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Bright Beginnings, Sad Endings In Sports News


Time now for sports.


SIMON: Spring has sprung with a doubleheader of baseball - spring training and the World Baseball Classic. Nothing classic, though, about the defeat of the U.S. team last night by Puerto Rico. They were eliminated but doesn't really matter. The Miami Heat continue the streak while a college team does too, just in the opposite direction. We're joined now from Sedona, Arizona by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Say, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thank you. And are you there for your chakra or for spring training?

BRYANT: I haven't had cucumbers on my eyes in a long time. I felt now was the time.


SIMON: So, what do you see at spring training, once you get the cucumber slices off?

BRYANT: Well, I think that what you see is a lot of excitement for baseball. Obviously, you got the San Francisco Giants, who won the World Series two out of the last three years. They're here. And you just love the type of game that they play. And the Texas Rangers out in Surprise. Arizona trying to overcome a collapse last year and losing the World Series the way they did back in 2011. And the Dodgers trying to, with their $213 million payroll, what they're going to do. There are a lot of teams, a lot of good stories. It really is my favorite time of the year. And also good for the fans because it's baseball before the business starts up.

SIMON: All the big stars who are there at spring training are not at the World Baseball Classic, which raises a question will this ever be a kind of world cup for baseball?

BRYANT: Well, and that's the goal. The goal is for it to be the baseball equivalent of the world cup. The Olympics weren't going to work, one, because of the drug testing problems that baseball had with the IOC, and then also the fact that it's hard to get major leaguers to commit to playing in the Olympics in the middle of a baseball season. So, this is the moment where you can do it. And I know that there's been a lot of ridicule to the World Baseball Classic because the guys aren't really in shape, it's in March. The best player aren't playing yet. But I really have kind of come around to it. I think the thing that I like most about it is that you do get a very international flavor for baseball. You get to see the Dutch playing honk ball. They're playing baseball and it's terrific to see that. I think it's great to see the way the Japanese play, you know, the way they approach the game. Their batting stances is different. The way they play is very different from, say, the Cubans. And the Cuban team plays with so much energy. And it reminds me of what it must have been like to watch a Negro League game back in the old days in their segregation days, because it's the same game, it's the same distance between the bases but the style is different, the culture is different. And for that I think the World Baseball Classic has a lot of value.

SIMON: Howard, let me move to college basketball because Selection Sunday is tomorrow. One team that certainly won't be in any bracket, or a bracket all their own, let me put it that way, is Grambling State University, the Tigers. They are 0-28. This Wednesday, the lost to Alabama A&M by eight points and that's their closest game of this season. What's put them in a tailspin?

BRYANT: Well, I think the hard part for them is that they're not playing in the same playing field. They're not playing with full scholarship players. They're not playing with the type of talent that is going to allow you to go out and compete at that level. You feel bad for those kids because they do want to go out and compete. So, they kind of become a bit of a laughing stock, unfortunately. And as they say, if you're going to lose, you might as well lose in the right spirit. So, hopefully, I guess they're going out and at least trying to have fun. But it's - nobody wants to go 0-28. It's embarrassing when you're on the court, and you feel bad for the kids because, once again, they don't belong on the same court with the competition that they're playing.

SIMON: I feel like what coach Joseph Price says, which is that: I remind my players that first and last, they're here to get an education.

BRYANT: That's exactly right. And that's the goal. And sometimes we lose sight of that more than anything else because it is still college.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Thanks so much.

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