Sports Roundup: A Hot Night For Devils, Heat

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The New Jersey Devils stayed alive to force a game 6, the Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference finals in Game 7 and a 7-year undefeated record for boxer Manny Pacquiao came to end Saturday. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin talks with NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca about his take on the week in sports.


SISTER WINONA CARR: Life is a ball game being played each day...


If life is a ballgame, then NPR's Mike Pesca is caught between deciding what kind of ball; small white, big orange, oblong and brown or maybe a puck. Today, we're talking about the big orange kind, as in basketball because the Miami Heat just qualified to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals. Now, Mike, the Thunder, as I understand it, is a young team and while the Heat isn't really an old team, it's players are definitely older than the Thunder.

What do you think? Does that give the Heat some kind of advantage?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Well, this is the general consensus, that it does. You know, as I think about my own life, of course, basketball is a physical activity so youth should be served. But I constantly have to reevaluate whether experience or the vigor and enthusiasm of youth is really the most important thing. What do you think?

MARTIN: Well, since I personally haven't been in my job very long, I'm selfishly going to say the vigor of youth for my personal job.

PESCA: I'll say this, the more experience I get, the more I think experience is valuable. I don't know if that's self-serving. So here's, I think, as close as we come to a real answer. In basketball, it is the case that older teams are better teams. Last year, the Dallas Mavericks, they were the oldest team in the NBA. They won the NBA championship. This year, the Mavericks still old. The Celtics were the second oldest team in the NBA.

They came very close to winning the championship and the Heat have a lot of experience. The reason that being old is good isn't what you think. It's not that old makes you better. It's that when a team is pretty good, they usually go out and add a couple of veterans. And on the other side of the coin, teams that just stink and have no chance of winning would rather fill up the roster with first, second or third year guys, guys you have to pay less, rather than keep a 10-year veteran on the roster with a high salary.

So that doesn't make a lot of sense. The deal is with this series, of course, everyone's going to be very much focused on the youth of the Thunder and the experience of the Heat. We saw that in the Western Conference finals, where every time the Spurs did something good, it was because they were old and crafty. And every time the Thunder did something good, it was because they had mad hops.

MARTIN: So is then going to be some kind of referendum on the whole youth versus experience question this year?

PESCA: Yeah, it'll definitely be played like that, but I think that that really overstates it. There's the issue of easy narratives in sports, but there's also something called heuristics, which are a shortcut to thinking and human beings use them all the time. And the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman writes about, for instance, would you rather live in Massachusetts or California?

When that is asked to people, what do you think people always say?

MARTIN: California.

PESCA: Right. Because of...

MARTIN: Sunshine, of course.

PESCA: Right. And that's called anchoring, which is a heuristic meaning we only think about one big characteristic. And I think that's what's going to go on in the NBA finals. We think of the Thunder as being young and the announcers will keep saying the young Thunder are winning and maybe the old Heat won't get played up as much, but the enthusiasm of youth of the Thunder will overwhelm people's imaginations.

It's important, but you know what, it's really not that important.

MARTIN: OK. With the remaining seconds, anything else catch your eye?

PESCA: Yeah. Sometimes we do a curveball and I provide analysis of something you haven't heard of. The curveball this week is just this: Manny Pacquiao lost. He lost, yeah, to Tim Bradley. It was a decision that was described as inconceivable, as incomprehensible...

MARTIN: There are no words.

PESCA: Boxing is just going to have dig out from under this.

MARTIN: Oh, man. OK. NPR's Mike Pesca, thanks so much, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.


CARR: (Singing) Life is a ball game, being played each day. You know that life is a ball game, each and everybody can play. Yes, you know Jesus is standing at the home plate, is waiting for you there. Well, you know life is a ball game but you got to play it fair...

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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