Thinking out loud … while wondering why you care who Tom Brady votes for?
— The very fact that Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict received “only” a $75K fine from the NFL this week for his stomping of Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount this past Sunday — and nothing for his low blow on Martellus Bennett — should tell you all you need to know about how the league still feels about the Patriots.
— Suck it up, boys. Bend over, grab your ankles. Thank you sir, may I have another?
— Considering Burfict’s track record as a dirty player, considering his three-game suspension earlier THIS season for on-field safety violations, what more needs to happen here before justice actually prevails?
— Two things: One, the NFL needs to grow a pair and start doing things that make sense. But it won’t. It can’t. It’s the NFL’s world, and we’re just living in it. Two, someone will actually have to be decapitated, live, on the field. And even then, that might not do it.
— You know how I love a good conspiracy? I truly believe the league “likes” (or allows and looks the other way) behavior like this in some instances, in order to stir up controversy and interest. After all, ratings are down — 11 percent across the board from this time last year — and WAY down for the Thursday-Sunday-Monday night games.
— And therein lies at least part of the problem, methinks, behind the decrease in fan interest and/or ratings. Some are tired of the boorish behavior. Some are tired of controversy. Some are tired of the two-faced, speaking-from-both-sides-of-the-mouth, uneven, heavy-handed attitude shown by the NFL.
— Some also are tired of the proliferation of the sport on television, now working its way into the Twitterverse on Thursday nights, too.
— Not for nuthin’, but hardcore fans still are watching. Casual fans? Not so much, many turned off by the off-the-field headlines being made. The sideline protests against the national anthem, for example, have turned off many despite NFL beliefs to the contrary. And the current presidential election cycle has been more like watching WWE Raw, pulling away some potential football audience for the circus that has been Clinton-Trump.
— The social media hashtag #BoycottNFL is gaining momentum and being targeted toward those businesses that sponsor pro football despite any on- or off-field controversies. Is it a factor? Probably not a big one right now, but persistence can be troublesome when it comes to sponsorships. Team owners would be unwise to dismiss this.
— I also would add that a lot of the football being watched is, well, unwatchable. The game is being over-officiated in several ways, lengthening games to well more than three hours. And some teams are just bad, so when the networks pitch us Jacksonville vs. Cleveland?
— Well, I’m probably opting for the political arena. Or a movie. Or the Food Network. Or my family. Or the bills that need paying. And not necessarily in this order.
— How do we fix this lack-of-interest problem? First, do the right thing(s). On and off of the field. Next, kick the bad teams to the curb, and eliminate the chance for every team to play a primetime game. When you’re good, you get the top slots, period. Exercise actual common sense. Novel idea, right?
— I also would eliminate the Thursday night game. Too much of a good thing can upset your stomach, can’t it?
— And even with these fixes, fans across the country still will grow weary of the Patriots and their winning ways — which will be another reason to simply hate and start the cycle all over again.
— The Patriots almost blew it against the Bengals last week by playing too much zone in pass coverage. It’s terrible. Man-to-man is a little better, because there are playmakers on the defense. The coaches, right now, aren’t putting their players in the best positions to succeed.
— Gronkasaurus Rex, aka Rob Gronkowski and Martellus (Martysaurus Rex) Bennett, came to the rescue. TB12 found the duo for 14 catches and 210 yards, unleashing the two-headed beast on Cincinnati and serving notice to the rest of the teams on the schedule: Pick your poison.
— Re-sign Bennett to a new deal? Sure has to be at least some consideration for that move in the offseason, after thinking he’d be around for just this year. He’s due to get another big-money deal from someone, based on what we’ve seen so far. But lately he’s been hinting he likes it here. How much, exactly, DO you like it here, Marty?
— Ben Roethlisberger’s absence this week due to a knee injury is a definite break for New England. But anytime you play on the road, you can’t underestimate the home team’s ability to rally the troops. Pittsburgh has plenty of talent on offense without Big Ben.
— Who else is title-worthy in the AFC, besides New England? Every team has flaws. While Denver has had QB issues, for my money the Broncos still have a defense that can match up with the Patriots’ offensive talent pretty well.
— In the NFC, look out for the Dallas Cowboys. Dak Prescott actually might be this decade’s version of Tom Brady taking over for Drew Bledsoe, as he should keep Tony Romo on the bench — where he belongs. And I still think Arizona will be around, at the end.
— You know Bill Belichick is genuine, and popular, when you see both the NFL and Microsoft issuing statements after the coach said this week computer tablets are just not his thing. Despite Microsoft’s reported $400 million marketing deal with the NFL to be the exclusive sideline tablet for all teams, Coach Bill slammed his to the ground in disgust against Buffalo a few weeks back.
— How do you get these damn things to work again? To hell with it. And get off my lawn!
— Geno Smith is starting at quarterback for the 1-5 New York Jets? Hahahahahahahahaha! Whew. Good one. Now really, who is starting for the Jets this week?
— After all of the hustle, after all of the bluster, after all of the angst forced upon schools, athletic departments and other conference officials, the Big 12 stays put with 10 members. For now. And why did the league do this? For money, of course.
— The Big 12 made an absolute mockery of collegiality during this process, vetting candidates from coast to coast and ultimately deciding on 11 schools (including UConn) to make their best “pitch” to league presidents.
— The best pitch actually came from the Big 12’s TV network partners, who absolutely did not want the conference to take advantage of a contractual loophole (through a pro-rata clause) that could have forced them to pay out up to an extra $25 million each for new members.
— The goal became simple — to make more money from the TV networks, rather than add schools (while still making more money) and then agitating its TV network partners.
— ESPN and Fox both said, “We’ll pay you a little bit more NOT to expand.” Money always talks. Money always moves mountains. Money always speaks volumes. There will be a football championship game in 2017 for the league, and extra payout to the current 10 members for that additional dough earned. Sorry, Houston. Goodbye, BYU. See ya, Cincinnati.
— TV rules the roost. TV controls the Big 12, if not all of college athletics. TV controls us all, in some way, shape or form. It certainly is driving the bus for the Big 12-minus-two.
— And UConn? An afterthought. Not that the Huskies were ever a top choice to join the Big 12, but there always was a shot. That shot now is a distant memory, just like Tate George’s shot against Clemson in the 1990 NCAA Tournament.
— There was at least some thought given toward the Huskies re-aligning themselves with the Big East in basketball and other sports, if they could find a home for football. The cost to exit the American Athletic Conference would be too steep for UConn now, without the promise of big TV paydays to come. So that possibility is dead on the vine.
— But never say never. For the Big 12, or the Big East. Why? Because of money. Because of TV. Because some college presidents will jump through fire for the cash flow, oblivious to the sell-out status to which they’ll relegate their institutions and alumni.
— What happens when the TV gods run out of money? We may find that out by 2024-25, when the Big 12’s current deal expires. Or who knows? Maybe sooner than that. Without the TV nectar from the gods, conferences eventually will crack up and schools will re-align again, just as tectonic plates shift the surface of our world. The big one — the big quake — still is coming, whenever the money well runs dry.
— Just remember this: What goes around, comes around. History, you know, has a strange way of repeating itself.
— Some observations from the Friars’ practices as the college basketball season nears: 1) Kyron Cartwright is a faster player, and his quickness will present some problems for opposing guards. 2) Rodney Bullock is becoming very vocal on the floor, appearing to assume a leadership role (with Cartwright) on the team. 3) Between Kalif Young, Emmitt Holt and Isaiah Jackson, there may not be an aircraft carrier in the middle, but there isn’t much room for opposing teams to maneuver, either.
— CBSSports.com has Providence’s win total for the season projected at 16. That would make PC a borderline NIT team, based on a 16-15 regular-season record. Barring health issues, I’ll take the over on that number. You?
— The website also had the Friars at 69 out of 351 Division 1 teams, which says right now, they’re just on the wrong side of the potential NCAA bubble. Seven Big East schools placed higher, and Rhody was 18th.
— As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Ben Bentil won’t be on the Celtics’ final roster as the NBA regular season begins this week. He’ll most likely be waived and travel to Portland, Maine, to join the Maine Red Claws in the NBA D-League, which would make him fair game for any NBA team as a potential call-up. Bentil had 15 points and 13 rebounds in three preseason appearances for the C’s.
— Former Friars coach Rick Pitino dodged a major bullet fired at his Louisville team this season, by having the NCAA’s notice of allegations released this week pointed toward former assistants Andre McGee and Brandon Williams. In the scandal surrounding testimony from a former escort in the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” Pitino still could face a suspension much like Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown experienced a year ago. But not this year, by the time hearings could potentially be held next spring.
— If Pitino really “knew nothing” about what was going on with his players in that dorm, wouldn’t that be considered a lack of institutional control? The NCAA failed to charge Pitino with that, instead opting for a “failure to monitor” charge against the coach for not knowing what his assistants were doing. Huh? Stupid is as stupid does.
— Anyone surprised with URI’s standing at the Atlantic 10 media day this week? The Rams were a preseason pick for second in the conference, behind only Dayton, and ahead of VCU, Davidson and St. Bonaventure. Already around these parts the expectations are high for Danny Hurley’s team — but are they realistic?
— E.C. Matthews, coming off of his ACL tear in the season-opener last year and with his return a primary reason for the Rams’ optimism, was named as a second-team all A-10 guard. Forward Hassan Martin, the reigning A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, also was chosen as a second-teamer as well as an All-Defensive Team member.
— If either of those players can’t make the A-10 first team, URI could slip from NCAA contention. Again. One of them (and maybe both) will need to be “go to” guys for the Rams to go where they hope to go — and that’s back to the Big Dance for the first time since 1999.
— And like the Friars, the Rams also will have an Indiana transfer ready to contribute this season in the form of guard Stanford Robinson. Matthews, Jarvis Garrett, Jared Terrell and Robinson could be the best backcourt in the conference this season.
— Despite having four starters back from last season, Brown was picked for last place in the Ivy League preseason media poll. Princeton was No. 1. The Ivies will have a postseason tournament for the first time this year, with the top four finishers advancing to the Palestra in Philadelphia on March 11-12.
— Don’t let the departure of Red Sox GM Mike Hazen fool you. He had a great job in Boston, sure. But his new job as general manager in Arizona is a better one. Why? Because he will have the final say in baseball decisions in the desert. Dave Dombrowski had that handle here. No-brainer.
— Under Hazen in several roles — from scout, to player development, to assistant GM, to GM — the Red Sox reached the playoffs five times in 11 seasons and won two World Series titles (2007, 2013). Not a bad legacy for a guy few fans really knew much about, huh? Just sayin.’
— Am I the only one rooting against the Chicago Cubs? Honestly, if the Cubs actually win the World Series and snap their 108-year drought between titles, I feel as if we’ll have no more mountains to climb. Sports — and especially baseball — need their jinxes. We all need to have someone, or some team, worse off than we are, don’t we?
— Besides, it will be hard for me to root against Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians. Francona, because it’s payback for his dismissal in Boston. The Indians? It’s still Cleveland, even if LeBron James got the revival started earlier this year.
— If you need a baseball fix to keep you warm through the fall and winter, you might want to check into the PawSox’ “Ball Yard Sale and Open House” on Oct. 29 at McCoy Stadium. Game-used gear and memorabilia will be on sale, and the clubhouse locker rooms and dugouts will be open for visitors from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.
— My buddy Statbeast sez he’s disappointed that the presidential debates have ended for another four years or so. When I asked him why, he told me that these days the most valuable function performed by the federal government is entertainment, and the most powerful force in the universe is gossip bordering on slander. Combine the two? It has been must-see-TV. Hard to argue with that.
— Why anyone needs to know who Tom Brady supports for president is simply ridiculous. Why? Because he’s the quarterback for the New England Patriots? Because he’s married to a supermodel? Because he’s looked up to (fair or not) by millions of kids and adults? Because he was persecuted by the NFL (unfairly or not) for his role in Deflategate? Why would anyone allow a football player’s intimate thoughts help them make their own decisions about voting?
— Because he’s Tom Freakin’ Brady, that’s why. TB12 is a victim of his own success, and too many of us still want to be (or think) just like him. Fair, or not.
— Trevor from Fort Lauderdale, Florida posted this week on Facebook: Loved what I saw from E. Rowe last week, however haven’t seen enough yet to convince me we have a good, consistent third corner. That is a major concern. Trevor: I understand your concern with the Patriots defensive backs in general. I share your concern, but like you, I also liked what Rowe showed in his brief time against the Bengals. Much of the trouble has come when the Patriots play zone — they’re not very good. Don’t know if they’re just trying to develop there or what, but man defense is far ahead of everything else they’ve tried. They also need to see more from rookie Cyrus Jones, and that should happen soon.
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