Right-To-Life Ad Takes Super Bowl Seriously

Super Sunday is coming up, and even if you don't have a team to root for, you'll probably find a favorite among the Super Bowl commercials. But one ad is already causing controversy, before it's even aired. Guest host Audie Cornish chats with sports guru Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine about the NBA and a controversial Super Bowl ad featuring Tim Tebow.

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AUDIE CORNISH, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Audie Cornish.

A conversation with R&B singer Maxwell is coming up. But time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

CORNISH: Super Sunday is coming up and even if you dont have a team root for, you will probably find a favorite among the Super Bowel commercials. But one ad is already causing controversy before its even aired. Joining us now is Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Howard, welcome.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (ESPN): Good morning.

CORNISH: Now, this controversial TV ad features Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow of the Florida Gators. Its an anti-abortion ad from the advocacy group Focus On the Family. What are people saying about it?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, people arent saying a whole lot about it because nobody has seen it. The controversy so far stems from two things. The first is that CBS had previously refused to run these types of advocacy ads in either direction, whether they were pro or against, whatever subject, simply to avoid offending half of their fan base. But now because of the economy being what it is, or whatever other reason is, that this ad is supposed to run. Nobody knows what it is, nobody knows what it looks like.

The only that they know is that it cost $2.8 million. One thing that I find very interesting about it is that in this day and age when athletes dont want to offend any constituency, that Tim Tebow is choosing to air his beliefs in the biggest television audience of the year. So I think it says something about him and it also says something about the modern athlete.

Today remember, when Michael Jordan was castigated for not doing more with Nike and their labor practices in China, I remember one of his famous quotes was that Republicans buy shoes, everybody buy shoes.

CORNISH: All right, now this is far more contentious an issue than that.

Mr. BRYANT: (Unintelligible) right.

CORNISH: Now, lets turn to basketball, actually. We're halfway through the NBA season. What teams are making a showing so far?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, you got the All Star break coming up in the NBA and its a very interesting year. The Boston Celtics were supposed to be the favorite, going back against the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Celtics have stumbled against a surprise team, the Atlanta Hawks, who beat them last night, and those two have a nice budding rivalry. Atlanta has also beat Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Orlando Magic also seemed to have the Celtics' number.

So, in the East I think you've got Cleveland, you've got Atlanta, and you have Orlando and then Boston's fourth. And in the West the Lakers are by far the best team. The Lakers are what they've always been in the Western Conference for the last 25, 30 years, is that they've always been pretty much the favorite. San Antonio is also very good. They'd like to get their championship back. But right now it looks like the Lakers are the best in the West.

CORNISH: Well, as a Celts fan, I'm just going to disclose here thats where my allegiances lie.

Mr. BRYANT: (Unintelligible) and it hurts to say that (unintelligible).

CORNISH: Now, it also looks like the Ivy League is stepping up its game when it comes to college ball. Two teams, Harvard and Cornell, look like they have a good chance of making it to the NCAA tournament.

Mr. BRYANT: Well, sure, and in effect it shouldnt be considered that much of a surprise. For Cornell its a bit of a surprise because their strength is usually hockey. But Harvard, lets face it, James Brown, the announcer, one of the broadcasters in CBS, he played basketball at Harvard and the perennial power in the Ivy league had always been, had always been Penn, and University of Pennsylvania lost their coach, Fran Duphy to my Temple Owls a couple of years ago, but basketball and the Ivy League has very long tradition. There have always been good teams.

They're not competitive once they get past the first round of the NCAA, although Penn did make a run in 1980, but the tradition of Ivy League basketball goes very far back. Its nice to see that in this day and age of great teams with their players playing one year and then going to the NBA, that an Ivy League school can still compete.

CORNISH: And lastly, Howard, very quickly, the Pro Bowl, worth watching?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, they're going to do something different this year. They're not doing it in Honolulu anymore and they're trying to get a fan base the week before the Super Bowl. What else do you have to do? I'm not going to watch it because I've got a long-standing tradition of not watching it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRYANT: (Unintelligible) this year, but may be next year.

CORNISH: Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. BRYANT: My pleasure.

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