USA Today Sports

Thinking Out Loud: A PawSox move isn't what Rhode Island needs

WEEI
June 22, 2018 - 8:19 pm

By JOHN ROOKE

Thinking out loud ... while wondering whatever happened to Acie Earl?

The Rhode Island legislative session is nearing an end, and incredibly, we’re still not sure if the Pawtucket Red Sox’ stay in the Ocean State may be nearing an end after almost half-a-century.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I once worked for the Pawsox as a radio and television broadcaster, back in the ‘90’s prior to the McCoy rebuild in ’99. But to the bullet-heads who believe the state is better off altogether without the team and organization, I can only say one thing, in my best Forrest Gump demeanor – stupid is as stupid does.

As I’ve opined many, many, many times previously, I get it. No new taxes.  No one wants those. It’s comforting to see these thoughts come from both sides of the political aisle. But what we need is the potential for growth and new business (with accompanying new tax dollars) within RI, and if the Pawsox depart for Worcester – or anywhere else – we won’t see that happen in what’s left of our lifetimes.

To make money, you spend money. Ownership is doing that, so you don’t have to spend your own with increased taxes. But partnerships are required for long-term stability. Who wants to be in a one-way, long-term relationship besides your ex-spouse? 

All businesses need some assistance to get started with new projects, or have you never started a business of your own? If you’re a new business, in a system of free enterprise, shouldn’t you be looking for the best deal you can get?  

I’ll wager most folks against a proposed new stadium for Pawtucket don’t own their own businesses. Or, have seen their businesses go belly-up. Or, they don’t live in Pawtucket.

Is it a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t deal? Maybe. There have been numerous changes to the legislation the House is attempting to pass. The latest deal on the table up for consideration has concerns over interest on stadium bonds without state support. There’s no public guarantee. Investors are potentially looking for increased land opportunities to potentially offset the risk they’ll take without help from the state.

The House Finance Committee passed the latest bill Thursday night by a 14-4 vote. The full House narrowly approved it Friday afternoon, and the Senate must also concur. The team should be willing to ‘play ball’ with that. The new bill would repay borrowing for ballpark construction with team, city and state revenue generated from the land surrounding the stadium. 

It isn’t overly team-friendly, but they want to be here, and anyone with half-a-brain wouldn’t want a 50-year business to move out of state. A move is not what Rhode Island needs.

Especially with Rhode Island ranking dead last among 50 states as the worst summer road trip destination for tourists. Not exactly Chamber of Commerce material, is it?  

Connecticut is ranked 49th.  Massachusetts is right-in-the-middle at No. 25, while the rest of New England comes in with Vermont No. 32, NH No. 24 and Maine tops the region at No. 16.

Wallet Hub based these rankings on costs associated with road trips, like the price of gas, car repairs and hotel rooms. And some want to push out of one of the top attractions Rhode Island has to offer?  

“Rhode Island – the ‘Keep Out and Go Away’ state.”  I hold the tee-shirt rights on that one. Hope I don’t have to cash in on it.

The list also factored in the quality of the state's roads and bridges, crime statistics, and other tourism activities, such as national parks, zoos, and amusement parks. So, build the damn stadium already. Or, you can embrace the stone age. That’ll be far worse than any alleged tax increase you think might happen here, which it won’t. Your choice.

Not for nuthin’, but the Top 5 states to visit? Wyoming, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas and Florida. I’ll wager none of these states is shutting the door on a 50-year business enterprise. Rather, they’d ask ‘how can we help keep you here?’  

TB12’s sit-down with Oprah was nothing more than business. If Tom Brady can get Oprah’s minions to buy into his methods of self-help, he’s golden. For a long time. Which is precisely why he did the interview.

It’s also why Brady isn’t ready to retire, just yet.  He needs to prove to the public his training methods actually ‘work.’  What better way to show that than to stay active in the NFL for another 3-4 years? 

Cuarenta y Cinco? At least. But don’t be surprised if he packs up and departs after another SB win, either. Traditionally, the end of a career is never pretty. Or pleasant. Tom is good at bucking trends, so if he can go out on a high note, he will.

The countdown of the Top 100 NFL players, as announced by NFL Network, had exactly ZERO Patriot players in the Bottom 85. Rob Gronkowski appeared this week at No. 15 as the first Pat on the list. I’m guessing here there will probably be only one more still to be ranked (see above).

The lunacy of this countdown?  Players did the voting. And players don’t watch each other play. How can they? They’re too wrapped up in their own jobs and careers. They’re simply voting on reputation more than anything else, and the rep is out there on the Patriots – not a ‘fun’ place to play.

Unless you like competing for Lombardi trophies.  

Hold onto those ticket stubs.  The NFL is moving to digital ticketing, starting next season. Which means that actual, physical tickets may become nothing more than collectors’ items. Or trash.

Love this trend – the Falcons’ Arthur Blank is deciding if he should authorize LOWER concession prices, after already lowering them to near-1970’s standards in the brand new, Mercedes-Benz stadium a year ago.  His reasoning?  Fans will buy more.  Novel concept.

My buddy “Big E” sez he sat in on a union negotiation this week, with his union denying they had issues over workers flagrantly abusing sick-leave provisions.  The company’s chief negotiator held up a newspaper during the session, and on the sports page was the photo of a supposedly sick employee who had just won a local golf tournament.  A union negotiator broke the silence in the room with “Wow!  Just think of the score he could have had if he hadn’t been sick!”

Friar fans certainly got an up close and personal look at Celtics’ draft pick Robert Williams.  Or do you not recall the monster, windmill throw-down he had for the Aggies in PC’s NCAA Tournament loss this past March?

Good pick at No. 27 based on his athleticism alone, but he is not offensively skilled, or even offensively inclined. Can the Celtics make that work? His poor free throw shooting will be an issue at some point – mark that down.  Plus, how smart is he?  He’s a flat-earther, too, like Kyrie.

Six trades in the first 16 picks Thursday night? Was this a draft or a swap meet? Seriously, what’s the point of taking a guy if you’re not keeping him? Take who you want!

Five Big East players selected, four of them Villanovans, along with Creighton’s Khyri Thomas. Who was traded. We may look back on those championship Wildcats as one of the best – ever – in league history.

Can you believe it?  32 years ago this week, Len Bias died.  You can make the argument it’s also the day the Celtics’ mystique died, too.

As you consider the next class of pro basketball millionaires, consider this, too. Average NBA lifetime earnings for a draftee today come to $24.7 million, which would equate to an average lifetime salary (if they live to age 80) of $415,000 per year.  

I used to ask ex-San Antonio coach Cotton Fitzsimmons if he’d move me from broadcasting to the bench and sign me to a 10-day contract. “Rookie,” he’d growl, “you wouldn’t know what to do with all that money.”  I think I would, coach.  I think I would.  Just sayin’. 

Have it on good authority from several sources, that 7-foot Friar center Dajour Dickens has gained weight and is ready to contribute in the middle next season.  If he’s gained strength, too, he’ll be a factor at the rim.  And Emmitt Holt has returned to workouts – which may be the best off-season news the team has had in years.

A couple of Big East schedule updates – Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard apparently subscribes to the Ed Cooley “the-tougher-the-better” scheduling theory. After losing four starters to graduation, the Pirates face Louisville (with Chris Mack), play at Maryland and at Nebraska, and face Kentucky at MSG on top of playing in the Wooden Legacy against Miami, Utah and possibly Northwestern. 

And while Georgetown took it too easy last year in Patrick Ewing’s coaching debut season, next year the Hoyas will pay a visit to Ewing’s birthland – Jamaica – by playing in the inaugural Jamaica Classic in Montego Bay. Loyola Marymount, Ohio and USF are also in the field.  I want next, mon.

Our old friend Dave Borges of the New Haven Register reports Kevin Ollie’s dismissal as basketball coach at UConn has been upheld, and the case will now go to arbitration. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the Huskies are going to another level to try and keep from paying the $10 million left on his contract.

Is UConn taking it easy?  Or is Danny Hurley just hallucinating?  Ex-Big East brethren Villanova and Syracuse (at MSG) highlight the Huskies’ slate, along with Florida State (in Newark) and Arizona (in Hartford). 

ICYMI, the American Athletic Conference (and what’s left of the “old” Big East) announced it is moving from its Providence offices in 2020, when the lease on their downtown building expires.  They’ll relocate to Dallas, centrally realigning with most of their current membership, as UConn and Temple are the only northeastern members remaining.  As expected, and predicted.

The Colonial Athletic Association, home to Northeastern’s Huskies, is moving its’ men’s tourney to Washington, DC.  The commissioner of the league is none other than ex-PC men’s hockey manager and NCAA compliance officer Joe D’Antonio – who also spent several years as an Assistant Commissioner within the Big East, and as a talk show regular to WPRO and the old 790 The Score as “Joe the Cowboy Fan” in the ‘90’s.

A true Cowboy fan, however, would never aid and abet a rival like Washington, however.  Can’t believe he didn’t move the tournament to Dallas.

Different OT rules are on their way O-U-T in NCAA hockey. There will be a standard overtime format for both men and women next season – five minutes of 5-on-5 sudden death play, and if no team scores, kiss your sister.  NCAA Tournament play remains 5-on-5 within 20-minute overtime periods.

One other new transfer rule within the NCAA to consider – student-athletes who notify their schools of a decision to leave will have their scholarships revoked.  In other words, they can’t return to the old school if a deal isn’t worked out at the new school.  Hmmm…

Hendricken’s 6-7, 340-pound offensive tackle Xavier Truss decided on Georgia this past week, which should keep the college coaches from flocking to Hawks’ football games this fall.  Except for the ones wearing the big “G” logo on their shirts that speak with a decidedly southern drawl.

Truss is rated as a 4-star tackle, 15thbest nationally, and figures to step into a spot just vacated by Isaiah Wynn…who was drafted #1 by the Patriots.

Matt Kelly is the new PC women’s hockey coach, replacing Bob Deraney. Kelly has been the head scout for USA Hockey and the Women’s National Team, and he was a large part of the gold-medal winning effort this past winter in Pyeongchang.  This is also his first head coaching position after assisting at Clarkson, Quinnipiac and Wayne State.

Washington Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz resigned after his team won the Stanley Cup, largely because he and the team could never agree to a contract extension.  As such, leave it to Friar-ex Lou Lamoriello to swoop in and snatch him away from unemployment for the NY Islanders.  Five years, $4 million per.  

And the Caps couldn’t come up with that?  It may be another 44 years, or more, before they win again.

Phil Mickelson’s nutty last week at the US Open was right out of the pages of a weekend hacker’s handbook.  That someone of his stature could actually openly disregard the rules – and the ‘spirit’ of those rules – was oddly refreshing and frightening all at once.

At least Phil performed a ‘mea culpa’ this week, and apologized for his gaffe.  How else would anyone ever take him seriously again, as a competitor or a businessman, if he had just blown this off?

Wondering if Rhode Island is going to jump into the legalized sports betting scene?  I am, too. A five-year agreement has been reached between International Game Technology and Twin River Casino in Lincoln, with IGT as the official operator.  The state will potentially score 51 percent of gambling revenue, with IGT receiving 32% of the wagered revenue in return.  Twin River gets the other 17% hunk.

Twin River will renovate their facility to host the sports book, and will also be adding jobs along the way.  Good thing, ‘cuz the state has already spent the $23.5 million it has earmarked as earnings for FY 2019.  It’s a part of the actual budget, before the product even exists.

OIRI.  Only In Rhode Island.  I have those t-shirt rights, too.

Alex Cora has bullpen agita.  His ability to use his pen properly is a struggle, with his misuse of Robby Scott this week, resulting in a loss that should have been a win, as Example A.  

A good thought from Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard – why do the Red Sox hate Chris Sale?  Seriously, he should sue for lack of support.

Jackie Bradley is still a regular in the lineup, and he’s still batting .181 as of Friday.  I need that job.  And I don’t care if he’s Superman in the outfield, he’s a huge hole in the batting order.  Punt.

And is Rafael Devers’ time at 3rdnearing the end? It should be.  I’d gladly sacrifice a little defense, however, for a timely bat.  But the Sox can’t get that with him, either.

Ok, who remembers the Celtics’ top draft pick from 1993, Acie Earl?  Earl was a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Iowa (Robert Williams was SEC Defensive Player of the Year at A&M) and held the Iowa career blocked shots record. After averaging 5.5 points and a mere 3.1 rebounds in his rookie year, he was traded to Toronto, where he averaged 7.5 points and three rebounds per game – his best statistical season.

Earl spent just four seasons in the NBA, then spent another 11 years bouncing between Europe and U.S. minor leagues, retiring in 2007. He returned to Iowa City, coaching high school basketball and working in real estate.

Shawn (@CptKirk73) hit me up with a good one on Twitter this week, on “Ask Me Anything Day”: “If you could travel to any time, either in your own life to relive a specific day, or to witness a historical event what would it be?” 

Shawn:  As I tweeted in response, awesome question. I think I'd like to have one more day before my mother passed in 2007, just to tell her 'thank you' again.  Historical event?  That’s easy – attend Texas-Arkansas’ ‘Game of the Century’ in 1969 in Fayetteville, with President Nixon in attendance, with the Horns and Hogs deciding college football’s national title in the sports’ centennial year.  Yup.  Hook ‘em.

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...

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