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Saturday sports: Olympics viewing is down; Rams and Bengals head to Super Bowl

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This weekend in particular, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Winter Games continue in Beijing, but, I mean, like, who's watching? Super Bowl tomorrow between two teams who were not predicted to get there. Howard Bryant from Meadowlark Media joins us.

Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. Thanks. Let's start with the Olympics. I confess I haven't watched more than a few minutes this year for a variety of reasons, and it's not just me, is it?

BRYANT: No, it's not. And I think it's because of the - part of the COVID schedule that we just had an Olympics last year, the Summer Olympics. And it just sort of - last summer. And it sort of feels like things have been a bit crunched in between the two, the Olympiads. And I think it's also the ongoing troubles with China, the Peng Shuai controversy, just the constant China human rights issues, the legal issues and all of it. It just feels like I'm a little much, and it feels like there is not a spirit to the Olympics the last couple of years, to be honest.

However, I do have to admit, Scott, I still love my Olympics. I do. I still like the moguls. I still love the speedskating. I love the way the Dutch travel for the speed skating from my time when I did the 2010 Olympics. And I haven't watched the hockey very much. But it's a great, you know, good story in snowboarding with Lindsey Jacobellis after, you know, winning the gold after her blunder at the finish line when she should have won gold six years ago. It's a great redemption story. The great snowboarder Shaun White in his final Olympics, finishing fourth to cap a fantastic career. There's always something great at the Olympics. And of course, there are the other things that we don't love, which is yet another Russian doping scandal as well.

SIMON: I'm sorry. Did you say a Russian doping scandal? No.

BRYANT: (Laughter) I'm shocked, shocked to find that there's gambling in this establishment.

SIMON: All right, I think. And, Nathan Chen, it's just great to sort of..

BRYANT: And, of course, Nathan Chen as well. And that's the whole point, right? So every single time, you know, you have these sort of, you know, gloomy Olympics and the politics surrounding the Olympics and the money and the corruption with the IOC and the rest of it, the athletes always save us. And when you do tune in, there's always something there because they give us so much.

SIMON: Super Bowl this weekend, of course. A lot of people will be watching that. The LA Rams with their own stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals. How did these two teams make it over Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Kansas City Bay?

BRYANT: Well, Joe Burrow was one of the reasons in Cincinnati to beat Kansas City in Kansas City and get to the Super Bowl - was sort of fascinating. And of course, the Bengals get to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Jets this year. So...

SIMON: Yeah. yeah.

BRYANT: OK. Anything's possible. Any given Sunday. I think the Rams are...

SIMON: Our 15-year-old's high school team beat the Jets.

BRYANT: Exactly. Well, I think that the Rams belong, they were a very good team. They weren't a great team, but they've got that defense and they've got Aaron Donald. And when you've got Aaron Donald on your team, anything's possible. Great story from Matthew Stafford, who toiled with the Lions all those years and now is a game away from a championship.

And so once again, the athletes give us something. I think that the Bengals are going to be in a lot of trouble because their offensive line is not great. I think that the Rams are - I don't want to say heavy favorites. But if there's a blowout, I tend to think it'll go in the other direction with the Rams. But let's see. One of these teams is going to win the Super Bowl for the first time, Cincinnati and one of these teams is going to win it for the second, Los Angeles.

SIMON: Time will tell. And, of course, let's just note in passing, this happens as the NFL is beset by a lot of questions, various lawsuits - Brian Flores, the Jon Gruden suits, the allegations about the Washington Commanders' workplace and now the Miami Dolphins hiring a new coach, Mike McDaniel. Oh, it - well, it'll be set aside, I guess, for a day as people watch.

Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: No, my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.