Dreamstime

Thinking out loud: It's a sad day for Rhode Island

John Rooke
August 17, 2018 - 4:28 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever really happened to Barry Sanders?

  • Worcester’s announcement Friday of a new stadium plan was expected.  That the Pawtucket Red Sox have decided to move their operations, however, makes this more than just a day that Rhode Island lost a large slice of its’ sports fabric.  It’s a day this region lost much of its’ soul. 

 

  • For sports fans, for families, for business and entertainment in the city, state and region, it’s a sad day, sure.  But it’s not sad for Worcester, and not sad for Massachusetts.

 

  • Worcester has been a minor league miscreant for years.  There are several reasons and examples why that has been the case, too.  Check their track record.  But who is laughing now?  The city and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts surely can’t believe their good fortune, and that they actually sold the Pawsox on this move. 

 

  • They did so, because they wanted this more.  They wanted the team, the brand, the fans, the status symbol, the cache – more than RI did.  They wanted the business.  Simple as that.

 

  • Rhode Island has had its fair share of trials and tribulations – some infamous, and some not so.  But August 17 may go down as one of the all-time embarrassing moments in a long, long line of mistakes made within a politically ignorant and morally bankrupt state.

 

  • Lil’ Rhody.  Wow.  Lil’, indeed.

 

  • The Friars beat up on a Varese All-Stars team, 113-46, in the first of four games during their Italian tour.  Take it for what it’s worth, but the new kids, David Duke (14 points, 6 assists) and A.J. Reeves (16 points) appeared to be comfortable.  And comfort counts.

 

  • Based on the early returns, this team isn’t afraid of seeking out contact.  They’ll go to the rim.  Hopefully, they can defend it and rebound, too.  Oh, and shoot it well enough so teams don’t pack it in on them.  Next up is a Saturday afternoon (eastern time) game against the Adriatic Sea Dragons.  Or something close to that.

 

  • In case you weren’t aware, the Friars’ last practice at Alumni Hall before departing for Italy was just that – their LAST practice at Alumni Hall, which opened in 1955.  The team will return to campus and begin the physical move into the new Ruane Development Center at PC.

 

  • A date for the calendar?  Big East Media Day in New York City will be October 25th, just 12 days before the start of the college basketball regular season on November 6th. 

 

  • Mike Logan returns for his 24th year as Voice of the Hockey Friars, and it should be an exciting season.  Providence is expected to be a national title contender, after losing in the NCAA Regional Final (to Notre Dame) last season.

 

  • After a 5th place finish last year, Providence soccer (5 NCAA’s in eight years) was a preseason pick for 4th in the Big East Soccer poll for this year, this week.  Senior goalkeeper Colin Miller was chosen as Goalkeeper of the Year (career 0.92 goals against average) and junior midfield Danny Griffin was named to the preseason 1st team.  Georgetown is the team preseason favorite.

 

  • The story of the University of Maryland’s ‘toxic culture’ surrounding the death of football player Jordan McNair is simply another sign of high-and-mighty athletic programs running amok.  For a school president and athletic director to publicly say they were at fault for the death of an athlete – which they did this week – obviously should never have happened in the first place.

 

  • But this is what you get when a Prez and an AD have their heads buried in dollar signs, among other things, at Big State U’s.  Yes, the coaches should be held accountable.  But when will those who can affect real change be held accountable, too?

 

  • Not for nuthin,’ but even though the Big 10 is swimming in TV money, it ain’t exactly in great shape prestige-wise, is it? 

 

  • Scandals at Maryland, Ohio State (Urban Meyer), Michigan State (gymnastics and athlete abuse), Penn State (Paterno), Rutgers (athlete arrests, credit card fraud, coaching abuse), Indiana, Illinois (more coaching abuse) and even Northwestern (athletes tried to unionize) leave me thinking everyone in this “league of rogues” has sold its’ soul for a price – and they’re merely reaping what they’ve sewn.

 

  • Curious that the US Gymnastics Championships are in Boston this week, but there was no invitation to attend (says the Boston Globe) from USA Gymnastics to one of its most-decorated athletes, Massachusetts’ own Aly Raisman. 

 

  • Raisman just happens to be very outspoken and has been very critical over the way the governing body has handled the sexual abuse charges (and subsequent conviction) leveled against former team doctor Larry Nassar – who also worked at Michigan State.

 

  • For the record, USA Gymnastics says they don’t issue formal invitations to former team members to attend.  But considering that countless hundreds of lives have been scarred, and the sport tarnished, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to at least temporarily break with that ‘tradition’ here?

 

  • And in another recent scandal, the athletic fraud at North Carolina where no one (including the school) was overtly punished, reports this week have the scandal costing the school more than $21 million to defend itself against lawsuits and NCAA allegations. 

 

  • The school says (wink, wink) none of the money used in defense of itself came from tuition or state appropriations.  But if I were a state resident, I’d sure like to know where the money to pay those bills came from.

 

  • TV, perhaps?  From greed?  ACC Commish John Swofford?  Roy Williams’ back pocket?

 

  • Two interesting hires of note at local schools were announced this week.  One has Cranston native, New England Tennis Hall of Famer, ex-Brown tennis and hockey athlete and former Georgetown tennis coach Gordie Ernst heading to URI to become the schools’ head tennis coach.

 

  • The other has Woonsocket native and former Brown head women’s soccer coach Phil Pincince taking over girls’ soccer at Mount St. Charles – after he retired three years ago from a 39-year coaching career. 

 

  • And that’s a wrap.  Patriots training camp concluded this week in Foxboro with a YAWN, more than any buzz it might have created.  Workout intensity was down a notch or three.  Maybe that’s because no other teams came into practice?  Maybe that’s because the coaches are pacing the players for the long haul – or do we need more Isaiah Wynn’s to go down?

 

  • Or maybe it’s because fans and media are spoiled by the success of the franchise, and when it’s BAU (business as usual), it’s boring?

 

  • Quick, and without cheating – who remembers what the Pats-Eagles score was in SB LII?  Some knucklehead paid a thousand bucks for a plane to fly a banner with the score above the stadium.  Congrats, Eagles.  The real score is now 5-to-1.

 

  • And based on what you might have seen Thursday night at Gillette, which team looked more like a defending SB champ?  Just sayin’.

 

  • Still thinking the “surprise” roster cuts come from among Mike Gillislee, Jason McCourty, Cyrus Jones and even Shaq Mason – but only because Mason remains a prime trade candidate due to his expected salary inflation.  And the Patriots don’t play that game, as you know. 

 

  • Congrats to ex-NBC Sports Boston anchor/reporter Mike Giardi, who has moved on to the NFL Network and – surprise, surprise – will be covering the Patriots, among other things. 

 

  • Did you see the promotion from Bud Light in Cleveland?  A “Victory Fridge” full of product has been placed in ten bars around the city, locked up tight.  If/when the Browns win their first regular season game, the refrigerators will then be opened and the ‘product’ given away to patrons for FREE.

 

  • Have to root for the refrigerators in this one.  Sorry, not sorry.  Too funny, and we all love to revel in someone else’s misery, don’t we?

 

  • Speaking of misery, word has it the J-E-T-S QB battle is already over, and rookie Sam Darnold is already the man in New York.  So, what does that make the Jets this season?  7-9?

 

  • Is Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey adding a little spice to football life with his trash talk, or just stupidity?  Getting into it with reporters who are working for a living, while he plays a game for his millions, isn’t exactly the way to go when you need to win friends and influence others.

 

  • Or at the very least, when you need some love from the suck-up media after you mouth off and fail to live up to the words coming from your pie hole.  Again. 

 

  • But Ramsey has at least done this – he’s helped make the Jaguars must-see TV, whether you like his mouthy style or not.

 

  • The Pawsox are moving, so can we go ahead and declare Rhode Island the “Little League Baseball State?”  Coventry’s entry into the Little League World Series this year is now the 4th time in the past five years for the Ocean State to win the New England Regional in Bristol, CT and advance to Williamsport, PA.

 

  • It’s also the fifth time in this decade alone (7th time since 2001) for a Rhode Island team to advance, which should tell us something about the caliber of the kid (and the coaching) we have had around here. 

 

  • Now, if we could just get the politicians to catch up to the kids and coaches, we might have something here.

 

  • In case you were wondering, Connecticut (4) and Massachusetts (4) are next on the New England Little League champs list since ’01. 

 

  • A 7-2 road record seemed a bit disappointing for the Red Sox, didn’t it?  Because it’s always the one that gets away.  Even though the winning ways continue overall, we need whipping boys! 

 

  • You know mine.  They pretty much all reside in the bullpen.  For a team on a franchise, record-setting pace, I still can’t wrap my head around some of the inconsistent ineptitude on the pitching staff.  Or should that be consistent ineptitude?

 

  • Time’s up, Drew Pomeranz.  Thanks for stopping by.  The Sox can’t take much more of your trying to ‘find yourself’ (ERA 6.34) right now, in the pen or as a starter.  It’s jus’ biz. 

 

  • J.D. Martinez isn’t just the POTW in the American League.  He’s the MVP in the American League – with all due respect to Mookie Betts. 

 

  • Tweet of the Week, from @PeteAbe of the Globe, on Martinez winning Player of the Week: “Per the press release, he gets a watch. I love that they give a guy who makes $23.7 million a watch.”

 

  • Can’t believe I can write these words, but give David Price credit.  Even if you don’t (and I don’t) want to give him credit.  But he’s earned it with his performance of late. 

 

  • And I concur with the Herald’s Evan Drellich.  Underappreciated on this team?  Rick Porcello, who was Rick Porcell-blow last season.  He’s won 15 games so far this year, tied for the league lead, even with a still-occurring-on-occasion brain-cramp on the mound.

 

  • ESPN’s Michael Wilbon says his network has a Sox-Yankee bias?  C’mon, man.  Even you aren’t that dumb.  Fan interest = where ESPN’s attention should be.  Or have you forgotten that’s what media should do in the 21st century – know your audience?

 

  • One of the great events on the sports calendar around here has zero to do with sport, and everything to do with humanity.  The 2018 WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, supporting adult and pediatric cancer care and research, is next week, August 21st and 22nd. 

 

  • If you’re looking for something truly unique and memorable, have you heard you can bid on taking batting practice with Roger Clemens?  Find 10 friends/nuts like yourself, you might just be able to swing it. 

 

  • The bid, not the bat.  With the bat, you’ve still got no shot.  But you’ll have a heckuva story to tell.

 

  • Can we safely say Brooks Koepka (nephew of Pittsburgh great Dick Groat) is the best golfer in the world now?  ‘Cuz we don’t want to do anything to upset Tiger now, do we?  Now that he’s back and all.

 

  • Woods’ 2nd place finish was laudable, sure.  Is he back from his age/illness/injury/personal issues that have caused him to be a non-factor for the past five-plus years?  The PGA is happy, regardless.  The TV ratings for last week’s PGA Championship were the best since 2009, which is the last time Tiger almost won a major.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez he was talking to his wife about reincarnation this week.  He asked her what she thought reincarnation really meant.  “It’s when you die and come back as something completely different,” was her explanation.  “So,” Big E offered, “that means I could come back as, say, a pig?”  “Mrs. E” sighed and replied, “you’re not really listening to me, are you?”

 

  • It happens to the best of ‘em…ESPN’s Bob Ley has been with the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports since 1979, three days after the network began broadcasting.  Ley said this week he’s taking a six-month sabbatical from the network to “recharge.” 

 

  • It’s a good idea, and one we all should consider more often.  Especially when you’re a true journalist working among sensationalistic, ratings-driven performers and bosses who stopped caring about covering real sports and real games several years ago.

 

  • God speed to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who passed away Thursday at age 76.  Ironically, she died on the same date, August 16, as did Elvis Presley – and Babe Ruth. 

 

  • Much R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Ms. Franklin. 

 

  • And happy 10th birthday, WEEI.com.  Thanks particularly to Rob Bradford, Ryan Hannable and David Oldread, who allow me to share my thoughts, insight and nonsense with an incredible audience.  And thanks to you for reading and following!

 

  • Barry Sanders was one of the best running backs to ever play football.  Period.  There were many good ones, but only a handful of great ones.  He was one of the great ones, yet he chose to step away from the sport at the age of 30, and after just 10 NFL seasons.  He averaged 1500 yards rushing per season, rushed for more than 2000 in ’97 and won an MVP, then stepped away from the game just before the ’99 season began. Only Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith are ahead of him in career rushing yards.

 

  • Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.  Incredibly, he turned 50 years old a month ago.  While that stuns the senses, the way he left the game under some controversy has never really been deciphered.  The Detroit Lions were caught off guard by his retirement and sued for the return of a $5.5 million signing bonus.  Sanders said he would repay the money, but he also wanted his release from the team.  The Lions refused, and an arbitrator eventually ruled in the team’s favor. 

 

  • Sanders is also 30 years removed from perhaps the greatest single college season a running back has ever had – rushing for 2850 yards and 42 touchdowns at Oklahoma State in 1988.  Yes, he won the Heisman Trophy.  As a voter at the time, it was probably the easiest decision I ever made for the award.

 

  • @TeamCrazyMatt hit me up on Twitter this week about the Pawsox saga: “Having some flashbacks to when the news broke about the New Britain Rock Cats moving to Hartford...turns out the deal was back-room behind the scenes...”

 

  • Matt: Despite Pawtucket’s insistence they’ve been in communication with the team every step of the way, I agree with your premise.  Divorce is ugly, and one side always gets burned.  Fans in Connecticut will also remember the Patriots’ announcement of a “move” to Hartford, which was never going to happen in the first place.  It’s all about the leverage, and all about the Benjamins.  Worcester has both, right now.  Rhode Island should be ashamed, and embarrassed.

 

  • 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 john.rooke@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 ...

 

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

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