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Saturday Sports: Players Still Testing Positive For COVID-19


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: All tied up in the NBA Finals - rally the valley or fear the deer? Sports bring back fans, but several major league franchises have low vaccination rates as the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin in a city locked down. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us.

How are you, Howard?

HOWARD BRYANT: I am good, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Well, I'm fine 'cause...

BRYANT: Clearly, the vocal cords are working.

SIMON: The Milwaukee Bucks are back. They carried the last two games, overcame the Suns' early lead. What do you make of their story this season?

BRYANT: Well, I think it's been a - it's a great story simply because we've been waiting for this. We've been waiting for Giannis Antetokounmpo to be in the NBA Finals. We've been waiting. He's a two-time MVP. We've been waiting for this team, which everyone has been talking about as a championship-level team, to be on this page.

SIMON: Fear the deer. Sorry, yeah.

BRYANT: (Laughter) And they go out, and they lose the first two games in Phoenix. And Phoenix is a terrific team as well. And so this is going to be - this is one of those series where you look at the - at both teams. And it goes back to the old adage that a series isn't a series until you lose a home game. And right now Phoenix has won both of their home games, and then Milwaukee came back and won theirs, Game 5, as we love our stats. Seventy-two percent of Game 5 winners go on to win the championship.

And so Milwaukee's not out of the woods yet to say because you have to go out, and you have to win. If the Bucks are going to win this championship, they have to win at least one game in Phoenix, and they haven't done that yet.

SIMON: Switching gear but the topic of the past year and a half - several players on the Yankees tested positive for COVID-19 before their Thursday game - scheduled game against the Red Sox. It was postponed last night. The Red Sox won 4 to nothing. We have just been hearing a lot of reports about how we're not out of the pandemic yet. Do you think they're going to be more of these disruptions just at a time spectators are returning?

BRYANT: Well, I think you're going to have the same mirror images in sports that you're having in the general society. I think that sports - and I'm not sure statistically how it's going, how it plays out, but you can see the same strains in sports that you're seeing when you talk to your friends. And people don't want to tell you if they're vaccinated or not, or some of them outright avoid the conversation.

You look at what happened with the Yankees and the Red Sox game getting postponed. You see Aaron Nola, the pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, essentially - who was already in a COVID-19 protocol - saying that he's not getting vaccinated. You see the NFL come out...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...And say that you had four teams have a less than 50% vaccination rate. And I think what's hard about this is that this is all happening simultaneously while the - we're talking about delta variants, and we're talking about stadiums filling up again. And so we had this conversation last March.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And we were talking about where sports fits in the culture. Can sports be a leader? Normally, when you have times of crisis, we look to sports to sort of bring us out and return us to normalcy. And how do you do that when your athletes, when the people that you're looking at as role models and your kids look up to...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...And all of those things that we place onto sports - when it's the athletes themselves who are ambivalent about the public health and safety that we're trying to push forward in the general culture? So sports has not quite answered its place. It hasn't figured out its role in this yet, and it doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF TORO Y MOI SONG, "ORDINARY PLEASURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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