Thinking Out Loud: There is some promise with these Patriots

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Thinking out loud…while wondering what people who write ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ do with all the time they save?

It was one preseason game, and it was a game they lost. But there was enough to like from Thursday night to stoke the fires for a regular season of anticipation – if not promise.

This team is faster on defense, which was a huge issue the past few seasons. But can they tackle? Can they make plays? Can they get Buffalo to punt the football?

Love what we saw from rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton. Clearly, he can be a mismatch for anyone who lines up across from him, ready to go one-on-one.

But let’s hope the offensive line shuffle was just for experience. ‘Cuz the running game had no room to roam, and the Giants really weren’t/aren’t that good.

Sweet Feet. That’s what he had for the Patriots. James White will mostly be remembered for his performance in Super Bowl LI, of course. And how could he not be?

He was the game MVP. He scored a walk-off touchdown. But let’s not forget his value as a 3rd down receiving back, where his role (following in Kevin Faulk’s estimable footsteps) helped change the game…and he has been a stand-up citizen and representative of the Patriots, no small feat (pardon the pun) these days.

White’s retirement this week also underscores a real Patriots’ need for this year and beyond – getting younger.

This isn’t instant evaluation – but a draft class that appeared to be way undervalued by many in the wake of this past April’s selection seems to be doing pretty well. Cole Strange is a starter at left guard, as predicted. Plug and play.

Thornton has wowed ‘em at times during practice. Marcus Jones and Jack Jones are getting big reps in the secondary and on special teams. RB Pierre Strong will stay in the picture now that White is retired.

Rookie QB Bailey Zappe has also had his early moments. He can sling it. There will likely be a UDFA reach the final roster again. For a head coach and staff who have been heavily criticized in the talent evaluation department, the early returns are trending positively.

Might have to watch HBO’s Hard Knocks a bit more closely this year, especially early in camp – the Detroit Lions have three Bryant grads on the roster. WR Tom Kennedy, safeties coach Brian Duker and defensive quality control coach Addison Lynch are all part of the production.

But head coach Dan Campbell is the early star. Will his star continue to shine if the Lions fail to roar out of the gate?

Front Office Sports reported this week that TB12 is finally the NFL’s highest-paid player, at $75 million annually. Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes follow on the list, with the Top 10 players all QB’s.

I think that’s all he wanted, wasn’t it? The $$$, plus respect, beautiful wife and kids, bling. Is he finally happy now?

Channel 12 reported this week what we’ve known for a while was coming – a new name for the “Building Formerly Known as the Dunkin Donuts Center” in downtown Providence. Amica Mutual Insurance is the apparent leader in the clubhouse for the new naming rights, after 20 years as “the Dunk.”

The official announcement is expected next month. Whatever they want to call the building is fine with me. But you know, and I know, and all of Rhode Island knows…it’ll still be the Dunk. Fans will still call it the Dunk…just like older fans still call it the “Civic Center.”

And if Amica is smaht, their marketing department will embrace the horror of their paying for someone else’s nickname.

Amica has reportedly trademarked “Amica Mutual Pavilion” as a name for a venue, so that’s different. What about the “AMP Center?” Turn up the AMP? It’s a start…but it’ll be weird.

Why didn’t Dunkin Donuts renew the deal? $500K per year is what they paid out over the past 10 years. Had that question a lot lately. Best guesses: 1) they’ve rebranded themselves as “Dunkin” instead of “Dunkin Donuts.” The name is, in fact, outdated.

2) Naming rights deals for stadiums are all about brand exposure. Dunkin probably figures it has the local market covered.

3) Dunkin also knows Ro Dilanders have an odd tendency to hang onto old names, habits (and directions!) and probably figures they’ll still have some run with “the Dunk” without paying for it.

4) The roof leaks. Federal $$$ will pay for the fix, perhaps Amica can insure it? They’re coughing up the most quid here, and they’ll get the RI Convention Center thrown into the name deal, too.

The Dunk will still be, perhaps, the best-ever sponsor name for a stadium or an arena. And that’s where Dunkin Brands is absolutely blowing it right now.

More movement on the collegiate NIL front this week, from places like USC, Oklahoma, and SMU – the latter of which was once shackled with the NCAA’s ‘death penalty’ for paying its’ players.

At USC, a third-party collective known as “Student Body Right” from donors is launching against the schools’ wishes. At Oklahoma, the Norman NIL Club is a player-led collaborative with a goal of paying every Sooner football player at least $50K per year.

And at SMU, Pony Excess has found its’ legs again, it seems. Only this time, some 35 years later, it’s legal. The Boulevard Collective is being driven by Dallas business leaders and school alumni (as it was back in the ‘80’s, illegally) and plans to pay each football and men’s basketball player at least $36K per year.

Not for nuthin’, but no word yet if they’ll offer gold Trans Am’s like the one ex-SMU and NFL star Eric Dickerson got back in the day. Which he received, ironically, from Texas A&M.

Boulevard Collective is among the most ambitious collectives so far, joining the likes of the Spyre Sports Group (Tennessee), the Matador Club (Texas Tech) and the Phil Knight-backed Division Street (Oregon).

Bryant’s Doug Edert seems to be making headway in his personal NIL deals. Last years’ NCAA Tourney darling while at Saint Peter’s told Front Office Sports this week he “has a feel” for how NIL works, and has already signed deals with Cameo, Volo Sports and Campus Ink.

As for that moustache of his that got so much attention during the tourney, Edert also said he’s looking out for a deal with a razor company. C’mon Gillette, where ya’ at?

Pretty good, but not Oscar Tshiebwe good. The Kentucky hoop star just finished a business trip where he earned $500K in seven days. His total NIL earnings stand at $2.75 million according to sources – and he just bought his mom a house.

Who needs the pros?

ESPN will apparently end a 40-year relationship with the Big Ten, bowing out of the bidding process for the television rights to the now-16 team league. The Associated Press reported the B1G was looking at $380 million per year for seven years – for football and men’s basketball.

Fox will stay as the primary rights holder as owners of the Big 10 Network, with CBS and NBC ready to jump into the deep end as partners. Don’t cry for the four-letter network, however.

ESPN will console itself with an exclusive deal to carry the SEC for $300 million per year, starting in 2024. That might be better bang for the (big) buck.

And, you can expect the four-letter network to jump, head first, into the next round of NCAA Tournament rights discussions.

What might this mean for the Big East? Guilt by association, perhaps. Fox won’t ditch the Big East, with a deal in place through 2025 and ratings that have slowly and steadily increased since the league and the then-fledgling network (FS1) joined forces in 2014.

Ever heard the term “a rising tide lifts all boats?” Staying the course with Fox won’t hurt the cause. By adding UConn first, then maybe Gonzaga to a new TV package, it might be enough to even raise the Titanic.

The Field of 68 college basketball blog this week mentioned successes through the transfer portal, and some not-so-successful. The three teams that played transfers the most last season – Wake Forest, Minnesota, and Florida – did not make the NCAA Tournament.

But the next teams on that list – Arkansas, Providence, Texas Tech, Kentucky, and TCU – all reached the postseason. Ed Cooley’s formula isn’t proprietary…experience definitely helps but finding and developing young players can still sustain a program.

Red Sox and Yankees. We should be pumped and jacked for an August series that could mean postseason positioning. Instead, we’ve been jacked around.

Tweet of the Week I, from @CharlesPPierce: “Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that the acquisition of Chris Sale is not working out.”

Broken wrist. Broken pinky. Broken rib. Broken elbow. On top of his already slightly built frame that may (or may not) be susceptible to a coronavirus strain. Over the past three years, he’s earned approximately $1.5 million per inning he’s pitched.

Signs that should be seen around Fenway Park: “Not for Sale.”

Tweet of the Week II, from @PeteAbe: “With normal use, a heathy starter would make roughly 70-72 starts from 2020-22. That’s where guys like Cole, Nola, Darvish, etc. will land. Sale will have 11.”

Didn’t the Red Sox think about Justin Verlander in the offseason? Should’ve thought a little harder about that one…15-3, 1.73 ERA and a major reason the Yankees should be very nervous about their chances to get to the World Series.

New nickname. Chris “No” Sale. Chris Berman would be proud of that one.

Jarren Duran is, quite simply, not ready for prime time. Or the big leagues. Neither is his attitude or reluctance to accept responsibility for his, um, lackluster play at times.

And could someone, for the love of all that is holy, coach him on taking proper angles with fly balls? Timmy Lupus from the “Bad News Bears” stands a better chance of catching one in the outfield than he does.

JBJ was signed by Toronto? Will he hit below the Mendoza line for them, too? Good. Just sayin’.

If I never see Darwinzon Hernandez pitch again, it’ll be too soon.

Dennis Eckersley’s decision to retire from the NESN booth is both a happy and sad moment. Happy for Eck he’ll move west to be closer to grandkids and family. Sad because we, as NESN viewers, lose his wit and knowledge on Red Sox TV broadcasts.

His honesty and emotion has been refreshing. The Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato said this week his humility is what helped make him an Emmy winner, and I would concur. He doesn’t “big time” people with his Hall of Fame persona or history.

His “Eck-isms” will be sorely missed. 50 years in baseball is a lot of high cheese. And that moss of his still looks pretty good after all these years.

Shohei Ohtani and The Babe. That’s it. They’re the only two players in Major League history to win 10 games in a season and hit 10 home runs. Ohtani joined Babe Ruth this week in accomplishing a feat we may never see again.

And the Angels are entertaining the idea of trading this guy? What in the wide, wide world of Harry Frazee is going on here?

My buddy “Big E” sez he has a bumper sticker on the back of his car that sez “Honk if you think I’m sexy.” Then he purposely sits at green lights until he starts to feel better about himself.

Happy Birthday this week to a true, legendary sports figure and personality in New England -   Bob Cousy turned 94. I’ll wager in Cousy’s prime, ESPN mouth JJ Redick would want no part of him or the “plumbers and firemen,” lest he embarrass himself further.

Maybe the best comeback, ever, came from The Cooz: “People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility.”

Zing.

Pretty fast double-bogey for LIV golfers this week, told by a judge they can’t compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs that began this week. Three current qualifiers are banned from participating – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones.

Who? That’s kinda the point here. You won’t miss them…even with British Open champ Cameron Smith’s defection. Plus, it’ll be pretty hard for any LIV golfer to prove to a court “irreparable harm” for missing out, based on the money they’re earning.

Olivia Newton John’s passing this week at age 73 from a long battle with breast cancer was sobering, to say the least. She was America’s darling, America’s ‘crush’ in the ‘80’s, even if she was an Aussie. Wholesome, girl-next-door type in “Grease” with John Travolta.

Then provocative, racy, and looked at in an entirely different light with her album, hit single and MTV video “Physical,” which has been an iconic remembrance of the 1980’s.

Five Number One hits. Four Grammys. 100+ million records sold. Beauty that calmed many a savage beast in that era.  We were “hopelessly devoted to you” for years. A life seemingly well-lived, and seemingly cut way too short.

Very sorry to learn this week of the passing of long-time Friar fan and retired Rhode Island Hospital employee Bernie Handler, who also did more than his fair share of fundraising for children and families with the Tomorrow Fund over the years.

Serena Williams has announced that she’ll retire from tennis after this years’ US Open. She is 40, after all. With 23 Grand Slam titles to her credit, she’s just one away from tying Margaret Courts’ record of 24.

Which means ticket sales, as you might expect, are already up for Serena’s last dance through New York. Seems appropriate to ask my buddy Edward in East Providence – is she the GOAT in women’s tennis?

Over Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf…and Billie Jean King?

The Bruins resigning Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci at a combined age of 74 (!) certainly keeps the band together for a bit longer, but is that a good thing?

Love the loyalty between the two, adding in David Pastrnak’s influence as well. But I can’t help but feel, based on the timing – even though they’ve said decisions were made prior to the coaching change – that Bruce Cassidy’s ouster played a factor in their return.

I mean, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Amiright?

Pat emailed this week: “When Bloom was hired, I thought he would be great but starting to have doubts. Rumors of dissension among baseball operations and Cora. Is Bloom too analytical or indecisive? How long will John Henry give him to fix this?”

Pat: Yes and yes. And as long as he needs, until it starts to hurt his back pocket/bottom line. Or he becomes as embarrassed as we are.

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? It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments, and local stories to jrbroadcaster@gmail.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 ...

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