Sports: Finals Down Under; A New Tiger In Detroit

The women's finals in the Australian Open are already over. In baseball, power-hitter Prince Fielder has returned to his childhood team, the Detroit Tigers, for which his father played. Host Scott Simon talks sports with Howard Bryant of ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com.

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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: In tennis: Finals Down Under. Baseball: a new homering Tiger in Detroit. And just ahead of an Indy Super Bowl, a spat about the future of the Colts' quarterback. From the studios of New England Public Radio, we're joined now by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine and ESPN the room deodorizer.

Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Hiya, Scott.

SIMON: The finals today, in the Australian Open. Maria Sharapova against Victoria Azarenka. I could hear them from here.

BRYANT: Put your earplugs in. It was not much of a match, though. Azarenka destroyed, destroyed Maria Sharapova, 6-3, 6-0. But we finally have a new number one. Caroline Wozniacki now has been replaced by Azarenka, which is good for the women's game; that you finally have somebody who's a number one, who's also won a major. And I think that really bodes well coming out of having this year-and-a-half's worth of Wozniacki not really being a number one because she hadn't won the big one. Now, you've got a couple of power players at the top of the rankings in Kvitova and Azarenka, and they've both won majors.

SIMON: And the men's finals are tomorrow.

BRYANT: If you're going to awake at 3 a.m. it's going to be a classic. You've got Djokovic - Novak Djokovic - and Rafael Nadal playing in the championship once again. Last year, of course, was Novak's greatest year - one of the great years in tennis history. He played Nadal six times in finals, beat him all six times. Beat him at the U.S. Open, beat him at Wimbledon, and now they're playing again for the championship. And Djokovic is just a better player. But once again, Nadal has incredible heart. He's got 10 majors. So, this is going to be a real treat for anyone who really loves the game.

SIMON: Prince Fielder's signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers, the team for which his father played, that he grew up with. A few weeks ago, pundits said that he wouldn't get one of those amazing deals. Sounds to me like he did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRYANT: Well, no, he didn't get the $252 million that Alex Rodriguez got back in 2000. He didn't get the $250 million that Albert Pujols got last month. He only got $214 million from the Detroit Tigers. So the two big free agents combined for $464 million in salaries. It's huge for the American League, and once again, salaries are just exploding in baseball. They always do. But if you are the Texas Rangers, the team that's won the pennant the last couple of years, things just got really difficult for you. You're biggest rival, the Angels, in your division, now has Pujols, and the team that you beat to go to the World Series, the Tigers, now have Prince Fielder. And you've got the Red Sox and Yankees waiting for you, as well. So, it's going to be a big year in the American League.

SIMON: Do you expect to see the great Peyton Manning in an Indianapolis Colts uniform again?

BRYANT: I'd like to say yes, but I think the answer is no. He missed the whole season with a neck injury. He's had three surgeries on the neck. And the Colts have a money decision to make. Do they pay him the $28 million that he's due on March 3rd without knowing whether or not he can play? They've got the first pick in the draft, they're going to take a quarterback. I think this is the end of the Colts and Manning, which was a terrific, terrific (unintelligible); went to the Super Bowl twice. They won it once, and I think it always ends poorly when it comes to injuries and when a great player comes to the end of the line. But I don't think we're going to see Payton Manning again.

SIMON: Not at all? He's not going to sign with someone - I guess it depends on...

BRYANT: I think he'll sign with someone else, certainly. But I think as a Colt, I think it's done.

SIMON: Of course, his little brother's got a big day coming up next weekend, doesn't he? I'm on a reporting trip next week. Who do you see in the Super Bowl, Giants-Patriots?

BRYANT: Well, I hate to say it, 'cause it betrays my New England roots, but I think that the Giants are going to win. I think the Giants are a bad matchup for the Patriots, and especially if the Patriots still are going to have Julian Edelman, a wide receiver - covering the slot receiver, covering Victor Cruz. I think it's going to be a tough matchup. But the one thing I will say. The Patriots have a lot of heart, and during - the pride games that they've had to play, they've won them all. And this is as big a pride game as they can have, trying to avenge losing the undefeated season four years ago.

SIMON: I'll say Patriots by 9.

BRYANT: I can't go there. I think it's going to be a close game, but I think the Giants could take them out.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine the magazine. Thanks so much.

My pleasure.

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