A GRIP ON SPORTS
A few years ago I quit watching the NFL on television. Not because I didn't like football, I did. But the games would frustrate me so. So, instead of getting upset, I turned the TV off and discovered the beauty of fall Sundays. Then my son offered me a taste of the RedZone channel. And I was once again hooked. But it turned out RedZone was a gateway video and I found myself watching the entire Seahawks game yesterday. And regretting it. Read on.
• I turned away from the NFL the year after the Hawks lost in the Super Bowl. Not because I thought there was some conspiracy that cost Seattle the game – though I like to pretend that's the case; it makes good copy – but because that game brought to light, for me anyway, the NFL's dirty little secret. And my DVR magnified the problem. See, the NFL is the toughest game in all of sports to adjudicate (see, NFL referee lockout, for further proof). So whenever there is a key play, watching it over and over again just shows how much power the officials have. On just about any given play one of the 11 players on either side of the ball commits some sort of rule violation. And it is up to the guys in stripes to decide if it matters or not. Not if it occurred, because by watching a replay you can usually tell if they saw the violation. But whether it rose to a level that makes throwing a flag mandatory. And that's what bothered me. One little shove by a receiver on a defensive back might draw an offensive pass interference penalty. The same exact action just a bit later draws no flag – or earns one against the defender. A defensive end gets outside an offensive tackle and the tackle holds on to his arm for a split second. One play it's 10-yard hold, the next it's nothing. It was such willy-nilly officiating that drove me away from the league – whether the players aren't as good at cheating or it just doesn't happen as much, I don't see the same problem on Saturdays as often – for a few years. But the RedZone channel alleviated that problem. By cutting between games so fast, by showing just key plays, it was hard to go back and watch replays. There were no gaps that needed to be filled, so the DVR could rest. Football action and only football action dominated my Sundays. But I longed for more. I longed to root for the Seahawks again. To experience the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows of a game and a season. Besides, I'm writing about them here and occasionally talking about them on the radio, so I figured I better know what I'm arguing about. Which brings us to yesterday. And once again I couldn't believe the overlooked calls. In the course of two possessions, one when the Seahawks had the ball and one when Carolina got it back, Seattle was cited for an iffy hold on the outside (despite Pete Carroll's strenuous objections, the flag was probably deserved), then the officials allowed a Hawk defensive lineman basically to be tackled on a run up the middle, leading to a Carolina first down. In the scheme of things, neither call decided the outcome of the game. But the seemingly random nature of the flags made me shake my head and shook my faith in the fairness of the game. And had me thinking about how it might be nice to spend my Sunday afternoons enjoying the fall colors.
• I was sitting at the kitchen table last night flipping back and forth between the baseball games (I may be the world's biggest Cincinnati Reds fan right now) but I was also listening for the screams from downstairs. My sons and their friends had gathered to watch the Sounders play Portland on ESPN. The one thing I can be sure of when they are watching soccer is I'll never miss a goal. Because they happen so rarely in the game, every goal is greeted by either loud cheering – as was the case three times Sunday night – or loud catcalls and booing – none of which occurred yesterday. I would hear the noise and switch channels, allowing me to see the replay of the just-scored goal. It was a low-tech version of what I like to call the MLS GoalZone channel.
• Washington State: The Cougars were back on the practice field Sunday night, with the big news being coach Mike Leach basically saying Connor Halliday will start Saturday night against California. If there is one thing I can be sure of this week, it's that this won't make the Team Tuel fans happy. Christian Caple has a story in today's paper about the Cougars' bowl chances – I would peg them as a bit better than me running a marathon this fall – while also covering last night's short workout with a blog post. He also has his usual morning blog post. … Ted Miller has his Pac-12 power rankings after the weekend. … And Jon Wilner has some thoughts on the weekend that was.
• Idaho: Nothing on the Vandals, who are coming off a win for the first time this season, but we have a bit on Utah State, which opens WAC play at another contender, San Jose State, this Saturday. The Vandals have back-to-back tough road trips coming up, first to Texas State and then back to the area for a showdown with Louisiana Tech, ranked this week.
• Chiefs: Jess Brown has a blog post that summarizes a pretty eventful weekend for the Chiefs, on and off the ice.
• Seahawks: We riffed a bit on the NFL above, but those words weren't aimed at the Hawks' defense. Man, did that group play well in the 16-12 victory. The goal line stand highlighted two elements this group has in abundance: speed and toughness. The guys inside won the individual battles and the seven behind them fly around so much there aren't a lot of open spaces. Now if the offense could get going – though I will say the late run by Marshawn Lynch that got a near-game-clinching first down was impressive – just a little bit, this team could make a run in the postseason.
• Sounders: One other thing I could hear from downstairs: the noise more than 66,000 soccer fans were making while the CenturyLink Field match was going on. The best chant of the night came from the Sounders fans and was aimed at the Portland faithful sitting in two sections on the north side. It had to do with how quiet they were. … The Sounders offense was helped by the Portland defense (an own goal started the scoring), something the Portland players lamented later.
• Guess what. It's my birthday (what, you didn't know?) and not only am I working here, but will be on the radio later this afternoon, joining Dennis Patchin and Rick Lukens in a live remote from Northern Quest Casino. Afterward, Kim is meeting me and we will celebrate with a gourmet dinner at, oh, I don't know, Fatburger or somewhere. And being it's my birthday, I might even close my eyes and do some sort of gambling. I have to be lucky on my birthday, right? Until later …