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Sports: Woods' Milestone; A Farewell Fit For Fame?

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And we have news this week from coin toss to the finish. Two teams face off for the Big Ten title, one of basketball's biggest stars announces his long goodbye and a former champion says, this is 40 and have I got a challenge. 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. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan State Spartans, tonight, Big Ten championship. Iowa was 12 and 0 this year, so why are they underdogs?

BRYANT: Well, because I think there's something magical also about Michigan State having beaten Ohio State. They've played - Iowa - I'm not going to take anything away from any of them - but the unbeaten against the magic - you know, against the magical team. But I think that Michigan State's played tougher games. But it wouldn't surprise me if either team won. Totally great even matchup, winner goes to the playoff and the loser - don't lose at the wrong time, Iowa, because they're unbeaten right now. Not the time you want to lose a game.

SIMON: I want to ask you about Tiger Woods, and it's not 'cause he's in the hunt for a tournament, obviously. He turns 40 this month. He's had lots of injuries. I don't know what number he is in the list now, but he's way down there. Obviously a lot of attention to his personal life - the scandal in 2009. He gave an interview to Time Magazine this week where he talked about his struggles as an athlete. But I was touched by what he said about his family life and his children especially.

BRYANT: No question. It's a really candid interview where he talks about having to explain to his 6- and his 8-year-old children about the scandal with his - in his personal life about why his marriage collapsed and answering the question, in his words, to answer the question why are mommy and daddy not together before they get on the Internet, before they become Internet children who are flipping through all kinds of different stuff and reading about their families. He says, I want my kids to hear it from me. And I think that was a very powerful interview. And it's very hard. I think one of the things that we don't do enough is to talk about how public the public life is. I mean, half of the country gets divorced. But very few people have to talk about everything that took place between parents in the public eye. Imagine...

SIMON: And this is a lot to talk about, too. This isn't just two people falling out of love.

BRYANT: Exactly. This is a lot to talk about, exactly right. However, I thought that as the twilight of the athlete is always very poignant, I thought the other thing is that Tiger Woods is just a young man. He's going to be 40 years old. He's got lots of life left and a lot of relationships to happen with this kids. And so this is going to be a very interesting challenge to also have to do it in the public eye for all those millions of dollars and billions of dollars that he's generated, not necessarily something that you would wish on anyone.

SIMON: Kobe Bryant has announced he'll retire at the end of this season. First round Hall of Famer, I should think, for sure.

BRYANT: No question.

SIMON: How will people, though, weigh the rape accusation against him in 2003, which was dismissed with an out-of-court settlement?

BRYANT: Well, I think that's going to be there for him always, the same way - and I think it should be, in some ways, simply because this is part of the - this is part of his journey as a public figure. I think that, to me, obviously these are very, very difficult conversations to have. I think that you always have to take a life if you're going to do criticism, as we do, to these public people. And the price of their fame is to look at their lives and careers in totality. And I think that that's the challenge. If you are a basketball fan, obviously you have probably forgotten everything that happened 11 years ago. If you're a less casual fan, you remember this because this was where he sort of came to public notoriety, unfortunately. I think, for me, I take it more as him - I look more of it as the public, as to how the public reacted then and now. Let's not forget the death threats and all the different allegations against the accuser. I would like to think that today, knowing what we know a little bit more now, that accusers wouldn't have to go through what she went through. I'm not sure that's the case, but I'd like to think so.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN. Thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.