Trash Talk Makes For Bruising NHL, NBA Finals

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Here's an old joke: I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. That might not be so far from the truth in the Stanley Cup series between Vancouver and Boston. There's not much love lost between the combatants in the NBA Finals, either. Host Scott Simon talks to NPR's Tom Goldman about the championship series in the NHL and the NBA.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

You've heard that old joke: I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out. Well, might not be so far from the truth in the Stanley Cup series between Vancouver and Boston. These two teams don't seem to like each other. Also true in the NBA finals.

NPR's Tom Goldman is with us to talk some trash talk. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Ha, I'm not taking the bait. Good morning, Scott.

(Soundbite of laughter)

You're sounding wonderful today.

SIMON: And, Tom, I think you sound lucid and gracious as always, typically, my friend.

All right. Let's get to this.

You know, Roberto Luongo, the great Vancouver goalie, ordinarily, woke up last night after getting shelled by the Bruins, I guess, two previous games.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: So, I mean, what, did he just open his eyes?

GOLDMAN: Well, he played, you know, they all - Vancouver took advantage of that old magic elixir of home ice. The home team has won every game in this series. And if game five last night has been in Boston instead of Vancouver it probably would've been tough for the Canucks to turn the momentum. As you say, they got shelled in games three and four.

But, as you said, Luongo came through. He's been brilliant and streaky in goal. He's been benched twice in the playoffs for shoddy play, including during this series.

But he put on his brilliant mask last night. He stopped 31 shots. The Canucks matched the Bruins toughness and scored a wonderful third period goal. And now Vancouver is one win away from winning its first Stanley Cup.

SIMON: As are the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. They can win it on the road in Miami.

GOLDMAN: Well, not the Stanley Cup.

SIMON: Sorry, all right, the NBA cham - no, they are that good. OK? The Mavericks are that good they're going to win both trophies.

GOLDMAN: True, very true.

SIMON: Now, the Mavs' aging center, Dirk Nowitzki, has played magnificently in the clutch. And the other night, despite a 101 degree fever - ah, but yesterday, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James - we'll have some with his nickname -had some fun at Dirk's expense.

Mr. LEBRON JAMES (Forward, Miami Heat): Oh, did y'all hear me cough? I think I'm sick.

(Soundbite of coughing)

SIMON: What is LeBron James doing making jokes about a great player?

GOLDMAN: OK, Scott, if you'll indulge me I would like to rant about this and I'll answer your question through this rant.

SIMON: Remember, I'm a spiritual Clevelander. Go ahead, my friend.

GOLDMAN: There's so many things wrong with this. You know, them making fun of Dirk Nowitzki being sick. It's childish. It's arrogant. They knew the cameras were rolling and they still did it. And as you say, it is startling with LeBron. He's mocking Dirk Nowitzki? He should be watching Dirk on video and learning how to dominate the end of games instead of scoring 11 total points in the fourth quarters of the five games.

Now, after the video I think a lot of us are feeling less charitable about LeBron. And we've seen enough evidence this past week to say, OK, he is shrinking in the fourth quarters. He's not up to the challenge of the finals. Please go ahead and prove this wrong, LeBron. Prove that you are the so-called best player on the planet.

But until you do, I am much more interested in all the players in this great series who aren't brands, who haven't tattooed themselves with slogans like Chosen One, but who play great exciting basketball and who perform wonderfully in the clutch.

Thank you, Scott, and God bless America.

SIMON: I - that's what - do you want to take another 30 seconds on that line? I think that's - so what's your favorite joke of the week?

All right. I stopped LeBron James on the street and said, excuse me, sir. It's an honor to meet you. Do you have change for a dollar? And do you know what he said?

GOLDMAN: What?

SIMON: He said, well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...here are three quarters, but I have no fourth quarter.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Ba-boom.

SIMON: Well, all right. You think they can close it out, the Mavs?

GOLDMAN: I think they can. They have to do it in game six, because if Miami wins game six, on their home court in game seven may be a tall order for Dallas. But we're all rooting for Dallas.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman.

Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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