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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, December 14, 2013

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering if I should begin improving my video game skills…

• The news was good this week from Fox Sports 1, in case you were wondering. The week of November 25th (which included their coverage of Providence-Kentucky from Brooklyn) was their highest rated week since launch in August. Their average daily viewership numbers are up 33% since September. But just so you know, football still rules. Oregon-Oregon State (aka The Civil War) is the highest rated single program the network has to date, with almost 2.2 million viewers…

• A group of selected college basketball writers were asked by USA Today this week to name their most surprising teams thus far this year…and the two teams mentioned most often BOTH remain on PC’s schedule – Villanova (9-0) and UMass (8-0). The Friars swept the Wildcats last year, and lost to the Minutemen on a tip-in at the buzzer. Opportunity is still knocking…

Kris Dunn (fannation.com)

Kris Dunn’s injury putting him out for the remainder of the season is a blow for the Friars, sure. That it’s taken this long to determine his fate is only because Kris really wants to play…but the shoulder is painful, and everyone wants to make it right. I understand the frustration on all sides, but in the end…it’s Kris’ decision, no one else’s. We all ask our kids to grow up and learn how to make decisions like this…so it’s just not appropriate for anyone else to make this call – except Kris…

• In the good news department, Dunn is scheduled to have his jersey retired this winter by New London (CT) High School, where he achieved McDonald’s all-American status…

Providence will apply for a medical hardship waiver, which could give Dunn another year and leave him with three years to play…if all goes well. And that bodes well for next year, with the young-but-loaded roster looming on the horizon. Still, I get the frustration of Friar fans everywhere over always having to think “wait until next year.” It does seem like that every year. I don’t think this year is over, by any means. Two seniors must play big – Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts. Every night. The Big East is there for the taking, without a dominant team at the top. One person’s misfortune is another’s opportunity…

• Cotton, we expect to play big. Batts is the key. He needs to play like he owns the floor, and that hasn’t happened yet. If he can become the force we think he can, depth aside in the backcourt, the Friars will be there, in the mix, at the end…

• My Heisman Trophy vote, if you must know: 1) Andre Williams 2) Jameis Winston 3) A.J. McCarron. Character, as well as ability, counts in my book…

• The story this week that Mack Brown may be stepping away from the head coaching position at Texas left me happy and sad at the same time. As a Texas alum (or TexasEx as we’re known), I’m proud of the image he has put forward during his 16 years…the games they’ve won…and the national title in 2005. But clearly, over the past four years, something has been missing. He’s the first coach in Texas’ storied history to lose at least four football games for four straight seasons. Think about that…

• If you are the top athletic revenue generating school in the country – which Texas is – you can’t afford to not “hunt with the big dogs.” If you are going to compete at the highest levels of competition, you can’t afford missteps. The competition for wins and revenue is too tough. It’s time for Texas to step away from the pack again, and lead. You can make the same case for many athletic programs struggling with relevancy, with tough decisions (coaching or personnel-wise) to make, that are not at the top of the collegiate revenue chain. They’re caught between WANTING to be good, and actually doing the things required TO BE good. We have some around here, and they know who they are. Learn to lead, or be forever trampled…

• At Texas? Nick Saban, sure, but no. Urban Meyer? Hmmm. Maybe. Charlie Strong? That might be the ticket. Jim Harbaugh? Texas says they want a coach with national championship experience. Kinda limits the field, huh?

• Next year at this time, we’ll undoubtedly be hammering the initial decisions made for the first FBS playoffs, a four-team affair that will be determined by an all-star panel of coaches, administrators and even Secretaries of State. So enjoy the last round of the old BCS, which produced a team in this year’s title game (Auburn) that didn’t receive one vote – not a single vote – in the pre-season Associated Press Top 25 poll. It might have taken awhile, but actually, I think the BCS is/was as close to “right” as we may ever get…

• Bully for ABC/ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox. Normally, I abhor sideline reporter attempts at interviews on the field, because they are often inane, insipid and nothing more than added fluff to a broadcast…most of the time to show that the TV producers are into gender equity. But her questions to Florida State QB Jameis Winston, in the post-game aftermath of FSU’s ACC title win over Duke, were appropriate and right on. He had not had the chance to publicly comment on the alleged sexual misconduct charges dropped against him. She set herself up by asking about the game first, and then worked her way into the controversy afterward. And, FSU’s PR people knew the questions were coming – no cheap shots were taken. She’s paid to be a reporter first, not a suck-up to a football team…

• On the other hand, ESPN isn’t completely covered with journalistic integrity…their banishment of the “Outside the Lines” program to 8:00 am on ESPN2 drew 185,000 viewers, down from 846,000 on their last Sunday show on ESPN. And its replacement program? Colin Cowherd picking NFL games (or something like that, because I can’t stand to watch it) drew 15,000 more viewers one hour later. 846K > 200K last time I checked…

• Actually, this I don’t mind…the self-proclaimed worldwide leader sent a memo to its’ TV talent, asking them to not use a particular word so much. I’ve always been uncomfortable with it, myself…but used it since it has been a part of modern day vocabulary and accepted as such. Here’s to taking the high road…

Tweet of the Week I – from @SupportRhody:Turf looks great in the new home of @RhodyStrength”

• One of the best written pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading from a journalism student…stopped me stone cold in my tracks this week. As a parent of a college student – and if you have kids this age, or soon will – you should read this. Even if you don’t, you should read this...

• The Patriots continue to confound the world. Heck, they probably confound themselves. The stat geeks say it’s the first time since the 2000 KC Chiefs that a team has had three straight comeback wins from being down double-digits in the second half. I’ll buy that. But what’s hard to buy is the hole they’re digging themselves into in the first place…

• If you’re watching, you know. TB12 was miserable in the first three quarters against the Browns last week. His throws were either behind the receiver, or at their feet. Defensively, Josh Gordon put a big “S” on his chest and took off from the mere mortals in the New England secondary. There just aren’t any answers back there, and still…the Patriots won…

• TB12 threw for more than 400 yards? Sure didn’t seem like it. His new favorite target, now that Gronk is down and out for the year, will be Shane Vereen. And expect to see former Brown (as in University) Bear defensive end James Develin as an option at tight end in Gronk’s absence…

theguardian.com

• The hit on Rob Gronkowski’s knee by Cleveland safety T.J. Ward is a result of the NFL’s legislation against hitting high on receivers. Hit high, or lead with the helmet, the player will be fined and maybe suspended. The league has forced defenders to purposely aim low, at a players’ knees, in order to be able to take them down in the open field. Pretty soon, the league may have to institute flag football rules in an effort to keep star players healthy, while keeping star defenders eligible. Just sayin’

40 ACL injuries to NFL players this season, at last count this week. 32 last year at this same time. And new rules were put into place before this season, to try and protect players. Sometimes, it appears progress toward player safety just can’t be maintained on the brutal battlefield of football…

• The injuries are now piling up for Gronk, at age 24. It may just be that his style of play – a no-holds barred, rough and tumble, athletic aggressiveness – has him in his current position. Remember, he had back issues before coming to the pros…and now, the broken arm and new knee troubles. Have we seen his best already?

• The pass interference call on Josh Boyce in the end zone against Cleveland’s Leon McFadden was a gift. A make-up. Karma coming back around to kiss the Patriots’ right on the lips, after Carolina’s horrendous end zone hold a few weeks back. What goes around comes around…

• Calendar says December? Chalk it up in the win column. That might be as good a reason for New England’s success as anything else…the Patriots are a remarkable 41-6 in December since 2001, the best in the NFL…

• And you can’t say the Pats don’t prepare for just about every eventuality, because they do. The onside kick from Stephen Gostkowski recovered by Kyle Arrington to set up the winning score? Textbook perfection. It was executed so well, it’s the first time in almost 50 years (Fifty!) the Patriots recovered one of those in a winning effort…

Not for nuthin’…but a good job on the call by CBS’ Jim Nantz of Matt Prater’s NFL-record 64-yard field goal for Denver last week. Not over the top, not overly sensationalistic, and he and Phil Simms took the time to let the crowd react and let the moment “breathe.” I actually remember Tom Dempsey’s 63-yarder in 1970 for the New Orleans Saints. To hold a piece of a record for more than 40 years? That’s special…

• The contest for the best selfie ever taken…is now over

Joe Torre is as deserving as they come, when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Elected by the Expansion Era committee earlier this week, he’ll be inducted next summer along with Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox – all proper choices to take their places among baseball’s greats. The Baseball Writers Association of America makes their announcement on HOF inductees next month…

• Yankees, Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers? It’s his Yankee work as manager over 12 years that put him in there, no doubt, And I dunno, but I also think George Steinbrenner – whether you love him or hate him – deserves to be there at some point. And so does former Player Union chief Marvin Miller. Their impact on the game is undeniable…

• I understand why many around here may not think much of Curt Schilling, outside of his bloody sock, of course. But apparently the suits at ESPN think a lot of him and his opinions, because he’ll be replacing Orel Hershiser in the booth for Sunday Night Baseball next season…

• I’m non-plussed about the baseball winter meetings. Meh. Having attended them before myself, I’ve always thought that if deals were announced during that time, they were consummated prior to the gathering of baseball personnel and media. It’s a three-ringed circus, so I don’t know how any actual work or bargaining gets done. This year, it seems the biggest deals were not only done before – they were also announced before the meetings started. So the point would be…?

• I came very, very close one year to moving my career (and my family) into the realm of minor league baseball, as I had brief discussions with the Auburn Doubledays about becoming an assistant general manager. Sounded exciting, and management is something I’ve long considered. Until I read the job description which actually included “tidying up ballpark restroom facilities after home games…”

Tweet of the Week II – from Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk at NBCSports.com (@craigcalcaterra): “Basically: professional sports once needed the media. Now the media needs them way, way more. The economics have flipped…”

Baseball is now going to legislate home plate collisions? First, they’re going to slow the game down with instant replay, and now they’re going to take away perhaps the single-most exciting play in the game…a runner heading around third for home, and the catcher waiting on the throw? Good grief. And the gods want younger people to like this sport? How about appeasing the older people who have paid the freight for decades? What has happened to this game?

MLB’s rules committee will consider doing away with home plate collisions, perhaps as soon as 2015. Catchers will not be allowed to block the plate, runners cannot target catchers, and the question of either will be reviewable. Violations of the rule could result in varied tiers of punishment to offenders. Sounds timely, succinct and cut-and-dried, right? Whoa

• The driving force behind this – concussions in sports. In 30 years, baseball and football will largely be unrecognizable at the rate we’re going. Not that I want the concussion issue to linger like some migraine headache over the sports world…but really. Our poo-bahs are cutting out the very essence of what makes these sports attractive and exciting – the physicality of the game…

• My buddy Statbeast sez he has no problem with instant replay in baseball, or in any other sport. In fact, he wishes he had it in his own life every day – because after about 30 seconds, he forgets what he’s doing…

• Speaking of forgetting…did you see where former Brown president E. Gordon Gee has taken over the interim reins at West Virginia – for a second time? Starting in January, Gee takes over in Morgantown on an unpaid “leave of absence” as a faculty member in the Ohio State School of Law. He retired as OSU President after controversy came about over some insensitive remarks concerning “those damn Catholics” and some SEC schools…is that being too kind? Stupid is as stupid does

• ICYMI…UConn hired Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco as their new head football coach, replacing T.J. Weist, who replaced Paul Pasqualoni after only four weeks this past season in Storrs. Pasqualoni started 0-4 (10-18 in 2+ years), Weist was 3-5 as the interim coach, but did finish with three straight wins this year as the team ended the season 3-9. Diaco was the Broyles Award winner (national assistant coach of the year) in 2012 as his defense was second nationally in points allowed per game…

• Really? There is such a thing as a “professional cuddler?”

Doc Rivers

• Not really sure what the fuss was about over Doc Rivers’ return to Boston this week. Let’s see, your job is going downhill fast, your boss says it’s time to go in a different direction, he wants to hire new people for you to work with that you don’t know you can work with…and oh yeah, your performance is going to be directly tied to their rate of success. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to seek other employment to me. Doc left town? Darn right he did, and not a moment too soon…

• I like Rajon Rondo, but Chris Paul > Rajon Rondo. That is all

• We wrote here a few months ago about Seton Hall guard Tom Maayan, an Israeli citizen, who left the program after last season’s finish to return home to begin fulfilling his military commitment to his home country. He returned to school through a lobbying effort to keep his goal of an American education alive…that apparently wasn’t strong enough. The Israeli government last month responded that the delay was only good for 120 days, meaning he had to come back home. Now. So this past week’s game against NJIT was his last as a Pirate…he was allowed to finish his finals, his teammates were told after the game about his return home – for good. He resumes his military training January 2nd…

• Former Georgetown forward Greg Whittington has decided to transfer, but it’s not a big surprise. Whittington tore an ACL this past summer after missing the last half of last season due to academics and was expected to miss most of, if not all of this season. He was aiming for a February return, until his dismissal from the Hoyas program last month for an “unspecified team rules violation…”

Willie Cauley-Stein (courierpress.com)

• The most impressive player I’ve seen so far this season – Kentucky’s athletic 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein – turned in another solid performance the other night against Boise State…six points, seven rebounds and nine blocks. Apparently, he did this while playing at less than full strength, as he disclosed he has the “sickle cell trait,” which causes him bad chest pain…

• Too bad it’s not this year, but the NCAA Hockey Regionals are coming back to the Dunk for 2015. Brown will be the host school…it would have been great to see the possibility of PC playing in its “home” rink, with the Friars a nationally-ranked team this year. TD Garden in Boston gets the Frozen Four in ’15 as well. This year, it’s in Philly. And the NCAA also announced the Division I lacrosse quarterfinals will be held at Brown in May, 2016…

And here…we…go…NCAA prez Mark Emmert and the commissioners of the five power conferences (no Big East, no AAC) say they’ll be working to convince everyone else (i.e. those with fewer resources) that giving these power leagues greater autonomy over financial decisions is in the best interest of college athletics. In other words, we may want to “pay” our athletes, and you should let us. Yeah, that’ll keep everything on an even keel…

• Why should I improve my video game skills? Because it could lead to a new gig – one I’ve always wanted. Head Coach. This past week, Christopher McComas applied for the head football coach opening at the University of North Dakota, saying he feels confident he can lead UND to football immortality – because his experience lies in years of success playing Madden and NCAA Football video games. Yup. Chuck the ball downfield. Five-wide. Never punt. Always onside kick. College GameDay will set up permanently in Grand Forks, ND. It’s a helluva plan, really. Good luck with that, Chris…

• From the mailbag this week – Margot from Batavia, NY writes via Facebook: “Good to know that Brady is soooo great that he catches his own passes, blocks for his own runners and plays on defense too? Should we call him out for not sacking the opponents QB too? I agree he hasn't come out swinging at the beginning but for some to insinuate he's the main reason for why they fall behind in the 1st place is asinine.” Margot: Even you need to realize that TB12 has not had great starts to his performances this year. Actually watch him through those rose-colored glasses you’re wearing. Many of his early passes are low, at the feet of receivers…if not behind them. He’s not the only reason for the slow starts, of course…but he has to share in the blame for them. And he needs to pick up his game earlier, just as everyone else does, to keep them from happening…

• 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:

Bobby Townsend

Baseball Winter Meetings are the biggest waste of time. That is, if you don't mind watching reporters tripping over themselves to try to outscoop the other guy. In places like Dallas and Nashville, they hang out outside a baseball GM hotel room at all hours.
John, you are correct, trades and signings are not made during the meetings, they are just announced in a transaction that happened weeks prior to.
These meetings are really for the minor leagues and their own league meetings. They conduct their business without any scrutiny from the media.
I have been some of these and it's more of the same in the lobbies of these 5-star hotels where major league baseball personnel, sports writers and photographers continue to trip over themselves.
These meetings are overrated and are not worth the trip.

george grossi

Just read the After the Fall piece . Chilling . My 19 year old freshman daughter just got home last night , on winter break from Geo Washington . I hope she takes the time to read it . But as a long distance parent for the next 4 years , it is every parent's nightmare .

John Rooke

George - that piece really hits home, huh? My son just returned home from school, too. There but for the Grace of God we all go, I suppose. It was written by a journalism student at Indiana, too. Unbelievably well written.

Bobby - the Tweet I wrote about from the guy at Hardball Talk? Sums things up perfectly...

joe adamowicz

With possible wins against St. Bonaventure, Fordham twice, Duquesne and UNH, it looks almost certain that the best the URI Rams can expect to finish with is 11 wins. Double digits and an improvement over the 8 victories last year but will it be enough for Hurley to keep his job?

Gerald Castellucci

T.O.L. has become a must read for this seasoned Friar...Bravo JR
"Wait Till Next Year" is getting old but after 55 years, I'm not going anywhere except the Yale game 12/17/13.

joe adamowicz

Not sure about finishing with 11 wins now that I see that St. Bonaventure CRUSHED Iona (scoring 109 points!!!!) and beat UMASS-Lowell by 10 points. Going to be a real battle.

joe adamowicz

Coach Baron and Canisius romp over Holy Cross in a ten point victory to pick up win number 7 as
Billy Baron scores 31 points and hauls in 9 rebounds. Why can't we get a coach and a player like that? Good thing Canisius is not on the schedule. I'm afraid Coach H still be screaming his lungs out in a lop sided loss.

joe adamowicz

Good thing Canisius not on Rams schedule but did you see the absolute hammering Coach H's brother had to suffer at the hands of old coach B. Buffalo was easily taken care of by the old wizard, losing by 14 points. These Hurley boys need a little extra seasoning before they take on the experienced big bad boys.

joe adamowicz

It really is a shame Billy Baron left URI for Canisius. He is leading team with a 20.4 scoring average and would have provided a HUGE offensive lift, something that is sorely lacking with the X man struggling like crazy this year and no real inside threat.

Marty C

Re- the Heisman vote -and the character counts comment...does it only count enough to bump a guy down one spot or am I missing something? If you're going to hang your hat on that peg then it seems that like 100 plus other voters you'd have not had Winston on your ballot.

Also on Dunn being done - I sense that you too are frustrated -- you've kept us updated diligently and at times bordered on imploring the kid to play thru the pain. I think that categorizing his situation and decision as being driven by an inability to pay thru plain does him a disservice because it implies that he lacks grit our toughness. And when you note that it was his and only his decision to make here you again make it sound like he went against or without any consensus on opinion. To me yes is stinks but there's no value to painting this guy the way was done to Ellsbury and Bucholz.




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