Listen

A Champion In Hoops And Another On Ice: The Week In Sports

Jun 20, 2015
Originally published on June 20, 2015 10:40 am
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: A-Rod joins the 3,000 hit club, the Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years this week, the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years, and, is Tiger just going through the motions? We're joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine.

Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Good morning. Now, a big night for baseball. Let me just mention, both Chris Sale of the White Sox and Marco Estrada of the Toronto Blue Jays came within a pitch of no-hitters last night. But the night belongs to A-Rod - 3,000 hits, an extraordinary achievement. Why do a lot of people still find him hard to root for?

BRYANT: Well, this is the price that we pay. Everyone talked about the steroid era, and this is the reason why it mattered. We were all waiting for when these numbers were going to come, and they finally did - 3,000 hits, 667 home runs, 2,004 RBIs. This is Babe Ruth territory. This is Hank Aaron territory. It's Willie Mays territory. It's past Willie Mays, in terms of home runs. And why aren't we talking about this? Why aren't we celebrating this? Because of the drugs. It's no secret. And you can call it sanctimonious and you can make fun of tradition as being stale, but - and blame the media if you want, but because of the drugs, this thing means nothing, and it's the biggest price that I think baseball has paid.

SIMON: Yeah. More happily, here come the Hawks.

BRYANT: (Laughter). There went the Hawks.

SIMON: They won their third Stanley Cup in six years. People are asking about dynasty. Is this franchise helping to re-energize hockey?

BRYANT: Absolutely, and also, not just re-energizing hockey, but it's who it is. It's not that it's the Carolina Hurricanes - no disrespect to North Carolina or the Hurricanes - but this is an Original Six franchise. This is a hockey town. And Blackhawks, Bruins, Rangers - this is where - it's the lifeblood of the sport. And for them to do what they've done - and it's not just the fact that the Blackhawks have won. It's the way they've won. You can't beat them. When you get into the playoffs, they're, you know, they're down two games to nothing against the Lighting. They come back and win four straight. They go out - they beat the Bruins a couple years ago in unbelievable fashion. They beat Philadelphia for their first Cup back in 2010. And you just look at them, and they do it with their stars, and, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of them - fantastic, fantastic. Playing big when it matters - that's what being a superstar is all about. And that town's going crazy. They deserve it.

SIMON: Golden State Warriors - an accomplished, hugely-entertaining team. Steve Kerr, the coach, he's a man of rare human quality. How'd they manage this turnaround in a year?

BRYANT: Just - well, it wasn't that much of a turnaround. They were close last year. But I think they put it all together this year. They've mastered the modern basketball to three-point shooting league. I didn't necessarily think they could win by shooting 25 feet away from the basket. But they did it, and I became a believer pretty late in the year. And the way they ran through, they did it the same way the Blackhawks did. They got down a game against Memphis. They got down against Cleveland. And when it came time to play, they put it together and they did something that nobody had seen in the Bay Area in 40 years. Pretty spectacular stuff.

SIMON: Finally, got to ask about Tiger Woods. A shot - he shot a six over par at the U.S. Open yesterday, didn't make the cut, hasn't won a major tournament since 2008. Howard, this means you're brilliant son probably doesn't remember when Tiger Woods won a major. A great career, but are those lifetime records we projected beginning to slip out of reach?

BRYANT: Well, he's still got 14 majors and it's not like anyone's going to forget them. But this is the difference, I think, between the casual fan and the diehard fan. The casual fan still looks to Tiger to keep that sport moving. I was looking at the back page of the USA Today the other day, and Tiger was on the back page. He was in the main part of the ad. And he's out. He's out of the tournament. And the regular - the diehard fans will look at this and say Tiger's done, he hasn't won a major since 2008. And now it's really important to look at the guys who are here now - Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reid and the rest of them who are these up-and-coming players who are great players. Tiger's day has passed. We'll see what he does, but it doesn't like he's going to catch Jack Nicklaus's 18.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine, thanks so much. Speaking of your son, happy Father's Day, Howard.

BRYANT: Thank you. We're going to go see "Jaws."

SIMON: Oh, really? The original?

BRYANT: On the big screen.

SIMON: Oh, what fun. OK. Thanks for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.