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Thinking Out Loud: Disappointing seasons for Providence, URI hoops

01.27.17 at 1:22 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what Cammi Granato has been up to?

— Growing pains. Both in a program sense, as well as in an immediate sense, but that’s what the Providence Friars and URI Rams are both experiencing right about now. And no lie here, it’s disappointing.

— The Friars teased us during the non-conference schedule. The reality is, a strong defensive effort is needed every night out in the Big East, and St. John’s ripped them apart with a very talented freshman backcourt Wednesday night at the Dunk. 91 points? Ed Cooley’s teams have never allowed 91 points at home until Wednesday.

— I really like the long-term potential of freshman big man Kalif Young. He runs the floor as well as any post player we’ve seen in years – but his hands need a lot of work. It’s one thing to run the floor and get to the basket, but what good is it if you can’t catch the ball offered up by a guard?

— One other thing? Big fella, you’re here to rebound the ball. Go grab a few. And you need to work on your free throws. Shaquille O’Neal, you’re not.

— St. John’s ability to score off the dribble was off the charts Wednesday night. Either they have extraordinary, NBA-like ability to create their own offense, or PC’s defense was putrid. Take your pick, but they’d both be a little bit right.

— And the Johnnies’ head coach is one of the 50 best to have ever played the game – Hall of Famer and St. John’s alum Chris Mullin. Maybe he can coach a little bit?

— Marquette gets “Team of the Week” honors, just in time to face the Friars in Milwaukee Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles beat two Top 10 teams in a week – and have never lost at the Bradley Center (their home floor) to the Friars in 12 Big East seasons. Yikes.

— In their thriller over #1 Villanova last Tuesday, the students rushed the floor – which you might expect – after the unlikely comeback win. Just the second ever for a tradition-rich Marquette program over a No. 1 team – and my son Austin, a senior, led the rush like a seasoned pro. A proud papa moment, if there ever was one.

— Butler won another tough one on the road this week, beating Seton Hall Wednesday. Suddenly, the Bulldogs – who I thought might be over-rated this year – are tied for 1st place with Villanova at the league halfway point. Mea culpa.

— Why are they tied for first? With a deeper team than originally thought, they have two transfer guards getting big minutes and showing unexpected toughness on the floor. Plus, Portsmouth, Rhode Island senior Andrew Chrabascz is a smooth, steadying influence inside. Kudos to the Bulldogs.

— As for the URI Rams, our buddy Bill Koch of the Providence Journal put it rather succinctly this week – they were rancid. He was speaking in particular about the first half of the Rams’ loss Wednesday at Richmond, where Rhody shot just 25% and scored only 18 points.

— Good adjective, rancid. We don’t use that word often enough. It stinks. It smells. It’s rotten. Sadly, it’s also perfect in this case.

— But why are the Rams in this shape? Jarvis Garrett’s absence hasn’t helped. Point guards are the key to an offense’s ignition – just ask Creighton right now about that one. Defense can keep you in games, and Rhody has been lacking there, too.

— Big weekend for the 10-9 Brown Bears, with a rematch Friday against Yale, and onto Cornell and Columbia next weekend. At 1-2 in the Ivy League, the Bears are hoping for a Top 4 finish to earn a spot in the first-ever Ivy post-season tournament. Steven Spieth hit for a career high 33 points the first time against Yale, and has been Player of the Week four times.

— It has been a struggle for Bryant, at 7-15 overall and just 4-5 in the NEC heading into this weekend. But the Bulldogs will get some TV love in their next two, at home against conference leader Fairleigh Dickinson (on Fox College Sports and MSG) and on the road at Mount St. Mary’s (on ESPN3).

— The 19th annual National Prep School Invitational has been running this week, with teams playing through the weekend at Rhode Island College. The college stars of tomorrow, playing today? Sure seems like it – the tournament has produced more than 1700 Division I players, and another 78 ended up playing in the NBA.

— PC’s hockey Friars are becoming relevant again. Or at least, they’re ranked again. Back in the USCHO Top 25 rankings at #19 this week, the Friars have won three straight and are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games. Eight of those 11 have been against teams in the Top 12 of the poll, which should play well when it comes to NCAA selection time.

— Brent Musburger’s relatively sudden decision to retire from active sports broadcasting is a bit of a surprise, but I give him a ton of credit. The “old guard” of play-by-play guys are thinning out, and his staying power in an industry that doesn’t look kindly on age and experience is a credit to his talent. From his days on the “NFL Today” desk on CBS, to his becoming a signature voice of college football (“You are looking LIVE!), Brent’s voice will be missed by many. Including me.

— I always figured Musburger to be a bit pompous, yet when I met him for the first time he was as friendly as a “big-timer” could be. He has been a gentleman of the industry, and we need more of those in a cut-throat era – not less. If he truly is going out on his own terms – and he’s apparently going to start a sports handicapping business in Las Vegas – then you go, Brent.

— RIP, Mary Tyler Moore. Another piece of childhood and adolescence gone too soon, Moore will forever be the forever-cute Laura Petrie or the peppy, perky Mary Richards to a generation of TV viewers. As Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show (Oh, Rob!), she was a doting wife to a comedy writer. As Mary Richards, she was single, a news writer for a TV station, and showed women that more was possible for their lives.

— The end of the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show was “you’re going to make it after all.” Remember that? MTM definitely made it, after all. I always thought that the boyfriend in her show who dumped her in Minneapolis, all alone at age 30 (the premise behind the show), should have had his man card revoked.

— My buddy Bernie sez he had forgotten the dates of a number of friends and relatives’ birthdays and anniversaries, so he decided to compile a list of those dates on his computer, and have them highlighted when he turned it on. He went looking at a number of computer stores to find software that would do this task for him, but he had no luck finding a program. Finally, he found something that looked like it would work, but as he explained his need to the store clerk, the clerk asked him outright – “fella, have you tried a wife?”

— We’re so spoiled. Since 2001, 7 Super Bowl games (with 4 wins), 3 World Series titles, and throw in a Stanley Cup and an NBA trophy. It’s almost as if we can’t feel the joy anymore, after the Patriots won their 7th AFC Championship of the Bill Belichick-era.

— The fact that these trips to the Super Bowl have come over a period of 16 years has certainly bowled us over – pardon the pun, but I’m bored.

— Want another reason why most of America will be rooting for the Dirty Birds? Forget the fact that Atlanta has never won a Big One before. Mainstreamers will pull for the Falcons because many Patriot fans have become, gulp, entitled. Like winning has become a birthright, or something.

— Just like those who depend on government hand-outs for their existence, when they are very capable of “doing their job.” Any job. Ironic, much?

— There’s really nothing worse than two weeks off between meaningful football games. It’s the worst, but then again, when they moved it up a week a few years back everything was rushed, forced and even contrived more than it is now. We need buildup, we crave anticipation, we expect to have time to plan Super Bowl parties.

— Chris Hogan is just another example of why the Patriots are the real “America’s Team.” A cast-off from another organization, picked up by New England and developed into a meaningful professional, with a nice-sized chip on his shoulder. The formula works. Maybe others should try it some day?

— A truly amazing stat, brought up by Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe this week, proves that Bill Belichick is probably a better GM than most will give him credit for – right, Steve in Fall River? Of the 44 Patriots who played in the Super Bowl two years ago, only a little more than half (23) of them are still with the team. The roster changes over more than you think, and the team keeps winning. Why is that, Steve?

— This love/hate between Boston and Atlanta all of a sudden? Stupid is as stupid does. Drummed up, contrived talk-show fodder for the boring two weeks between the conference championships and the actual Super Bowl. Amiright, Dan Shaughnessy?

— But it works in both places, because talk shows often cater to the lowest common denominator – Hate. It’s why Hate works so well in so many places (like the political scene lately) because nothing brings people together like good, old fashioned “I’m better than you because you aren’t me, or you don’t think like I do.”

— Differences of opinion, shared objectively? Pish-posh. That never happens. My opinion is better than yours, and if you don’t agree with me, you suck. Period. I Hate You. Sound familiar?

— It’s the Dumbing Down of America. And we’re all role players.

— Which city is more racist? That’s been actual conversation this week, in both places. My argument is – racism exists, and it always will. Get over it. We’ve been trying to do that since the Civil War ended 150 years ago, give or take. Save the arguments for civics’ discussions – all I care about is if the Falcons can move the ball on the Patriots’ defense. Just sayin’.

— Familiarity breeds contempt? Maybe that explains the enmity between the regions. There’s no doubt, however, that if it weren’t for some very talented former Patriots now running the show in Atlanta (Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, even owner Arthur Blank went to Babson College) the Falcons wouldn’t be where they currently reside – in the NFC throne room.

— Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Atlanta. Oh, sorry for the “smoke” reference, as in Atlanta’s burning. Too soon?

— I know many are anticipating the big game with the hope of a Patriots’ victory, if only because Roger Goodell will be forced to award the trophy to Mr. Kraft, Bill Belichick and even Tom Brady. Who says he’ll actually be there? If he can figure out a way to weasel out of it, he will.

— Although, as John Tomase pointed out this week on WEEI.com, the Grand Poobah doesn’t really do the trophy-handing-over thing. An honorary captain technically handles the honor. But if I’m Mr. Kraft, or BB, or TB12 – I’m handling the entire bleep-show with dignity, class and grace.

— And refusing to accept the trophy unless the Poobah is somewhere in sight on that podium. “Nah, thanks, but we’re good.”

— Not for nuthin’, but Goodell certainly could have put the entire charade to sleep if he had simply had the cahones (go ahead, look it up) to face Foxboro at some point in the past year. But he avoids New England like a silly school-boy afraid to talk to a school-girl after class.

— At least one of those responsible for starting the Patriots’ Deflategate saga, the Colts’ Ryan Grigson, lost his job as GM in Indy this week. Karma is a cruel b*tch, ain’t it?

— Like the “Iceman” George Gervin once told me, as his Hall of Fame hoop career began to wind down: “What goes around, always comes around.” It sure does, Ice. It sure does.

— So, I see the vaunted, history-laden Boston Celtics broke down and sold out this week. They’ll wear a corporate logo on the front of their jerseys next year, and they’ll be the 3rd NBA team to take the money and run with it. What? They needed justification or confirmation from Sacramento and Philadelphia first, that it was okay to do this?

— I don’t know what’s worse – the actual logo on the shirt, or the fact they waited until it was “cool” to make such a move. Smh.

— And I don’t know about you – but the fact there will be a refrigerator company (ok, they rep other things too, like light bulbs) on the front of the traditional green-and-white will absolutely NOT entice me to go out and buy another fridge.

— Bob Ryan’s Boston Globe column on the BBWAA opening Hall voting to non-members this week probably didn’t make too many baseball-types happy. But he is 100% correct – how in the world is a guy like Vin Scully NOT able to vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame?

— Just because he’s not a “writer?” Preposterous. I would always argue that broadcasters, in their daily preparation for their jobs, take more time and care to actually study the teams and players they cover than anyone else. Just ask my own family about that one. I see more writers every day simply show up in a press box or on press row, glance at some notes, eat free food and proceed to ask stupid questions in the locker room afterward.

— She was born into hockey, and followed in her brother Tony’s footsteps onto the ice. You might even say that Cammi Granato is a part of hockey royalty, especially around these parts. Granato played at PC from 1989-93, and was three-times named the ECAC Player of the Year, finishing her career as the Friars’ all-time leading goal scorer. In the late ‘90’s, she was invited to try out for the New York Islanders of the NHL – which she eventually declined. Through Olympics and World Championship success, Granato was inducted as the first female into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. It’s hard to argue against her credentials as perhaps the best female hockey player of all-time. She has since moved onto coverage of men’s (including NHL games) and women’s hockey on TV and radio, and still runs hockey camps and works for charitable causes. Granato will be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony at the Dunkin Donuts Center on February 11th, joining the Friar Legends Forever Tradition, along with several other PC greats from the past. The banquet following the ceremony will take place at the Omni in Providence. Cal 401-865-2860 for ticket information.

— William from Stephentown, New York posted on Facebook this week: “Rooke, it seems your game plan caught the Steelers off guard; they won the toss and took the ball, moved down field and scored showing they were not scared to meet them head on. You have been supporting this game plan for a few years, at least.” William: Yes, I have. I understand the principle of “doubling up” at the end of a half and receiving the 2nd half kickoff, but my thoughts have always been like this – let’s take the ball and dictate emotion and tempo. Plus, if you’re always deferring, like always throwing a fastball when pitching, you’re gonna get slammed at some point. Try a curve ball at some point, and mix it up? It worked, this time.

— 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 john.rooke@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 …

— Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.

Kirk Minihane, Gerry Callahan disrobe the Nation’s Dave Zirin in combative interview

01.27.17 at 12:45 pm ET
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Unlike other writers who have found themselves in Kirk Minihane’s and Gerry Callahan’s crosshairs, the Nation’s Dave Zirin did come on Kirk & Callahan Friday to defend his piece: “Yes, Tom Brady’s friendship with Donald Trump matters.”

Seventeen minutes later, he was reduced to a stammering mess before hanging up the phone.

In his weekly interview with K&C Monday, Brady said he didn’t know why his relationship with the most disliked president ever is such a “big deal.” To Zirin, it sounded like Brady is removed from reality.

“I heard a little whine. I heard somebody who was exasperated. I heard somebody who literally does not understand why this is an issue,” he said. “It’s like a cognitive dissonance thing. I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Bird Cage, but there’s that scene where Gene Hackman finally sees that Nathan Lane is a guy when he takes the wig off, and instead of being upset he’s just sort of like, ‘I don’t understand! I don’t understand!’

“I think that’s why the thing about Tom Brady –– I think he’s very removed from the hundreds of thousands of people who were in the streets of Boston last week, from what people are saying about Donald Trump. He doesn’t quite get that this is not a normal president and these are not normal times. And this kind of friendship is going to be looked at very closely.”

In his piece, Zirin brings up Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, who raised their fists for racial justice during the national anthem prior to the season-opener. He presumes they have an objection to Brady’s relationship with Trump, even though he hasn’t spoken to either player.

“Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty have not said word one about Tom Brady or Donald Trump. You are presuming they have, and you’re presuming Tom Brady has never had a conversion with them about it,” Minihane said. “You’re looking at black people as an entire race and not focusing on individuals. Maybe Martellus Bennett doesn’t care that much. Maybe Devin McCourty doesn’t care if [Hillary] Clinton or Trump is president. Has that crossed your mind? You’re just assuming things about Tom Brady and his teammates with no facts.”

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Read More: Donald Trump, Kirk Minihane, Tom Brady,

Bill Belichick vacations during free agency, makes hardline contract offers from the beach

01.27.17 at 10:40 am ET
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Belichick_9-1-16Bill Belichick is an even tougher negotiator than you imagined.

In a feature story, the MMQB’s Robert Klemko speaks with seven NFL agents who have worked with Belichick over the last 15 years. In most contract negotiations, there’s usually a give-and-take –– at least to some degree. But with Belichick, there doesn’t appear to be much of an opportunity for discourse. Agents say he’ll will often punctuate his pitch with one simple question: “Does your guy want to win a Super Bowl, or doesn’t he?”

It’s difficult to offer much of a rebuttal to that.

This past season served as another validation for Belichick’s callous approach to roster management. Last spring, the Patriots traded away their leader in sacks, Chandler Jones, to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper, who was cut in October (the second-round selection eventually turned into wideout Malcolm Mitchell and guard Joe Thuney). After the Giants handed defensive end Olivier Vernon $52.5 million guaranteed in free agency last year, it became clear that Jones would likely demand a similar deal when he hits the open market in 2017. Belichick, who only pays the market rate for a select number of players, shipped Jones away. Seven months later, Belichick also jettisoned linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland, where he just inked a four-year, $50 million deal with $26 million guaranteed. And yet, despite losing two of the most talented players on their defense, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. Without Jones and Collins, they allowed the fewest number of points in the league.

Those results illustrate why Belichick owns all of the leverage in negotiations. As long as Tom Brady is under center, he knows he’s going to win. That’s probably why he inserts himself into contract talks with players at the last minute, offering less money than his director of player personnel, Nick Caserio. According to some agents, Belichick usually vacations during free agency, making his hardline offers from tropical hideaways.

Belichick, exercising his abundance of leverage, will often go on vacation in the heat of free agency and make his take-it-or-leave-it offers from faraway beaches while other coaches are flying around the country on private jets to court players,” Klemko writes. “When prospective players visit Foxborough, they express to their agents a sense of fear, but often leave feeling as if they have just met the lone coach who understands their true purpose on a football field.”

In addition to all of the winning, Brady’s penchant for taking less money is another reason why the Patriots are often able to sign players to below market contracts. According to Spotrac, his salary cap hit this season was $13.7 million –– 27th highest in the NFL.

Almost every veteran player on the Patriots probably could’ve signed for more money elsewhere. But when they arrive in Houston next week for Super Bowl 51, their decisions will be validated.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Georgia gas station bans sale of Sam Adams before Super Bowl; Tiger Woods struggles in PGA Tour return

01.27.17 at 9:09 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Orlando at Boston, 7:30 p.m. (CSN)
NBA: Houston at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College hockey: Northeastern at UMass Lowell, 6 p.m. (NESN)
College hockey: Bowling Green at Ferris State, 8:30 p.m. (NESN Plus)
College basketball:  Quinnipiac at Monmouth, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Dayton at VCU, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Green Bay at Oakland, 9 p.m. ESPNU
Women’s college basketball: DePaul at Creighton, 8 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

— A gas station in Georgia has banned the sale of Sam Adams beer leading up to the Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl matchup.

Viral Chhadua, a gas station manager in Gainesville, Georgia, said Monday he made the decision to stop selling the beer, which is made by Boston Beer Company, after reading a Boston Globe column written by Dan Shaughnessy.

In the column, which is titled “It’s hard to get pumped up about a Super Bowl against . . . Atlanta,” Shaughnessy called Atlanta a place with “absolutely zero enthusiasm for professional sports.”

“I was already pumped that we were in the Super Bowl and matched up against living legends in Bill [Belichick] and Tom [Brady],” Chhadua said. “Then this article pops up and belittles our sports teams and fan base. I was irritated at the shots this guy took at the fan base and Atlanta as a whole.”

Chhadua said he wants to show “America and Dan that Atlanta has a passionate fan base” and will stop selling Sam Adams until after the Super Bowl.

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Read More: Tiger Woods,

Why Donald Trump’s apparent obsession with athletes could be disastrous for U.S.

01.26.17 at 5:12 pm ET
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Donald Trump is obsessed with athletes. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Donald Trump is obsessed with athletes. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

President Donald Trump seems to be enamored with athletes.

He frequently campaigned with sports stars –– or in Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s cases, mentioned their support on the stump –– and even promised to present an “Athlete’s Night” at the Republican National Convention. Though many politicians pretend to be sports fans, Trump appears to be the real deal. This could carry disastrous consequences for our nation.

In a meeting with congressional leaders Monday, Trump repeated his debunked claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. On Twitter, Trump called for a “major investigation” into voter fraud.

Given that Trump has failed to present any supporting evidence that backs up his theory, there have been questions about how it originated in the first place. As it turns out, the genesis of this wild claim circles back to professional golfer Bernhard Langer, who’s apparently friendly with the President.

Three witnesses to the meeting told the New York Times Trump relayed a story about how Langer, a German-native and two-time Masters winner, wasn’t allowed to vote on Election Day. Trump said Langer told him there were many people surrounding him in line who didn’t look like they were eligible to vote. Then, the President reportedly started rattling off names of Latin American countries where he thinks the voters might have come from.

Langer’s version of the story is different. In a statement issued Thursday, he says the voter fraud account was told to him by a friend. He then relayed the tale to another friend, who told Trump. Langer isn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore is ineligible to vote.

It’s beyond troubling an unfounded anecdote, which may or may not have come from Langer, could spur a widespread investigation into voter fraud. But perhaps even more concerning is the fact that Langer’s connection to the anecdote seems to legitimize it for Trump. According to the Times, he prefaced his story by saying he heard it from “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer.”

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Read More: Donald Trump,

The Gary Tanguay Velfie power rankings

01.26.17 at 1:21 pm ET
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If you haven’t heard, the Gary Tanguay Velfie phenomenon is currently sweeping the country. Gary has velfied from his kitchen, living room, Guitar Center in Natick and Troy Brown’s driveway. He even velfies while he sleeps.  

  My Dream Velfie. @csnne #tanguaytakesamerica   A video posted by Gary Tanguay (@gntanguay) on

Do you put mustard on that dress?

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Desperate for ratings, Fox Sports 1 hosts are saying crazy things about the Patriots

01.26.17 at 12:39 pm ET
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Fox Sports 1 may not be able to catch ESPN in the ratings, but it can usurp the WorldWide Leader in one category: awful hot takes about the Patriots.

Granted, that’s a difficult task. ESPN is responsible for turning Deflategate into a national scandal, thanks to Chris Mortensen’s false report about 11 of 12 Patriots footballs being deflated by two pounds of air. But Fox Sports 1 hosts who are desperate for ratings and relevancy are giving the folks in Bristol, Conn. a run for their money.

On Wednesday, sportswriter Rob Parker was a guest on Skip Bayless’ Undisputed alongside Eric Mangini and Shannon Sharpe. Previously, Parker’s most asinine statement about the Patriots came on the WEEI airwaves, when he said Tom Brady should’ve been suspended eight games for his alleged role in the Deflategate saga. But that takes a backseat to his latest anti-Brady screed, which included a shot at Bostonians for their apparent ignorance about the Tea Party:

“Up in there in Boston, let’s just be honest: it’s a cult. People up there are drinking the Kool-Aid,” he said. “You can’t get people in Boston to even admit that Native Americans had nothing to do with the Boston Tea Party. They don’t want to hear it. Same thing with Tom Brady. They will not acknowledge, accept no matter what goes down with what the Patriots have done, with what Tom Brady has done. I think that Tom Brady, and I’ve said this before, should be on par with like a Derek Jeter, who is a guy who was a great champion, won, had a great career, no blemishes. Tom Brady’s not in that boat anymore. And I do believe at some point, some disgruntled employee is going to write a tell-all book down the road and we’ll find out … what went on behind the scenes, what Tom Brady knew — Spygate, Deflategate, all of that. And Tom Brady will end up being Lance Armstrong without the bicycle.”

Outside of a bewildered “what?” from Bayless after the Tea Party comment, Parker’s rant was uninterrupted. So let’s examine these claims one-by-one:

Bostonians don’t acknowledge that Native Americans were involved in Tea Party: This is accurate, because Native Americans weren’t involved in the Boston Tea Party. Some demonstrators disguised themselves as Native Americans to hide their identities and send a message to the British. Parker should read a history book, or at least check out Wikipedia.

Tom Brady will end up being Lance Armstrong without the bicycle: In addition to being the ringleader of the most successful doping program in cycling history, Armstrong buried at least dozens of former associates and opponents in his selfish quest to preserve his own reputation. The science says Brady didn’t even play with unusually deflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game. Unless Parker knows about scandals that haven’t come to light yet, this is a reach of incredible proportions.

Despite receiving a suffocating amount of promotion during Fox’s NFL telecasts, First Take owns a 4:1 viewership edge over Undisputed. Recently, a rerun of of M*A*SH* from 1973 drew 232,000 more viewers in the same day and time-slot than Bayless’ shout fest.

While those numbers are depressing, Colin Cowherd would kill for an audience like that. Last week, he said Brady was playing for his job in the AFC championship against Pittsburgh.

“If Pittsburgh wins this game and Brady is average, you’re darn right [Robert] Kraft and [Bill] Belichick are having that, ‘Let’s have lunch and talk,’” he said.

If these tirades don’t move the needle, perhaps an FS1 personality will light him or herself on fire in Houston next week. We’re almost at that point.

Read More: Colin Cowherd, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Rob Parker

Mayor Marty Walsh on Kirk & Callahan: Boston isn’t a racist city

01.26.17 at 9:48 am ET
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In recent weeks, several ESPN personalities have derided Boston as a racist city. In an appearance on Kirk & Callahan Thursday, Mayor Marty Walsh said the accusations trouble him.

“That stuff bothers me. When I read that, I get upset about it, because in the past we’ve had problems,” he said. “Obviously Bill Russell’s problems have been very well documented. Other folks’ have been very well documented. It’s another issue that we’re working on. I don’t like the label of having a racist city. I think it’s important for us to be a fully inclusive city.

“It’s not even about athletes coming to our city to play in the city. I think it’s about making sure that when people come to our city –– I know and I feel that Boston is a world class city. One of the best cities in the world. And to have people label us? Yeah, that bothers me. It should bother all of us.”

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH MAYOR MARTY WALSH

Read More: Marty Walsh,

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Louisville argues for leniency for Rick Pitino in stripper scandal; Dwayne Wade rips teammates after Bulls loss to Hawks

01.26.17 at 7:56 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Thursday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NHL: Pittsburgh at Boston, 7 p.m. (NESN)
NHL: St. Louis at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
NBA: Dallas at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: LA Lakers at Utah, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
Women’s college basketball: Nebraska at Purdue, 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Women’s college basketball: North Carolina at Miami, 7 p.m. (NESN Plus)
College basketball: Campbell at Radford, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Robert Morris at Mount St. Mary’s, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: North Carolina at Miami, 7 p.m. (NESN Plus)
College basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Nebraska at Northwestern, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
College basketball: Virginia Tech at North Carolina, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Oregon State at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Indiana at Michigan, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: UT Martin at Austin Peay, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Oregon at Utah, 10:30 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: BYU at Santa Clara, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)

AROUND THE WEB: 

— On Wednesday, Louisville released their response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations for the stripper scandal involving men’s basketball team staff member, Andre McGee. The school argues the team’s coach Rick Pitino should not be charged with a major violation of NCAA rules from the incident.

In October, the NCAA claimed the school had four major violations, one of which was Pitino’s failure to monitor McGee while he spent $5,400 over four years on strippers and escorts for players, recruits, AAU coaches, and others.

The NCAA ruled Pitino was “presumed responsible” for McGee’s behavior because he failed to “frequently spot-check the program to uncover potential or existing compliance problems” according to NCAA rules.

“The University believes Coach Pitino fostered a culture of NCAA compliance within the basketball program and exercised appropriate supervisory oversight of McGee,” read Louisville’s response. “McGee’s furtive conduct was not detectable by reasonable monitoring practices, as McGee purposefully intended to avoid detection.”

If it is ruled Pitino committed a major violation, he could face a multi-game suspension during the 2017-2018 season.

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Roger Goodell reminds Patriots fans he’ll never answer their questions

01.25.17 at 5:14 pm ET
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Roger Goodell will never answer Patriots fans' questions. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Roger Goodell will never answer Patriots fans’ questions. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Even though Roger Goodell says he’s available to the media “almost every day,” he seldom speaks with the press. That’s why there’s always so much anticipation leading up to his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference. Every year, we fool ourselves into thinking the commissioner will answer for his misdeeds. And then, after he spends his time deflecting questions of substance, we walk away disappointed. It’s impossible to trip him up.

In an interview with Colin Cowherd Wednesday, Goodell gave everybody a preview of what to expect in Houston. Cowherd brought up a number of pertinent topics, including Goodell’s two-year absence from Gillette Stadium and his feelings on handing the Super Bowl trophy to Tom Brady. But the commish danced around them with aplomb.

When Goodell was asked whether he’s comfortable with fans loathing him in New England, he circled back to his favorite four words: Integrity. Of. The. Game.

“Well, listen, the fans are going to feel what they want,” he said. “We have, obviously, 32 sets of fans, national fans that want to make sure we’re doing things that are upholding the integrity of the game at all times. We think this is a great opportunity to see the two best teams in football playing on Sunday in the Super Bowl. The Patriots have earned it. The Falcons have earned it. And we’re thrilled. We think this is one of the great mathcups and should be one of the great games.”

Over the last two years, Goodell has often cited his apparent quest to “uphold the integrity of the game” as his reasoning for besmirching Tom Brady’s reputation over slightly deflated footballs. The phrase will likely make an appearance during his remarks next week, and he’ll be able to get away with it, too. Ever since Rachel Nichols peppered Goodell three years ago about league’s butchering of the Ray Rice investigation, he’s shied away from taking follow up questions.

On Wednesday, Cowherd was allowed to ask follow ups. But it didn’t do him any good. With a straight face, Goodell told him the quality of Thursday Night Football is superior to other games. The man is a better liar than Kellyanne Conway.

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