SCOTT SIMON, host:
Time now for sports.
The San Antonio Spurs are up 1-nothing in the NBA playoffs against the Detroit Pistons that resumed this weekend. And a mighty 11 are ready to run in the Belmont Stakes. Let's go right now to our own thoroughbred, Ron Rapoport, who joins us from our studios in Chicago.
Hi, Ron. Thanks for being with us.
RON RAPOPORT reporting:
Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: And let's talk about basketball first. The San Antonio Spurs won just by lots of points on Thursday night. And I guess the question everybody's asking is: Are they going to win four straight or after three are the Pistons just going to say, `This is pointless to go on'?
RAPOPORT: No, no. They're not going to win four straight. This is going to be a very tough series. You know, Scott, these finals have really put the blue in blue collar. Think about it; no Shaq, no Kobe, no LeBron, no Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson. The only one of the league's great stars in this series is Tim Duncan, and he's not exactly Mr. Personality. I think what we're going to see here are some really strong defense, good solid, unspectacular defensive basketball and some really bad television ratings, because there's just not a lot of star power here once you get past--What?--Steve Wonder and Alanis Morissette in the opening, you know, acts kind of things.
RAPOPORT: On the other hand, Scott, the Pistons are the defending champions.
RAPOPORT: The Spurs are making their third appearance in the finals in six years. So maybe what they're telling us here is that there's something to be said for the lack of star power. Maybe they're putting the team--these two teams--back in the NBA finals, and that's something to think about, I guess.
SIMON: Something that got heralded a few years ago, for example, when the Sacramento Kings were a factor in the West, now you've got this back court of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. All of them grow up and played their basketball outside of the United States. What does that say?
RAPOPORT: You know, we're reaping what we sow, and I think this is a good thing. For years and years and years, the best NBA and NCAA--college coaches, by the way--have gone overseas spreading the gospel of American basketball. And there have been some very good students over there.
SIMON: The Belmont Stakes; now there's no chance of a Triple Crown, but the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Giacomo, is--I guess he's running at 4-to-1 odds, isn't he?
RAPOPORT: Something like that. Of course, the horse that seems to have scared everybody else out of the race, Scott, is Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness. He's listed at 6-to-5.
SIMON: And that's just one of the great recoveries that I have ever seen.
RAPOPORT: Yeah, yeah, the jockey literally falling off the horse and pulling himself up. And it's one thing, you know, to get back on the horse; the other thing for the horse then to run this great race and win. The only horses left from the Kentucky Derby are Giacomo and Afleet Alex, and a lot of the field in the Belmont, with all due respect, really doesn't belong there, Scott. Two-thirds of the horses in the race have never won a graded race. Three of the entries have only won one race. And God bless Nolan's Cat, who's trying to make--break his maiden in the Belmont--you know, has never won a race. It doesn't exactly have the same kind of buzz that it did last year.
SIMON: You know, the Arena Football League is playing its championship game this weekend...
RAPOPORT: Oh, did...
SIMON: ...in Las Vegas. We never talk about the Arena Football League. And you know, it's really beginning to catch on.
RAPOPORT: Yeah, have you ever sat and watched? It's really kind of fun. It's sort of like a combination of Ping-Pong and pool and soccer. I mean, they use the nets and the side and...
SIMON: I have watched it, but I can only watch it for, you know, like about five minutes, which is as long as I can watch a Ping-Pong game. On the other hand, do you know who's playing for the championship this weekend?
RAPOPORT: I have no idea.
SIMON: Yeah, well, I confess we had to look this up, but the two teams playing for the championship are the Georgia Force and the Colorado Crush. Now I think we've already established, Ron, that you and I know nothing about the Arena Football League, so let's see if our vaunted curse works on things we don't even pretend to know anything about. Who's going to win the Arena Football League championship this weekend, Ron Rapoport?
RAPOPORT: All right, Scott. I'm picking a real defensive battle here.
RAPOPORT: Georgia's going to win, 65-to-64.
SIMON: OK. I'll say Colorado will win, 79-to-72. I don't even know if that mathematically is possible in arena football rules, but we'll see if the curse is with either of them. Ron Rapoport, our sports commentator here on WEEKEND EDITION, thanks so much.
RAPOPORT: Thank you, Scott.
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