Thinking out loud … and wishing every day was like Victory Day in Rhode Island.
— Curt Schilling wants to run for office, maybe even president? Just a guess, but I don’t think he’ll carry the three electoral votes from Rhode Island. You?
— A-Fraud’s forced retirement by the Yankees, even though they still have to pay him another $27 million, was the right thing to do. And I’m not a Yankees fan by any means. It’s also why baseball players have it all over their NFL brethren — guaranteed contracts.
— Still, Alex Rodriguez leaves the game with 29 career home runs at Fenway — only four players had more as a visitor. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew and Al Kaline are serious company.
— Tweet of the Week, from @mooretosay: Someone explain to me why the playing/benching of a washed up guy who hasn’t played all year is all of a sudden interesting. He can’t play.
— Red Sox bats sleeping at inopportune moments is a real problem as the stretch run nears. The bullpen’s sudden urge to allow baserunners to score is another. But rookie Andrew Benintendi has so far proven to be a silver lining in the dark storm clouds gathering over Fenway. His fielding blunder(s) aside, let’s not retire his number to right field just yet, though, shall we?
— David Price makes me tired. And anxious, at the same time. That is all.
— The PC police were at work again this week, over the sudden ditching of David Ortiz bobblehead dolls. Were they racially insensitive? Perhaps, but just about everyone missed the bigger picture here — how did the Red Sox organization let this get as far as it did?
— Having worked for pro sports teams in my past, I can tell you there has always been a chain of command to follow, and someone in charge of quality control for things like this. That Sam Kennedy saw the dolls for the first time just hours before they were to be given away is a joke, really. Someone dropped the ball, or someone has poor judgment. Maybe both. Ortiz had an unprintable response to the dolls’ “look,” which is all anyone needs to know.
— Baseball comings and goings featured Prince (son of Cecil) Fielder retiring, and Tim (I won the Heisman, remember?) Tebow trying out. Fielder once hit the ball out of Tiger Stadium in Detroit when he was 12 years old, and apparently will retire with the same number of career homers as his dad — 319.
— As for Tebow, all I can do is smh. Tim, didn’t that free education you earned from the University of Florida learn ya’ anything? But you keep on pluggin’, fella.
— Perfect. The Red Sox season ended Wednesday night and the Patriots kicked off Thursday. Seems we’re in lockstep.
— It’s preseason. Meh. What did we really learn about the Patriots? That injuries suck. And they’re inevitable. But Tyler Gaffney showed something at running back, albeit against backups. And Jacoby Brissett is a big boy. Trey Flowers may be poised for a breakthrough. Oh, and the offensive line still needs a lot of work, if not health.
— Training camp leading up to the game this week featured drops, sloppy play, sloppy conditions and just overall sloppiness. Did I mention it was sloppy? The defense, solid early, faded late against Drew Brees. And the offense dropped a lot of balls from Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. But it’s preseason, right?
— Not for nuthin’, but I’d like to see a show of hands here. After Julian Edelman (who tweaked his surgically repaired foot) and Rob Ninkovich (who tore a triceps muscle) scared us all with injury stories this week, who else would like to see the preseason eliminated entirely?
— Edelman jumped right back into things the day after, while Ninkovich will miss an expected 4-6 weeks while his triceps heals without surgery. Malcolm Mitchell is very lucky he’s only out four weeks with what looked to be a gruesome elbow injury Thursday night. It might take Pats fans that long to get over the worry.
— There’s no need for panic yet, but Garoppolo’s week — Thursday’s game excluded — wasn’t particularly sharp. The learning curve on the field, as well as the accompanying pressure that goes along with being “the man,” continues.
— That the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio — the first game of the new season — was cancelled over the field being painted incorrectly is but anther sobering reminder that the NFL has nitwits large and in charge. No one could have taken the time to work out potential problems beforehand? Just sayin’.
— How was Nate Ebner’s week in Brazil? Not with the Patriots in camp, but instead competing on the U.S. Olympic rugby team, Ebner scored a couple of “tries” (OK, touchdowns) in a 26-0 blasting of the hometown Brazilians and a loss to gold medalist Fiji. He also laid out a blindside block against Brazil that would have made Bill Belichick proud, but this was rugby. He got a yellow card and a two-minute penalty instead.
— His Patriots teammates gathered to watch his performance, and several of them wore USA rugby shirts with “Ebner 12″ (name and jersey number) on the back during practice last Tuesday with the Saints.
— Not a fan of the Olympics? How about a fan of good stories — like the stories around Michael Phelps and Lilly King? Phelps has been at this for more than half of his life (he’s now 31) in five Olympiads, has been to the top, fallen, then returned to Mount Olympus in a symbolic way.
— And come on now, you had to root for him after one of his top rivals (Chad le Clos from South Africa) had the audacity to shadow box in front of a scowling Phelps before a race this week. Le Clos beat Phelps in London four years ago. Maybe they both were oblivious to what transpired in the athletes’ ready room, as Phelps later said, but it got the blood simmering. Phelps then kicked le Clos’ tail in the 200-meter fly, and later pounded the field in the 200 IM.
— King’s breaststroke gold came over a Russian swimmer (Yulia Efimova) who had been banned for PED use, then reinstated. They mocked each other after prelim swims, wagging fingers like Dikembe Motumbo after a blocked shot. It was emotional and evoked memories of a Cold War-era U.S.-Soviet skirmish. Great TV.
— And then there’s Katie Ledecky. Her performances have been every bit as dominating as Phelps’ have been, and let’s throw Mark Spitz (from 1972, with seven golds) in there as well. At age 19, she’s certainly become one of the darlings of these Games, as athletes sometimes do every four years or so. But this young lady has a killer instinct in competition that is rare to see.
— And the gymnasts? In a sport that gets rare coverage outside of every four Olympic years, the U.S. women proved to be the world’s dominant team by winning the overall Gold in resounding fashion. Aly Raisman of Needham captained her teammates to an eight-point win over Russia, which is like beating someone 56-0 in football.
— Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got a little snippy with a French reporter who had the audacity to ask about the USA hoop team staying on a boat rather than in the Olympic Village. It was a big boat, actually, it was a cruise ship. They’re not the only tenants on the boat during the games, but Coach K was flippant with his response.
— “We’ve actually made friends on the boat. I never knew I would have boat friends. In fact, now that I’m talking about it, I might go buy a boat,” was part of his answer. Well, thanks for the explanation, Coach.
— Speaking of Coach K, is there anyone out there who thinks his USA basketball players mistakenly visited a brothel? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Maybe they got lost on their way back to the boat?
— Numbers are just that, numbers. Everyone has ’em, and everyone has their own interpretation of ’em. NBC had the three most-watched TV programs of the week — all Olympics — even though opening ceremony ratings were down by a stunning 30 percent compared to 2012 in London. Gymnastics coverage, however — plus the swimming battles waged by Phelps and King, in particular — still helped NBC win the week over the competition. And the network paid good money for the win, too.
— The key here? We all love a good fight. And a good story. The rivalries, whether real or concocted, sold viewers.
— Terrible news this week of the passing of ESPN’s John Saunders, at age 61. Thirty years at the network, after an award-winning career in Baltimore. He was genuinely liked by everyone he worked with — and for. Nice person, approachable, solid broadcaster and journalist. The epitome of calm inside often-stormy athletic and professional performances. Life can really stink sometimes, can’t it?
— Surprise, surprise (said sarcastically). ESPN and Fox are pushing back against potential Big 12 expansion? A classic case of the tail wagging the dog here, as the TV networks are hoping to guard against their product(s) being watered down by schools and programs not already among the national elite.
— Oh, and they’re also on the hook for a $20 million payment (or more) to any new conference member. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems TV is talking out of both sides of its mouth here. Didn’t former BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo let the “ESPN told us what to do” cat out of the bag when the old Big East imploded and the ACC expanded?
— Hey, the networks signed the deals with these college conferences, and if the schools see a chance to grab extra cash, they always will. It has never been about academics or collegiality or amateurism in any way. The repercussions of such an occurrence, like expansion, however, won’t be felt until the next round of TV contract negotiations.
— For the Big 12, that’s in 2025. And like Nostradamus, I predict that’s when Collegiate Armageddon II will begin to quake the landscape. TV, if it isn’t already, will be way too big for its breeches (pronounced “britches”) by then.
— The Big 12, ICYMI, may be cooling on a potential BYU invitation. Why? Because an LGBTQ advocacy group, according to Fox Sports, sent a letter to the conference discouraging BYU’s consideration because the school engages in discriminatory practices and policies. Uh-oh. Here come the PC police again.
— Interesting news from CBSSports.com this week, polling 100 college basketball coaches on their thoughts if the state of North Carolina should lose its NCAA Tournament games because of the HB2 (anti-LGBTQ) law in place. Fifty-six percent said yes, until the law is amended or eradicated. Some even went as far to say the NCAA won’t pull tournament games because of the money involved, even though it should.
— Others who voted no largely said to keep politics out of the game. What are they smoking? Stupid is as stupid does.
— Three-time defending champ Harvard once again is the pick to win the Ivy League football championship this season, even though the Crimson graduated 15 starters from last year’s 9-1 title team. Brown was picked sixth in the Ancient Eight but received a first-place vote from one of the media members in the preseason poll.
— Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn tied for the title last season as the Bears finished 5-5 overall, 3-4 in the league and tied for fourth. Brown kicks off at Bryant on Sept. 17 before its home opener against the Crimson on the 24th.
— Have you caught any of Boston College’s campaign to raise its athletic profile yet? Me either. “Boston’s College — in America’s Best Sports Town” is the theme developed by the school’s athletic department, ostensibly to promote a fan-friendly, affordable atmosphere at events and carve a niche in a professionally dominated city. It’ll only work if people see it, however — and even then, BC is barking up a tree that long ago has been stripped of any collegiality.
— This week, Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, Rhode Island, has been the site of the 41st Junior PGA Championships. It’s significant in several ways. First, it’s the first time for this annual tournament to be held in the Northeast. And, former PGA stars like Rhode Island’s own Billy Andrade, David Toms, Billy Mayfair and LPGA stars Lexi Thompson and Grace Park all won this event previously. The top 17-and-under golfers from around the country all took part.
— And my golf game has been shamed into oblivion for the time being, comparatively speaking.
— My buddy “Big E” texted this week to tell me he was pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a seat belt last weekend. Three days later he was pulled over again, at the same stop and by the same officer. The policeman, obviously remembering a 6-foot-9 driver, asked him if he had learned anything. “E” replied, “Yes I have. I learned that I need to find a new way home.”
— As reported earlier this week, Mount Saint Charles legend Bill Belisle will enter the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as an inducted member this year, joining other Rhode Island notables like PC’s Lou Lamoriello, Cranston East’s Joe Cavanagh, Mount’s Mathieu Schneider and Warwick’s Sara DeCosta. But are the selection committee’s brains’ frozen? Nearly a thousand wins in 41 years as a coach and a national-record 26 straight high school state titles wasn’t enough? ‘Bout time.
— Belisle goes in with a one-time BC Eagle and Boston Bruin Craig Janney. Janney, a Hartford native, still ranks first all-time among American-born skaters in career assists per game in the NHL.
— No matter what happens from this point forward, Wednesday night’s walk-off, grand slam home run for Warwick North Little League’s Kenny Rix to beat Massachusetts (Wellesley South) at the New England Regional in Bristol, Connecticut, is a moment of a lifetime. Until you learn Rix hit a walk-off, two-out double to win the Rhode Island state title last month. Whoa.
— And a shout-out/fond farewell to a Rhode Island institution, the West Valley Inn in West Warwick. The well-known banquet hall for many local sports teams and leagues is closing up after more than 30 years of service, and sending those with wedding and banquet reservations currently on the books scrambling for backup. The facility is up for sale, but it can’t stay open long enough to satisfy what it’s already scheduled? Seems like a typical Rhode Island way to go out, doesn’t it?
— Why the state still celebrates “Victory Day” is a mystery to many from outside of New England. Lil’ Rhody is the only state in America that still maintains the holiday. As several have opined over the past week — including my friend Scott McKay from Rhode Island Public Radio (ripr.org) — the day does celebrate the end of World War II and the Japanese surrender. Outdated because of the now-allied relationship between the two countries? You’re missing the point. The day is V-I-C-T-O-R-Y Day, no longer is it “VJ Day” (Victory Over Japan Day). We aren’t celebrating the use of nuclear weapons, nor are we celebrating a win over a former imperialist empire. We are celebrating veterans in this country — those who have served us well and returned home, and those who weren’t so fortunate.
— I used to be one of those skeptics, thinking the state “holiday” in August was a bit pretentious, if not outdated. Remember when former Governor Ed DiPrete turned it into “Governor’s Bay Day?” It still exists today. But that was political correctness at the time, before we even knew the term existed. As long as we have WWII veterans still with us, we should always remember their sacrifice for winning what has long been called “a good war,” because it was just — and it was right — then, as well as now.
— Ken from North Kingstown, Rhode Island (@fangsbites) tweeted this week on listening to Southern New England Sports Saturday: I was listening the entire show when you pressed the button for Steve (from Fall River) … I have to shut off the radio or switch the station, otherwise I’m in a foul mood for an hour. Ken: You’re not the first to complain about Steve from Fall River, nor will you be the last. Here’s the thing about him — yes, he’s irritating. Yes, he has an agenda, and we usually shoot holes right through it. But he’s semi-intelligent, somewhat articulate, and sometimes willing to at least try a debate. That’s what talk radio is, my friend, and you know that. We’ll be waiting for your call, and for everyone else who hates Steve to call in, too.
— 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
— Don’t forget to tune in to Providence’s 103.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. for Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.