Thinking out loud: Give Gillette Stadium crowd credit for AFC championship

January 26, 2018 - 3:34 pm

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering if pirates really do exist?  Aargh.

  • On to Minneapolis?  Hey, I’d take Cincinnati, maybe even Cleveland over frigid Minnesota right about now.


  • You probably missed this one – but an asteroid will be passing by earth during next week’s Super Bowl, coming within about three million miles of leaving an indelible mark on humanity.  However, astronomers are also saying it may pass us by a bit too early to watch Tom Brady leave his indelible mark on the Eagles.


  • Jacksonville was good.  Better than expected.  And don’t be surprised if the Patriots find themselves another rival within the AFC over the next few years. 


  • Gillette Stadium has taken some verbal lumps since being built for its’ open-air nature and its’ club-seat-loving fans, many who’d rather be inside during cold weather rather than cheering outside.  But Gillette was as loud as I’ve ever heard it during the second half of the AFC title game.


  • The send-off rally for the team is Monday at 9:00 am at Gillette, on the NRG Plaza outside the stadium.  The public is invited, with Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and several players (including TB12) speaking before boarding busses to the airport.


  • Consider just a couple of several impressive numbers from your Patriots – as you go all-in for Ring #6:  In the postseason over the past 17 seasons, NE has a .766 winning percentage.  The only team within breathing range of this mark is Chicago, and the Bears won 75.9% of their playoff games from 1933-49.


  • TB12 has 68 postseason passing touchdowns, most in NFL history.  Joe Montana is next, with 45.


  • And something to keep in mind for Super Sunday – the Patriots have 41 wins decided by three points or less (or OT) since 2001, and have an NFL-best .702 winning percentage over that time. 


  • At this stage of the game, it will be an upset if Josh McDaniels DOESN’T go to Indy, and Matt Patricia DOESN’T go to Detroit.  Plus, prepare for the “it’s ovah!” talk to hit the airwaves and sports columns if the Patriots lose next week.  Just sayin’.


  • Not for nuthin,’ but Philly’s fight song “Fly Eagles Fly” is unimaginative, and untruthful.  “Score a touchdown, 1-2-3?”  Isn’t a touchdown worth six points?


  • This week’s fish out of water - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Apparently, he’s been hired on as an NBC Sports reporter for the Super Bowl and the upcoming Winter Olympics.  Now, if they decide to do wheelies on the field or race stock cars on ice, he’d be a perfect fit.


  • I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly of a mind to fork out $5K (give or take) for a seat on the top row of the upper deck at the Super Bowl.  The lowest ticket price I found for Minnesota was just over $3100.  Thanks, I’ll keep my mortgage intact instead.


  • Sign of the apocalypse?  Patriots’ Fan HQ, and the broadcast stage for the teams’ 24-hour live stream (The #NotDone Network) on Patriots.com launching Monday morning will originate from the Mall of America.  Bring your shopping carts.


  • The Patriots and Entercom (WEEI’s parent company) announced this week they have renewed a multi-year agreement for TB12 and BB to appear exclusively on WEEI’s “Patriots Monday” and “Patriots Friday” programming. 


  • What’s fascinating – and largely unknown – is former 98.5 The Sports Hub chief Mark Hannon is now driving the bus as Entercom/WEEI’s senior vice president and market manager.  The radio wars around here wage off the air, too. 


  • Do you remember the XFL, Vince McMahon’s failed foray into pro football from 2001?  It’s back, so he says, beginning in 2020.  Eight teams, 40-player rosters, kicking off after the NFL season has completed.  It might have a chance, but only if the XFL becomes a feeder-system for the major league. 


  • The trouble with that?  There’s nothing minor-league at all about McMahon.  Get ready for “Johnny (Manziel) Football” to become “Johnny XFL.”


  • Maybe it’s time for Vince to spend a little of that cash he has on hand?  WWE earnings and revenue continue to climb, as global sponsorship revenue has quadrupled since 2010.   What’s a couple billion bucks for another shot at faux football?


  • Ed Cooley reported this week on his radio show (103.7 WEEI-FM) he really likes the way his teams’ two-headed center (sophomore Kalif Young, freshman Nate Watson) has been practicing lately.  Watson has battled a bad case of the flu bug that has battered us all, but he is gaining his strength back – which he’ll need for the stretch run.


  • The Friars’ trip to #1 Villanova this week ended almost as expected.  The Wildcats have multiple shooters and several ways to beat you.  If Providence could figure out a way to keep from having 5-6 minute brain cramps on offense, they could be a legit challenger to Nova’s supremacy in the Big East.


  • They did lead the ‘Cats by nine with 7:44 to play in the first half.  Then, nothing.  Except for the air whooshing out of the bubble.


  • Villanova lost junior guard Phil Booth with a broken bone in his hand against the Friars, and he’s out indefinitely.  That will either really hurt the Wildcats’ current seven-man rotation, or mean more Jalen Brunson for the rest of the league.  I’ll wager on the latter.


  • Brunson is our feature interview on This Week in the Big East, along with Butler’s Kelan Martin and Fox analyst Evan Daniels – who says Providence has the top incoming freshman class next year in the conference, and one of the top nationally.  ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM is a new affiliate, on Channel 84.  Or catch the podcast on westwoodonesports.com, bigeast.com, iTunes, Stitcher and GooglePlay. 


  • Don’t look now, but since getting popped by PC, Xavier is roaring back into the Big East hierarchy. And the league has four Oscar Robertson Trophy candidates, for the nation’s best player (Brunson and Mikal Bridges from Villanova, X’s Trevon Bluiett, Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado). No other conference has more.


  • URI’s Rams cracked the Top 25 this week, and deservedly so.  Jared Terrell is averaging better than 19 points per game during Rhody’s current 11-game win streak (longest in 70 years?), shooting 46% from three.  Some seniors have an impending sense of the end being near, and Terrell is picking it up at the right time.


  • URI is also ranked #1 among the country’s mid-major programs, so says The Fieldhouse on TheAthletic.com.  What’s better - #1 as a mid-major, or #14 in a high-major league like the Big 10?  Serious question.  Should we ask Rutgers?


  • What universe are we in?  Duquesne (that’s in Pittsburgh, in case you forgot) is the surprise of the Atlantic-10, annually a preseason pick for last place out of 14 teams.  They get the Rams at a sold-out Ryan Center Saturday, featuring a solid defense.


  • A-10 note – UMass’ 6-11 big boy Rashaan Holloway has been declared academically ineligible for the spring semester.  He won’t play again this season for the 10-11 Minutemen, who lose his size and his 10 points per game.  Perfect timing – the Rams come calling next week.


  • Are the Brown Bears poised to make some noise?  1-1 in the Ivy, and with 5x Ivy Rookie of the Week Desmond Cambridge, the Bears get Dartmouth and 2-0 Harvard back-to-back this weekend.  We may know in no time if Brown can hang in for the long haul.


  • Uh oh.  In a public statement Friday, UConn President Susan Herbst confirmed the school will be subjected to an NCAA investigation of its’ men’s basketball program.  USA Today has reported the Huskies have come under further scrutiny of late for recruiting violations from 2008-2012, with Hall-of-Famer Jim Calhoun at the helm, and failed to meet academic standards in 2013.


  • You might recall Calhoun was forced to sit out three games during the ’11-’12 season and the program put on probation for three years after the NCAA found violations dating back to 2008.


  • How far have the once-mighty fallen?  The bigger they are, so I’ve been told, the harder they fall.  After a Thursday night win over SMU, no one (including coach Kevin Ollie) mentioned a word of the impending investigation, perhaps because the coach’s contract could be voided for “just cause.”


  • Coach-turned-talk show host Dan Dakich “reported” this week that Louisville will be fined $15 million and be forced to vacate its’ 2013 national title, as part of the punishment for the recruiting scandal that led to Rick Pitino’s ouster.  Dakich has been wrong – a lot – but this would qualify as a ‘wow’ if true.


  • Both national Top 10 Providence hockey teams (men and women) find themselves in big-time matchups this weekend.  The #10 men get 8th ranked Northeastern Friday in Boston, Saturday at Schneider Arena.  The Friars are 9-1 on Friday nights so far this season, but only 5-5-2 on Saturdays.


  • As for the 8th ranked women’s team, they get #2 Boston College Friday at Conte Forum, with the return match Saturday at 2:00 pm before the men skate against Northeastern.  That’s a power-packed double-header on campus ice, right there.


  • LeBron chose Kyrie for his all-star team?  Don’t be surprised.  Winning overcomes everything in life, even jealousy.


  • The entire, sordid tale still being told surrounding disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is stunning.  How someone at Michigan State – and within USA Gymnastics, with a former coach now being ‘outed’ for his complicity – is not held accountable for this predatory history is astounding.  Nassar might need to make room in his jail cell for a roommate or two.


  • Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis has resigned in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal, according to the Detroit Free Press.  Hollis is (or at least was) widely respected throughout college sports, and was thought to be a potential successor as Big Ten commissioner.  The NCAA earlier this week notified MSU they are investigating the school’s handling of the allegations surrounding Nassar.


  • What’s next?  The US Olympic Committee has demanded that the entire 21-member Board of Directors for USA Gymnastics submit their resignations, or the organization will lose its status as the sport’s national governing body.  


  • For my man Edward in East Providence – by now, is it Roger Federer > Everybody Else?


  • Honestly, a little underwhelmed with this year’s baseball Hall of Fame class.  Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman I’m fine with – less so Jim Thome and Vlad Guerrero.


  • Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are closing fast, however, having received more than 50% of the vote.  Curt Schilling is also making a voter comeback.  They should be in – as my belief is The Hall is a museum, good or bad.  Can’t ignore “bad” history, or we wouldn’t remember any wars for the history books, would we?


  • Edgar Martinez missed this year’s induction by a mere 20 votes.  And yet, I’ve seen several voter/writers say “oh, he’ll be in next year.”  Did you vote for him this year?  If not, will you vote for him next year, and why?  Not good enough?  But he will be next year? 


  • How does that make any sense at all?  Stupid is as stupid does.


  • For the record, Martinez belongs in the Hall.  The voters, most of them, belong in an asylum.


  • Tweet of the Week, from @CoachRNaclerio: “My parents spanked me as a child when I did wrong. As a result, I now suffer from a psychological condition known as “Respect for Others!”


  • My buddy “Big E” was in his neighborhood tavern recently, and saw a guy sitting at the bar with an eye patch, a wooden leg and a hook for a hand.  Feeling like this was a shot worth taking for a chuckle, naturally he sat down beside him to strike up a conversation with the “pirate.” 


  • He introduced himself and immediately asked how he lost his leg. “I worked on a fishing boat and was swept overboard. While I was being pulled into the boat, a shark bit my leg.”  Rather than offering an apology, “E” followed with, “and your hand?  What happened there?”  The guy told him he lost it in an industrial accident, since he could no longer work as a fisherman.


  • Feeling sorry, and even a little foolish by now, “E” figured he had nothing to lose.  He bought the poor guy a drink and then followed up.  “So, the eye then.  What happened there?”  He said, “a seagull pooped in it.”  Incredulous, “Big E” didn’t buy it.  “You lost your eye to a seagull dropping?”  The pirate guy answered “well, it was my first day with the hook.”


  • My radio partner Joe Hassett (@sonarhassett) tweeted this week: “How about this stat? Nova has 5 redshirt players, 4 are starters and (Donte) DiVincenzo off the bench who would start for every other team in Big East. They also have six guys back from National Championship team.”


  • Joe:  We got a good look at Villanova’s prowess on the floor this week. One of the best jump-shooting teams seen in a long time, and Jalen Brunson is crafty against players bigger than he is.  Those that might believe the Wildcats aren’t worthy of the nation’s #1 spot, haven’t played them yet.  And better hope they don’t, unless it’s for the national title in San Antonio this April.  If the ‘Cats get Phil Booth back in time, they can win it all for a second time in three years.


  • 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 protected]. 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 into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

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