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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, April 12, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering if it might be something in the water in Storrs, CT

• 13-0. That’s the combined record of the UConn men (4-0) and women (9-0) in national championship game appearances. Whoa

• It was a remarkable three-week run through the NCAA Tournament for the UConn men’s basketball team, no question. And complete, utter dominance by the UConn women. Considering what has transpired over the past year (and more) on the collegiate landscape and where the men’s program was a year ago, at the very least, UConn has defined the meaning of the term “resilient.” At the most? It’s quite simple. They’re winners…and with four championships over the past 15 years, they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as other bluebloods – Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and perhaps UCLA – in the college hoop world…

• Once again, in case you’ve forgotten: Guards > everyone else. Experience > youth. Defense > Offense. That is all

• I was, however, puzzled at first by Shabazz Napier’s podium rant against the Academic Progress Rate that kept the Huskies out of last year’s tournament. Hey, it’s great you used that as motivation for this year (“hungry Huskies”), and with all of the movement and defections going on, kudos to you and your teammates who stuck it out. But “this is what happens when you ban us?” You might not have been part of the problem, but someone close to you certainly was. Taking a retaliatory stance wasn’t your best moment, and detracts from what we should be focusing on – your performance…

• Then again, maybe Napier knew what he was doing. After all, earlier Monday prior to the national title game, he told reporters that he had some “hungry nights where I’m not able to eat,” and that his scholarship “at the end of the day, that doesn’t cover everything.” He set the table pretty well for at least some kind of a “hungry Huskies” story. “I don’t see myself as so much of an employee, but when you see your jersey getting sold, it may not have your last name on it, but when you see your jersey getting sold, to some credit, you feel like you want something in return.” Wonder how a union vote might go over at UConn today?

Tweet of the Week I – from Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers): “UConn has more POSTSEASON wins at AT&T Stadium (2) than the Dallas Cowboys (1)…”

• Really people…how in the world could anyone, if you’re a graduate of Rutgers University or a resident of the state of New Jersey, be happy with the State U right now? Another PR disaster occurred this week, when it was reported that athletic director Julie Hermann recently told a group of student journalists that it would “be great” if the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper died. The paper, in continuing a nationwide epidemic of newspaper cutbacks and layoffs, let go 170 employees a week ago…including sportswriter Brendan Prunty, who covered the Scarlet Knights and Seton Hall Pirates. Longtime respected writer and columnist Tom Luicci has also departed…although Hermann announced Thursday RU has hired Luicci as a social media director. Best move they’ve made in years…

• Forget the fact that the employees let go have bills to pay, and some very talented people lost their jobs because the newspaper industry hasn’t yet adapted fully to the changes in how we consume media. Her cruelty in choosing her words is duly noted, even though the school points out her remarks to students came before any layoffs were announced. However, this is a person who serves as a representative of an institution getting ready to join with the Big Ten Conference – the public face of the school – who doesn’t seem to understand the media should instead be her friend. Rather, she seems to be declaring “war” on the newspaper of record in New Jersey. Why? Because the media is the entity holding her accountable for her own job?

• The exchange Hermann had with a student: "If they're not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they're not selling ads - and they die," Hermann told the Media Ethics and Law class. "And the Ledger almost died in June, right?" "They might die again next month," a student said. "That would be great," she replied. "I'm going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive…"

• And what about the job she’s done since arriving on the banks of the Raritan? She is leading RU’s entry into the Big 10…which actually started with her predecessor, Tim Pernetti – the same predecessor who allowed the Mike Rice fiasco to develop into his own ouster. Hermann had to answer to an investigation into charges she abused her players while a volleyball coach at Tennessee, and she was accused of not dealing with a football bullying scandal last fall in a timely fashion…

• This is also part of what Hermann told the student journalists: “Keeping in mind that salacious sells, keeping in mind that we are a lot of people’s favorite topic, keeping in mind that there are people – I’ve got one guy over at the Ledger and he has one mission, that’s to get any AD at Rutgers fired. That’s his hobby. How soon can I get the new AD fired?” With a response like that, Ms. Hermann, especially to impressionable student journalists, I’ll wager the main reason you still have your job is because no one at the school has the stomach for yet another scandal. Which really isn’t an excuse, but again, this is Rutgers. And, did you really think your comments wouldn’t leave a roomful of student journalists? Stupid is as stupid does

• And after reading a New York Times editorial this week, methinks the Big 10 made an even-bigger goof than anything Rutgers has done…by inviting Rutgers over UConn for membership…

• Zen question of the week…if electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

• Friar fans, in terms of public (and coaching) perception, there’s still a long road to travel. Steps in the right direction, certainly, have been taken. But even after winning a Big East championship, PC failed to receive any votes in the final USA Today Top 25 coaches’ poll…

• My personal “one shining moment” at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament came with the realization last Monday night that one or two people could have done a better job than the 11 tournament hosts/announcers CBS/TBS used on their coverage. How many anchors and analysts do we need here, to tell us all the same things? Other than maybe Charles Barkley – who has no real clue about the college game – did anyone tell you anything memorable?

• I found myself actually feeling sorry for Greg Gumble, surrounded by a cacophony of nonsense and drivel for much of the tournament’s coverage. All I know is…Bryant would never put up with it…

• But I did find this particular broadcast funny – and enlightening. I had no idea the NAACP even crowned a champion…

• If you don’t think the Big 10 will eventually try to conquer New York, as the ACC also hopes to do with a 2-year tourney move to Brooklyn…think again. The league has announced they are opening a 2nd conference office, as of June 1, in midtown Manhattan on 3rd Avenue…

• 40 years ago this week, Henry Aaron hit his then-record setting 715th career homerun. Forty years ago. I remember exactly what I was doing and where I was at that moment…my mother ran to my room to get me from my studies to tell me it was about to happen on the television. Sure enough, about the time I popped into our den, Hammerin’ Hank did it. The historical calls come from Curt Gowdy, Milo Hamilton and Vin Scully, with Scully’s description particularly poignant…

Mickey Rooney (comcast.net)

• Can’t let the week go by without an acknowledgment of the accomplishments from the first American “superstar,” Mickey Rooney. At 93, Rooney passed away this week…but I didn’t see much mourning over his death. Rather, there seemed to be much celebration over his life and career and to me…that’s the best epitaph that can ever be written about someone…

Not for nuthin’…but a nine-month old baby in Pakistan was charged with attempted murder last week. Let that roll around under your turban for a while…

• There’s a petition circulating on change.org that’s trying to keep Michael Vick from stepping onto the practice field at SUNY-Cortland this summer, where the NY Jets will hold their training camp. It seems some students believe they’ll be complicit in his crimes committed against dogs if he’s allowed on campus. Complicit? Look, I love dogs too. But the man did his time – 19 months in prison – and lost millions of dollars while locked away from society. Let’s move on here…

• If you’ve read this column much over the past couple of years, you know that I have been a fan of the WWE and pro wrestling. I have my two sons, who are now much too “old” for this kind of stuff, to thank for my renewed interest in these shows, and for my annual appearance at a local Wrestlemania party thrown by a longtime friend who enjoys the storylines as much as any soap opera devotee who still worships Rick Springfield on General Hospital

Wrestlemania XXX – they number the Big Event just like the NFL numbers Super Bowls – was held last Sunday in New Orleans. Of note, the “Undertaker” had his 21-year winning streak of WM matches come to an end against Brock Lesnar…which undoubtedly stunned the viewing audience for the PPV event like it did the 75K+ fans at the Superdome, and will more than likely keep wrestling fans coming back for more – which is part of the sheer marketing genius that keeps the WWE at the forefront of the sports/entertainment business…

• Head-to-head, the NFL usually blisters the WWE. But because wrestling is year-round, and an always-evolving story playing to packed arenas and stadiums with pay-per-view events to pique public interest, the WWE (based in Stamford, CT) prints money. The newly-launched WWE Network, at $10 per month, already has more than 650K subscribers. And ask the downtown Providence Dunkin Donuts Center how they feel about wrestling, where several TV shows and PPV events have originated in front of packed houses…

• And in a bizarre twist of fate, just three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, James Hellwig, aka “The Ultimate Warrior,” passed away at the age of 54. Warrior was one of the true superstars in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s…and I recall his exploits when he literally burst onto the scene in the Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling in the ‘80s…

• Prom season is here. So be careful out there. And, if you see the kid who decided to ask former Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s daughter to the prom, could you call his mom? She’s looking for him…

• Of note in the newest class of inductees for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced this week…more Big East ties with former Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning and ex-BC coach Gary Williams gaining induction…

• Hey, kudos to Geno Auriemma on winning a 9th national championship for the UConn women’s hoop team, but when I saw a yahoo.com poll this week asking for votes on the top active coach – along with Mike Krzyzewski, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick – it dawned on me the poll originators were really serious in wanting to know the answer...

• But 40-0 is still 40-0. UConn has five of the eight all-time undefeated seasons in women’s college hoop history…

• Did anyone see the email and subsequent Tweets that went viral on the subject of “Derek the RA” at UConn, in the aftermath of last Monday’s game? C’mon, admit it. We all knew a “Derek,” didn’t we? Nerd alert!

• Yes, it’s early. Yes, I have concerns…after all, this IS New England. But the lack of hitting in the Red Sox lineup right now doesn’t bother me as much as the pitching does at present. Buchholz? Doubront? Fellas, the season has started…

• Five double plays? Five? That’s what Sox hitters bounced into against the Texas Rangers last Tuesday, one short of the American League record for a 9-inning game, and they still scored seven runs. They lost, but the ball should begin finding a hole through that infield in relatively short order.  Shouldn't it?

• Where is the concern over JBJ (Jackie Bradley, Jr.) now? Good spring, not such a good season a year ago. This year, not such a good spring…but a call-up after Shane Victorino’s early DL time has resulted in a hot start at the plate. Starts like this fade, however…but his plate discipline has caught my eye. He’s seeing more pitches, getting more favorable counts…

• If you’re waiting for Tatman (aka Ryan Roberts) to put a Red Sox logo somewhere on his, um, self…you’ll be waiting awhile. MLB has a rule adopted in 2011 that says players cannot have any visible corporate markings or logos tattooed on their bodies. Guess that means Samsung is SOL on getting a tat from Big Papi…

• Loved it when Patriots’ linebacker Rob Ninkovich met with media at Gillette Stadium this week and told reporters that he couldn’t believe cornerback Brandon Browner “is bigger than me.” Size is gonna matter. Also take note, Pats fans, that BB is more involved in the hands-on part of reshaping the defense this off-season…

Tweet of the Week II – from former Patriot linebacker/new Buffalo Bill @BrandonSpikes51: “4 years a slave.” Hmmm.  He started out well-meaning with tweets about handing the Patriots two losses next season – which hasn’t happened since 1999. However, after having to block some fans who took issue with him (1999! Hello?)…he decided to play the slavery card. And he wonders why he’s not a Patriot…really?

• Think a QB could be coming? Alabama’s A.J. McCarron was in for a visit this week in Foxboro, joining the more-heralded Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Zach Mettenberger (LSU) who previously chatted with management as the Pats continue to do their due diligence. Smoke = Fire?

• It might not be official for a while, but there’s a very good chance the Patriots will entertain the Eagles and/or the Panthers for pre-season practices in Foxboro…in advance of their pre-season games at Gillette Stadium in August. Training camp practices are always well-attended, and a great chance for fans to get closer to the game – with ticket prices and ticket availability always an obstacle for many. Joint practices and scrimmages are win-win, for teams and fans…they’re free for the fans…and make the boring exhibition games at least a bit more palatable…

• UMass guard Derrick Gordon, part of the Minuteman team that returned to the NCAA’s for the first time in 16 years this past season, revealed this week he’s gay. Former Celtic and current Nets forward Jason Collins has been his inspiration, and that’s a nice story. I mention this story not because he’ll probably face PC on the court next season, or because he’ll undoubtedly face extra scrutiny during road games, but because I’m waiting for the day when someone’s sexuality doesn’t matter. In life, or in sports. That day is not today…

• In the current debate over the possibility of college athletes “unionizing,” consider this factoid revealed this week – according to CUNY professor Marc Edelman, who specializes in sports and antitrust law, the University of Alabama’s athletic revenues last year exceeded those of all 30 NHL teams, and 25 of the 30 NBA teams. Sounds ridiculous, yes…but really, consider the expenses. Roster sizes. Player salaries, of course. The catch here is the total revenue. At several schools across the country, the money they generate is equal to or surpasses the money generated by well over half of the professional teams in the major sports leagues. Some legal teams are about to have a field day with that…

• Seems to me that if NCAA Grand Poobah Marc Emmert really wanted to do something about squelching the whole union thing starting up, he’d do well to start addressing some of the issues that athletes in revenue-generating sports have, rather than his current tact of complaining and calling a union “grossly inappropriate.” Just sayin’

• Let’s see if my math is right…58% of Rhode Island voters believe the economy is poor, and another 34% believe it’s “not so good,” according to the Brown poll released this week. Not sure what the difference is between the terms, but anytime 92% of anything agrees on something, perhaps some attention is warranted? Whaddaya think lawmakers?

• Elsewhere in this wonderful country of ours, USA Today reports jobless claims are at a seven-year low. What was Albert Einstein’s quote again? “Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…”

• My buddy Statbeast sez he likes to maintain a healthy level of insanity in the workplace. While sitting at his desk, he soaks his fingers in Palmolive liquid and calls everyone “Madge…”

(blujay.com)

• And surprise! You’re at least 40-something if you understand the Madge reference…

• Something not talked about a lot around these parts…gymnastics. But Brown is hosting the USA Gymnastics Collegiate national championships this weekend at the Pizzitola Sports Center with eight teams, and 37 more individual qualifiers from five additional schools taking part. Here’s a video link to check it out, if you can’t catch it in person…

• How about a little “giving back?” Remember Lamonte Thomas? An all-American and the nation’s leading scorer at Johnson & Wales just three short years ago, Thomas has organized a Basketball Skills Academy at The Met School in Providence…taking place every Monday and Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 pm through June 20th. It’s open to boys and girls, age 10 to 18, and players can register for one session, or more. Thomas led his German team, Wolfenbuttel – and his league – in scoring this past year. Visit www.lamontethomasbasketball.com for more info…

• This will make some Friar fans cringe, no doubt, but it’s hard to escape fact: UConn’s national title means 1) only the LA Lakers have won more championships since ’99 among the major sports and college football and basketball; 2) UConn is the only school with 4 title wins and ZERO losses; 3) UConn is the first team to beat storied Kentucky twice in the Final Four; 4) UConn is the first team to beat the pre-season #1 for the national title since ’01; 5) UConn’s 87.8% from the free throw line is the best for a team in a single NCAA tourney run. Had enough? I have more if you want it…

• From the mailbag this week – Rob from Berkley, MA via email: “What did you think of the Yankee pitcher who had pine tar on his hand (Thursday) night? Isn’t that cheating?” Rob: Technically, I suppose, it is. If you missed it, NY pitcher Michael Pineda handcuffed the Sox all night in a 4-1 New York win…and the TV cameras caught what certainly looked like a substance similar to pine tar on his pitching hand. Even though MLB rule 8.02 says "The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball," it’s still done, in order to keep a firm grip on the ball. The reason why the Red Sox didn’t do anything about it? Probably because the opposing pitcher, Clay Buchholz, was an alleged user of resin (which is legal) and sunscreen combined (which is not legal) last season…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including 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 and comments 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 join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287(401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - [email protected] .

 

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Comments:

I think if UCONN had been in another region they would have been eliminated long before the sweet sixteen. Has there been a team more fortunate on the draw? As far as women's basketball, it's like shooting fish in a barrel ...when you get the best players in the country year after year after year the other teams might as well mail it in. Women's basketball is boring, frankly and Geno, IMO, is a legend in his own mind. Here's a question: Which will happen first - The UCONN women lose an NCAA title or URI makes the NCAAs? My money is on the UCONN women.

Comment #1 by joe adamowicz on 2014 04 12

Just one last note about the UCONN women's team. Why get to play a first round NCAA tournament game in their own building? Doesn't quite seem fair to the opponent.

Comment #2 by joe adamowicz on 2014 04 12

Politics aside UConn belongs in the Big East. They will never be admitted to the "Devil's Playpen" The freeken ACC because they will never have a championship football team, NEVER!!!

I don't know about unionizing college sports but at a minimum the athletes should be allowed to receive a MA and PhD at no cost and some consideration for travel for themselves and immediate family!!

Sad that Coach Cooley got no respect and hard to imagine that there are 25 better coaches out there. Wonder how many conference winning coaches were left off the list?! With the recruiting he has done and the team he is putting together it won't be long before his name will be up in lights. GO FRIARS!!!!

Comment #3 by Wally M on 2014 04 12

Good column today, John.

Comment #4 by R Hertz on 2014 04 12

Wally M, what about coach Hurley?

Comment #5 by joe adamowicz on 2014 04 12

^ stupid

Comment #6 by donkey boy on 2014 04 12

Actually, more important than questions about where coaches belong on a "list" are questions about are they are right fit. Is Hurley regretting his move to Kingston? What is the time frame for rebuilding the moribund program? How much longer do we give him before showing him the door? Is it even possible in this day and age of the one-and- dones to attract real talent to Kingston? Does he toss and turn at night after passing on the Rutgers opportunity? Is he digging himself deeper and deeper into a crater-like hole where his only coaching opportunity may be to return to the high school ranks of the Garden State or join his brother as an assistant?

Comment #7 by joe adamowicz on 2014 04 13

If it were up to me, I would stipulate that Hurley needs 20 wins and an NIT berth next year to keep his job. That's after three years and is a reasonable goal and time frame. We can rant all we want about the coach he replaced but this is his show now and we should expect modest results after a more than fair evaluation period.

Comment #8 by joe adamowicz on 2014 04 13

this was an amazing year for me ...my father is a UCLA grad I attended dozens of games at poly pavilion from 1965 thru 1971..what a great period to root for a team..they almost never lost....imagine in 1974 when I entered UCONN,the chances that UCONN would end up in the same sentence when discussing college basketball royalty...last week was a great week

Comment #9 by michael riley on 2014 04 13




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