Celtics Finally Send the Cavaliers Packing

We check in with our sports guru, ESPN's Bill Wolff, who rounds up news from the NBA, horse racing's Preakness, the Mets versus the Yankees and more.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

Mr. RICK DUTROW (Trainer, Big Brown): It looked like he was just unstoppable, and then he just glided to the wire. It was absolutely breathtaking.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

That was Rick Dutrow, trainer of Preakness Stakes' winner Big Brown. The colt galloped towards horseracing history and could be the next Triple Crown winner. NBA fans are in seventh heaven, as the best in the East and the West head to the final rounds of the playoffs this week. Why are we talking about all this stuff? Because it's Monday and this is when we do the weekend sports wrap-up with our friend, former ESPN sports producer, Bill Wolff. Hey, Bill.

BILL WOLFF: Well, and good morning. And the other reason we do it is so that folks know how great sports are and what they should be talking about with their pals as regards sports.

MARTIN: As regards sports...

WOLFF: Yeah.

MARTIN: We're going to talk about so much NBA, but I do want to start off with the horserace, Big Brown.

WOLFF: Did you watch it?

MARTIN: I did not. I have to admit, I did not watch this. I'm pretty sure Mike Pesca did. Did you watch it?

MIKE PESCA, host:

Yeah. I had the wrong placed horse in my exact up, but man, was it a race.

WOLFF: Well, man, is Big Brown good. Wow.

PESCA: Ah! He's so good.

WOLFF: That was a very interesting race. Big Brown, who has only raced - had only raced four times in his whole life up to Saturday, was essentially even with everybody else through the final turn and then in the space of about I don't know, ten yards, it looked as if Big Brown were running and all the other horses were walking, and it was over. This horse is something spectacular.

MARTIN: And he's only run four races in his life?

WOLFF: He's only been in four races - he had only been in four races, and he had won them all. And now, he's only been in five races, and he's won those all.

PESCA: And he's probably only ever going to run in six because, after the Belmont, his stud rights have been sold for something like 50 million dollars.

WOLFF: It's not even something like 50 million dollars!

PESCA: I just can't even get my head around it.

WOLFF: Yeah, 50 million dollars, and apparently, that is to sire or to mate with a 100 or 110 mares per season. So it is the ultimate stud.

PESCA: It's a living.

MARTIN: The last horse who achieved this glory, the Triple Crown, won it back in 1978. That's a long time ago. Why haven't we seen something like this before - in such a long time?

WOLFF: Well, it takes a great horse, of course. It takes a horse that's better than all the others by quite a margin. But the other thing about the Triple Crown is, it is three races of increasing distance that occur very quickly after one another. The Kentucky Derby was only two weeks ago, and they have to travel. The horse has, presumably, really spent itself winning the Kentucky Derby. They travel all the way to Baltimore. Then, you run the Preakness, which was Saturday, and again, you would assume that the horse has run very hard and had a difficult time and is tired.

Then you move the horse up the coast to New York for the test of champions, the Belmont Stakes, which is the mile-and-a-half long, very long race for the thoroughbred. So you have to win - the horse has to win three races, three very difficult races, against elite competition in the space of five weeks. And that's tough. It's only happened 12 times ever, and that makes it one of the toughest things to do in all of sports.

PESCA: And the horses that he runs against, for instance, in the Belmont, they don't have to run all the races. He's going to run against a horse called Casino Drive, and that horse is going to be fresh. And that horse is great, and that horse is bred to run the mile and a half. So, even as great as Big Brown was, and I thought maybe you do, too, Bill, but I thought his Derby was so good, and it was overshadowed by the tragedy with the filly in that race. But it's such an uphill climb. Even though these are equine athletes, just absolutely one of the hardest things to do in all of sports.

WOLFF: No question. That's a very good point about all of the horses you have to defeat. If a horse fails in the Kentucky Derby, there's no guarantee that the horse will continue for the rest of the Triple Crown. But you can come in, as this horse from Japan will come in, and run the Belmont Stakes and take on Big Brown, who's been through two difficult races. So it's really, really tough. When we were kids - I'm very old. So, when I was a kid, Secretariat won at 1973, won the Triple Crown easily. Then Seattle Slew won it in '77, and Affirmed won it in '78. And so at that time, I was like 35, 38, because I'm about 90.

But when I was a kid, it seemed to me, well, they just won the Triple Crown every year. I mean, there was a horse who won it half the time when I was between the ages of seven and 12. But I really was growing up in an odd time, obviously. I mean, it was the '70s, after all. But it never happened - it's 30 years since last it happened, and the Belmont is always the toughest one. This is uncommon for a horse to enter the Belmont having won the first two. That happens fairly frequently. But winning the Belmont, which is a really long, really tough race, having won two tough ones before, is nearly impossible, as proven by the 30-year gap between the last time and this time.

MARTIN: I'm excited. Mike's trying to convince me to go to it. I think I should go.

WOLFF: By the way, there is a cocktail associated with the Preakness, and I did not know this until my brother discovered it. At the Derby, it's obviously the mint julep. But at the Preakness, it's called the Black-Eyed Susan.

MARTIN: And I think a lot of people were drinking those. We have some sound of the race. Let's listen to that.

(Soundbite of screaming)

MARTIN: Lots of partying at Preakness. Lots of partying.

WOLFF: I thought, that's some cogent analysis of what has happened.

MARTIN: Yeah, OK, I want to switch gears. Let's talk about the NBA with our remaining minutes. I get a missed call from Mr. Mike Pesca last night, who, for a brief second, thought that the Celtics game was going to be some phenomenal kind of drama, and then it wasn't - or some big let down?

PESCA: With two minutes left, I called and said, Rachel, you've got to watch this.

WOLFF: What a guy.

MARTIN: He's so sweet.

WOLFF: He's looking out for you, Rachel.

MARTIN: I know he is. So what happened?

WOLFF: It was only incredible drama because the teams both kind of stank. That was what I took away from it. The Celtics played the Cavaliers. The Celtics were favored. They were the best team in the league all year long, and everybody thought they'd march right toward the championship. But they were taken to seven games by Atlanta, which was outrageous, and now they've been taken to seven games by Cleveland. The Celtics have yet to win a game.

MARTIN: And they only won by five points. That's not that much.

WOLFF: No, it's not. And they only won because one of their three big superstars, Paul Pierce, who was in the incumbent superstar. They brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. But the incumbent superstar Paul Peirce had a monstrous game, couldn't be stopped on offense, and so they won by five in a low-scoring affair. But neither one of the teams looked particularly good, I didn't think.

And the Celtics, who had been perceived to be - I wouldn't say unbeatable, but certainly one of the very best teams in the league - have not looked like one of the very best teams in the leagues. And, having defeated Cleveland and LeBron James, who basically plays by himself. I mean, Cleveland - I would go out on a limb and say Cleveland, outside of LeBron James, is not a good team.

They've got - Boston has to go face Detroit, and Detroit is excellent and beef and veteran and experienced and versatile, and I think Boston's going to find themselves in big, big trouble, despite what we all thought was going to happen coming into the playoffs. I think they're in big, big trouble.

MARTIN: Despite home-team advantage - home-court advantage.

WOLFF: Right, Boston cannot win on the road. They have yet to win on the road. They've lost six straight on the road in the playoffs. And so, what Detroit has to do is win once in Boston in four tries. And, you know, they play the game, and you find out what happens. And I could wind up sounding like a fool in two weeks after Boston destroys Detroit, but I would give Detroit a great chance to beat Boston in Boston because, as you acutely observed, Rachel, and you are fast becoming one of America's great sports pundits...

PESCA: Rocketing up the charts.

WOLFF: They only won by five points at home in a game seven that they had to have, not impressive, actually.

MARTIN: Let's move to the left coast with our last remaining minute here. The Lakers secured their spot in the Western Conference finals, first time in four years, 108-to-105 victory over the Jazz. But their dance partner for the final rounds will be decided with tonight's game seven, another series gone to seven games, between New Orleans and San Antonio. Who's your favorite?

WOLFF: Well, my favorite team in basketball is San Antonio, the Spurs, because I think they play a beautiful game, an interesting game, and they have tremendous heart. And I just love San Antonio. Now, I am in the minority. Most people hate the Spurs because...

MARTIN: Why the hate?

WOLFF: Well, it's sports. Sports is all defined by hate. It's all about who you hate. It's how you live. You can't hate in your real life. You may hate somebody in your office, but you can't go up to them and say it. You can't act on it. That only defeats you. But in sports, you can hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. So that's why all the hate. Everybody hates the Spurs. I love them. However, this has been another series, as has most of the NBA playoffs, where the home team seems to have a tremendous advantage. They've won something like - and I'm not exactly right here - but something like 16 of 18 or 18 of 20 games have been won by the home team in this round of the playoffs.

And so here we go to New Orleans to play, and New Orleans probably has the best player on either team. I hate to say it. It pains me to say that, but Chris Paul, one-time guest of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Chris Paul, is the point guard for New Orleans. He's probably the best player on either team right this second. And, if you're looking to pick the favorite in any game, picking the team that has the best player on the floor is a fairly decent way. You can probably get it right 60 or 65 percent of the time. So I reckon New Orleans is the favorite tonight, but the Spurs are the ultimate in KG veteran-champion pedigree teams, and maybe they can pull it out in New Orleans.

MARTIN: We will have to wait and see. Before we wrap it up, Matt Martinez, our producer, has sent me the ingredients to said Preakness cocktail, the Black-Eyed Susan. Two parts bourbon whiskey, one part citrus vodka, three parts sweet and sour, one part O.J., garnished with orange and a cocktail cherry. There you have it, folks.

WOLFF: He's done it again. Matt Martinez knows what he's talking about when it comes to those liquor drinks.

MARTIN: Indeed.

WOLFF: May I say, delicious.

MARTIN: BPP sports analyst Bill Wolff. Hey, thanks, Bill, as always.

WOLFF: You got it. See you guys.

MARTIN: Take care.

WOLFF: Bye-bye.

PESCA: Thanks, Bill. The official drink of the Belmont Stakes is a six pack of Schlitz. Don't know if you knew that.

MARTIN: I did not.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

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.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.