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Thinking out loud: Providence likes hockey more than Boston

04.28.17 at 3:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where to go for my May breakfast.

— When does Providence outpoll or outpace Boston in anything, perhaps except for quahogs or college basketball? Would you believe – they win in hockey?

— At least, if NBC’s numbers are accurate for the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs – Providence had a higher rating than Boston when it came to TV audience. Of the Top 10 rated markets around the country, Providence was 5th in audience share, Boston finished 8th. Buffalo was #1, and when is Buffalo #1 in ANYTHING?

— Maybe for Buffalo wings, perhaps. Give ‘em that.

— I would allow Bruins’ fans in Rhode Island were every bit as interested in the fate of the B’s, primarily due to several younger, familiar players getting ice time – led by former Providence coach Bruce Cassidy.

— Who became the full-time Boston coach this week, officially. It’s the right move to make, if the organization has decided to build from within. Which apparently, Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have decided to do.

— Meanwhile, down on the farm where the building began, the P-Bruins stare elimination in the face Friday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Like father, like son – it could be a first-round setback.

— Anyone else feel like if the Celtics have dodged a first-round bullet here, it’s largely because of two things – one, no one can guard Isaiah Thomas; two, Rajon Rondo has missed four straight games?

— Thomas palms the ball? Not by the current NBA rule book he doesn’t. If he did, the refs would call it, wouldn’t they? It doesn’t matter whether you, or I, or Fred Hoiberg of the Bulls thinks he does. What matters is being consistent with the interpretation of the rule, and the refs aren’t calling it. Move on, nothing to see here.

— Rondo’s renaissance in this round, at least in the first two games, frustrates me even more over his departure from the Celtics in the first place.

— Does Boston need, or want, Jimmy Butler? Is he the missing link for another title run? No. Need is one thing, but he would be another weapon in the arsenal. Celtics’ fans should want that.

— Mike Gillislee is the Patriots’ heir apparent in the backfield next season to LeGarrette Blount. Why do I get an uneasy feeling about that?

— Because he was Buffalo’s back-up a year ago? Maybe. But I’ll say this about Buffalo – great wings, and great job of coaching up players to eventually send to New England.

— I stayed tuned to Thursday night’s 1st round of the NFL Draft, simply because I expected the Patriots to trade up and get into the mix. That’s three hours I’ll never get back. It also means it’s the first time in franchise history for the Pats to be pick-less in the first and second rounds.

— Where are the positions of need for New England? Edge defenders, primarily. Offensive line. Tight end. You might see an inside linebacker, and maybe a QB or a RB taken somewhere, too.

— Tom Brady’s charitable interests are now up for criticism. Wow. Is it someone’s secret mission to smear, or tear down one of our regions’ all-time greats? Ask yourself this question – would we do this, if we could, to Ted, Yaz, Larry or Bobby Orr?

— Or does the Boston Globe need to sell papers?

— Here’s the deal with charity – the arrangement TB12 has with Best Buddies is done all the time, so welcome to the real world if you didn’t know it previously. Most charitable contributions you make have a percentage of the donation go toward operating expenses. That’s life, that’s business. And charities are a business.

— And if you want to know how much of your donation goes to operations, just look it up. It’s relatively easy to find out. Having worked for a charity for several years previously, it’s how non-profits sometimes battle for your buck – by keeping their expenses lower than their competition.

— Back to square one for the Kraft’s separate soccer stadium idea. Southie says “no thanks” to a joint Kraft-UMass proposal for a 20K seat facility on land the school owns near the UMass-Boston campus. As I’ve suspected all along, if transportation issues (like more “T” stops) are worked out, the stadium should be built across the street from Gillette in Foxboro.

— Robert Kraft is on a Board of Directors for an equity firm that owns a small stake in a casino. Sound the alarm! Do we need to show seven degrees of separation with other owners in the NFL? In pro sports overall? Might be scary what we find.

— Or, it might be much ado about nothing. It seems there are outside interests (in New York and 30 other NFL cities, at least) who would love to tear down, smear, and point at the Patriots. When you’re at the top, the arrows are always fired at you from the bottom.

— David Ortiz probably knows this. And this weekend, he could sling a few of his own as the commencement speaker for New England Tech’s graduation ceremonies at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Ortiz will also receive an honorary degree from the school, recognizing his efforts to help children with health issues in his native Dominican Republic.

— I don’t get the Red Sox – Orioles flap. Manny Machado’s slide into Dustin Pedroia was high. It was wrong. But for Matt Barnes to retaliate two days later? Stupid is as stupid does.

— Barnes isn’t exactly an accurate guy anyway. 31 walks in 66 innings last year ain’t what you look for in a reliable relief pitcher. So, one got up and away. Do the crime, do the time – and he probably will. Pedroia? Cameras caught him pleading innocence at the wrong moment. Something smells fishy here.

— Play ball, fellas. But you’ve just made Sox-Orioles games this season more interesting, I’ll give you that. Starting Monday.

— What a shock. Pablo Sandoval goes on the DL, with the Panda hitting a robust .213. He’s got those three dingers, though. He’s spent more time on the shelf than in the dugout for Boston. I’d trade him right now for a batch of garlic fries from SF’s AT&T Park. Think they’d make the deal?

— Not for nuthin’, but they’re really good. Panda isn’t.

— And I thought pitching, or an overall lack thereof, would be the ultimate problem. But the Sox can’t hit their weight right now. Chris Sale should sue for non-support.

— The Red Sox haven’t been healthy yet this season. And they may not be for some time. So, it will be awhile before we see the team predicted to kick butt in the American League healthy enough and able to kick butt. Underachievers, or overrated? I lean toward the latter, for now.

— Which would make the Yankees overachievers right now, wouldn’t it? Not highly thought of before the season started, but ahead of Boston in the standings.

— Derek Jeter an owner? With Jeb Bush? They’re in the group to buy the Miami Marlins for an approximate $1.3 billion. Two things come to mind – one, Jeter must have been paid more than we imagined while he played. Two, maybe Jeb can run a team better than his brother George once did in Texas?

— Providence’s newly-scheduled meeting for next season against Houston at Mohegan Sun is a win-win-win. It fills a need just before the Christmas holiday against a quality, Top-100 opponent, and at a neutral site it will score well for RPI formulas. It’s also close to home – a virtual home game for the Friars. No-brainer.

— Glad to see former Friar Ryan Fazekas find a landing place at Valparaiso. Good kid. And still a good shooter, he simply ran into bad timing with his freshman illness and with the infusion of athletic talent within the Big East…playing time simply became harder to come by.

— And good for Ricky Council, apparently headed to Maryland-Baltimore County in America East.

— Could it be, that their 4-year NCAA run and practice facility under construction is beginning to pay dividends for PC? Sure seems like the Friars are involved with some highly-rated players over the next couple of classes.

— In case you were wondering, there are 194 early entry players for the NBA Draft this year, up from 162 a year ago – with only 60 draft spots available. I don’t like those odds for Rodney Bullock.

— ICYMI, Providence’s Ed Cooley was appointed this week to the US Junior National Team committee. He won’t be on the court (for now), but he will have a presence in deciding rosters, staffs and future development.

— And sincere condolences to Coach Cooley and his family, on the passing this week of his older sister Jean.

— Need an on-field football fix? Both Brown and URI hold their spring football games this Saturday, with the Rams at Meade Stadium in Kingston at 10:00 am and the Bears at Brown Stadium in Providence at 12:30 pm. Both games are free and open to the public.

— On another planet entirely, are institutions like Alabama and Ohio State. Each has drawn a spring crowd of more than 90,000 fans – with the Buckeyes holding the record for spring attendance at 100,189 for last year’s game. Hard to get your arms around that reality, isn’t it? Just sayin’.

— Here’s something else to get your arms around, figuratively speaking, of course. Kicker Becca Longo of Arizona has become the first female to be recruited and offered an athletic scholarship at a Division II school – or higher. She’ll be booting balls for Adams State this fall, under head coach Timm Rosenbach – a former NFL QB with Arizona and New Orleans.

— To make up for Wichita State’s departure to the American Athletic Conference, the Missouri Valley may be returning to the city of Omaha. No, it’s not Creighton they’re looking for, but the University of Nebraska at Omaha. UNO has been a full-time Division I school since 2013, playing primarily in the Summit League. Providence’s hockey Friars faced UNO in the Frozen Four in Boston two years ago.

— Boston College’s hiring of Martin Jarmond as Athletic Director has been widely praised. But I’ll ask you this – does a 37-year old person really have the experience, or the business-savvy, that someone 20 years his senior might possess? Or could the school not find anyone else willing to take on the problems they face at the Heights? Just wondering.

— The purge of employees at ESPN this week included some big names – Andy Katz, Ed Werder, Dana McNeil, Jason Stark, Brett McMurphy, Trent Dilfer (also a WEEI contributor), Len Elmore, former NESN anchor Jade McCarthy, Danny Kanell and one of Rhode Island’s own, Joe McDonald. Stunning, in that these people are among some of the best in this business at what they do.

— I’m going to borrow a line from CBS Sports.com college basketball writer Jon Rothstein: “Having a college basketball season without Andy Katz at the forefront of its coverage is like having another Rocky sequel made and hiring someone other than Sylvester Stallone to play the leading role.” Amen to that. Having worked on air with Andy at ESPN Radio in my own past, it will be strange NOT to see him or read him on ESPN.

— Hopefully we’ll see him or read him somewhere, however. He’s one of the good ones.

— Which shows you – completely – this is all about Disney’s bottom line. Answering to stock holders with Disney stock, ironically, near its all-time high. It makes me very happy I left this culture on my own six years ago, but unhappy for friends and colleagues all at the same time.

— Layoffs and cuts will continue for the foreseeable future. Annually or semi-annually, ESPN will continue to make cuts as consumers continue to “cut the cord” from cable subscriptions. And as I’ve been saying/writing/predicting since college conference realignment began 14 years ago, this means the dollars doled out to some big-time schools will also begin to dry up. Significantly.

— The dot com bubble of the early 2000’s will have company in the land of rupture, not rapture. It’s coming. And it could be messy for many college athletic departments ill-suited and poorly positioned for the leaner days ahead.

— I can’t help but think – ESPN should never have forgotten what helped them reach the top of the mountain in the first place. The Big East.

— April showers bring May flowers? They also brought back-to-back postponements at McCoy Stadium this past week for the first time in 10 years.

— The Pawsox introduced “The Park of Pawtucket” this week, their new stadium concept and design that would eventually become a year-round facility for public use. Great. Who’s paying for it?

— Plus, as we know public parks can be breeding grounds for so much crime. Who’s paying for security?

— It won’t happen for another three years, but a good stroke nevertheless this week for Rhode Island sports with the announcement of the US Senior Open moving to Newport Country Club for 2020. It will be the fifth time for the venerable club to host a national championship – a tradition that began with the US Amateur and US Open in 1895.

— Newport Country Club is one of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association, and will become the sixth club to host a US Open, US Amateur, a women’s US Open and the US Senior Open.

— Played the greatest (at least that I can remember) round of golf in my life at Newport CC, back in the late ‘80’s with LPGA Hall of Famer Jane Blalock. I was so scared to play in a group with her, I was literally shamed into an 83 that day – which for me is phenomenal, especially in Newport. My cart partner that day? Joe Mollicone. ‘Nuff said?

— In response to the airline passenger problems made public recently, Delta has some new policies ready to implement – including increasing compensation for passengers who voluntarily give up their seats to take later flights to as much as $10,000. I think Delta might have created a new problem – fighting to see who gets OFF the plane first for that kind of quid.

— My buddy Bernie sez he was flying to Florida recently, when he got a charge out of something the flight attendant said over the intercom: “Your seat cushions can be used as flotation devices. In the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”

— Would love for you to join us for the 10th annual Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame induction banquet at Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island on May 4th. Included in the honorees this year is Mowry Lowe, a one-time radio voice in the 1930’s and ’40’s for Brown who is considered historically to be the state’s first true sports broadcaster. Open to the public, call 401-741-3130 for tickets with proceeds to benefit Special Olympics of Rhode Island.

— It’s May already? The ritual of going out for “May breakfast” on the first day of May is one of those quirky “only in Rhode Island” things that took me years to appreciate. Celebrating food and community all at once, the annual May breakfast has been celebrated across Rhode Island for more than 150 years. The first one? Rhode Island Monthly says it took place in Cranston, at the Oak Lawn Community Baptist Church in 1867.

— Two “gotta haves” for May breakfast – clam cakes and/or Johnny cakes. A Johnny cake – made rather infamous by the former HBO TV series “The Sopranos” – is really a big, corn muffin or piece of cornbread. Mmmm. Love you, Johnny cakes.

— Bill in Bozeman, Montana posted this week on Facebook, about Jimmy Garoppolo: “Here’s a thought I haven’t heard anyone talk about. Are we underestimating his value as the scout team QB?” Bill: Strange as that sounds, no, I don’t believe so. Quite the contrary, which is why the Patriots have decided – for now – to hold onto him. More so as a quick fix in case something happens to TB12 than as a scout QB, however. The Pats feel if they need to plug him in at some point, their title chances don’t slip. That’s how much they value him.

— 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 at 37937.