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Thinking Out Loud: Thoughts on Super Bowl LI

02.03.17 at 12:38 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where Roger Federer might now have taken his tennis talents.

— Got a ticket for Super Sunday? Chances are, it cost you (or is worth more than) $4800. The average for the previous four Super Bowls? $3334. Somebody is making out, and it ain’t me.

— Super Bowl week, for the media, can be a drag. I know, I know. Sure, you think you’d like to be there – and while the circus has its moments, like when the big clown (i.e. the commissioner) comes out of the tent to entertain the masses, the rest of it can be a little tedious.

— Adding to the media misery this week – Houston’s size. It’s a big city, and not just in population. Having family and several friends who still live there, they know it’s tough with traffic to get anywhere you need to go in an expeditious manner. My media friends are learning things the hard way on Houston’s very long and mean streets. Time is a precious commodity.

— Leave now, if you want to get to NRG Stadium in Houston before the kickoff. Seriously. Especially if you’re IN Houston already.

— The send-off rally at Gillette Monday was energetic as much as it was cold. Kudos to the hundreds of fans who began lining up at 3:30 in the morning for the best spots up close to see the Patriots off – at 10:30. What? Does anyone work around here?

— Media day was its typical ho-hum affair. I appreciate NFL Network turning it into a prime time special, because after all, it is show biz. But I’ve had enough of guys in wedding dresses and others trying to be super heroes. Do we really need these people to appeal to “non-fans” of the game? Stupid is as stupid does.

— The cost of one 30 second Super Bowl ad this year? $5 million. Or more. And that figure is up 110 percent since 2007.

— Who knew? Tom Brady’s challenging year, from an emotional standpoint, could have choked a horse. But here’s a guy who kept his mouth shut, his eyes straight ahead, and put his team’s needs ahead of his own. For real? If it was possible, he’s earned even more respect from me.

— Why? Because I don’t know if I could have kept my own mouth shut through all of what he’s gone through – from the false persecution and incredible scrutiny of his personal and professional life, to his mothers’ illness. Guy can’t even go down the street and grab a beer at a bar. Think about that. Yeah, he makes more money than God. But he’s not God.

— Matt Ryan is a good story, too, from what I see. His trek from being a 3-star recruit from Pennsylvania and relative afterthought at Boston College to a professional superstar has been a metamorphosis that most butterflies would envy. Oh, and he’s a good guy, too. Makes it very hard to root against him.

— A head coach? Kyle Shanahan has been mentioned in several circles about becoming a head coach in the NFL, but the Falcon’s offensive coordinator lost his playbook this week, accidentally picked up by a media member from San Francisco. Maybe the guy wanted a closer look at his potential credentials, or his resume? At any rate, if he were going to be your coach, wouldn’t you be a little concerned with this?

— Here’s what the Patriots should really be worried about – Atlanta’s running backs. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are both solid runners, and maybe even better receivers. Prototypical modern running backs that can do a little of everything – which is precisely what the Patriot linebackers have had trouble with at times this year.

— Like numbers? In 5 games as an underdog, Atlanta went 4-1. Also 5-0 against the spread. Just sayin’.

— How about these numbers? Our friends at Wallet Hub tell me there will be more than 1.23 billion – billion – chicken wings eaten, along with 14,500 tons of chips and 8 million tons of guacamole consumed during Super Sunday. All in one place? That’s some party.

— ICYMI, Vic Beasley defeated Martellus Bennett in a Madden17 playoff, and it wasn’t close. 41-11. Good thing Marty has no game – at least with Madden.

— Roger Goodell? There simply aren’t any more words for the man after listening to his news conference this week. Patriots fans, just ignore the noise. And the ignorance. And the fact you got jobbed. We all need to get over it.

— Going through these past two weeks, now you might begin to realize why coaches tell their players to ignore the noise. Sometimes, the noise can be deafening. Other times, the noise simply lies to you.

— And since we’ve played a little bit with some Super numbers here, this is one I find a little bit disturbing – 1300 airplanes and corporate jets will have touched down at Houston airports this week, with 85 percent of those belonging to large companies. And I wasn’t on one of those, dagnabbit.

— Zen Question of the Week: Why are there more Rutgers grads represented in the Super Bowl than any other school? Yes, THAT Rutgers, a team the Big East never really wanted in the first place – and the Big 10 really wishes they didn’t have now, either.

— My buddy Statbeast sez he got pretty nervous this week. It seems two natural gas company workers were out checking meters in his neighborhood. His was the last house on the block, and out of boredom one turned to the other and said “race ya’ back to the truck?” As he watched them from his kitchen window, the two took off running down the street. When they reached their truck, they turned around to find The Beast huffing and puffing behind them. They called out to him and asked what was wrong – he replied “when I saw two gas men running as hard as you guys were, I figured I’d better run, too!”

— The basketball gods giveth, and then they taketh away. The Friars ended their Marquette hex in Milwaukee by finally winning at the Bradley Center, but come back home to the Dunk and stub their toes against Villanova.

— Providence had plenty of chances to beat the defending national champs on Wednesday. Nova opened the door, then Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson slammed it shut. PC’s problem is they don’t have guys who know how to keep the door open when the cracks appear.

— But at the same time, we may have seen the emergence of one of the next Friar stars, in freshman Alpha Diallo. His on court demeanor Wednesday night against the Wildcats screamed “I belong!” And he did.

— Kyron Cartwright was named to the Big East Honor Roll this week, largely due to his carrying the Friars to their win in Milwaukee. When Cartwright plays aggressively and looks for his shot, PC is just flat-out better. And he’s hard to defend. Looks as if playing against Kris Dunn for a couple of years has paid off.

— Into the second half of the conference season, there’s Nova up at the top again. Creighton in 2nd. The rest of it is getting a bit messy, and the guess from this point of view is that the mess won’t help the league when it comes to tournament berths within March Madness.

— Take care of the home floor from this point – which may or may not be easy for the Friars – and PC should find itself in the post-season. Somewhere. It may not be what you want or expect, but at this stage of program development ANY post-season is still good post-season.

— The second star guard to go down to a season-ending knee injury, Xavier’s Edmond Sumner, leaves the Big East a bit shorter on star power this season. Not good for Xavier, until you realize he was a probably 1st round NBA Draft pick this year. Now, he’s probably a Musketeer again next season. And that’s good for Xavier.

— Fox TV ratings for the Big East, if you haven’t been paying attention, are up. Significantly. 29 percent over last year, and a stunning 91 percent since the first year following the league’s reincarnation.

— How much has PC’s women’s team improved this year under first year head coach Jim Crowley? The Friars have already doubled their win total from last season, and guard Sarah Beal was just named Big East Player of the Week.

— Last weekend, URI’s Kuran Iverson pulled down a man-sized total of 23 rebounds in Rhody’s loss at Richmond. Not only was that the 5th highest total in a single game in all of college basketball this season, it was also one of the Top 10 performances in URI history.

— Iverson’s emergence on the boards is helpful, but for the Rams to realize the ultimate success this season that everyone seems to crave, it will take a return to the lineup of a healthy Jarvis Garrett. An alarming loss of weight has been a scary proposition to deal with – but there is improvement of late to report. Obviously, regardless of basketball, we’re hoping for the best.

— Big shocker – Alabama finishes #1 again, for a 7th straight year, on the second biggest day of the college football year – National Signing Day. More than the national title game, more than season openers, signing day is a big day for the nation’s elite programs.

— Hendricken’s Kwity Paye was the top signee from Rhode Island, inking a letter of intent to play at Michigan for Jim Harbaugh. Bryant’s Bulldogs – under new head coach James Perry – picked off two more Hendricken Hawks in RB Andrew Hopgood and QB Chris Hindle. URI’s class of 18 signees included former St. Raphael standout Seth Burdett, a 6-5, 240-pound former defensive end who prepped last year at Milford Academy. He’s expected to play tight end for the Rams.

— Where did Patriots’ players rank as recruits, once upon a time? SB Nation did some research on this last week, and only two Patriots ranked as 5-star recruits coming out of high school – Malcom Brown (who went to Texas) and Martellus Bennett (Texas A&M). Tom Brady? He went to Michigan before the current recruiting rating system went into effect.

— Hey, no alternative facts here – two college bowl games look like they’re heading to the bench. The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, CA has decided to close its doors after 12 years, which means BYU now must go out and find another bowl partner. San Diego, having just lost the NFL’s Chargers, still has the Holiday Bowl to fall back upon.

— And Camping World ended its association with the Indedepence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. What will they do? Go back to Poulin Weed Eater? That was one of the all-time great bowl names, not for nuthin’.

— Bowl game shrinkage. Something we could all use, methinks. Better than other things shrinking, for sure.

— Isaiah Thomas continues to amaze. He’s 2nd in the league in scoring, behind Russell Westbrook. After an all-star snub, he gets (deservedly) named as an all-star reserve, and follows that up with the NBA Player of the Month award for January. All he did was average 32.9 points per game, and 6.9 assists per game.

— It begs the question – are the Celtics a one-man team? At least one coach, Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy, thinks so. And he said so after the C’s knocked off his Pistons this week. Thomas seems to own the 4th quarter, but it also seems to me some on the team tend to stand around and wait for Thomas to take over.

— Do the Celtics need to make a move? They’re leading the division, and have an edge for the 2-seed in the East, for what that’s worth, right now. Just. Say. No. To Carmelo.

— Is it really that time of year again? Red Sox Truck Day is Monday, as it begins its journey to Fort Myers, Florida. The equipment truck will make a stopover at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket along the way Monday around 12 Noon, and fans are invited to come to the stadium for photos and a little baseball celebration. The rest of the 1480-mile trip gets underway by 1:45 pm.

— Excellent piece put together by ESPN on Brown alum Chris Berman’s career this week, “He Did Go All The Way.” The special aired Thursday night, and covered his four decades of influence on sports coverage in the media, as well as his influence on the athletes of yesterday as well as those of today.

— Some might make fun of his bombastic style, or tire of his shtick, but I’ll say this – the man is/was good at what he did, and he has had great fun doing it. He had the respect of the athletes he covered and interviewed (as well as mine), and his influence has been felt far beyond just the “sports world.”

— Watching the Australian Open this year was like stepping back into the ‘90’s, give or take a year. Roger Federer won the event over Rafael Nadal last week in five sets, and claimed his 18th tennis Grand Slam title. Is it just me, or does it seem like he should be older than his claimed age of 35? The former world #1 has climbed back into the ATP Top 10, after more than 1300 career matches over a nearly 20-year career.

— The Aussie win over Nadal was his first in a major since the 2007 Wimbledon final. Nadal still owns the series between the two – like John McEnroe owned Jimmy Connors once upon a time – by almost a two-to-one margin.

— Got an old-fashioned email from Patriot fan Shelby this week: “Since you are a public-address announcer and would know, I was wondering. Why is it that the network play by play man in the Super Bowl gets to announce the starting teams, then, the starting line ups individually?” Shelby: Good question. When it comes to the playoffs, the TV networks want to make certain they get as much bang for their buck as possible, so they take every chance they can to showcase their own talent. Can’t blame them, really. They also attempt to give the crowd a little flavor of their coverage from their own guy at the same time, I suppose. Not a big deal. Like Jim Nantz and Joe Buck need more to do, right?

— 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 …

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