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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, February 22, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering what’s keeping the NBC 10 “Ice Desk” from melting...

• Didja watch the NBA All-Star game, or any of the “All-Star” events? I didn’t. Having been in the NBA several years ago, I find it was very, very different then. First, there was an allegiance to the job…to the team…to the players you knew and worked with almost every day. Now? Not so much, probably because there is no real connection to team or town.  It's just a job.  And two – the game itself. 163-155? Was it actually superb offense, or a lack of defense being played? Was it actually exciting to watch, or did you find yourself feeling a little cheated at getting a glorified shoot-around for a game?

• I’m going to take a page from baseball…and say if you really want to put some life into the scrimmage, give the winner home court advantage in the NBA Finals. Bud Selig’s once-insipid idea has become part of his legacy, and has grown on me…

• I’m not knocking the players, really. I knock the game. The slam-dunk competition was dumb; although I’m sure they were trying something new to generate interest in it again. Here’s how you generate interest – put cash money on display, and let the guys dunk for that. Period. Put a million (or more!) dollars out on the floor with an armed guard and let the winner-take-all. I’d watch that for the sheer novelty of the storyline – athleticism and greed combine for super-human performance. Yeah, we’d all watch that…

• Finally…it’s not a true contest unless all of the great dunkers are involved. Otherwise, it’s just the “dunk champ minus LeBron & Blake.” We said that about Michael Jordan after he stopped taking part years ago…and history definitely has a way of repeating itself…

(peachtreehoops.com)

• Just a few days after LeBron James said he would go down as one of the four greatest players to ever play the game…Kobe Bryant offered up his basketball “Mount Rushmore” at the All-Star Game – Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell. Actually, I think Kobe got that one as close to right as you can possibly get…props to him for the old-school selection of Russell, too…

• But leaving out Oscar Robertson – the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season? Even LeBron finally settled on the “Big O” in his ultimate four. That’s tough…and that’s the beauty of the discussion…

• Do you think Creighton has Villanova’s number? Not only did the Big East newcomers beat the Wildcats twice this season…they spanked them, hard, both times. That’s two wins against a Top 10 team for the first time. That sets up some real intrigue once tournament time begins next month in NYC…

• Love the fact that Doug McDermott, when told he passed Larry Bird on the all-time college career scoring list, added "imagine if (Bird) had the 3-point line and he stayed four years. He would be way ahead of me. It's really cool just to be in that category with some of those guys."  Well played, Doug.  Well played...

Ryan Dempster (sbrforum.com)

• Lost in the surprise announcement last weekend by Ryan Dempster that he was stepping away from the game…the fact that he also stepped away from more than $13 million this season. In an era when it seems all that matters is the money, here’s a guy who said “no thanks” when it came down to deciding if he could put his game together for another paycheck. He just didn’t have the gas in his tank…and his decision is commendable. Too often we blast players for hanging on too long…here, we should applaud a decision to step aside, even if in reality, it might be a bit too early…

• It’s a little early to start the hate…but Mark Teixiera’s declaration that “we’re back to being the Yankees again” is a little presumptuous, and a typical, cocky Yankee way of stirring the pot before it even gets on the stove. Dude, win something first before pounding your chest, will ya? Already, I can’t wait for the first Sox-Yankee games of the season…

• Oh, and try to stay on the field yourself this year? Then, maybe your talents can try catching up with your mouth…

• Did you see Olympic skier Bode Miller’s interview with Christin Cooper of NBC after he had clinched a medal? Great that he won a career 6th medal, great that we learned about the adversity he’s faced along the way…even touching that we learned of his close relationship with his brother “Chilly,” who had since passed away. But did Cooper really need to press him on that, to the point of tears? Wanna bet that she had a producer screaming in her ear to “not let him off the hook,” so he could cry for a worldwide audience? Shameful, really…

• After asking Miller “what’s going through your mind,” which is really a terrible question anyway…Cooper should simply have stopped. Miller was clearly breaking down…and Cooper (or her producer) sensed it, she pressed him and asked an entirely unnecessary question. Was it for showbiz? For the shock factor? For the news value of actual tears flowing? Of course. To his credit, Miller took to Twitter to absolve Cooper of her transgression, but most of a worldwide audience thought otherwise…

• This is the gray, netherworld that television journalism often gets into…that world of “need to know” vs. “need for show.” I’ve long called it “infotainment,” where information and entertainment are combined and the consumer can’t tell where one starts and the other stops. The thing is, we’re all talking about it. So what if someone has to endure a little personal pain. The TV gurus were smiling all the way…

T.J. Oshie had hockey fans smiling last weekend, for certain. In the USA’s historic win over Russia – the first victory over Russia on foreign ice – Oshie became a semi-household name with his shootout performance. Because international rules allow anyone to step up after the 1st three attempts, USA coach Dan Bylsma kept dialing Oshie’s number…which was exactly why he made the roster in the first place. Because he can shoot the puck. Oshie is normally a St. Louis Blue (did you even know that before?), now he’s an American hockey hero with his four shootout scores in the victory…

• As an aside to the US win…hockey fans in Russia are stunned, to say the least, after their team followed up the controversial loss with a defeat to Finland that eliminated them from the tournament. Vladimir Putin himself suggested the disallowed goal against the US (the net was dislodged as a potential go-ahead goal was scored) should have counted, and state-run Russian TV suggested the disallowed goal was part of the multi-million dollar deal with NBC for broadcast rights. Whoa. Tales about how the 1980 Olympic upset in Lake Placid was a fabrication have emerged, with the Soviet Union taking a dive in the hope that then-President Jimmy Carter would rescind the Moscow Olympics boycott. Have some cheese with that whine…or vodka, comrade…

1980 Lake Placid (gfor3.com)

• It seems the US going into Russia to win was unthinkable for the home fans, even if an entire generation of them never really saw the dominance of the old Red Army teams. But they know of it. And now, Russia is without an Olympic gold medal since 1992, when they were still playing with other Soviet Republics known as the Unified Team. The 1988 gold was the last for the Big Red Machine, ending a dominant run of six gold medals in seven Olympics…with only the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” standing in the way of world domination. Which is what the Soviets nearly had…and apparently what the Russians still crave…at least on the ice…

• One more thought here. Yes, the break-up of the Soviet Union was a big reason behind the break-up of the former hockey power known as The Big Red Machine. But I would also add that the “professionalization” of the Olympic Games is also a big reason why the Russians themselves no longer dominate. Even if Russian players were not in the NHL, the simple fact that pros are now allowed to compete for their respective countries would certainly have leveled the ice rink, so to speak. We’ll never see an upset again like what happened in 1980, even if the Soviets took a dive…

• Were you one of the million-plus who streamed USA-Canada hockey, men and/or the women on your phone, tablet or computer? You’ll need to thank a former Friar for the ability to do so…Rick Cordella, who played for Providence during the Elite Eight season of 1997 under Pete Gillen as a walk on, is now the Senior Vice President & General Manager for Digital Media, NBC Sports Group…

• Gender equity, or gender stupidity? Jennifer Welter made history, it seems, this week by becoming the first woman running back to play in a male football game…for the indoor Texas Revolution. But against the North Texas Crunch, she got, uh…crunched. Ow

CBS’ NFL Today announced a shakeup in their on-air line up this week…Tony Gonzalez is IN, Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe are OUT. That Gonzalez joins the group, which will keep James Brown, Boomer Esiason and Bill Cowher, isn’t good news for the Patriots. There was some talk about keeping him from retiring for another run at a ring. After 10 years, Sharpe is no big loss, and he’ll probably end up on NFL Network with his brother Sterling is some shape or form, which will be another reason NOT to watch. Marino was on the CBS set for 12 years…and his leaving is a bit of a surprise…but sometimes, a shakeup is good. The NFL Today ratings have lagged behind Fox NFL Sunday

• This getting older thing blows. Saw this week that guitarist Bob Casale, who was perhaps best known for the 1980 hit song “Whip It” from Devo, died of heart failure at age 61. Devo lost drummer Alan Myers last year with brain cancer. I’m feeling the need to go wrap myself in a cocoon…

Not for nuthin’…but we can still knock the puck about around these parts, huh? Seven – count ‘em, SEVEN – Hockey East teams were ranked in the USCHO Top 20 poll this week…Providence is still very much in the picture, slipping a bit this week to 12th, after having been ranked in the Top 10 most of the early season…

• The student newspaper at DePaul wrote a fairly critical editorial this week on the failure of the basketball program since entering the Big East Conference. Can’t say they’re wrong about much of anything. Bad arena, but they’re now on track for a new facility by 2016. No NCAA’s for more than a decade. Hot coaches suddenly cooling off. Players suspended, and not living up to expectations. Just shows you, no matter how bad you have it, someone else always has it worse…

(syracuse.com)

• You could feel the upset happening once it got to overtime…not the Friars and Villanova, but Boston College at Syracuse. The Eagles’ basketball team attended the funeral for Dick Kelley before heading to New York, and then proceeded to bump off the nation’s #1 team from the ranks of the unbeaten. Who saw that coming? DK, I think, clearly had a hand in it…

Tweet of the Week I – from @ESPNStatsInfo: Boston College entered the game with a .240 win pct…the worst EVER by team to defeat AP No.1 team in February or later…”

• Oh, and Syracuse’s throwback uniforms that night? Hideous. Throw ‘em back…

• The key call in the overtime of BC-SU was a pass from SU’s Tyler Ennis that sailed out of bounds, but was ruled tipped by BC’s Lonnie Jackson. Syracuse kept the ball…even though the replays showed there was no tip. The lead official on the call? Ed Corbett – who was in Providence 24 hours earlier for PC-Villanova

• And that’s really the only complaint I have as far as officiating goes. Calls are made, calls are missed…and yes, there were plenty of the missed variety that night. The officials simply call too many games over the course of a week to be “perfect,” as we all expect them to be. Blame the schedulers, blame the officials’ supervisors. But the Friars? The really have only themselves to blame, with a lack of execution down the stretch and some defensive mismatches that the Wildcats exploited…

• With four games left on the schedule after Villanova, there’s still an opportunity to play your way into the post-season…and that also includes winning in New York. And even though it seems like Bryce Cotton can’t get a call when he needs one…I’m still left with the impression that his game is catching on around the country – especially with exploits like he had against the Wildcats. That reverse lay-up on the baseline late in the game? Performances like that have a tendency to stick in the minds of selection committee members when it comes down to “who stays, and who goes…”

• In spite of the seven turnovers against Villanova, Josh Fortune is developing. His shot, his defense, his intensity, his aggression and his decision-making. The latter still has a long way to go…but there are benefits to having to play most of the game. There’s nowhere else to go but up…

• Speaking of developing…I’m all for social media, I certainly understand its use; I get Twitter for media purposes…all of the above. But I wonder…are we permanently doing damage to our ability to communicate? Rick Pitino thinks so, especially among his players…and his comments this week are striking. Perhaps Twitter and Facebook classes should now become part of schooling…like English? Just sayin’

• Did you see the story this week where Oklahoma self-reported a violation for too much pasta-eating? Yup. Three football players allegedly ate more food than they should have at a graduation ceremony last spring, and in order to restore their eligibility, they paid $5 to a charity of their choice. Now, never mind the fact that the NCAA says this wasn’t a rules violation. But what bothers me is that at a place like OU…a lousy fin was all those guys could afford?

Marshon Brooks (fancloud.com)

• Former Friar Marshon Brooks is learning all about life as a pro. From New Jersey/Brooklyn, to Boston, to Golden State, and now to Los Angeles…all in a span of seven months. Brooks was traded to the Lakers this week, along with Kent Bazemore, for Steve Blake

• Two items of note this week in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga…one, that Incognito took to Twitter to “apologize” to Martin. Too little too late? He did it to try and salvage his football career…because I can’t imagine anyone tackling this PR nightmare by taking him on. And two, Miami offensive line coach Jim Turner and trainer Kevin O’Neill were fired. Neither had any reported instances of harassing Martin, but in Ted Wells’ investigation report, Turner did take part in harassing “Player A,” later identified as former rookie lineman Andrew McDonald…and O’Neill allegedly laughed at racial insults targeted at one of his assistant trainers, who was born in Japan. Really?

• Ok, let me get this straight. The typical NFL locker room apparently has a difficult time accepting a gay player within its confines, but they seem to have little to no problem with accepting a “knockout” artist like Baltimore’s Ray Rice…who allegedly slapped his fiancé unconscious at a casino last week, and was captured on surveillance video dragging her out of an elevator? Yeah, yeah, spare me the “we don’t know all of the facts” whine. Rice is in a bad position here, and not just because he plays running back for the Ravens…

• Here’s something you really don’t see every day. Tie goes to the runner, correct? Tied after nine innings means extra innings, yes? Tied at the end of regulation in football, basketball and hockey goes to overtime right? Well apparently, not always. In the case of Winston-Salem State and Johnson C. Smith in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Division II) this week, a tie at the end of their regulation hoop game was called – a tie. The reason? A Smith player threw a baseball pass down the floor in an effort to break a 76-all tie at the end of regulation, but the ball hit a light above the floor, causing it to dangle from the ceiling. The schools agreed that playing on was too dangerous with the light hanging over their heads, and decided to call it night. And a draw. Which usually only happens in soccer.   I just love when you can mix sports metaphors all into one particular story…

• My buddy Statbeast sez he hates ties. Tried to get into a restaurant without one but was told it was required…so he went to his car and tied a set of jumper cables around his neck, hoping they would suffice. The maître‘d, somewhat skeptically, told him “ok, you can go in, but don’t start anything…”

• From the mailbag this week – Steve from Cranston, RI via Facebook, on a popular subject lately - officiating: “Whoever is in charge of Big East officiating, I hope he has a process to review and critique each official's performance game-by-game for the entire season. I just don't know if there is a way for them to get rid of officials who grade out poorly and replace them with others who will be better.” Steve: John Cahill is the Big East supervisor of officials, having retired from the floor after last season. There is a review process in place, though not necessarily game-by-game, unless coaches request such a review. Cahill also meets with Big East coaches 2-3 times during the season to go over likes, dislikes, questions and complaints. And he takes countless calls after games, too. The problem here is…who do you replace the poor officials with? If you want new blood – and I think we can agree it’s needed – it takes time to train the newbies and bring them along. Otherwise, you’re stuck with what you see. My problem, as stated earlier, is over the work schedule many get…they can’t possibly be at their best, at their age, working back-to-back nights in games that are hundreds (thousands?) of miles apart. I mean, even the 20-year-old athletes struggle playing two games in three nights. What should we expect out of a 30, 40 or 50+ year-old ref going back-to-back? Not much…

• 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) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .

 

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