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Thinking Out Loud: Chandler Jones owes it to Patriots fans to fess up 01.15.16 at 5:56 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Arnie Beyeler?

— Should anyone have a problem with what a professional athlete does on his or her own time? As long as it doesn’t directly affect anyone but you, have at it. But when someone like the Patriots’ Chandler Jones — even if he realized in mid-process he had made a big mistake — engages in actions that might put his health at risk, and therefore affect (many) others, how does this change the picture?

— I’m no prude, that’s for certain. But pardon me, professional athletes should be held to a higher/different standard than the general public, if only for the fact they’re paid handsomely to play a game. It’s a privilege, and that should not be forgotten. There are others to answer to, and decisions made that can affect coaches, teammates, and yes — fans.

— So he apparently made a mistake. We all do that. But when you’re a pro athlete, you’re put on a pedestal whether you like it or not. Own up to it, that’s the only lesson to be learned here. The Patriots did their best to squash it, that’s their job. But Chandler Jones had some ‘splainin’ to do, especially to his teammates, if you ask me. His apology this week was appropriate, if not exactly timely.

— I’m really glad that I was not in the media during Babe Ruth‘s heyday. I’d get really tired of having to ask him about the all-night drinking bender he was out on the night before.

— Although I can’t imagine what ESPN’s Cris Carter might say about the Babe if he had the chance. Friday on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike,” when asked about Chandler Jones, the brilliant wordsmith replied, “I think he was smoking marijuana and I think he was smoking some marijuana laced with PCP, or angel dust, and I think that’s what made him trip out.”

— Wow. Thanks for playing, Cris. Is this from a personal experience? Better have your posse ready to assist your employment search, or a fall guy to blame this one on. Or a good lawyer.

— And yet, ESPN continues to embrace/employ a knuckleheaded ex-athlete like Carter, put him on the air, and hope he says exactly something like this. It’s embarrassing, really. It isn’t just that ignorance is bliss, but that ignorance is rampant.

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Read More: Chandler Jones, Cris Carter, David Bowie, Jim Simpson
Thinking Out Loud: No reason to panic after No. 8 Providence suffers home loss to Marquette 01.08.16 at 5:14 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Sammy Sosa?

— It’s what we love and hate about sports, all at once. You’re riding high, but at any given moment — BOOM — goes the dynamite.

— For eighth-ranked Providence to lose to a young but very talented Marquette team Tuesday night, you’d think the season was over based on the reaction from some fans — and some media folks. Look, pardon me ladies, but if you’ve never strapped on a protective cup before I’ll explain this to you: Losses happen. Inexplicable losses happen. It’s a part of competition. And this one wasn’t inexplicable.

— There’s a reason why the Golden Eagles had the fifth-ranked (or higher) recruiting class in the country last year, because the kids are good. Six-foot-11 freshman Henry Ellenson is an NBA lottery pick, just like Kris Dunn. The Celtics‘ Danny Ainge was in attendance at the Dunk Tuesday night, and don’t think for a minute he didn’t envision Ellenson in green and white.

— At the same time, the Friar kids weren’t so good. Some of that was Marquette’s doing, but some of it was poor execution and decision-making by PC, including the attempt at a last shot to win it. Early, there were three Friars in la-la land on the floor, because they certainly didn’t seem to be clued into the game being played. It happens with young, inexperienced players — and hopefully they learn from it. But slow starts are becoming a trend with this team.

— Maybe Ken Pomeroy is right? His KenPom college basketball rankings, based on a formulaic equation, are followed widely in hoop circles, and this week he had the Friars rated a mere 33rd nationally. The answer is, undoubtedly, somewhere in the middle of the muck, but it’s also worth noting that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

— Not for nuthin’, but while they’re still the No. 8 team in the country for another day or two, this was the first time in the history of the Big East Conference that Providence found itself the highest-ranked team in the league. Think about that for just a sec, and realize you’ve come a long way, baby.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Henry Ellenson, Kris Dunn,
Thinking Out Loud: Top stories of 2015 01.01.16 at 3:47 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering what blockbuster stories 2016 might possibly bring.

— Yes, we have such a heavy Boston influence on our local landscape. Nevertheless, as part of this week’s thoughts and opinions, I’ll present what comes to mind as the top five Rhode Island sports stories for 2015 — while mixing in a few Boston-centric picks, too. Feel free to comment on your big stories if we miss one.

— The selection of Tim Neverett as the new Red Sox radio voice is a great pick. I had the pleasure of working with Tim in the early ’90s as part of something then known as The Sports Final Radio Network, based in Cambridge. Sports Final was a predecessor to ESPN Radio, and while it eventually ran out of funding, it did prove there was an appetite for sports radio — even in the overnight hours.

— In a business that so often chews up and spits out some really good people, Neverett is one of the good ones who has managed to stick around and stay with a craft he loves. He’s paid his dues (in the minors). He has big-league experience (in Pittsburgh (with the Pirates). He’s a New Englander coming home (from New Hampshire). Win-win-win for him, and for the listening audience.

— Working from my top story No. 5 to No. 1 in 2015: The death of new PawSox principal Jim Skeffington was indeed a blow to the local baseball community, as well as to his family, friends and business associates. His passing in May at age 73 also put the team’s campaign for a new stadium on the I-195 corridor in Providence on the back burner, where it eventually cooled and withered under public pressure.

— Could the new stadium deal (and the move from McCoy in Pawtucket) have been done had Skeffington been able to see the process through? I’ve heard from many people on this — and the answer is quite possibly yes.

— Dave Henderson’s death this past week forced me to revisit the very moment I remember becoming a real Red Sox “fan.” It was in 1986, the very moment the ball rolled through Bill Buckner‘s legs against the New York Mets in the World Series.

— I watched that entire playoff run — including Hendu’s big blast against the Angels — with a good friend from Cumberland, Rhode Island, who I was working with in television in San Antonio at the time, John Kirby. It was entertaining, watching JK’s emotional rise and fall on each big moment. But when Buckner’s boot occurred, I was hooked. It wasn’t hard to buy in to the sort of passion I witnessed.

— While all Sox fans suffered then, I was lucky. I only had to wait 18 years before the next World Series title, not 86.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, dave henderson, Jim Skeffington, Kris Dunn
Thinking Out Loud: Impressive turnaround for UConn football under Bob Diaco 12.25.15 at 12:20 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering just who came up with the whole “Twelve Days of Christmas” idea?

— On the first day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: a new remote control for my TV.

— Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds finished fifth in this year’s voting for the Heisman Trophy, which allegedly is awarded to the best player in college football every season. Not sure that’s the case this year, as Reynolds’ story (and season) was as good as it gets in my book.

— Still, his fifth-place finish is the best for a military academy athlete since former Navy QB Roger Staubach won it in 1963.

— On the second day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: two club seats for the Patriots and a new remote control for my TV.

— Don’t look now, but the former Big East football conference-turned-American Athletic Conference had three teams finish in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings. The AAC is much, much closer to alleged “Power Five” status than it is to “Group of Five” reality.

— For my money, there was no one in the country who did a better job coaching up his team than UConn’s Bob Diaco. Turning a two-win Huskies team in his first year into a six-win, bowl-eligible squad (St. Petersburg, Florida, anyone?) was a terrific piece of teaching.

— Say what you want about the glutted, everyone-wins-a-trophy bowl system now in place and you would probably be right. But for teams like UConn, the current bowl system is what it’s all about — a reward for a season that was unexpected, and memorable for the right reasons.

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Thinking Out Loud: Happy time at holidays for Providence basketball 12.18.15 at 4:32 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if I have any long, lost relatives related to Mike and Liz Ruane.

— The announcement from Providence College this week on the development of the Ruane Friar Development Center is a celebration — and a sigh of relief at the same time. Finally, a basketball-centric practice facility for a nationally ranked program, complete with new offices, a Hall of Fame and scholastic development for all student athletes at PC.

— With Providence being the last school in the Big East to create such a building, it now will be tougher to use the lack of facilities at PC as an anti-recruiting tool. Which was happening. Recruitable kids pay attention to this stuff. How does the saying go? He who has the most toys wins?

— He who has Ben Bentil is likely to win, too. Ed Cooley put Bentil out on the floor last week in a struggle with Bryant at the Dunk, sore ankle and all, and immediately his presence settled everyone down. And this was without Kris Dunn available, thanks to Dunn’s illness. Bentil’s leadership and ability, even though he is only a sophomore, ranks right up there with Dunn’s talent as a reason for the Friars’ success thus far.

— And that success has the current PC hoop ranking hovering at 14th nationally in both the AP and USA Today coaches’ poll this week. The 10-1 start is the best in 27 years, since Rick Barnes’ 1988-89 Friars began that season 13-0.

— What lies ahead for Providence? Rider on Saturday night, following a week off for semester exams, and one more road game at UMass on Dec. 21 before opening conference play New Year’s Eve on the road at nationally ranked Butler. A 12-1 record and a shot at the top 10? Can’t. Wait.

— Pack the Dunk, and buckle up for a memorable ride.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Kris Dunn,
Thinking Out Loud: PC continues special season despite illness, injury 12.11.15 at 5:15 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering who might be the most-hated referee on the college courts these days?

— The environment inside the Ryan Center for the 126th renewal (or 128th, depending on whether you count exhibitions or not) of PC vs. URI on the basketball floor was as good as it gets for the college game. A great crowd, filled with energy, emotion and just plain loudness. My ears were ringing for two solid hours after the game had ended, and not just because Joe Hassett yelled in the headphones at the end of the game.

— But there was plenty to yell about. Rhody’s performance was outstanding, and the Rams still can be title good this season. They’re pretty good right now. Ben Bentil also is good right now — and more on him in a moment. His tip-in at the buzzer — and I know Rhody fans feel there was a push-off on Jarvis Garrett under the basket — was a great no-call by an officiating crew that really did a solid job on an emotional floor. Let the players play and decide the outcome every time.

— No, Hassett did not tell me to say that about the refs. But they were pretty good — Roger Ayers was a lead official and is as good in stripes as the Big East has.

— As a result of the huge road win, the Friars moved up to 15th in the Associated Press poll, and 18th in the USA Today coaches’ poll. Those are heights not seen around here since the days of Ryan Gomes. Are we witnessing something special with this team? We might be.

— And then, the bubble bursts. Hot-shooting freshman Ryan Fazekas doesn’t suit up against Boston College, out for an undetermined amount of time with mononucleosis. Kris Dunn takes ill on the floor late in the first half against the Eagles (happened right in front of Hassett and myself, unfortunately) and Bentil inadvertently steps on the foot of BC’s Dennis Clifford and turns his ankle.

— Bentil’s injury truly is unfortunate, with his play elevated to national-recognition level over the past couple of weeks. That spotlight has been focused on his improved play, his ability to score inside and outside, and a newly developed talent for being able to stay in games defensively with opposing centers — many of them larger than he is. It’s been fun to watch him play. Hope we get to see him play again, and soon.

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Thinking Out Loud: Kris Dunn lives up to hype at Providence, but students aren’t turning out to see it 12.04.15 at 5:46 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering what I’m really thankful for these days.

— Was it a good Thanksgiving week in California for Providence College? Let’s see — you left home after a narrow, who-are-we-really win over NJIT and came home as a Wildcat-conquering, Spartan-scaring Top 25 squad. Yup, good week.

— The Wednesday win over Hartford was one of those “gotta play it” games on the schedule that every team has. In other words, get through it, learn something and move on. What did the Friars learn? Some of the young guys have a lot of work to do to improve, and the Big East won’t be the place for that to occur.

— Kris Dunn’s second career triple-double? Ho-hum. That seems to be a prevailing attitude among some fans, as only 5,100 showed up at the Dunk on Wednesday night. You’re missing something special if you don’t get out to watch this young man play. He is a legitimate national player of the year candidate.

— So where are the students at these games? Practically non-existent at the Dunk, and I’ve had several people tell me they even leave hockey games early. WTH? Is this current generation of students simply numb to the emotion and school pride that college athletics can create? And what’s at the center of this “numbing”? Partying, booze or fixation with their cell phones and the electronic world around them?

— Whatever it is, it’s lame.

— As for the Top 25 ranking this week, it marks the second straight season for a PC basketball team to reach the national polls. And that’s the first time this has happened for the program since 1977-78. You can’t get pumped for that?

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Kris Dunn,
Thinking Out Loud: Minus its star, URI looks to reinvent itself under fiery coach Danny Hurley 11.28.15 at 7:55 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Mike Bibby?

— This is the most wonderful time of the year, if you ask me. Holiday tournament basketball combined with meaningful, playoff-caliber football? Sign me up.

— Providence College’s cross-country trip to Anaheim, California, for the Wooden Legacy Tournament has been a good experience for a young team, regardless of the game results. Kris Dunn showcases his obvious talents, PC learns what it might take to be elite (with Michigan State and Arizona present), and young players can make mistakes without the red-hot spotlight of the Big East beating down their necks.

— Providence’s win over Evansville could be one of those that will look better as the season progresses. With Wichita State’s early struggles, the Purple Aces may be a real player in the Missouri Valley this season — certainly better than a CIT team in the postseason.

— Ben Bentil hit for a career high 24 (to this point) against the Purple Aces, and is capable of so much more, if he does just one thing: Calm down. Around the basket, that is. His energy level is so through the roof, it’s almost as if he has a putter’s “yips” when he gets close to scoring. A little more experience should, hopefully, provide the opportunity to learn the poise needed to be a truly dominant player inside.

— The struggle for basketball life after E.C. Matthews got started this week for the URI Rams, with mixed results in Cancun. A win over the Big 12’s TCU preceded a resounding thumping at the hands of national title contender Maryland. What does it mean? Rhody simply will need to grind, grind and grind some more to win. It won’t be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

— Strange that the alleged postgame handshake “incident” between Danny Hurley and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon Wednesday night was reported by the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, with direct attributions to what was said by a tournament official at the scorer’s table — and URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn reported he was satisfied that nothing was said at all. Who should we believe? As in all cases, the answer undoubtedly lies somewhere in the middle.

— I appreciate the fire with which Hurley guides the Rams program. Based on personal observation, however, there are times when he walks a tightrope on the line between energy, enthusiasm and absolute hysterics. It’s his style. And I’m quite certain it rubs other coaches the wrong way — you’ll perhaps recall Hurley and Ed Cooley shouting at each other two years ago at the Ryan Center?

— As for Maryland’s reaction to whatever was said in that handshake line, Turgeon also is known as being a bit flippant when it comes to emotions — I seem to recall a few years ago as coach at Wichita State he had a back-handed slap for the Friars after defeating them in Wichita, saying his team didn’t play well in a win over Providence.

— It would be nice, however, if some coaches could learn to be humble in victory, while also remaining gracious in defeat. Perhaps the pressure to win in college basketball‘s pressure-cooker simply has become too high for maintaining a certain level of sportsmanship?

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Danny Hurley, Kris Dunn, Mark Turgeon
Thinking Out Loud: URI starts to regroup after devastating injury to star guard E.C. Matthews 11.20.15 at 4:41 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering where in the world is Donnie McGrath?

— So much to look forward to, and then “bam!” E.C. Matthews’ knee injury is a kick in the groin for the URI Rams, no question. But the season doesn’t have to end before it starts, and that’s the task at hand for Dan Hurley — pick up the pieces and shattered dreams, and weave them back into something special.

— Rhody’s ultimate fate undoubtedly will be carried by several players, but for my money the most important one is sophomore Jared Terrell. Four McGlynn certainly can shoot it, but like most shooters he can be streaky. Hassan Martin will have teams give him the “hack-a-Shaq” treatment until he learns to make free throws with some regularity. Terrell will need to be a consistent presence as a scorer and defender for the Rams to remain relevant in the Atlantic 10.

— We saw all of the above come into play Tuesday morning in URI’s matchup with Valparaiso at the Ryan Center. It seemed to me they spent much of the game looking for Matthews’ ghost on the floor, which they never found. They’ll need some time to re-tool, and re-learn. But I’m not betting against Hurley, or this team.

— McGlynn’s near-buzzer beater that could have tied the score with Valpo was a left-handed heave at its intended target. Good grief. Can he do that and make one without desperation? That would be some weapon.

— Bryant has made it a habit in recent years to test its mettle in the season opener, and this year was no exception with the Bulldogs’ opener at Duke — the defending national champs. Lesson learned in a 113-75 loss? That schools in the power conferences operate on a different plane than those in the NEC — but Tim O’Shea’s players also learn quickly what it takes to be nationally competitive. Nothing like a cold slap of reality to start your year. And a nice paycheck, too.

— Here’s the reality for Providence Saturday — Brown has beaten the Friars twice in the past three seasons, including by an astounding 10 points last year at the Dunk. Brown isn’t a “gimme,” and the Bears aren’t necessarily coming to take their guarantee check and head back across town. They know they can win, and that’s a dangerous attitude.

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Read More: David Ortiz, Donnie McGrath, Doug Flutie, E.C. Matthews
Thinking Out Loud: Losing Dion Lewis hurts, but O-line injuries more concerning to Patriots 11.13.15 at 5:17 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how John Farrell is coming along with his cancer recovery.

— Dion Lewis’ injury is tough to take, no doubt. Lewis has been a great story for the Patriots this year — an ongoing personal reclamation project that has won him many admirers in and out of the locker room. His on-field play has been spectacular at times, and gave the offense a dimension that made it almost indefensible.

— But there’s a reason why the Patriots are who they are — and why they do the things they do. This too, shall pass.

— Right now, for my money the offensive line injuries may be of greater concern. The mixing, matching and patching of players on the line is a credit to coach Dave DeGuglielmo and the offensive staff’s ability to create depth. This is precisely why having versatility is the No. 1 reason for keeping some players on the roster, as opposed to possibly letting them go elsewhere.

— I got the impression that the Patriots pretty much sleepwalked through the Washington Redskins to reach 8-0. Also got the impression that after losing Dion Lewis for the year, and getting Sebastian Vollmer and Duron Harmon hurt, that the Patriots’ scorched-earth tour just had a dose of cold-water reality tossed onto the train.

— It’s the first time in NFL history for three teams to be 8-0. Who will be the first of the three (Patriots, Bengals, Panthers) to lose? Looking over the schedules, I’ll take Cincinnati at Arizona in Week 11 as the most likely candidate for a pratfall. Next most likely defeats? Carolina at Dallas on Thanksgiving, New England at Denver three days later.

— Tweet of the Week, from @AdamSchefter: A little primer for Sunday’s Patriots-Giants game: Since start of 2008 calendar year, Giants are ONLY NFL team the Patriots have NOT beaten.

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