Thinking out loud . . . while wondering whatever happened to John Linehan …
— The NFL’s investigation into Deflategate against the Patriots? It’s the first league investigation of improperly deflated balls that didn’t involve use of PEDs. Just sayin’.
— I get the integrity/fair play/honesty part. But having covered the NFL for more than 30 years now, I also understand what people do to gain an edge. The Patriots push the envelope as much as any team or organization I’ve ever seen … maybe as much as I saw the Oklahoma Sooners push it in the 1970s and ‘80s under Barry Switzer. They were real, straight-out-of-the-West outlaws. It doesn’t make it right, but few teams with a winning mentality want to be left behind.
— If there was a willful violation of the rules that occurred, that’s one thing. If someone within the Patriots organization purposely flaunted the rulebook, well, they’ll pay. It doesn’t mean the players are all cheaters, or the coaches, or the announcers or the fans. I don’t believe we’ll ever get the exact answer we’re looking for. In this case, it makes the current mob mentality of the media a real embarrassment … and a byproduct of the digital era of immediacy in which we currently live. We want answers, and we want them now … in 140 characters or less. The truth, and the search for the truth be damned.
— It seems that most in the national media throwing their darts toward New England have forgotten a few things along the way. The Colts, at one time, allegedly piped in crowd noise to their stadium for an advantage. There also were real strong thoughts on Indy purposely losing in 2011 to gain an advantage in the Andrew Luck derby. How does the old saying go? Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? Make note, NFL. Stupid is as stupid does.
— The national pundits have proven themselves to be nothing more than sanctimonious windbags this week, in reacting to this story. Forfeit the Super Bowl? Year-long suspensions? Over two pounds of air in a football? Yeah, let’s make this more important than PED use in the sport or domestic violence. Guys like Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith — who I have respected as reporters and columnists for a long time — are simply throwing these things out there for shock factor … to gain ratings and notoriety as the media helps stir this story into a big deal.
— And the former football players’ comments on all of this? It’s laughable. For instance, former Jacksonville QB Mark Brunell — who lost an AFC title game to NE in 1996 — said he “did not believe what Tom [Brady] had to say.” Why don’t you at least have the guts to call him a liar? Jerome Bettis, who also lost a couple of big ones to the Patriots as a Pittsburgh Steeler, and whose teams reportedly had rampant PED use throughout the roster: “I’m disappointed in you, Tom Brady.” Really, fellas? I’m disappointed in the four-letter network that gave you a voice.
— Get a clue. We don’t like it because it affects us. But it is a story because of Spygate. It is a story because of the tuck rule. It is a story even because of the 1982 Snow Plow Game. It is a story because the Patriots win — a lot — especially over the past 20 years. It’s a story because everyone loves to see the king fall on his crown, so to speak, whenever possible. Cheating? If I wanted to cheat, I’d do more than just deflate some footballs … and I think the same holds true for Bill Belichick. My guess is he knows exactly what other teams do during the course of a season — to his team and others — but he’s not a rat. Like former J-E-T-S coach Eric Mangini was a few years ago, and like some in other organizations are now.
— And of course, the Seahawks have said the Deflategate issue has no bearing on them or on their preparations for Super Bowl XLIX. If anything, they’ve got to be slightly worried about the uproar over two pounds of air. They’re not dumb … the Patriots will use any slight they can get for the old “boulder on the shoulder” mentality.
— Lost in the uproar over whether Tom Brady likes his (foot)balls soft or not … the Patriots were alarmingly efficient in their beatdown of the Colts. Save for the second-quarter 93-yard TD drive Indy had, that’s as sharp as New England has been on both sides of the ball in some time. Maybe all year. Add in a little Deflategate controversy for good measure and you could have a fairly volatile mixture brewing in the Patriots locker room for Glendale, Arizona.
— Was anyone else disappointed we didn’t learn more from either Belichick or Brady when they met the media horde on Thursday? Here’s what I learned: They were truly stunned by the uproar over deflated footballs. And that the NFL is in no hurry to solve this mystery, apparently preferring to let the Patriots, and Patriots fans, twist in the wind as some sort of punishment for just being “the Patriots.”
— Here’s a real shocker: Every part of the country, outside of New England, doubts what Belichick and Brady had to say this week was truthful. The only believers come from New England. Wow, thanks for that poll ESPN, I had no idea. Brilliant.
— How do you think Pete Carroll views this circus? He’s got his own motivation for the Seahawks playing well next week, as he gets to face the team that fired him in order to hire Belichick. Although, it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to him and his career. And you don’t think he learned a little something about, um, cheating while coaching at USC? Please. He just beat the sheriff out of Hollywood.
— And by the way, thanks to Seahawks DB Jeremy Lane … for the segue into normalcy with some good ol’-fashioned bulletin board material. On Rob Gronkowski: “I actually don’t think he’s that good. He’s OK.” Bless you. I’m now a fan.
— If you’re not into the high-ticket-price thing for the Super Bowl, the Patriots Charitable Foundation is holding raffle for two fans to win a VIP trip to Arizona for the game. A day-in, day-out affair … but nevertheless, tickets to see the game plus passes to a pregame tailgate and postgame party. The site www.patriots.com/community is the place to get them, for 10 bucks.
— There will be a send-off rally for the Patriots at Boston City Hall Plaza Monday at 11 a.m., sponsored by Mayor Martin Walsh. Robert Kraft will be there, as will Bill Belichick and captains Tom Brady, Dan Connolly, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater. I also will be there, hosting the event. Should be interesting, at least. Bring ya’ popcorn.
— Not for nuthin’, but I saw last week where Walsh said he’d be open to a public referendum on the 2024 Olympic Games being held in his city and the surrounding area. Surprisingly, polls seem to indicate a bit more than just a passing interest from residents in hosting the Olympics. Perhaps these folks have already rented out their homes for the month and have planned their escape routes?
— Very, very sorry to learn of the passing of Tom Silvestri, who had been on the Friars’ game day scoring table crew at the Dunk as the shot clock operator. Silvestri was a member of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials and the RI Softball Association and served as umpire-in-chief for Pony League, ECAC and ASA softball for more than 30 years. He was a fixture at local basketball games, men and women, as a timekeeper … and as a friend to many.
— RealGM.com reported this week that PC’s Tyler Harris is turning pro after this season. He is scheduled to graduate in May but has one more year of eligibility left. Harris’ father told SNY he hasn’t made that decision yet, and Harris himself said about the report, “That never came from me.” Time of course, will tell this tale.
— It’s becoming more and more obvious as the days go by that Kris Dunn is special. LaDontae Henton is getting a little national run as well, named as a finalist for the Lute Olson award that honors the nation’s top senior player. But for the Friars to be special (again?) this season, they need balance … and need another scorer to step up every game.
— Is that player Tyler Harris? Carson Desrosiers? Or someone else? I’d say all of the above. It depends upon players buying into what Ed Cooley is teaching — aggressive, passionate play.
— PC got some of that at Creighton and gained a season sweep of the Blue Jays in the process. Have you looked at the schedule coming up? At St. John’s, at Georgetown, at Xavier and then home to Villanova? Whoa.
— That the Friars managed to beat Xavier in overtime, 69-66, Thursday night was another step toward building intestinal fortitude, if nothing else. Because they had that game the whole way … and literally threw it away with some poor passes late in the second half to breathe life into the Musketeers’ chances. It was so bad, it looked like those passes were purposely thrown away. Was the ball underinflated?
— Ed Cooley’s next radio show is Wednesday at Hannoush Jewelers on Bald Hill Road in Warwick, Rhode Island. It will be a 7 p.m. broadcast on 103.7 FM and Friars.com.
— Had the good fortune of visiting with Buddy Hunter (and his friend, Al Miller) while in Omaha last week. Buddy was a second baseman and utility infielder in the Red Sox organization in the ‘70s and played on the 1975 World Series team. He also played for the PawSox in the late ’70s, where my connection to him comes into play. He’s been a longtime friend of Pawtucket Tolman High School athletic director Frank Laliberte, who introduced us 15 years ago. Buddy is nonstop action, even for someone who is now 67 years old. While having dinner the night before the Friars played Creighton, he noticed the Blue Jays basketball team was in the same restaurant, and he and his buddy Al took my Big East championship ring for a little ride to go over and say “hello.”
— Speaking of Tolman High School … the boys basketball team at midweek stood 12-2 overall, 7-1 in Division 2 play. There are 10 teams in the state with either one loss or no losses in the three divisions. Should be one heck of a Rhode Island state tournament season coming up in another month.
— Don’t look now, but Bryant is right in the thick of things in the NEC basketball race again, after taking some lumps in nonleague play. Dyami Starks continues to lead the way, while Joe O’Shea also is scoring double figures per game. Like PC, the Bulldogs need another reliable third scoring option if they’re to be a threat for the postseason.
— Former Memphis forward Kuran Iverson reportedly was on the URI campus this week, checking out Rhody — while URI likewise was checking him out — as a possible hoop destination. Iverson was suspended two games on Jan. 6 for a violation of team rules, and he followed that up by retweeting criticism pointed at coach Josh Pastner. Can’t imagine that sort of behavior would sit well with Dan Hurley, but hey, 6-foot-9 athletic forwards hardly grow on trees. Especially forwards from Connecticut who were ranked as high as 28th nationally with the Class of 2013. He also played with current URI freshman Jared Terrell on the Expressions Elite AAU team and could be eligible to play again as soon as next December if a transfer becomes official.
— Also hearing rumbling from Kingston there may be some interest in bringing 6-10 Jordan Hare back into the fold. Again, I have a hard time seeing that, especially since he allegedly left the team (for a second time) after a shouting match with Hurley during a preseason scrimmage with Harvard. But again, as the late, great Al McGuire once said, you can’t teach height.
— Here’s a story you don’t see every day: Marquette has forward Wally Ellenson sitting on its bench this season as a transfer from Minnesota. Yet he’s a two-time, NCAA all-American in the high jump and eligible to participate immediately for the Golden Eagles track and field team. This past week, Ellenson high-jumped 7 feet, 5.75 inches, a personal best that qualifies him for world outdoor events and is the third-highest jump on the planet among current competitors. His younger brother, Henry, is the prime pick on Marquette’s highly rated recruiting class for next year.
— It’s gotta be killing Duke-loving ESPN that Fox Sports 1 has the Blue Devils-St. John’s game Saturday as Coack K goes for his 1,000th career win at Madison Square Garden. Don’t worry, though, Jim Boeheim will take care of them at some point, as he also approaches the historic number in the next year or two.
— Dick’s Sporting Goods sent a note this week to tell me that nationally Peyton Manning‘s jersey still is the No. 1 seller among all NFL jerseys. Andrew Luck‘s is No. 2. Tom Brady’s is fifth, right behind Russell Wilson‘s and just ahead of Johnny Manziel’s. What is wrong with you people?
— Speaking of clothing, my buddy Statbeast sez the most embarrassing thing for Mrs. Statbeast is to find another woman wearing the same dress at a formal party. So how come we don’t hear men say, “Oh my, there’s another man wearing a black tux. Get me out of here!”
— He always said he wanted to get into coaching, and he’s now getting that chance. Former Friars guard John Linehan, a former Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East and the current NCAA career steals record-holder, now is on Fran Dunphy’s coaching staff at Temple as a graduate assistant. Linehan is a guy, PC fans know, whom Kobe Bryant once said was the toughest defender he had ever faced. They both came from the Chester, Pennsylvania, area and once had been AAU teammates. Linehan’s NCAA steals record is in jeopardy, with VCU’s Briante Weber closing in on a mark Linehan has held for 14 years. He joined Dunphy’s staff this past fall and is working on a graduate degree after wrapping up a pro career that saw him play mostly in France but also in the NBA’s D-League and for the Harlem Globetrotters.
— Literally dozens of emails, tweets and Facebook posts came in this week on Deflategate, and I’ve read every one of them. Jose in Raleigh, North Carolina, sent this tweet that summed up a majority of the feelings felt by many fans: “To be honest, all this talk about Deflategate and my team involved just took the happiness out of the SB, really sad.” Jose, I get your disappointment. I’m of the opinion this is turning into a bit of a modern-day witch hunt, and for the NFL to take its sweet time while the team twists in the wind, well, let’s just say this has been a season of major “fails” for the league. Let me borrow a phrase from another rogue, former NFL antagonist, the Raiders‘ Al Davis: “Just win, baby.” That’s all there is left to do.
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