U.S. Open, Wimbledon Herald Summer Season
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.
(Soundbite of music)
And what a lineup. Golf - a near-perfect performance to behold yesterday at the US Open. Tennis - Wimbledon starts on Monday. Baseball - the stars might be realigning.
Howard Bryant joins us now from Amherst, Massachusetts.
Howard, thanks for being with us.
Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (ESPN.com): Scott, how are you? Good morning.
SIMON: Good morning.
And, wow, let me ask you about that round that Rory McIlroy had yesterday at Congressional Country Club. Twenty-two years old, leads by six strokes headed into today. But, of course, we remember what happened at the Masters when he kind of came apart. And he - his last hole yesterday was double bogey.
Mr. BRYANT: A double bogey, exactly. But that's the negative in you, Scott. You've got to think of the positive here. It's an amazing story - 22 years old.
And if you think about where golf has been, especially with the big guy not being there anymore, it's a wonderful thing for the sport, considering that this is what golf needs. And especially going into the final weekend. You've got two rounds for him to hold on to his six shot lead, and it was eight shots before the double bogey. But post-Tiger, I don't think the sport could ask for anything more.
SIMON: Let me ask you about Wimbledon, because the Williams sisters both have designs on making a comeback after both of them struggling against prolonged injuries. What's their prognosis?
Mr. BRYANT: Well, when they're in the tournament they are always going to be favorites. And I think it's great for tennis. Obviously, we're talking about golf with star power. This is exactly what the women's game needs. You've got this dearth of players. And I know that the French Open was fantastic for Li Na.
One thing that I really enjoy about this. Not only are the Williams sisters back, which is what the sport needs, but believe it or not, in that game where you can't - where you've ancient at 25, the women's games is being dominated right now by players who are nearing 30. Venus is 30. Serena's 29. Li Na is 29. And Francesca Schiavone is 30 years old. And so for all the ancients out there at age 30, you can actually pick up a racket and think you can win.
SIMON: And let me ask an annual question on the men's side, because we have, of course, familiar names - Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. Andy Murray, the pride of Britain, the hope of Britain...
Mr. BRYANT: The hope of Britain.
SIMON: ...does he have a chance?
Mr. BRYANT: I think he's got a chance. And he was wonderful last year until Roger Federer broke the run. But I feel this is a three-person race on the men's side.
Andy Murray is so close. And I think he's going to go down in history maybe as one of the greatest players never to win a major because of those three guys -Federer, and Nadal, Djokovic. Nobody can crack that right now because they are so much better than the next four, five, six, than Murray, Soderling and Berdych.
And it's kind of sad for Andy Murray, but if he's going to be a great player eventually you've got to beat one of those three guys. No matter what tournament you're in, you're going to have to beat one of them or probably two of them.
SIMON: Want to get you talk now about the prospect of Major League realignment. Bud Selig, the commissioner, is said to be contemplating that - maybe on the verge of announcing something. What's behind the shake up? What do you foresee?
Mr. BRYANT: Well, I think the first thing baseball wants is two more playoff teams. There's no question about that. I think that the sport honestly believes that even though you have a 162-game season, even though the reason that only a few teams make the playoffs is to give value to that 162. I mean, what is the point of playing baseball all summer long if everyone's going to make the playoffs in October? I think baseball feels a bit of pressure that it's not the other sports in terms of having a big tournament at the end.
However, two 15-team leagues really doesn't make a lot of sense. If you're a team - how do you sell to your season ticket holders, that, yeah, we didn't make the playoffs and we were in 14th place last year. It just doesn't quite sound right.
I think that you can add two playoff teams without doing something so radical, because I think cosmetically at least it gives your fan base a bad feeling if you say we were 10th last year.
SIMON: All right. Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com, ESPN the magazine. You've got a wonderful piece running there, by the way, about the future of the Oakland A's.
Mr. BRYANT: And don't forget about those Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, Scott.
SIMON: Oh, I didn't pay attention. Nice to talk to you, Howard.
Mr. BRYANT: You, too, Scott.
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