March 22, 2013

Steve Solloway: In Patriots Nation, family ties don't bind for eternity

An occasional rant always feels good . . .

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Joey Diamond isn’t a punk but maybe because he played like one, the Black Bears postseason ended quickly.

2012 Press Herald File

Thank you, Robert Kraft, for reminding us that you don't answer to Tom Brady. That the New England Patriots are your team, Brady is your quarterback, Bill Belichick is your head coach, and all those who tune in are your fans.

Silly people believed you were Big Brother Bob, the hugger-in-chief and you, the coaches, players and fans were all part of the same family. Then Wes Welker bolted and everyone gets smacked with the reality check. It's not that you answer to Brady. You don't answer to anyone, except maybe the NFL commissioner. That's how it was, is, and will be.

At best, big sports is big business. At worst it's Western Civilization's last feudal aristocracy. This isn't long-ago Rome where the earliest fans did the thumbs-up, thumbs-down thing to spare Russell Crowe or any of their favorite gladiators. The Welker departure and all it's he-said, she-said miscommunications was business as usual.

THANK YOU, Dr. John Giannini for giving Maine a surrogate team in the NCAA Division I basketball tournament. Don't know how long your LaSalle Explorers will hang around, but you're in. For you it's the first time and that's hard to believe.

Remember Dr. John? The University of Maine hired him in 1996 after he won the NCAA Division III title at Rowan University in New Jersey. After two straight 20-loss seasons in Orono, Giannini teams started winning, peaking with 24 victories in 1999-2000 and 20 in 2003-04, his last at Maine. Neither season was good enough to get Maine into the NCAA tournament. The Black Bears have never qualified.

Ten years ago, Giannini once said if he stayed longer in Orono, he wouldn't be able to leave. But he was a Chicago kid and big city, big-time college basketball -- LaSalle is in Philadelphia -- was a lure he couldn't resist.

There's more gray in his hair now, of course. I caught him on ESPN radio Wednesday night after LaSalle's 80-71 win over Boise State. Still quietly intense. Still the guy who wouldn't take satisfaction from an accomplishment until after the ride was over.

WANTED TO TALK with Joey Diamond, the former University of Maine hockey captain, and ask how he's doing. Give him the chance to say something after his implosion last week against UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals. He took two 5-minute penalties and a game misconduct while his teammates fought to keep their season alive. Maine lost in overtime, 2-1, ending its season. Diamond lost his cool in Maine's two previous games, too.

He couldn't be reached Thursday. Teammates Mike Cornell (Florida Everblades) and Kyle Beattie and Mark Nemec (Orlando Solar Bears) left campus to sign amateur tryout agreements with the ECHL teams. There's been no word on Diamond's future.

Hockey teams need passionate players and Diamond was that. He skated on Maine's first line which provided much of the team's offense in a season starved for goals. He was a team captain but in the end ignored what it means to lead. He wasn't a punk, but he played one. The best players test boundaries and know when to pull back. Diamond wouldn't or couldn't.

Doesn't matter if the referees had his number. He lost control and lost everything. The sad irony is, Maine was playing its best hockey as a team as February gave way to March. The bad losses of the late fall and early winter were deep in the rear-view mirror.

IS TOMMY MAINES retired from coaching basketball or waiting for another opportunity? Equally pugnacious and charming, Maines has a brilliant basketball mind. He doesn't suffer fools and like his championship teams at Morse High back in the day, he wears people down. He last coached the Scarborough girls for one season (2011-12). Cony High of Augusta needs a boys' coach and a girls' coach. Lawrence High of Fairfield needs a boys' coach. Don't know what Maines is thinking, only that he is.

THE DEATH OF Ruth Ann Steinhagen in Chicago this week pushed a tiny piece of Maine sports trivia deeper into the closet. Steinhagen was an obsessed Cubs fan when she shot Eddie Waitkus in a hotel room in 1949. The shooting found its way into Bernard Malamud's novel "The Natural," which became the movie, starring Robert Redford.

In the late 1930s, Waitkus was the star infielder for the Worombo Indians, a very successful semi-pro baseball team sponsored by the Worombo Woolen Mill of Lisbon Falls. Waitkus eventually recovered -- reportedly spending time at a Maine camp -- and played for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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