Red Sox Vs. Yankees; Football's Back!

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The war between the Red Sox and the Yankees continues. There are new members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, it's time for football camp! Guest host Daniel Zwerdling discusses the week's sports news with ESPN.com's Howard Bryant.

DANIEL ZWERDLING, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Daniel Zwerdling. Time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

ZWERDLING: The war between the Red Sox and the Yankees continues. New members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And it's time for football camp. Howard Bryant joins us now. He's senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Hey, Howard.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (ESPN): Good morning.

ZWERDLING: Let's start first with the Red Sox/Yankees series going on right now in New York. You know, I have loved ones who are bitterly divided by these teams. It's sort of like during the Civil War.

Mr. BRYANT: Of course it is. And if you have bags under your eyes, it's because of last night's 15-inning game where the Red Sox and Yankees dueled until about 12:30. And the great villain, Alex Rodriguez - who was almost a Red Sock and now with the hated rival - won the game in the bottom of the 15th with a two-run homer. It's a great time. This is a great time of year for baseball, especially considering that you've got - it's what we like to call separation time, when August begins and you start to roll into September.

And the pretenders and the contenders begin to separate a little bit from each other and you find out which teams are really good. And it does seem like right now the Yankees, after having lost eight straight games to the Red Sox, they're a little bit better right now - four-and-a-half games up.

ZWERDLING: And I am very excited by that because my main claim to fame is that my bunkmate at Camp Talloa(ph)…

(Soundbite of laughter)

ZWERDLING: …lived next door to Moose Skowron and had his mitt. That types me age-wise probably.

Mr. BRYANT: Wow.

ZWERDLING: Also, of course, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct six new members. Tell us about a couple of the players that dazzled you most in their heyday.

Mr. BRYANT: Well, the Hall of Fame - the Football Hall of Fame is actually very interesting. It doesn't have the same cache necessarily as baseball because of all the great debates statistically. But the Football Hall of Fame is actually statistically the hardest one to get into of the four major sports.

And I think the sad note is Derrick Thomas posthumously being inducted after an amazing career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Fantastic player - one of the speed rushers of that great wave of linebackers - the Lawrence Taylors and Andre Tippetts, and Derrick Thomas - premier, premier player - and who tragically died in a car accident in 2000, and - which killed a fellow passenger.

And Derrick Thomas was a very, very good man. He was an interesting person. He made his own clothes, of all things.

ZWERDLING: Wait a minute: he sat a sewing machine and made his own…

Mr. BRYANT: He sat a sewing machine. He designed his own clothes, and he said he made them as well, a lot of them by hand.

ZWERDLING: Unbelievable.

Mr. BRYANT: Handmade vests and everything else, and it was really interesting. It's a sad story for him because he was not wearing a seatbelt and you think about what he could have continued on with his career and his philanthropy. And he was very nice to me when I had met him back at the Super Bowl.

You also have Rod Woodson, who was considered probably maybe the greatest cornerback of all time. A lot of times when you talk about cornerbacks in football, it's usually the ability to cover, to make sure that the opponent doesn't catch the ball. But he could do pretty much everything.

He could tackle - and they always say those little guys can't tackle. He could tackle, he could return punts. He could do everything. A very, very well-known all-around player, and it's going to be a big day for him.

ZWERDLING: And of course, Howard, the NFL training camps are starting up, and I was watching some footage the other day. You know, big guys ramming into those machines, those pad machines.

Mr. BRYANT: Tackling sleds.

ZWERDLING: Tackling sleds, thank you. The proper lingo here. Here's sort of a silly question, but I keep wondering when I see these guys year after year at training camp, is there something different about them than there used to be, than you used to see, say, 10 or 20 years ago?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, they've always been freaks of nature, that's for sure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRYANT: Let's just say that…

ZWERDLING: Let's hope they're not listening this morning.

Mr. BRYANT: I defy you define the six-foot-five, 280-pound man who can run a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds who's not playing in the National Football League.

ZWERDLING: Unbelievable. Well, Howard Bryant, thanks so much for joining us today.

Mr. BRYANT: My pleasure.

ZWERDLING: Howard Bryant, the senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine.

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