Week In Sports: The Jets, Tebow And An NBA Christmas

Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon talks to Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine about the New York Jets, Tim Tebow and the NBA on Christmas Day.

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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: New York, New York, a heck of a sports dateline at the moment. The New York Jets, who've been the Snooki of pro sports, have a quarterback controversy after announcing that third-stringer Greg McElroy will start tomorrow's game. Did they forget they've got a guy named Tebow on the bench? But with the rise of the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, who needs to watch football in New York anyway? Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine joins us from the studios of New England Public Radio.

Thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Now that the Bears are losing, I don't think I've enjoyed watching any more team in pro sports than the New York Jets this year. My favorite replay being when Mark Sanchez runs into the derriere of his own line. What's happening on that club?

BRYANT: Well, it's been a full-blown disaster this year. And I think that it was one that a lot of people could see coming. And I think the downfall of the Jets is even more pronounced considering that in Rex Ryan's first two years they were in the AFC championship game back-to-back years. They were a game away from going to the Super Bowl. And now it's become, you know, football follies for them.

And I think what the problem is is that you give Mark Sanchez, your quarterback, a big contract, tell him that he's your guy, and then you bring in Tim Tebow, who is a circus all unto himself. And then you don't play him. And then the whole season falls apart. And I think this is one of those examples where we spent so much time talking about players, but we really don't hold management very accountable. And this one is completely on the management of the New York Jets.

SIMON: Yeah. Now, I'm assuming they're not putting in Tim Tebow because they want to shop him, right? Well, why let him look good, right?

BRYANT: Well, it could be that. But I think that I give the football people in this game a lot more credit than I think a lot of the fans do in that a lot of people who've been in this game for a lot of years, whether it was on draft day, whether it was in Denver and now in New York, they've seen Tim Tebow play every day in practice. They've seen him in drills. And it's obvious that there's something about his game that people just don't like.

KYLE SMITH: Yes, the Denver Broncos made the playoffs last year. They were 8-8. And they were not a very good football team outside of their defense and every now and then Tim Tebow made a play. Look at the Broncos now with a real quarterback - of course a legend - Peyton Manning, and they're a much, much better team. Maybe Tim Tebow's just not that good. And that's the bottom line here.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the National Hockey League season or perhaps there is no season. Games have been canceled to January 14th. Canceling the full season is a real possibility now. Jonathan Mahler, the Bloomberg News Service this week, wrote a strong column in which he said National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman is the worst commissioner in any sport. Do you care to disagree?

BRYANT: No, I don't disagree. And I think that the bottom line with the National Hockey League is two lockouts in 10 years, one canceled season, another one about to be canceled. And they've really done a real disservice to the fans, but I don't think anything's going to change until they realize that the public has had enough. And right now the public hasn't. The public still goes back to these games.

SIMON: Speaking of games, my gosh, what are there, three big basketball games on Christmas day? The Knicks versus the Lakers, the Celtics versus the Nets, which certainly is an indication of the way basketball is back in the Big Apple. And then the Thunder versus the Heat, a rematch of the championship last year.

BRYANT: Yeah, it's great basketball. And I think once again the NBA, like football on Thanksgiving, the NBA has commandeered Christmas as their showcase event. And I feel like what they're really saying is these are the teams that you need to watch. And to have Brooklyn involved here and to have the Knicks involved is a sign that New York basketball is something that the NBA wants to sell.

And why not? The Knicks are a great team this year. They're fun to watch. I think they can challenge the Heat, although I don't think anyone's going to beat the Heat this year. And the Nets are a fun story, back in Brooklyn. I think it's very compelling basketball.

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

BRYANT: Happy holidays. My pleasure.

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