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Thinking Out Loud: Despite brash style, Muhammad Ali worth admiring for standing by his principles 06.10.16 at 5:34 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to the “real” Rocky, Chuck Wepner?

— “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” — Muhammad Ali

— To me, the above quote is precisely what encapsulates the person Muhammad Ali was. And they are words I’ve always tried to follow myself. I don’t have any personal experiences with Ali, as it seems countless thousands of sports writers and reporters were apparently blessed with, just my personal thoughts on a life and career that were beyond remarkable, but not without flaws.

— I didn’t even like Ali, who passed away last weekend at 74. I grew up rooting against him, instead choosing to cheer for Joe Frazier and even Jerry Quarry to give him his comeuppance. Competing in the ring many, many years ago with everyone trying to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” I tried emulating Frazier I was so anti-Ali. His treatment of Frazier leading up to their first fight in 1971, calling him an “Uncle Tom,” was as insulting and unprofessional as it was racist.

— But it attracted the attention of the sporting world, if not the entire world. His introduction of trash-talking to the American sports consciousness was the complete opposite of how I was always coached to “behave” in competition. It took me a few years to realize what Ali probably was doing, and he used ABC’s Howard Cosell and guys like Frazier as whipping posts — or as straight men — for his literal punch lines.

— Despite his crass, loud and boisterous manner, Ali created a forum for many who could not speak, who could not find justice or equality, or who were disadvantaged merely because their skin was a different color. Early in his career, he went to extremes to make his points. But he stood up for his principles, which I later, grudgingly, learned to admire. After all, many still believe Ali was nothing more than a U.S. military draft-dodger in the early ’60s.

— Above all, however, he backed up his boastfulness like few others in history have managed to do. Like him or not, you have to respect his ability to walk the walk, after talking the talk.

— My admiration for his skills, in and out of the ring, grew considerably after Parkinson’s ravaged his physical self. Ali remained a world icon well into a new generation of fans and followers who knew little — if anything at all — about his boxing career. We may never see another personality like him, especially with our social media-driven world ready to chew you up and spit you out for outrageous comments, or standing up for your beliefs.

— “Don’t count the days — make the days count,” was how Ali lived. And I learned to embrace the philosophy.

— Here’s another one of my favorite Ali quotes: “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Amen. And rest in peace, champ.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Blue Jays sluggers Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion reportedly ‘envision’ signing with Red Sox in offseason 06.03.16 at 8:38 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Blue Jays at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Diamondbacks at Cubs, 2 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Giants at Cardinals, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
Soccer: Copa America, United States vs. Colombia, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
Tennis: French Open, 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel), 11 a.m. (NBC)

AROUND THE WEB:

Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista

— If David Ortiz sticks with his plan to retire after this season — despite his incredible first third of the season — the Red Sox will have big shoes to fill offensively. One national baseball writer suggests the Sox will have a couple of big-name options after the season, and they’ll be in Boston this weekend when the Blue Jays visit for a three-game series.

Veteran baseball writer Jon Heyman, writing for the FanRag Sports Network, wrote Thursday: Both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion envision the Red Sox as a possible winter landing spot, provided David Ortiz really does go through with his plan to retire. It’s well known that Bautista has sought $150 million for five years, at least, as first reported by TSN’s Rick Westhead. Encarnacion will seek at least four years as a free agent. Toronto offered two.

Bautista, 35, is hitting .231/.361/.472 with 11 home runs, 37 RBIs and a league-leading 40 walks in 54 games. The six-time All-Star was eighth in AL MVP voting last season when he slugged 40 home runs with 114 RBIs and a league-high 110 walks.

Earlier this week he told Sports Illustrated he loves Toronto, insisting, “I’d be stupid to leave,” but he also said he would not take a hometown discount when he becomes a free agent in the offseason.

“I will explore every single option, whether it happens or not with the new regime, to continue to try to stay here,” Bautista said. “That being said, I think teams utilize that a lot against players, [seeking] a discount or bargain price, and I think that’s extremely unfair, especially to have your biggest contributors on the field and try to take advantage of the fact that they like it there and negotiate a tougher deal.”

Encarnacion, 33, is hitting .245/.316/.448 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 55 games. A two-time All-Star, he was 12th in AL MVP balloting last year after hitting 39 home runs with 111 RBIs.

Encarnación apparently has Ortiz’s blessing, as Big Papi said in April that the first baseman/DH would be “a perfect replacement.”

Ortiz, like Bautista and Encarnacion a native of the Dominican Republic, is having a historic season at age 40, hitting .335/.415/.730 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs. He leads the league in RBIs and slugging percentage as well as doubles (23), total bases (135), OPS (1.145) and intentional walks (6).

— Ousted Baylor football coach Art Briles, speaking publicly for the first time since the school’s athletic department overhaul cost him his job, acknowledged making mistakes in dealing with accusations of sexual violence against his players, adding that his “heart goes out to the victims for the pain that they endured.”

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Louisville coach Rick Pitino ‘will not resign,’ gets support from Muhammad Ali 10.23.15 at 7:49 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB playoffs: Blue Jays at Royals, 8:07 p.m. (FS1; WEEI-AM)
NHL: Bruins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. (NESN)
NHL: Canadiens at Sabres, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
NBA preseason: 76ers vs. Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA preseason: Rockets at Spurs, 8:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
College football: Yale at Penn, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
College football: Memphis at Tulsa, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Utah State at San Diego State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

Rick Pitino is determined to remain as Louisville coach despite calls for him to step down.  (Elsa/Getty Images)

Rick Pitino is determined to remain as Louisville coach despite calls for him to step down. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Rick Pitino, in a message on Louisville‘s website, apologized to fans for having to “endure the pain” caused by the team’s sex scandal, but he said he “will not resign and let you down” despite the heavy criticism he has endured.

Katina Powell, an escort who wrote a book about her alleged sexual services provided to Louisville recruits and players, said Pitino had to be aware of what was going on in the basketball players’ dorm from 2010-14, but the 63-year-old coach has staunchly denied it.

Pitino said he will ignore the issues — something he claims he could not have done when he was younger — and “let the investigators do their job and we will play basketball.”

Said Pitino: “Someday I will walk away in celebration of many memorable years, but that time is not now. I do not fight these accusations by others, but rather turn the other cheek.”

Pitino received support from boxing legend (and Louisville native) Muhammad Ali, as the 73-year-old tweeted: From one champion to another, I will always stand behind and support UofL. Go Cards! #UniteLouisville.

— Mets fans better have deep pockets if they want to see the Amazin’s appear in the World Series for the first time in 15 years. According to a New York Daily News survey of ticket resellers, the average price for tickets to Games 3, 4 and 5 and Citi Field is $1,667.82, the highest in baseball history.

“The are slightly more expensive than the Red Sox in 2013,” Chris Matcovich, vice president with ticket aggregator TiqIQ, told the Daily News. “The biggest reasons, I’d say, are the 15 years since their last appearance and the New York market.”

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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Ray Lewis blames ‘system’ for failing to investigate double murder 02.04.13 at 8:04 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NHL: Stars at Avalanche, 9 p.m. (NBCSN)
College hockey: Beanpot, Boston University vs. Northeastern, 5 p.m. (NESN)
College hockey: Beanpot, Boston College vs. Harvard, 8 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Kings at Jazz, 9 p.m. (NBATV)
College basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Oklahoma at Iowa State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: George Mason at Old Dominion, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Seton Hall at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Texas at West Virginia, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

AROUND THE WEB:

‘™¦ Ray Lewis ended his career a champion Sunday night when his Ravens held off the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, but the tarnish on his legacy remains. During an interview with CBS’ Shannon Sharpe that aired during the pregame show, Lewis addressed the controversy surrounding his role in a double murder outside an Atlanta nightclub in 2000.

Lewis, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and testified against two companions who were eventually acquitted, claimed “the system” needed to better investigate the case.

“It’€™s simple,” Lewis said when asked what he would say to the victims’ families. “God has never made a mistake. That’€™s just who He is, you see. And if our system — it’€™s the sad thing about our system — if our system took the time to really investigate what happened 13 years ago, maybe they would have got to the bottom line truth. But the saddest thing ever was that a man looked me in my face and told me, ‘€˜We know you didn’€™t do this, but you’€™re going down for it anyway.’€™ To the family, if you knew, if you really knew the way God works, he don’€™t use people who commits anything like that for His glory. No way. It’€™s the total opposite.”

After the interview, Sharpe told fellow hosts that the fact Lewis had come so far “is a testament to how this man has transformed his life,” and he got defensive when fellow host Boomer Esiason questioned Lewis’ “complex” issues.

“How is it complex?” Sharpe demanded to know from Esiason.

Responded Esiason: “He was involved in a double murder and I’€™m not so sure he gave us all the answers we were looking for,” Esiason said. “He knows what went on there. He can obviously just come out and say it. He doesn’€™t want to say it. He paid off the families — I get all that, that’€™s fine. But that doesn’€™t take away from who he is as a football player. I appreciate you going down there and asking him that direct question. I’m not so sure I buy the answer.”

‘™¦ ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Jets still are looking to trade Tim Tebow, but there isn’t any interest. New York is asking for a mid- to late-round draft pick, but apparently other teams have no confidence in Tebow’s ability to lead a team.

Said one NFL general manager: “I think his career is over without playing another position.”

‘™¦ The family of Muhammad Ali denied a report that the boxing legend was near death and posted a photo of him sitting in a chair wearing a Ray Lewis T-shirt. Daughter May May Ali said her father was watching the Super Bowl at home in Arizona.

Ali, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, turned 71 on Jan. 17. A British tabloid quoted his brother Rahman, who acknowledged having no contact with the family since last summer, as saying Ali was in bad health.

“He’s fine, in fact he was talking well this morning,” May May Ali said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “These rumors pop up every once in a while, but there’s nothing to them.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Feb. 4, 1990, which Bruin became the 32nd goaltender in NHL history with 200 victories following a 3-2 victory over the Quebec Nordiques?

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