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The Week In Sports


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The Cubs get the Cuban missile. Is that a crisis? Maybe for other teams. And Olympics are set to open in Rio, although there are a lot of big name no-shows, Russian athletes who can't show and incomplete buildings, plugged up plumbing and a fire in the Olympic Village. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Hey, Scott. You sound so rosy talking about the disaster that is Rio (laughter).

SIMON: Well, that's just my sports doofus voice. You understand. We'll get to that. But, of course, I'm always excited to talk about the club - the Cubs. And we legitimately have to talk about them first this week. They've been in first place since the first week of the season. They made a trade with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman, who's probably the fastest pitcher in baseball, by the way, even before they had a chance to look at another pitching prospect tomorrow night.

BRYANT: Oh, yes, yes. Well, you know, that's the - the good thing about this team is that for the long-suffering Cubs fan, of course, do we have to go back to this, they haven't been to the World Series since 1945. They haven't won the World Series since 1908. And this is the best Cubs team probably since the 19 - oh, goodness, since they won 116 games a long, long, long time ago when they were actually a perennial champion. And this team now is built for the long haul. They're built to win the World Series.

I think one of the great things, if you're a baseball fan and your team makes a deal like the Chapman deal, is you're really sending one message, and that is there's only one acceptable outcome to this season and that is holding the World Series trophy. You haven't really had that in Chicago for a very long time. The 1984 team was a good team, the '89 team was a good team, 2003 team was a very good team. But this team, this is a World Series, best in the league, one outcome team. And you really just haven't seen that in Chicago. So enjoy, no stress, no pressure.

SIMON: Yeah. He comes with a controversy, though.

BRYANT: Chapman?

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Well, sure. Well, you know, Chapman is an interesting player because he's a guy who was one of the players that everybody, of course, wanted. The Nationals wanted him. And, of course, he played for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. But, of course, he also had a huge domestic violence issue with a gun - you know, fired a gun off and got suspended for 50 games.

And so, of course, there's a cynicism that goes along, as well, saying, OK, well, he can pitch though so we're going to put all that aside. But he did sort of serve his suspension. And now that he's back, the Cubs are - you know, they're a favorite to play and I don't - they're a favorite to win - and I don't think anyone's really looking at that because, as we know, sports fans, once you wear their uniform, all is forgiven.

SIMON: Yeah. May I mention what's happening tomorrow night?

BRYANT: You throwing out the first pitch?

SIMON: Yeah, yeah, 'cause I've been in training with my yoga instructor who says that the pitch comes from the psoas, you know, that's a - careful of my pronunciation - that's a muscle that's within the brim of the lesser pelvis. However, I don't know how to grip the ball with that muscle. Let me also just say I had a dream last night, Howard.

BRYANT: Was it an awesome dream?

SIMON: I'm going to share the - I dreamt I was out there on the mound and I had the Cubs jersey on and my hat and I was getting ready to throw the pitch, and I looked down and realized I wasn't wearing pants (laughter).

BRYANT: You know, that's what we call a curveball, Scott. You know, I'll tell you, if the Cubs had only seen you throw before they made this deal, they may not have made the deal. I think there's a slight difference in velocity between you throwing about four and a half or five miles an hour and Chapman throwing 103 miles an hour. But, you know, we're just splitting hairs here.

SIMON: Yeah. Is Rio itself on the brink of breaking down just before the Olympics open?

BRYANT: Well, you know, I was thinking about this with Sochi when the Winter Olympics were out there and there were all kinds of talk about how the toilets didn't work and how nothing was functional and how this was going to be a disaster. We heard the same thing about the World Cup in South Africa a few years ago. And eventually hopefully what ends up happening is that the games take over and things somehow - it's almost like a newspaper.

It's like a daily miracle. You look at it and you can't figure out how it's going to work. But then, at the end of the day, it does come together. But the problem is whether it's Zika, whether it's the plumbing, whether it's the Olympic Village, whether it's the bodies washing up to shore, this sounds like...

SIMON: Yeah, there - I mean, there's biological sewage.

BRYANT: Exactly. This sounds like a disaster. But let's hope that the athletes themselves make us remember them and not the problems going forward.

SIMON: OK. My next ambition is to carry the Olympic torch (laughter), but let's get through tomorrow night first. Howard Bryant of espn.com, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Oh, my pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.