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The Week In Sports


I wait all week to say time for sports.


SIMON: And the cycle of sports life this week - retirements, returns and the prospect of breaking records with a kapow (ph). Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the Magazine joins us. Thanks for being with us again, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. Big - how am I?

BRYANT: Easy (laughter).

SIMON: Jake Arrieta won the Cy Young Award. We'll get to that. Howard, David Ortiz - Big Papi - retiring from baseball. Help us mark the significance.

BRYANT: Well, I think it's self-explanatory if you're from Boston and if you're of a certain age where you remember the Red Sox not winning anything and also expecting to lose outside of the 617 area code. Now, David Ortiz is a phenomenal, phenomenal figure in Boston sports history. He is the guy who is the demarcating line until 2004, when the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918. But it was really more of a culture shift for him. It was when he came and when the Red Sox beat the Yankees in 2004, down three games to nothing, greatest comeback in the history of professional - American professional sports. It didn't just signal the end of an era for the Red Sox or generations for the Red Sox, but also, in a rivalry, it was no longer hammer and nail with the Red Sox being the nail against the Yankees. But now, the Yankees believed that the Red Sox were as good a team and the Red Sox believed that they were not just as good, but better. And now, three championships later, people don't talk about curses anymore. They talk about the Red Sox essentially being a dominant, dominant team. He's chiefly responsible for that.

SIMON: Quick question - slam dunk for the Hall of Fame or there is a complication.

BRYANT: No, that's not a quick question. But - and it is complication because he was linked to the survey testing that he tested positive for PEDs back in 2003 when there was no sanction, when there was no penalty. It was simply survey testing. But his name was linked in a 2009 New York Times report. He never failed a drug test, but, of course, neither did Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Alex Rodriguez. And they're all paying a price - nor did Roger Clemens.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: But it's going to be very difficult for him. In err of (ph) - it's going to be a selective justice question because David Ortiz is one of my all-time favorites. Everybody loves him. We'll see if he pays the same price that some of these other great players have paid, come Hall of Fame time.

SIMON: The New England Patriots are still undefeated. So if you were Bill Belichick, their coach - and I know they were close to picking you - would you say, hey, guys, hurry up and lose a game. I want to get this monkey off our back before we go into playoff and Super Bowl season?

BRYANT: No, I never understood that. There's always pressure when you're the Patriots. And there's pressure to win no matter if you're 15 and 1 or 16 and 0. Obviously, they would love to shut the Miami Dolphins up and finally be that undefeated team that they thought they were going to be in 2007. But I think when you're the Patriots, and knowing Bill Belichick as he is, the goal is one thing - to be good on Sunday or, this week, Monday against Buffalo. And then to be good the next week and be better and better and better. I never believed that if you have a streak it's a good thing to lose. I think when you're playing well, you keep doing what you're doing.

SIMON: Baseball post-season awards. The Cubs did very well. Modesty forbids me from ticking them off, one by one. Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals, won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Is this his - the first in a whole shelf?

BRYANT: Well, it should be. He's a terrific player and we talk about the great players in the other sports who are just superstars in their own right. And Bryce Harper's an exciting player. I know if you're in the National League East, you would root against him. But it's a - it really is a terrific time for baseball with a lot of young players out there doing things. Obviously, Jake Arrieta doing his thing in Chicago, Kris Bryant the National League Rookie of the Year and, of course, Bryce Harper with the MVP. This should not be the first one for him. And with Dusty Baker running show in D.C. next year, I think Nationals-Mets is going to be a very interesting battle all season long. And now with Bryce Harper being an MVP, as well, a lot of pressure is taken off of him and then more added to be great again.

SIMON: Quick question, I'm going to press this. Golden State Warriors defeated the Chicago Bulls last night 106 to 94. Are they playing not just for another championship, but to win...

BRYANT: No, they're playing to win 70 games. They're playing to beat that Michael Jordan team that won 72 games. And they're trying to tell everybody that we are not a fluke. We're great. And Steph Curry is proving it as well. So much fun to watch.

SIMON: Howard Bryant from espn.com and ESPN the Magazine. Thanks so much, Howard.

BRYANT: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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