Thinking out loud: Football without fans is weird


Thinking out loud…while wondering what the next dumb fad-challenge might involve?

·       Things are slowly changing…but empty stadiums around the NFL, including Gillette Stadium (but not in Jacksonville where it probably should have been empty) – were just weird.  Eerily weird.

·       And maybe you’re used to it.  But I still hate piped-in crowd noise of any kind.  Why the fascination from Fox, CBS, ESPN, NESN and the rest for “pretending” we have crowds?  Because it sounds better?  Better than what?

·       We don’t know that, because they keep piping in the fake, freakin’ crowd noise.  Makes me feel all Indianapolis Colt-ish.

·       Honesty is always the best policy.  Or did your mama never teach you that?  That should go for TV, too.  Fake TV = Fake news.

·       And if we’re being totally honest here, NFL players (and owners) had best realize the climate and tolerance for further ‘protest’ is iffy, at best, from a large part of the viewing audience.

·       So much can be misunderstood, misconstrued and just plain misinterpreted.  Too many agendas, too many messages where no one can visualize or understand the other side.  The cause may be noble, yet the practicality of it is non-existent.

·       As soon as owners and their TV partners and sponsors feel a pocket-pinch, it’s a full stop. We’re near that point.

·       Colin Kaepernick’s saga is an example of what can happen.  He’s a pariah, as gone as yesterday’s lunch.  Have to believe some players don’t want martyrdom.  They’d rather play ball.

·       The Patriots handled the pregame stuff well this week, looking unified and dignified. The Dolphins did not.  Nor did many other NFL teams look good within their bases, leading to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and, well, you get the idea.

·       The Dolphins were protesting ‘inaction?’  I think the same for a lot of fans.  They want action, too.  But only on the field.  Just sayin’.

·       TV ratings were up.  TV ratings were down.  Yes, they were both, depending on the measurements you were looking for.  But in primetime, NFL viewership was down across the board.

·       Despite the downturn, NBC’s games still ranked as two of the top three most-watched shows in primetime TV over the past seven months.

·       The measurement that makes the most sense?  There’s a lot of sports on right now.  It’s a crowded calendar…NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL, PGA, MLS, NASCAR, ATP, WTA, NCAA?

·       It’s unprecedented.  Almost the entire alphabet is playing at the same time.

·       That – and we got used to having NO sports at all for about four months…so, there’s other stuff to do, or to watch.  Very simple.

·       But the Patriots knocked it out of the park locally, with a typical 60 share.  That’s 60 percent of all televisions in use during the game.  The Red Sox, by comparison and up against the Pats – pulled a “1” share.

·       While Thursday night and Sunday night football viewership were down from a year ago, Fanatics sportswear is reporting a 35% increase in online sales over last year to this point.

·       ‘Splain that one.

·       Here’s three thoughts – good matchups still mean ‘must-watch.’  Good teams still sell the most stuff.  Most fans still wanna ‘be like Mike.’  Or Cam.  Or Tom.

·       Brady’s pratfall at New Orleans was the most-watched telecast – of any kind – in the TV universe since the Super Bowl.  That sez peeps still like da foosball.

·       Supercam’s postgame canary-yellow threads were must-see TV.  So was his on-field performance.

·       But 15 rushes per game could be his Kryptonite.

·       Extend Supercam’s deal?  Did Lois Lane originally think Clark Kent was a nerd?  Depends on your movie version of choice, I guess.

·       Understood that Josh McDaniels doesn’t want to keep calling his number.  But the other guys must show they can stop him, first, before hanging up that phone.

·       The offensive line had to be loving it.  It was smashmouth football, all the way.  They even threw a 9-man line at Miami.  Squish the Fish?  They did.

·       N’Keal Harry, with all his apparent physical talents, is still a victim of our expectations.

·       But my kingdom for a big, fast wide receiver who can hold onto the ball when he’s hit.

·       Allen Robinson, hello.  Yes, please and thank you, Chicago.  OBJ?  Sure, c’mon in.

·       Chase Winovich can fly to the football.  Defensively, the Patriots are demonstratively quicker, and faster.  They’ll need that before too much longer.

·       Not for nuthin’ but staying healthy is the real issue.

·       Not for nuthin’, Part II:  11 ex-Pats are on the pro football Hall of Fame nomination list for the Class of 2021 – Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Corey Dillon, Asante Samuel, Logan Mankins, Wes Welker, Jerod Mayo, Drew Bledsoe, Ben Coates.

·       How do you pick a winner from that bunch?  Six other nominees also had a brief cup o’ coffee in New England, too.  Seems relatively sure the Patriots could be a candidate for the HOF game in Canton, OH next August…if we play one.

·       TB12’s Tampa debut certainly didn’t go like he’d hoped.  Or anyone else in Tampa hoped, either.

·       That sound you heard (beep-beep-beep) was the Bruce Arians bus backing up and over Tom.  The buddy-buddy relationship, one game deep into his Buccaneer tenure, appears over.  Arians made it very clear – Brady was at fault on his two picks in the loss.

·       Who didn’t see some of that coming from TB12 the past year or two in Foxboro?  You did.  You just didn’t want to admit you saw it.

·       If he doesn’t already, he’ll wish he had the AFC East at his disposal again. Which he doesn’t.

·       Rookestradamus said his easiest path back to the SB was through the AFC East.  Which means two things – 1) winning didn’t matter as much as the $25 million per year he’s now getting; 2) he really did want a divorce from Bill Belichick.

·       Enjoy the $$$, TB.  ‘Cuz winning big is O-V-A, ova.

·       One game a career won’t make, of course.  But a season of poor play with a change-of-scenery to a one-time NFL doormat would certainly take the shine off a Hall of Fame career.  Or do you not remember what happened to Joe Montana?  Joe Namath?  Johnny Unitas?

·       Google those guys if you must.  C’mon, man.

·       Brady is still on the Mount Rushmore of New England sports, with Ted, Larry and Bobby.  Larry may have to timeshare with Bill (Russell, not Belichick).

·       Week One NFL observations:  1) The Cowboys are still gonna Cowboy and come up short even with talent.  2) The Rams new uni’s look like whites washed in hot water with a blue sock in the laundry. 3) The Patriots had better have big-boy pants on when they play at Seattle Sunday.

·       4) Aaron Rodgers ain’t done yet.  5) Buffalo actually believes they can win the AFC East after grounding the J-E-T-S.

·       6) I mean, it’s still Buffalo.  Buffalo gonna Buffalo, too, amiright?

·       7) Rookie head coaches went 0-3.  But then again, Don Shula lost his first game.  So did some guy named Belichick.

·       With some egg on its’ face, the Big 10 (aka the SEC North Division) is back in the “business” of playing football, beginning next month.  Not exactly a surprise.  It was a unanimous decision among league schools.

·       Especially when you consider college football’s comeback appears to largely be working, with an occasional positive test still arising but protocols in place.  The Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC are all now plotting October returns to the field…’cuz all the other guys are playin’.

·       It appears, from this POV, the schools who are serious about playing are proceeding as planned.  Those who are not – or have athletes who are not – are having Covid issues and quarantines.

·       Biggest winners no one is mentioning on the Big 10’s return to the gridiron?  Bowl games.  We now have more teams playing (90) than slots available (84).

·       Here’s a good one – the University of Georgia has banned tailgating.  But they’re allowing “gatherings in lots.”  Wait, wut?

·       But no fall football in the RIIL (Rhode Island), MIAA (Massachusetts) or CIAC (Connecticut) high school divisions.  So…hoop, anyone?

·       We have the NBA Draft (Nov. 18) and the tip-off to college basketball (Nov. 25) within a week of each other.  Whoa.

·       Thanks to The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil for this bit of insight on the upcoming College Hoops’ season:  NCAA VP Dan Gavitt – acting like and being looked up to more like his Dad every day – has taken to calling this year “The Grand Compromise.”

·       Up to 27-game schedules for teams in multiple team events (MTE’s), 25 for those who are not.  A minimum of 13 games must be played to be considered for the NCAA Tournament.

·       Which is still in play for the Dunkin Donuts Center, March 18-20, 2021.  Big news, for now.

·       With a playing field/court that will be far from level for everyone, it will be fascinating to see the committee interpret who is worthy – and who is not.  So…just win, baby.

·       ESPN Events in Orlando is creating a bubble on the heels of the NBA’s success, hosting EIGHT different non-conference events – the Champions Classic, Jimmy V, Preseason NIT (St. John’s), Orlando Invitational (Xavier), Myrtle Beach Invitational, Charleston Classic (Seton Hall), Wooden Classic (PC was in this last year in Anaheim, Georgetown this year) and the Diamond Head Classic.

·       No fans in the stands, as of this moment.  Games may also be added in Orlando to help teams expand their chances to play non-league games.  Scheduling ‘pods’ and bubbles are being considered throughout the country.

·       And if they ain’t hula dancin’ on Waikiki…

·       …there’s no snorkelin’ in Maui.  The Maui Invitational hasn’t officially announced it yet, but they are moving to Asheville, NC and Harrah’s Cherokee Center (home for the SoCon tournament) for Nov. 30th – Dec. 2nd to hold this year’s event, according to multiple reports.

·       The Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas is moving to South Dakota.  Sorry, Creighton.  I feel ya’.

·       The first college hoop preview magazine I’ve seen out there has one David Duke from Providence on Lindy’s preseason cover.

·       Wonder if losing four games from the schedule (27, down from 31) will hurt regional and/or rivalry games?  Could PC-URI, previously scheduled for December 4, be in jeopardy?

·       And you have to wonder if the 120 students testing positive for the coronavirus at PC this week – and the possibility of shutting down the campus for the fall – might put athletes, their training and the scheduling of games in jeopardy?

·       Two weeks ago, 17 students were suspended for violating college rules.  Those on and off campus had best get a grip, quickly.  And grow up.

·       With only seven non-league games for the Friars to potentially schedule (with a 20-game Big East slate)…three at Maui/NC/Indy, a Gavitt Games matchup (hearing not likely) and/or Big 12 Challenge game (previously scheduled at TCU)…there isn’t much wiggle room.

·       A welcome update at UConn, as URI transfer Tyrese Martin has reportedly received a waiver to play immediately in Storrs this season…for the guy who originally recruited him, Dan Hurley.  The Huskies should be formidable.  And deeper.

·       The Rams added another 2021 recruiting piece in 6-8 Abdou Samb from Maryland at about the same time as PC picked up early all-name team member Legend Geeter last week.

·       And recent Rhody grad Cyril Langevine has landed in Sweden to start his professional career.

·       The Celtics had the Heat right where they wanted them in Game One, and Jayson Tatum struck again.

·       He has tremendous ability and talent.  It certainly wasn’t Tatum’s fault Bam Adebayo came up with the blocked shot of the year, but why is it when the Celtics fall short, Tatum is the guy that had the play (turnover, missed shot, block) to decide it?

·       Yes, I know he scored 30 points.  He’s 3rd team all-NBA.  Yada, yada.  His clutch-less play is starting to remind me of Kyrie Irving.  Hopefully, he’ll learn that’s not necessarily a beneficial road to travel.

·       Game Two was a meltdown. Turnovers kill.  The ghost of Kyrie was lurking on the floor.  Yelling and screaming in the locker room.  Maybe a little emotion, or an *ss-kicking, would be good here.

·       Think the NBA is nervous over a potential Miami-Denver final…when Celtics-Lakers is still on the table?

·       Congrats to ex-Friar assistant coach Mike Malone on the play of his Denver Nuggets, bouncing back from a 3-1 deficit to clip the Clippers in the West semis.  They’re also the first team in NBA history to bounce back TWICE from 3-1 deficits in the same playoff season.

·       Never say never.  Even in a bubble.

·       Ex-Friar athletic director and hockey coach Lou Lamoriello won the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award in the NHL, with the NY Islanders having a ‘Frozen Four’ type of season.

·       Lamoriello is one of the few people I have ever met or come across who is exactly as he appears to be.  Take that for however you wish.

·       Two Good Guys:  Former Providence Bruin coach Peter Laviolette has a new gig as head coach of the Washington Capitals.  And ex-PBruin Bill Armstrong, who helped develop St. Louis into a Stanley Cup champ, is the new GM in Arizona.  Both were in Providence in ’99 during the Calder Cup championship year.

·       And another:  Congrats to BC hockey coach Jerry York (w/4 Natty’s), who will be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020.  He’ll be the 10th Eagle, and 3rd Boston College coach to be enshrined.

·       Happy the US Open golf championship is being played this year.  It’s still weird to have it in the fall, up against football.  And basketball.  And hockey.

·       Tanner Houck = glimmer of hope for the Red Sox.  Even if he did shut out the Marlins.

·       Are the Yankees’ woes behind them?  They hung a 20-spot on the Blue Jays this week for a sixth straight win.

·       In a season full of challenges, cheapskates and change, baseball finally did something right – bubbling their postseason, copy-catting basketball and hockey.  And the World Series is in the most unlikely of venues – Arlington, TX.

·       Where they wouldn’t know a World Series champion if it jumped up and bit them all in the bee-hind.

·       Remember the West Valley Inn?  All the great dining halls (Rocky Point?) and banquet facilities we used to hit for special occasions, celebrations, sports and charity events?  Disappearing like dinosaurs, thanks in large part to the pandemic.

·       The famed Venus de Milo in Swansea, MA, with some of the best minestrone evah (yeah, the Venus Soup!), is up for sale.  It’s one of the few places geographically situated near the border where Roe Dighlandahs didn’t mind crossing or feel the need to pack a lunch for the trip.

·       While some of the food on the menu will continue to be sold at a nearby pub in Somerset, closing the Venus is the end of an era in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts (also a big Fall River ‘place to be seen’)…a piece of Lil’ Rhody that broke away years ago and drifted off across state lines into Swansea.

·       The great entertainers who appeared or once performed at the Venus – Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas, Van Morrison, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler – were part of a veritable ‘who’s who’ list of superstars and politicians, and almost as famous as that soup.

·       What you might not know – the Venus originally opened as a candlepin bowling alley in 1959.

·       My buddy “Big E” sez he phoned his doctor and wanted to know if the prescription he’d just been given had to be taken for the rest of his life.  “Yeah, I’m afraid so,” the doctor told him.

·       “Big E” paused for a sec, then asked, “so how serious is this, Doc?  My prescription is marked NO REFILLS.”

·       The Benadryl Challenge?  The Cinnamon Challenge?  The Tide Pod Challenge?  The Tik-Tok Ice Cube Challenge?

·       What geniuses invent these things, and whatever happened to Pete Frates’ Ice Bucket Challenge – you know, something simple for the good of the cause?

·       If you don’t know what those other ‘challenges’ are, there’s always Google.  They’re too stupid to repeat here, for fear some of the stupid might rub off.

·       How about a “Parents Should Get Control of Their Kids and Knock Some Common Sense Into Them” Challenge?

·       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 We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, ...

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