SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Isn't it nice to be able to say time for sports?
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SIMON: The country was focused on tragedy and mayhem this week, but sports abides, including some remarkable tributes to Boston. And the NBA playoffs begin today and run until, I don't know, I think December. Can anyone beat the Heat? For now we're joined by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: And let's get to baseball first because I think, you know, for a few days America is going to enjoy the fact that the Boston Red Sox are doing really well.
BRYANT: Yeah, I think that it's - before we go back to the sporting hostilities that make us who we are, I think it may still have a little bit of humanity. And it's fun. I've never really been a huge fan of the diversion narrative, but when things get really bad it's nice that there are some things that you consider normal and that you can try to take your mind off of things.
And the Red Sox are in first place, and I think that things are going to be very interesting and loud and fun. And I remember being in New York during 9/11 for the World Series and remember just people were cheering and it wasn't really for sports they were cheering for. It was just a bit of exhaling. And I think that's what this is going to be as well.
SIMON: But on the other side of the country, you've got a team in metro L.A. that invested a lot in getting better and so far doesn't seem to have a lot to show for it.
BRYANT: No, the Angels are 5 and 10 and this is the second year in a row that they've had a really tough start and it feels like once again that we learn this, and all the New Yorkers who remember the George Steinbrenner era. You can't buy a championship. You have to have all the different ingredients that get you there and so much of it has very little to do with money.
Sometimes you can buy the best players and win, but right now you give Albert Pujols $248 million; you give Josh Hamilton $125 million and you essentially have the same number of wins as the $20 million Houston Astros. It's not going to continue that way, I don't think, but I think the Angels better start winning fast.
SIMON: NBA playoffs start tonight. What do you foresee?
BRYANT: Well, I foresee the Miami Heat winning the championship, but I think there are some very compelling...
SIMON: They have to play a few games to get there though.
BRYANT: Yeah, they do and it's going to take two months to crown a champion because the NBA is a mess. But I feel like the Celtics and the Knicks are going to be a really good series. I would like to see Carmelo Anthony, who has all the talent in the world, challenge LeBron and challenge Kevin Durant, and the way he's been playing the last month, I think the Knicks then can be a really interesting, dangerous team.
I think the Lakers, even without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers and Spurs match-up is going to be a really good one. And I think also because there's so much talent in the Western Conference, it will be very interesting to see once again if Oklahoma City can defend their Western Conference championship and maybe challenge the heat as well.
I would like the NBA championship not to be a foregone conclusion, but right now Miami is far and away the best team.
SIMON: Howard, you may in Amherst at the moment. You're in Boston...
BRYANT: No, I actually am in Amherst at the moment.
SIMON: I stand corrected. In New England Public Radio, our studios there. You're a Bostonian though.
BRYANT: I am.
SIMON: How's the last week hit you?
BRYANT: It's been tough. I've done a lot of text messaging with family and I grew up in Boston and I remember, obviously, Patriot's Day is an extremely important day for us because you didn't have to go to school. That was the biggest thing, and then the Red Sox were playing at 11 o'clock and it was a ritual. It was something that you looked forward.
Even though I was never really a marathon guy, you knew that it was kind of, it was our day and I feel like this is something that we talk about sports being a diversion. Now, this started from a sporting event and I feel like it's not going to be the same. But once again, there is something magical about the Boston Marathon. There's something very personal about it to us who grew up there, and I feel like it's something, once again, that you want to be special and you want it to always have the same memories that it had before.
And I think the best thing about it all, too, is the number of messages that you get from everybody telling you that everybody was all right. And, you know, it's going to be very different from here on in, but I think that once again, that Monday, Patriot's Day, is always going to be special for us and we hope that it stays the same.
SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Sweet Caroline, my friend.
BRYANT: And then of course there's the Red Sox. It never ends.
SIMON: Thanks very much.
BRYANT: Thank you.
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