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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, December 28, 2013

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering how I could have gone from “party time!” to “think I’ll go to bed early” on New Years’ Eve so quickly…

• One of the most incredible things I’ve seen happen due to/because of the internet and social media…how someone with 200 Twitter followers becomes the scourge of the planet. Maybe we should all think twice before pressing “send…”

• With the calendar telling us a new year is upon us, I’ve been thinking back to the year past about the top sports stories around here…and you’ll see our compilation of those stories here. What did we miss? And to you, what was the top story deserving attention that nobody covered? Feel free to suggest below…and I’ll also include the top national stories most relevant to us…

• I’ll start with Baltimore’s win over the Patriots in the AFC title game last January, and the subsequent win by the Ravens over San Francisco in the Super Bowl. Finishing the regular season 10-6, they rode the Ray Lewis retirement-party train and the emotion from Art Modell’s death right through Foxboro and into the big game, where they beat a favored 49ers team 34-31. Just goes to show you, get a little foo-foo dust sprinkled on you at the right time, and you can go a long way…

• Really now…who can properly explain the Patriots’ win at Baltimore last week? The “fan boys” have come out in droves this week, every one of them saying “I told you so!” Yeah, right. You had the Pats beating up a Ravens’ team in Baltimore that was riding a four-game win streak. Sure you did

• Upon further reflection, the 41-7 beatdown in Baltimore was not just New England’s best win of this year…it has to rank up there with the top wins in Bill Belichick’s 14-year tenure as head coach. Hard for me to call it the “best” win, but considering the adversity and the opponent…and yes, that it seemed the entire NFL universe was picking against them, it IS significant. But the win is rendered somewhat meaningless if the Patriots stumble to Buffalo

• One thing I will go out on a limb to say right here, right now…if the Patriots can keep from out-guessing themselves on offense, they’ll have a chance to get where they want to go in a wide-open AFC. Run the ball. Don’t force things. Keep mistakes (penalties and turnovers) to an absolute minimum. Be smarter with play-calls. If the defense can force a turnover or two per game, they’ll be right there…

• The offensive line was near-masterful in the win over the Ravens, especially considering the patchwork nature of the lineup. If TB12 can stand tall and throw accurately – rather than throwing low at the feet of his receivers through most of the season – the offense will continue to be effective enough for a banged-up defense to hang in there…

• And let’s not forget the trip to the movies for the team last week, in a bit of a schedule change that was out of the norm. With results like that (they went to view “Lone Survivor” on Friday), the Patriots should be “gettin’ their popcorn ready” every week from here on out…

Not for nuthin’…but I’ll state the obvious. Miami beat New England two weeks ago, and Buffalo beat Miami 19-0 last Sunday. And no one gives the Bills a shot at Gillette this Sunday, is that about right?

• Did you see that the Patriots’ schedule is now set for 2014? The dates are still to come, but we know who’s coming in, and where the team is headed. Highlights include Gillette Stadium visits from the Broncos, Bears, Bengals, Lions and Raiders…with visits to San Diego, KC, Indy, Green Bay and Minnesota…

• How can Aaron Hernandez’ story not be a big one, from either a local or a national perspective? Here’s a guy who literally had it all. New contract in hand. Big house, girlfriend, little child. And threw it all away because he didn’t like a supposed friend (Odin Lloyd) talking to someone he shouldn’t have? Excuse me if I fail to see the logic of gang life. Of course, as we’ve learned since, Hernandez’ troubled past may include more incidents than just the alleged murder of Lloyd in North Attleboro. Sure, it’s right to question Patriots’ hierarchy in their decision-making here. And it’s hard to blame them, because the nature of the game is always “if we don’t get him, someone else will…”

• Is it just me, or did Peyton Manning appear to be a bit “smarmy” with his comments on breaking TB12’s single-season TD pass record…throwing for his 51st of the year last week against Houston? “It’s probably just a temporary record, Brady will probably break it next year,” Manning said. I want to take that as a compliment, of course. But I sensed just a hint of sarcasm…for what he feels was rightfully HIS record and how dare TB12 take it from him. Go win two more Super Bowls, then you can crow. Just sayin’

• I hammered Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo last week as a choke artist, and then he throws a last-second TD pass to beat Washington. Then hurts his back.  Tony, if you could do it again against Philadelphia to win the NFC East, and actually win a playoff game, I’d think about a retraction…

• No one wins in FriartownBrandon Austin and Rodney Bullock committed transgressions that we may never really know the complete truth about. It surely seems harsh for their suspensions to last the entire season, if no criminal charges were filed. And I can surely understand fans’ attitude toward the College and the decision-making process here. I feel Ed Cooley’s angst, too. None of this sits well with him. Reminds me of a time about 20 years ago…when Rick Barnes went up against the administration, fought his fight, and then moved onto Clemson. And when Pete Gillen went up against administration, fought his fight, and then moved onto Virginia…

• I hope this time it’s different. I hope this time, cooler heads prevail, and smarter people get involved. Ed is a Providence guy, we know. But you know what? Contracts, schmontracts. Buy-outs exist. He can get a job anywhere. I hope his bosses realize that…

Bottom line – the College can do as it sees fit. No one should have a problem with a private institution looking out for what it believes is in its best interests. The only problem I see here is this – the end result is a little contradictory, isn’t it? If you aspire to play with the big boys, and expect your coaches to compete with and against big boys from across the country, but hold them to a different set of rules than the big boys play with…you’re not a big boy. And that’s fine. But then don’t ask your coaches to beat those big boys when they’re forced to play with those different rules and standards…

• Statement game opportunity for the Friars, no question about it, against UMass. The season isn’t over with a loss by any means, but a win is a much-needed signature moment and a real resume-builder. The last, best chance to give pundits and prognosticators some punch when it comes to determining Providence’s post-season chances…

• I just love alliteration. A sign of intelligence, right? Or is that idiocy, I can never remember…

Lance Armstrong (heavy.com)

• If you’re looking for some good news, consider the numbers put together by Bryce Cotton, as detailed here by our Kevin Farrahar on his site friarbasketball.com. For PC to reach the NCAA Tournament this year, after 10 seasons, someone needs to carry his teammates on his shoulders. Cotton can be that guy, but he’ll also need some help before it’s all over…

• Here’s a story that simply tore into the fiber of believability…everybody seemed to admire, praise, love Lance Armstrong. What he did to overcome cancer – by winning the Tour de France seven times, overcome the disease and return to racing – was a remarkable achievement, and one that cancer sufferers and survivors everywhere could look to with hope. Except for one small thing – he lied. He cheated. He doped to improve his performances. His on-air confession to Oprah Winfrey cost him as much as $75 million (through sponsorship losses and through losses to his Livestrong Foundation) in one day, but it also cost him a lifetime of trust. His fall from grace has been staggering…

• Heading into the long-awaited Big East conference schedule, through non-league play the conference has managed a more-than-respectable #3/4 RPI ranking throughout the first half of the season. Ahead of the ACC, the SEC, the Atlantic-10 and what’s left of the former football schools in the American. Now comes the harder part…staying there. Not quite sure the lack of an elite team (Villanova?) will help…

Overrated? You might have to put Marquette in this category, and I’m one of those that thought more highly of the Golden Eagles. They have no backcourt to speak of, freshman guard Duane Wilson will not return because of a leg injury, and the schedule has proven to be more difficult than expected because OF that inexperience. Still, 7-5 through their first 12 games? That’s tough. It's been a tough schedule, too - and they’ll remain a tough out for anyone at the Bradley Center…

• Honorable mention to Georgetown, as the Hoyas lack consistency in all facets of their floor game. If they get it together, however…watch out…

Underrated? Gotta start with Villanova. The Friars travel to Philadelphia next weekend for their first meeting with the Wildcats, and while I’m not entirely sure what I’m seeing here, the proof has been in their results. Freshman Josh Hart is a solid player, and a better shooter (40% from three) than originally thought. Maybe PC just matches up with these guys better than others, but after beating them twice a year ago, I can’t imagine the Friars running scared here…

• Honorable mention to Butler, as the Bulldogs have proven themselves to have more depth and ability to score than originally thought. And the home court advantage at Hinkle will be difficult to beat. Also, kudos to another newcomer – Xavier – for a 9-3 start to their season. Let’s see how the league road venues treat these guys from here…

• More doping, and more dopes…A-Fraud and Ryan Braun were the two highest-profile casualties of the Biogenesis scandal when it broke in early 2013. Braun was suspended on July 22nd for the remainder of the season and any playoff games the Brewers might play in; A-Fraud was suspended for a total 211 games. The rest of the players connected to Biogenesis received, and accepted, 50-game suspensions without the right to appeal. A-Fraud appealed his suspension, which would have been the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history, and we’re still awaiting the verdict. So are the New York Yankees, who undoubtedly would love to move on from the burden of his cumbersome contract…if not his deceit…

• A hint to NESN executives…if you must have one, try a male reporter for the dugouts this year, if Jenny Dell moves on to Fox Sports 1. You might be able to keep them from dating half of the Red Sox baseball team, and maintain at least a shred of integrity as well…

• Good to see ESPN smarten up a bit…returning the one true journalistically-based program back to a solid time slot, so it can be seen more often. Outside the Lines – traditionally a hard-hitting, informative and thought-provoking program is usually must-see. Guess the powers-that-be decided that year-round NFL madness needed to take a step back in the off season after all…

(wbir)

• The plethora of significant injuries throughout the NFL this season got me thinking about the concussion settlement the league reached with the NFL Players’ Association earlier this year. With head injuries and concussions being linked to suicides like that of former Patriot Junior Seau in 2012, the scrutiny placed on long-term effects from all injuries has been properly focused. But is it enough? While the retired players settled for a relatively paltry $765 million, without any admission of liability by the NFL, only $10 million of the settlement goes to concussion research and education. Still seems to me the sport America loves best would just as soon brush all of this under the rug of secrecy and gullibility that blankets this country…

• Who really believes the National Football League, in 30 years, will be the NFL we see today?

• How about this one from St. Louis? After a decade of losing, the St. Louis Rams have disclosed they’ve been over-charging their fans. They’re asking for a tax rebate from the state of Missouri. And apparently not giving any of the rebate – if they get it – back to the abused fans. Happy New Year!

• Friar fans, remember Ed Hightower? He was one of those “big time” officials that worked games in the Big East like John Cahill, Tim Higgins and John Clougherty that you used to love to hate. Now, Hightower is hanging up his whistle just like the aforementioned zebras. He called his final game last Sunday in Iowa’s win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, capping a career that included 32 seasons in the Big Ten and 12 Final Fours. Hightower says he plans to continue his work as the superintendent of the Edwardsville (IL) Community School District…

Tweet of the Week I – from @darrenrovell (ESPN’s sports business reporter): “NBA players shot BETTER (45.7%) yesterday (Christmas Day) in sleeved jerseys than they had the rest of the year (44.9%)…”

• And I’m not the biggest NBA fan, even though I may have worked in the league years ago…but I am a fan of these “shots of the year” for 2013. And Avery Bradley’s over-the-backboard shot against Milwaukee only rates as #6…

• I’m not sure what the fascination is with Ugg’s, but all I know is trying to return them is an adventure. Yes, they look comfortable, and yes, TB12 still wears them, apparently. But when I bought some slippers as a Xmas gift, there was only one shoe in the box. Returning them required a story…and the sales person stopped me, went into the back room and came out with one slipper. That matched the other. Now that’s what I call a return on investment…

Tweet of the Week II – from @UT_MackBrown: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” – William Shakespeare. He certainly wasn’t talking about college administrators, was he? That would read more like “Love all, trust none, do wrong to a few…”

• My buddy Statbeast sez he has one simple rule of thumb when it comes to trust – never trust anyone with short legs, ‘cuz the brain is too near the bum…

• So, I don’t know Evelyn Lozada. I know she’s a so-called TV personality, one of five cast members on the reality show “Basketball Wives” on VH1. I know she was once romantically linked to ex-Celtic Antoine Walker, engaged to him in fact. I know she was once romantically linked to ex-Patriot receiver Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson), married to him in fact. Now, Lozada is engaged to ex-Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford, who now toils for the LA Dodgers. And what is the lesson we’ve learned here? Methinks Crawford ought to get ready for retirement, because this chick is a career-killer. That is all

Tweet(s) of the Week III – from Fort Worth Star-Telegram NFL writers Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) and Clarence Hill, Jr.: “Good advice > RT @clarencehilljr: Real life is always lurking. Be careful. Be thankful. Be blessed…”

• Digital sports news is no passing fancy…ESPN digital media accounted for 35% of all digital sports usage across computers, tablets and smartphones in the month of November…more than numbers 2, 3 and 4 combined (Yahoo! Sports, NBC Sports Network and NFL Internet Group)…according to comScore multi-platform data. 4.1 billion minutes of usage were spent on mobile devices during last month. Small wonder newspapers in this country continue to shrivel and wither on the vine…

• My goal, someday, is to actually be in Times Square for the dropping of the ball on a New Year. Been there for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (three times!), and for many notable sports events…but New Years’ Eve with the crazies is something I’ve long considered. Only, I think I’d rather be above it all in a nice, safe, expensive hotel room looking out below on the madness. Tip one back for the New Year, say goodbye to the old year? And get ready for another memorable ride…starting with my dreams…

• From the mailbag this week – Steve from West Warwick, RI via Facebook, on the controversy surrounding PC’s two suspended freshmen basketball players: “Out for the season, but they can still practice? Nothing bad enough to involve the police? Makes you wonder.” Steve: Sure it does. But as I mentioned previously, a private institution has the right to do what it believes is in the best interest of the school. The hand can be heavy if they feel it’s necessary. My complaint concerns the hypocrisy over the need and desire to keep up with the Joneses of the intercollegiate world – while expecting coaches and administrators to play by a set of rules that might be proper and decent and the right thing to do…but clearly do not apply to many of “the Joneses” the coaches are expected to keep up with. And beat. I see a double-standard. Ever asked yourself how some schools seem to get certain players eligible all of a sudden? But at Providence? Everyone wants to win, especially the coaches. That’s how they’re measured as successes. They should go where they feel they have the best, realistic chance to do that…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions and comments to jrooke@golocalprov.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

• Don’t forget to join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .

• The book “Rhode Island Radio” from Arcadia Publishing is available for sale, and it tells the story of the 91-year history of the medium in our state through photographs, clippings and memories from many of the personalities who have graced our airwaves. If you’re in search of the gift that says “Rhode Island,” you’ve found it. Or, find it in local bookstores and online right here

 

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Comments:

Wally M

The whole PC fiasco makes me sick! You are right on John!! Cooley has got to be disgusted. I think someone in the school's administration was not going to budge on the decision to suspend those kids for the whole year. While others kept telling Ed "just hang in there" those kids will eventually be reinstated! The secrecy around whatever they did just breeds rumors. How bad could it be if they let the kids attend the "Paradise Jam" and practice with the team. Problem being how can you take a side when you don't know exactly what happen!! Just had to be that "one person"!! This decision will have a long term negative effect on this team and the PC teams in the near future!! Really freeken deflates all the energy that Coach Cooley has built to energize the team, the fan base and the state!!!!!!

Marty C

Call Wally the Carpenter cuz he hit the nail on the head! Secrecy hiding behind Privacy is not serving the kids well. I assume that they are lucky to even be in school and that if they weren't high profile recruits they'd be gone. No police reports no criminal charges seems to point to academic charges (although remember that there were no charges against J Winston FS). Maybe they were "over-punished" but the shame is for each who thinks this might be true there will be those who like me think the kids must have had it coming and are probably getting off easy.

My only problem today is that media has not chased this with any urgency -how hard can it be to ID a few sources who know what happen (friends/former coaches etc) and get them to go on the record in the name of defending their pals. Any skilled reporter can draw out these comments by insinuating that the kids are getting killed and that this is a chance to clear the air and help their buddies out. If there was no follow up or work every time the higher ups stated privacy or declined comment that'd be pretty sad.

That said - Coach C can continue to earn his stripes with a win tonight at the Zoo - Go Friars!

joe adamowicz

"But then don’t ask your coaches to beat those big boys when they’re forced to play with those different rules and standards…" Good point, John. U"CON" proved to be a quick learner, going from anonymity in the Yankee conference to national prominence under Coach Calhoun who was an absolute wizard at creating situations where he was allowed to take his ball home after not being allowed to play but ending up playing anyway.

Wally M

Just disgusted really: The school chases great coached out. Remember Barnes had Duncan coming to PC and "the administration" couldn't work it out. Freeken Tim Freeken Duncan!!!! They chased Gillen out because they would not upgrade the facilities. Hey these kids did something wrong let them pay but let the punishment fit the crime. Don't going make things tough for everyone, players, coaches, fan by being the tough guy when handling a problem with common freeken sense will get the message across. Thanks guys, thought is was only freeken me!!!!

Otto Benson

PC can never compare to UConn which is in a totally different sphere - a large well resourced, major research university with a growing endowment and a national reputation. PC is just a small Catholic school with small endowment and a basketball orientation as opposed to academics. PC is the perfect "tweener" college and reflects many of the same problems that affect the Catholic Church itself.

joe adamowicz

U "Con" basketball has nothing to do with its size, being a research university or "growing" endowment or "national" reputation. It has everything to do with playing by a different set of rules and a coach who was a master of bending them until they broke and finding a way to play when they were broken.

Marty C

Agree with Scott's radio take yesterday that PC is well situated in the New BE which he predicted (and John did not contradict) will end up being a top echelon mid-major conference. Agree also that U-Con (hey I like that!) operates much more like most of the top programs in D1 with their "moral flexibility" - willing to cross the line and get popped every so often in return for operating with fewer rules in between. Not allowing these shenanigans is to the credit of PC even if it means operating at a lower echelon.

Major disconnect I see is that the school seems to be admitting some scholarship athletes who aren't able to suit up - maybe solution is to recruit safer kids who may not have the ceilings as others but are also less likely to add zero value because they either come with or quickly fall in to ineligibility. Whatever you want to say about the student athletes who could have been recruited instead of the last 3 big timers here - it is undeniable that having those bodies in uniform this year would have made PC better right now than the non-players. Maybe there is some halo effect to big names and maybe the long term future is better but what we seem to have here is a very thin roster that is going to suffer for it all season.

I do not envy coach and staff in trying to walk that line - and maybe the duo from this year can redeem themselves first and foremost as PC students and citizens and then as hoopsters next year.

ND suspended its starting RB/KR for the bowl game yesterday for violations - we got a report on ESPN that explained that they had confirmed the reason was for texting during a team meal. Remarkably the university which itself was not quoted as a source - did not crumble due to this revelation - and the fan base (as it were) did not appear to be up in arms. Obviously WWL has more resources than most but it didn't appear to take Watergate Level effort to secure confirm and report this info without involving the U.

Otto Benson

Face facts, UConn has major advantages over PC that are NOT reversible and are important to keeping their program consistently ahead of the Friars. You may have success in some years, but PC will lag overall. The future belongs to UConn. You can moralize (or more accurately whine) about the situation and cry that UConn cheats and PC is so much better. But are you?This rationalization is in many ways like Bishop Tobin who trashes Mandela, but then turns around to defend a crook. Pleeezzzze spare me the hypocrisy and the sanctimonious talk.

joe adamowicz

Not saying anyone is better. U "con" basketball is u "con" basketball. At least they get to play in the post season this year, might have a "student-athlete" graduate and did not have to create a scholarship for someone a la Andre Drummond. LOL

Marty C

Could not agree more with both of you gentlemen - state resources and the fruits of being a research U pouring into Big State U absolutely make a difference on their own. Witness UConn football vs BC who's had the better last 5 years and who will have the better next 10? CT taxpayers are taking a beating on financing the stadium while PC/BC face opposition everyhere in any conversation about expansion. (Even lowly Umass new to D1 football - is getting taxpayer funded renovations and got subsidies to play in Gillette!)

The future is inherently much bigger for CT than PC for the reasons you guys note. As to which is "better" I think that depends on what you want out of your school of choice. If hoops Ws are the biggest barometer then you cant go wrong with UConn (except as noted during the down times when they take their hits for doing business as it is done - postseason bans presumably do tarnish that year's results?) If you are okay with your school having a harder time on the hardcourt because of all above - yes including the spiritual and moral doctrines - then you know what u signed up for.

I guess I'm not sure who has a problem with that - and admittedly I am not an alum nor a contributor to PC - just a relocated fan of college hoops - maybe those pouring in bucks are dissatisfied? But if PC can compete in their new smaller mid major conference that works here. Admittedly less glitzy then the glory days decades ago - but I wasn't alive then anyway so its not like I've known different

I think the frustration for this year is the conflict over players admitted who maybe should not have been given what has come to pass - leaving a decent core of a team (at least within their conference) woefully thin.

joe adamowicz

"If hoops Ws are the biggest barometer then you cant go wrong with UConn (except as noted during the down times when they take their hits for doing business as it is done - postseason bans presumably do tarnish that year's results?)" Good point about UCONN, Marty.
The problem is their "doing business as it is done."




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