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Mike Pesca

The chatter, hype and jargon in the weeks leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII is more impenetrable than the Seahawk's secondary.

Perhaps you've heard the Seattle Seahawks have a running back who enters "Beast Mode." Maybe you've heard that the Denver Broncos' counter to Beast Mode is a defensive lineman nicknamed "Pot Roast."

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The extra point might just be the most unexciting play in football. After all, the post-touchdown, 1-point kick is successful 99.5 percent of the time — so successful that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently talked about eliminating it.

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Nicholas Dawidoff's Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football may be the best book I've ever read about football. It is certainly the most detailed account of the players inside the helmets and the coaches obscured from an enthralled public by large, laminated playsheets.

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For the first time since 1999, the two teams with the best record in baseball will meet in the World Series. The Boston Red Sox host the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park tonight.

Enough said, let's bring in NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi.

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Muhammad Ali's first title defense, a first-round TKO of Sonny Liston in 1965, propelled Ali to the status of icon. In Ali's training camp before the fight was an icon from an earlier era: Lincoln Perry. He was the first African-American movie star, who went by the stage name Stepin Fetchi. The relationship between the two men is the subject of an off-Broadway play called Fetch Clay, Make Man.

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The global governing body of soccer, or football as the rest of the world calls it, has a big decision to make next week. Some in that group, known as FIFA, are rethinking their plan to hold the 2022 World Cup in the desert nation of Qatar in the middle of summer.

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By the standard of normal golfing mortals, Tiger Woods has had an incredible summer. He's won multiple tournaments and millions of dollars in prize money. What he didn't do was win any of golf's four major championships, and that has led some to write off Woods' 2013 as a failure.

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Because my morning routine involves the waking, feeding, dressing, brushing and sunblocking of a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, certain personal morning grooming habits fall by the wayside. Like, all of them. This is why I think of the gym mainly as a place to wash up.

Which is a long way of saying I ran out of shaving cream the other day.

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By now, you might have heard, for the second straight year the Miami Heat are NBA champions.

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Any recreational league basketball team, any police athletic league squad and every group of 8-year-olds who wear the same uniform are, on the first or second day of practice, introduced to the 2-3 zone defense.

The coach will say, "On defense, you two short guys stay near the foul line, and you three bigger kids, you go down near the basket. Put your hands up, and you're now playing the 2-3."

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The Louisville Cardinals are among the teams dominating at this year's men's Division 1 NCAA basketball tournament, which resumes Thursday night. The team credits harassing, active defense for its wins.

But there's something else at work, too: deflections. The team puts a lot of stock in them, though deflections aren't an officially tracked statistic.

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The Major League Soccer season starts tomorrow. Superstar David Beckham is gone and there aren't any new teams to get excited about this year. But the MLS is on solid footing, and as NPR's Mike Pesca reports, the league has big ambitions.

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