A GRIP ON SPORTS
My Vegas vacation is over and it was only slightly scarier than Clark Griswold's. Of course, Clark and I have a lot in common. Read on.
• Though, if I remember correctly, Clark was a bit of gambler (or was that Rusty?). Me, I stay away from the gaming tables as if they carried diseases, which doesn't seem like too far a stretch. No, I wasn't in Las Vegas to gamble but for basketball. One of the nice things about semi-retirement is the time it gives me to indulge in another of my passions, coaching. In this case, summer select basketball. Now I have no allusions of ever being in John Wooden's category (though I did tell an official “don't be a homer” – a Woodenism – the other day when we were playing a Las Vegas team; it didn't work) or even in Gene Bartow's, but there is an incredible satisfaction in helping a young man (or woman; Kim and I have coached girls before) develop their skills – and their character. And that brings us back to Las Vegas and the high school-age summer basketball circus. I understand the trepidation most people have about the summer circuit. The worries that summer coaches have too much power in the recruiting process, that summer tournaments have became meat markets, that kids are used, abused and spit out. All of those worries have a basis in truth. I've see fights among players, arguments between parents, trash talk that was unparalleled, bad sportsmanship, guys with gold chains and sweat suits “coaching” kids not much younger than themselves and other things. So often it isn't about helping every kid get better but it's about winning games and/or showcasing certain star players. But there is another side of it as well. Our Eastern Washington Elite top team was eliminated from the Adidas Super 64 tournament bracket Saturday by a team from St. Louis that didn't have any stars, but played the game with passion, execution and effort, everything summer hoops is ripped for supposedly not embracing. And our team played the same way. So it really didn't matter what the final score was, every kid on the court won in my mind. Sure, there were games with more college coaches in attendance, but I'm sure the group that watched that quarterfinal matchup enjoyed the purity of the game. … One of the players asked me why all these tournaments were in Las Vegas (there were three major ones this past week, the end of the NCAA recruiting period). He said there just isn't anything for the players to do. I laughed. I had to explain to him the tournaments were in Las Vegas not for the players but because the city is a draw for NCAA coaches. They have to be in Vegas to watch kids, right? There are games to watch, sure, but in their down time there is more for them to do than in other cities. More coaches means better players means more publicity means more money for the organizers. And the players? In many ways they are an afterthought.
• Washington State: Football practice begins Thursday and that means the first season of the Mike Leach Era begins as well. Christian Caple covers the beginning in this story in today's S-R. … Leach received a commitment from a Northern California running back that has gaudy statistics. … The NCAA decision on Penn State yielded a couple of letters to the editor that I want to pass along. … It also is still on the minds of more than a few columnists. … The offensive lines at Oregon and Oregon State are previewed by the Oregonian today. … The Utah Utes have the nation's youngest offensive coordinator.
• Indians: The second-half Indians are looking better than their first-half counterparts, that's for sure. This group shut out Yakima 7-0 Saturday. Jess Brown has the coverage.
• Shock: Former Shock quarterback Nick Davila didn't have his best game, but his Arizona Rattlers will play for the National Conference title after they defeated San Jose, 51-48. The Rattlers will host Utah next weekend. The Blaze defeated San Antonio earlier this week.
• Preps: The state American Legion baseball tournaments are underway.
• Mariners: It's Sunday so the best stuff probably isn't the usual coverage of the usual win over Kansas City – the M's prevailed 4-3 behind what could be Kevin Millwood's final effort before a possible trade (he's being offered, that's for sure) – but instead I always find Larry Stone's column more interesting. Then he throws in a notebook, rankings and awards and it's a fun day. … Casper Wells may be known as the guy who replaced Ichiro in right field.
• Sounders: The MLS winless streak seems to be a memory now after the Sounders put together a key 2-1 road win in Colorado last night. Michael Gspurning returned to net and got the win when Osvaldo Alonso scored his first goal of the season in the second half. … The Rapids are reeling.
• Sorry this post is later than usual, but we had to get the kids off to the airport this morning before starting our usual workload. We'll be back tomorrow. Until then …