Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Herschel Walker.
— With Midnight Madness/Late Night Madness largely a thing of the past for true college hoop aficionados, conference media days now signal the true start to a season. Or at least, the start of the college game’s PR push against the NFL and NBA — especially around here.
— Not for nuthin’, but I miss the days (years?) when fans could be treated to the latest information, hear from the coaches and guest speakers, and actually watch the team PRACTICE on the floor to start the season. Does any school still do this?
— Nowadays — and not that this is bad, or anything — it’s just for the kids. The on-floor show is for students only. And that’s fine and all, but don’t schools still need to appease their alumni and season-ticket holders?
— Especially in the day and age of personal seat licensing, increased ticket prices and late(r) start times due to television. I’m no marketing genius, but if I need to raise money and increase awareness and attendance, I’m throwing a bone in the direction of my longtime fans and alumni, especially those who have a tendency to gripe about these things. Just sayin’.
— Now, get off my lawn! Please?
— Not surprised in the least with Providence being picked for ninth at the Big East media day in New York this week. The only issue I have is, St. John’s was eighth?
— Listen, the coaches doing the voting aren’t stupid. But the preseason polls mean squat. The Johnnies have talented newcomers, but this league tends to eat its young. Don’t these guys know this? SJU will have an extraordinary team if the Red Storm finish AHEAD of PC.
— That is, primarily, because Providence returns four players with starting experience. But you lose the two big dogs (Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil), the assumption is there for a step back. But you know what happens when you assume, right?
— Rodney Bullock’s time is now. I thought he deserved at least honorable mention from the coaches for All-Big East consideration. Players get snubbed, too, you know. Players also can use it as motivation.
— Ed Cooley said during his show this week on 103.7 WEEI-FM that Jalen Lindsey has gained 40 pounds since arriving on campus as a freshman. And current freshman Alpha Diallo has put on about 20 pounds of muscle already. Iron Friars readying for Big East battles.
— The player who could have the most impact that no one is talking about is Emmitt Holt. Second in the nation last year at the juco level in field goal shooting. Tough. Strong. Hard-working player. Only 6-foot-7, but with a 7-3 wingspan. The Friars need men in the middle against Villanova, Xavier, Georgetown and Seton Hall. They’ve got at least one, and they’ll need others to join him.
— Cooley also said that Canadian freshman big man Kalif Young is an elite-level rebounder. That will definitely help against the big boys.
— Villanova’s Josh Hart was a shoo-in for preseason player of the year, once Bentil decided to leave school. A little surprising, however, that national championship hero Kris Jenkins (remember? He hit THE shot to beat UNC) didn’t receive some consideration. Jenkins was a first-team pick, however.
— Sleeper team that could be really good? Creighton. Maybe as good as it was with Dougie McBuckets a couple of years ago, if not better from top to bottom. The Bluejays needed Big East-caliber athletes, and the might now have some in place. Coach Cooley likes Seton Hall, the defending Big East tournament champ from last season.
— So, TB12 is back, and not a moment too soon, right? For a team that was shut out by Rex Ryan’s middling game plan a week ago, all Brady did was become the AFC Offensive Player of the Week in leading his team to a bounceback win over Cleveland.
— Ho-hum. Life returns to normal. Somewhat.
— The Cincinnati Bengals present some interesting problems, most notably a currently underachieving talented offense and defense. The Bengals can’t — or won’t — score. Not sure if that’s good for a Patriots defense that has some questions of its own.
— Solving the defensive lapses will take some time. Notably, the secondary is proving to be thin on depth, and perhaps not as talented as first thought. Jamie Collins, while an outstanding individual talent at linebacker, can’t do it all by himself — and disappears from time to time.
— But one of my favorite games to play, on any given day, is, “No matter how bad you have it, someone else has it worse.” Case in point: The 1-4 New York Jets put receiver Eric Decker on injured reserve this week. Aw, shucks.
— Is it possible that because of the craziness surrounding our presidential election, Trump vs. Clinton is one reason why TV viewership is down for the NFL this season? The debates are cringe-worthy, rubber-necking-disasters-in-the-making. Verbal MMA bouts, without the punching, kicking and wrestling. And plenty of talk about grabbing.
— I don’t usually pat myself on the back, but I will say “told ya so” when it comes to the Red Sox and their flop from the playoffs. So, I’m not surprised they’re out.
— I’ve said — repeatedly in this space — the team didn’t possess consistent pitching in the rotation or in the bullpen. Check. This team doesn’t hit well in the clutch. It leaves too many runners in scoring position. Check and double-check.
— The checkmate came from Terry Francona, who may have exacted his revenge on the team (and its ownership) since he was fired and thrown under a bus at the end of 2011. What goes around, comes around.
— On top of that, it became painfully obvious during the Indians series that Francona has the “feel” for the game that John Farrell often lacks. Even so, Dave Dombrowski has decided to keep Farrell and his staff. Can’t say that’s a horrible idea, based on a 93-win season. But can you see this team — perhaps intact for next year — winning anything with Farrell still at the helm?
— To those who want Farrell out: Who replaces him? Jason Varitek? What happened the last time someone who wasn’t ready for the bigs took over the helm? Remember Butch Hobson? How did that go?
— Listening to Lou Merloni’s “poem,” poking fun at WEEI Sox voice Joe Castiglione and his end-of-season sign-off, actually was laugh-out-loud funny. Do yourself a favor, find it on this site and listen. Not only is it hysterical, as Lou often deals in hysterics, but it sums up my feelings on this season PERFECTLY.
— You just lost to Cleveland? Cleveland! Nothing more needs to be said, really. Except, Coco Crisp? C’mon, man.
— Too little, too late for the young guys, who looked to have a direct relationship with stage fright in those three miserable games. Except for Andrew Benintendi, whom Farrell inexplicably pulled from Game 3 for Chris Young. Clueless. At. Fenway.
— Anyone else think Toronto’s Ben Cherington also has a smile on his face these days? But not any bigger than Francona’s.
— It seems that UMass grads may have had at least something to do with the Red Sox’ demise in the playoffs. Chris Antonetti, the Indians’ president of baseball operations, is a UMass guy. Scott Barnsby, who once threw a no-hitter for the Minutemen, is Antonelli’s assistant director of amateur scouting. Can we revoke their passports or something?
— Although, to be completely fair, there are eight UMass grads working for the Red Sox, too, in marketing, media relations and sales. No baseball ops folks, however.
— David Ortiz’s curtain call after Game 3 will go down as a special moment in Red Sox — and in ALL of Boston sports — history. But the year-long celebration was wearing on everyone, probably including his teammates, and it was just time for the end. But thanks, Papi, for the Hall of Fame career, the special moments and the memories.
— Thanks also for making the Yankees your personal b****, since the Yankees were once Pedro Martinez’s daddy. Does this make us even now?
— Five more years of David Price? Which Price do we get next season, this year’s? He can opt out after two more years, so let’s settle for that right now and see what else comes along afterward, can we?
— I’m actually beginning to believe in the Cubbies. They might do it. They’ve got the “charm” this year, the momentum, and Wonderboy Theo Epstein behind it all to boot. Aroldis Chapman still gets it done in the pen. And some guy named Jon Lester as an ace.
— I’ll evoke my best Bob Lobel here: Why can’t we get players like that?
— The PawSox have announced their schedule for next season. Pawtucket will open on the road April 6 at Lehigh Valley. The home opener at McCoy Stadium, in its 75th anniversary season, will be April 10 at 6:05 p.m. against Syracuse.
— Just as an aside, but Triple-A baseball is reducing its schedule from 144 games to 142 next season. The major leagues should take the hint. Less is more.
— My buddy “Big E” sez he has a lawyer friend who stopped his car recently after he saw two men eating grass on the side of the road. He asked why they were eating grass, and they said they didn’t have any money for food. So, he invited the men into his town car to come home with him. The men then told him they had their families with them, too — and the lawyer invited them to come along as well. Once they were all under way, packed into the limo, one of the poor guys turned to the lawyer and said, “Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you.” The lawyer replied, “Glad to do it. You’ll really love my place. The grass is almost a foot high.”
— You didn’t really think there was such a thing as a heartwarming lawyer story, did you? Hey, I’ve got lawyers in my own family.
— Anyone else think it’s all downhill from here for Auston Matthews? The Toronto Maple Leafs rookie scored on the first FOUR shots of his NHL career this week — but the Leafs lost the game 5-4 to Ottawa. He’s the 12th first overall NHL draft pick to score in his big-boy debut. He’s just 19, and gets to test his talents next against the Bruins. Go figure.
— Great start for Brad Marchand in Columbus, right? Now, if he could sustain the ability to be a true scoring threat, the Bruins might have at least half of their problems solved for this season. The blue line in front of Tuukka Rask is still blurred.
— Amazing, really, that rookie Brandon Carlo started on the top defensive line with 39-year-old Zdeno Chara. When Big Z made his NHL debut on Nov. 19, 1997, seven days later Carlo turned 1. As in 1-year-old. Whoa. How long can Gramps and the teenager co-exist?
— Paul Pierce says he will retire as a Boston Celtic. Was there any other choice for him? If you’re thinking top five Celtics of all time, doesn’t Pierce rate as a strong contender, at least?
— I’ve got the tale of three quarterbacks to tell. First, Colin Kaepernick gets his job back with the San Francisco 49ers. Now that he’s the starter again, does his kneeling protest continue, or does he change his stance on the national anthem? Inquiring minds want to know.
— Next, say what you want about Tim Tebow’s inability to play professional quarterback, but the guy has a certain “somethin’-somethin’ ” going on, doesn’t he? This past week, Tebow was signing autographs as a member of the New York Mets’ Arizona Fall League team and came to a fan’s aid after the man had fallen and suffered a seizure. Several eyewitness reports have said Tebow put his hands on the man and prayed, and the seizures stopped. He stayed with the fan until help arrived.
— And finally, might Tony Romo be out of a job in Dallas? Sidelined with a broken back, Romo is on the verge of coming back, but rookie QB Dak Prescott has the Cowboys off to a 4-1 start. Has the future already arrived in Dallas, and is the window closing for an injury-prone Pro Bowler?
— Part of me thinks former Cowboy and Carolina Panther Greg Hardy should never again have the chance to participate in pro sports, and another part of me thinks if he wants to try MMA, go right ahead so someone can actually kick his rear end into tomorrow.
— Twenty-seven years ago this week, one of the most notable “one-sided” trades in NFL history took place when the Dallas Cowboys sent former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker to Minnesota. In exchange for Walker, Dallas built a dynasty. The Cowboys received the Vikings’ first-round choices in 1990, ’91 and ’93, second-round picks in ’91, ’92 and ’93, plus five players (linebackers David Howard and Jesse Solomon, running back Darrin Nelson, cornerback Issiac Holt and defensive end Alex Stewart). They dealt Walker and four future picks to the Vikings. None of the players really turned into a star for Dallas, but the draft picks led to Dallas selecting eventual Super Bowl stars Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Kevin Smith, Alvin Harper and Russell Maryland. Plus, three SB trophies.
— Walker had a dynamite debut for the Vikings 27 years ago, with 148 rushing yards. But Minnesota ultimately ended up getting the short end of the straw in the deal, which eventually became known as “The Great Trade Robbery.” Sports Illustrated called it, in 2008, “The worst trade of all time.”
— Walker has earned a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, danced in ballet, become an Olympic bobsledder, fought as an MMA combatant and appeared as a reality TV star since his retirement from the NFL in 1997. He remains active in several political and charitable causes, absolutely none of them having anything to do with trains or cowboys, however.
— Drew (@Andrew_Fennell) tweeted this week: Just thinking out loud, what if we sign a minimum contract kicker solely for kickoffs? Drew: Sure appreciate the way you think out loud. But you might have to put those thoughts back in the holster. Absolutely no way the Patriots would waste a roster spot on a one-dimensional player, especially a kicker, when they already have a very good one. I get your thinking, so Stephen Gostkowski could concentrate on field goals rather than getting air under the ball on kickoffs, but with 53-man rosters, New England (and other teams as well) crave versatility. Patience with Gostkowski. He’s earned it.
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