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Sports To Look Forward To: NBA, NFL Pick Up


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up: A couch potato's holiday. It's time for sports.


SIMON: This weekend, the NBA gets going. The NFL gets extra thrilling. And the Boise State Broncos got to clean out their lockers. The boys in blue demolished Arizona State, 56 to 24 in the MAACO-Las Vegas Bowl. Now they got ahead home while lower ranked teams compete in the official bowl championship series games.

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us from Portland. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Happy Holidays, Scott.

SIMON: And also to you. But why, why, my friend, do teams with lesser records and lower BCS rankings - like West Virginia, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan, blah, blah, blah - get to play in the big, rich bowl game while Boise has to play in Tom's Bail Bonds of bowl games?


GOLDMAN: And I'll let you know, I'm quite proud of my Bail Bonds Bowl Game.

SIMON: The halftime entertainment is exquisite. Absolutely wonderful.

GOLDMAN: Everyone comes away happy and out of jail.


GOLDMAN: And what's not to love?



GOLDMAN: OK. So, your question, why. Well, those lesser teams you named are in the big conferences that have automatic burst to these BCS bowls. And I'm sure the computers had something to do with it.

But really, Scott, I'm with Boise State head coach Chris Peterson on this one. When the bowl matchups were announced several weeks ago, and number seven ranked Boise State, which lost its chance to play in a big bowl because of a missed field goal and a one-point loss and they were exiled to Las Vegas, Peterson just couldn't bite his tongue anymore, as he's done several times in the past few years, when his Broncos have gotten the jobbed of a big bowl appearance.

And he said, everyone is just tired of the system. And he added it just seems like each year it's getting further and further away from anybody understanding what's going on.

Now, it's said that Michigan and Virginia Tech, and all the others that you mentioned, travel well. Meaning, they bring a lot of fans to these games who fill hotels and eat at restaurants and everyone makes a lot of money. Great. The BCS does a commendable job of matching number one and number two in the national championship game. How about working as hard for the other four rich bowls? You know?

SIMON: Yeah.


SIMON: And we Bronco fans, we're Bronco Nation. We've got a national fan base for Boise State at this point.

GOLDMAN: Good point. You could travel. You'd travel to...

SIMON: Yeah, absolutely.

GOLDMAN: ...wherever the heck the big BCS bowl is happening, whether it's the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl.

SIMON: Sure. Yeah, I would. Listen, let me ask you about the NFL 'cause they have a merit system there. You know?


SIMON: Wins and losses count for something. A lot of marquee games are being played later today. What are you going to be watching?

GOLDMAN: Well, before I tell you that, you know, kudos to the NFL which understands the excitement generated by great match-ups - in comparison to college football. The league schedulers started loading up the final couple of weeks with division games last year, and they expanded it this year. So there could be, you know, lots of meaningful games in the last few weeks. And they've got them today, tonight, Christmas Eve.

You've got Oakland versus Kansas City, a classic AFC West rivalry that means something because both are still fighting for a playoff spot. You've got Philadelphia and Dallas. And, while it's not a division game, the New York Jets versus the New York Giants is going to be huge.

SIMON: Yeah. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: You know, the battle for New York. Jets coach Rex Ryan is shooting off his mouth as always. And...



GOLDMAN: ...the Giants wide receivers are dissing the Jets' outstanding defensive back Darrelle Revis. So the stage is set in, both teams needing a win to stay in the playoff race. It's great.

SIMON: If you were the Green Bay Packers, firstly...

GOLDMAN: And I'm not.

SIMON: ...I'd be astonished 'cause you'd be 11 people, or more even.


SIMON: But would you know let Aaron Rodgers take one hike and then sit down rather than play the Bears? 'Cause they, you know, now that almost, you know, every player on the Bears offense has been either injured or arrested. They've only got that daunting defense. And would you take any chance on getting him hurt this last game, these last few games?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, interesting question and a dilemma. And, you know, what adds to that is that the Packers are dealing with, you know, a banged-up offensive line. Several of their starting offensive of linemen are out, which makes Aaron Rodgers more exposed.

And, of course, this may be an easier decision for Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy if San Francisco loses today, tonight, because that would mean tomorrow, Christmas Day - Christmas Night when Green Bay and Chicago play - that would mean Green Bay would have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. So, it's this dilemma that it McCarthy has to deal with.

You know, they also want to get their rhythm back after losing to Kansas City last week. So - but may be called off for the greater good of keeping Aaron Rodgers healthy. If I'm Mike McCarthy, and maybe wait another week to get that mojo back and protect Aaron Rodgers.

But, Scott, I am not Mike McCarthy.

SIMON: But you are NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much. Happy Holidays, my friend.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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