Thinking out loud: Can we hit a reset on 2020?

Mookie Betts
Photo credit USA Today Sports
Thinking out loud…while wondering if we can create a ‘super holiday’ once we emerge from our cocoons…

  • I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve awaken from sleep, wondering if I’ve just had a bad dream.  

 

  • The optimist in me says “we’ll all get through this together.” 

 

  • The pessimist in me says “what the **** is next?  Locusts?”

 

  • Seriously for a moment – consider what has transpired over the past few weeks, or more specifically, what has happened in our sports world since the calendar turned toward 2020.

 

  • Mookie Betts departed Boston for hated Los Angeles, for a ham sandwich in return.

 

  • The Friars, full of promise and potential in early November, were a mere shell of their expected selves in early January.

 

  • The Patriots were unceremoniously dumped from the postseason, by Tennessee. 

 

  • A cheating scandal stopped baseball dead in its’ tracks, with the reverberation from those dugout trashcans kicking Alex Cora right out of the Boston clubhouse.

 

  • Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna and seven others died in helicopter crash.

 

  • Chris Sale’s ever-tender left arm has been deemed as effective as a wet noodle.  He will be out for the rest of this year.  And longer.

 

  • A mysterious virus, originating in the Far East, worms its’ way westward and envelopes the planet. 

 

  • The Friars get on a roll, arguably one of the hottest teams in the country (with five consecutive Top 25 wins), playing even beyond early expectations, only to be stopped in their tracks by an unseen foe.

 

  • It shuts down college basketball, March Madness, all pro sports – basically, it shuts down free enterprise.

 

  • And while we’re reeling, Tom Brady says, ‘thanks for the memories Patriot Nation’ and bolts for Tampa Bay.

 

  • What have we missed?  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone – or something – is mad at us.

 

  • Truth be known, it hasn’t been as bad as the above laundry list makes it seem.  The Celtics have developed a young core that could contend, with an emerging star in Jayson Tatum. 

 

  • New England now turns its lonely eyes to you, Jayson.  Hope you’re ready to assume the mantle of ‘next New England great.’  It’s coming.

 

  • The Bruins have dominated the NHL with the best record in the league.

 

  • Even the Providence Bruins have dominated, to the point where their season came to a screeching halt having won a franchise-record 12 straight games.

 

  • Small consolation, I know, for the bigger issues at hand. 

 

  • Namely, when will sports start up again?

 

  • And, who will now play QB for the Patriots?

 

  • Let’s take the last one, first.  There’s no real way to encapsulate what TB12 has meant to New England, to the Patriots franchise, to the NFL or even to football and sport in general.

 

  • G.O.A.T.  Only haters gonna hate. The man is it.  You know his numbers, you’re aware of the results.  Fifty-nine 4th quarter comeback wins is what stands out to me.

 

  • I don’t see his departure as the direct ‘fault’ of Bill Belichick, or anyone else.  Rather, it has happened due to two things – 1) TB12’s desire to ‘move on’ with life – a mid-life crisis – and 2) BB’s consistency in running a dynastic organization.

 

  • Belichick has always moved on from veterans past their prime abilities.  This is really nothing more than that, only now he doesn’t get any blame. Or at least, he shouldn’t.

 

  • Why?  Because TB1 agreed to the contracts that caused the dead money to loom over the franchise like an albatross around its’ neck.  If anything, the Patriots have – all along – known this day would come.

 

  • They wouldn’t be able to pay TB12 what TB12 was hoping free agency would bring him.  But someone would – and did. 

 

  • A 43-year-old QB, who showed last season that his skills are diminishing (let’s be honest), got another team to (over) pay him on his way toward immortality.  Bully for him.

 

  • We just didn’t want to see it. TB12 has been everything factual and symbolic surrounding the dominance of the Patriots’ franchise over two decades, and rightfully we should thank him for it.  But we should also know better.

 

  • History and sports prove it – kings don’t stay kings forever. 

 

  • TB12 was always cheerful, talkative, upbeat and positive through every interaction I ever had with him over the past 20 years, even though they were mostly limited to the occasional fist bump and “Hey Voice” or “there’s the Voice” while walking through the corridors of Gillette Stadium.

 

  • I felt like genuflecting.  And I do thank him and wish him well. 

 

  • But I don’t believe this move will turn out like he hopes it will.  New England was the one place who would/could forgive him for his ‘sin’ of aging, because he was ours.  That’s no longer the case. 

 

  • This wasn’t about winning, contrary to what TB12 says he’s always been about.  It’s about money, and respect, even though he did have both here.  Brady has five times as many playoff wins, six times as many SB wins and seven times as many 30-TD seasons as all other QB’s in Tampa history.

 

  • Tampa will treat him as a panacea for a moribund, dog-eared franchise in search of a savior.  That excitement and hope will soon turn into a truthful realization, because it always does for aging superstars. 

 

  • Then again, he IS Tom Brady.

 

  • If he wanted to win (BB and Josh are still here, you know), if he wanted to age more gracefully, if he wanted to ensure his legacy would never take on tarnish – New England was the place to stay. 

 

  • History has said as much.  Just ask Joe Namath, or TB12’s boyhood hero Joe Montana.  Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @chatham58: “Fact. @TomBrady gave more to the @Patriots than any single player has ever given another NFL organization. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

 

  • Next up, Jarrett Stidham.  If I were to build this thing back – or keep it where it is – I’d ride with Stidham for next season and find a lower-cost veteran to back him up, all while beefing up the other areas of the team that need beefing.

 

  • But, if you’ll recall the BB method of taking undervalued, underappreciated veterans and giving them a new lease-on-life, I’d also place a call to Cam Newton to gauge the size of the chip on his shoulder.  Just sayin’.

 

  • As for the others moving on – Kyle Van Noy was expected.  Danny Shelton’s departure hurts, because he had a surprisingly good season, but he was able to command more money elsewhere. Jamie Collins?  Thanks, see ya’.

 

  • Ted Karras signing with Miami is tough, only in that he played tough in a valuable role last season.  But from this POV, perhaps David Andrews is expected to return to health after missing last season with blood clots?

 

  • Duron Harmon – cap casualty, after reaching a deal with Devin McCourty.  The team needs the $$$ and felt he could be replaced.  Which he was, by all-Pro Adrian Phillips. Plus, depth remains. 

 

  • Detroit Lions = Michigan Patriots?  Harmon, Shelton, Collins, Trey Flowers, Danny Amendola and Justin Coleman are all now playing for Matt Patricia.  How did TB12 not end up there?

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from the Globe’s @cgasper: “What’s going to be interesting is whether guys like (Emmanuel) Sanders still find the Pats as attractive without Brady and with some uncertainty at QB. Will veteran players still take a little less to play for Belichick and the Patriots with Brady out of the picture?”

 

  • It’s a good question.

 

  • Cue the “AFC East tide has turned toward Buffalo” hot takes in 3, 2, 1…

 

  • It is heartwarming to see sports rally around us all, when it comes to “flattening the curve” and containing this coronavirus.  Contributing back to those who are out of work in a time of need, helping those who help these athletes and their teams generate billions in the first place.

 

  • Except for the Bruins.  They’re the only NHL team that hasn’t offered any financial support to arena staff and Delaware North employees.  All those years of wondering if Jeremy Jacobs would ever pay for players, and you’re surprised by this?

 

  • Minor league baseball players, who don’t make much at all, will receive assistance from MLB in the form of a lump sum equal to what they would have normally been paid through April 8. 

 

  • What I’d also like to see, however, are Public Service Announcements from these sports…telling people to stay the **** indoors so we can all get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. 

 

  • Say whatever you want to about our President, and many of you have, but Dr. Anthony Fauci is a superstar. 

 

  • And a note to Wall Street – stop panicking, you dopes.  You’re killing the little people with every misguided, knee-jerk reactive move you make.  Why else has trading had to stop four times? 

 

  • Oh, and those Senators now being accused of insider trading for dumping their stocks early? If true, they’re criminal at best, traitorous at worst.  And stupid is as stupid does, for actually thinking they wouldn’t be discovered.

 

  • Almost every simulation I’ve seen that “plays” the NCAA Tournament has had the Friars win one or two games.  Except for ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.  Good thing it’s a sim.

 

  • Don’t like the decision to NOT do an official bracket but understand the reasoning behind it.  Fair is fair to everyone.  What a shocking, nightmarish two weeks it has been for ex-PC coach, ex-Bryant AD Dan Gavitt…as the NCAA’s VP for men’s basketball.

 

  • The trickle-down of information from the NCAA to the conference level – especially during conference tournament week in New York – was abysmal.  Perhaps it was because things changed every ten minutes?  Or was it because people didn’t stop to ‘think’ before they acted?

 

  • A sneak peek at 2020-21, pending early NBA departures, should put Villanova right back at the top of the Big East, closely followed by Creighton.  Each team could have five starters returning, and a preseason Top 10 status.

 

  • The Wildcats’ Saddiq Bey and the Blue Jays’ TyShon Alexander are the most likely early exits, but not guaranteed.  And I would guess the longer this virus has us in its’ grip, the less likely they are to move on.

 

  • With the apparent arrival of Syracuse transfer and ex-St. Andrews star Brycen Goodine, the Friars may not be far behind the two way-too-early leaders in the clubhouse.  And there could be more transfer news to report soon.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but does this even the score with the ‘Cuse for Paschal Chukwu’s surprising, sudden departure for upstate New York a few years ago?

 

  • Xavier, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Marquette could all be NCAA-worthy based on what we know today.

 

  • Oh, and UConn, too…provided Akok Akok returns to the Huskies’ lineup at some point. Tyler Polley is expected back at the start of the season in November, but Alterique Gilbert is transferring.  Should open up time for Howard transfer and MEAC POY R.J. Cole.

 

  • But there’s still too much we don’t know – including the issue over transfers and possible immediate eligibility.  That could be a game-changer for many…including the Friars, with a decision expected sometime next month.

 

  • A decision is also expected on college athletes and their name, image and likeness rights in the marketplace in April, but the process is reportedly slowing due to the coronavirus crisis.  Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said two weeks ago that she and Ohio State AD Gene Smith will continue to work toward a solution…before state lawmakers take the matter into their own hands.

 

  • And athletic programs in the Big East and Atlantic-10 – without big-time football – are bracing for a financial hit without the NCAA Tournament. Non-Football Five programs will undoubtedly lose out on line-items in their budgets, because there will be no tourney revenue to distribute. 

 

  • URI’s Mekhi Long decided this week to enter the transfer portal.  He played in all 30 games, started one, and averaged 3.1 points per game.  Was playing time the issue?

 

  • Mr. Pitino goes to Iona.  Always knew he would figure out a way to get back into college basketball.  That he’s doing it at a Catholic institution is a bit of a surprise, but I’ll say this for the Gaels – they aren’t afraid of blowback, nor are they afraid to win. 

 

  • And they’ll soon be a low/mid-major worth scheduling.

 

  • Congrats to Hockey Friars’ Jack Dugan, Michael Callahan (Franklin, MA) and Tyce Thompson (Milford, CT) for being named Hockey East all-stars.  Dugan led the NCAA in scoring and is a Top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

 

  • Picking up speed on the rumor mill – a one-year postponement of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, to 2021.  It’s being discussed.  Training and qualifying will become increasingly more difficult in the coming days and weeks.

 

  • So is postponement/cancellation of the US Senior Open in Newport for the end of June, by the USGA. No decisions yet, but the smoke signals are out there.

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @MattNorlander: “There is no NCAA Tournament, Rick Pitino now coaches at Iona, Tom Brady plays QB for the Bucs. And nobody knows when professional sports are returning to our country. Hell of an altverse we’ve found ourselves in.”

 

  • I say, someone call the Flash.  Maybe he can get us back to the right altverse?

 

  • Has there ever been a more miserable St. Patrick’s Day that you can remember?  Cold, dreary, rainy.  No NCAA’s.  No Tom Brady.  No sports of any kind.  Even my corned beef turned out to be tougher-than-usual.

 

  • Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, the 4th of July?  Gulp.  Can we plan on a super holiday in case we need it?  We just might.  I now return you to your regularly-scheduled quarantine shaming of others.

 

  • 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! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

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