A GRIP ON SPORTS
When I was young, the Sunday newspaper was something special. Our Los Angeles Times was so large, a mastiff could get a hernia trying to drag it in from the driveway. And yet, the young Vince Grippi had to carry them into apartment complexes most every week, helping in the family business by toting 20 or so up and down stairs a couple at a time. It was the urban equivalent of bucking hay bails. The newspapers of today aren't as sizable – that Internet thingee has hurt – but they are still chock full of news and features. Today is no different. And we haven't stopped delivering the news each Sunday. Only the method is different. My back is thankful. Read on.
• Before we go any farther down the sports trail, wanted to pass along a Spokane star sighting, or as close as it gets anyway. Took the wife – OK, Kim took me – and one of the two sons to see "The Hunger Games" yesterday afternoon and ran into former Gonzaga basketball player David Pendergraft, who was stuck in the front row – and he got to the theater pretty early (yes, it was packed, maybe even sold out). While we were chatting – we've known each other a long time, even helped coach a youth team together in the past – GU point guard Kevin Pangos walked in. Davey was kind enough to introduce us and we talked about the film we were about to see. Davey is a fan of the books, Kevin was interested in the hype and I was embarrassed to be 55 years old and about to watch a movie aimed at 14-year-old females. After I returned to my seat – near middle in the wide row three-quarters up (being my typical retentive self, we arrived really, really early) – it hit me. There are no movie stars in Spokane. No rock gods. Precious few media icons of any kind. But there are Gonzaga basketball players and even in a movie like "Hunger Games," there were whispers of recognition surrounding Pangos – or as my sons have admiringly nicknamed him, "Swish Magoo, the Canadian Wonder." It's about the closest thing the Lilac City has to a star sighting.
• Speaking of Gonzaga, it's another big day for the women. They are in Kingston, R.I., set to play Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen (on ESPN2 at about 3:30). The winner, to use that term loosely, probably has to face Connecticut in their backyard, not an easy task by any means (somewhat akin to defeating GU in McCarthey, but we're beyond harping on that). But that's for another day. Today is about dealing with the task ahead, and that's tough enough. The Wildcats won the SEC crown this season which is saying something, what with the basketball traditions at Tennessee – in what could be Pat Summit's final season – and LSU. Defeating teams that finished in the upper echelon of the Big East (Rutgers) or second in the ACC (Miami) at home is one thing. Defeating the SEC champions on a neutral site is another. With a win today, the Zags would take another step up in the pantheon of women's basketball programs, up among the elite. Don't worry about Tuesday and trip to the Final Four. Today is the day Gonzaga has a chance to make a statement. Let's see if it does.
• Gonzaga: With the above words in mind, we went searching for stories that will document the day. We started in the S-R and pass along Jessica Brown's advance in today's paper, along with her blog post from yesterday. ... There is also this photo story from the S-R's Colin Mulvany. ... We can add to that, with a feature-column by Bud Withers on GU coach Kelly Graves, that is well worth reading. ... So is this ESPN feature on Taelor Karr, the Kansas State transfer who has found a home in Spokane. ... From Kentucky, we have two stories, one on the Wildcats looking ahead (too far ahead?) and a notebook. ... We also found this feature on GU senior Kayla Standish from the Yakima paper.
• Washington State: The Cougars hit the practice field again yesterday – One thought: Really, why should Mike Leach, or any college coach, be so secretive about injuries, especially in the spring? Seems a bit over the top to me – and Christian Caple was there. He has his usual thorough coverage, with a post-practice blog post, a story in today's S-R and his morning post. He also updated the Brock Motum injury news – hey, don't talk about that, it might be a competitive advantage for Pittsburgh – in this post and story, which also includes more thoughts from coach Ken Bone. ... Though Christian has most of the WSU-related links, I'll pass along Brian Floyd's practice report from CougCenter just because. ... Klay Thompson had a pretty good night last night. How about 31 points to the good? ... One college baseball story to pass along from Eugene, where George Schroeder outlines the reasons why coach George Horton may not be long for the Northwest. ... Western Washington won the NCAA Division II title yesterday, with former Coug John Allen sporting the shaved-head look and scoring 14 points.
• Eastern Washington: This season was all about building a foundation for first-year Eagle coach Jim Hayford. Jim Allen talked with Hayford and has this season-summarizing story.
• Chiefs: Posting a 2-0 lead seems to be all the rage in the WHL playoffs. Vancouver did it to the Chiefs, with the Giants winning 7-3 on Saturday, while Portland and Tri-Cities did the same with their opponents.
• Mariners: The M's are in Japan, though the offense seemed to stay in the states (cue rim shot please). Anyhow, though the M's lost in their first Japanese exhibition game but it should help them adjust to baseball in the baseball-mad country (think Sounders game if you want a local equivalent of the noise and atmosphere), home of their reclusive owner. ... The A's are having to adjust as well. ... Hey, who won the Montero trade? No one knows just yet. ... By the way, the photo at left from Japan brings back memories of the Kingdome and the inventive ways folks use to go after batting practice balls back in the day.
• It looks as if we'll finally get a true spring day in the Inland Northwest today. Maybe I'll even have a chance to step outside. I can guarantee this. I won't get sunburned. I always wear my Tilly hat. Until later ...