Thinking out loud … while wondering how many April Fools must we endure this year.
— Is he an April Fool? The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessey is simply a fire-starter. I happen to enjoy his work, however, because of his ability to tweak the sports public consciousness around here almost at will. That’s impressive. Especially when he can do it on a national level, like this week.
— But his innocuous tweet on the UConn women’s basketball team being “bad” for the rest of the sport? Frankly, it was funny. I understand the thought process, however. But here’s what few are talking about as the “real story”: Exactly why is it that no other program seems to be able to keep up with the Huskies juggernaut? It’s not that UConn is knocking everyone else down, it’s that no one is capable of rising to its present level.
— That, above almost anything else, is why Geno Auriemma’s work as coach is nearly incomparable, except for legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. Auriemma’s prowess may have more to do with selling his program to the women’s game’s best players than it is with X’s and O’s on the floor. And he’s not bad there, either.
— I would argue that few looked at those 1960s-’70s UCLA teams like they look at UConn’s dominance today for one major reason: media proliferation. No one covered the men’s game back then like it is covered today. We didn’t have 24-hour sports channels. There was no Internet. We were lucky to get the final on network TV! Had we had the kind of scrutiny then as we do today, I’ll wager the Wizard of Westwood and his program would have had its detractors, too.
— UConn’s inexorable march to and through the madness was watchable, only in that the curiosity factor crept in for me. Could anyone mount a challenge? Could anyone give Goliath a game? Those are storylines beyond whether or not you actually “like” watching women’s basketball, or not. And I do love a good storyline.
— Here’s one, and file under “She said it.” Former UConn All-American and current WNBA star Diana Taurasi, reacting to suggestions that the women’s game lower the rim from 10 feet: “Might as well put us in skirts and back in the kitchen.”
— Another storyline I would have liked to have seen more of around here: Providence native Davida Dale on the Syracuse women’s team in the Final Four. Dale attended LaSalle Academy, was MVP of the state tournament in 2013, then prepped at St. Andrew’s before signing with the Orange. Dale hasn’t played this season as a freshman, but she was a national top-100 player and a four-star recruit. How often does Rhode Island cultivate players like this?
— It’s not often I will compliment my sometime on-air partner in crime, but erstwhile April Fool Scott Cordischi has been rather tame with his Syracuse double-double this week. The men’s team in the Final Four, too? For a team that didn’t deserve to be in the tournament in the first place, the Orange’s performance has been remarkable. So was their tournament draw.
— Perhaps Scottie is laying low here because his alma mater, currently on NCAA probation, is playing a school (North Carolina) that may very well soon find itself there as well? If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.
— You certainly can make an argument for neither team being included in the tournament to begin with, but then again, the NCAA knows how to attract an audience and make a buck.
— Should anything be discerned from the fact that Syracuse and North Carolina are both ACC schools? Boston College is, too, but the Eagles ain’t cheatin’. Apparently.
— If you have a problem with the NCAA talking out of both sides of its mouth, join the club. On one hand, it’s all about enforcement of the rules, or so it will have you believe. On the other hand, it’s all about making money. Which hand wins? You know the answer.
— Why were there so many pundits quick to call out Kevin Harlan’s “Back from the dead” comment about Syracuse during the national TV broadcast on Easter Sunday? Admittedly, I don’t think I would have chosen those exact words, but really, where was the offense? If his words bothered you, are you also upset whenever an athlete praises God for his or her abilities on the floor? Just sayin’.
— Not for nuthin’, but Villanova’s reppin’ the Big East at the Final Four is the next necessary step for the league’s relevancy and return to old-school glory. Winning it all would be icing on the cake. But the Wildcats’ success isn’t due to anything else other than having a roster with all of the requisite parts needed to win a title: talent, depth and a little luck.
— Providence had talent, sure. Not enough of it, however — but enough of it to beat Nova on the road in January. Now, the key for the Friars? Find more of it, and keep it around for longer than a year or two.
— In case you were wondering, or thinking about flying to Houston for the Final Four, game tickets were running at $800 each early in the week. That would be some serious — and expensive — reppin’.
— Speaking of reppin’, Providence’s Mike Stephens has earned a repeat appearance as a game official for the Final Four, as one of 10 referees selected by NCAA supervisor of officials J. D. Collins. For Stephens, this will be his fourth trip to the national semifinals and/or final, but the public won’t learn what game(s) he’ll do — if any — until an hour before tip-off. Five of the 10 refs have Big East ties, in case you’re wondering.
— Only mildly surprised here, but the accolades continue to pour in for Kris Dunn this week. Named a Wooden Award finalist and a Wooden All-American, Dunn also was named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press and CBS Sports, as well as a consensus second-team All-American by the NCAA — while Ben Bentil was named an honorable mention All-American by the AP. Mildly surprised, in that absence doesn’t usually make the heart grow fonder.
— Dunn’s recognition makes him only the fifth Friar all time to receive a consensus All-America honor by the NCAA — and you probably can name the others, right? He joins Jimmy Walker (1966, 1967), Ernie DiGregorio (1973), Marvin Barnes (1974) and Ryan Gomes (2004) on the elite list.
— Ed Cooley is Coach for Life. This one has a nice sound to it. Normally when you pin the “CFL” designation on someone, it is used derisively. Great for the school to step up here (in the vicinity of $2 million annually) with the contract extension this week and a fantastic gesture by Ed and his wife Nurys to give back to the school for the Ruane Development Center — of which the Center’s development itself has helped to keep him right where he is today, as the HC of PC.
— In the midst of this love fest, do not doubt Coach Cooley’s appreciation for where he is, for even one moment. He means it, and I believe him when he says this is his “destination job.” He’s being compensated like it’s a destination job, too — which is something that has not previously occurred with other coaches who have passed through Smith Hill, as long-time Friars fans are painfully aware.
— USA Today reported this week there are 24 college basketball coaches in the NCAA Tournament this year who earn at least $2 million per year, and another 11 coaches who make that kind of quid and didn’t take part in the Madness. Thirty-five coaches across this country make at least $2 mil, up from a total of 11 coaches just five years ago.
— Before his contract extension this week, Cooley was the second-highest-paid coach (among five) in the Big East at just over $1.6 million, according to USA Today, which ranked him 28th among NCAA Tournament coaches nationally (out of 68) and ahead of names like Jim Larranaga (Miami), Kevin Willard (Seton Hall) and Chris Mack (Xavier). Cooley’s salary has nearly tripled in the last three years — which, coincidentally, includes three straight NCAA appearances.
— Commitment from the college is everything. Like-minded individuals are involved here. This being said, “Never say never.” College athletics are fun, exciting and passionate. They’re also a bidness. Big Bidness.
— The Providence hockey Friars senior class, without a doubt, helped Nate Leaman get where he hoped the program could go. A national title. A No. 1 ranking in the polls. Dominant program status nationally. As of late this week, six of the nine senior members of the class had signed professional contracts to continue their careers.
— Want to win? Eyeball and recognize talent. Then bring it in and keep talent happy by nurturing growth. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t. It’s why coaches are hired and then fired. Providence finally has recognized what athletic success on the ice — and on the court — can mean for the school over the long haul. Not just the bidness success, or the athletic success — but academic success, too. Been on campus lately? Take a look around.
— Fantastic to see URI’s Xavier Munford sign a second 10-day contract with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. The rising athletic tide around here has a way of filling everyone’s boat, doesn’t it?
— Back to the topic of women and sports for a sec: Smart gals, tough ladies those soccer players. In case you missed it, a few key members of the U.S. women’s national team have made a wage-discrimination filing on behalf of the entire team against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Why? Because they generated nearly $20 million more revenue than the men’s team a year ago yet are paid (on average) almost four times less than the men. Whoa.
— You’ve come a long way, baby, when it comes to gender equity. And apparently, you still have a way to go.
— “Batman vs. Superman” was fun. For this long-time comic book fan, it was another trip through time when 10-to-12-year-old minds could comprehend superhero storylines and outcomes as easily and effortlessly as they traded baseball cards with their buddies. The storyline(s) for the movie raced through the action scenes, which was a drawback overall. However, it was done largely to bring non-followers and curious consumers up to speed with DC Comics history.
— There’s enough intrigue to surprise, and to disappoint, at the same time. Those who did not “get” the movie, however, are the ones panning it. If you haven’t seen it, don’t go in expecting a continuation of the Batman “Dark Knight” trilogy and you won’t be disappointed. This is a new storyline, and a sequel for “Man of Steel” more than anything else.
— Ben Affleck’s Batman character is dark, just as Christian Bale’s Batman was, but the comparison ends there. And Affleck accounted for himself quite well as a superhero.
— As the title would indicate, “Dawn of Justice” also is accurate. This is the beginning of further sequels involving the superhero members of the “Justice League,” and the possibilities from here are endless. As a grown man stuck forever with the mind of a 12-year-old, I’m quite giddy in anticipation of watching Aquaman, Flash and even Wonder Woman in future flicks.
— In honor of Wrestlemania this week, here’s a Stone Cold Stunner for you: For the first time since 1970, no Canadian NHL teams will reach the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s not just stunning, it’s downright embarrassing for pro hockey. If you live in Canada. Apparently, those in the Great White North aren’t kidding when they call lacrosse (or curling?) the national sport of Canada.
— In. Your. Face. The New York Times recently published a story about the NFL’s research into the concussion issue that also suggested ties between the league and the tobacco industry. The NFL asked the Times to not only take the story down but publish a retraction. Pot, meet kettle.
— The Times stood by its story, and assistant general counsel Dave McCraw wrote to the NFL that “while the Times has a policy of promptly correcting factual errors, nowhere does your letter identify any factual errors that we made in our reporting on the ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry.”
— The silence you hear emanating from Park Avenue in New York? Crickets. Stupid is as stupid does.
— Thinking that I’m loving me some Pot Roast right about now. A one-year deal for defensive lineman Terrence Knighton — who tortured the Patriots in 2013 as a Denver Bronco — could be good for all concerned. If he’ll buy into the team’s rotational system at tackle. But at least we’ve got a killer nickname on the team for next season. Headline writers and wordsmiths rejoice!
— If the over/under on the number of Boston Red Sox wins for this season is set by oddsmakers at 85.5, I’m thinking under.
— After David Price in the rotation, whom can you rely upon? In the bullpen, age and injury (Koji Uehara, Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith) are already becoming a problem on the back end, and on the bench you’ve got guys (Rusney Castillo, Pablo Sandoval for two) making more money than many starters on other teams. Nope, confidence is not high heading into the season.
— Add to this eclectic roster mix the manager. John Farrell had his own health issues last year, and thankfully has recovered. But two last-place finishes in a row (three in four years) with a Boston-type payroll should never be acceptable. Plus, there is a new issue of personal integrity and conflict of interest thanks to Farrell’s alleged dalliance with now ex-CSNNE reporter Jessica Moran.
— Trust is important. Can you — can we — trust John Farrell? How long does he get to prove himself? April and May are huge for him, and this team. If the season starts poorly, he may not last until Mother’s Day. Nor should he.
— Finally, while he’s had an interesting spring thus far, if you’re depending on Hanley Ramirez to redeem himself from a disastrous 2015, complete his adjustment to first base and actually hit the ball with authority this year, you may be asking too much. Admittedly, his early performances have raised eyebrows, and not in a negative way. But if Ramirez is your key to a successful season?
— You’ll have nothing more than (April) fools’ gold on hand. Let’s revisit this in, say, late July?
— So, the State of Rhode Island has come up with a new tourism look and logo: “Cooler and Warmer.” Is this an April Fools’ joke? Say what you will about not being able to understand the point, but if Rhode Islanders don’t get it, how can you properly explain it to tourists?
— On top of the money spent for this “campaign” (alleged to have been approximately $5 million), for a lot less you could have had a middle school art class come up with a better idea and design. And some of the footage in the promotional video (which cost about a half-mil to produce) was shot in Iceland. Iceland? Cooler, yes. Warmer? Well, yes. We’re warmer, generally, than Iceland. Helluva selling point there. Is that what was intended?
— Three words for this fiasco: Only. In. Rhode Island. Technically, that’s four words. But this is Rhode Island, so fuhgeddaboudit. Have a muffin.
— The Ocean State? Cooler and Warmer? How about: Rhode Island, the “we can’t get anything right, so come here and feel better about yourself” state? Or what about: Rhode Island, the “sea” it to believe it state?
— I’m waiting for someone to yell “April Fools!” at all of us on this one.
— My buddy Statbeast sez he recently came across a doctor, an engineer and an advertising executive in downtown Providence discussing which of them had the oldest profession. The doctor said to remember that on the sixth day, God took a rib from Adam to create Eve, making him the first surgeon. The engineer followed up with, “Before that, God created the heavens and earth from chaos and confusion, so he was the first engineer.” To which the ad exec replied, “Well, who do you think created the chaos and confusion to begin with?”
— Formerly known as All Fools Day, April Fools’ Day (April 1) doesn’t really have a definitive beginning or origin. Maybe the joke is on all of us? The widely held theory begins with a religious bent, as Pope Gregory XIII shifted the calendar in 1582 to reflect New Year’s Day as Jan. 1 rather than April 1. Those who chose to follow the new calendar were mocked and referred to as “fools” by traditionalists of the era. By that standard, guess that makes all of us fools today, doesn’t it?
— The practice of sending these “fools” off on errands or tricking them into believing something false began the tradition many of us continue to this day. And after all this time, I thought the true April Fools’ Day was really Election Day in Rhode Island. Tsk, tsk.
— Paul (@spinellapaul) Tweeted this week: Can PC ever make a run in tourney? They bring Dunn in his prime and win one. What’s it going to take to go deep? Paul: On the surface of things, your reasoning does raise some doubt about the reality of reaching a Final Four, no question. It’s hard to do. But the answer here is very simple. It’s not the Dunns you really need, although more like him would be great to see. A player like Kris comes along maybe once in 10 years. What Providence needs for a sustained run is more Ben Bentils. More Jalen Lindseys. More Rodney Bullocks and Kyron Cartwrights. More quality, more depth overall. The players then need to buy in to the program and stick around for a while without always looking for the next move. Now, if you get more Kris Dunns, you’ve just become Kentucky, Duke or Kansas. Congratulations.
— 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 email@example.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
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