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Red Sox Rise From Civic Embarrassment To World Champs


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. I wait all week to say time for sports.


SIMON: This week, the World Series was won, basketball began again and Serena Williams sure finished strong. Joining us now, Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, from the studios of New England Public Radio. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The Boston Red Sox have a World Series championship parade in Boston. How did they go from being a civic embarrassment to getting acclaimed as world champions?

BRYANT: Well, I think the first way they did it is because they weren't that far away while being an embarrassment. They were not a bad team last year. They had bad chemistry, they had a bad manager in Bobby Valentine. They simply did not perform the way they were supposed to, and they had injuries and such. And things began to snowball and I think that when you had a lot of players have their integrity questioned - and I always say never underestimate anybody who has something to prove.

As a collective, this team had a lot to prove. They had - you had David Ortiz who won the MVP of the World Series and Dustin Pedroia, and these guys who were proud guys. They've won championships before. David Ortiz now has three championships. And they didn't like being a laughing stock, losing 93 games, being a last place, bottom-feeding team. And I think they came out this year, and it's really hard to do in baseball, to be focused for eight, nine, ten months, and they came out and did it and now it's duck boats for everybody in Boston.


SIMON: Yeah. And it was a great World Series to watch. Let me ask you about the start of the NBA season because the Miami Heat are sputtering a little.

BRYANT: Yeah, they've lost two out of three games, goodness, and there's only 82 - there's only 79 games left. What are they going to do? You know Scott, the big deal with the Miami Heat is can anybody beat them four times when spring comes? That's the number one question. And I think they're going to be there. They're the two-time defending world champions, they've got the best player in the world in LeBron James.

The real issue is going to be those secondary teams. You've got a great game last night with the Boston Celtics South in the Brooklyn Nets with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett out there and they played a great game. They beat Miami last night, 101 to 100, and you've got Kevin Durant out in Oklahoma City and you've got Derrick Rose and your...

SIMON: Yeah, thank you.

BRYANT: ...Chicago Bulls are back, and the Indiana Pacers.

All of these teams believe it's their time. All of them believe that they're close. All of them believe that they can compete with LeBron and Miami. Now it's time to prove it and I think the fun part of this NBA season is going to be which one of those teams actually walks the walk.

SIMON: Football question. Jonathan Martin has reportedly left the Miami Dolphins because of bullying. A lot of speculation that's available in the news today. What do we know?

BRYANT: It's a bizarre case. What you've had is Jonathan Martin, the lineman for the Miami Dolphins, and left the team allegedly due to bullying, and the NFL and the players' association now is investigating whether some teammates were bullying him after a loss and trying to figure out just what is behind the culture of the locker room and what allegations are true and why the players did what - why he did what he did.

I always made somewhat of a joke when I used to say that when you cover sports you are immediately propelled back into the eighth grade when you go into the locker room, and now it seems like it's really not that funny. It's going to be very interesting to see what they come up with, and let's face it, the macho culture of that room can do a lot to a lot of people. This is one of the first times you've heard somebody come forward though.

SIMON: We ought to note: Serena Williams ends this part of the tennis season at a record 78 and 4. Oh, my gosh. What are we seeing there?

BRYANT: First woman ever to win $12 million. Only Novak Djokovic has done it on the men's side. She's playing for history right now. She's by far the best player. Eight-two matches, won 78 of them, 17 majors. She's behind, one behind Chrissie and one behind Martina. She's going after Steffi Graf's 22, and you can tell that Serena is making up for injuries and making up for those years where it looked like maybe she wasn't as motivated.

Now, you're seeing the full force of what she can do. She is the best player and if you love tennis, if you love sports, watch because you're missing something great if you don't.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.