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Thinking Out Loud: Cardinals in hack of a controversy 06.19.15 at 11:53 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering it would be like if the Patriots were accused of hacking another team’s computers.

— Thank you, St. Louis Cardinals. No explanation necessary, really. Just thanks.

— Maybe if the Red Sox started hacking into computers, they could figure out a way to become competitive again. Just sayin’.

— The Cardinals hacking into the Houston Astros‘ computers — sounds like a pretty good way to sell tickets to that St. Louis-Houston series this summer, doesn’t it?

— Better yet, could someone ask the Cardinals to hack into the All-Star Game database and remove all Kansas City Royals players from the American League roster?

— Hackgate? Who made up the rule that every major controversial sports story must have the “gate” suffix attached to it? How many people alive actually remember 43 years ago what Watergate was all about in the first place, and that it had zero to do with sports?

— Of course, around here (and in Rhode Island, especially) politics are every bit as competitive — and conniving — as sports are. No major league sports in R.I.? Try spending a day inside the State House as a politician, an aide or a lobbyist.

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Thinking Out Loud: ‘Patriot Way’ or the highway 06.12.15 at 10:39 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened with Hope Solo’s domestic violence case?

— A poster boy candidate for “talk is cheap” has to be now-former New England linebacker Brandon Spikes. After his mea maxima culpa in repairing whatever fences needed mending with the Patriots, he left his car on the side of I-495 in Foxboro last weekend after hitting “something.” Like maybe, another car? There were no dead deer found in the vicinity, either. He’s been cited by police for speeding, negligent driving and leaving the scene of an accident. So … what are we left to believe? The Patriots didn’t wait to find out, and cut bait. Stupid is as stupid does.

— And Malcolm Butler was late for an optional, non-mandatory (wink, wink) practice. You might think being asked to sit out a few OTA sessions was a bit harsh, but here’s reality — it’s not. Not when you consider Bill Belichick‘s track record on internal discipline, or have you forgotten a running back named Jonas Gray?

— Not for nuthin’, but BB’s discipline wasn’t so much aimed at Butler as it was aimed toward EVERY OTHER Patriots player. Brandon Spikes sure learned the hard way — then again, he may have done something really dumb. No one is immune to being disciplined, not even Super Bowl heroes. Childish? Depends on your point of view. It’s simply a part of the mystique that goes into what you’ve heard called “The Patriot Way.”

— I’m of the opinion the Patriots had a group session in the offseason on how to answer questions by saying absolutely nothing. Or, saying the exact same thing. They’ve all become Belichick’s Stepford Patriots. Google the term “Stepford” and you’ll get the meaning. Every answer to every question by the media in this offseason, it seems, has led back to, “We’re just working hard and trying to be the best we can be on the field.”

— Just once, I’d love to see one of the Stepford Patriots have a good, old-fashioned meltdown of a hissy fit. You know, the kind where cheeks get red and puffy and tears come pouring out like they came from a 5-year-old? Yeah, that would give us something to talk about for a while, and probably earn the player a ticket out of town with a lifetime of embarrassment to follow. But I’ll wager more than just a few players and coaches have at least thought about it.

— New tight end Scott Chandler was visibly nervous when answering questions from a media mob this past week, like he was afraid to say the wrong thing. Even Rob Gronkowski, taping a “Celebrity Family Feud” episode that will appear later this month, couldn’t offer an answer to, “Name something you can inflate or deflate.” His response? “I can’t even answer that.”

— Does this mean we’re witnessing the end of “Yo soy fiesta?” Say it ain’t so, Gronk!

— Did anyone see Patriots owner Robert Kraft quoted on ProFootballTalk.com this week on TB12’s suspension? “It’s our hope that opening game here, we’ll have the privilege of having everyone who deserves to be on the field starting that game. I know that’s what our fans want and that’s what we want.” Translation: “I know something you don’t know!”

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Thinking Out Loud: ESPN errs by passing over Lauren Hill in favor of honoring Caitlyn Jenner 06.05.15 at 5:06 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if Quahog’s own Adam West is also preparing a run for president?

— A 65-year-old woman named Caitlyn? Sorry, that’s too weird. Ethel, maybe. Or Ruth.

— And while we’re thinking about actual courage, how about ESPN give the ESPYs Arthur Ashe Courage Award, ticketed to Caitlyn (nee Bruce) Jenner, to someone like Lauren Hill, the college basketball player in Ohio who stole our hearts last season while terminally ill with a brain tumor? The twitterverse seemed to agree this week. Just sayin’.

— In case you forgot the story, before she passed away in April, Hill helped raise more than $1.5 million to help fight cancer, all during the final months of her life, knowing she was terminally ill. This isn’t a put-down of Jenner’s trials and tribulations in life at all — it’s simply an acknowledgement of a special moment in time from a rare individual not choosing the national spotlight to tell her story. The spotlight chose Lauren, not the other way around.

— Oh, a good thing did actually come from ESPN’s announcement of Jenner receiving the Ashe Award — it got people to give two bleeps about the ESPYs next month.

— Former Friar Gerard Coleman got a look-see workout from the Celtics a week ago, apparently at the behest of former director of basketball operations Leo Papile — who also coached Coleman in his pre-PC days with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club. It’s not a surprise, as NBA teams always try to keep connections to the local community through tryouts with local players.

— What would be a bit of a surprise, however, is if Coleman gets a shot at sticking on a summer league team or an invite to training camp. You never know. He was a good kid who is living with the decisions he’s made in his young life. Just like some other recent young athletes at PC who will undoubtedly also learn from mistakes, if they haven’t already.

— Some major hoop news this past week at URI, as Memphis transfer wing Kuran Iverson received a waiver to become eligible to play at the start of the season for the Rams, rather than have to wait until the end of the first semester. It means, of course, that Iverson will be eligible to face Providence at the Ryan Center on Dec. 5. Getcha’ popcorn ready.

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Read More: Caitlyn Jenner, Gerard Coleman, Kuran Iverson, Lauren Hill
Thinking Out Loud: Rhode Island loses legend with death of George Duffy 05.29.15 at 5:37 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Dick Pole?

— Rhode Island sports lost a true shining star in George Patrick Duffy this past week. He was 94 years young, and every time I’d see him and ask how he’s doing, he’d always reply, “I’m still vertical!” Mr. Duffy (and he was NEVER “George,” by the way) spent a part of four decades working for the Rhode Island Reds AHL hockey club as an announcer and PR man, and his radio work for the Reds helped him gain induction into the RI Radio Hall of Fame in 2009. But it was his work as a coach and mentor in Pawtucket, where he touched the lives of so many students and athletes for more than 70 years in various youth sports — and at St. Raphael Academy as well — that he really left his mark.

— One of my friends, Davies softball coach Scott Cooper, told me Mr. Duffy coached him on the 1980 Pawtucket Darlington American Little League team that reached the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Cooper says, “As a player, he made us feel like we were 9 feet tall and we could do anything!” If you ask me, that’s a heckuva legacy.

— Through his extraordinary 71-year run as a coach, it seems only fitting that one of his former American Legion players, former St. Ray’s, University of North Carolina and current Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, hit a home run for the Angels while Mr. Duffy listened to the game the night before he passed away. Here’s a man who served in the Coast Guard during World War II, stayed married to his bride Helen for 71 years, called Reds games on local radio for another 25 years and had such an impact on local sports that Pawtucket’s Slater Park Athletic Complex and baseball fields were re-named the George Patrick Duffy Athletic Complex. Whoa.

— Godspeed, Mr. Duffy. His signature radio sign-off phrase, “Keep the sports parade moving by being a good sport,” is legacy enough for everyone to remember.

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Read More: David Ortiz, Dick Pole, George Duffy, John Rooke
Thinking Out Loud: Providence basketball loses key piece at bad time 05.22.15 at 5:54 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if late night television will ever be the same again?

— If it’s May, it means Friar Basketball takes a hit with another transfer. Center Paschal Chukwu told the coaching staff he’s not happy — with anything, apparently. Therefore, like Josh Fortune last year, Providence loses a big piece — literally — to its roster for next season with the 7-foot-2, 226-pounder’s departure. It’s not his leaving, however, that I have a problem with. It’s the timing.

— As in Fortune’s case last year, Chukwu’s transfer comes at a terrible time. Potentially, other than possible fifth-year graduate transfers, there’s no one available to fill his spot or his role. Chukwu stood to get major minutes, but playing time was not his issue. I guess he’s the only one not excited about Kris Dunn’s return to the team — and isn’t this quite the irony? Apparently, he was simply unhappy on campus and he’s hoping for a better college experience. If that’s truly the case, it’s a hard point to find fault with — and I wish him well.

— A part of me, however, wonders where we’ve gone in the teaching of young people what it means to be responsible — to keep a commitment, or to keep your word or promise. There are going to be ups-and-downs; life is not going to be perfect. No, instead we teach kids these days, “Hey, change things while you can.” This philosophy may serve your purpose now, but wait until you get a bit older and reach the real world. You can’t change anything. Of course, for some of these student-athletes, they’ll never really know what the “real” world is about. This is where our system of education — at home and at school — fails them.

— Former PC assistant coach Bob Simon, who departed for Alabama, was particularly close in Chukwu’s recruitment. Maybe his leaving was a factor? Learning how to deal with disappointment, honoring prior commitments and understanding that scholarships are a privilege should be a part of the learning process. The result here is the program is left in a bind. Paschal Chukwu may be the LAST person I thought capable of what has turned out to be selfish behavior. Is there more to this story than we know? Perhaps, but good luck, big fella. You’ll probably need it in the long run. Just sayin’.

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Thinking Out Loud: Tom Brady didn’t cheat 05.15.15 at 4:44 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Matt Palazzi?

— I was asked this question — point blank, right from Jump Street — this week during an appearance on a Pittsburgh radio station: Did Tom Brady cheat? The honest response took me about 10 seconds to deliver, because I simply hadn’t considered the question. I didn’t want to. It’s really hard to fathom, but would we be where we are — and would the Patriots be where they are — if he hadn’t remained silent? That was my response. It fell over like a lead balloon.

— Now that I’ve considered the notion — no, it’s not cheating. It was his preference. The question is: Is his preference for a softer ball within legal limits for ball pressure set forth in the NFL rulebook? This is where the whole thing comes off the track. Is Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers cheating for admitting he tells his equipment guys to “go over” what is allowed just to see if anyone deflates his footballs? And is the NFL punishing him for this?

— The truth is, we don’t know the entire, real truth. Hopefully, that comes to light at some point, as I mentioned in this space last week. Based on the punishment for the alleged crime(s), cheating or “circumventing the rulebook” were equated with and even elevated above assault and battery in the eyes of the NFL this week. Two wrongs don’t make it right, of course. But to make an example out of Brady and the Patriots over actions that were deemed “more probable than not,” without absolute proof offered, and because you screwed up other punishment opportunities for actual crimes that were committed — shows pro football needs big-time change from within. Starting at the top.

— I am doubtful of that sort of change occurring. Certainly, Roger Goodell has lost a key ally in Robert Kraft, but it would take three-fourths of NFL ownership to kick him out of office. Quite possibly, there are 31 other owners happy to see the Patriots squirming right now. Mr. Kraft, however, can make things very uncomfortable for Goodell and the league, and the reprisal has already begun. The Patriots won’t take this Machiavellian treatment without a fight. Would you if you were in this position?

— Goodell serving as the arbiter in Brady’s appeal isn’t the best result, but it isn’t a bad one, either. Both parties know reps, legacies and maybe jobs (Goodell’s) are on the line. A compromise will be reached, or federal court will be the next stop. The NFL does not want that to happen — it will lose. It has already lost enough credibility when it comes to adjudicating its rank and file. As for the team portion of the penalties, battle lines are being drawn; the million dollar fine probably sticks, but there should be/will be an effort to recoup at least the first-round draft pick next year.

— As for the Patriots’ rebuttal (website) to the Wells Report, I have no real words. A little giggling, perhaps, but no real words are flowing forth. How about, “Whoa?” Or, “Say what?” And I’m SMH.

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Thinking Out Loud: Tom Brady needs to come clean 05.08.15 at 3:46 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if I can find at least three things more worth my money than buying the Mayweather-Pacquiao PPV fraud.

— No matter your stance, TB12 needs to come clean. Whatever that story may be. His legacy, his clean-cut image, even his career in the afterlife of pro football is on the line here. No, he’ll never want for money, or a job. But Tom Brady is about legacy, about winning. He’s about protecting his image. The only way he protects what he’s worked so hard to earn is by telling the absolute truth about his role with Deflategate. Sports society is always ready to forgive.

— Brady also would be best served by the truth because it actually might end the “witch hunt” against him, his teammates and the organization, for now. There is no incontrovertible, conclusive evidence of deflating footballs. “More probable than not?” It is what it is.

— Not for nuthin,’ but Patriots fans should be thanking the NFL, Roger Goodell, Ted Wells and everyone screaming “cheaters!” toward New England right now. Talk about a chip the size of a boulder on their shoulders before the season even starts? Regardless of the improvement the defense will need to make, this team — this offense — will s-t-e-a-m-r-o-l-l over some people next season. Led by a motivated QB with something to prove to himself and the rest of the world. Make bank on it.

— On the “cheating” issue: It’s a pound of air pressure, people. I have a good friend who is a national radio talk show host this week attempt to compare Deflategate to Bountygate with the New Orleans Saints. So now air pressure is akin to purposely injuring people, taking them out of games and perhaps ending careers? Look, it’s a rules violation. But it’s like getting caught for doing 75 mph in a 65 mph zone and you sit there on the side of the highway while cars scream past you and the police doing 80-plus.

— This is gamesmanship. Nothing more. It’s about gaining whatever advantage you can, more so for a personal psychological advantage than anything else. Brady’s alleged reluctance to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation is understandable. The investigation itself? Can’t argue that it wasn’t some hard work put in over 103 days, but it wasn’t proper, either. Too much conflict of interest with investigators already having the NFL as a client for this to be truly independent. And Mr. Wells? Just the facts, please. Your opinions are rife throughout the 243-page document. How is that “independent”?

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Thinking Out Loud: History says Patriots’ pick of DT Malcom Brown a very good sign 05.01.15 at 4:53 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Kenneth Sims.

— Funny how the first round of the NFL draft works out sometimes. Guys start moving down the draft board, rumors begin to swirl around trades, and self-doubt creeps in — for players and teams. It’s human nature, really. “Are we making the right move” is the collective mantra for every NFL front office. And naturally, no one will ever admit to screwing it up. It’s also very, very subjective. Therefore, the first round of the NFL draft is the only day on the calendar when everyone wins. Who is going to admit to losing, or being a bust-to-be?

— The Patriots’ pick of Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown seems to be a winner. Not just because he’s got a Longhorn pedigree or anything. Although that helps. He has a unique blend of power and speed that can help offset the loss of Vince Wilfork to free agency. He’s particularly good at stopping the run, and equally effective collapsing the pocket. Paired with last year’s No. 1 in cat-quick (when healthy) Dominique Easley at tackle, you might say they could be the Patriots’ “Thunder and Lightning” combo in the middle.

— Make your reservations for the Super Bowl. Funny thing about Brown’s selection — prior to each of the Patriots’ four title seasons (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014) they selected a defensive tackle in that year’s draft with their first pick. Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Easley and now Malcom Brown? That’s it — Patriots are Super Bowl champs, again.

— Trivia time: Two other Texas Longhorns were selected by the Patriots in the first round of the draft. Who are they? C’mon, no googling, brainiacs. Just scroll down a little.

— A quick thought on UConn’s Byron Jones, who also was a first-round pick in the draft (at No. 27 overall) by the Dallas Cowboys: For all of his apparent athleticism, he’s got “bust” written all over him. Nothing against him at all, but for a defensive back who played on some poor UConn teams, don’t you think his athleticism and talent might have stood out among his teammates? Did we ever hear or see that happening? Jones failed to make any All-AAC team (he played only seven games in ’14 due to a shoulder injury), but killed it at the combine, seemingly coming from out of nowhere. So did a defensive end named Mike Mamula (remember him, BC fans?) back in 1995, and the Philadelphia Eagles made him the No. 7 overall pick that year. He played five years in the league before sliding into oblivion.

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Thinking Out Loud: Kris Dunn not done at Providence 04.25.15 at 1:49 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how to channel my inner Clark Griswold this week.

— We’ve maintained here from Day 1 — whenever that was — that Kris Dunn was a strong lean toward returning for his senior academic season at Providence College next year. Getting his degree from Providence is important to Kris, and to his family, and the realization that his game still needs improvement is a big reason why he’ll wear the black and white for one more season.

— That, and next year’s NBA draft class is already expected to be quite a bit leaner than this year’s class. Dunn, with the proper improvement to his overall game (shooting, decision-making, turnovers) could very well be a top-five pick in the 2016 draft. Just sayin’.

— Preseason Player of the Year in the Big East? Should be a slam dunk. But that kind of expectation puts pressure on a player that isn’t normal — which is one more thing that Dunn needs to learn before taking his game to the professional level. How he plays, leads and performs under pressure will go a long way toward determining his athletic future, and figuring out what kind of team the Friars will have next year.

— Teams will key on taking Dunn out of every set. They’ll put bigger defenders on him. They’ll sag and let him shoot. They’ll throw junk defenses at him. They’ll deny him the ball. Or, they’ll make him score everything and shut everyone else down. Now you can see how important his growth will be for his own success, as well as PC’s success next season.

— Congratulations to PC associate head coach Bob Simon, who is leaving Ed Cooley’s staff to join Avery Johnson’s new staff at Alabama. It’s not the head coaching position that he deserves, but it is another step toward getting where he wants to go, working in another high-profile league (SEC) and especially working with a coach with an NBA pedigree. It’s also undoubtedly a big raise, and where Big Football Dollars win over everything else. Coach Simon is one of the real good, smart, knowledgeable guys in this business, and he can’t help but be successful.

— Names to consider as a potential replacement for Simon, who was with Cooley for a total of nine years, on the PC staff? God Shammgod will get plenty of consideration, but this position likely will require someone with already-firm recruiting ties. Former Wake Forest coach Jeff Battle is a close friend of Cooley’s. Onetime PC director of basketball operations Carmen Maciarello — who left to take a floor coaching position at BU before Cooley’s staff ever coached a game and now is at George Washington ‘€“- also would be a consideration. Would former BC and URI coach Al Skinner, now assisting Tim O’Shea at Bryant, be interested? Additionally, former Holy Cross coach Milan Brown, who traveled with the Friars this past postseason, and current DBO Mike Jackson also should receive plenty of run. It would be an upset for the new coach to not come from this group.

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Thinking Out Loud: Providence hockey’s national championship should have lasting impact 04.17.15 at 9:16 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how many national titles have actually been won by Rhode Island schools?

— Could there have been a worse trophy presentation in sports history? At TD Garden last Saturday, it seemed as if the NCAA championship ice hockey trophy had been predetermined to belong to Boston University. Either that, or the NCAA representative was just plain dumb. “I’d like to present the trophy to the Boston, excuse me, Providence College Terriers?” You had one job, dude. It’s the moment of a lifetime for the winners, and for their fans. Maybe even for you, and you blew it. Stupid is as stupid does.

— I’m not certain a national title win can be accurately quantified, at least not right away. Perhaps in sports like football and basketball, and maybe even baseball where big money is involved, there’s an almost-immediate return on investment. For Providence College to win a national title, undoubtedly the kickback will come down the line — in increased interest in the team, the athletic program, maybe even in enrollment. It also may come in interest shown to your coaches, by bigger schools looking to cash in themselves.

— PC’s Nate Leaman is the youngest head coach in 22 years to win a national hockey championship, since the late Shawn Walsh won at Maine. He did it at PC in four years, which is extraordinary enough, until you realize he was also the architect of the national title won at Union College last season as well, before moving to Providence. Former Friars star Rick Bennett guided that Union team to the finish line in 2014, after Leaman had built the foundation.

— That’s now nine championships for Hockey East schools, since the league was formed in 1984-85, in case you were wondering. And I was. Providence is the fourth school in the conference to win one (with BC, BU and Maine). For a program that has its share of history — and names like Lou Lamoriello, Brian Burke, Ron Wilson and Chris Terreri associated with it — this championship feels like it belongs. What took so long?

— And it didn’t take very long for some PC students to show they’re really no different than students at places like West Virginia — where they regularly burn couches and set fires — and join in the absent-minded mayhem following a championship win. You’d like to think there’s an ability to rise above the ridiculousness, but sadly, that’s not the case. They’re just blowing off steam? They can’t blow off steam and celebrate without violence and vandalism? The school had to apologize to Providence police for the trouble (more than 60 officers were called in to keep the peace), and the fact that an officer was hit in the head with a vodka bottle. Stay classy, PC.

— Jon Gillies did just that. On his way to Vancouver to join the Calgary Flames — who drafted him in 2012 — Gillies left a classy note of thanks behind for Friartown. Included in his letter: “I am forever a Friar, and that makes me one of the luckiest people in the world.” Jon, we’re pretty lucky to have seen you play, and develop into an outstanding person, too. On Wednesday he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Flames.

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