Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Big week for Friars despite final exams

December 15, 2017 - 3:16 pm

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering what’s next for New York’s Sports Pope, Mike Francesa?

  • It has been semester exam week at many colleges and universities in New England, which means a slower-than-usual event schedule.  But it ain’t exactly quiet on the home front, if you know what I mean?


  • Friar down-time this week has been spent on two things – one, getting healthier.  Two, getting tougher.  Both are definite needs as Providence forges ahead with only three non-league games remaining prior to the Big East schedule kicking in.


  • And if the Friars don’t have the requisite help or attitude necessary soon, it will be the Big East doing all the kicking. 


  • Ed Cooley mentioned on his radio show this week he doesn’t expect Alpha Diallo or Maliek White to be ready for Stony Brook on Sunday as the 2nd semester officially begins.  White, in fact, may still miss quite a bit more time as he recovers from a knee bruise and subsequent swelling.


  • Kyron Cartwright hasn’t been himself since turning an ankle against Duke-killer Boston College two-plus weeks ago.  He will need to return to form and remember he can score, too, or the Friars will struggle.


  • Even though the Rams were beaten at Alabama to fall to 5-3 on the season, the hype for URI’s season is finally being realized with bigger audiences at the Ryan Center.  Another large crowd is expected for Saturday’s game against College of Charleston.  Ticket sales are up 18% across the board from the same time frame in 2014-15.  That’s a start.


  • Speaking of starts, Big East basketball is already rolling.  The league has won 40 of its’ past 45 games against non-conference opponents (PC has two of those defeats, btw) heading into this weekend.  Overall, the conference has won nearly 82% of non-league games played thus far, the best mark in 29 years. 


  • In the national picture, with top teams Duke and Kansas falling recently, the Big East is rising with two teams (Villanova and Xavier) in the Top 10.  Nova is the new national #1 this week, and they may not give up the top spot anytime soon.  With injury and illness on their sideline, the Wildcats blasted Big Five foe Temple by 20 this week.


  • Rivalries rekindled?  Georgetown and Syracuse will do some old-school Big East battling Saturday.  But even with the Hoyas unbeaten (against a super-soft schedule), fans are skeptics.  The Hoyas had to pull out giveaways and halftime show gimmicks to sell tickets for this one!  And it isn’t sold out.


  • Speaking of the Hoyas, one-time Orangeman star and assistant coach, former Seton Hall head coach and former Friar assistant Louis Orr is on Patrick Ewing’s staff – and he’s being given much of the credit for the improved play from big man Jesse Govan.


  • If we’re talking old-school Big East, Hall-of-Famer Lou Carnesecca was honored this week with the James Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Basketball award from the Atlanta Tipoff club.  Carnesecca joins an esteemed fraternity in receiving the honor – Dave Gavitt, Red Auerbach, John Thompson, Frank McGruire, Bob Knight, Dean Smith and John Wooden have also been so honored.


  • We told you here two weeks ago that Rick Pitino was suing the University of Louisville for $37 million in damages and lost wages. Now, the Cardinals Strike Back.  Pitino is being sued by the school for damage to the institution’s reputation.  And I would ask – just what is that institution’s reputation?


  • Don’t look now, but this new facility-thing that is finally being built at Providence?  Creighton is getting a new basketball practice facility, and Marquette is building a new sport-performance center on campus.  There are no more Joneses to keep up with in the college game, it seems.


  • Saw this week where PC Lacrosse, which just a few years ago was under-funded and non-scholarship, has been preseason nationally-ranked by a publication that follows the sport. 


  • That’s one thing we seem to get around here, good lacrosse teams and programs.  Brown reached the Final Four a couple of years ago.  Bryant is a perennial NCAA team.  It may not take much longer for the Friars to join in some of that success.


  • My buddy Bernie sez he was out on his front porch not long ago with his wife, and while they were sitting there he reached over and gave her a slap.  He said, “that’s for 40 years of having a rotten love life!”  She did nothing but continue to sit there.  After a few minutes, she got up, reached over and slapped him back. Bernie said, “what the heck was that for?”  She replied, “well, that’s for knowing the difference!”


  • Keep preaching this every year before it happens.  The South Florida trip for the Patriots is, for whatever reason, tough to take and make.  Is the rivalry really that meaningful for the Dolphins?  How do they ever lose a game in Miami?


  • TB12 is now a rather pedestrian 7-9 all-time in Miami, having lost four of the last five.  Guess that’s how you get your shot to beat Brady – move your game to South Florida.


  • But this garbage emanating nationally again that Tom Brady has finally “lost it?”  Look, you throw crap up on a wall, eventually some of it will stick.  Brady “lost it” this week largely due to #87 and #11 being out of commission.


  • Key points to remember – the line must protect TB 12.  The line must open holes for the backs.  Receivers must catch the ball.  87 needs to be in there, somewhere.  If these items are in place, you should feel pretty good about the Patriots’ chances in any game, anywhere.


  • Not for nuthin’, but Xavien Howard?  Brandin Cooks will remember his name.  Seven targets, one catch.  Ouch.


  • Three weeks after mouthing off about this game looming in the schedule, the Steelers get their wish.  But the question remains, can Mike Tomlin coach a real, honest-to-goodness big game and not get his hat handed to him?


  • Sunday’s game – the biggest game in the NFL season-to-date – is about three things:  1) who’s healthy; 2) who commits turnovers; 3) who has the ball last.  Win these three things, who wins isn’t in question.


  • While the Patriots and Steelers decide the AFC (sorry Sacksonville, but not yet) it may yet be the Saints in the lead for the NFC after Philly’s Carson Wentz went down with an ACL injury.  And watch out for hard-charging Green Bay, as Aaron Rodgers returns to the Packers’ lineup.


  • It’s all about the QB.  Remember this as you watch the playoff picture come more into focus.


  • Should the Pats take the “L” this week, the Jaguars have a legit shot at stealing the bye.  Yes, Jacksonville.  How’s that for an attitude adjustment?  Just sayin’.


  • This week’s sexual misconduct spotlight shines on the NFL Network, with several notable on-air personalities hit with sexual harassment charges – including Patriot-hater Marshall Faulk, and ex-Patriot running back Heath Evans. 


  • It’s becoming clearer by the day – real or imagined power held by some in the sports world (and in other worlds, too – like entertainment and politics) equates to a belief they have the right to abuse.  Who taught these people how to treat others with respect, to be civil, and to be law-abiding adults?  Their parents?


  • Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.  I weep for future generations.  Kinda glad I won’t be around for the end to Social Armageddon.  But it has already started.


  • The Boston Globe’s report on ESPN’s alleged sexual harassment culture is neither surprising, nor is it specific enough to call for “heads to roll.”  On a campus of more than 8000 employees, some things are bound to happen, as they do in all professional situations. 


  • Having worked in that “culture” for 11 years, not once did I ever hear from or share stories with male counterparts (or female, for that matter) about someone else in a non-professional way. 


  • That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and the rumors continue to run rampant.  Especially about people I know and have worked with in the past.  But I never saw or heard anything that could be considered unprofessional – or criminal – from supervisors or co-workers.  But yes, there are stories – and evidence that some female employees were treated differently.


  • Tweet of the Week, from ESPN’s @DarrenRovell: “Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox assets for $52.4 billion. With the same amount of money, Disney could have purchased EVERY NBA TEAM and still have had $12.7 billion left over, according to current Forbes evaluations.”


  • As I’ve said before, Mickey Mouse may be a mean rat, but he’s also rich.  And very shrewd.


  • Tommy Nobis was one of the true warriors of the NFL.  Right there with Chicago’s Dick Butkus and Green Bay’s Ray Nitschke.  Nobis passed away this week at age 74, but I had always admired him as a player, even for the formerly woebegone Atlanta Falcons as the NFL’s top pick of the 1966 draft.


  • No, it wasn’t really because he’s from Texas and went to the University of Texas where he became a college hall-of-famer, and ultimately a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer.  But his achievements are a source of pride, sure.  As a kid, I loved Nobis because of his grit, his toughness, his competitiveness and his success as a hard-hitting linebacker playing for a rotten team.


  • But Nobis’ death now stands to further emphasize the NFL has a real problem on its hands.  His quality of life diminished rapidly the past few years, mostly due to his profession.  He’s a part of the numerous lawsuits filed by former players, as many of the men who built the league into what it is today are cast aside, their lives much poorer than they ever were as players.


  • Nobis, and those who came before him, played with him and have come after him, deserves more as the NFL continues to grow into the financial global presence it has become.  There’s a lot of money being made on the backs of Nobis, and guys like him.


  • Come on now, Giancarlo Stanton to the Evil Empire?  Tell you what, the Red Sox and Yankees’ rivalry just received a big boost of juice, didn’t it?  Or is that the wrong word to use here?


  • And Dealer Dave slowly twists in the wind as a result, several days late and millions of dollars short in finding a bat for the middle of the lineup.  Well Dave, we’re waiting.


  • What’s hard to wrap my mind around – is that the Sox never really tried to get Stanton.  Didn’t even make a call, or at least not until it was already too late?  The epitome of “stupid is as stupid does.” 


  • ‘Bout time.  His friendship with Bill Belichick aside, Jon Bon Jovi was long overdue as an inductee into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.  He’ll join The Cars, the Moody Blues and Dire Straits as bands inducted into the Class of 2018. 


  • Equally stunning to think that NONE of the aforementioned bands were already inducted.  Does anyone understand what the term “rock ‘n roll” means, or stands for?  Over a thousand industry leaders, including musicians and historians, cast their ballots for induction.


  • The Hall says it considers “an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique,” according to the stated criteria.  So, basically no one has paid attention to popularity or sales over the past quarter century?  Music snobs have long derided Bon Jovi’s success, sales notwithstanding.


  • Musicians are (allegedly) eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first recording.  All I know is, if you can rock out to it, it’s good stuff.  Been rockin’ to Bon Jovi and Livin’ on a Prayer for more than 30 years, the Cars for 40.  Let the Good Times Roll.


  • Let’s see now, at last check Lonzo Ball is getting booed by Lakers’ fans in LA, his brothers have landed in Lithuania after having their amateur careers destroyed by Dad, and Big Daddy LaVar continues to sell overpriced shoes and perform in Reality TV shows, yapping to anyone along the way who will listen.  The 21st Century definition of dysfunctional.  Nice work, Pops.


  • WFAN’s Mike Francesa said goodbye to his listeners this week after 30 years on WFAN in New York – the nation’s first-branded “sports talk” radio station.  I remember when I first heard the industry was going to launch all-sports, all-the-time on radio while I was working in San Antonio in the ’80’s and I thought – “if any city could pull this off, it’s New York.”  They did, they still are, and Francesa was a huge part of it, no doubt.


  • Love him or hate him, his best days on the air were undoubtedly paired with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo (the duo split in 2008), but that didn’t keep his legend from rising, or keep him from being considered the one-and-only “Sports Pope” on New York radio.  A former researcher for CBS Sports, he’s been called a “facts machine,” and his memory referred to as “encyclopedic.”


  • As this era of broadcasting ends – and make no mistake here, his career was definitely an “era” – countless hundreds (even thousands?) of talk show hosts have been able to follow in the industry because of the trail he helped blaze.    


  • We’re not without our own Sports Popes’ in Boston and New England – Eddie Andelman, Glenn Ordway and Chuck Wilson all blazed the trail north of New York for our enjoyment, our education and undoubtedly our angst.  There is a lot I don’t enjoy about the sports radio medium these days, but then again, times change and I do understand why they change.


  • Ordway is still getting it done in the 10 am – 2 pm shift for WEEI, and good for him.  There is no one on the air today more knowledgeable than he is on Boston sports and sports history.  Isn’t there still room for guys like him, and Andelman and Wilson too, for that matter?  Or does everyone have to be a blowhard with an attitude? 


  • Francesa says he’s going to “try something new,” in his career and in his life, perhaps.  Maybe a podcast, where he wouldn’t be limited by the restraints of terrestrial radio, would be a logical next step?  A friend of mine in this industry, Chris Carlin, is part of the team that will step into Francesa’s time slot on WFAN – and undoubtedly, he knows the size of the shoes he’ll be trying to fill. 


  • @broncosfriars tweeted out to me this week for Ed Cooley, asking specifically – “Why are we AWFUL from the FT line? What’re we doing to get better? Free Throws win championships!”  Bronco:  Honestly, this team started out the year strong from the line, but since injuries have taken over, nothing has improved.  I’ll equate these struggles with the younger players getting more time, as their games haven’t yet evolved to the point where they know they NEED to hit these shots.  One could argue this PC team might be 9-1 right now if the free throw line wasn’t a trouble spot. 


  • Coach Cooley said on his radio show this week the team works on freebies every day, shooting hundreds of them.  But several on this team need to value their importance, more than they are currently showing.  That’s a mental part of the game they have yet to catch up to. 


  • 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 [email protected]. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


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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