Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Mikey, and does he still like it?
— Lou Merloni tweeted this week: Would the Sox get more attention if Brady weren’t suspended? Maybe, but hey, Lou? Would the Sox get more attention if they weren’t up against the Patriots playing?
— Or if most MLB games didn’t last more than three hours? Or if the season were shorter? Or if players stayed in the batter’s box? Or if pitchers stopped scratching and adjusting themselves before pitches? Or if the sport actually allowed home plate or basepath collisions to happen again? Just sayin’.
— We now resume our regularly scheduled football discussion. Find me on Twitter under the hashtags #killeverybodytour and #scorchedearthtour.
— What did we witness Thursday night? Two things, the way I see it. One, if there was ever any doubt that Bill Belichick is one of the best to have ever plied his trade (I’m looking at you, Steve in Fall River), it has been snuffed out. Or, you’re just ignorant (again, straight at ya, Steve).
— Two, Houston, you still have a problem. Turtling in big games won’t earn you any more respect than those letter jackets you wore a couple of years ago.
— I love Thursday night games. And I hate them, too. I’ll wager if you polled NFL players on “love or hate,” hate would conquer overall. Part of that is, of course, the short recovery time they get after a Sunday beatdown.
— Chris Gasper of The Boston Globe wrote an excellent piece this week on the double standard the league has with instituting new injury prevention rules and making $$$ on Thursday nights. All you need to know is if the league really cared about its on-field employees’ health and well-being, they’d do away with TNF. Spot-on stuff.
— Jimmy Garoppolo’s plight is unfortunate, of course. He’ll learn to drop or throw the ball away soon enough. Did his injury cost him some quid in the big picture? Nope, not in this view.
— Were the Patriots playing coy with the whole “Suck it up, Jimmy” idea that the media ran with this week? Perhaps. But there was no way they would have endangered him further and risked damaging their potential (I said potential) future at QB. And is Jacoby Brissett now in the conversation about that future? I think he has to be.
— Injuries in the NFL are inevitable, and you’ve probably heard that before. The nature of the sport is decidedly violent, and when human bodies collide, something invariably gives. The faster and stronger these guys get, however, the more serious the end result may be. What do you think the NFL will look like in another 20 years?
— I fear for this sport I love.
— Do you need more of it? Do you want more of it? Be careful what you wish for, as Sports Business Daily this week reported three media executives are planning to launch a new spring league (remember the USFL?) by 2018. The working title? The Spring League of American Football (SLAF). If the league does launch, the plan is to have teams with players who have a geographic affiliation to the location of each franchise.
— New leagues — spring leagues — don’t have good history. The WFL, USFL, XFL and UFL all had one big problem — they weren’t the NFL. Even NFL Europe (formerly known as the World League of American Football, or WLAF) couldn’t sustain itself in the spring. NFL owners didn’t want to keep paying the bills. Now if these media execs could work out a deal to become the NFL’s de facto farm system, they might have a shot.
— Oh, and any acronym with “LAF” in it? They should drop that. Stupid is as stupid does.
— Not for nuthin’, but something is right with the world — the NFL is back in Los Angeles, and the Red Sox sweep the Yankees and Orioles. Ah, fall.
— ICYMI, there’s a magic number — not a tragic number like the last couple of years — looming over the Red Sox this season.
— If you care about the discussion, the real MVP of the American League — or even the Red Sox — is David Ortiz. Mookie Betts is fantastic, and he may very well win the award. He’s deserving. But Big Papi is the heart and soul of these Sox, and everyone from his teammates to the fans to the front office is emotionally invested in him and his story of success.
— Big Papi fuels the Sox. The lineup is feared with him penciled in, and merely managed with him on the bench. With him, these Sox have a shot. Without him, these Sox need darning. Or damning.
— Enjoy these last few weeks while you can. To quote the late, great Slim Pickens in “Blazing Saddles,” “Just what in the wide, wide world o’ sports is goin’ on here, boys?”
— Rick Porcello is the AL Cy Young winner in my book, and it’s not even close. Twenty-plus wins for a contending team? Done, regardless of whether he wins the ERA “crown” or not. And I can’t believe I just typed this. Whoa.
— For the stat geeks (Statbeasts?) who care, Porcello leads the American League in WHIP (0.98) and his 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio also is tops. The ERA is merely third best. He’s only third in innings pitched and — gasp — just ninth in strikeouts.
— If not Porcello, who? Three names come to mind, but only one is really legit. While Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka have good numbers, only Corey Kluber of the Indians should be under consideration. Why? ‘Cuz his team is in the playoff hunt. The others are headed for the golf course.
— Team winning should account for something, shouldn’t it?
— What questions remain concerning the playoff-worthiness of this team? The bullpen? It has a collective ERA of under 1.00 in September. A reliable third or fourth starter? I’ll give you that one, but Eduardo Rodriguez may have staked his claim to the third spot in the rotation, seeing as his ERA is 3.21 since his return to the majors.
— Or is it Clay Buchholz to the rescue? Trust him about as far as you can throw him.
— Baltimore should be embarrassed with pathetic ticket sales for the Orioles’ four-game series with the Red Sox. How do you not get fans to turn out for meaningful baseball in a pennant race? No trust for Dan Duquette?
— After watching Chris Davis literally throw away his team’s chances as Sox bats were predictably struggling Wednesday night (leaving RISP, LOB), now I’m beginning to get a clue.
— Suddenly, the Sox can do no wrong. So where is the excitement surrounding this team? Kirk Minihane may have been tongue in cheek with his pronouncement on WEEI this week that “No one cares about the Red Sox,” but he is right about one thing: The Patriots still have it over everyone else, even in the midst of a pennant race.
— Welcome to football culture, New England. We’ve probably been this way for about, oh, 15 years or so, but this is how the rest of ’em in the Deep South live. Football is the only sport we care about and play around here, son.
— Maybe it’s time for baseball to look within at some changes? Minor League Baseball attendance was down to its lowest levels in four years this past season, with the International League (home of the Triple-A PawSox) down 2 percent from last season. The Eastern League — home of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs — shows attendance down a whopping 7 percent from last year, but the figure wasn’t helped by the Hartford Yard Goats’ construction issues with their new Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
— PawSox attendance has been in a slow, steady decline overall since 2008. In 2005, Pawtucket led the IL in attendance. This past season, the PawSox were 10th out of 14 teams, averaging 6,076 fans per home game at McCoy Stadium.
— Is the post-Providence move hangover still in place? Or is remaining in Pawtucket the real problem that late owner Jim Skeffington was trying to deal with? To my way of thinking, it’s a combination of both — adding in issues surrounding the sport itself — but I’m not sure Larry Lucchino or Dr. Charles Steinberg have it figured out yet.
— So, it’s my understanding that USA Hockey took a team that could really skate well to the Olympics in 2014, and it didn’t fare so well. Then, USA Hockey tried a grittier, grinding team for this year at the World Cup of Hockey, and it still stunk it up. When does Uncle Sam realize it just might be these players? Besides, most of them don’t want to hurt anything for the NHL season to come.
— But Team North America has been one of the better stories of the World Cup, if you haven’t followed. Taking younger players from the U.S. and Canada, who might not otherwise have made their countries’ teams, and putting them together was a nice idea.
— One of the true all-time greats in Rhode Island hockey passed away last weekend. Dick Ernst was a Cranston legend, a skating hockey Friar at PC and also a tremendous tennis coach and player. He was all-state in both sports as a kid in the 1950s. His coaching career in both sports lasted more than 50 years, working with more than 100 teams. Ernst was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame just this year — a marvelous legacy for a most-worthy coach and gentleman.
— Nothing like spotting your opponent a three-touchdown lead, right? Usually means a disastrous result, especially in your season opener, right? That’s what Brown did last Saturday at Bryant, but the Bears came roaring back to win it, 35-27. Something tells me this might be a fun season to watch on the East Side.
— Quarterback Kyle Moreno was named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his 224-yard, three-TD, no-pick performance. Moreno seems to be the next in line of a QB group at Brown that has been quite noteworthy over the past 20 years, dating back to the Mark Whipple coaching days.
— If you have asked yourself, “Self, what in the world is Tom Brady doing with his time these days?” ask no more. TB12 served as his alma mater’s honorary captain last week, his first appearance at The Big House since 1999, as Michigan played Colorado. He played catch before the kickoff with Jim Harbaugh, who seemed to giggle like an 8-year-old kid out there. And his Wolverines kicked some Buffalo butt.
— Dude still has it, doesn’t he?
— Whatever it is, URI football still doesn’t have it, after a 51-21 thumping at Harvard. The question should be: Will the Rams ever get it?
— Not to build up hype or expectations or anything, but ESPN.com listed the Rams’ E.C. Matthews this week as one of college basketball’s most important players for 2016-17.
— And, it just so happens the Friars could face three of the five players ESPN listed this season as most important, including Iowa’s Peter Jok and Virginia’s London Perrantes.
— Almost slipped by this week, but PC’s Ed Cooley was named as a new member of the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) Board of Directors for the 2016-17 season, as was Northeastern’s Bill Coen.
— Great get for Coen’s basketball program at NU, as Alex Murphy of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, was granted a sixth year of college eligibility this past week (he missed last year because of injuries), and he has chosen to transfer from Florida to play with his younger brother Tomas. Big bro Murphy started his college career at Duke before joining the Gators to play for Billy Donovan.
— Curious coaching move within the Atlantic 10 at George Washington, as the school fired basketball coach Mike Lonergan just two weeks before preseason workouts start. The Colonials won the NIT postseason tournament last March, but allegations from former players concerning his behavior toward the team and athletic director Patrick Nero (a 1987 Providence grad) were made public in a Washington Post investigation this summer.
— GW returned recently from an overseas trip to Japan, and Lonergan coached the team during the tour. He formerly coached and had success at Vermont, a member of the America East Conference — where Nero was commissioner of the league before hiring Lonergan in D.C. Like I said, it’s curious. He’s been known to be a bit high-strung in his past, having once previously been asked to leave his own daughter’s JV basketball game. So there’s that.
— Maybe all you need to know is 13 players have left the GW program over the past five years, and three each have departed in the past four. Coaches aren’t going to make everyone happy, but you’ve got to make someone happy at some point, don’t you?
— Ray Treacy’s cross-country teams at Providence are always good. Count on that. At the present time, the women’s team is ranked No. 2 in the country. Julian Oakley on the men’s team and Sarah Mary Collins on the women’s team were named Big East Athletes of the Week this past week.
— PC=XC juggernaut. It’s an inevitable, often overpowering presence every year.
— The PC volleyball team, under coach Margot Royer-Johnson, is beginning to make some noise. After previously playing at a lower level from 2010-13, the Friars have pumped life (and scholarship money) back into the program and rejoined the Big East, and the returns this year are noticeable. PC is 12-4 on the season as it opens league play this weekend.
— Mommas, do let your babies grow up to be golfers. World No. 1 Jason Day’s new deal with Nike is worth $100 million, making him the highest-paid player in the game. Tiger, you’ve officially been stripped of your stripes.
— My buddy “Big E” got swamped last week with phone calls from strangers. It seems that a billing service had launched an 800 number that was identical to his personal phone. When he called to complain, explaining he’s had his number for 20 years, the company basically told him to go “pound sand.” He then told the guy on the phone, “OK, it’s fine. I’ll take your calls and tell every one of your accounts their bill is paid in full.” He stopped getting those strange calls the next day.
— Those of a certain vintage (notice I said nothing about age) will remember the TV commercials for Life cereal in the 1970s featuring the cute, chubby-cheeked kid named “Mikey” who was dared to eat the stuff by his big brothers. “I’m not gonna try it. YOU try it. Hey, let’s get Mikey to try it, he hates everything!” Naturally, little Mikey loved Life (“He likes it! Hey Mikey!”) and the Quaker Oats cereal sold countless thousands (millions?) of boxes. TV Guide named the spot one of the Top 10 commercials of all time. For years, urban legends popped up about Mikey’s fate, with various stories about his unexpected demise. “Mikey” is really John Gilchrist, who said as recently as 2014 he actually has no clear recollection of filming the commercial at the tender age of 3 back in 1971.
— The brothers in the commercial were his actual big brothers, and they also had their own acting careers. Gilchrist himself performed in more than 200 commercials over the years. He’s very much alive and, after working in ad sales at one point for ESPN Radio, he currently serves as the Director of Media Sales for MSG Network in New York.
— And yes, he still likes it.
— Sara from Caracas, Venezuela (@sbagrafic) tweeted this week: Well the saying for now it seems is: No Brady, No Gronk, No Jimmy, No problem. Sara: That thought process has held up for now, hasn’t it? Not sure you’d want to go a full season without two players who may be the best to have ever played their positions, but the whole “next man up” thing is gaining real street cred right about now, isn’t it?
— 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 email@example.com. 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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