SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The art of fiction is dead. Proust, Tolstoy, Atwood, move over. While half of America slept, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets 140-137 in a game with four - count them, you almost run out of fingers - four overtime periods. That hasn't happened since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Yes, a man named Eisenhower was president. NPR's Tom Goldman is in what's beginning to look like title town USA with organic ramps and fiddlehead ferns - Portland. Tom, thanks for being with us. And I'm breathless.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I wouldn't miss it.
SIMON: What a game - what a game.
GOLDMAN: Three and a half hours of sport as diversion, entertainment, unmitigated pleasure unless you're from Denver.
SIMON: (Laughter) Pleasurable until the last second - last 5.6 seconds, really - yeah.
GOLDMAN: The best summing up came from Portland head coach Terry Stotts after the game. He said, I have no idea what happened in the first half or the second half or the first three overtimes. Rodney Hood came in and played great. It was a hell of a game. I've never been involved in a game like that. It was an amazing effort by both teams. Rodney Hood, who he did mention, came into the game...
GOLDMAN: ...Two minutes left in the fourth overtime after sitting on the bench forever. He was the freshest player on the court. And he scored seven points, including a monster three-point shot at the end, which pretty much sealed it. Sadly, Scott, that leaves out so many other players...
GOLDMAN: ...From both teams who competed magnificently. But if I've piqued your interest, set aside 3 1/2 hours today and watch a replay.
SIMON: On the other hand, it's just two-game-to-one lead. Do the Blazers have enough in the tank?
GOLDMAN: I think both teams will summon the physical energy. This is what they train for. But I think Portland has a psychological advantage right now. Losing a game like that after that effort is pretty demoralizing. And Denver has to deal with that. And it probably puts them in a more vulnerable position. If the Blazers get by Denver, probably Golden State lurks in the next round.
GOLDMAN: Blazer fans are just thinking...
SIMON: Lurks - Golden State looms.
GOLDMAN: Looms - but Blazer fans are just thinking about tomorrow's Game 4 against the Nuggets at this point.
SIMON: Kentucky Derby, of course, today - but this year's race comes in the face of a lot of controversy surrounding the deaths of the greatest athletes in that sport. And, of course, I mean the horses.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Today starts the Triple Crown period - three big races, the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, over the next month. This time always captures even the casual racing fan. But as you say, horse racing already is in the spotlight with the deaths of 23 horses in recent months at Santa Anita in Southern California. Those deaths prompted calls for reform - some of it starting to happen.
SIMON: Some changes have been made, right?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, Santa Anita has responded, putting into place several changes related to medicating race horses. And just this week, it was announced the track is going to start using scan technology to study horses and diagnose injuries before they become catastrophic. That's considered a very big deal. And on a larger level, an organization called the Coalition For Horse Racing Integrity - it's starting a nationwide campaign to support a current bill in Congress that would regulate racing and unify an incredibly balkanized industry.
GOLDMAN: Thirty-eight states have racing. And there are 38 sets of rules. And it makes it really hard to get any kind of measure passed, particularly safety measures that would protect the horses.
SIMON: Something I've wondered about in recent weeks - Tom, does horse racing have a problem the way football has a problem with concussions, that there is just damage in the sport itself?
GOLDMAN: That's a really good question. There are those who say that's definitely the case and that horse racing should be abolished because it's inherently cruel to the animals. But there are certainly others, many in the industry, who say racing can go on safely without horses being mistreated. But if the industry wants to both benefit a lot of humans and be humane toward the animals at the same time, it has to be a lot better. There has to be reform because, if the public loses interest, reform efforts stall. As one animal rights activist told me, complacency is the enemy of the horses. And that could doom a whole industry.
SIMON: Yeah. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.