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Robert Kraft is acting like one of Donald Trump’s political surrogates

02.13.17 at 1:26 pm ET
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Kraft routinely touts Trump's economic plans. (Andrew Innerarity/USA TODAY Sports)

Robert Kraft routinely touts Donald Trump’s economic plans. (Andrew Innerarity/USA Today Sports)

If Robert Kraft needs an activity this offseason, perhaps he could fill in for Donald Trump’s embattled White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. He appeared to be auditioning for the role in an interview Monday on Fox Business Network.

The Patriots’ owner, who also appeared on NBC’s TODAY show, was asked about attending dinner with Trump Friday at his Mar-a-Largo estate alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Kraft third-wheeled for the evening’s proceedings, and was seated across from the President.

“[President Trump and Prime Minister Abe] had a real connection. I think it’s going [to be] to the benefit of both countries,” he said on Mornings with Maria. “The president stressed the need to create jobs and have a fair trade relationsihp. They both seem connected in the area of defense and all the issues that Americans would care about.”

When asked about Trump’s policies as a whole, Kraft said he thinks they’ll be great for working families –– echoing his comments to the New York Times last month.

“The most important thing for our country is new, good jobs –– especially in the inner-cities for working class people,” Kraft said. “People who live in the inner-city –– for the last decade, I don’t think they’ve gotten their fair share. I think if we can create a vibrant economy and have new stimulation, have this deregulation, and repatriation and tax reform, I think that’ll create a vibrant economic environment.”

During Super Bowl week, Kraft explained some of the history behind his relationship with Trump. He says when his wife, Myra, passed away in 2011, Trump called once per week for one year. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why Kraft feels an apparent loyalty towards Trump.

But unlike Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who are also buddies with the President, Kraft discusses Trump’s political policies. During his interview with Fox Business, he parroted Trump’s vapid economic rhetoric, acting like a cable news surrogate.

Moments like these demonstrate why the Patriots and Trump are inseparable. Kraft aligning himself with Trump not just personally, but politically, is a relevant story –– just like when any celebrity or influential person decides to step into the political arena.

During his TODAY show interview, Kraft expressed support for the six Patriots players who announced last week they plan to skip the ceremonial White House visit. But he also appeared to criticize the press for fixating on the story, a move right out of the Trump playbook.

“Well, you know what’s interesting, this is our, I’m happy to say, fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years,” Kraft said. “And every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention.”

With deflections like that, maybe Kraft will soon be making his way onto a CNN set.

Read More: Donald Trump, Robert Kraft,

Watch Canucks forward Alex Burrows, who bit Patrice Bergeron during Stanley Cup, get laid out

02.13.17 at 11:00 am ET
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Six years ago, Canucks forward Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s finger during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. On Sunday, he finally received his comeuppance.

During the first period of Vancouver’s contest against the Sabres, Burrows started to engage in a shoving match with Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner. During the midst of their confrontation, Sabres defenseman Justin Falk came out of nowhere and tackled Burrows to the ice.

Burrows’ night got a lot better from there, however. He netted a goal against Lehner and also recorded an assist in the Canucks’ victory. But for a fleeting moment, the Hockey Gods seemed to enact their belated revenge.

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‘Simpsons’ added final score of Super Bowl LI to their all-Boston episode

02.13.17 at 10:30 am ET
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When the Simpsons’ Boston-themed episode first aired in October, Homer and his buddies went to Moe’s Tavern to watch the Boston Americans oust the Springfield Atoms. The game-winning drive, which features the Americans’ well-coiffed quarterback slinging a touchdown pass to the team mascot –– a trick play drawn up by his dour-looking head coach –– is a familiar sight for Patriots’ fans. And now, so is the final score.

For Sunday’s rerun of “The Town,” Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman, a Watertown-native, decided to sub out the “Americans and “Atoms” for “New England” and “Atlanta.” The score, 34-28, was also coincidently the final of Super Bowl LI.

“For an episode that’s really a love letter to Boston, this felt like the perfect one-time addition,” Selman told Boston.com’s Kevin Slane. “It’s kind of cocky, but everyone else already hates the Patriots and their fans, so it’s OK.”

James Corden led the lamest rendition of “Sweet Caroline” at the Grammys

02.13.17 at 9:53 am ET
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When thousands of drunken moms and dads are screaming the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning of Red Sox home games, it’s difficult to think of being subjected to anything worse in life. But then, James Corden tried to lead a rendition of Neil Diamond’s 1969 single at the Grammys Sunday.

With a car cutout in hand, Corden gathered a bunch of A-listers and put them in his pretend vehicle for a game of Carpool Karaoke –– a signature bit from the Late Late Show. With Jennifer Lopez in the front seat and an array of artists in the back, including Diamond, Tim McGraw and John Legend, “Sweet Caroline” began playing inside the theatre. Three minutes of tortuous television followed.

Up until Sunday, the lamest moment in award show history was when Ellen Degeneres took a star-filled selfie at the Oscars three years ago. But now, her desperate attempt to go viral has been surpassed. Congratulations, everyone.

Monday’s Morning Mashup: Former Celtics center Fab Melo dead at 26; Jose Fernandez estate sued by families of other boat crash victims

02.13.17 at 8:23 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Monday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: San Antonio at Indiana, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Boston at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. (CSN)
NBA: Atlanta at Portland, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
NHL: NY Rangers at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Baylor at Texas Tech, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Colgate at Bucknell, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Louisville at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Morgan State at Howard, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Villanova at DePaul, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: West Virginia at Kansas, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Women’s college basketball: Texas at Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Women’s college basketball: South Carolina at Connecticut, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Former Celtics and Syracuse center, Fab Melo, was found dead in his home in Brazil on Saturday.

According to reports, Melo went to bed Friday night and was found Saturday morning by his mother. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

“We don’t know the cause yet. It’s so hard right now, so hard to believe. It’s a sad, sad day. He was a really good kid, and it’s not fair that he will be defined by one thing: a 10-page paper,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to ESPN. He was referring to Melo’s academic ineligibility during his final season at the school. “He worked his tail off to become a really good player and was a nice kid.”

Melo was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year during the two seasons he spent with Syracuse before he was drafted in the first round by the Celtics in 2012. He spent a year with the Celtics before he was traded to the Grizzlies. He then left the NBA in 2014 to play in Brazil.

Current and former Celtics and others around the sports world reacted on social media to Melo’s death.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jose Fernandez,

Patriots are selling way more Super Bowl merchandise this year than after last championship

02.10.17 at 3:15 pm ET
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The Patriots' win in Super Bowl LI may be the most celebrated championship in Boston sports history. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots’ win in Super Bowl LI may be the most celebrated championship in Boston sports history. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

It’s difficult to win a Super Bowl in more dramatic fashion than the Patriots did two years ago against the Seahawks. Faced with a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady orchestrated two incredible touchdown drives that put the Patriots ahead. The game ended with Seattle on the one-yard line, where Malcolm Butler jumped a slant route to record the Super Bowl-clinching interception.

But the Patriots topped that this season, storming back from a 25-point deficit to upstage the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Brady went 21-of-27 in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Patriots to the biggest come-from-behind win in Super Bowl history. On top of that, he got to hold up the Lombardi trophy in front of Roger Goodell, finally getting his revenge for Deflategate.

Amidst all of this euphoria, Patriots merchandise is flying off the shelves. According to data from Fanatics, the Pats sold as much team gear in the first two hours after their victory in Super Bowl LI than they did in 24 hours following Super Bowl XLIX. The contrast has only intensified since:

  • The Patriots sold more merchandise in the first 12 hours after Super Bowl LI than they did in seven days after Super Bowl XLIX.
  • Patriots sales this week are ahead of where they were 30 days following Super Bowl XLIX.
  • The Patriots have out-sold their 2015 championship by more than 130 percent.

These numbers are a bit surprising, considering Super Bowl XLIX attracted more viewers in Boston than Super Bowl LI. The Patriots’ matchup with the Seahawks drew a 61.0 rating in the city, whereas their affair against the Falcons garnered a 54.3 rating. It’s also worth noting that Super Bowl XLIX was a slightly better game from start-to-finish –– despite New England’s historic comeback Sunday.

But with more than 1 million people taking to the streets for the Patriots’ parade this week, in spite of snow and freezing rain,  it’s apparent this might be the most celebrated championships in Boston sports history. Maybe Roger Goodell should get a cut of all those merchandise sales. His draconian penalties on Brady and the Patriots only heightened the appetite for ring No. 5.

Read More: New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI,

ESPN writers writing book about Roger Goodell, NFL

02.10.17 at 2:47 pm ET
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Awful AnnouncingThough a date hasn’t been announced, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham have collaborated on Powerball, an investigative look at Roger Goodell, NFL owners, and the league’s modern-day power structure.

That’s a very promising starting point, and the synopsis is very intriguing:

“From the commissioner’s office on down, the NFL serves the interests of those who really have the power. Beginning in 2006, when Roger Goodell was elected NFL Commissioner on a secret ballot by the NFL team owners, POWERBALL will trace how the league’s owners evolved from a mainly cohesive group of legacy owners’ families to a raucous, divisive membership that has splintered into cliques, and it will examine how what happens in the inner circles of the league affects the games watched by millions every season.

Both separately and together, Van Natta and Wickersham have written definitive pieces for ESPN The Magazine—about Roger Goodell, Jerry Jones, the Ray Rice domestic violence incident, the connection of Deflategate to Spygate, the relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles, and many of the league’s biggest stars, from Tom Brady to Peyton Manning.”

Fewer sports organizations have been more maligned in recent years than the NFL league office. Something goes wrong at seemingly every turn, and even incidents in which they’re on the right side of common sense (like the various New England scandals) turn into bumbling investigations.

And this is a multi-billion dollar enterprise! It’s astounding how much of a disconnect there is between the stern, competent face the league seems to want to present (respect the shield!) and the Keystone Cops routine into which things inevitably devolve.

Van Natta and Wickersham both contribute to ESPN: The Magazine and Outside the Lines. OTL regularly offers some of ESPN’s best journalism, and both men appear well-suited to this particular task.

Crown didn’t announce a release date yet, but smart money is later this year, perhaps around opening week for the league.

It should be an interesting read.

Before I even get to the part about these two particular ESPN writers authoring this book, look at this article itself.

“Something goes wrong at seemingly every turn, and even incidents in which they’re on the right side of common sense (like the various New England scandals) turn into bumbling investigations.”

THE RIGHT SIDE OF COMMON SENSE.

Stuff like this will never end. I know that. “It should be an interesting read.” No, it should not be. It should be a biased, infuriating read because these are the two guys who wrote that trash “Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and Patriots apart” piece for ESPN in Sept. 2015. It included lines like this: “Then the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, the cheating program’s mastermind, spoke.”

If this book is anything like that, expect it to make the Patriots look bad and Goodell look less like the devil.

 

Thinking Out Loud: Still trying to figure out how Patriots won Super Bowl LI

02.10.17 at 2:19 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what happened to Tom Brady’s jersey.

— After several days of careful contemplation, I still find myself at a loss for words when it comes to finding a reasonable explanation for the Patriots’ comeback in Super Bowl LI. How about “One for the Ages?”

— Since an overtime game had never happened in 50 previous Super Bowls, since no team had ever come from more than 10 points down in a game like that – I’d say Sunday in Houston qualifies as one for the ages. You?

— Let’s see. I’ve been accused of being a homer for “my Patriots” this week, and also called out for being overly critical, based on my now-four decades’ worth of observations of the team and franchise, and having actually worked for the franchise longer than the Kraft’s have owned it. Hmm. Maybe it’s possible I’ve finally figured out how this is supposed to work?

— New York radio gadfly Chris “Mad Dog” Russo told Kirk & Callahan on WEEI last week that America is sick of the Patriots? Then America is sick. But we knew that already, amiright?

— James White’s performance Sunday was definitely MVP-worthy, and I certainly understand the sentiment for giving him the award. But one question – who threw him the 14 passes he caught in the game? Just sayin’.

— TB12 did give him the truck he won for taking the MVP trophy, ICYMI. So there is that. Not that either guy really needed it, but it’s the thought that counts.

— Thought it was appropriate that the Patriots’ Boston-centric parade ended with a rally at Providence’s Dunkin Donuts Center. Actually, kudos to the Governor for getting Rhody into the celebratory mix. All too often, some Massholes forget Roe Dyelanders love and support New England’s teams, too.

— I got the feeling, after reading and hearing about the local “celebrations” around campus at PC and URI, that both were cases of “monkeys see, monkeys do.” Everyone else acts a fool after winning championships, so why can’t we?

— I’m no expert in pop culture or music, but I thought Lady Gaga pretty much killed it at halftime. She is a bonafide entertainer, pure and simple, whether you like her music or not. She is this generations’ Madonna, for lack of a better equivalent.

— Guess the haters might be hating for a while longer. The Patriots have plenty of room under the salary cap to re-design or re-tool, if they need to do so. Sure, there are tough roster decisions to make. But New England has more than enough cap space to stay at the top – more than their fellow AFC East brethren have, combined.

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NBA is cracking down on Twitter feuds between teams

02.10.17 at 2:08 pm ET
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ESPNThe NBA, citing concerns about provoking exchanges between players that could damage the league’s reputation, issued a memo to all 30 franchises this week emphasizing rules prohibiting “mocking and/or ridiculing” opponents or officials by official team social media accounts.

The memo was issued in the wake of an exchange between Memphis Grizzlies small forward Chandler Parsons and Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum that started with the official Trail Blazers Twitter account posting a GIF of Parsons air-balling a 3-pointer during the Jan. 27 game between the teams.

Parsons, who received maximum-contract offers from Portland and Memphis before choosing to go to the Grizzlies in free agency last summer, replied after the game: “Good luck in the lottery show this year.”

McCollum quoted that tweet and added a snarky one-liner directed to Parsons, who has struggled while coming back from knee surgery this season: “We hit the lottery by not signing you.”

Parsons later laughed about the exchange and said an apology the next day from Blazers CEO and president Chris McGowan was not necessary, but the league office was clearly not amused.

Here is the memo:

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Another ‘Summer of Gronk’ is the last thing Rob Gronkowski needs

02.10.17 at 1:07 pm ET
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Gronkowski caught a career-low 25 catches this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski caught a career-low 25 passes this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It looks like another “Summer of Gronk” is on the way. But this one may not be as well-received as its previous renditions.

Despite only playing in eight games this season, Rob Gronkowski was the star of the Patriots’ championship festivities this week. He went psychotic during the parade Tuesday, guzzling down Bud Lights and taking off his shirt to party with fans in frigid temperatures. At night, he brought down the house at Foxwoods, and even managed to outlast Rick Ross.

It was an uneventful Super Bowl for Gronkowski, who was sidelined with a back injury. The all-time Patriots touchdown leader underwent another back operation in December, the third of his career. At 27 years old, Gronkowski has experienced at least nine surgeries since 2009.

Entering the playoffs sans Gronk is familiar ground for the Patriots. They’ve been forced to play with him in a limited capacity or without him entirely in five of the last seven years –– perhaps costing them multiple championships. But they were able to pull off a historic comeback Sunday, which could put a damper on Gronkowski’s plans for a five-month stretch of debauchery. For the first time in his career, he appears to be expendable.

Make no mistake: Gronkowski remains the best tight end in football. But he was close to a non-factor this season. Twenty-one of his 25 receptions came within a four-week stretch, and he only caught one pass in two contests without Tom Brady. After Gronkowski was placed on IR Dec. 3, the Patriots went 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 17.25 points. They played their best football when he wasn’t on the field.

Over the last couple of years, it seems as if Gronkowski has operated under a different set of rules than many of his teammates. After suffering a knee injury during the 2015 campaign, the Patriots filed a joint statement with Gronkowski’s family about his status. Hours later, Gronkowski published a video on Bleacher Report, in which he said he wouldn’t return until he’s 100 percent. Bill Belichick goes to great lengths to hide injury information, but with Gronkowski, the Patriots are an open book.

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Read More: New England Patriots, rob gronkowski,