A GRIP ON SPORTS
There is one NFL story you can count on this time of year. Actually, let's make that two. There is the one about the players who made the Pro Bowl. And there's the one about how the players who didn't will be motivated by the snub. Read on.
• The Seahawks are a prime example of both this season. The team, assured of a playoff berth and being mentioned more and more often as a Super Bowl contender, had five players earn Pro Bowl roster spots: offensive linemen Russell Okung (pictured) and Max Unger, running back Marshawn Lynch, safety Earl Thomas and kick returner Leon Washington. The first two were named starters. Sure, there's no Russell Wilson, though that's not a shock as he's still running third in ESPN's "Can-you-believe-these-rookie-quarterbacks" derby. But that also means a lot of players on the NFL's stingiest defense (Seattle leads the league, having giving up just 232 points) were snubbed, including end Chris Clemons, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor and others. Those three were named as alternates and may end up in Hawaii, but it's not the game that matters. It's the honor. It's the recognition of being the best of the best. And that's where Seattle has always trailed, no matter what the sport. Recognition isn't easy to come by when you play in the Siberia of American sports, the Pacific Northwest. No, we're not talking weather here – if we were, Minnesota would earn the moniker. No, we're talking perception and acknowledgement from the major media powers. When it comes to sports coverage, there is, in order, New York, the Northeast, Los Angeles, the East Coast, the South, the Midwest, the Southwest, Fly-over Land and finally, way over in a corner somewhere, Puget Sound. Part of that is lack of success, but only a part. To ESPN, The Northwest is the modern equivalent of those areas on old maps labeled "The Wilderness" or "The Unknown." Rhun in Middle Earth or the forest beyond the wall in Game of Thrones. The place where sea monsters live. So no matter how well the region's sports teams do, there will always be a lag between that success and the acknowledgement from around the rest of the country. And this year's Pro Bowl is just another example of that.
• Washington State: Quite a decent amount of Pac-12 news today, what with a bunch of bowl games coming up fast. There are stories about Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA. ... Looking to the future, the Pac-12 blog on ESPN.com examines the football commitments around the conference. ... UW and Connecticut have a bit of basketball history. ... The Huskies may get another hoops player – or maybe not.
• Gonzaga: The Zags are back at practice after Christmas break and Jim Meehan is back at putting together a notebook. He leads with the long trip taken in a short time by Polish freshman Przemek Karnowski (pictured). Baylor is in the Kennel on Friday, then GU embarks on an extended road trip that will climax with the opening of the WCC season. ... BYU hosts Northern Arizona tonight.
• Idaho: Utah State lost a reserve off its basketball team.
• Seahawks: The Pro Bowl selections were part of yesterday's conversation, but so is the Hawks' chance of winning the NFC West (when you are counting on Arizona to defeat the 49ers in San Francisco, the hope is pretty miniscule). The Hawks also have to get by the Rams and, as of now, no one is sure who will be available. Bruce Irvin, sure, he'll be there. But there are a lot of other question marks.
• Hard to believe, but we are in the last week of 2012. Went by really fast, didn't it? Until later ...