs play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa.

That alone is historic. It's the first time a team has played a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

For more than 50 years, the NCAA has imposed academic rules to make sure college athletes aren't just athletes, and the decades-long process has generated plenty of controversy.

Critics claim the academic standards, and the penalties for not meeting them, discriminate against Black college athletes and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Life has become more challenging, and potentially dangerous, as winter weather forces more people inside during the coronavirus pandemic.

And the concerns extend to the world of sports.

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll with the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College reveals 56% of American sports fans believe people should not be participating in indoor team sports such as basketball.

Professional and college sports are playing through the pandemic, although it's taken a toll.

Tonight, it's a familiar moment in an otherwise strange baseball season. Game One of the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays. First pitch is at 8:09 p.m. ET.

For Major League Baseball, it's on to the postseason.

This year, that's saying a lot.

The sport wrapped up its regular season Sunday and got through it without being in a protective bubble like other leagues. There were COVID-19 outbreaks and postponed games.

There still could be problems in the playoffs.

A semi-full slate of college football games is scheduled for this weekend as a season unfolds....anxiously.

Already, two of the five major Division 1 conference have decided not to play this fall because of the coronavirus.

Pages