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Thinking Out Loud: How did Patriots become so despised by everyone? 07.31.15 at 7:27 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering what Jose Canseco has been up to lately?

— How did we arrive at this point? How did a championship-caliber franchise and Hall of Fame-to-be QB become the hated and the hunted — by the NFL and all of its teams? It began with an inaccurate report from ESPN that was never corrected, either through ignorance or arrogance or perhaps an edict — allegedly (Mike Kensil?) from the league itself.

— I don’t believe Deflategate was a “sting” so much as it was a simple, “You’re too high and mighty; we’re gonna get you, eventually,” by the NFL, or more specifically, NFL VP of game operations Kensil (a former Jets employee) and NFL executive VP and general counsel Jeff Pash. Colts GM Ryan Grigson figures into this as well. It’s odd that there has been this near-scurrilous fervor with which these men have displayed at times in this entire fiasco. You have to ask the question, “Why do they do what they do?” It’s a fair point. Are they under direct orders, or do they have grudges to settle?

— In an era of alleged parity, New England has managed six Super Bowl appearances in 15 years, winning four of those. I would maintain the rest of the league, and the league office itself, is trying to decipher how they’ve done it. And the NFL is taking great pains to expose any shred of impropriety, and blow up any inkling of idiosyncrasy as a scarlet letter for the franchise to wear upon its jersey. It’s all about “The Shield,” and no one team can rise above it.

— Why? There are several reasons, all of them plausible — from good ol’ fashioned envy and jealousy to anger and greed. Thirty-one other teams and millions of fans are enjoying every minute of this fiasco, watching the Patriots squirm and TB12 twist in the wind. To the NFL, it’s tremendous theater, and frankly, if I’m looking at it from the outside, I have to agree. It’s a show, all right.

— The NFL has blasted the Patriots in the PR battle, and it has been an artful performance. The league has taken false science, maybes, rumor and innuendo, and slotted words like “destroy” into their press releases, giving the football-crazed country outside of New England reason to believe we’re all cheaters. I’ve spent the past two weeks in football-mad Texas, and the Brady saga is mentioned in the same breath as two state schools (TCU and Baylor) being ranked in the top five of the college preseason poll. A pound of air pressure vs. two college powerhouses. Whoa.

— Do you feel any better about Robert Kraft now that he’s come out and apologized for “trusting” the NFL?  Kraft’s angst over the league, and over Roger Goodell’s upholding of Brady’s suspension, is a bit misguided. After all, it is HIS team, not the league’s. I understand his wanting to get along for the common good, but this is a perfect example of someone attempting what he thought to be the right thing and then getting steamrolled. It’s past time to revert to the business tactics that have made him a billionaire in the first place. It’s now time to be ruthless and unforgiving, as most of us originally hoped he would be. Goodell played Kraft for a fool here. Just sayin’.

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Read More: Deflategate, Tom Brady,
Thinking Out Loud: Red Sox’ ineptitude pushes fans to limit 07.24.15 at 7:52 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jacek Duda?

— Not for nuthin’, but have we forgotten how to play baseball around here?

— I’m thinking “sell” right now for the Red Sox, but who or what can you sell? And who’s buying any of what we’ve seen so far this season? Right now, it has to be about 2016 and beyond, unless the organization wants to see this two-year death spiral continue. How much can we, as consumers, put up with?

— Boston was outscored 39-13 on the seven-game road trip. That’s bag-on-your-head-stuff right there. Winless on a trip that long for the first time in 64 years, since 1951. Let that sink in for just a minute.

— The Red Sox are still one of the richest teams in baseball? In all of sport? Prove it. Three seasons out of four in LAST place with a payroll in the vicinity of $200 million is not just abysmal. It’s embarrassing. Remember, a good house-cleaner always starts on the top shelf.

Clay Buchholz = that good-looking tease in high school who wouldn’t give you the time of day but now wants to be your friend on Facebook. Meh.

— The one potential silver lining to this cacophony of calamity, lefty Brian Johnson, was sent back to Pawtucket after an uneven major league debut. Maybe they just decided the blasting the pitching staff on the big club is taking would leave him too “shell-shocked.”

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Thinking Out Loud: Why should Tom Brady accept a suspension if he’s not guilty? 07.17.15 at 8:47 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Ray Fosse?

— Tick, tick, tock. Still nothing from NFL czar Roger Goodell on the Tom Brady decision, even though we had multiple reports this week saying the ruling would come today — or tomorrow — or by the end of the week. It was none of the above. Trying to predict when news will happen, just so you can say “I’m first!” only creates foolishness, and erodes credibility. Competition causes reasonable people to act unreasonably.

— We did, however, learn that Brady’s legal team and the NFLPA will take the matter to federal court should a suspension of any length be at hand. Can’t say I’m surprised. If you’re not guilty, why accept a plea bargain?

— We’ve maintained in this corner that Brady would fight his four-game suspension to the bitter end. Sure, it would be best to move this along and get it behind us all, but the NFL’s resistance to logic only adds fuel to the competitive fire in Foxboro. So let the tick, tick, tock keep on ticking. The explosion to come could be entertaining.

— I’m not big into awards shows, and the ESPYs have pretty much run their course for me since their inception in 1993. It was cool when it started, even cooler to be a small part of it by interviewing some of the stars on the radio after the show had completed, but in later years it has become passé with athletes mostly trying to outdo other athletes for recognition. The show this year, on Wednesday night, was a bit different.

— Yes, there was the surreal spectacle that was Caitlyn Jenner. Say whatever you want about her, and you’d probably be right. Bravery, however, was at least a small part of her appearance. And for the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Devon Still, whose daughter Leah continues to fight pediatric cancer? If anyone deserves good will, he deserves to have his prayers answered and have a healthy daughter. He’s well-spoken and proud. And seems to be a great dad, too.

— Play of the Year? Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed catch? Please. How about an amazing play that actually counted for something — like Malcolm Butler’s goal-line pick in the Super Bowl? It will only go down as the single most memorable play in championship history. But not Play of the Year. Stupid is as stupid does.

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Read More: Roger Goodell, Tom Brady,
Thinking Out Loud: Rhode Island should not pay for new PawSox stadium 07.10.15 at 10:38 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering what it would take to get my mug, or other body parts, in the ESPN The Body issue.

— The “listening tour” has begun, as the ownership group of the PawSox is traveling through the 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island to state its case for a new stadium. That sounds great, but I don’t believe the owners are hearing the words coming out of our mouths: NOT AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE. That is all.

— Here’s at least part of the reason why the taxpayers shouldn’t foot ANY PART of the bill for a new stadium — Rhode Island has the third-worst roads in the country, with 45 percent deemed in poor condition, according to a national analysis released this week by TRIP. This costs drivers an extra $637 annually. So traffic is increasing, faster than the population is increasing, roads and bridges are crumbling and state highway tolls have been shot down by the legislature as a way to pay for repairs. Perfect.

— Oh, and the state already ranks in the nation’s bottom 10 (ninth worst) for business. But let’s put a new stadium on the backs of taxpayers anyway, because taxpayers can always be played for suckers.

— I did see where the state issued an RFP (request for proposal) for a state tourism brand this week. Look no further than right here, Governor Raimondo — Rhode Island, the “We love baseball and we love our beaches, but we’ve had enough” state.

— Speaking of a state, we’ve had a soccer state of mind this summer, from the USA claiming the women’s World Cup title to the U.S. men’s national team taking the pitch at Gillette Stadium for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Get on board the bandwagon or get lost in the shuffle.

— And then there are the New England Revolution, who always seem to get lost in the MLS shuffle every season at this time. After extending a 17-match unbeaten streak at home before a loss two weeks ago, the Revs now are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and have dropped six of seven since the end of May. It’s their annual June swoon into July.

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Thinking Out Loud: Billy Andrade’s golf game still has some bite 07.03.15 at 6:27 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering about my favorite versions of the hit song written by Francis Scott “Off” Key.

— Perhaps it’s the patriotism that washes over us all at this time of year, but after a recent rendition of our national anthem (surprisingly well done, by the way) sung by an off-the-street audition winner at a New England Revolution match, it got me to thinking about some of the truly B-A-D versions I’ve heard — and you’ve heard or heard about — along the way.

— If there was ever any doubt that just because he’s now on the Champions Tour, well, let’s just say Billy Andrade still has some game. Bristol Billy fired the second-lowest round in the history of the U.S. Senior Open with a 63 in the tournament’s final round, equaling his career-best score for 18 holes. Andrade finished fifth overall, at the ripe age of 51.

— And yet, partnered with longtime friend and CVS partner Brad Faxon, Andrade followed up last week by still coming up short to win the tournament he and Faxon started in 1999. They’ve never won the CVS at Rhode Island Country Club, which has always been a bit odd for me, since the two grew up here. Maybe they’re simply being polite?

— As we all were — being polite — listening to rock superstar Steven Tyler of Aerosmith belt out his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner on a couple of occasions, most recently in 2012 at Gillette Stadium. I mean, he’s Steven Tyler. But not only did he need a teleprompter set up to remind him of the lyrics, he still managed to botch the words before coming to a merciful eeee-eeee-eeee-eeeennnnnd! Ouch.

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Read More: Billy Andrade, Brad Faxon, Carson Desrosiers, Kris Dunn
Thinking Out Loud: Tom Brady, Roger Goodell must come to compromise 06.26.15 at 8:04 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Vincent Council?

— We wait. And wait. And wait some more. It may be another month — or more — before we find out the results of Tom Brady‘s suspension appeal with the NFL. How can you possibly expect a league mired in its own mayhem to produce anything of a timely nature? You can’t. But you certainly can expect a decision sometime after the Fourth of July, at the very least, with briefs from both sides due by end of next week.

— Here’s a plausible scenario, just for kicks. The American Educational Institute report blew huge holes into the science behind the Wells Report. The Wells Report, more and more, appears to be an investigation into what the league “wanted” to find, not actually what was found. Maybe there was conspiracy, maybe not. Whatever the case, Roger Goodell is backed into a corner — he must reduce and/or eliminate TB12’s suspension based on actual findings and actual science, or he risks federal court proceedings. And if he does reduce and/or eliminate, there’s little bite left in the bark from the commissioner’s office.

— There has to be a compromise. Either one game, or no games and a fine for Brady’s initial refusal to completely cooperate with a sham investigation conducted by Ted Wells. Followed by the pronouncement from the commissioner that Brady did nothing wrong, to assist in clearing his name and reputation. It’s the only way in which both sides can claim a victory. It could have been done months ago. And trust me, right now both sides want to “win” this — badly.

— Uh, Brad? You meant “twit” when you referred to Ian Poulter‘s complaints about the greens during last week’s U.S. Open, right? Faxon’s comments this week on WEEI were apparently aimed at Poulter not only because of his griping about the putting surfaces, but also because Poulter has apparently used the bad word himself. In this case, the word used was not meant as a derogatory comment toward a part of the female anatomy, but used to describe someone who is obnoxious. Clears that up.

— He could be playing, but Fax is back on Fox Sports this week for the U.S. Senior Open in Sacramento, where his Newport, Rhode Island, buddy P.H. Horgan found himself in early contention. He is contracted for eight events, including the USGA’s majors — the Open, the Women’s Open, the Senior Open and the Amateur. Rogue comments aside, reviews on Faxon as a golf commentator have been pretty solid.

— You can say he was lucky. You can say Dustin Johnson choked away a major with a three-putt to lose the U.S. Open. But you also have to say Jordan Spieth is just what the sport of golf needs right now — a young, good-looking, nice guy, a potential glamor boy for a sport that has been haunted for too long by the specter of Tiger Woods‘ bad-boy misdeeds.

— Watching Tiger play is akin to rubbernecking on the highway. Sure, we want to see the accident. But let’s move on, people. Nothing more to see here.

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Read More: Brad Faxon, Deflategate, Roger Goodell, Tom Brady
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