A GRIP ON SPORTS
We've said this more than once. Monday mornings after NFL season are the light days when it comes to sports on the web. But does that deter us? No way. We've found enough items to make your morning interesting. To make Monday morning interesting. Is that an oxymoron? Read on.
• Before we get to the items I'm sure you're looking for, you know, stuff about Inland Northwest sports teams, I want to take a moment to talk about tennis. No, don't leave. Really. I'll make it interesting. I'm going to rant a minute. See, while I was wandering through the Internet wilderness this morning, I stumbled upon this column in the Los Angeles Times. The thrust of Diane Pucin's argument is tennis has never been better and the long, exhausting Australian Open mens' semifinals and final prove it. Hogwash. These five-hour matches are what's wrong with tennis. Yes, the players have never been better. We'll concede that. But the game is in trouble. I will admit this to you: I am a tennis fan. Have been since Stan Smith won a tournament my dad's Kiwanis club put on and I watched him play as young man. I couldn't play worth a lick, mind you, but I was a fan. And what made tennis so good in my mind were all the different styles, from power hitters to spin junkies to return specialists to the fit guys who got everything back. When a serve and volley specialist like John McEnroe faced a fit guy like Bjorn Borg, the contrast in styles made the game so much fun to watch. It revolved around who could impose their will. But tennis began to change as racket technology began to change. And now, everyone good plays the same way. It's impossible to attack the net with the speed the ball comes back these days, speed made even more deadly by the ability to control it. To win you have to play from the back, whacking away at your opponent until you can get an angle he or she can't cover. Sure, these folks are much more athletic, much more fit than the players of the past, but the game has a dull sameness. And it goes on and on. Nobody I know can devote five hours of a Saturday or Sunday to watching one match. See, the powers that be in tennis blew it when rackets began to change. Baseball got it right. Metal bats were fine for everyone else, but the top players needed to stay with wood, to keep the game the same as it had been for years. But tennis let the game change, probably never anticipating how much it would be different as the composite materials came into play. It's sad really. I still watch tennis when I can. But very few people do, if the TV ratings are accurate. Most of the blame is aimed at the decline of American tennis, but I think it has more to do with the change in the game itself. … OK, I'm off my soapbox. You can dive back in if you want. The Inland Northwest news awaits. After all, the week ahead is huge, from football signing day on Wednesday to some really big basketball games on the weekend.
• Gonzaga: The next two Thursday's may just decided the WCC race, with the Zags headed to Provo this Thursday to face BYU and, after a Saturday in Malibu, hosting St. Mary's next Thursday. Pretty big stretch for GU. … Not a lot of links to pass along, though we found this one on BYU's women's basketball team. The Cougars are ranked, just like GU. Gonzaga won't face them for the first time until Feb. 9 in Provo, then play them twice in their final five games. Nice scheduling WCC.
• Washington State: As usual Christian Caple has you covered with the Cougar news with his morning post, but we have a couple other things to pass along related to WSU and the Pac-12. After the lost weekend in the desert, this week's home games with woeful USC (Thursday) and up-and-down UCLA (Saturday) are crucial for the Cougars Pac-12 tournament seeding. … The best read of the morning comes from the Everett Herald, which caught up with Dennis Erickson. The former Cougar head coach doesn't think he'll ever be on the sidelines again. Kind of hard for some one of my age to imagine as it seems Dennis has been coaching as long as I've been around. … Speaking of football, the Cougars are still in the running for Lakes receiver Cedric Dozier, according to the News Tribune (way down in the post). … As for the recruiting arena, UCLA swooped in and snagged a quarterback Arizona wanted (he's related to Sinbad, so Westwood might be the right spot) and ASU picked up a couple JC transfers. … You probably know Oregon State defeated Oregon 76-71 in Eugene yesterday but you'll still want to read this George Schroeder column. … After that result, who is going to win the conference? Who knows?
• Eastern Washington: We missed the big Big Sky news from Saturday, that is Idaho State's last-second upset of conference-leading Weber State. That result, coupled with Montana holding off Portland State, 69-67 in Portland on Sunday, moved the Griz into a first-place tie with Weber. … The Eagles, trying to solidify the best possible seeding for the postseason tournament, travel to Northern Arizona for Thursday's game, then host Sacramento State on Saturday. Again, nice schedule. … Portland State is hoping to hold on to its committed players for Wednesday.
• Idaho: The basketball news is slim, but there is some WAC football news from Logan, Utah, where the Aggies think they may have put together one heck of a recruiting class. … Idaho is on the road this week, facing Fresno State and Nevada.
• Mariners: Geoff Baker is back and you don't want to miss his blog post from this morning. It will probably make you sad, especially if you are like me and not sure you'll be around in three years. … We ran this story this morning from Everett on the M's catching situation.
• That's our report for today. Don't forget, on Wednesday, we'll be doing the Patchin, Lukens and Osso radio show from Northern Quest Casino, site of the Cougars get-together with Mike Leach and the football coaching staff. We're staying after the radio show for the event and will pass along our thoughts on Thursday in this space. We'll also be tweeting during the show and afterward. Until later …