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Saturday Sports: Texas Rangers victory, NFL special play

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Texas Rangers - world champions. But how much of the world was watching, and the hottest player in the NFL might be playground stuff - the tush push. Oh, I can hardly say it with a straight face. Michele Steele of ESPN. Good morning, Michele.

MICHELE STEELE: Hey, Scott.

SIMON: So the Rangers won their world - first World Series this week - five games to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks. What led to their triumph after 51 years?

STEELE: You know, like so many things, Scott, it all starts at the top, right? You know, a couple years ago, under new leadership, the Rangers started spending a bunch of money to sign stars like shortstop Corey Seager. He, of course, became the World Series MVP this year. And they also managed to lure manager Bruce Bochy out of retirement. Believe it or not, this was his first year back, and he goes out and wins a World Series. That's his fourth ring...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...As a manager. The other three, of course, with the Giants. And Scott, let's remember here - the Rangers had a losing record on the road this season. But Bochy never let them panic. They went 11-0 on the road in the playoffs...

SIMON: Wow.

STEELE: ...And now they're World Series champions.

SIMON: I'm curious about this - I liked the games.

STEELE: Yeah.

SIMON: Baseball shortened the clock between pitches to 15 seconds this year to answer complaints. The game is too slow. And this World Series received the lowest ratings ever. Why do you think, aside from the fact that the Cubs weren't in it?

STEELE: (Laughter) Yeah, right. Me and you know that well as Chicago fans. Lower ratings than even the pandemic year when there were no fans in the stadium. Well, the theory here, Scott, is that these two teams, the Rangers and the Diamondbacks, they just don't move the needle with the national audience. Just last year, ratings were 23% higher with the Astros and the Phillies...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...In the Fall Classic. And guess what - we almost got that matchup this year. I'm guessing that ratings would have been better if those two had made it through.

SIMON: Big development last night. Michigan football accused of cheating by stealing opposing team's signs. But for now, nothing on head coach Jim Harbaugh. What's the latest?

STEELE: Well, it is game day, and the college football world, Scott, has been absolutely buzzing about this story. No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines are being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly stealing play signs of opposing teams. Now, here's the thing. Michigan is accused of having a staffer buy tickets to opponents games to film the other team's sidelines and try to kind of discern their play calls. That is a no-no. And the staffer at the center of all this, who is named Connor Stalions, just quit his job last night. He didn't want to cooperate with the investigation, reportedly. And there's heavy pressure right now on the Big 10 to punish the guy at the top, head coach Jim Harbaugh. Now, he has denied knowledge or involvement. And Scott, Ohio State fans have long been suspect of the team...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...Up north's dominance in that rivalry of late, and I think this only adds to it.

SIMON: Michele, biggest play in football right now - and we're coming up to the Cowboys-Eagles game. Biggest play is the tush push. Now, Michele, I'm sorry to say it, The New Yorker wrote an article about the push tush this week. So if The New Yorker has it, we can say it on NPR.

STEELE: Yes, officially.

SIMON: Play is pretty much what it sounds like, isn't it?

STEELE: Yeah. Yeah. It's a polarizing play. No one is better at doing it than the Philadelphia Eagles, who you mentioned who play the Cowboys tomorrow. They've been spectacularly successful at using it in sort of these short-yardage situations to get a first down or into the end zone. And unlike a quarterback sneak where the quarterback just goes up the middle, in the tush push, other offensive players like a running back and a tight end, push the quarterback from behind. The Eagles have a phenomenal offensive line, and that helps. But most critically, Jalen Hurts has immense power in his gluteus...

SIMON: Careful.

STEELE: ...Maximus? Can I say that on NPR?

SIMON: Oh, I bet you can say it on NPR. Yeah.

STEELE: That allows him to exert and absorb pressure. And they're calling it the brotherly shove in Philly. So they're making it their own.

SIMON: Ah, I'm so warmed. Michele Steele of ESPN, thanks so much for joining us and being so careful with your language.

STEELE: Of course. You bet, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.