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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, November 10, 2012

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering if I can still dance with the one who brung me…

• Certainly, it’s not the King’s English. But the line is an adaptation of a quote from legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal, who passed away this week after fighting the effects of Alzheimer’s for the past few years. Coach Royal was 88, and as the University of Texas head football coach from 1957-76, he was a tremendous influence on my life…as a professional and as a person. I’ve always tried to emulate Coach Royal’s uncanny ability to command respect, without asking for it. That is truly a unique character trait few humans have. But he did…

• Coach Royal set the standard for many things in college athletics, not the least of which was to establish the first presence of what is now known as team academic advisors to assist student athletes with their studies. He called it a “brain coach,” and his thinking was that academics were better left for the experts to help his players, rather than the football coaches…

• Coach Royal also helped crack the racial barrier in college football’s southern tier. The 1969 Texas national champion team was the last all-white college team to win a major title. He integrated his squad beginning in 1970, and was able to slowly turn attitudes around – from fans as well as potential players – by winning. And building men of character along the way…

• And a final thought from legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins on Coach Royal – “Darrell Royal was the smartest coach I knew. Not even close." Jenkins covered the Longhorns for the Dallas Times Herald, and then for Sports Illustrated. "(Barry) Switzer. Bear (Bryant). (John) McKay … I never saw them make a mistake. They'd get beat by somebody, if somebody had a better team, but they didn't do something stupid…"

• Speaking of stupid is as stupid does…I have never been more disappointed in an electorate than I was this past week. Please answer this question for me? How in the world can things actually change for the better, when we keep electing the same tired, incompetent, self-serving, professional politicians to represent us? This isn’t a democracy around here – it’s a fiefdom. Pavlov would love us. Rhode Island deserves exactly what it’s getting…

• "A coach," Darrell Royal once said, "likes to have a lot of those old trained pigs who'll grin and jump right in the slop for him." Sounds kinda like our career politicians who manage to get out the vote…

• One of the true broadcasting greats also left us unexpectedly this week, with ESPN Radio’s voice of the NBA Jim Durham passing away at a young 65. Durham was a former Bulls and Mavericks announcer before joining ESPN Radio in 1996. I had the unique opportunity to spell Durham for one memorable road trip back in 1983, with the Bulls on a Texas swing. He fell ill before coming to San Antonio after a game in Dallas, so at the tender age of 24, I was asked to fill in for him against the Spurs and Houston Rockets. Durham called to thank me, led me through the format and told me what to expect from the players and coaches. And I was off on my career journey thereafter. Our paths only crossed a few times afterward, but I never forgot his kindness and his professionalism. I never will, either…

• Riveting – that’s how I would describe Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano’s post-game speech to the Colts after their win over Miami last week. Colts players shaved their heads this week in support of their coach, too. Here’s a good guy, it seems, that won’t finish last…

• Current Kansas City head coach and former Patriots assistant Romeo Crennel fired himself this week. Actually, he stepped down from his dual role as defensive coordinator and head coach, and handed the coordinator duties over to Gary Gibbs. The countdown is on as to the dismissal from his other job…

• In the Big East’s future…the Memphis Tigers added to an already loaded 2013 recruiting class on Monday by picking up a commitment from senior power forward Austin Nichols, the nation's No. 12 overall prospect in the ESPN 100…

• In Marquette’s future…no Todd Mayo. The sophomore guard has been declared academically ineligible, unable to practice or play indefinitely. It’s not a crushing blow for the Golden Eagles, but it puts a dent in their backcourt depth, for certain…

• In UConn’s future…hall-of-fame coach Jim Calhoun as a color analyst? Calhoun joined radio play-by-play voice Joe D’Ambrosio as the Huskies played Michigan State in Germany…

• Growing pains in other places besides Friartown…Villanova is losing sophomore guard Ty Johnson to a transfer, leaving the Wildcats with freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and soph Darrun Hilliard in their backcourt this season…

• In addition to Arcidiacono at Villanova, here are a few other Big East newcomers that could have an impact for their team – and the conference race. Watch out for: Omar Calhoun, UConn; Jerami Grant, Syracuse; Trent Lockett, Marquette; Trey Ziegler and Steven Adams, Pitt; D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown; Wally Judge, Rutgers…

• Kudos to former Friar Dickey Simpkins, one of nine who will be inducted into the Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame next February.  Also included for induction are former hockey Friar Mike Boback and former women's hoop coach Bob Foley.  Simpkins played in more games (125) than any other basketball Friar in history.  And, gotta hand it to my man Friarblog. He’s got a pretty good rundown on previewing the Providence roster for this season, ranking the players who will see the court this year...

• Congrats - to PC’s Vincent Council, who was named to the John Wooden Award pre-season Top 50 list. Seven Big East players were listed, based on last year’s individual performances…and their expectations for this year. The final Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation’s top 10 players, will be announced the week of the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA Tournament.  And to the PC women's cross-country team, winning the NCAA Northeast Regionals in Connecticut Friday...

• The Dan Hurley era at URI is underway…and Rams fans have reason to be excited. However, saying the right things is one thing…doing them is another. Can the Rams sneak up on a few teams this year, setting the table for bigger and better to come? Early signs point to “yes…”

Not for nuthin’…but Major League Baseball says they’re going to look at an increased use for video review of two different types of calls – whether a ball is fair or foul, or whether a ball is trapped. Hmmm…don’t umpires already review replays on homeruns heading foul? Leadership, Mr. Selig. Show some leadership and put replay to use on close calls by umpires in the field of play so they don’t become bad calls…

• New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was voted the most overrated coach in the NFL, in an anonymous midseason players’ poll from the Sporting News. Of course it’s anonymous. You think any of the 53 Jets’ players want to let on they think their coach stinks?

• Actually, players were apparently not allowed to vote for their own coach. Then again, Bill Belichick was second in the same poll…even though he had less than half of Ryan’s votes. No truth to the rumor Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson stuffed the ballot box…

• How about Dirtiest Players? For the second straight year, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been voted the NFL's dirtiest player in a poll of players by the Sporting News. What’s next – Wussiest Player? Can’t wait for that one…

• A quotable quote, if there ever was one – “They're like cockroaches," Darrell Royal said of TCU, after a 6-0 upset loss to the Horned Frogs. "It's not what they eat and tote off, it's what they fall into and mess up that hurts."

• This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse (other than the election): A high school football player in Charlotte, NC was ejected from a state playoff game after scoring a touchdown and imitating Cam Newton’s “Superman” celebration by ripping open his jersey…

Southern Cal’s football program fired a student manager for “underinflating” some footballs prior to their game against #2 ranked Oregon a week ago. Typically, a slightly deflated football travels at a slower speed than one fully inflated. USC lost to Oregon 62-51, so how come no one asked if he was fired for not meeting the NCAA regulations for inflation, or for not doing his “job” well enough?

• It’s very early…but is anyone else giggling – just a little bit – over the rough start the Los Angeles Lakers are experiencing? Me too…

• Not sure what the fuss is about concerning football players missing games for the birth of their children. It could happen this weekend to Chicago’s Charles Tillman…and it could happen, soon, to Tom Brady. But one question? Why in the world would these guys be so oblivious to the calendar with their wives having babies during the season, when they only need to show up for work 16 days out of the year?

• Maybe in Brady’s case…when Gisele says jump, you jump. And when she says…oh well, you get the idea. Just sayin’

• My buddy Statbeast sez he tries to please Mrs. Statbeast every chance he gets. The other day, they saw the neighbors embracing and she asked him “why don’t you do that?” He replied “I would love to, but I don’t know her well enough…”

• While the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy has been tough for so many to deal with, it has been interesting to see several sports celebs get involved in relief efforts. The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony was the latest this week, handing out relief supplies and food boxes to those still affected in his old Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn. Dwayne Wade donated a game check to relief efforts. NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson also contributed. Local athletes contributed in large numbers as well, which shows the true power of sports – at its best…

• On Patriots Playbook this week, listeners voted for 17 different players as their all-time favorite, while 14 members of the current team received votes as the fave current player. The winners? All-time, it was Tedy Bruschi by a nose over Troy Brown…while on the current Pats, Vince Wilfork held a slight lead over Tom Brady. Returns continue to trickle in…

• Sign of the times: Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick apologized to reporters for his brother Marcus tweeting "Please trade my brother. We requesting out of Philly!!!! Please please please." Marcus Vick was apparently upset over the offensive line issue of being able to protect brother Michael from getting beaten up. Michael, for what it’s worth, told Marcus to “shut off the twitter.” Amen to that…

• And just when you thought ridiculous could no longer slide into sublime…here comes Jets’ cornerback Antonio Cromartie again, who said “the Jets will make the playoffs this year” earlier this week. His team is currently 3-5, on the verge of irrelevancy, if not elimination. Confidence, or craziness?

• Interesting comment this week from the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo, who said on WEEI that he “doesn’t have time for friends,” in the context of his competitiveness on the floor, and how Kevin Garnett’s similar focus is easy to follow. Rondo also quipped that while Usain Bolt might beat him in a 100-meter race, “I might get him in the 40.” Uh, ok. Love your confidence Rajon…

• Oh. Almost forgot. Happy college hoop season!

• Another Royalism from Coach Darrell Royal, and one of my favorites: “Climbing is a thrill. Maintaining is a bitch."

• As the Texas coach from 1957 to 1976, Royal led the Longhorns to three national championships, 11 Southwest Conference championships and 167 career victories, still the most in school history to this point in time. But to Orangebloods everywhere, Royal stood for more than winning. Borrowing a line from ESPN’s Ivan Maisel this week, Coach Royal “represented integrity, respect and a romanticized past,” three things that are all too hard to come by in today’s sports world. He was certainly someone who danced with the one who brung him… 

• Our mailbag question/comment this week comes from Bryan in Las Cruces, NM via Facebook: Concerning the issue over pro athletes/NFL players missing games for the birth of children – “John, you're only looking at one half of the career scheduling with Gisele & Tom. At the end of the day, it's Gisele who has the major burden here, and for her career it makes a lot more sense to have a baby during winter months. Then she can be back to glamorous come next spring. I'm sure there are major corporations and events who rely on Gisele just as strongly as the Patriots rely on Tom.” Bryan: An equal opportunity response if there ever was one. You bring up a point, in this particular relationship, that probably doesn’t exist for most players. Still, it shows there has to be some level of pre-planning involved on the part of athletes (or models) when there are millions of dollars at stake. To do anything else would be irresponsible...

• 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 jrooke@golocalprov.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @jrooke0722…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

• And you’re up early anyway…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, or text 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .

• Looking for your midweek football fix? Jump into the “Patriots Playbook” on Patriots.com Radio, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:00-4:00 pm ET. We’re live with commentary, interviews and your calls and questions on the Patriots and the NFL via social media. It’s a great way to break up the day at work! But if you can’t make it for the live webcast, never fear…the podcast will be near…
  

 

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