Thinking 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.
— Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes. David Bowie’s passing this week is the latest piece of relative innocence chipped away from the past. While I don’t consider myself a huge fan of his music, there are several songs he wrote and performed that seemed to personify human emotions — plain and simple — and not just generational ideals. He may have been “out there,” sure, but he also nailed “us” with much of his work.
— “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years, nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.” Was it about loyalty? Love? Coming home again? Probably a little of all of that. It was sung well, and it was perfectly said, Mr. Bowie.
— All I know is, my golden years would have been made much more pleasant had I managed to win a slice of that Powerball pie this week. Honestly? I think I’d keep working, even if I had managed to become an instant billionaire. Working to pretend you need the money might be the best way to keep the leeches (and the lawyers?) off of your back.
— Rest in peace, Jersey Red. Undoubtedly, he’s already giving Red Sox fans in heaven “the business.” Sports radio around here wasn’t the same without Ken Ford in recent years, and will hardly be the same without you now.
— Former NBC and ESPN play-by-play announcer Jim Simpson also passed away this week, at age 88. Simpson was ESPN’s first play-by-play announcer when the network launched in the early ’80s, and his smooth, energetic delivery was a style I always tried to mimic in thought, if not in reality. Long-time Patriot fans will recall Simpson was a lead announcer in the days of the old AFL on NBC, and later when the league merged to become the present-day NFL in 1970 he was a primary announcer for AFC games on NBC.
— Simpson was the lead play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s USFL coverage in the ’80s, which is where I had the honor to make his acquaintance as a young, fledgling announcer myself for a young, fledgling sports league. It was one of my professional thrills when he called my name — in his booming, baritone voice — to walk across a stage and accept an award for cable television sports coverage at the time.
— If the Patriots beat Kansas City, it will be their 10th AFC title game appearance in 14 seasons of the Tom Brady era. Only four other franchises have reached 10 or more conference title games in their entire histories, since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 — Steelers (15), 49ers (15), Cowboys (14) and Raiders (11). For New England, it would be its 12th overall.
— That’s nice and all, but if there was ever a referendum on momentum at the end of a regular season meaning anything, this weekend would be the time to put it to the test. Eleven straight wins for the Chiefs, four losses in six games for the Patriots. If New England turns on the switch and wins impressively, ol’ Mo gets put out to pasture as necessary to become a playoff contender.
— The switch gets closer to being turned back on if the Patriots have their injured bodies back on the field. But just because they’re back doesn’t automatically mean they win. There is something to continuity, to repetition, to being in a rhythm. How much so, we’re getting ready to find out.
— Call me crazy (OK, set myself up for that one), but the uncharacteristic “noise” around the team this week isn’t a good sign. Between the questions hovering over injured players returning, Jones’ alleged “indiscretion” and Rob Gronkowski missing a couple of practices with knee and back injuries — this is where the lack of information coming from Camp Foxboro isn’t helping the home team in the PR department.
— Or on the field, either.
— Look up the term “implosion” in the dictionary, and next to it you’ll see a picture of the Cincinnati Bengals‘ logo. Look up the word “dysfunctional,” and you’ll see the same logo.
— There is a reason why the Bengals seem to choke as much as they do — karma is a cruel reminder to the geniuses on that team (Vontaze Burfict? Adam Jones? I’m talking to you, here) that payback is indeed real. And a real b****, too.
— At some point Marvin Lewis has to be held accountable for an 0-7 career mark as a head coach in the postseason, doesn’t he?
— I mentioned earlier that “manning up” and owning up to mistakes is the best way to move on from your transgressions. That’s why I will personally pull for Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh from now on, after his duck-hook of a kick handed Seattle a wild card victory. He owned it, nothing more or less. The way it should be.
— Vikings fans roasted him, for certain. But my favorite story of the aftermath of his botched kick in a 10-9 loss came from a group of Minnesota first-graders who wrote him letters of support. “Dear Blair Walsh,” one letter said. “I know it can be hard to get through things that are sad, but you have to try and try again. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.”
— True wisdom from a first-grader. A teaching moment? One we could all learn from, methinks.
— Except the NFL, of course. Not for nuthin’ … but NFL officials were worried about PSI levels in the footballs dropping at the Seattle-Minnesota game? Say whaaaaat? So now the NFL is saying science is a factor, and weather conditions are a factor in football air pressure, yet the league continues to persecute Tom Brady (and the Patriots) for an alleged scheme to deflate the footballs a year ago? My, my, my. Stupid is as stupid does.
— The Patriots should positively, absolutely demand the return of their draft picks for the entire Deflategate debacle. In fact, they should ask for extra, compensatory picks in return for having to put up with the NFL’s callousness, ignorance and pure stupidity in the first place.
— Double the pleasure, double the fun? The 21st century version of the Doublemint Twins, Rex and Rob Ryan, will be together next season in Buffalo as head coach Rex hired his brother, Rob, as an assistant. When the Bills go down, they’ll go down in flames. And at the very least, it will be entertaining to watch.
— Credit goes to my friend Karl for the best “sad but true” line I heard this week: “Football fans in St. Louis are sad. They’re losing the Rams. Football fans in Cleveland are even sadder. They’re keeping the Browns.”
— It wasn’t terribly entertaining to watch, but it was great theater, nevertheless. The Friars’ Kris Dunn popped in a last-second shot at Creighton that looked like it was hit with a nine-iron and spun back into the basket like you’d try to pop a golf ball onto a green. Still, it counted.
— And still, a road win in the Big East should count double in some places.
— It was $1 beverage night at CenturyLink Center in Omaha last Tuesday. They cut off the promotion just before tip-off. Didn’t these go out of style in the ’70s? Seems to me the last time I recall something similar, we had riots in Cleveland and disco demolition in Chicago.
— No truth to the rumor both teams, um, took part in any pregame imbibing as a reason for clanking up most of their shots.
— To his credit, Dunn added to his already noteworthy national resume by showing he can be the go-to guy at the end of a game. It might be a difference-maker when it comes to considering his season against others who have similar — or better — numbers. It’s part of quantifying a player’s ability to be a “winner.”
— Not for nuthin’, but Rodney Bullock can’t go scoreless against the Creightons of the Big East for the Friars to be a true contender for the regular-season title. Look for Bullock to try to get involved earlier in games as a possible remedy for the inconsistency.
— And freshman Drew Edwards? An unsung hero, if there ever was one, on this team. The kid will win some games of his own before he’s through.
— Congrats to ex-URI Ram Cuttino Mobley for his inclusion on the 2016 Atlantic-10 Legends class. That backcourt with Tyson Wheeler in 1998 was something special — and one of the better backcourts we’ve been privileged to watch play around here. You know we’ve seen some good ones.
— The current Rams backcourt still is missing a key piece to the puzzle (E.C. Matthews), but with Jarvis Garrett next year? Put these guys on the “must see” list, hopefully like you’ve done with the Friars’ Kris Dunn this year.
— Don’t look now, but after a 3-10 start to the season, Bryant has begun Northeast Conference play 4-1, tied for first place heading into the weekend. We mentioned both players last week, but Marcel Pettway and Shane McLaughlin are difficult matchups for other teams to worry about — which is what title-contending teams have.
— Speaking of contenders, my buddy Statbeast sez he was momentarily struck with a little political wisdom while watching the GOP presidential debates this week. If pro is the opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress? Congress!
— No problems in this corner, with the selections of Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Larry Lucchino into the Red Sox Class of 2016 Hall of Fame. Varitek and Wake both were a part of two World Series crowns — and Lucchino actually one-upped them both, which is precisely why he belongs as well.
— Normally, in my opinion, a Hall of Fame should be limited to the actual performers. But in this case, that’s Lucchino, too, even though he never put on a Boston uniform and started his major league career elsewhere. As president and CEO for 14 years, Larry helped perform the magic that resulted in those three WS trophies, and Red Sox nation should be forever grateful. Just sayin’.
— The Red Sox organization this week announced changes in its player development and minor league staffs for next season, and in Pawtucket there’s not a lot of change. Kevin Boles is back for his third season as manager, Bob Kipper will return for his second year (and 17th overall in the organization) as pitching coach, Rich Gedman his second as hitting coach (and sixth overall in the organization), while Bruce Crabbe will return as a coach for a third season — and 12th with the organization.
— We’ve mentioned him previously in this spot, but Arnie Beyeler has found work again. The former Pawtucket and Portland manager, who served as first base coach in Boston for three seasons under John Farrell, will be the new manager at Triple-A New Orleans. Beyeler also managed to win a World Series ring while in Boston, but he was unceremoniously dumped after the past season had ended. Rumors persist his outfield coaching contributions to the disaster otherwise known as Hanley Ramirez were at least partially to blame for the dismissal, or perhaps at least a convenient excuse.
— Of course, Beyeler also was around to help convert infielders Brock Holt and Mookie Betts into outfielders, and he worked with Shane Victorino in his conversion to right field. Victorino won a Gold Glove, Holt was an All-Star, Betts is an untouchable commodity in the organization. Unless they’ve changed the math, that’s a .750 batting average — not exactly a fireable offense. Beyeler won a Governors’ Cup championship with the PawSox, and this past week was hired by Lou Schweichheimer, the former PawSox GM who now runs the New Orleans team.
— John from Rhode Island tweeted at me this week: Scheduling conflict Saturday? Gotta be at Gillette. John: These days happen once, or twice, in a calendar year when it seems my worlds collide. No thanks to the NFL, ever-rigid in its planning without thinking it might actually have higher ratings for a Patriots game in prime time — or to the TV schedulers at Fox, who need that alternative programming to go up against the mighty pigskin on another network. My decision, sadly, is simple. He who hired me first for that particular date, wins. Or loses, take your pick.
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