Clemens' Mistrial, NFL Talks, And Finally, World Cup

Baseball is in the courtroom and the NFL is at the negotiating table. Soccer, at least, is on the field; the U.S. women's team is in the World Cup final on Sunday. Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine about the week's sports news.

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Baseball in the courtroom, NFL at the negotiating table. Well, at least they're playing soccer on the field. The U.S. women's team is in the World Cup final on Sunday. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine joins us.

Morning, Howard.

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

SIMON: I'm fine. Thanks. How are you?

BRYANT: Terrific.

SIMON: Well, because you didn't have to cover the Roger Clemens trial, which I know you'd cleared time to do.

BRYANT: I was on my way to down there and got a call saying stand down - mistrial.

SIMON: Well, so I - a mistrial. Huge error by the prosecution.

BRYANT: Gigantic.

SIMON: Judge called it with incredulity, a mistake a first year law student would make when the put some inadmissible evidence into a video. Is the case over? Is this story over for Roger Clemens?

BRYANT: Well, I think you're going to have to leave that to the legal minds sharper than me. I think the question is simply going to be whether or not a judge determines that Roger Clemens has been permanently prejudiced and cannot receive a fair trial.

If Judge Reggie Walton decides that on August 6th, then it's over. There won't be another trial. If he determines that there will be a chance for a new jury to come in and give Roger Clemens a fair trial then we'll do this all over again at taxpayer expense and you will pay the bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Personally, I understand.

BRYANT: You personally, Scott, will pay the bill for this.

SIMON: I want to ask you about the British Open. I don't think anybody's alleged that Tom Watson's wonderful shot yesterday has anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs. At the age of 61, he hit a hole-in-one.

BRYANT: Giving hope to everybody out there. And it's a wonderful thing. and that's one of the reasons why you watch sports, why you care about it so much, is because - especially with a game like golf - there are thousands upon thousand of people out there saying, you know, if Tom Watson can do it at that stage then I can go to my local club and I can do it as well.

It's great stuff. And I think that there's always at some tournament, one of the majors, one of the legends comes out and gives you a little bit of magic. And this was an example of that, especially with a tournament that's as wide open as this.

You've got Darren Clarke, second place, trying to win his first major, from Northern Ireland. You've got Lucas Glover in first place. And he won the Open - he won the U.S. Open in 2009. And you've got really, really awful English weather right now as well.

So it's going to be a great tournament, obviously. The next two days are going to determine the whole thing.

SIMON: Are they putting drivers in the baby basinets in Northern Ireland now? I mean, this proliferation of great Irish golfers is amazing.

BRYANT: Well, it's like the Spanish with tennis. There are certain generations where countries just begin to dominate - or the Kenyans when it comes to marathoning. And this is this generation where you've just produced a great run of golfers.

SIMON: Are they getting close to a deal to end the National Football League lockout?

BRYANT: Well, I think it depends on how much power the owners are willing to give up. I think they came very close to a deal over the last couple of days simply because the owners have decided that, gee, you know, players should have the right to become free agents.

After this lockout, the owners wanted a major concession, which was to have the players give up a right of first refusal when they're free agents. Well, that kind of defeats the purpose of being a free agent. And in return the players said no we're not going to do that, and the owners conceded to giving the players four years of unrestricted free agency, which is what they're supposed to have.

I think this is the big thing in football - control over players and control over salaries. It's the only sport where you have a hard cap, where you control players' salaries and you don't have completely unrestricted, unlimited free agency when a player's contract is up. This is the line in the sand on top of trying to split up $9 billion of revenue.

SIMON: Well, they don't have that problem in the U.S. women's soccer league. And the U.S. women's team is going to face Japan in the World Cup final tomorrow in Frankfurt. You like their chances?

BRYANT: I do. I do. However, I think that once again the shadow of the '99 team and the shadow of Mia Hamm and the great run that the women's team has had over the last 15-plus years can give us a false sense of security that this is going to be a walkover.

Japan is a very, very good team. And if the Japanese were American, shall we say, if were talking about an American sport we would be talking about them being the sentimental favorites because of the tsunami, because of the earthquake, because of all of the awful things that that country has had to go through.

And they are playing with an unbelievable amount of emotion. They're playing with heavy hearts. They're playing with passion. And they're playing as underdogs, in a sense, after beating Sweden and beating Germany. It's a wonderful story.

Now, they've never beaten the Americans. They're 0-22-3 all time. The Americans beat them twice as well. And so it's going to be a great battle. But once you get into a championship all that history kind of goes out the window. And you have to go out and play for 90-plus minutes.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: Have fun, Scott.

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