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Thinking out loud: How relevant is soccer?

John Rooke
June 12, 2020 - 5:22 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering where to go, or not go, as we re-open our cities and our lives…

  • In soccer’s case, the last shall now be first.

 

  • Is there any doubt soccer is a long-distance fifth in interest and popularity behind the Big Four, especially in New England (football, baseball, basketball, hockey)?  

 

  • Is it even behind NASCAR?  Loudon, New Hampshire would like a word with you.

 

  • Soccer has been so far behind the other sports around here, dedicated fans don’t dare compare the sport with anything considered to be ‘mainstream.’

 

  • Instead, soccer-krishnas settle for their nice, little niche of oddity in our landscape.  Amiright?

 

  • Soccer snobs are prevalent.  They amuse us.  You’ve seen them in the bars, or at least when we had bars.  And they are all largely dismissed by Joe Sixpack and the rest of your buddies around here as nerdy-weirdos.

 

  • Futbol, however, is stepping up…and ready to step all over our erstwhile Great American Pastime.  Soccer may never overtake any of the Big Four around here, but soccer can finally gain what it has sought for the past 25 years – and that’s simple r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

 

  • The Revolution were the first pro sports team in the country to begin team workouts this past week, and MLS is the first pro sports league ready to return to play, outside of the PGA. 

 

  • They’ll restart their season July 8th with a tournament in Orlando (Disney, hello!) and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League at stake.

 

  • Wut?  Maybe that doesn’t mean much to you.   But it’s big in soccer circles.  Look, if you’re going to watch these guys – even if for a little while – you might as well catch up on terminology.

 

  • And sure, you’ll watch, if only for the strangeness of sports being back.  But here’s the big question – and one MLS is banking big on:  How much will you watch? 

 

  • Will you continue to watch, especially when the other sports grace us with their presence, and our anticipated logjam of events occurs in the fall? 

 

  • MLS isn’t the only soccer entity getting its’ kicks in (sorry, pun intended) before the NBA (July 30), NHL (training camps July 10) and NFL (camps July 28) can start their engines. Globally, Spain’s La Liga, the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and the women’s NWSL will all kick-off before the others.

 

  • Notice I left out Major League Baseball, which is presently little more than a Major League Disgrace to the sporting community.  They’ve already blown it.

 

  • This is now a major opportunity for Major League Soccer, and for the New England Revolution…to gain a larger share of our attention.  Perhaps it’s their best shot yet at creating regional relevancy for themselves, beyond being the MLS version of the Buffalo Bills.

 

  • See what I did there?  Compared them to an NFL four-time Super Bowl loser, since the Revs have lost five MLS title games without winning…ah, forget it.  You didn’t know that?

 

  • If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told to ‘stick to sports,’ well, I wouldn’t be doing this right now.  My island palace would be under construction.

 

  • Here’s a way to look at this – if you’re fortunate to have a forum, writing or broadcasting no matter the focus, as someone who ‘communicates’ regularly you have a responsibility or a “duty” to deal with difficult subjects that affect our lives.

 

  • It’s what we’re all talking about.  Someone needs to ask the tough questions.  Someone needs to show the dirt under the rug.  Someone needs to speak up when it is hard to speak up.

 

  • Sticking to just one topic, like sports, or any another is fine in many instances.  It should not, however, serve as an excuse for avoiding truth. 

 

  • The one thing we can use – and need – is the willingness to express views in the open so ideas can be shared, and if required…change can begin.

 

  • And we need to listen.  We need a lot more listening these days.  We’re too fast to judge an opinion (social media, hello!) different from our own.  Try listening and understanding first, before agreeing or waging an all-too-often anonymous war behind a keyboard. 

 

  • Sports have been, and maybe meant to be, an escape from our everyday problems and worries.  But that ain’t real life.

 

  • When real life becomes a life and death matter…as it has been lately…we all need to talk about it and hopefully, act on it in a positive way.

 

  • We now return you to your semi-regularly scheduled sports programming, already in progress.

 

  • Rob Manfred guarantees baseball this summer?  Is that like a Joe Namath guarantee, or a LeBron James (not one, not two, not three…) guarantee?

 

  • Hearing a little Naked Eyes in my head right now – “You made me promises, promises…knowing I’d believe. Promises, promises…you knew you’d never keep.”

 

  • Just play ball, already.  Or go away and leave us summertime basketball and hockey.  We’ll make do.

 

  • NFL Grand Poobah Roger Goodell says the NFL was wrong in its’ handling of previous peaceful protests, including those of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players.  Should we be mad he screwed it up, or happy he finally came to this realization?

 

  • Chad Finn smartly wrote in the Globe this week the Patriots should sign Kaepernick.  Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy also encouraged the Patriots this week to sign him.

 

  • That’s all well and good, but why would you sign a guy who hasn’t played in more than three years, and wasn’t very good even before he ‘took a knee?’ 

 

  • As anything more than a publicity stunt?  Please.  Stop the madness.

 

  • If you feel you need to sign someone…and winning now is still important, how about Cam Newton – especially if he’s healthy?  Let’s not lose our football sensibilities, or intelligence.

 

  • I certainly saw Kaep’s taking a knee as disrespectful the first time around.  Admittedly, however, I also cannot often see the forest for the trees.

 

  • Do we now understand what Kaepernick was doing then (and saying) when kneeling – because kneeling is going to happen again, and the NFL is going to allow it.

 

  • And some of you will be upset, no doubt.  For the wrong reasons.

 

  • But you’ll still watch football. Oh yeah, you’ll still watch. 

 

  • With different areas of the country opening up at different times, it stands to reason we won’t actually see much in the NFL until the camp reporting date, which is scheduled for July 28th.

 

  • There is some mention of opening doors a bit earlier – perhaps about a month from now – in order to allow players to acclimate to their ‘new normal.’  But several sources report Patriot coaches won’t show up until it’s time for camp.

 

  • Rookies and free agents are going to have a much more difficult time making the final squad, with no mini camp or OTA’s.  There’s a 16-year streak at stake for a free agent to reach the regular season roster.

 

  • MMQB’s Albert Breer reported this week some teams favor starting the season in October.  I don’t know about you, but I favor starting tomorrow.

 

  • Before you hate on that October idea – what if the first four games in September were flipped to January, which would push the Super Bowl to the end of February?

 

  • A move might also allow for more fans to actually return to stadiums by that time.  Wait, wut?

 

  • Yes, I know.  Common sense just makes too much…sense.

 

  • Reche Caldwell’s shooting death this week was shocking, eye-opening and a part of the real world we’ve long swept under the rug.  We knew him as a football player for the Patriots in ’06, leading the team in catches and receiving yards…and celebrated him then. 

 

  • But we know he had his troubles since, his run-ins with the law…and apparently his demons, too.  Sadly, we see that now.

 

  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette isn’t exactly taking the right tack for bringing readers back.  Two black journalists disclosed they have been barred from covering local protests, and the union representing city journalists is saying editors are retaliating against staff expressing any support of the protests.

 

  • Not for nuthin’…it’s one thing to allegedly be an ‘impartial’ reporter or observer and express support or disagree with something.  But to be told ‘no, you can’t cover this because of your skin color’ is, well, part of our national problem, isn’t it?

 

  • With the PGA Tour returning us to some semblance of normal, I’ve found myself analyzing golf swings WAY more often than I used to.  Mine and others, of course.

 

  • TV’s coverage of the Charles Schwab at Colonial has been solid.  Weird without fans, but…um…enlightening.  Jim Nantz deftly sidestepped an “F bomb” from Jon Rahm after he chipped in for birdie but hey, what did you expect with no crowd noise? 

 

  • And it was a pretty f***** good shot, too, if you ask me.  So…I’ll pardon his enthusiasm.

 

  • Saw this week where the last American to collect a pension from the Civil War died this past week, at age 90.  Ninety?  Irene Triplett, who lived in North Carolina, was born to an ex-Union solider and his much younger wife (she was 33) when he was 83 years old. 

 

  • Qualifies as a ‘whoa’ in my book.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Did you see where a woman was hired as boys’ hoop coach at Lincoln-Sudbury in Massachusetts?  Linda Martindale lives in Sudbury but has previously coached the girls’ programs at Weston and Newton North to league titles. 

 

  • Martindale is the second female coach in the past two years to be hired as a boys’ varsity coach, following Kristen McDonnell at Norwood.

 

  • God Shammgod, after 23 years, finally gets his own shoe.  Which is really cool.  Puma put them out, complete with instructions on how to juke your opponent with a Shammgod crossover.

 

  • I don’t know about you, Friar fam, but the 12-year-old in me really wants a pair of those shoes.

 

  • St. John’s AD Mike Cragg told the New York Post this week he expects there will not only be a college basketball season, but that the Red Storm will also play at MSG – with fans in the stands. 

 

  • You hearing that, Dunkin Donuts Center?  And they’re in New York. 

 

  • At the Big East spring meetings, the Rev. Peter M. Donahue, President at Villanova, was elected chair of the Board of Directors.

 

  • A Big East Covid-19 task force has also been established, and it includes Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll. 

 

  • There are some changes, as expected, to the fall lineup for men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey in an effort to control expenses.  Soccer and volleyball will be separated into East and Midwest Divisions, field hockey will move to North and South Divisions.

 

  • Men’s soccer, women’s soccer and field hockey divisional opponents will face each other two times each in a double round-robin format, while volleyball divisional opponents will play each other four times.

 

  • Villanova’s Saddiq Bey is staying in the NBA Draft, which is probably a good move on several fronts.  The Cats will still be very good…but perhaps just one of a handful of national-title contending teams next season.

 

  • It would have been a bonus and placed Nova as a genuine #1 threat, for sure, if Bey had returned.  He was selected this past season as the national small forward of the year (Julius Erving award), averaging 16 points and almost five rebounds per game.

 

  • When Bey goes somewhere in that first round of this year’s draft, that will give the Wildcats seven drafted players since 2017.  Does that give Villanova admission into blue-blood territory?

 

  • Bey’s official departure also means that 10 of the 11 Big East teams next season will NOT return their leading scorer from 2019-2020.  New faces = new opportunities.

 

  • The one team returning its leading scorer for next year?  DePaul has ex-Kansas Jayhawk Charlie Moore back as their point guard.

 

  • Late last week, the NCAA hammer fell upon Oklahoma State basketball with a postseason ban for 2021.  It was a Level I violation for former assistant coach Lamont Evans accepting $22K in bribes.  He’ll do three months in prison.

 

  • That was for ONE Level I violation.  For those alleged multiple offenders…Louisville, Kansas and Arizona, looking at you…I’d be very, very concerned.  And maybe a bit contrite. 

 

  • The hammer for those guys is gonna come with a sicle.

 

  • And blue-blooded, “Perfect U” Duke may be facing trouble as Zion Williamson’s former agent said this week in court filings Williamson received money to – gasp! – attend school. 

 

  • Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski also said providing a job to a player’s family member “is just a business decision.”  He somehow omitted the word “bad” in there.

 

  • Anyone surprised Duke may have been caught dirty dancing?  Nah, didn’t think so. 

 

  • Will the NCAA have the stomach to punish the Blue Devils, if they are proven guilty…and if the NCAA doesn’t put the hammer down on Kansas or Arizona first?  The plot now thickens.

 

  • Excellent news for Rhody hoops, picking up 6-3 Syracuse guard transfer Jalen Carey.  But unless the Rams can finagle a waiver or two for all these incoming transfers for next year – five of them in total – URI will be as thin as a slice of deli ham for Fatts Russell’s senior swan song.

 

  • Have a feeling Covid-19 will turn from an enemy to an ally within the college transfer business.  Hearing that PC’s Brycen Goodine, the St. Andrews alum who also left Syracuse, is applying for a waiver to become eligible to play next season.

 

  • ICYMI, college coaches hate the impending, one-time immediate transfer rule that is expected to be voted in place for 2021-22.  NCAA VP for Basketball Dan Gavitt told the Big East’s John Fanta this week coaches have offered a compromise proposal that makes sense.

 

  • Apply the immediate, one-time transfer opportunity to everyone BUT freshmen heading into their sophomore season.  Coaches can plan a bit more; kids don’t make rash decisions and at least have a chance to work on issues…rather than run from them. 

 

  • I like it.  But will NCAA membership like it enough to pass it?

 

  • RI Comic Con won’t be a detriment to PC basketball at the Dunk this season – they’ve moved the comic book convention to June of 2021…and they’ll hold it twice next year, also again in early November.

 

  • You crazy kids.  Love me some Green Lantern.

 

  • Brown is reinstating men’s track and field and cross country teams to varsity status after the 11-team purge from the athletic department a week ago.  Tough to cut a program that speaks directly to racial diversity, don’t you think?

 

  • Brown’s track and field team has more blacks on its’ roster than lacrosse, baseball, hockey and crew – combined.  Addressing racial injustice – as we all are trying to do – is one thing.  But when you forget (or ignore) educational and athletic injustice on your own campus, it is another thing entirely.

 

  • It is a proper ‘about face.’  But there will be no other changes, no other reinstatements as part of the Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative on campus.  So…less will need to be more. 

 

  • One possible reason UConn football has decided to make a ‘go’ of it in FBS, rather than stepping back into FCS…is scheduling.  The Athletic reported this week two of UConn’s upcoming opponents – North Carolina and Syracuse – have language in their contracts that allow them to drop the Huskies if UConn drops to FCS.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez “Mrs. E” decided to give him the silent treatment for a week.  She said nothing, he guesses, because she was hoping to make him more attentive to her.  At the end of the week, she asked him “have you noticed anything different about us over the past week?”

 

  • “Big E” didn’t miss a beat, and replied “yeah, we’re getting along pretty good lately!”

 

  • NYC reopened this week after 78 days of lockdown, the longest closure in the country.  But I ain’t runnin’ back to Broadway any time soon.  Especially with the rest of the country now realizing the lockdown actually might have worked around here.

 

  • And Vegas casinos have reopened?  That’s great and all, but maybe when the Friars play there again.  There’s always next year…

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) 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!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.