Thinking out loud … while wondering what Jose Canseco has been up to lately?
— How did we arrive at this point? How did a championship-caliber franchise and Hall of Fame-to-be QB become the hated and the hunted — by the NFL and all of its teams? It began with an inaccurate report from ESPN that was never corrected, either through ignorance or arrogance or perhaps an edict — allegedly (Mike Kensil?) from the league itself.
— I don’t believe Deflategate was a “sting” so much as it was a simple, “You’re too high and mighty; we’re gonna get you, eventually,” by the NFL, or more specifically, NFL VP of game operations Kensil (a former Jets employee) and NFL executive VP and general counsel Jeff Pash. Colts GM Ryan Grigson figures into this as well. It’s odd that there has been this near-scurrilous fervor with which these men have displayed at times in this entire fiasco. You have to ask the question, “Why do they do what they do?” It’s a fair point. Are they under direct orders, or do they have grudges to settle?
— In an era of alleged parity, New England has managed six Super Bowl appearances in 15 years, winning four of those. I would maintain the rest of the league, and the league office itself, is trying to decipher how they’ve done it. And the NFL is taking great pains to expose any shred of impropriety, and blow up any inkling of idiosyncrasy as a scarlet letter for the franchise to wear upon its jersey. It’s all about “The Shield,” and no one team can rise above it.
— Why? There are several reasons, all of them plausible — from good ol’ fashioned envy and jealousy to anger and greed. Thirty-one other teams and millions of fans are enjoying every minute of this fiasco, watching the Patriots squirm and TB12 twist in the wind. To the NFL, it’s tremendous theater, and frankly, if I’m looking at it from the outside, I have to agree. It’s a show, all right.
— The NFL has blasted the Patriots in the PR battle, and it has been an artful performance. The league has taken false science, maybes, rumor and innuendo, and slotted words like “destroy” into their press releases, giving the football-crazed country outside of New England reason to believe we’re all cheaters. I’ve spent the past two weeks in football-mad Texas, and the Brady saga is mentioned in the same breath as two state schools (TCU and Baylor) being ranked in the top five of the college preseason poll. A pound of air pressure vs. two college powerhouses. Whoa.
— Do you feel any better about Robert Kraft now that he’s come out and apologized for “trusting” the NFL? Kraft’s angst over the league, and over Roger Goodell’s upholding of Brady’s suspension, is a bit misguided. After all, it is HIS team, not the league’s. I understand his wanting to get along for the common good, but this is a perfect example of someone attempting what he thought to be the right thing and then getting steamrolled. It’s past time to revert to the business tactics that have made him a billionaire in the first place. It’s now time to be ruthless and unforgiving, as most of us originally hoped he would be. Goodell played Kraft for a fool here. Just sayin’.
— Don’t you think the other 31 owners are watching all of this very carefully? You may want Goodell gone, but that won’t be an easy task to accomplish. Whether you believe the commissioner to be arbitrary and almost whimsical with his meted-out punishments or not, most everyone outside of New England loves this, and Mr. Kraft’s ability to build consensus against him — if that’s what he now wants to do — will be difficult, if not virtually impossible. But he could take a lesson or two from the Al Davis history books and make things uncomfortable, perhaps. Hello, legal system.
— But Kraft is not Davis. Kraft isn’t easily dismissed as a nuisance, like Davis was for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders during his ownership reign. No, Kraft is a serious businessman with a franchise worth $2.6 billion at last check. He took the Patriots from sad sack to top of the pack. Yes, other owners are most definitely watching.
— As if he needed any help, Donald Trump came out in defense of TB12 this week, too. Uh, thanks, Mr. Trump, but we’re good here. Keep your focus on Hillary and making a mockery of the political process, please.
— Media becoming indignant over Bill Belichick‘s refusal to engage in answering questions about this sordid tale is simply stupid. The emperor will not budge. He doesn’t care about your story, or article, or video blog. He is correct in steering, or deflecting, attention away from the circus. BB is the ultimate ringmaster, and the real show is being readied for its debut in September.
— This is now a match of wills, if not uber-egos. The Patriots have previously thumbed their noses at the league, if not here then certainly in the past. The league has stared the Patriots down. The NFL (including Roger Goodell) does not believe Tom Brady. Tom Brady (and the Patriots organization) believes he has done nothing wrong — or does not believe the NFL has the proof to make his suspension stick. First one to blink loses.
— The conclusion to this mess? There won’t be one, possibly for months to come. The legal process plays itself out slowly, especially when it comes to federal court cases. Team Brady and the Patriots have their arguments — good ones — over flimsy science and non-existent evidence. The NFL is pointing to the Patriots’ (and TB12’s) alleged obstruction, and the fact they’ve been wrist-slapped previously doesn’t help here. The league won the first salvo, getting the legal jump on Team Brady with the hearing venue moved from Minnesota to New York.
— My biggest problem with all of this? Tom Brady disposing (destroying, says the NFL) his cellphone. He had that right, of course. Those in the public eye do have a right to a modicum of privacy, and handing the phone over to the league would have been a terrible precedent to set for the NFLPA. But the timing was suspect, whether there was anything incriminating in it or not. Goodell knew this; hence the league’s pouncing on his destruction of the phone. Never mind that Brady had been cooperative and handed over everything the NFL had asked for. This is a struggle for power, for respect, for authority in an office that has been devoid of any of this for some time.
— My next problem is the NFL has turned itself into the WWE. If I want storylines and scripts, I’ll go watch pro wrestling.
— This is beyond an issue of integrity in the game. Deflategate has become the sports equivalent of a Salem witch hunt.
— Ask yourself this question: Would you turn your cellphone over to a league that has been known to leak misinformation to gullible media entities clamoring for inside info because of the rights fees they pay to the league in the first place?
— Still, the timing of the phone thing was a blown audible for TB12. If you’re a Pats fan, let’s hope the next time he changes a play at the line — as early as Sept. 10 — it is the right call to make.
— And here’s the bottom line, delivered in Stone Cold Steve Austin-like crushing fashion: No one cares about context. No one understands context. People will believe what they WANT to believe, regardless of the debate and/or the facts. Save the arguments for the radio, or better yet, the courtroom, because that’s where this goes next. True justice, one way or another, is limping along here, waiting for these alpha dogs to stop peeing on each other’s fire hydrants.
— Now, bring on the football season. And hurry.
— Well, that was fast. Buh-bye, Olympics. Honestly, the Boston 2024 Olympic bid was over before it really got started. It was almost universally decried publicly as a dumb idea, considering our centuries-old infrastructure and our propensity for boondoggles in correcting those problems (like the Big Dig). But I’ll miss the pomp and circumstance, I’ll miss the pageantry, I’ll miss the two-week-long party with the world. I’ll also miss the $7000 rent I would have charged for my house while vacationing elsewhere.
— Kudos, however, to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker for not allowing the taxpayers the “privilege” of shouldering the burden for any Olympic cost overrun. Take note, Governor Gina Raimondo and esteemed Rhode Island legislators, as you consider the PawSox’ stadium proposal, will ya?
— About time. The Baseball Writers Association of America now requires potential Hall of Fame voters to meet requirements as active members covering the game. There is still a 10-year grace period for those who no longer cover a team or the sport regularly, but at the very least this move should keep at least some bias from taking over. Can’t worry anymore about the way “things used to be,” because they’ll never be that way again. Get with the times, and get off my lawn.
— One other move the BBWAA could make in an effort to keep stupidity from prevailing? Publicly post every ballot submitted. And as fast as you can say “free lunch,” we’ll suddenly have a bunch of smart guys actually doing their jobs.
— Congrats to the Texas Rangers and GM Jon Daniels for pulling off the victory in the Cole Hamels Derby. Weren’t the Red Sox, at one time, at least one of the lead horses in this race?
— Also like the Troy Tulowitzki deal for the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Jays picking off David Price from Detroit could give them a shot at overtaking the Yankees in the AL East. Those were Yankee moves — even Red Sox moves — right there. Or at least used to be.
— Great numbers from ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes this week: In three nights against Red Sox pitching, the Chicago White Sox hit 18 doubles, which is one more than David Ortiz has hit in 341 at bats this season. Seven doubles in nine innings each on Monday and Tuesday nights match what Hanley Ramirez has hit in 90 games. ‘Nuff said?
— And John Farrell says that Pablo Sandoval’s weight is an issue that needs to be addressed in the offseason? Thank you, Captain Obvious.
— Rick Porcello has allowed 20 home runs this season, with two months still to play. And Boston gave him that four-year contract extension in April. Yeah, that kinda takes him off of the trade market.
— It’s reasonable to expect some of the young pitchers to make their way to Fenway over these last two months, and that is perhaps one silver lining in this dark cloud of a season. Brian Johnson and Henry Owens undoubtedly will get a look-see, as will other teams, as a massive transformation of the Boston roster should be building on the horizon. “Should” be. “Will” be is another matter.
— RIP George “Boomer” Scott, who died two years ago this week. Eight times a Gold Glove winner at first base. How come we can’t get players like this anymore?
— It seems like a non-story, but the MLS All-Stars’ 2-1 win this week over EPL power Tottenham Hotspur was still another step toward American soccer respectability. Yes, the MLS team had an aging Brazilian star Kaka and former Spanish star David Villa lead the way against a Tottenham team that is merely in preseason training. But as we all know from Deflategate around here, perception is everything. And the perception is U.S. soccer continues to play toward world standards.
— Here’s another “best and worst” poll to consider, this one on cities for soccer fans’ support. Boston ranks 13th. Providence ranks 84th out of 100, behind both Kingston and Smithfield (home to URI and Bryant, respectively) according to our friends at WalletHub. I’m getting the feeling, based on previous information shared, that there’s very little about Rhode Island that ranks well in any category except for unemployment and political corruption.
— My buddy Statbeast sez you know you’ve been unemployed too long when your reality check bounces. Or that a quarterback is a refund.
— That Illinois game at the Dunk on the PC basketball schedule for November may have become a bit more winnable, if only for the reason that Illini point guard Tracy Abrams will miss a second straight season — this time, with a torn Achilles tendon. Abrams missed all of last year with a torn ACL. He scored 10.6 points per game with 3.5 assists as a sophomore two years ago.
— PC athletics announced this week that the department generated an all-time high of $2.9 million in ticket sales for 2014-15. On top of the record $6 million in donations announced, it appears things are moving in the right direction for the smallest school in Division 1 without football, located on Smith Hill, wouldn’t you say? The Friars have an NCAA title to their credit in each of the last two years, winning in cross-country and hockey.
— Speaking of hockey, those defending national champion Friars will open their season Oct. 16 at Schneider Arena against Holy Cross. That’s also the night they’ll raise the banner for winning the title against BU last April.
— Congrats to former Friar and North Providence’s Ken McDonald, a one-time head coach at Western Kentucky and a former assistant to Rick Barnes at Texas, on his contract extension to continue as head coach of the NBA D-League’s Austin Spurs. The Spurs won their division last season and had three players (one of them PC’s Bryce Cotton) called up to the bigs.
— Not for nuthin,’ but incoming freshman forward Leroy Butts isn’t on campus at URI with his Rams-to-be teammates. At least not where anyone can find him. Rhody will need help past the top seven in its rotation if true contention in the A-10 is the goal. But with four starters returning from a 23-win team, it’ll be tough to dampen any expectations.
— Former UMass standout and former URI and Memphis assistant coach Ty Weeks will be a part of the coaching staff for the inaugural Providence Sky Chiefs Youth Basketball Camp, taking place Aug. 17-19 at the Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket. The camp is open to boys and girls age 7-14.
— Fantastic that the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals have hired the first female assistant coach in Jen Welter, who will help coach the team’s inside linebacking group during camp and the preseason as an intern. Her tenure will be short but meaningful. It’s a cool story, along with the one earlier this spring on the first female official (Sarah Thomas) to take the field this year.
— Did you know … that Welter is a former rugby player at Boston College?
— But here’s another question for you to consider: When will the NFL consider beating a woman up on camera to be more egregious than allegedly deflating a football in a bathroom stall?
— Former Red Sox and PawSox outfielder, one-time Worcester Tornado and sometime-buffoon Jose Canseco apparently is at it again — if you believe anything TMZ says has merit. Canseco, who managed to blow off his middle finger in a gun accident not long ago, says he will dress as a woman for a week — “full makeup, dresses, the works” — in order to reflect on gender issues. He’ll also be doing it for a new internet reality show, “Spend A Day with Jose.” Can’t wait.
— @TXPatsSteveR tweeted this week: “So now we have another 27 weeks of being held hostage by HotAirGate? Dear God, let it end.” Steve, I could not agree more. Sadly, the persecution of Brady and the Patriots will continue until either (a) Roger Goodell gets what he wants, and that is power and respect. It’s through his own fault he lost it in the first place. Or (b) Brady and/or the Patriots cry “uncle,” which in that case he’ll have option (a) again. It’s really all about Option A.
— 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.
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