SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Now it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: The Red Sox take the AL East. The Cleveland Browns actually win a game. And Vontae Davis of the Buffalo Bills puts on a halftime no-show. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. Is it really that much of a stretch to go from a toilet flushing to a team - The Cleveland Browns that hadn't won a game since 2016. I mean, is it...
SIMON: No, no. Had the handoff...
BRYANT: ...Really that much of a stretch?
SIMON: been there,...
SIMON: ...I would have made the turn. Well,...
BRYANT: I know you would have.
SIMON: Yeah. Well, let's talk about baseball first, though, if we can. The BoSox won the AL East this week with, I don't know, 200 victories or whatever. But is that going to mean much if they get into the playoffs and Chris Sale, their ace pitcher, has an inflamed shoulder?
BRYANT: Well, you don't know about Chris Sale. And you also don't know about David Price because of his history in the postseason.
BRYANT: And you also don't know that Chris Sale is left-handed and so is David Price and so is Eduardo Rodriguez with the Red Sox, going up against, potentially, a New York Yankees team that's suddenly healthy and that looks pretty good and that played the Red Sox really well. And I think it's going to be great. I think one of the things that's really, really cool about this coming up postseason in the American League is you've got really good teams. You've got the Houston Astros, who are going to win 100 games. And they're already the defending champions. You've got the Red Sox, who have won a gazillion games this year. They're probably going to finish around 110 wins. And now you've got a resurgent Yankee team that's - they're on the cusp of 100 wins as well. And if it so works out - and let's not forget the Oakland A's,...
SIMON: The Oakland A's.
BRYANT: ...Who were supposed...
SIMON: Khris Davis...
BRYANT: ...And let's...
SIMON: ...Hit two homeruns last night...
SIMON: ...Against the Twins.
BRYANT: Let's not forget the Oakland A's who are as good as anybody right now. And they are right on the heels of the Yankees. And they very well may overtake the Yankees if the Yankees aren't careful and get a home game for that one-game playoff between New York and Oakland. If that game is played in Oakland, I'm not sure the Yankees come out of it. But if it's in New York, I think the Yankees have a big advantage. The big issue for me, Scott, which we haven't ever seen in major league baseball before, is if the Yankees do beat the A's, then you'll have the Red Sox and Yankees play each other in a five-game series in the ALCS. Now they've played each other twice before - three times before in the ALCS. But a five-game series...
BRYANT: in New York, Boston will be pretty interesting.
SIMON: Oh, my. Let's not let the Browns go any longer. They won one lousy regular season game on Thursday by four measly points over the New York there's-no...
BRYANT: The measly New York Jets.
SIMON: ...No-gas-in-our-tank Jets. But it was the first game the Browns won in two years (laughter). And the ratings were, forgive me, huge.
BRYANT: They were huge.
SIMON: Are they the new America's team?
BRYANT: Well, they're something. I don't know what you want to call them. But I think - even Bud Light was giving away free beer because a professional football team won a game. I do not want to be the buzzkill here, Scott Simon. I really don't. However, the bar is a little low, isn't it? They won a football game. And I just - I don't know. It kind of strikes me, if I'm a member of the Cleveland Browns, do I really want to be the laughingstock that - ? I saw a meme because, of course, my son does nothing but meme these days - send me memes. And one of them had a guy making a Cleveland Browns championship ring that said one win on it.
SIMON: (Laughter) Oh.
BRYANT: That's kind of cold. Ouch.
SIMON: Oh, that hurts along the Cuyahoga.
BRYANT: That burns.
SIMON: Vontae Davis of the Buffalo Bills was 47 seconds remaining in the first half of his game - the Bills game against the Chargers and he said, it just hit me. I don't belong in that field anymore. And he retired. He's gotten lots of criticism. But he sounds, to me, like a man with his head screwed on right.
BRYANT: Lot of criticism and a lot of criticism of his "manhood," quote, unquote. And I think that what strikes me about this story is people don't under - they underestimate. They don't really appreciate how painful this game is to play, how much it hurts to play professional football. When I was covering your Washington football when I...
SIMON: They're not my Washington football team, I assure you, yeah.
BRYANT: When I was at the Washington Post, at the end of the season - at the end of every season, the head trainer would come over and give us a list of the surgeries - the offseason surgeries. And it was like 25 guys every year. And it's incredible how much pain is involved in playing this sport. And for Vontae Davis to say it's not for me, I think you have to respect that.
SIMON: Yeah. And I want to note before we end, Addison Russell of the Cubs now on administrative leave after his allegations - after allegations by his ex-wife of domestic abuse. Major League Baseball and the Cubs acted. Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much.
BRYANT: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.