Danica Patrick Wins, Bernard Hopkins Loses
MIKE PESCA, host:
Thanks, Mark Garrison, with all your pirate news. Alison Stewart, our erstwhile host, I hope she's sleeping in today, enjoying her maternity leave, but her husband and BPP sports legend, Bill Wolff, is with us. Hey, Bill.
BILL WOLFF: Hello, Mr. Pesca. She is not sleeping in.
PESCA: She's not?
WOLFF: Up earlier than usual, as a matter of fact, and getting organized.
PESCA: OK, but you'd tell us if there was a little analyst on the way?
WOLFF: Well, there's one...
PESCA: Not yet, not forthcoming?
WOLFF: On the way, but look, I'm a pretty heavy sleeper, but she looked fairly still pregnant to me this morning.
PESCA: Yes, she does have that equanimity, though.
WOLFF: Yes, she does. It's fairly amazing to watch, I must say. Well, what's happening?
PESCA: Let's talk about Danica Patrick. She won!
WOLFF: Let's do it. She won. She finally won. Danica Patrick finally won.
PESCA: So, this...
WOLFF: Fifty races in.
PESCA: Fifty in. She won the Indy Japan 300, Saturday.
WOLFF: Yes, the prestigious Indy Japan 300. Yes.
PESCA: Did Vegas have her as the early favorite? I don't even know if that's on the board.
WOLFF: I would doubt it. The funny thing is she's in a sport that gets no attention except for her, so this is a moment at which her world and Indy's world dovetail in crescendo at the exact same moment. Apparently, she won the race. Danica Patrick is a 26-year-old, I would say telegenic, Indy car racer. She's a good-looking girl, and she runs those open-wheel, rocket-ship-looking cars.
PESCA: Yes, but she's not afraid to pose for magazines like Stuff and FHM.
WOLFF: Hey, you know, if you've got it, flaunt it.
PESCA: She puts it on the...
WOLFF: You know, if I could, I would, but they have not called. Anyway, she was in danger of going down the Anna Kournikova path. That is, Anna Kournikova, very beautiful Russian tennis player who got very famous for being very beautiful, but never once won one tournament, and therefore in sports circles became something of a laughing stock.
So, here's Danica Patrick on her way to the same thing, having run 49 races and never won, and so now all the jockey guys who cover sports who actually can't play them themselves all say, ah, Danica Patrick, she's just a pretty face, this is a gimmick, until Saturday, when she won. She won a race, and she won it by managing her gas mileage, believe it or not.
She is the one racer who did not run out of gas toward the end, and was able then to win the race by about five seconds, which in Indy car is about a mile, so she won the race by about a mile by managing her fuel consumption, and that's how it is in racing.
It's not just, how hard can you turn the steering wheel left? It's, how well do you keep your foot off the gas so that you have enough gas to finish first? So, Danica Patrick, amazing, first ever women to win an IndyCar open-wheel race, which is quite an achievement.
PESCA: This plays into my strategy of entering a Prius in the next Indy 500.
WOLFF: Yes. Well, they're way ahead of you.
PESCA: She beat Helio Castroneves, who's a great racer, and won "Dancing with the Stars."
WOLFF: Well, there you go. See, he's just another pretty face.
PESCA: Do you know if it's really that unusual in this sport to have that long a streak? Or are there some people who just keep knocking at the door? It's pretty hard to win. It seems like Helio wins about half the races.
WOLFF: It's true. There are very few dominant teams in that sport, and it - by the way it's true. You know who hasn't won a race in about a hundred races? Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in NASCAR. So, it's not the most unusual thing in the world.
It's just that for a person who has never won a race, Danica Patrick's fame was way out in front of her level of achievement. So, it really isn't that unusual to run 50 races and not win one. It is unusual to not win one in 50 races and be extraordinarily famous for being good-looking.
PESCA: Right, so it's good that she's off the stride.
PESCA: Off the shnod, I should say, and it's good that she doesn't have this thing hanging over her head like some sports figures do, you know. Dan Marino, oh, never won a Super Bowl. Once you can put that to rest she's in a much better place now.
WOLFF: Yes, and it's a huge breakthrough thing. Here it is, first women ever to win an IndyCar race. Very good.
PESCA: Let's go to the NBA playoffs.
WOLFF: The best thing ever.
PESCA: Yeah - you know, is that because the regular season just seems to take as long as the Pennsylvania primary, or is that because the playoffs themselves have such appeal?
WOLFF: I think it's a combination of those two things. I think, first of all, that the NBA is currently experiencing a golden era. I think that the quality of play in the NBA in the last few years is as good or better than it's ever been, the reasons being one, the players from America are all excellent, but also there's been this influx of incredible talent from Europe, from South America, from Asia, and so there are just more good players, so there are more good teams, so that the matchups are amazing.
For instance, the Spurs and the Suns. San Antonio and Phoenix is a first round matchup. Well, either one of those teams, San Antonio or Phoenix, is good enough to win the NBA championship, and typically teams that good don't meet in the first round of the playoffs, but here they are. And they played a game on Saturday which will be in the archives of all-time unbelievable Saturday-afternoon basketball games, a double-overtime thriller won by my beloved San Antonio Spurs.
PESCA: In fact, we have a little call from that game. Let's hear that.
(Soundbite of NBA broadcast)
Unidentified Man: Ginobili to the basket. Puts it out, banks it in with 1.8 remaining! Phoenix has no time outs left. Spurs win in double overtime!
PESCA: What was more exciting, the winner or the shot to get it to overtime where - wait, did Tim Duncan hit the shot in the first period or in the first overtime? There were some huge shots.
WOLFF: First overtime. First overtime.
PESCA: Wow. So, do you want to recap all the big shots that we had along the way?
WOLFF: Well, there were a few. So, Phoenix is excellent. Phoenix has Steve Nash, as you know, the point guard from Canada, and they have Shaquille O'Neal...
PESCA: Two-time defending MVP Steve Nash.
WOLFF: Yes, and Shaquille O'Neal, and Amare Stoudemire, all three of whom are MVP candidates every year, although Shaq's a little old.
WOLFF: So, Phoenix is in control of the game at San Antonio. This is a modern rivalry between these two franchises, and Phoenix is handling San Antonio. But the Spurs are old pros, and they are also excellent. And they come back and they whittle down the lead until toward the very end of the game.
In the very end of the fourth quarter, Michael Finley, a cagey veteran from the University of Wisconsin, number four, lets go a three pointer from way downtown, and drains it, and we go to overtime as the Spurs have come all the way back.
Then, in the first overtime, Phoenix again taking charge. They're ahead three as time is about to expire, and Manu Ginobili, from Argentina, dribbles the ball toward the basket, and the entire Phoenix team goes to guard Ginobili...
PESCA: Collapses on the Argentinean.
WOLFF: They collapse on the Argentinean. When the man from the Virgin Islands, Tim Duncan, seven feet tall, who had not hit a three pointer all season long, that is 82 games, in his 83rd game, Ginobili finds Duncan out on the perimeter and he has all day. He sets up, he fires, and he drains the three-pointer to send it to double overtime.
PESCA: It's so funny...
WOLFF: An absolute miracle!
PESCA: And Popovich gets called the coach of the year because he said, yeah, Duncan take the three.
WOLFF: Duncan, take the three.
PESCA: That guy's lucky.
WOLFF: Well, you know, luck is the residue of design.
PESCA: That's right.
WOLFF: Anyways - which is the BPP every day, everybody. And then in overtime Steve Nash hits an absolute miracle fall away, going out of bounds, how did he do that three pointer to get Phoenix back into the game, and then Manu Ginobili hit the shot of which you heard the call.
So, there were four unbelievable shots that kept that game going, and that is about as good a basketball game as you will ever see, and it occurred as the first game of the playoffs, meaning we might be in for like two months worth of really, really great basketball.
PESCA: Yeah. I think - what's that, 15 more wins and they're the champions?
WOLFF: That's it. That's exactly right.
PESCA: Let's go to boxing. Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, lost!
WOLFF: He lost. He lost. This was for the 175-pound or light heavyweight championship of the world, and Bernard Hopkins, 43 years old, and one of the all time legends of the sport, was fighting Joe Calzaghe. Joe Calzaghe is from Wales, and Joe Calzaghe had never lost coming into the fight, but he'd also never fought on American soil.
So, when American sports writers and observers haven't seen a guy, they tend to underestimate his greatness. They haven't seen him do it in America. They haven't seen him do it against a top American opponent, so Calzaghe can't be so good. But he is.
PESCA: The wiry Welshman.
WOLFF: Oh, he's not that wiry. I mean, he will pummel you. He will leave your face bloody if he can. And they fought in Vegas for the 175-pound title, and yes, Bernard Hopkins lost, which is probably the end of one of the great boxing - a hall of fame career for Bernard Hopkins, and Hopkins had sort of set the world on fire by saying, quote, "I'll never let a white boy beat me. I'll never let a white boy beat me." Which those are things you just don't say.
PESCA: Guaranteed to make headlines, but you've got to back them up.
WOLFF: Well, then you got to back them up, and Bernard Hopkins fought a very cagey fight. He fought a very clever fight, but ultimately Calzaghe was the much busier, more-active fighter, and beat Hopkins in what really wasn't a close decision.
He beat him in a split decision. Two of the judges chose Calzaghe, one of the judges chose Hopkins. It's not clear why that judge went that way. But Bernard Hopkins, I think, is finished, and Joe Calzaghe is a Welshman who is now the linear junior-heavyweight champion of the world.
PESCA: Bernard Hopkins is 43 years old, we should note. Had a great career.
WOLFF: Yes he is. It's phenomenal. Forty-three years old and able to stay on a treadmill for 11 minutes? Speaking as a 42-year-old is an impressive feat. This guy went 12 rounds with another guy trying to beat his face in, and did respectively, did not bleed as the guy pounded his face. So, Bernard Hopkins deserves all the respect in the world. It's just I think he's at the end of the road.
PESCA: Yes, but the white boy beat him.
WOLFF: Yeah. The white boy did beat him.
PESCA: BPP sports analyst Bill Wolff. Thanks a lot, Bill.
WOLFF: Mr. Pesca, always a pleasure.
PESCA: I had fun.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.