Thinking out loud … while wondering just who came up with the whole “Twelve Days of Christmas” idea?
— On the first day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: a new remote control for my TV.
— Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds finished fifth in this year’s voting for the Heisman Trophy, which allegedly is awarded to the best player in college football every season. Not sure that’s the case this year, as Reynolds’ story (and season) was as good as it gets in my book.
— Still, his fifth-place finish is the best for a military academy athlete since former Navy QB Roger Staubach won it in 1963.
— On the second day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: two club seats for the Patriots and a new remote control for my TV.
— Don’t look now, but the former Big East football conference-turned-American Athletic Conference had three teams finish in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings. The AAC is much, much closer to alleged “Power Five” status than it is to “Group of Five” reality.
— For my money, there was no one in the country who did a better job coaching up his team than UConn’s Bob Diaco. Turning a two-win Huskies team in his first year into a six-win, bowl-eligible squad (St. Petersburg, Florida, anyone?) was a terrific piece of teaching.
— Say what you want about the glutted, everyone-wins-a-trophy bowl system now in place and you would probably be right. But for teams like UConn, the current bowl system is what it’s all about — a reward for a season that was unexpected, and memorable for the right reasons.
— Not for nuthin’, but if you’re not counting, I will — the vaunted SEC and Big Ten Conferences had five teams in the final CFP poll. The Big 12 and Pac-12 had four teams represented and the new (and not-so-improved) ACC finished with three teams in the poll. Seems to me the American at least belongs in the discussion of “power” football leagues.
— Oh, and the AAC also housed the National Defensive Player of the Year at Temple, in LB Tyler Matakevich. Told ya’ so on that one.
— On the third day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me — three French fries (I’m on a diet), two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— Every year, and I suppose it’s a good thing and not a bad thing, we’re having the same discussion over whether the Patriots should play their starters/superstars/best players in almost-meaningless games. Look, football players play football. It’s their job. Ever go to work sick? They do, too.
— Although, I will allow that each season presents a different twist to the case studies out there over the actual benefits of not playing. When you’re down to Joey Iosefa as your lead running back, with all due respect, you might rethink the “playing ’em” strategy.
— Patriots fans are thinking Super Bowl or bust again this season, but the second half of last Sunday’s game against Tennessee was putrid. Sloppy, mistake-filled, boring. And that was just the activity going on in the press box among media. The football on the field pretty much followed suit.
— Hello, Steven Jackson. Is it possible his arrival is just the latest in a relatively long line of Patriots reclamation projects? If he can perform half as well as one-time veteran newcomers Corey Dillon or Randy Moss once played, the Patriots might have pulled off another coup over the rest of the league. Again.
— Should the Patriots get by the New York Jets this week, and should Denver clip Cincinnati, the season finale at Miami is rendered as meaningless as teats on a bull. Just what the NFL was hoping for at the end of a season, right? I’m laughing, NFL, at the supposedly superior intellect for coming up with such shenanigans.
— On the fourth day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: four holy molys, three French fries, two clubs seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— That was a nasty stomach bug running through the Providence basketball team over the past couple of weeks. Got the announcer, too. Freshman Ryan Fazekas won’t return for a while, as he’s home recuperating from mono — but the rest of the Friars are humming right now.
— The top-10 Associated Press ranking is a bit of a surprise, to be sure. Where do the Friars really belong? Somewhere south of the top spot and north of No. 25, perhaps. But PC played like a top 10 team at UMass this week. There is depth, there is speed and ability, and the freshmen are learning.
— A potential clash of top-10 teams awaits on New Year’s Eve, with the Big East opener at Butler. The Bulldogs are smart and creative, and they can shoot. Butler will be one of the better offensive teams the Friars will face this season — it’s time to see if defense can top offense in this instance.
— For my money, while Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil have been two of the best players in the Big East — maybe even in the country — so far this year, the emergence of Junior Lomomba as a defender and scoring threat has helped turn the Friars into their current status as a top-10 team. Offense sells seats, but the defense will help this team get to where it would like to go.
— On the fifth day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: five Super Bowl rings! Oh, and four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— It’s been a bit of a disappointment in watching URI play lately. Can’t help but feel the Rams are better than they’re showing — even with the absence of E.C. Matthews. Either the Rams are underachieving or they massively overachieved against Providence. And I don’t believe it’s the latter — time to stop feeling sorry for what you don’t have, and take advantage of what you do have.
— I know Hassan Martin hurt his ankle, but Dan Hurley’s proclamation in the postgame aftermath of the road loss this week at Old Dominion was telling. “We’re a team in search of an identity,” is what he told the Providence Journal. Shouldn’t the Rams’ identity have been quantified after Matthews was hurt?
— Coach, isn’t it up to you to tell the players who they are and how they’re going to play, and adjust accordingly? Just sayin’.
— Bryant’s loss on the road at Michigan this week was its ninth straight. Excuse me, but where was the team that played against Providence? The Bulldogs (and Rams too, for that matter) certainly had emotion on their side for PC, but these teams need to remember — one game does not, should not — define their season.
— On the sixth day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: six greasy burgers (shhh, I’m still on that diet)! And five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— In case you haven’t been counting — that’s three Big East teams, two Big Ten, two Big 12, two ACC and one Pac-12 in the current top 10. It’s just a snapshot, of course. But it’s also a reminder that the Big East hasn’t left us — contrary to some media opinions.
— Did you take a good, close look at the recent Top 25 poll? Yes, that’s Providence ranked ahead of Kentucky, Duke and Louisville.
— Just a couple of observations here, but both Villanova and Xavier are suspect defensively. X is tough, no doubt about it. But in that 1-3-1 zone the Musketeers like to play, the wings are wide open. And while Villanova should be a strong contender with its overall depth, the Wildcats aren’t as physically imposing as they’ve been previously. They’re a bit soft in the middle. Let’s revisit this in another month?
— Eight wins in a row and counting for Marquette. Seton Hall has looked impressive as well, and even DePaul knocked off 20th-ranked George Washington. Is the Big East top-heavy, or can the middle-to-lower tier make any noise this year?
— On the seventh day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: seven sausage hot links (what diet?), six greasy burgers, five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— Back to the NFL for a moment — but if you really want to understand the game from a historical perspective and if you like reading between the lines for numbers and stats that have meaning — it doesn’t get much better than Russell Baxter and Kerry Byrne. Baxter was a long-time ESPN NFL savant, laid off a few years ago when Mickey Mouse started his cutbacks, and he’s turned his one-time producing career into opportunities with multiple outlets, including Thursday Night Football on CBS and NFL Network.
— As for Byrne, the founder of Cold, Hard Football Facts writes an occasional column for the Boston Herald among other things, but he always seems to get right to the heart of matters through the numbers. Stats might not always tell the truth, but numbers don’t really lie, either.
— Both Russell (profootballguru.com) and Kerry (coldhardfootballfacts.com) are frequent contributors to our NFL programming on Patriots.com Radio. They don’t miss a thing. Sample it sometime, if you can, 2-4 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the season. You’ll be joining the “in crowd.”
— On the eighth day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: eight maids a-cleaning (my girlfriend wants me to give them back), seven sausage hot links, six greasy burgers, five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two clubs seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— OK, so I bought tickets for the debut of the new “Star Wars” movie about two months ago. And I went to see it when it opened. No, I did not dress up as Darth Vader, but I found myself reliving more than just movie memories from 38 years ago when the first episode was released. That’s the beauty behind the success of the series — it takes us all back to our own personal galaxies far, far away.
— Thirty-eight years ago, I was a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. Now, I’m having dreams of missing classes and showing up for exams unprepared again. Oh, the joy. Where are the dreams of frat parties and pretty co-eds?
— On the ninth day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: nine cheerleaders dancing (I definitely have to give them back), eight maids a-cleaning, seven sausage hot links, six greasy burgers, five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— So it’s OK for the NFL to drag the Patriots through the muck for nine months over football air pressure, yet when the Carolina Panthers threaten the New York Giants with baseball bats on the field before their game last weekend, they disappear? Do I have that right?
— Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-game suspension is right on, however. Still, for Carolina’s Josh Norman to receive only fines instead of a suspension is weak, especially since he served as an instigator to the entire day’s worth of incidents on the field. You want to get the players’ attention? Money really is no object, unless you fine them multiple game checks — you’ve got to sit them down.
— On the 10th day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: 10 Friars a-leaping (can’t wait for the second semester to start), nine cheerleaders dancing, eight maids a-cleaning, seven sausage hot links, six greasy burgers, five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— So when did the Bruins get this good? Weren’t they written off before the NHL season got started?
— And if you need to bring a little “twilight zone” into your everyday life, spend a couple of hours at Gillette Stadium, where the Bruins and the NHL are doing their darndest to turn the place into a Winter Wonderland for the New Year’s Day outdoors game with Montreal. Hockey krishnas have overrun the place. Seems only fitting we might have 60-degree weather for a fancy pond-hockey match, right?
— On the 11th day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: 11 Patriots winning (not a hard gift to give this year), 10 Friars a-leaping, nine cheerleaders dancing, eight maids a-cleaning, seven sausage hot links, six greasy burgers, five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— And on the 12th day of Christmas, a sports fan gave to me: 12 Pepto tablets (because I’m officially off of the diet this holiday), 11 Patriots winning, 10 Friars a-leaping, nine cheerleaders dancing, eight maids a-cleaning, seven sausage hot links, six greasy burgers, five Super Bowl rings, four holy molys, three French fries, two club seats and a new remote control for my TV.
— In case you were wondering, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an old English Christmas song (or Christmas carol) that is believed to have originated in France. First published in 1780 as a poem without music set to it, the song we now know came from an early 20th century folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin. And we’ve been singing variations of it (including this bastardized version) ever since. Thanks for singing along.
— It is my hope that you have a rich and rewarding Christmas holiday, as I hope to have. Counting my blessings, to be sure.
— Seth in Narragansett, Rhode Island, posted on Facebook this week: “It is always amazing to see our selfless soldiers reunited with their family members, and to see it in person on Sunday was even more amazing. Thank you John Rooke for doing such a great job of leading this special moment.” Seth: The Patriots get all of the credit for setting up the reunion for Staff Sergeant Shawn Hogan of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to surprise his family at the game last week, coming home as he did from serving our country overseas in Tbilisi, Georgia. If you didn’t get at least a little bit choked up over it, then perhaps your priorities are a bit out of whack right now. I felt like 68,000 people were ready to cry tears of joy for Sergeant Hogan’s family, as they did at the sight of their son and brother. A memorable moment, to be sure, at Gillette Stadium.
— 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 join Scott Cordischi and me on 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.