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Saturday Sports: A look back at 2022's sports highlights

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know, we wait all year for the holidays and all week to say it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: A World Cup for the ages and other highlights from the year in sports. And the fridge returns to football as the whole field. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: And merry Christmas to you, my friend. Look, I don't want to overlook the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, which we talked about and should in the future. But I do want to talk about the World Cup as the World Cup. Argentina defeated France on penalty shots. Was this the greatest World Cup final ever?

BRYANT: I don't know, Scott. I can't go for the superlatives because I'm not a World Cup scholar, really. I mean, who knows which one was the best one? '98 was phenomenal. And I think that this one was great. I mean, as it goes, this was one of the best tournaments I've ever seen of any sport...

SIMON: Of any sport, yeah.

BRYANT: ...Because of the excitement. And so it's hard to compare them. But I can tell you this - there were many, many, many people who will not watch soccer for another four years and just savor what they saw here...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...And then go back and watch it again or become new fans. It was that good.

SIMON: Yeah, sure was. Lots of great endings and beginnings in 2022. What stands out to you as we look back?

BRYANT: Well, I think finishing the year, obviously, you've got to stick with the World Cup. You've got Lionel Messi, who's done everything in this sport with Argentina except win the World Cup. Now he's got that. And of course, you think about the breakout star of this tournament. The Golden Boot winner was Kylian Mbappe of France.

SIMON: Allez Les Bleus.

BRYANT: Of course, he's already got a World Cup. He won it (laughter)...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: He won it four years ago. And so those two really stick out. Obviously, throughout the year, so many stories - in tennis especially, my sport, just a generation of players retiring from...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...You know, from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and del Potro to Petkovic to, of course, the - you know, the big ones at the end, Roger and Serena - really, really tough to say goodbye to that generation. Very happy to see finally, after the great, long journey, his rookie season as a player, Dusty Baker...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...In 1968 with the Atlanta Braves, wins the World Series as a manager after winning it as a player with the Dodgers back in 1981. And then, of course, obviously, there is the one Christmas gift that I think everybody in the United States is happy for, or at least should be, which is Brittney Griner is home for Christmas, which is something that nobody thought was going to happen when she was sentenced in September. So as - a year she would like to forget ends very kindly for her.

SIMON: Buffalo, Bears and below freezing temperatures - oh, my. The Bills are playing at Soldier Field. I believe authorities say don't take any unnecessary trips. But that doesn't (laughter) - that doesn't apply to the Bears game, does it?

BRYANT: They are out there - I can tell you, Scott - they're out there playing. And whenever I see these games - and obviously, you can go back for all the classic games whether you go back to the 1967 Ice Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers and the NFC title game or you go to one of the - I think it was the Patriots and the Tennessee Titans played in one of these subzero games as well. And you go - and every time I see these games, I say to myself, I am not that big a fan (laughter). I am not going to be the one who is out there watching this...

SIMON: To go out there, yes, and watch it in below zero temperatures.

BRYANT: And the tailgaters as well - and then, of course, there's always going to be the crowd shot to the guy with no shirt on.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: I salute you, my friend. But I will be in the house.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much for being with us. And I'll be right there with you. Take care.

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

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.