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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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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.

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Thinking Out Loud: Disappointing seasons for Providence, URI hoops 01.27.17 at 1:22 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what Cammi Granato has been up to?

— Growing pains. Both in a program sense, as well as in an immediate sense, but that’s what the Providence Friars and URI Rams are both experiencing right about now. And no lie here, it’s disappointing.

— The Friars teased us during the non-conference schedule. The reality is, a strong defensive effort is needed every night out in the Big East, and St. John’s ripped them apart with a very talented freshman backcourt Wednesday night at the Dunk. 91 points? Ed Cooley’s teams have never allowed 91 points at home until Wednesday.

— I really like the long-term potential of freshman big man Kalif Young. He runs the floor as well as any post player we’ve seen in years – but his hands need a lot of work. It’s one thing to run the floor and get to the basket, but what good is it if you can’t catch the ball offered up by a guard?

— One other thing? Big fella, you’re here to rebound the ball. Go grab a few. And you need to work on your free throws. Shaquille O’Neal, you’re not.

— St. John’s ability to score off the dribble was off the charts Wednesday night. Either they have extraordinary, NBA-like ability to create their own offense, or PC’s defense was putrid. Take your pick, but they’d both be a little bit right.

— And the Johnnies’ head coach is one of the 50 best to have ever played the game – Hall of Famer and St. John’s alum Chris Mullin. Maybe he can coach a little bit?

— Marquette gets “Team of the Week” honors, just in time to face the Friars in Milwaukee Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles beat two Top 10 teams in a week – and have never lost at the Bradley Center (their home floor) to the Friars in 12 Big East seasons. Yikes.

— In their thriller over #1 Villanova last Tuesday, the students rushed the floor – which you might expect – after the unlikely comeback win. Just the second ever for a tradition-rich Marquette program over a No. 1 team – and my son Austin, a senior, led the rush like a seasoned pro. A proud papa moment, if there ever was one.

— Butler won another tough one on the road this week, beating Seton Hall Wednesday. Suddenly, the Bulldogs – who I thought might be over-rated this year – are tied for 1st place with Villanova at the league halfway point. Mea culpa.

— Why are they tied for first? With a deeper team than originally thought, they have two transfer guards getting big minutes and showing unexpected toughness on the floor. Plus, Portsmouth, Rhode Island senior Andrew Chrabascz is a smooth, steadying influence inside. Kudos to the Bulldogs.

— As for the URI Rams, our buddy Bill Koch of the Providence Journal put it rather succinctly this week – they were rancid. He was speaking in particular about the first half of the Rams’ loss Wednesday at Richmond, where Rhody shot just 25% and scored only 18 points.

— Good adjective, rancid. We don’t use that word often enough. It stinks. It smells. It’s rotten. Sadly, it’s also perfect in this case.

— But why are the Rams in this shape? Jarvis Garrett’s absence hasn’t helped. Point guards are the key to an offense’s ignition – just ask Creighton right now about that one. Defense can keep you in games, and Rhody has been lacking there, too.

— Big weekend for the 10-9 Brown Bears, with a rematch Friday against Yale, and onto Cornell and Columbia next weekend. At 1-2 in the Ivy League, the Bears are hoping for a Top 4 finish to earn a spot in the first-ever Ivy post-season tournament. Steven Spieth hit for a career high 33 points the first time against Yale, and has been Player of the Week four times.

— It has been a struggle for Bryant, at 7-15 overall and just 4-5 in the NEC heading into this weekend. But the Bulldogs will get some TV love in their next two, at home against conference leader Fairleigh Dickinson (on Fox College Sports and MSG) and on the road at Mount St. Mary’s (on ESPN3).

— The 19th annual National Prep School Invitational has been running this week, with teams playing through the weekend at Rhode Island College. The college stars of tomorrow, playing today? Sure seems like it – the tournament has produced more than 1700 Division I players, and another 78 ended up playing in the NBA.

— PC’s hockey Friars are becoming relevant again. Or at least, they’re ranked again. Back in the USCHO Top 25 rankings at #19 this week, the Friars have won three straight and are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games. Eight of those 11 have been against teams in the Top 12 of the poll, which should play well when it comes to NCAA selection time.

— Brent Musburger’s relatively sudden decision to retire from active sports broadcasting is a bit of a surprise, but I give him a ton of credit. The “old guard” of play-by-play guys are thinning out, and his staying power in an industry that doesn’t look kindly on age and experience is a credit to his talent. From his days on the “NFL Today” desk on CBS, to his becoming a signature voice of college football (“You are looking LIVE!), Brent’s voice will be missed by many. Including me.

— I always figured Musburger to be a bit pompous, yet when I met him for the first time he was as friendly as a “big-timer” could be. He has been a gentleman of the industry, and we need more of those in a cut-throat era – not less. If he truly is going out on his own terms – and he’s apparently going to start a sports handicapping business in Las Vegas – then you go, Brent.

— RIP, Mary Tyler Moore. Another piece of childhood and adolescence gone too soon, Moore will forever be the forever-cute Laura Petrie or the peppy, perky Mary Richards to a generation of TV viewers. As Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show (Oh, Rob!), she was a doting wife to a comedy writer. As Mary Richards, she was single, a news writer for a TV station, and showed women that more was possible for their lives.

— The end of the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show was “you’re going to make it after all.” Remember that? MTM definitely made it, after all. I always thought that the boyfriend in her show who dumped her in Minneapolis, all alone at age 30 (the premise behind the show), should have had his man card revoked.

— My buddy Bernie sez he had forgotten the dates of a number of friends and relatives’ birthdays and anniversaries, so he decided to compile a list of those dates on his computer, and have them highlighted when he turned it on. He went looking at a number of computer stores to find software that would do this task for him, but he had no luck finding a program. Finally, he found something that looked like it would work, but as he explained his need to the store clerk, the clerk asked him outright – “fella, have you tried a wife?”

— We’re so spoiled. Since 2001, 7 Super Bowl games (with 4 wins), 3 World Series titles, and throw in a Stanley Cup and an NBA trophy. It’s almost as if we can’t feel the joy anymore, after the Patriots won their 7th AFC Championship of the Bill Belichick-era.

— The fact that these trips to the Super Bowl have come over a period of 16 years has certainly bowled us over – pardon the pun, but I’m bored.

— Want another reason why most of America will be rooting for the Dirty Birds? Forget the fact that Atlanta has never won a Big One before. Mainstreamers will pull for the Falcons because many Patriot fans have become, gulp, entitled. Like winning has become a birthright, or something.

— Just like those who depend on government hand-outs for their existence, when they are very capable of “doing their job.” Any job. Ironic, much?

— There’s really nothing worse than two weeks off between meaningful football games. It’s the worst, but then again, when they moved it up a week a few years back everything was rushed, forced and even contrived more than it is now. We need buildup, we crave anticipation, we expect to have time to plan Super Bowl parties.

— Chris Hogan is just another example of why the Patriots are the real “America’s Team.” A cast-off from another organization, picked up by New England and developed into a meaningful professional, with a nice-sized chip on his shoulder. The formula works. Maybe others should try it some day?

— A truly amazing stat, brought up by Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe this week, proves that Bill Belichick is probably a better GM than most will give him credit for – right, Steve in Fall River? Of the 44 Patriots who played in the Super Bowl two years ago, only a little more than half (23) of them are still with the team. The roster changes over more than you think, and the team keeps winning. Why is that, Steve?

— This love/hate between Boston and Atlanta all of a sudden? Stupid is as stupid does. Drummed up, contrived talk-show fodder for the boring two weeks between the conference championships and the actual Super Bowl. Amiright, Dan Shaughnessy?

— But it works in both places, because talk shows often cater to the lowest common denominator – Hate. It’s why Hate works so well in so many places (like the political scene lately) because nothing brings people together like good, old fashioned “I’m better than you because you aren’t me, or you don’t think like I do.”

— Differences of opinion, shared objectively? Pish-posh. That never happens. My opinion is better than yours, and if you don’t agree with me, you suck. Period. I Hate You. Sound familiar?

— It’s the Dumbing Down of America. And we’re all role players.

— Which city is more racist? That’s been actual conversation this week, in both places. My argument is – racism exists, and it always will. Get over it. We’ve been trying to do that since the Civil War ended 150 years ago, give or take. Save the arguments for civics’ discussions – all I care about is if the Falcons can move the ball on the Patriots’ defense. Just sayin’.

— Familiarity breeds contempt? Maybe that explains the enmity between the regions. There’s no doubt, however, that if it weren’t for some very talented former Patriots now running the show in Atlanta (Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, even owner Arthur Blank went to Babson College) the Falcons wouldn’t be where they currently reside – in the NFC throne room.

— Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Atlanta. Oh, sorry for the “smoke” reference, as in Atlanta’s burning. Too soon?

— I know many are anticipating the big game with the hope of a Patriots’ victory, if only because Roger Goodell will be forced to award the trophy to Mr. Kraft, Bill Belichick and even Tom Brady. Who says he’ll actually be there? If he can figure out a way to weasel out of it, he will.

— Although, as John Tomase pointed out this week on WEEI.com, the Grand Poobah doesn’t really do the trophy-handing-over thing. An honorary captain technically handles the honor. But if I’m Mr. Kraft, or BB, or TB12 – I’m handling the entire bleep-show with dignity, class and grace.

— And refusing to accept the trophy unless the Poobah is somewhere in sight on that podium. “Nah, thanks, but we’re good.”

— Not for nuthin’, but Goodell certainly could have put the entire charade to sleep if he had simply had the cahones (go ahead, look it up) to face Foxboro at some point in the past year. But he avoids New England like a silly school-boy afraid to talk to a school-girl after class.

— At least one of those responsible for starting the Patriots’ Deflategate saga, the Colts’ Ryan Grigson, lost his job as GM in Indy this week. Karma is a cruel b*tch, ain’t it?

— Like the “Iceman” George Gervin once told me, as his Hall of Fame hoop career began to wind down: “What goes around, always comes around.” It sure does, Ice. It sure does.

— So, I see the vaunted, history-laden Boston Celtics broke down and sold out this week. They’ll wear a corporate logo on the front of their jerseys next year, and they’ll be the 3rd NBA team to take the money and run with it. What? They needed justification or confirmation from Sacramento and Philadelphia first, that it was okay to do this?

— I don’t know what’s worse – the actual logo on the shirt, or the fact they waited until it was “cool” to make such a move. Smh.

— And I don’t know about you – but the fact there will be a refrigerator company (ok, they rep other things too, like light bulbs) on the front of the traditional green-and-white will absolutely NOT entice me to go out and buy another fridge.

— Bob Ryan’s Boston Globe column on the BBWAA opening Hall voting to non-members this week probably didn’t make too many baseball-types happy. But he is 100% correct – how in the world is a guy like Vin Scully NOT able to vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame?

— Just because he’s not a “writer?” Preposterous. I would always argue that broadcasters, in their daily preparation for their jobs, take more time and care to actually study the teams and players they cover than anyone else. Just ask my own family about that one. I see more writers every day simply show up in a press box or on press row, glance at some notes, eat free food and proceed to ask stupid questions in the locker room afterward.

— She was born into hockey, and followed in her brother Tony’s footsteps onto the ice. You might even say that Cammi Granato is a part of hockey royalty, especially around these parts. Granato played at PC from 1989-93, and was three-times named the ECAC Player of the Year, finishing her career as the Friars’ all-time leading goal scorer. In the late ‘90’s, she was invited to try out for the New York Islanders of the NHL – which she eventually declined. Through Olympics and World Championship success, Granato was inducted as the first female into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. It’s hard to argue against her credentials as perhaps the best female hockey player of all-time. She has since moved onto coverage of men’s (including NHL games) and women’s hockey on TV and radio, and still runs hockey camps and works for charitable causes. Granato will be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony at the Dunkin Donuts Center on February 11th, joining the Friar Legends Forever Tradition, along with several other PC greats from the past. The banquet following the ceremony will take place at the Omni in Providence. Cal 401-865-2860 for ticket information.

— William from Stephentown, New York posted on Facebook this week: “Rooke, it seems your game plan caught the Steelers off guard; they won the toss and took the ball, moved down field and scored showing they were not scared to meet them head on. You have been supporting this game plan for a few years, at least.” William: Yes, I have. I understand the principle of “doubling up” at the end of a half and receiving the 2nd half kickoff, but my thoughts have always been like this – let’s take the ball and dictate emotion and tempo. Plus, if you’re always deferring, like always throwing a fastball when pitching, you’re gonna get slammed at some point. Try a curve ball at some point, and mix it up? It worked, this time.

— 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 us at 37937.

Thinking Out Loud: There’s nothing like playing No. 1 team in nation 01.20.17 at 11:42 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud, while wondering whatever happened to Tom Garrick.

– There is always a little extra giddy-up in your step – a little extra juice in your morning mojo – when you get ready to face the No. 1 team in the nation. Providence gets that chance Saturday, playing Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. But for many Friar fans, this is becoming an old-hat experience.

To begin with, it’s a benefit of playing in the Big East Conference – if there is such a thing as a benefit to playing No. 1 on any given week. The Big East has long had its share of top-ranked teams in a league as strong as it has been through the years, and in the 38-year era of the Big East, 10 of the 15 occasions the Friars have faced Number One have come during the league’s existence.

That certainly had to have been the hope of one Dave Gavitt for PC, when he founded the conference in the late ‘70’s. But be careful what you ask for. Just sayin’.

– Having never been ranked No. 1 themselves during their 90-year history (close in 1973, amiright?), in those 15 games against No. 1 Providence has managed two significant victories. The first came in December of 1976, an 82-81 double OT win against Michigan at the Providence Civic Center in the old InBank Classic, which later became the Fleet Classic.

The second came in February of 2009, during Keno Davis’ first season as head coach, when the Friars jumped on then-Number One Pittsburgh at the Dunk, 81-73. What do I remember about that game? Not much, since I wasn’t there.

At the time, I was also broadcasting primarily Big East games for ESPN, and that night there was a scheduling conflict for an ACC game at Boston College. The network asked me if I could make the trip to Conte Forum since I was the closest announcer they had. My bosses at PC allowed me to switch to TV and attend – leaving radio and the Friars behind for just one night.

And that one night, the Friars pulled off a win for the ages. Stupid is as stupid does, right? Right. I deserve that.

The ESPN producers in the TV truck at BC that night kept giving me updates, teasing me mercilessly until they sensed my growing displeasure with myself every time they hit a button to give me a score update into the headsets I was wearing. But I was happy for the Friars, though.

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Thinking Out Loud: Tough week for Providence basketball 01.13.17 at 11:49 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where M.L. Carr is waving his towels these days.

— Having a hard time coming up with a more devastating defeat than the one the Friars suffered this week on the road at DePaul, losing 64-63 after a last-second miss from Kyron Cartwright. At least, not in recent memory. You’ve heard the twisted cliché “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?”

— That’s exactly what happened in PC’s final appearance at the All State Arena in Rosemont, Illinois this week. Providence’s defense gave up 20 points in four minutes, after giving up 44 points in the previous 36 minutes. That it happened against DePaul, rather than against Villanova or Xavier, is telling.

— Ironically, the old Rosemont Horizon has actually been kind to Providence through the years, with a 10-7 record in the Windy City. DePaul will move into their brand new Wintrust Arena for next season. It might be the big boost a once-proud program really needs to become relevant again.

— DePaul’s All State Arena reminds me of what the Dunkin Donuts Center was like before the renovations in the mid-2000’s. A definite dark, dank 1970’s feel to it. Which was about the last time the Blue Demons were really any good, with a guy named Mark Aguirre playing for them.

— Personally, I haven’t been as deflated from a game like the DePaul game this week since PC lost to a nationally-6th ranked Pittsburgh team by 27 points in 2004, when the Friars were ranked 12th themselves. This time though, it’s different. Both of these teams are struggling. And the Friars struggled more than the Blue Demons.

— Part of the struggles come from injuries, as both Cartwright and Jalen Lindsey are less than 100 percent. Cartwright has knee tendonitis that has become very painful at times, and he’ll need to come to the conclusion very soon that it’s simply something he’ll have to play through.

— Lindsey sprained the thumb on his non-shooting hand in a late fall against Creighton. Why that kept him out of the entire game in Chicago, against a beatable team, I don’t know. But I do know this, it shouldn’t be a surprise PC lost at DePaul without both of those players, really.

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Thinking Out Loud: Has URI basketball turned a corner? 01.06.17 at 11:14 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering why Chris Berman really has to go?

— Have Rhody’s “suddenly Runnin’ Again” Rams turned the corner on their season? Perhaps. But not because they hit 16 of 30 three’s in a romp against St. Joe’s. With Hassan Martin’s return to a regular role in the lineup, I’ll like their chances a lot more than without him, for sure.

— But what is URI’s remaining potential? Are they Top 25 material as the pundits predicted before the season started? It’s irrelevant. What the Rams need to be concerned with is relevancy in the Atlantic-10. And that starts with Friday’s showdown at Dayton.

— Very quietly, perhaps, URI has crept into the Top 20 in RPI, #38 at last check. Top 50/100 wins will be harder to come by in the A-10 than they would in the Big East, in terms of opportunities. The Rams need to make haste, not waste.

— Maybe we should have seen the Friars’ stumble from a 10-2 start to the year coming? After all, a team with relative youth and inexperience always finds the going tough in the Big East. This much we’ve learned in the first 37 years of league play.

— Then again, there are players on this PC team who did play bit parts, at the very least, on two NCAA Tournament teams in the past two seasons. For this team to straighten out its stumble, it’s time for the understudies to step into leading roles on a fulltime basis.

— And it’s also time for Ed Cooley and his coaching staff to keep the recruiting fires burning for shooters – for next season – even if there aren’t (apparently) any available scholarships open.

— Maybe we should have seen it coming, Part II: the aircraft used by the Friars for their chartered flights to Xavier last week and to take them home from the Butler game four days later was the same aircraft used by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign this past fall.

— We know how that turned out, don’t we? So how long do jinxes last, anyway?

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Thinking Out Loud: Reflecting on good, old days of Big East basketball 12.31.16 at 9:40 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what the top local sports story was in 2016?

• For 38 years, the Big East Conference has been a cultural phenomenon within our sports world. Before Dave Gavitt got those small, relatively insignificant Catholic schools together with a few of the bigger boys in 1979, it was “to each his own” and teams were left to fend for themselves.

• But together through the years, this conference – in the past and again in the present – has helped mold the madness that we see in March at the end of every season. This year won’t be any different – in fact, it might be better. Of the 50 starting players on the 10 Big East teams, 34 of them return from last season. Yes, the play might be better.

• If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like in the south, where college football is crowned “king” every fall Saturday, the Big East’s passion, pressure and performance is on par with that kind of pageantry. Not as many in numbers, perhaps, but emotionally? It’s off the charts, just like in Alabama, or Texas, or Florida.

• I grew up in that football culture, and spent many a fall Saturday in crowds of 80,000-plus screaming maniacs. I was one of them. But those maniacs then – have nothing over today’s partisans in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Omaha or Providence.

• I would even go so far as to say eastern hoop fans are generally a smart lot, perhaps smarter than their southern football brethren as a whole, whose passion can often overwhelm their sensibilities.

• The Big East season is back with us, again, and it is just as power-packed and emotionally-charged as it has always been. So let’s just hope we’re a part of the party, huh?

• The Friars’ start was about as miserable as it can get. Overwhelmed and outperformed by a very good Xavier team – which is also in a state of transition – the younger Friars have a lot of work to do to before climbing back up the ladder within the nation’s top conference.

• Three takeaways from the 82-56 defeat at 17th ranked Xavier – one, Rodney Bullock can’t go 1-for-11 shooting the ball for this team to win; two, this team needs to learn how to rebound, or at least block out the other guys better; three, defend someone like their lives depend on it.

• Because their basketball lives this year will depend on it. Just sayin’.

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Thinking out loud: Should we be happy Clay Buchholz was traded? 12.24.16 at 10:29 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering why we still hate Christian Laettner.

— Are we happier that Clay “couldn’t care less” Buchholz has been traded to the Phillies because of the obvious salary dump, or because it’s more of an insanity dump? Let’s face it, every time he took the mound, it was like having a cavity filled without Novocain.

— But is there more to come in the aftermath of his departure? Our buddy Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests as much, that the dispatching of Buchholz’ $13.5 million salary might – might – set the table for a big(ger) bat to enter the picture. Maybe even Ortiz’ bat?

— Edwin Encarnacion is off to Cleveland. But some bats need to appear from somewhere. With all of that pitching, to not have the offense to go along would be like giving a Porsche a tune-up, but forgetting to fill the gas tank.

— Were Tom Brady’s demons exorcised with the Patriots’ win over the Broncos in Denver? Nah. All good players have their trouble spots, and Denver certainly hasn’t been an oasis for Brady. But to the team – it felt good to slap those guys at least once, after getting slapped themselves twice a year ago.

— But is the defense really that good? Well, yes and no. The Broncos’ ineptitude on offense helped. But the Patriots are beginning to make plays – and they are better at getting off the field on 3rd downs. Execution at both ends are two trends that will need to continue for a run to Super Bowl LI.

— J-E-T-S? Just End The Suffering. That is all.

— It’s easy to say you wouldn’t sign Michael Floyd after seeing the video(s) emerge of his DUI arrest in Arizona. Bill Belichick did say this week they had seen everything they needed to see before adding him to NE’s roster. Does Floyd need some help? Sure. Perhaps some stability with his employment is part of the path he needs to travel.

— But there is a big difference in saying the right things – which Floyd did this week – and in doing them. It’s up to Michael Floyd to take the next step. No one can push him in the direction he should travel, that’s entirely up to him.

— There’s also this compensatory pick thing, if Floyd leaves in free agency, the Patriots will receive if things don’t work out with him. Shrewd is BB’s middle name.

— What is this? Someone else guilty of ch-ch-cheating in the NFL? What else would you call the New York Giants’ use of walkie-talkies during their win two weeks ago, against Dallas? It’s against the rules, no matter the situation – as the Giants had a malfunction with their headsets at the time.

— The NFL fined the Giants $150,000 and hit coach Ben McAdoo – who certainly should have known the rules, right? – with another $50K punishment.

— A fourth-round draft pick in 2017 has also been moved to the end of the round after any compensatory picks. Ok, so it’s not Deflategate-worthy, but this shows two things – one, that teams still do whatever they can to gain an edge. And two, the NFL isn’t completely biased against the Patriots. Equal opportunity punishment?

— Notice use of the word “completely” in the above sentence.

— LeGarrette Blount. Malcolm Butler. Nate Ebner. Marcus Cannon. Four Patriots’ who might have a beef over the Pro Bowl selections this week. But if you ask me, the entire team may have been snubbed with just four picks for the honor (TB12, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater). Why?

— Not for nuthin’, but don’t the Patriots have the best record in the NFL (along with Dallas)? And only four guys get the nod? Maybe that’s because no one expects any of them to actually play in this farcical sporting event, held in Orlando next month.

— Did you see where the Seahawks’ Richard “Big Mouth” Sherman threatened a member of Seattle’s media this week, just because he didn’t like the question he was asked? “I’ll ruin your career,” was what Sherman told the ESPN 710 radio reporter, threatening to have his credentials revoked.

— Oh, Richard. Threatening the media is never a good idea. Quite the contrary, because in this day and age it only takes two seconds to go viral, smart guy. He later apologized, sort of, via Twitter. “I appreciate the role the media plays and they have a tough job. I let it get personal today and I regret that.”

— You know, I always thought the only dumb questions out there were the ones that don’t get asked?

— The story out there this week on the San Diego security guard fired from his job at Qualcomm Stadium because he was, uh, pleasuring himself while on the field in front of thousands at a Chargers’ game? Wrong on so many levels.

— But we’ll start with this – what could he have possibly found pleasurable about watching the San Diego Chargers? Aren’t they moving to Los Angeles, anyway? Just sayin’.

— This weeks’ “grumpy ol’ man gripe session” features two young men, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, who are undoubtedly talented football players with a ton of professional potential in front of them. That they’ve both chosen to sit out their team’s bowl games to “prepare for the draft” is yet but another sign that an athletic apocalypse is right on our doorstep.

— And it is the NCAA who is ultimately to blame. Sure, everyone needs to be accountable for oneself, and in today’s world of immediate gratification, why would we expect anyone in this age bracket (looking at you, millennials) to behave differently?

— When the collegiate poohbahs grabbed the dough, all right-minded, selfless thinking went out the window. And that’s what these two players are doing – giving up on team, principles, commitment, all that rah-rah stuff they’ve been taught for years – that WE’VE been taught for years – to move into the business of pro football.

— You reap what you sew. Or sow. Oink.

— You’ve heard the saying “there is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M?” Well, there ain’t no WE, either.

— We may as well drop all bowl games short of the big-money playoffs. Bowl games, once a reward for a good season, are only so much cannon-fodder and obscure cable-channel programming these days and are barely noticed outside of the New Year.

— When do players start to quit on the NCAA basketball tournament because they need to get ready for the pros? That day is coming, because college coaches have long been able to “quit” on teams to jump to other jobs with little-to-no real repercussion.

— True amateurism in this country died in 1984, as far as I can tell, when the Olympic Games were marketed and sold like no event had been sold previously. To keep taxpayers from paying more than their fair share (a noble thought), “sports business” bought and sold our athletic souls along the way, replete with all the requisite sportsmanship ideals that are a part of our younger, innocent days. It shows that the almighty buck is the ultimate winner in these endeavors.

— We should have seen this coming.

— Before the season started, if you had told me the Providence Friars would have 10 wins (or more) before Big East play began, I would have told you to put down whatever it was you were drinking. And give me some of it.

— While PC has forged a new identity for the most part – through a thorough buy-in to defense – several individuals have also grown considerably in stature, if not in size.

— Kyron Cartwright has developed into a top-flight, Big East-caliber point guard. Jalen Lindsey is an elite defender. Emmitt Holt is tough and talented in the middle. And Rodney Bullock, as unassuming as he may sometimes appear to be, is lethal as a scorer and potential go-to guy.

— Just when we may have thought this team, this program, was a year or two away from being a part of March Madness again – they’re right back in the discussion for this year. That’s not just the mark of a good a team, you know. It’s the mark of a good a program.

— The Friars’ turning heads and potential tail-whoopin’ of foes this season should make for an interesting conference schedule, certainly. But they’ll have to go out there and earn it. The Big East has a history of eating its’ young in league play before they’re ready, in case you haven’t been paying attention.

— Talking about turning some heads, I mentioned recently the rapid descent of the once-vaunted Syracuse program – and was quickly chastised by a reader who reminded me “they were in the Final Four last year, weren’t they?” Yes, they were. I was there.

— But this year’s Syracuse team isn’t even a shell of the team on the floor last year, as I said. As evidence, I present to you a stunning, shocking 93-60 defeat to St. John’s at the Carrier Dome this week. St. John’s? Yup. Worst loss in the 36-year history of the Carrier Dome – by one of the worst teams (for now) in the Big East.

— Told ya’. St. John’s had beaten only one team with a winning record before squeezing the Orange. This Syracuse team isn’t good. All that traveling down Tobacco Road has been bad for their health.

— Our friend Edward, the women’s hoop nut, will be watching this – Fox Sports will be offering an all-access game in the Big East between St. John’s and Seton Hall on Dec. 30. The coaches will be mic’d up – LIVE – and no commercials. That’s right, no commercials, live on the sidelines, live in the huddles and even live in the locker rooms. Fox Sports Go will also stream dedicated cameras of each of the coaches with live audio.

— Will actions ever meet expectations for the URI Rams? Perhaps, now that Atlantic-10 play is at hand. But most assuredly, if Hassan Martin is able to find his way back into the lineup. His toughness and ability are a part of the Rams’ fiber. Next up, Saint Louis Dec. 30.

— Tough homecoming, of sorts, for former Rhode Island College head coach and PC assistant Bob Walsh this week. His Maine Black Bears did a lot of scrapping in a 79-59 loss to Providence Tuesday, and succumbed to a 55-point second half by Brown in an 82-77 loss to the Bears Thursday.

— More examples this week of just how tough times remain in the media business, with two familiar names (and friends) let go from CSNNE – Bob Neumeier and Sean McAdam. Word has it that more changes are coming from Comcast, partially as a result of the trickle-down effects of “unbundling” cable channels from your service. And all you’re trying to do is save a few bucks. Bet you didn’t know that.

— My buddy “Big E” sez he has a friend who is a government employee, and out of sheer boredom, decided to do some rummaging in an old file cabinet he found buried in his building’s basement. To his surprise, he found what looked like an old, brass lamp – so for kicks, he took it home.

— Wouldn’t you know, while polishing it, a genie jumped out and granted him three wishes. First, he wished for an ice-cold drink – and the genie delivered. Next, while sipping the drink, he asked to be on an island with beautiful women all lusting after him. Again, the genie delivered, with several beauties staring at him in admiration. Finally, the guy told the genie “I wish I’d never have to work again.”

— And just like that, he was back in his government office.

— Watching Duke’s Grayson Allen trip another player this week – for a 3rd time in the past year – and reading the fallout immediately set my thoughts to the most-hated Blue Devil of all time. It has to be Christian Laettner, doesn’t it? Laettner hit one of college basketball’s most iconic shots (at least before Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit his national title game-winner last April) when he beat Kentucky at the buzzer in 1992’s NCAA Regional Finals. He had stepped on a Kentucky player during the game that started the “hate” – which still flows today. ESPN produced a 30-for-30 documentary on why he’s reviled – I Hate Christian Laettner.

— Perhaps, however, he’s hated simply because he was good? Laettner was a college player of the year, was elected into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the US Olympic Hall of Fame, and was the only collegiate player selected for the original “Dream Team” back in ’92. Today, he’s retired from basketball, but still into fishing, real estate and youth basketball camps.

— Nick in Las Vegas, Nevada posted on Facebook this week, on the Patriots’ play without Gronk: “I, for one, am at least a little amazed that they are performing this consistently without the Gronk. I understand, at least, I thought I understood more so than anyone how watered down the league is, but we also know that it’s never easy.” Nick: Replacing Rob Gronkowski is an impossible task. That the Patriots have been able to overcome (for now) his absence is due to the overall talent the team possesses, and the abilities of the players and coaches to game plan around his absence. Would they love to have him back? Of course. Can they win without him? Of course. To say they wouldn’t is to discredit a deep and still-talented roster.

— Here’s hoping you have a very Merry Christmas holiday season! It’s not much in the way of a gift, really, but your reading, following and commenting are greatly appreciated. Exchanging views is one of the best gifts we can give each other.

— 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 us at 37937.

Thinking out loud: Were Patriots lucky to beat Ravens? 12.16.16 at 3:25 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Kirk Cameron.

— Were the Patriots “lucky” to beat the Baltimore Ravens? It depends on what you consider “luck.” If luck to you is turning the ball over twice in your own red zone, giving up two easy touchdowns, blowing a 20-point lead and still managing to win – then the Patriots are certainly a little bit lucky.

— But the Patriots also have Tom Brady pitching, and guys like Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan catching – and compared to last year at this same time, it’s a major difference in depth and playmaking ability for this team.

— The unsung hero on the offense, for my money, is LeGarrette Blount. A career year in rushing yards, but for the life of me, why does this team insist upon throwing the ball from the 2-yard line – when they surely could get two yards on four tries at pounding the line with BFT (Blount Force Trauma), couldn’t they?

— That’s on the offensive line. While improved, no doubt, over a year ago – they’re not particularly strong up the middle. It’s why you see runs bounce to the outside so often. There’s not much room between the tackles, and when there is room, it doesn’t last long enough to get there.

— Overall however, the Patriots have a much better run game (7th in the NFL) than this time last year (27th) going into Denver. The above-mentioned depth and the running game (the Denver “D” Achilles heel this year) should be enough beat the Broncos – as long as you don’t turn the ball over in the red zone.

— The AFC East is all but over, and with a win at Denver the Patriots will claim the division for an 8th straight season, and the 14th time in the last 16 years. They can also clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with two weeks still to play. Is that a good thing for this team, or not-so-good? Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me on that one, will ya’?

— TB12 is not only the NFL MVP for this season, he’s also the NFL (and worldwide) poster boy for sucking it up, taking your (unnecessary) medicine/punishment and then unleashing fury thereafter. Yes, if there is a true football god, he will force Roger Goodell into presenting the Lombardi trophy AND the Super Bowl LI MVP award to Brady.

— And smile while doing it.

— Our pigskin pal Kerry Byrne from Cold Hard Football Facts has laid down some pretty impressive TB12 stuff recently. Like the fact that Seattle’s Russell Wilson – who is a pretty good QB, last week’s result aside – has 61 career wins in 4 ½ seasons. He would have to average 12 wins per season for the next 13 years (through 2028) to match Brady’s current career total of 201 victories. And Brady’s not even through yet.

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Thinking Out Loud: Defense fuels Providence basketball’s early season success 12.09.16 at 5:34 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if ad execs, TV producers and power brands ever realize that “less” actually can mean “more.”

— Don’t look now, but the Providence Friars might be one of the surprise teams this season — not just in the Big East, but in all of college hoopdom. A win over a nationally ranked URI Rams team opened some eyes in several corners of the country.

— And just why is this Friars version better than originally thought or hoped for? One word: defense. These kids take to it like a duck takes to water. Defense is all about desire, even if it takes some talent to play it well. Defensive stops lead to offensive transition, which for a team still searching for scoring options is the best option of all.

— But the shooting? Whoa. Fourteen 3’s the other night against the Bears shouldn’t be considered the norm, but it sure is a bonus.

— The road ahead for PC shapes up quite nicely, if the Friars can MTOB (mind their own business). UMass, Maine, UConn-killing Wagner and at Boston College — if all plays out to form — should have the team on or at least near the cusp of the Top 25 again (!) as the Friars travel to Xavier to open league play later this month.

— Not for nuthin’, but young teams traditionally experience growing pains. So, without big expectations, this season already has been fun to watch. It could get a lot funner from here.

— Rodney Bullock’s Big East Player of the Week honor should thrust him into the spotlight as one of the league’s go-to guys. Strange that he wasn’t considered potential all-Big East before the year began. What do these coaches look at, exactly, that they couldn’t tell this before the season started?

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