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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, February 15, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering why the good ones always seem to leave us too early…

Michael Sam’s story this week is a good one, absolutely. The co-defensive player of the year in the SEC? Fantastic that he feels comfortable enough in his skin to let us all know he’s gay in a still-homophobic world. But here’s what I don’t like – why do we care what anyone’s personal life entails? I know, I know…we just do. We put our athletes, especially the really good ones, up on this pedestal for all to worship, for all to scrutinize, for all to criticize. And when they fail to meet our higher-than-normal expectations, we tear them down. The NFL does this, too…or teams wouldn’t have asked him – repeatedly – about rumors of his sexual orientation, even if that orientation matters not one bit in blocking, tackling or sacking a QB. So, Sam felt compelled to “come out” prior to the combine and the draft…

• You know, Sam played an entire season with the Missouri Tigers after already revealing his secret to his teammates…and they have certainly rallied around him. It’s a shame, however, that the NFL won’t do the same…and based on what we’ve seen happen to former Celtic player Jason Collins after he “came out” of the closet…I have serious doubts about Sam’s pro football future. You can make an argument that Collins’ basketball talent doesn’t equate with Sam’s apparent football abilities, and perhaps that’s true…but you’d also be naïve to assume Collins’ “outing” has nothing to do with his current employment status in the NBA. Hope I’m wrong, but…that’s the truly sad part of this story…

Michael Sam (bookwormroom.com)

• A modern-day Jackie Robinson? Perhaps. Don’t know that Sam will face quite the same hostilities as Robinson undoubtedly faced while trying to break down the color barrier in baseball and pro sports, but he’s likely to face some harsh moments within whatever locker room he resides (if he gets that far) or opposing stadium where he tries to ply his trade as a pass rusher. And the best guess here…is that some teams will certainly pass on having to burden themselves with this “story.” No, we have not progressed as a society, and until they show differently, neither has the NFL...

• What kind of player is he, really? The accolades, we’ve learned about. The numbers appear impressive. But not everyone feels like he’s a sure-thing as an NFL player…

• And a show of hands if you already think the best possible place for Michael Sam to land as a potential pro would be that circus-hatin,’ media’s always-waitin,’ coach is always gratin’ New England Patriots locker room…

• Interesting that Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow told WBZ Radio this week that the Sox locker room would be open to welcoming an openly gay player, at some point. “I can’t speak for the Red Sox clubhouse; I can speak for me. I view that as irrelevant to what we’re trying to do here. I don’t care what somebody’s preferences are…”

Tweet of the Week I – from @JonneyH860: “ESPN keep saying ppl might make a big deal about that gay football player…thing is they the only ones that care…”

Marcus Smart (draftexpress.com)

• And then there’s the Marcus Smart story this past week. The 19-year-old Oklahoma State basketball star shoved a fan in the stands in Lubbock, TX after a heated moment for the Cowboys against Texas Tech. The fan allegedly called Smart a racial slur. No, this cannot go unpunished. Smart received a three-game suspension from the school. Yes, he made a big mistake. Yes, the fan appears moronic for his actions toward a college kid. Yes, Smart did the right thing in his apology, specifically referencing the fan, Jeff Orr, by name. Someone needs to share the stupidity spotlight here…

• Orr, an air traffic controller from Waco, TX, says he did not use a racial epithet against Smart, and that he regretted calling him a “piece of crap.” Well then, that’s so much better

• Early indications are that the incident won’t damage Smart’s chances of going high in the NBA Draft this summer, if he chooses to leave school early. Now, I don’t know Marcus Smart personally. Maybe he’s really misunderstood. But isn’t something wrong here? Shouldn’t character issues come into play, at least a little bit? Shouldn’t the growing-up process include becoming responsible for your own actions? Part of the reason for the NBA’s popularity slide comes from the overall immaturity of its players – personally as well as professionally. “Kids” just don’t know how to act…

• And this wasn’t the first time for Smart to be, um, not so smart. A telling quote, in reaction to a previous chair-kicking incident he was involved in BEFORE shoving the fan at Texas Tech: "I know players are going to go out and take shots at me," he said. "Starting this game, I'm putting it in the back of my mind. If that's how it's going to be played, that's how it's going to be played. If they can do it to me, I can do it also. That's my mindset from here on out. Physically, there's going to be nothing easy." Someone should’ve seen this coming, huh? Stupid is as stupid does

• Sad, but true…when playing with a reduced bench, any team anywhere can be beaten down…and that’s what has happened with the Friars. Now, many times a six-or-seven player rotation can be a good thing – provided those players all pull their own weight. I’ve heard that argument a lot recently, since Dave Gavitt’s ’73 Final Four Friars had a reduced rotation hit the floor way back when. In this instance, however, there simply isn’t any one player, other than Bryce Cotton, who can be counted upon to “strap it on” every game…

• This isn’t calling anyone out in particular. But the current Friars were supposed to be “parts,” not “main cogs.” When they all manage to produce and defend decently, PC wins. When one (or more) of them plays selfishly, or unintelligently, they don’t. Teams gang up on Cotton, and while he still manages his moments, no one else is there to punish the opposition. There are certainly signs of individual improvement…Josh Fortune and Carson Desrosiers come to mind…which makes it doubly frustrating to see the current wheels spinning…

• If they can all get back on the same page, there is still time to do something special THIS season. Leadership will be required here, and not just from Ed Cooley. Cotton and Kadeem Batts are staring collegiate oblivion in the face. Time to shine, fellas…

• ‘Bout time. Cotton was added to the Naismith mid-season Top 30 Watch list this week, with the eventual winner named as the best collegiate basketball player in the country. Two other Big East players made the cut – Creighton’s Doug McDermott, of course…and James Bell from Villanova. Other notables on the list include UConn’s Shabazz Napier, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and UMass guard Chaz Williams

• What has happened to the officiating emphasis at the start of the season on calling more hand-checks and bumps in college basketball? What has happened to rewarding solid defensive play by calling blocks instead of charges? What has happened to the original thought of bringing back “movement” within the game, so it no longer grinds to a halt due to physical play? And I’m not just talking about the woeful inconsistencies within the beloved Big East we’ve seen…

• Cooley got in on the officiating critiques as well, in the aftermath of the Georgetown beat down. He told Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal “whatever the new rules or points of emphasis was, and I put that in bold print ‘was,’ hmm. It’s back to the Big East…”

• Alabama’s Anthony Grant mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the block/charge call has been very inconsistent throughout college basketball, even though scoring overall is up. Grant said to the Birmingham Tip-Off Club “…when you deal with different crews, some guys obviously have a way that they officiate games that are different than others. All we want is the consistency." Amen to that

• The supposed new emphasis on hand-checking, however, is an absolute joke. It is non-existent right now, after every bump seemed to be whistled earlier in the season. Officials don’t know what to call, and what NOT to call. The Friars’ Desrosiers had his nose busted open against Georgetown last week and nothing – nothing – was called. It was embarrassing that the officiating crew needed to go to a monitor to see if a flagrant foul had occurred, even as a time-out was called in order to wipe Carson’s blood from the floor. This needs to be revisited by the Big East, and by the rest of basketball’s poo-bahs. Either call it, or don’t. But be consistent…

• NCAA director of officials John Adams has apparently sent out memos, and been very direct with officials with the need to continue to stick to the new rules during a conference call with conference supervisors earlier this month. Did Big East officials not get those memos? I suppose now you need to physically assault someone to be whistled for a foul? 

• Depending on which side of the argument you take, there are numbers that say the new rules – emphasizing hand-checking and a change to the charge/block rule – have worked, since scoring is up. But they’ve also failed in another way, since fouls and free throws are also up, making the games sometimes longer and harder to watch. So, which is it going to be?

• Five teams from the former Big East – the American Athletic Conference – are ranked in the men’s Top 25 basketball poll this week. And as we mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, three “old Big East” teams are leading their respective conferences as we hit the post-season stretch (Cincinnati – American, Syracuse – ACC, Villanova – Big East), so by my count…that would make a potential nine nationally-ranked teams right now, if the league had stayed together. Although Creighton wouldn’t be around, yet. No wonder the ACC felt threatened. They were…

• Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m not terribly concerned over the direction of the URI Rams right now, even though the losing streak hit four games with a loss at Dayton this week. Three words – no point guard. No Biggie Minnis, no Mike Powell, no true floor general. Before jumping off the bridge on the Rams’ future, let’s see what they can do with their potholes properly filled. Not having Jordan Hare hurt this team, too…

• Did you see Bryant get included this week in a few of the “bracketology” predictions that are out there for the NCAA Tournament? The Bulldogs can beat anybody not named Robert Morris, it seems…so perhaps one of their NEC brethren can help ‘em out come conference tourney time?

• Ok, so Twitter and Facebook rules are pretty tight when it comes to what coaches can – and cannot – do when recruiting athletes. So what are we to make of the NCAA’s decision to allow “Snapchat” contact, beginning August 1st? Hundreds…maybe thousands…of female students probably just found themselves some solid part-time employment next summer and fall…

• Having once worked for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, I normally love the Olympics. Love watching them, love the competition, love the national pride displayed, love reading the stories and getting to know what makes many of the athletes do what they do so well. So why am I disinterested in Sochi?

• Except for the rather extraordinary streak Bob Costas had, snapped due to swollen, infected eyes. Until last Tuesday night when he was replaced by Matt Lauer, Costas had anchored every primetime Olympic broadcast since February 22, 1988…157 consecutive shows over 20+ years. And still, not a gray hair on his head, or hardly a wrinkle on his face. Maybe it’s the Maybelline

• And maybe we need a few more stories like this one…about a Polish skier who won gold in the women’s 10K…on a broken foot. More than six miles on a broken foot? Whoa

• The one thing I actually did watch a bit of this week was the men’s slopestyle skiing…watching it long enough to see a Swedish skier almost lose his pants. Click…

• My buddy Statbeast sez he called Mrs. Statbeast the other day and she got all excited…because he told her she could win an Olympic medal…they have dusting in the Olympics now…

• For the second year in a row, the Yankees have a high profile player ready to retire. Now, it’s Derek Jeter’s turn to engage in a year-long “let me say goodbye the right way” tour of the American League and Major League Baseball…just like Mariano Rivera did last season. It’s hard for me to criticize Jeter in any way, shape or form…because he seems to have been the epitome of whatever it is the Yankee “brand” stands for. Winner? Sure. Gamer? Absolutely. Hall of Famer? Of course…

Not for nuthin’…but whatever happened to just hanging up your cleats and walking out the door? Does this mean we’re now going to have to tolerate an annual farewell tour every time someone has to retire?

Derek Jeter (myhero.com)

• 3300+ hits…20 seasons…captaincy…5x Silver Slugger…5x Gold Glover…the 4th and final member of the “Core Four” to leave the game over the past couple of seasons (Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite and Rivera). And his final regular season games (final games ever?) will come at Fenway next September. Funny how things work out this way…

• I’ve seen a couple of great stories, actually, on Grady Sizemore this week. Once considered to be “Derek Jeter-like” in terms of his overall abilities, he hasn’t played a game in more than two years…having seven surgical procedures over the past 53 months. Back, elbows, knees. Sports hernias, two of them. All of this coming after he had played 382 consecutive games before finally missing one with a sprained ankle. Do you recall he became the 10th player in American League history to hit 30+ HR’s and steal 30+ bases, while with Cleveland? The Red Sox feel he has gas left in the tank after two microfracture surgeries on his knees. He’s only been hitting in a cage for three months. Will we be expecting too much here? Of course we will…

• Oh yeah. The truck has been unpacked. Pitchers and catchers have arrived. Relief from the winter doldrums isn’t far away…is it?

Richie Incognito, it might be best if you take your name, literally…from here on out and just disappear, fella. ‘Cuz it don’t look too good for you right now. You say “don’t hate?” How about you learn “don’t be an ass.”  Just sayin'...

Dick Kelley (cosida.com)

• My friend, Dick Kelley, passed away this week from the ravages of a sinister disease known as ALS, or perhaps better known, as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Dick plied his trade so well for his alma mater, Boston College, for more than 20 years…always representing his school and its student-athletes in the best way possible…as a Sports Information Director. Having known Dick through work for those 20+ years, perhaps he touched me most because he took the time to know my kids, make them feel like they were a part of the BC family – during my time as their football voice – and went beyond the normal “do you have everything you need?” with me at all times. It was never about work first, it was always about “how are the boys? How’s your family?” That will stay with me for the rest of my days. Dick was just 48 years old, and I will miss his professionalism and knowledge, certainly. But most of all, I will miss his kindness. Dick was honored last year by the US Basketball Writers Association with its “Most Courageous” Award. I hope that now becomes the “Dick Kelley Award for Courage.” It would be most appropriate…

• From the mailbag this week – Vin from Johnston, RI via Facebook, on the PC-Georgetown game this past week: “What did you think of the officiating, John?” Vin: As often as it may seem that the officials stink up the joint, they weren’t the reason Providence lost to the Hoyas in DC. The problem as I see it is the lack of consistency in interpreting the rules. We were told physical play – the muggings you used to see in the Big East – would no longer be acceptable. Except that’s exactly the style of play that’s getting Georgetown and Marquette back into the mix in the league race right now. The Friars have been coached one way, and the officials are calling it another. Then, when they actually get physical, you have Batts, Henton, Desrosiers and Harris all in foul trouble. Bob Simon was very frustrated with this during our post-game interview with him after the game, and we appreciated his honesty. I do know that Ed Cooley has had several “chats” with BE supervisor of officials John Cahill on the subject as well…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including 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 and comments to jrooke@golocalprov.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

• Don’t forget to join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287(401) 737-1(401) 737-1287(401) 737-1287 or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .
 

 

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