Thinking out loud: Positive thoughts amid pandemic

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Photo credit Kirby Lee--USA Today
Thinking out loud…while wondering if anything positive is possible anymore…

  • Negative, negative, negative.  What was it that Rick Pitino once said about Boston?  The negativity in this town sucks?

 

  • With that in mind, positivity will prevail here this week.  Maybe.

 

  • URI hoops took in a late fall signee for the upcoming season in 6-7 small forward Ileri Ayo-Faleye from Pennsylvania.  Ayo-Faleye was expected to take a prep year at Putnam Science in Connecticut but decided to head for Kingston instead.

 

  • That’s now eight new incoming players for the Rams in ‘20-21, including three true freshmen.  We’ll need to remember to insert the word “youthful” when referring to URI next season.

 

  • Five transfers are also awaiting word on eligibility for this year, and only three returning players are back from last season’s 21-win team, with two redshirts.  If you think we’ll all need to be patient off the floor this season with so much still to be determined, Rhody (and fans) will also need to show patience ON the floor as well.

 

  • Seton Hall gets one back for next season, as 6-10 forward Sandro Mamukaleshvili decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to lead the Pirates.  Mamu’s return probably takes SHU from middle-of-the-road to upper-tier team in the Big East next year.

 

  • Creighton also got a lift with the return of two from the Draft for next year, in Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson. The Blue Jays still rank as a solid #2 behind Villanova at this stage of the summer.

 

  • Big East as of today?  1) Villanova 2) Creighton 3) Seton Hall 4) Providence 5) UConn 6) Xavier 7) Marquette 8) St. John’s 9) DePaul 10) Georgetown.

 

  • Subject to change, of course.  But spots three through nine (yes, DePaul too) could be as fluid as **** from a Canadian goose.  Don’t ask me how I know that.

 

  • Tweet of the Week, from @PCFriarsmbb: “Mask up now, so we can suit up this winter.”

 

  • Because of the pandemic, the NBC Sports Group…which includes digital and regional TV outlets…laid off a lot of people this week, including staffers from NBC Sports Boston.  Long time contributors Gary Tanguay, Abby Chin, A. Sherrod Blakely and Joe Haggerty were among those let go.

 

  • Gary and I worked together at WLVI-56 in the late ‘90’s and into the early 2000’s.  All are real pros at what they do, which is provide information and entertainment to their viewers, listeners, and readers. 

 

  • This business really blows sometimes.  And this is one of those times.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but did you know a former Friar is running the brand new Peacock streaming TV service from NBC as Executive Vice President?  Yup.  Rick Cordella was a PC walk-on for coach Pete Gillen on that ’96-97 team that reached the Elite Eight.

 

  • UConn football became the first Division I FBS program to cancel football this fall.  Wait, wut?  They have football?

 

  • Ok, hold the jokes.  But the reality is – yes, it’s a bit dangerous, and the players voted not to play.  Plus, UConn was having a very difficult time in completing a schedule as an independent, with Power 5 teams cancelling almost all non-conference games.

 

  • For a school with huge athletic debt, it probably makes sense (if not cents, by subtraction) to simply shut it down for this year.  Who knows what the future holds?

 

  • UMass, conversely, is full steam ahead with whatever they can scrape together also as an independent…with three potential openings now on their schedule.  The Minutemen began preseason camp, as did BC this week, even with a switch to mostly remote learning for the fall.

 

  • Did you see the group of Pac-12 players making demands on their conference and their schools related to their safety during the upcoming fall season?  A group of Big Ten players followed suit with their own list of demands Wednesday.

 

  • The coronavirus has crushed quite a bit over the past few months, but it certainly has NOT stifled the idea of empowerment among some college athletes.  The players, in both leagues, are threatening to hold out if demands aren’t met.

 

  • Most requests (or demands) seem reasonable when it comes to safety.  Others, like revenue sharing for athletes, not so much.  At least not right now.   Who blinks first?

 

  • NCAA Division III has decided to cancel ALL fall sports championships.  Division II has followed suit, while most DI programs are attempting abbreviated versions of football if nothing else.  Power 5 schools have considered holding their own championships, in Olympic sports, if Division I opts out. 

 

  • Could be the beginning of the end for schools in those conferences as NCAA members, if that happens.  And if you’re a fan of any of those schools – as I am – be careful what you wish for.

 

  • For all of its’ obvious faults, the NCAA is still a pretty good front man when it comes to assuming responsibility.  And blame.  They know how to play ‘the bad guy’ role.

 

  • The NCAA is allowing each division to decide, by August 14th, whether or not players who opt out can retain their year of eligibility…or not.  That should be a no-brainer, and shame on the NCAA for not stepping up here to make the call.

 

  • Stadium reported this week 75% of the University of Idaho football team voted not to play their season due to virus concerns.

 

  • And Colorado State football players are crying ‘coverup,’ saying they’ve been pressured into playing their season by coaches and staff members and to not report Covid-19 symptoms.

 

  • I know, I know.  I said good news.  Ok – Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec, the transfer from Notre Dame, is eligible to play.  That’s big for the Eagles.  Also big is ND coming to Alumni Stadium after originally NOT being on the schedule.

 

  • Will anyone be able to attend the game in person?

 

  • BC also went 154-for-154 in negative Covid tests in the past week.  Solid returns.  Even as the world crumbles around us.

 

  • The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, buying the XFL for $15 million is a great story.  He’s splitting the price tag with his ex-wife and with Redbird Capital, which is a part owner of the YES Network.

 

  • The Rock always did want to beat the stuffing out of Vince McMahon while in the WWE, didn’t he?  Rescuing the league from bankruptcy court…thus taking it away from McMahon…is ‘The People’s Elbow’ if there ever was one.

 

  • Lawyers for the creditors owed a lot of money here have filed an objection.  Could be a steel cage match coming.

 

  • Drive-in movie theaters made a comeback, of sorts, this summer.  So that’s a good thing, right?

 

  • Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed Boston’s teams are, um, not very good coming out of Corona hibernation? 

 

  • We won’t get a full picture on the Patriots for a while, and yet they lead the league in players opting out.  Why? 

 

  • Do they ‘hate their coach,’ as Tom Jackson tried to tell us once upon a time, or are they just comfortable in their own skin with their own decisions governing their own families?  Betting on more of the latter.

 

  • And then there are guys like David Andrews, coming back from his blood clot issues a year ago, and Joe Thuney, who both appear as eager to get back to teammates as anyone.  Thuney could be an answer for Marcus Cannon’s opt out at right tackle. 

 

  • 66 NFL players opted out.  The Patriots led the NFL with eight.  Three teams had no players opting out – Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the LA Chargers.

 

  • Love the Boston Sports Journal.  Greg Bedard’s site is top notch, must-read.  But to say (as he did this week) that the Patriots should “Pay That Man His Money,” speaking about Cam Newton’s contract?

 

  • To quote Colonel Sherman T. Potter of the M*A*S*H 4077th – “Mule muffins!”  Newton’s deal with the Patriots is precisely the kind of deal the organization has made with veterans for two decades.  Team gets a bargain; player gets a huge opportunity he needs. 

 

  • I think I like their track record overall on this topic.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Eventually, they might pay the man his money.  Which would mean the Patriots probably won and won big this season, and likely Bedard’s real conclusion beyond the clickbait headline.  Then, I would concur. 

 

  • But now?  No way.  A deal is a deal, and even Newton should know that.

 

  • Puzzles and board games…thrown in with the occasional ‘family game night’ became popular again since the pandemic began.  A very good thing.

 

  • This week’s Sign of the Apocalypse - there won’t be any buddying or cozying up to TB12 in Tampa. The Times reported players will be wearing tracking devices that will warn them when they get too close to each other. 

 

  • Apparently, other teams will also use this technology.  Big brother will be watching.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” was in a rush to get to a meeting and couldn’t find a parking space.  He told me he looked up to the heavens and said, “Lord, please have pity on me.  I have a big deal to close and I need a parking space!  If you can find me one, I’ll go to Mass every Sunday and give up drinking.” 

 

  • Lo and behold, a space miraculously appeared in front of him, right at his destination point.  “Never mind, Lord,” Big E said.  “Found one on my own.”

 

  • The Las Vegas Raiders announced there will be NO fans in attendance this season at their home games in the brand-spanking new Allegiant Stadium.  That’s a kick-in-the-teeth to Sin City if there ever was one.

 

  • Fines – big, massive fines – have been put in place for NFL players refusing to follow Covid guidelines.  Can we also fine the general public holding all these stupid Covid parties and those who don’t think they need to wear masks, and send the fine money to those unemployed who need it?

 

  • Fines are something they should have considered in baseball too, don’cha think?

 

  • I think we’ve all learned that homeschooling kids isn’t easy, so keep giving credit to teachers everywhere.  They’re in that group of heroes, just like our doctors, nurses and first responders.

 

  • Maybe the Bruins are struggling out of the gate.  Maybe they’re still p*ssed about having to play a round-robin for seeding when they already had the best record. 

 

  • But the NHL bubble seems to be working, doesn’t it?

 

  • Ratings are solid for both NHL and NBA TV broadcasts.  But the NBA, it seems, expected more than what they’re getting.  Could it be people have discovered other things to do?  Or, that basketball in August is just too weird?

 

  • At least there have been some good games, with the quality of play better than anticipated.  Baseball games have largely had decent ratings too, with half of the teams experiencing a 50% or better TV bump from a year ago. 

 

  • The Red Sox are not one of those getting a bump.  You’re shocked by that?

 

  • The Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and Cardinals scheduled for Aug. 13th in Iowa has been cancelled.  Any field of dreams these days should be one where masks aren’t needed.

 

  • News flash:  The Red Sox still don’t have any pitching.  That this team, with the payroll it presently still has, entered this season with that staff is embarrassing.

 

  • Matt Barnes must have incriminating photos.  There’s no other reason to keep him around.  Clutch, he isn’t.  Choke would be more like it, whenever runners are on base.

 

  • Hey Chaim?  This ain’t Tampa.  Thanks, signed Everybody Who Is Still Watching.

 

  • Xander Bogaerts said this week he had “fun” getting swept by the Yankees?  Something tells me he’s in for more fun where that came from.

 

  • I know he was talking about the ‘fight’ the team displayed.  So now we’re talking about ‘fight,’ when less than two years ago we’re talking about a world championship?  #smh

 

  • Yard signs have popped up across the country at homes and schools, celebrating grads like never before where they couldn’t be celebrated traditionally.  We’ve all learned how to make chicken salad out of chicken ****.

 

  • For MLB to finish the season they’ve started, there will need to be severe repercussions on players who don’t follow the rules and ‘let their guard down,’ like Derek Jeter claims.

 

  • As for the cases in Miami and St. Louis, selfish players need not report back.  So should that make them done for the year?

 

  • Another sign that a Covid ‘bubble’ works?  Did you miss the World Team Tennis season?  Nine teams, over three weeks at a single site – The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.  Not a single Covid case or positive test. 

 

  • Hey Edward in East Providence?  Who won?

 

  • 13 straight reports for MLS, with zero positive coronavirus cases.  More than 10K tests in the past three weeks, too.

 

  • The RIIL isn’t quite sure, yet, how they’ll handle fall sports.  What we do know – once school opening plans are decided by Aug. 17th, fall sports that can start under the Governor’s health guidelines can begin as early as Sept. 14th.

 

  • But that doesn’t include football, field hockey, soccer or volleyball.  It is likely those seasons will be reduced, beginning at the end of September and early October.  If they are possible at all.

 

  • We’ve learned that we love, and truly miss our sports.  They help us engage with each other.  Hopefully, we have a better appreciation for athletic talent, coaching and leadership ability. 

 

  • And, that we really need an excuse to get up to go to the fridge – nothing better than a good game on TV for that one.

 

  • Wilford Brimley was the Quaker Oats guy.  If you’re of a certain age, you know that. “It’s the right thing to do,” is what he said on those hundreds of commercials, beginning back in the ‘80’s as the company pitch man. 

 

  • Brimley passed away this week at age 85 but was also well-known in sports movie circles as New York Knights’ manager Pop Fisher in Robert Redford’s “The Natural.”  A darn good sports movie, too, if you ask me.

 

  • Oh yeah.  Tee-shirts, sweatpants, shorts and flip-flops have become the fashion wear of our times.  Can’t think of a better way to go to work!

 

  • 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.