Thinking Out Loud: New England sports fans, it's time to appreciate our lot in life

John Rooke
June 14, 2019 - 12:29 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering if those cheating bast – I mean, those institutions of higher learning will again escape the bite of a toothless NCAA?

First things first.  I’m very happy I didn’t spend five grand, or more, watching THAT in person Wednesday night.

So, this is what losing feels like? It’s cold, heartless and numbing. It’s unfeeling – except for that pit in your stomach you get when you know you had it – and let it go.  

Then it gets worse.

We had that feeling in 2007 around here (Patriots), and probably again in 2010 (Bruins) and 2017 (Patriots). The Red Sox?  Too numerous to mention.  But there was a time when many feared the Sox would never win again.  Which means WE would never win again. 

Remember those days?

I have always said – and preached to my boys and those I had the privilege to teach or coach – that it almost always takes losing to truly appreciate winning.  Victory is not an inalienable right, even though we often treat it as such around here.

If nothing else comes from the Bruins’ charge to a Stanley Cup Final Game 7, then let memories be revitalized and re-charged over how things once were in Boston and New England, short of the Celtics’ dynastic success in the ‘60’s, and repeated today by the Patriots...and even the Sox, to an extent.

Appreciate today.  And then go kick someone’s a** tomorrow.

- Three thoughts on the sudden and very impactful ending to the NHL season:  

1) The tougher team won.  Maybe not the best team overall, but the tougher team.  

2) The Bruins’ key performers – didn’t perform.  Except for Tuukka Rask, tough to blame him.  And Big Z?  Dude deserves a medal.  The forwards? Not sure I ever saw a forecheck.  All I saw was a willingness to change lines with 10 seconds left in the 1stperiod Wednesday…which resulted in a back-breaking goal for St. Louis.Or am I being too tough on Brad Marchand?  But it was an egregious error in judgment.  

3)  Let’s give credit to Jordan Binnington.  The guy stood on his head when it mattered most.  Yes, the Bruins’ organization trained him up a year ago when they agreed to take him on loan and he played 28 games in Providence…so in a sense, it’s the B’s own fault.  

That, and it was clear the way to beat Binnington was to aim high on him.  Boston didn’t do that at all Wednesday night until the one, meaningless goal late in the game.  These guys ever read a scouting report?

It was largely an enjoyable two-month playoff run, complete with angst, emotion, frustration and expectation.  The ultimate prize wasn’t realized, which is muted somewhat by the fact St. Louis won for the first time in its’ 52-year history. Hard to hate on that.

- And, NBC says Game 7 was the most-watched NHL game on record.  Strange, however, that it had a 30 rating in Boston, and Game 7 in 2011 (at Vancouver) had a 43.  Winning can also be a breeding ground for complacency.  More on that in a bit.

- So…we’re forced to wait another what, nearly eight months til’ the next parade?  ‘Cuz the Sox ain’t gonna get us there this fall.  Just sayin’.

- From the moment I first saw the horrifying video of David Ortiz being shot in the back, I knew something wasn’t right – beyond the obvious act itself.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many crime shows or movies, but it seems to me if you really wanted someone dead, wouldn’t you aim a little higher?  This heinous act was planned to work out the way it’s working out – only not to the full extent of the perpetrator(s).  

It sent a message.  Has it been fully understood?

Regardless of which stories out there you believe as to why this crime on a beloved Boston/New England sports icon took place (for $7800?), know this:  Big Papi should probably stay away from his homeland, the Dominican Republic, for a while.  

When you consider the tourism deaths in that country over the past year (seven at last count), the lack of oversight and control from Dominican authorities (who have had few leads and fewer clues as to how the tourists died – tainted alcohol?) ought to have any sane person at least reconsider his or her travel plans.  

Unless you like playing with fire, scarecrow.  Dominican authorities have asked for the FBI’s assistance.  Our FBI. 

Or maybe, you could stop being friendly with people who associate with drug lords?  I don’t know, it’s just an idea.

I’ve been to the DR for both business and pleasure, played golf on some fabulous courses and had a great time on my visits.  Never had an issue.  Figured I needed to throw that in here, because tourism in that country could step off a cliff…if it hasn’t already.

- Back to Wednesday night for a moment. It was the first championship Game Seven held in Boston in 35 years?  Goodness, we’ve been so deprived.

Here’s a general rule of thumb that should be followed at all times.  Please take note if you are a New York fan, in particular, or in St. Louis or anywhere south of this locale:  When it comes to winning, act like you’ve been here (or there) before – even if you haven’t.  

- You think Boston and New England fans are hard to live with now?  Wait until the Patriots play in the Super Bowl again next February.

You heard me right.  Not for nuthin’, but Rookestradamus says it will happen, again.  

- Kyrie Irving is opting out of $21.3 million to stay here next season?  If only we all could perform such acts of stupidity.  

Good luck to ya’ Kyrie, and don’t let the door hit ya’ in the a** on the way out.  Brooklyn.  Really? Oh, he could still stick around, but New Englanders demand winners with character.  From the looks of it, he is neither.

- As for those Patriots, the final two OTA’s were cancelled, in lieu of “team bonding” stuff.  Like getting hit in the face by a paintball pellet.  Fun times in Foxboro.

- Consider a factoid found this week: New England has played 16 postseason games in the last seven years – a full, extra season’s worth of games over that time, which includes wear and tear on careers. 

Seattle is next with 11 postseason games played and Green Bay has eight.  No other team in the NFL has a half-season’s worth of extra games played over the same time period.  And this team keeps right on doing what they do.

I mean, you can’t cheat and do that, can you?  Of course not, but that’s the easy, uneducated way to deal with reality for those living in other geographic locales.

Several ‘in the know’ say that the NFL Players would accept an 18-game regular season schedule in a new CBA with owners. Why?  Players would receive two more game checks, that’s why.  

Good.  Sign it, and let’s get ‘er done.  The quickest way for other sports to (re)capture public attention is for pro football to go through any labor unrest.  

- Can we call the Houston Texans “cheaters?”  Tampering charges were filed by the Patriots this week over their interest in hiring Player Personnel Director Nick Caserio as GM.  Will the NFL actually take New England’s beef under advisement?

The quickest way for the rest of the NFL (including the AFC East) to catch up to the Patriots may be to lose Caserio to Houston, or to anyone else.  

Anyone else intrigued by the Houston presence of Jack Easterby, a former team chaplain and one-time Patriots’ “character” coach and his appearance at the players’ ring ceremony…followed by the Texans’ firing of GM Brian Gaine and immediate courtship of Caserio?  Easterby and Caserio are friends, in case you weren’t aware.

For someone who left New England allegedly because of Robert Kraft’s public faux pas, I don’t know. But this doesn’t seem to be the best way to convince anyone you’re a good guy.  

- My friend Edward in East Providence may be right.  He thinks Rafael Nadal, after his French Open win last week, is the greatest tennis player of all time.  18 Grand Slam titles, an eye-popping 12 of those on clay in France, are his stake to that claim.  

- Simple fact:  The Red Sox are not in the same category as New York or Tampa Bay. Or Minnesota, or Houston or even Texas. They should be, after winning 108 games last season, but they’re not.  And they have no one to blame but themselves for their current predicament and underachievement. 

Stranded runners and underachieving offense, poor-to-bad pitching and questionable decisions coming from the bench are all a part of it.  Ever wondered why Bill Belichick seems to ‘blow up’ half of his roster from year-to-year and still win?

Because he knows nothing ever stays the same.  It’s always ‘onto Cincinnati’ or some other locale.  In the current economic climate, it’s too easy for teams to buy back into contention.  Fate and fortune can change quickly.  Teams make the (wrong) decision to ‘ride it out,’ when they should, perhaps, change it up. 

I know what you might be thinking. I think it, too.  But you just can’t change for the sake of change, can you? This is where you have to know who you are.  Biggest problem I see with the current Sox?  Complacency.  It leads to catastrophe, every time.

A roster changeup would have been a better pitch to throw over the winter.  And in spring training, too.  Keeps the roster on edge.  Keeps guys wondering but working.  Never, never, never rest on accomplishments.  You don’t see the Pats doing that, do you?  How’s that philosophy working out?

Spring for the Sox was disastrous. The pitching staff wasn’t ready, several position players weren’t ready (Pearce, Betts, Bradley, Martinez?) and that disaster leads directly into the current one you’re watching almost every night.

 

Even though he only played at McCoy Stadium for seven games in 1984 (not counting rehab) and had a losing record (2-3), Roger Clemens will be inducted into the Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame on June 21.  

Credentials aside, it’s easy to see why this is happening.  Yes, he is a legendary figure in Red Sox history.  Yes, in spite of his alleged PED use, he’s closer-than-ever to the MLB Hall (59% of the vote this year, short of the needed 75 percent) and gaining.

- And yes, the Pawsox need a financial/antenna boost with attendance in an otherwise drab, dreary and soon-to-be-defunct lame duck season.  

Kudos to former Pawsox GM Lou Schwechheimer for his induction into the International League Hall of Fame on June 22. Schwechheimer is the current managing General Partner of the New Orleans Baby Cakes – soon to be in Wichita, KS – and the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs.

- Who knew the one, true national sport of Canada is basketball?  Toronto won the NBA, however, largely because Golden State was tired, hurt and bored. And they had Kawhi Leonard.

- Anyone else think the NBA deciding to not call their owners “owners” is just calling attention to the negative connotation they’re trying to avoid?  Political correctness continues to run amok, and stupid is as stupid does.

- Stunning to learn the news of former Friar guard Gerald Brown’s death from gunfire in Baltimore late last week. Brown was a high school star in the city, became a highly sought recruit and played 26 games over parts of two seasons at PC in 2004-05 before transferring to Loyola (MD), where he averaged more than 20 points per game over two seasons.  Brown was 34 years old.

It’ll be here before we know it. Providence announced this week they will hold their annual Late Night Madness celebration this year at the Dunk on October 5th, as a part of the school’s homecoming weekend.  And that includes season ticket holders and alumni being invited too, not just the students.  Details are coming.

- 1999 Brown grad Lindsay Gottlieb got a new job this week – she was hired as an assistant coach to John Beilein of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Gottlieb is the first women’s collegiate head coach to be hired as an NBA assistant, having been at Cal-Berkeley for the past eight years (with seven NCAA appearances).

- Brown’s men’s basketball released its’ schedule for 2019-20 this week, and it includes visits to Duke and St. John’s. The Bears will open their season November 5thon the road against Bryant, and URI will visit the Pizzitola Center in Providence on January 2nd.  Ivy play tips off at Yale on January 17th.

- Matt McCall’s new assistant coaching staff at UMass features Tyson Wheeler, the ex-Rhody guard who spent the past eight seasons at Fairfield.  Wheeler had been the interim head coach at Fairfield after Sydney Johnson was fired, prior to the Stags hiring Jay Young.  

- In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, or perhaps more directly with the Big 10 and SEC, the Pac-12 is seeking investors.  Yup, they’re asking companies to invest in the conference.  The Sports Business Journal reports the league is looking for a whopping $750 million on an equity sale for their media rights and TV network. 

What a business would own, exactly, would be a stake in the holding company that controls the Pac-12 Networks and the other league media rights.  So, if you want to own a piece of an athletic league – this might be your chance.

Could the Big East consider such an option?  While they don’t have a TV network like the Pac-12, Big 10, SEC or soon-to-be launched ACCN…perhaps an equity investor could inquire into the league’s digital, streaming and/or marketing rights.  The result could be more annual income for member schools and their athletic departments, albeit a bit shy of what Football 5 schools can command.

Not for nuthin,’ but there ain’t nuthin’ amateurish about these colleges anymore, bruddah.  It’s strictly big bidness.  And it’s getting bigger by the day.

- At some point this summer, and perhaps soon, at least six schools reportedly will receive NCAA notices of allegations for Level I violations – the most serious that exist – coming from the government’s recent investigation into the basketball recruiting scandal.  

If you go by the programs that came up for discussion during the FBI probe, it seems to me Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, LSU, USC and Oklahoma State have quite a bit to worry about right now. There are others, too (like Creighton and assistant coach and one-time URI player and coach Preston Murphy) that shouldn’t feel like they’ve dodged this bullet.  Yet.

Scholarship reductions, postseason bans and show-cause orders against coaches are all in play here.  Can the NCAA, once and for all, show it has the intestinal fortitude to clean the sport (and itself) up?  That could start right here.  And it needs to.

- James from Douglas, GA posted on Facebook this week, on the Bruins: “You can call it sour grapes and maybe it is, but St. Louis looks like they have been head hunting all series…Boston to me looks like it needs a few goons to retaliate.”

James:  I’d settle for a first line that could score consistently, but I do see your point.  I’ll try to put this as delicately as I can, but size matters.  Especially in the slot in front of the net.  The Blues’ physicality eventually wore them down, and out.  

- Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes 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, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke...

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