The feelgood moment of the baseball season occurred on Mother's Day, when Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden hurled the 19th perfect game in major league baseball history against first-place Tampa Bay with his beloved grandmother in the stands. This masterpiece propelled the Stockton, Cal. product, now in his fourth big-league season, into the national spotlight and spotlighted the enduring bond with his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who raised him after his mother's death from cancer when Braden was in high school. The 26-year-old Braden, who entered the game with an ordinary 17-23 career mark, had already made national headlines a month earlier with a verbal outburst at Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, showing a fierce competitive streak. REAL SPORTS correspondent Frank Deford talks with the suddenly famous left-hander and the grandmother who has the same feisty, combative personality.
On the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border, one of the most surprising success stories in sports is being written. With a population of 175,000 that is 90% Hispanic, Brownsville has rocked the quiet world of chess by turning young players into champions. Launched as a morning pre-school activity at Russell Elementary School in 1990 by educator Jose Juan Guajardo, chess quickly grew in popularity. Within a few years, elementary schools were winning state titles, with middle and high school championships not far behind. As prodigies from hardscrabble, academically struggling city schools accumulated national titles, even the local college program distinguished itself, ranking among the nation's best teams. REAL SPORTS correspondent Mary Carillo journeys to Brownsville to see how one of the most impoverished cities in the country rallied around the sport and carved out a niche as a hotbed of chess - one pawn at a time.
Imagine a sport where male bonding and toughness are not only more important than winning games, but define the men who play it. And imagine being a gay man in this testosterone-driven environment, forced to hide your identity. For years, Welsh national team member Gareth Thomas has been one of the most successful figures in rugby while pretending to be somebody he's not. Now, after a lifetime of pain and secrecy, he has come out and is free to be himself. Correspondent Bernard Goldberg sits down with Gareth Thomas, the only openly gay man among active players in major professional sports, in this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated report.
With the world's attention focused on the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, REAL SPORTS revisits its Emmy(r)-winning 2005 expose of racism in elite professional soccer. In that report, Bryant Gumbel traveled to Europe to talk with star players such as Thierry Henry, revealing blatant fan racism. Now, Gumbel visits three members of the 2010 United States World Cup team - Oguchi Onyewu, Maurice Edu and DaMarcus Beasley - who have been subject to racism while playing in Europe.