Thinking out loud: What to make of Providence Friars?

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Thinking out loud…while wondering about the best of the best…

·       At some point, losing is accepted.

·       It’s accepted because you realize…you’re just not good enough.  Or, it’s accepted, and it drives you further to turn it around. 

·       Which is it for Providence’s Friars right now?  It’s a fair question, and one that doesn’t yet appear to have an answer.

·       Three straight tough losses, two in the final SECOND of each game…and simply getting out-toughed in the last one at Marquette. 

·       We could be talking about a team in 2nd place in the Big East, behind Covid-riddled Villanova…and a national ranking.  Instead, we’re talking about underachieving and not being good enough.

·       Look, there’s a ton of time remaining in this season – provided health protocols allow the team to keep playing.  Postponing the Georgetown game Saturday puts PC back on the road AT #8 Creighton AND #3 Villanova riding a 3-game losing streak.  That’s about as tough as it gets.

·       But other injuries are setting in – physical, as well as the mental.  These Friars aren’t as experienced as we imagined…and David Duke and Nate Watson can’t do it by themselves.

·       They need help.  Are there Big East players – and a Big East toughness – on the current roster outside of those two? 

·       It’s time to find out. 

·       And it sez here, it’s starts on the defensive end.  Forget raining threes…outside of Duke, defense does not come easily for anyone.  And it’s how you win in this league.  Ed Cooley knows that.

·       Villanova is still ranked #3 nationally, and the Wildcats will go almost four weeks between games because of Covid issues in their program.  Apparently, Jay Wright sent his players home for the holidays – and this was an unfortunate byproduct of his magnanimity.

·       Go ahead, look it up.

·       As it presently stands, Nova will next play at Seton Hall Tuesday, and against PC next Saturday.  Maybe.

·       And while the Cats have cooled, UConn is drinking the hot sauce.  No, really, some Husky fans have taken to downing hot sauce ‘shots’ for doubting their team could bounce back competitively in the Big East.

·       Not for nuthin’, but that’s a lot of Frank’s Red Hot going down the gullet right now.   Credit to Dan Hurley for the Huskies’ toughness, especially on the defensive end.

·       TWITBE 7.2 this week – Xavier’s Zach Freemantle, Creighton’s Greg McDermott, The Rebound’s Rob Dauster on deck…and a Blast from UConn’s past…with Kevin McNamara on Westwood One Radio, Sirius XM, Apple, Google and iHeart podcasts – plus bigeast.com.

·       PC’s women’s hoop team was put on a Covid pause this week…the first time for this issue to hit the Friars’ campus in-season.  Dangerous days are looming, with the student body due back for classes beginning Jan. 25th

·       It is easy to wonder why we’re playing any sports right now.  Then you realize, it’s because we need them.  The athletes, the teams, the schools, the day-of-game employees, and wage earners.  And the fans, too.

·       Or would you rather go back to last April with NO sports to play or watch?  Didn’t think so.  Life moves on.  It always does.

·       Speaking of which, and sorry for the Proud Dad interruption…but I had a blast working on the radio with my son, Austin, this week for PC-Marquette as he filled in for Sonar Hassett.  There aren’t many moments like this in the broadcast biz, and I recognize how oh-so-lucky I am.

·       The Rookie is beginning his 2nd season as broadcast voice of the AHL Providence Bruins, of which I’m enormously proud, of course.  Asked him during our postgame show if I could sit in on a hockey broadcast with him, and he politely turned me down.  Wait, wut?

·       It appears URI caught a little bit of the problem facing the Friars of late – clutch-itis.  As in, they ain’t got any.  Tough OT loss at UMass this week after a big comeback stalled with too many turnovers – where have you heard this before? – becoming an issue.

·       The Atlantic-10 announced an extension of its TV deal with NBC this week, including linear and streaming coverage of at least 35 games…plus eight games in the A-10 postseason tournament…

·       …which will not be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  Instead, the tournament will move to one of the leagues’ campus sites for this year.

·       Bryant plays two on the road in Pennsylvania against Saint Francis – getting a win Thursday to reach 10 wins on the year.  The Bulldogs have started 6-1 in the NEC, their 2nd best start ever…and found themselves ranked in the mid-major Top 25 this week.

·       The Bulldogs also have a Northeast Conference Player of the Week in Quinnipiac and Rutgers transfer Peter “With A” Kiss, as he scored a triple double last week, and followed up with a 27-point game the next night against Central Connecticut.

·       The Celtics really are “Eight Men Out,” thanks to this week’s latest Covid crush.

·       Jayson Tatum’s positive test started the boulder rolling downhill, so to speak, after he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.  But this season, there’s no bubble inside to protect anyone from the outside.

·       The NBA without a bubble this season is a true WIP – Work in Progress.  Players are tested daily, different protocols are being established…but it comes down to one thing, primarily.  Personal responsibility.

·       And forget those pregame or postgame player meet-and-greets.  Never liked those anyway.  Too friendly.

·       Divas mostly run that league these days (Kyrie, hello!).  When did the NBA become one, big Keeping Up with the Kardashians production?

·       College football finished the season without a bubble – probably at the right time, too.  TV revenue will help save the day for many schools and programs. 

·       It was a struggle, but gotta hand it to the teams who stayed healthy through much of the fall.  The discipline (and expense) required was above-and-beyond simple football training and practice.

·       Alabama and Ohio State – seems like we’ve been there, done that.  And rooting for one over the other is kinda like pulling for the old Soviet Union over China.

·       But Alabama was as dominant as any college football team has been in recent memory.  Any chance Nick Saban gets bored and decides to try the pros again?  Urban Meyer is thinking it over, so…

·       The financial windfall wasn’t what was hoped for, thanks to game cancellations, limited crowds and hospitality.  Normally, the CFP (College Football Playoff) distributes around $500 million to football schools, large and small.  Expecting about a 15% drop this year, which is a victory in itself.

·       Think sports radio goes nuts on occasion?  What about President Trump awarding BB the Medal of Freedom?  That was like throwing gasoline on a bonfire.

·       The story could not have played out any better than it did, however, and Belichick could not have balanced on that tight rope any better than he did.  With dignity.  Grace.  Team over self.  Patriotism for his country, and his locker room.

·       In effect, thanks, but no thanks.  Better than any decision to ever go for it on 4th and two.  And this time, the call worked out.

·       It’s a shame we insist on mixing sports with politics, and vice versa.  It’s a shame we mix LIFE with politics.  But we do.  Sports and politics are simply intertwined due to their ultra-competitive nature.  There is always a winner, and always a loser. 

·       And often, as we know, it gets ugly along the way…because ‘just win, baby.’

·       Allen Robinson would look fabulous as a free agent WR in New England next year, wouldn’t he?  Trouble is, how will he know (or how will anyone else know) who’s throwing him the ball?

·       He doesn’t know.  No one does.  Which is why the QB conundrum bats lead-off in the off-season.

·       The Patriots also need to figure out a way to keep at least three FA’s of their own: David Andrews, Lawrence Guy, James White.  No brainers, amiright?

·       But should they move on from others?  Tough decisions are coming (Matthew Slater, Joe Thuney, Jason McCourty, Adam Butler, Damiere Byrd among the FA’s-to-be) and when you’re 7-9, you can’t bring everyone back. 

·       A clean Slate might be required.

·       Two Patriots were elected to College Football’s Hall of Fame, Class of 2021 this week – Pro Football HOFer Andre Tippett and 1982 top draft pick Kenneth Sims.

·       Tip is a Patriot, through and through…even to this day as the team’s Executive Director of Community Affairs.  Watch the clips – he was dominant as a collegian at Iowa.  So was Ken Sims – who was dynamic at Texas (Lombardi Award winner, two-time 1st team all-American) while I was a student covering his exploits.

·       Rookestradamus went 5-1 for the NFL Wild Card round of the playoffs and left me a voicemail.  “Call me now for your free reading!”

·       Did you catch any of the Nickelodeon broadcast of the Saints and Bears?  The NFL’s attempt to appeal to a younger demographic – kids.  And maybe adults who act like kids.   

·       Got a chuckle from the animated endzone theatrics and seeing SpongeBob in the kicking net between the goal posts.  The production value was strong – but it would be hard to watch more than one game like that.

·       Still, it was the network’s most-watched program in four years.

·       I did like seeing New Orleans’ Sean Peyton get slimed.  Not enough Patrick or Squidward for my taste, though.  Love those guys.

·       Get ready – for more TV ads to talk about.  The NFL is allowing the TV networks to create and sell an additional two minutes (up to four 30-second spots) for games leading up to the championship.  But not in the Super Bowl.

·       The spot rate for SB LV is $5.5 millionIt’s $1-2 million per spot for playoffs and conference championships.  Demand is high, and the networks will cash in, of course.

·       Anyone surprised that Mike Milbury is out at NBC?  His inane comment about player focus in the NHL bubble because there were “not even any women here to disrupt your concentration” last spring did the trick.  The network says there were several factors in his not returning.

·       But that was certainly one of them.  Jeremy Roenick was dumped in February, you might recall, for making suggestive comments on coworkers to a podcast.  Eyes and ears are everywhere these days if you weren’t aware.

·       Thought it was cool the Bruins announced they’ll retire Willie O’Ree’s #22 to the TD Garden rafters.  O’Ree reached the Hockey Hall of Fame as a ‘builder’ in 2018.  Blind in one eye, he was the first black player to compete in the NHL in 1958.

·       Great that the NHL dropped the puck on the season this week.  Not so great that NHL teams already stand to lose $1 billion in revenue.  But they’re playing on, and that’s noteworthy…because hockey could save a lot of money if they simply shut their doors.

·       The revenue shortfall totals thanks to the pandemic?  NHL = $1 billion.  NFL = $4 billion.  NBA = $3 billion.  MLB = $3 billion.  MLS = $1 billion.

·       As we mentioned earlier, helmet sponsors in the NHL will pick up a little of that monetary slack this season. 25 of 31 teams now have them.  The Bruins?  TD Bank…makes sense and cents.

·       Some good news in the biz – former ProJo and Athletic scribe Joe McDonald is joining the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to cover the Bruins and Worcester Red Sox.  A newspaper guy doing, um, newspapers?  Shocking.

·       The American Hockey League announced a new VP of Hockey Operations, former Brown Bear Hayley Moore.  She’ll oversee on-ice operations, including officials’ supervision and league discipline.  Moore was a two-time all-Ivy skater at Brown and moves from her role as President of the NWHL’s Boston Pride.

·       Did you see where the PGA of America has pulled out from playing Donald Trump golf courses?  The 2022 PGA Championship scheduled for Trump National in New Jersey is goneski, and the British R&A also said they won’t include Trump-owned Turnberry in Scotland for future planning.

·       That’s gonna leave him with available tee times to play those courses, perhaps.

·       I recall Dave Gavitt once telling me Dee Rowe was one of his favorite people, and he hated playing against his teams.  Rowe is considered the godfather of UConn basketball, and he passed away this week at age 91.

·       Why did Gavitt appreciate Rowe so much?  Because, he told me, Rowe cared about what happened to other people, and other competitors.  He held genuine interest in what they accomplished, a rarity in the dog-eat-dog world of competitive athletics.

·       Rowe was a mentor and coach for so many in New England basketball circles outside of Connecticut, too, starting at Worcester Academy.  Then, from the Yankee Conference days into the founding of the Big East and beyond, Rowe managed to orchestrate two great moves that helped make the Big East truly big, and put Connecticut on the sports map – by pulling Jim Calhoun away from Northeastern and luring Geno Auriemma from Virginia to Storrs, CT.

·       Having broadcast for a team in the Dodgers’ organization eons ago (in San Antonio, early-to-mid ‘80’s), Tommy Lasorda was big time then, but he never big timed any of us.  The SA Dodgers of the Double A Texas League at the time were always aware – as I recall – that Lasorda would bust their chops as he poured over their game reports, calling with numerous questions.

·       Lasorda WAS baseball to much of my generation, and others, no doubt.  His colorful language may have been gruff at times, but it usually included a decidedly comedic overtone no matter his critique.  His Italian heritage was a huge respect factor, his love of the game genuine.

·       And even though he could have been stand-offish, I don’t know anyone in the media who has a cross word to say about him.  He’d go out of his way to accommodate demands and requests.  That says something about him as a person…the kind of person baseball could use more of these days.

·       Two things about Tommy Lasorda I hadn’t recalled until this week – 1) that Sandy Koufax had replaced him as a pitcher on the Brooklyn Dodgers’ roster back in 1955…and 2) he was the oldest living Hall of Famer at age 93.  That honor is now bestowed upon 89-year-old Willie Mays.

·       For the life of me, and maybe for the life of someone else, too…I do not understand why some hospitals are throwing out coronavirus vaccines.  Is it politics?

·       Nope, it’s just stupid is as stupid does, Forrest.

·       If anything, hospitals wasting doses should be an offense punishable by severe fines.  Not giving them out to people who aren’t on some list?  That’s politics getting in the way, again.  Just sayin’.

·       My buddy “Big E” sez he got a text from Mrs. E this week on a cold, winter morning.  “Windows frozen, won’t open.”  So Big E texted her back.  “Poor a little lukewarm water over it and then gently tap edges with a hammer.”

·       Mrs. E texted back ten minutes later.  “Computer really messed up now.”

·       The National Sports Media Association, of which I am a voting member, announced its sports broadcasters and sports writers of the year in every state this week.  In Rhode Island, congrats to WLNE’s Nick Coit & WPRI’s Yianni Kourakis, who share the honor…and to the Journal’s Bill Koch.

·       In Massachusetts, WBZ’s Dan Roche, WHDH’s Joe Amorosino and the Globe’s Pete Abraham took the honors.

·       Elsewhere, it was fun to see (and congratulate) so many with ties to the area.  Former Pawsox announcers Dan Hoard (OH), Dave Jageler (DC) and Jeff Levering (WI) won in their respective states; ex-NESN host and one-time PC voice Eric Reid (32 years with the Miami Heat) won in Florida; ex-WLVI sports guy Michael Barkann won in Pennsylvania; one-time WHDH reporter and Big East TV voice Dave Sims won in Washington, where he is a Mariners’ broadcaster. 

·       Chicago White Sox voice and ESPN announcer Jason Benetti, a graduate of International League travels in Syracuse and a longtime acquaintance who manages his disability with incredible grace and class (he has cerebral palsy), won in Illinois.  He’s an inspiration to many.

·       Seven were elected into the NSMA Hall of Fame: Jim Nantz (CBS), Dick Stockton (Fox, CBS), Rick Telander (Chicago Sun Times, Sports Illustrated), William Rhoden (NY Times), Larry Merchant (Philadelphia Daily News, NY Post, HBO broadcaster) and the late Bill King (Bay Area broadcaster) and longtime Sports Illustrated and Newsday writer William Nack.

·       That’s some serious talent.  Taunton, MA native and one-time WJAR Channel 10 sportscaster Dave Goren serves as Executive Director of the NSMA.

·       National sports broadcaster of the year for 2020 – Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, recently retired from NBC as the Voice of the NHL.  Sportswriter of the year – Nicole Auerbach from The Athletic.  Also, serious talent.  We’re lucky to watch, listen to, and read them all.

·       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.