Sports-Tacular Sunday

Baseball hits its high point this week with the start of the World Series, and basketball is at the starting point, with the season opening Tuesday night. Host Guy Raz talks with Kevin Blackistone of AOL FanHouse about the flurry of fall sports highlights.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. At this point last weekend, it looked like the New York Yankees would stroll into their 40th World Series appearance. They'd taken a two to nothing lead in their series against the Los Angeles Angels. Well, it looks like the gods of baseball are smiling on Angels fans because the team has clawed its way back into the series.

(Soundbite of baseball game)

Mr. RORY MARKUS: Boy, you talk about nerve-wracking, but Brian Fuentes gets the save. The Angels stay alive. There will be a Game six.

RAZ: That's Rory Markus making the call on KLAA in Anaheim. Here in the studio with me is Kevin Blackistone, one source for all things sports.

Welcome back, Kevin.

Mr. KEVIN BLACKISTONE (AOL FanHouse): Thank you very much for having me.

RAZ: The Yankees and the Angels got rained out yesterday.

Mr. BLACKISTONE: Right.

RAZ: So they're back in New York tonight for Game six of their series. What chance do the Angels have to stay in this thing?

Mr. BLACKISTONE: I don't think much. The Yankees are just clobbering the baseball right now. They're batting about 273. They have 90 total bases in this post-season. It's a credit to the scrappiness of the Angels that they've been able to extend this, but I think that the Yankees have too much firepower and a little bit too much pitching for the Angels to come back.

RAZ: And they will face the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. Any chance that the Phillies might be able to beat them?

Mr. BLACKISTONE: Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely. The Phillies have a puncher's chance. I mean, they've hit 10 home runs. They clobber the ball as well. Ryan Howard is showing to be an MVP candidate once again, and they also have some great leadership.

RAZ: Now, Kevin, a lot of fans are pretty up in arms about the umpiring in the playoffs, so much so that people have been talking openly about whether or not we even need live umpiring.

Mr. BLACKISTONE: Well, I just think that we need to give the umpires some help. I mean, when you can sit at home or you can sit in the stadium and look on the JumboTron and see very clearly that they have missed a call, it seems absolutely ridiculous to continue with the game as if nothing has happened. So why not give them all the help that they need?

Baseball has already gone so far as to start using video to review questionable home run calls. So when you have a questionable situation like you did in a recent game with two runners trapped on third base and both of them clearly being out and the umpire only seeing one of them, just give them a little help. We can see it, get it right.

RAZ: Let me ask about the NBA for a moment. The season tips off this week. Three powerhouse teams picked up some huge acquisitions in the off-season.

(Soundbite of television program, "SportsCenter")

Unidentified Man #1: Back on SportsCenter with breaking news. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, agreeing to a trade for Shaquille O'Neal.

Unidentified Man #2: In a deal that pairs him up with reigning NBA MVP LeBron James.

Unidentified Man #3: The Boston Celtics are very happy for the next couple of years to have Rasheed Wallace on board.

Unidentified Man #4: It looks like the Lakers are going to sign Ron Artest away from the Houston Rockets. I think this is major news.

RAZ: There you have it, Shaq to the Cavaliers, Rasheed Wallace to the Celtics and Ron Artest to the greatest team of all time, of course, the Lakers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLACKISTONE: I figured you would say that.

RAZ: What do you make of each?

Mr. BLACKISTONE: Well, I think you're absolutely right about the last comment. I mean, the greatest team this season coming in are the defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. And the fact that they were able to keep Lamar Odom, a key part of their championship team from a year ago, and add Ron Artest, who is a marvelous player despite some of his off the court antics some years ago, makes them the prohibitive favorite to win it all.

I like the Celtics to get back Rasheed Wallace. A healthy Kevin Garnett in the middle gives them some size and some experience. And I really don't think that Shaquille O'Neal will make that big of an impact with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We saw that he couldn't carry the Phoenix Suns to a title appearance. So I don't really think he's going to be able to do that with Cleveland. I think the East is far too tough.

RAZ: Fair enough. So Lakers world champs again in 2010.

Mr. BLACKISTONE: Absolutely.

RAZ: Great.

Mr. BLACKISTONE: But tune in and watch it.

RAZ: Okay.

Mr. BLACKISTONE: It's a fun basketball.

RAZ: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: And finally, Kevin, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco Johnson, says he's going to be using his Twitter page to start a new sports network. He's going to be reporting on breaking stories from the locker room. His motto is, and I'm going to quote here, "if I break it, you might as well believe it."

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: So are you worried about your job security?

Mr. BLACKISTONE: I'm not at all worried about my job security. I'll tell you what. I think the Cincinnati Bengals fans would rather Chad Ochocinco concentrate a lot more on the football field because here's a team that's been in the playoffs once since 1990, and they lost that game. So I think that's where they'd rather have him direct all his energies.

RAZ: Kevin Blackistone reviews the sports world for us. He's also a columnist for AOL FanHouse and the co-author of the new book, "A Gift For Ron: Friendship and Sacrifice On and Off the Gridiron."

Kevin, thanks so much.

Mr. BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

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