Thinking out loud: What Wednesday should be remembered for

Scotiabank Arena in Toronto
Photo credit Getty Images
Thinking out loud…while wondering where we can get some good calamari around here…

  • Where do we go from here?

 

  • Sure, it’s understandable that many athletes are disillusioned, angry, upset…MAD…over the social unrest that continues to plague us today alongside a coronavirus. 

 

  • They also know they have newly found influence in our marketplace.  They know some will listen to them.  But do they know some won’t?  And do they know their actions, and subsequent reactions, could make things worse?

 

  • Quick decisions are, well, decisive.  They show action and a willingness to stand up and do something about a problem or situation.  It’s admirable.  But the thought here is that this is going to require time and a lot more patience than many are willing to give now.

 

  • And I get it.  Time and patience are something the afflicted don’t have.  What we should hope for, is a thought-out process.  Not just from the athletes, but from their superiors and their leaders.

 

  • What we need is a way to make August 26, 2020 stand out for the right reasons, and not be remembered for just being the day some basketball, baseball, football and soccer players walked out of games and practices.

 

  • I was just a kid, but I certainly remember the utter shock at what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did on the medal stand at the ’68 Olympics in Mexico City – with their black-fisted salute after winning gold and bronze in the 200-meter run. 

 

  • 1968 was a helluva year.  The world as we knew it then went nuts.  Smith and Carlos were ostracized for decades.  They were pariahs – until we were able to understand the meaning behind their mission. 

 

  • It took too long.  But the country wasn’t ready to accept change in such a large, and abrupt, dose.  Can we accept it now, 52 years later?  Or are we too far gone?

 

  • Anyone remember the great Roberto Clemente deciding not to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968? 

 

  • There was no outrage, or protest, on Clemente’s decision.  “When Martin Luther King died, they come and ask the Negro players if we should play,” Clemente told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  “I say, if you have to ask Negro players, then we do not have a great country.”

 

  • We’ve traveled this road before, and now we’re circling back.  Let’s listen.  Don’t fire off and react.  Try to understand.  And try to contribute to a solution, not to the confusion.

 

  • And in the meantime, the wheels on the bus should continue to go round and round.  It’s the only way forward.   

 

  • What in the wide, wide world of Billy Martin is going on here?  The Revs’ Bruce Arena was fined, and suspended again, for his outburst and abuse of MLS game officials?  Love the fire and passion. 

 

  • But will the Revs get any 50-50 calls for the remainder of the season?

 

  • The Celtics sweep of the Sixers was impressive. 

 

  • But is this ‘déjà vu all over again,’ as Yogi Berra might say?  You’ll recall a sweep of Indiana last year, followed by a bouncing from the Bucks…

 

  • Saw where #thankstuukka was trending for a bit Wednesday night after the 7-1 disaster against the Lightning. 

 

  • Funny, yes.  I’ve always marveled at how New England sports fans can rationalize things so quickly in the aftermath of complete meltdowns…with a sense of humor.  And impending doom.

 

  • Does it mean anything today?  The NHL bubble is still clean.  Clearly, hockey won the day in its’ comeback efforts.  I don’t think we’ve seen the last of ‘bubble play.’

 

  • The AHL – and the Providence Bruins – will be discussing scenarios for fan-less play next month, with their season set to resume in early December.  Like minor league baseball, however, will it make sense to play at all – with no fans able to attend?

 

  • To that end, the ECHL (hockey’s Double A equivalent) says no fans, probably no games.

 

  • I was struck and saddened by the lack of energy from the normally upbeat Devin McCourty this week as he spoke with the media following sports’ midweek protests.  He sounded hopeless.  He said he felt hopeless.  I get where he’s coming from.

 

  • Stephon Gilmore’s absence from Patriots’ practice this past week was much ado about nothing.  Speculation around here can sometimes be detrimental to our health.

 

  • The big personnel move this week was the return of Sony Michel from the PUP list.  Will his fresher legs allow him to regain ground on Damien Harris’ strong start?

 

  • Speaking of starts, it could be shaky for everyone, not just the Patriots, when we actually get to the games in a couple of weeks.  Don’t be surprised.

 

  • And don’t be surprised with Nick Folk’s return as kicking competition for Justin Rohrwasser.  In fact, don’t be surprised if he wins the job – to start.

 

  • FWIW – NFL teams, on average, each earned $495 million in revenue last year.  Sportico this week released updated numbers on what NFL teams are worth – and the Patriots ring up at $4.97 billion…#2 behind the Dallas Cowboys at $6 billion.

 

  • The average NFL team price tag - $3 billion.  Even the lowly Bengals are worth $2 billion.  You can see why football wants to get back to work, and back to some semblance of normal as soon as it is possible. 

 

  • They’re in the business…of doing business.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Gillette Stadium is preparing its’ workers for a return next month, even without fans in attendance.  It appears it will be a normal (as possible) game day operation in case you were wondering. 

 

  • The Kansas City Chiefs had 2000 socially distanced fans at a recent Arrowhead Stadium practice.  And practice makes perfect, amiright?

 

  • On the other end, Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott is whining about the NFL’s policy regarding some fans being allowed into stadiums, and others not.  Buffalo opens at Miami, and the Dolphins have announced they’ll allow 13,000 fans into Hard Rock Stadium.

 

  • File this one under “control things you can control, coach.”

 

  • Despite a number of false positives reported, the NFL’s Covid numbers have been impressive.  The league released there were 23,260 tests administered between August 12-20.  Zero players tested positive.

 

  • If you’ve been keeping up, or at least become remotely aware of the negative issues surrounding the now-named Washington Football Team…it’s getting worse.  And it has zero to do with a former nickname.

 

  • Secret videos.  Sexual harassment.  Discrimination.  Exploitation.  The Washington Post spilled the beans this week on owner Daniel Snyder’s two-decade-long bachelor party, thanks to more than 100 current and former employees speaking out.

 

  • The Cancel Culture is about to smack the WFT right upside its’ helmets.  And this is after they’ve hired the first black team president, and the first full-time woman play-by-play announcer.

 

  • Alabama’s back-to-campus Covid cases are predictably spiking, and the City of Tuscaloosa has shut down bars for two weeks.  But is Dreamland barbeque still open?  Can’t mess with those ribs and that sauce, can they?

 

  • Boston University has threatened students with suspension from school and a loss of their tuition if they’re found to be in groups of more than 25 people.  The lesson to be learned? 

 

  • Time to grow up, boys and girls.  Whether you’re ready or not.

 

  • South Kingstown decided to put some oomph behind its’ stance against off-campus parties at URI.  A $500 fine for those hosting, and a $250 ticket for each attendee who gets in.  Oh, and landlords and mom’s and dad’s who cosign leases are also liable.

 

  • We should find out who the rich kids are pretty fast.

 

  • Speaking of URI – the Rams are batting 1.000 with the NCAA on transfer waivers this year.  Wing forward Malik Martin – younger brother of ex-Ram standout Hassan Martin – received his eligibility to play right away after transferring in from Charlotte.

 

  • Rhody got the best news possible – four-for-four on transfer eligibility, including the Mitchell twins from Maryland and ex-Syracuse guard Jalen Carey.  An iffy-at-best team for this next season suddenly looks deep. 

 

  • And potentially, L-O-A-D-E-D.  But it takes time to fit puzzle pieces into place.

 

  • Providence is still waiting to hear on Syracuse transfer and former St. Andrews star Brycen Goodine’s request for an eligibility waiver. 

 

  • As we first mentioned a couple weeks back, Big East bubble talk for the upcoming hoop season is continuing.  Maybe even picking up steam. 

 

  • The NCAA’s Dan Gavitt has said a decision on a start date, or a plan going forward, should be made by mid-September…but there are reports of November 25th and December 4th as likely opening days.  The original date of November 10th is still on the table, but with shaky legs.

 

  • No need to reinvent the wheel.  Once those students who are on campus are sent home at Thanksgiving, it will be eight weeks before anyone returns to campus.  Presto!  Instant bubble.

 

  • Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard has pushed a similar plan and arrangement to play as many games as possible in this time frame.

 

  • A few cities have already been mentioned as possible bubble sites for both Big East men and women to play, including Omaha, Bradenton, FL at the IMG Academy where the WNBA is currently ensconced, and in Orlando – where some non-league games could be set up.

 

  • CBS’ Jon Rothstein tweeted this week he’s heard that many college hoop guarantee games for next season have included clauses that will only pay the mid-major traveling teams for their expenses – if no fans are in attendance.

 

  • With Brett Brown gone as head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, could Villanova’s Jay Wright step in?  Seems to me, that team just swept out by the Celtics could use a little collegiality. 

 

  • It would be a huge blow for Nova, and an even bigger ‘get’ for the Sixers.  He’s said in the past he loves where he is.  But is there enough $$$ to love the Sixers even more?  The challenge is certainly there, but is it a better job – a better lifestyle – than the one he has? 

 

  • Think he might ask Billy Donovan or Brad Stevens that question? 

 

  • DePaul’s new athletic director, DeWayne Peevy, spent 12 years at Kentucky – first in sports information, then as a deputy Athletic Director.  For a program in need of a culture fix, the Blue Demons will hope some of that Kentucky bluegrass influence rubs off.

 

  • Former Bryant head basketball coach Tim O’Shea is returning to coaching, even though he never really left.  After stepping down in Smithfield, O’Shea has been assisting with the program at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, RI.  And this year, he takes over as the head coach.

 

  • Former URI and Texas coach Tom Penders will be inducted into the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor…and included in that class is one-time Friar killer P.J. Tucker.  Who remembers 2004?

 

  • LSU and Will Wade are in it deep.  The coach is accused by the NCAA of being part of an impermissible (Duh!) payment scheme to at least ELEVEN prospective basketball players or members of their inner circles. 

 

  • Would you like a ball with those chains, coach?

 

  • God speed to Arizona and Iowa Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson, who passed away at age 85 this week. His ’97 Wildcat team won the Natty – and edged Providence in OT in the regional final along the way.  It was a title that could very easily have been PC’s.

 

  • And condolences to the family of PC grad Bob Mackey, Class of ’70, who passed away last week.  Known by his message board handle of “Bonco” to many, virtual or otherwise, Bob was a teacher, a salesman and most definitely passionate about the Friars.  Our exchanges were always interesting, and enjoyable.

 

  • Even the high and mighty are finding their pathway back to normalcy filled with potholes.  Big 10 Iowa has cut four sports, and the athletic department has discussed taking out a loan to get through their current fiscal issues.  The Hawkeyes are projecting a $100 million revenue loss, and an overall deficit of $60-75 million.

 

  • And North Carolina State has hit the pause button on athletics, delaying their football opener due to recent positive Covid tests within their athletic department and among students on campus.  No one said a return to playing fields would be easy.

 

  • Interesting that nine of the Associated Press Top 25 teams in college football aren’t playing.  Will they drop out of the poll once the season actually begins? 

 

  • But other schools and programs are presently managing quite nicely – BC, Syracuse and Texas come to mind, and there are certainly those within the Pac-12 and Big 10 who already believe the decision to punt on the season came too quickly.

 

  • A thorough review from Brendan McGair this week in the Woonsocket Call, on the RIIL’s final decision on football coming after August 31st, and whether the league plays to a 3-season or 4-season option.

 

  • The CIAC (Connecticut high school governing body) says football can go forward beginning October 1st.  In the fall.  Full contact practices may begin September 21st.

 

  • A pandemic plus…with the current trend of high school seniors departing early to join college programs for the spring, some athletes could get a boost.  The NCAA has said no one this year playing a fall sport will lose their year of eligibility – which means it could be a free year of play for some…if the NCAA approves.

 

  • Not for nuthin,’ but anyone care about the Red Sox and their trade deadline options?  Me either.

 

  • Very sorry to learn of more media layoffs this week, including at Bleacher Report as they begin to phase out B/R Mag, their longform publication.  There is still room for longform writing these days, isn’t there?  There’s still interest in features and in-depth reporting and discussion, correct?

 

  • Anyone?  Anyone?  Hello?

 

  • Just what IS going well these days?  While gym memberships are down about 70% across the country, golf play and equipment sales are up.  Sporting goods sales are up – Dick’s posted a record 2nd quarter in sales and profit.

 

  • Home fitness sales have also skyrocketed – Bowflex has sold out its inventory through the rest of this year.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t find one, for the right $$$. 

 

  • So let’s get physical.  As a young adult of the ‘80’s, I always had the proper appreciation for Olivia Newton John’s, um, physicality – as well as her hit song.

 

  • While living and working in Texas in the early ‘80’s, I was at KCEN-TV in Waco, the NBC affiliate.  Great job, great people.  Made little $$$.  Our high school football coverage was legendary – in those days we tape-delayed Friday night game broadcasts to Saturday – as we pre-empted Saturday Night Live because of our “Game of the Week” ratings.

 

  • Yes, we drew a bigger audience in Central Texas than John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. 

 

  • Butch Henry was the analyst on those games with me.  He was a legendary coaching figure in the area, mostly through Little League and youth sports, but he was always known as ‘coach’ to so many.  He was my coach, too, offering valuable advice and numerous laughs along the way.  

 

  • Butch stayed in the media biz for some time, moving from TV sales to hosting his own sports talk show (a natural at it) on the ESPN affiliate in Waco, where over the past 20 years I was a guest when the discussion came to the Patriots making headlines. 

 

  • I last visited with him seven years ago, when PC played at Baylor in the NIT – and he was still on the Baylor stat crew, where he served for decades.  Butch passed away this week after battling cancer.  We all have people in our lives who we’ll never forget, for whatever reason, and he was certainly one of those for me. 

 

  • I used to hear mom’s yell “Anthony! Anthony!” even if their kids weren’t named Anthony.  The Prince spaghetti TV commercial of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s was iconic, and Wednesdays were spaghetti days in my house, too, whether we were Italian or not.

 

  • It was a great marketing campaign.  Sadly, Anthony Martignetti – who was the 12-year-old star in the commercial and lived in Boston’s North End – passed away this week at age 63.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez his neighbor has been growing big, bright red tomatoes this summer.  He asked her what she thought made her tomatoes so red.  “Every night, I come out to the garden and water the plants while naked, and darned if these things don’t blush,” was what she told him. 

 

  • “E” told me he’s actually very happy he missed the peep show.  Then his neighbor said, “you should see my cucumbers.  They’re enormous.”

 

  • Good calamari around here?  Tons.  But a personal shout out to Andino’s on Federal Hill.  Always spectacular.  Spicy.  Never soggy. 

 

  • Ok, I cringed a bit when Rhode Island Democratic party chair Joe McNamara touted calamari as the “state appetizer” during the convention’s roll call vote.  The “calamari comeback State of Rhode Island?” 

 

  • But hey, if you can get The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon to do a comedy bit about you, which he did, you’ve hit a home run.  Joe, can you promote RI Coney Island System Hot Weiners next? 

 

  • Can’t wait for that bit…comedy gold, I tell ya’.  Comedy gold.

 

  • 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 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.