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Thinking Out Loud: Still trying to figure out how Patriots won Super Bowl LI

02.10.17 at 2:19 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what happened to Tom Brady’s jersey.

— After several days of careful contemplation, I still find myself at a loss for words when it comes to finding a reasonable explanation for the Patriots’ comeback in Super Bowl LI. How about “One for the Ages?”

— Since an overtime game had never happened in 50 previous Super Bowls, since no team had ever come from more than 10 points down in a game like that – I’d say Sunday in Houston qualifies as one for the ages. You?

— Let’s see. I’ve been accused of being a homer for “my Patriots” this week, and also called out for being overly critical, based on my now-four decades’ worth of observations of the team and franchise, and having actually worked for the franchise longer than the Kraft’s have owned it. Hmm. Maybe it’s possible I’ve finally figured out how this is supposed to work?

— New York radio gadfly Chris “Mad Dog” Russo told Kirk & Callahan on WEEI last week that America is sick of the Patriots? Then America is sick. But we knew that already, amiright?

— James White’s performance Sunday was definitely MVP-worthy, and I certainly understand the sentiment for giving him the award. But one question – who threw him the 14 passes he caught in the game? Just sayin’.

— TB12 did give him the truck he won for taking the MVP trophy, ICYMI. So there is that. Not that either guy really needed it, but it’s the thought that counts.

— Thought it was appropriate that the Patriots’ Boston-centric parade ended with a rally at Providence’s Dunkin Donuts Center. Actually, kudos to the Governor for getting Rhody into the celebratory mix. All too often, some Massholes forget Roe Dyelanders love and support New England’s teams, too.

— I got the feeling, after reading and hearing about the local “celebrations” around campus at PC and URI, that both were cases of “monkeys see, monkeys do.” Everyone else acts a fool after winning championships, so why can’t we?

— I’m no expert in pop culture or music, but I thought Lady Gaga pretty much killed it at halftime. She is a bonafide entertainer, pure and simple, whether you like her music or not. She is this generations’ Madonna, for lack of a better equivalent.

— Guess the haters might be hating for a while longer. The Patriots have plenty of room under the salary cap to re-design or re-tool, if they need to do so. Sure, there are tough roster decisions to make. But New England has more than enough cap space to stay at the top – more than their fellow AFC East brethren have, combined.

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NBA is cracking down on Twitter feuds between teams

02.10.17 at 2:08 pm ET
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ESPNThe NBA, citing concerns about provoking exchanges between players that could damage the league’s reputation, issued a memo to all 30 franchises this week emphasizing rules prohibiting “mocking and/or ridiculing” opponents or officials by official team social media accounts.

The memo was issued in the wake of an exchange between Memphis Grizzlies small forward Chandler Parsons and Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum that started with the official Trail Blazers Twitter account posting a GIF of Parsons air-balling a 3-pointer during the Jan. 27 game between the teams.

Parsons, who received maximum-contract offers from Portland and Memphis before choosing to go to the Grizzlies in free agency last summer, replied after the game: “Good luck in the lottery show this year.”

McCollum quoted that tweet and added a snarky one-liner directed to Parsons, who has struggled while coming back from knee surgery this season: “We hit the lottery by not signing you.”

Parsons later laughed about the exchange and said an apology the next day from Blazers CEO and president Chris McGowan was not necessary, but the league office was clearly not amused.

Here is the memo:

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Another ‘Summer of Gronk’ is the last thing Rob Gronkowski needs

02.10.17 at 1:07 pm ET
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Gronkowski caught a career-low 25 catches this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski caught a career-low 25 passes this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It looks like another “Summer of Gronk” is on the way. But this one may not be as well-received as its previous renditions.

Despite only playing in eight games this season, Rob Gronkowski was the star of the Patriots’ championship festivities this week. He went psychotic during the parade Tuesday, guzzling down Bud Lights and taking off his shirt to party with fans in frigid temperatures. At night, he brought down the house at Foxwoods, and even managed to outlast Rick Ross.

It was an uneventful Super Bowl for Gronkowski, who was sidelined with a back injury. The all-time Patriots touchdown leader underwent another back operation in December, the third of his career. At 27 years old, Gronkowski has experienced at least nine surgeries since 2009.

Entering the playoffs sans Gronk is familiar ground for the Patriots. They’ve been forced to play with him in a limited capacity or without him entirely in five of the last seven years –– perhaps costing them multiple championships. But they were able to pull off a historic comeback Sunday, which could put a damper on Gronkowski’s plans for a five-month stretch of debauchery. For the first time in his career, he appears to be expendable.

Make no mistake: Gronkowski remains the best tight end in football. But he was close to a non-factor this season. Twenty-one of his 25 receptions came within a four-week stretch, and he only caught one pass in two contests without Tom Brady. After Gronkowski was placed on IR Dec. 3, the Patriots went 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 17.25 points. They played their best football when he wasn’t on the field.

Over the last couple of years, it seems as if Gronkowski has operated under a different set of rules than many of his teammates. After suffering a knee injury during the 2015 campaign, the Patriots filed a joint statement with Gronkowski’s family about his status. Hours later, Gronkowski published a video on Bleacher Report, in which he said he wouldn’t return until he’s 100 percent. Bill Belichick goes to great lengths to hide injury information, but with Gronkowski, the Patriots are an open book.

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Rick Ross says he threw up while partying with Rob Gronkowski

02.10.17 at 10:06 am ET
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Da Boss couldn’t hang with Gronk.

Hip-hop megastar Rick Ross partied with Rob Gronkowski following the Patriots’ parade Tuesday, tearing up Shrine Nightclub at Foxwoods. According to the Boston Globe, Gronk and his posse sprayed about 45 bottles of champagne into the crowd while Ross performed. It’s unclear whether that happened before or after Ross puked his guts out.

In an interview with Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Schulz on their podcast, “Brilliant Idiots,” Ricky Rozay said he vomited after mixing liquor with the Gronkowski brothers. But eventually, he picked himself back up.

“I threw up a couple more times and then when I stood back up I felt good as f—,” he said.

Ross has given the Patriots numerous shoutouts in his songs over the years, including his latest single, where he calls Tom Brady his “new neighbor.” With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Rick Ross and Gronk are spotted together again this offseason. They’re a perfect match.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: MLB to test starting runner at 2B in extra innings in minors; Bob Costas steps down from NBC Olympics coverage

02.10.17 at 9:41 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: Indiana at Washington. 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Chicago at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Tampa Bay at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Ohio at Ball State, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Akron at Eastern Michigan, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Dayton at URI, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Monmouth at Manhattan, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Women’s college basketball: Villanova at St. John’s, 8 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB: 

— Major League Baseball will test an extra innings rule change in the minor leagues to automatically begin the tenth inning, and every extra inning after, with a runner on second base. This test will determine whether MLB will implement the rule on the major league level.

This rule has been used in international baseball and will be incorporated into this spring’s World Baseball Classic.

“Let’s see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer. “As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time. It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

“What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves,” Torre continued. “I don’t know what inning is the right inning. Maybe the 11th or 12th inning. But there are a number of reasons.”

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Kevin Youkilis says he supports Patriots players who want to skip White House visit

02.09.17 at 4:19 pm ET
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Five Patriots players have announced they’re not going to visit the White House this year. Tom Brady’s brother-in-law, former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, supports their decision.

Youkilis, who’s married to Brady’s sister, Julie, tweeted this week he doesn’t understand why players get criticized for skipping the customary White House trip. He followed up on those thoughts Thursday, appearing to theorize that people are afraid to mix sports and politics.

It’s been a busy week for Youkilis, who was in attendance to watch the Patriots defeat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The three-time All-Star was included in the Brady family pre-Super Bowl photo, standing off to the right.

It takes a team. And so much love. #NeverStopBelieving

A photo posted by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

This isn’t the first time Youkilis has commented on politics over the last couple of months. In December, he chimed in on WEEI.com’s report about President Donald Trump considering ex-Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine for United States Ambassador to Japan. Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment during the disastrous 2012 season, saying he wasn’t as “physically or emotionally into the game” as he had been in the past. Two months later, Youkilis was traded to the White Sox

Last month, Valentine said he was no longer a candidate for the ambassadorship.

Read More: Donald Trump, kevin youkilis, New England Patriots,

Patriots players who plan to skip White House trip are delivering ultimate diss to Donald Trump

02.09.17 at 1:46 pm ET
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Trump will likely take every White House snub personally. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Trump will likely take every White House snub personally. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

In nearly every liberal corner of the country, the Patriots have been castigated for their ties to Donald Trump. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft are all friends with the President, defending his character at every turn. But it’s also worth noting that several Patriots players are taking a stand against Trump, humiliating him in public fashion.

In the aftermath of New England’s historic comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, five players have come out and said they won’t be going to the White House this year for a presidential photo-op. Martellus Bennett first revealed his plans to snub Trump at Media Night, saying he doesn’t support him. The tight end reiterated his feelings Sunday.

Devin McCourty, who’s one of the Patriots’ team captains, took his protest one step further. In addition to announcing his intended absence, he says he “doesn’t feel welcome” at the White House with Trump in office. LeGarrette Blount expressed similar sentiments Thursday, telling Rich Eisen he doesn’t think he’s welcome there, either.

Chris Long also won’t be in attendance, and Dont’a Hightower plans to sit out the proceedings as well. (Hightower also didn’t go in 2015 when Barack Obama was president.)

Ever since 1865, when President Andrew Johnson hosted the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs, sports teams have visited the White House for celebratory ceremonies. Ronald Reagan started making it a regular occurrence in the 1980’s, and today, roughly a dozen clubs stop by each year.

Throughout the last 40 years, plenty of players have skipped the customary White House trip. But it’s rare for them to say it was for political purposes. When Larry Bird didn’t go in 1984, he told a reporter the president knew where to find him. Michael Jordan golfed instead of visiting George H.W. Bush in 1991 and a family commitment reportedly kept Brady from meeting Obama two years ago.

When players do reveal their motivations behind a White House absence, it’s a big story. Former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas garnered headlines in 2012, when he said he wasn’t going because the federal government under Obama was “threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.” Ex-Ravens center Matt Birk, a pro-life advocate, made news when he declined to show up in 2013 because of Obama’s support for Planned Parenthood.

With Trump in office, a record-setting number of athletes are expected to forego the White House tradition. For a man who’s obsessed with appearance and aesthetics, that would be an embarrassing blow.

Throughout the entirety of his campaign, Trump flaunted his apparent reverence for sports stars. He campaigned with Bobby Knight in Indiana, promised to present an “Athlete’s Night” at the Republican National Convention and frequently mentioned his three good friends –– Brady, Belichick and Kraft. With that in mind, it only makes sense for Trump’s beloved Patriots to be the first professional team that visits him in office.

Except, leading up to the event, the story will likely be about the players who aren’t going. This week, running back James White said he was still considering a White House boycott, and several of his teammates probably feel similarly. When the Patriots go to the White House this spring, it’s nearly certain that more than five players will opt to stay behind.

Every other person who’s ever sat in the Oval Office probably didn’t spend any time stewing over athletes who didn’t want to come shake their hand during a ceremonial event. But Trump is different. This is a man who on the first full day of his presidency, sent out his press secretary to lie about his inauguration crowd size. He tweets constantly about Saturday Night Live and is obsessed with media coverage. Trump’s apparent insecurities run so deep, that he reportedly brags about the breadth of his electoral college win in phone calls with foreign leaders.

Given his tweet calling millions of protesters “anarchists” and “thugs,” Trump doesn’t appear to respect the right of free speech. He seems to view every sign of dissent, such as a federal judge temporarily halting his possibly unconstitutional travel ban, as a personal slight. An athlete refusing to visit the White House to meet the president –– an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity –– is the ultimate diss.

Nearly 30 years ago, Graydon Carter, now the editor of Vanity Fair, called Trump in Spy Magazine a “short-fingered vulgarian.” To this day, Carter says he occasionally receives photographs from Trump, in which the President circles his fingers in gold sharpie to showcase their length.

Whenever Trump looks at pictures of the Patriots’ visit, he’ll be forced to remember that numerous members of his favorite football team didn’t want to meet him. And by all accounts, it will bother him greatly.

Brady and Co. have long been a source of pride for Trump. But for the next couple of months, as the anticipation for their White House visit builds, they’ll be a thorn in his side.

This post was updated to include LeGarrette Blount’s comments, which were made after the article was published.  

Read More: Chris Long, Devin McCourty, Donald Trump, Martellus Bennett

Patriots fan nails deflated footballs to pole near Roger Goodell’s Maine house

02.09.17 at 1:28 pm ET
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Boston MagazineFor one Patriots fan, Deflategate was avenged long before Tom Brady and company mounted the most historic comeback in Super Bowl history; before TB12 received Super Bowl MVP honors the same season he was forced to sit out the first four weeks; before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell contorted his face into something vaguely resembling a smile while congratulating him.

No, for one gloriously petty Pats fan, victory was already theirs.

WCSH-6 reports that someone nailed deflated footballs to a telephone pole at the corner of Black Point Road and Route 1 in Scarborough, Maine, a short distance from Goodell’s $6.5 million summer home on Prout’s Neck.

Scarborough police beefed up patrols outside Goodell’s home after the commish upheld the four-game suspension he handed Brady in 2015 for his alleged role in Deflategate. “[The NFL] did reach out and let us know about the decision and that it might not be popular,” Chief Robbie Moulton told the Portland Press Herald at the time.

That’ll show him.

I don’t think Roger even goes to his house in Maine anymore so if he’s never heard of Barstool (eyeroll) then he clearly doesn’t read news and won’t even see this. But it’s likely the passionate Patriots fan who did this doesn’t even care. It’s one of those “I defended the wall” personal victories.

And those aren’t even NFL footballs, they’re NCAA footballs.

 

Browns LT Joe Thomas calls out Roger Goodell for leaving stage ‘like a rat’ during Patriots trophy presentation

02.09.17 at 10:17 am ET
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Goodell handed the Lombardi trophy to Kraft Sunday. (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Roger Goodell handed the Lombardi trophy to Robert Kraft Sunday. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is unimpressed with the way Roger Goodell carried himself during the Lombardi trophy presentation Sunday.

Moments after the Patriots completed their historic 25-point comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Goodell took the microphone and was greeted with an onslaught of boos. The commissioner then handed the trophy over to Patriots owner Robert Kraft and quickly exited the stage. Thomas says that was cowardly.

“I especially enjoyed how over-eager Roger was to smile at all the Patriots and give them a big handshake, but then as soon as he gave them the trophy he scurried off the stage like a rat,” he told Pro Football Talk. “It was awesome.”

Thomas, who’s made the Pro Bowl in all 10 seasons of his career and has never missed a snap, was one of the Patriots’ staunchest defenders during the Deflategate saga. The left tackle called it a “witch hunt” and also expressed disappointment last summer that Tom Brady didn’t continue his legal fight. Prior to Super Bowl LI, Thomas said he was rooting for the Patriots, because he wanted Goodell to receive some comeuppance.

During the Super Bowl MVP press conference Monday, Goodell was seated next to Bill Belichick while Brady gave his acceptance speech. When Belichick took the podium, however, Brady didn’t take his place next to commissioner. Instead, he left.

Goodell may have acted cordially towards the Patriots this weekend, but it’s apparent the stench of Deflategate still lingers over him.

Read More: Deflategate, joe thomas, New England Patriots, Roger Goodell

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Former Knick Charles Oakley arrested at Madison Square Garden; Rapper Nelly supports Patriots players not going to White House

02.09.17 at 8:31 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Wednesday 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:
NBA: Cleveland at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Boston at Portland, 10:30 p.m. (CSN, TNT)
NHL: NY Islanders at Philadelphia, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
NHL: San Jose at Boston, 7 p.m. (NESN)
College basketball: Belmont at Jacksonville State, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Purdue at Indiana, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Winthrop at UNC Asheville, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: North Carolina at Duke , 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Missouri State at Wichita State, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: SMU at Temple, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: UNH at Vermont, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska, 9 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
College basketball: Oregon at UCLA, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Washington at Colorado, 10 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: BYU at Pepperdine, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)

AROUND THE WEB: 

— Former Knick Charles Oakley was arrested at Madison Square Garden during the Knicks-Clippers game Wednesday and charged with three counts of assault during an altercation in the stands near team owner James Dolan.

The incident occurred during the first quarter where Oakley was sitting behind the baseline. Oakley was making comments to Dolan, who was sitting in front of him, while Kristaps Porzingis was shooting free throws. Dolan had security escort Oakley from the arena.

Oakley got physical with security guards and players on both teams stopped to watch. Fans chanted “Oakley! Oakley!” in support of the former power forward.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who played with Oakley, called the incident “sad.”

“That was tough for me to watch,” Rivers said. “Honest to God, you could see it. I actually took three steps and I swear I was going to run down there, and I thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ But I didn’t like that. That’s my guy. That was tough to watch from where I was standing.”

“I was there for four minutes,” Oakley told the New York Daily News after being released from Midtown South Precinct. “I didn’t say anything to him. I swear on my mother. They came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there. I bought the ticket. I said why do you guys keep staring at me. Then they asked me to leave. And I said I’m not leaving.”

On Thursday morning, Oakley posted this interview to the Instagram account of Jimmy’s NYC:

#CHARLESOAKLEY #NyKnicks #Jimmy’s

A video posted by Jimmy’s NYC (@jimmysnyc) on

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