A GRIP ON SPORTS
It hit me late in the Sounders 1-0 win over Portland last night. I realized what it is about soccer I've come to enjoy. It's pretty simple really. Read on.
• Back when I wore a younger man's clothes, I played a lot – and by a lot I mean sometimes nearly a hundred games a summer – of fastpitch softball. I loved playing the game, quite possibly more than playing baseball. Mainly because the game demanded perfection. Look, when pitchers are hurling the ball toward the plate at breakneck speeds from 45 feet away, hitting isn't the easiest thing in the world. And scoring runs? Well that becomes a task worthy of Hercules at times. More often than not, mistakes decided who would win or lose. A missed tag, a failed squeeze, a booted grounder. They all could be the difference in a game. So you couldn't screw up. It added a level of pressure I came to be addicted to, a legal version of Adderall if you will. Why? Because you had to focus on every pitch while you were in the field. Lose it for a second and that could be that. Another 1-0 defeat. My guess is you know where I am going here. That quest for perfection is needed on the soccer pitch as well. When games can be decided by one pass, one shot, one save, there is little margin for lack of focus. The game demands your best at all times. And that I like. Of course, it doesn't hurt the atmosphere around professional soccer in the Northwest rivals the best in the world. (Yes it does. Look at the Sounders' attendance yesterday, 67,385, one of the top five world-wide over the weekend. And I don't believe there were many places louder. Heck, though Portland plays in a bandbox of a stadium, when it's filled it rivals the atmosphere of any of the smaller European facilities.) Or that other, younger members of my immediate family are so enamored of the sport I was afraid for the couch's life yesterday. But, at its essence, it is a sport that demands peak performance under pressure. Goals are so precious, one mistake could be the difference. And I like that.
• WSU: The lightning storm that hit the Palouse last night (it traveled up U.S. 195 to Spokane as well and lit up the sky with unmatched pyrotechnics) forced the Cougars inside the practice bubble for their Sunday night walk-through. So Christian Caple didn't have a post from after practice. He does, however, have a morning post and story, in which he tries to predict the Cougars' two-deeps for Auburn. … The Cougars are 11th in ESPN.com's first Pac-12 power rankings. After reading through the two-deeps, if WSU stays healthy (and that is always the key for Washington State, isn't it?) then I believe it will surprise some folks and could move up to the middle of those power rankings by the end of the season.
• Indians: There is little margin of error for the Indians and they pushed the limits yesterday, losing 6-2 at Vancouver. They are 1 ½ games back in the North as the season winds down.
• Chiefs: Spokane held its annual Red-White Game yesterday at the Arena and Mitch Holmberg stole the show with a hat trick. John Blanchette was there and has this story. Dan Pelle was also there and put together a picture story.
• Mariners: I really believe the M's were testing Eric Wedge. By that I mean if he didn't have a relapse this weekend, a weekend in which his team scored two runs in three games, then he probably never will. The M's lost 7-1 to the Angels yesterday to finish off a three-game sweep at Safeco. … The only highlight for Seattle was Dustin Ackley's second home run of the season. Yep, his second. … Nick Franklin was back in the lineup again.
• Seahawks: Not a lot here, but cuts around the NFL yesterday revealed once again how bad the Hawks 2009 draft was. … Mike Holmgren is back in Seattle. And he will have a daily radio gig. … The penalty situation is one of the biggest points of discussion right now.
• Sounders: What to say about the Sounders' 1-0 win over their biggest rivals, the Portland Timbers? … Of course, the crowd was a big part of the night, as it was in full throat before and during the game. And in full bird-mode afterward. The pictures on Twitter of Sounders fans flipping off the Portland faithful after the game ended just made me laugh. How European. … It was also Clint Dempsey's first home game and though he didn't score, he had some moments. … The lone goal came on a nice header by Eddie Johnson (pictured) off a free kick from sub Mauro Rosales, capping a near-perfect night. … The players and coaches had a lot to say afterward. You have to believe, for the older players at least, they had to wonder if they would ever play in front of crowds like this in the U.S. … The Sounders have the Cascadia Cup within their grasp.
• That's it for this Monday. And, yes, I'll be back on the radio again. One more week of fill-in duty. You can listen to the Patchin, Lukens and Osso show, with Vince Grippi, here if you like. It starts at 3 p.m. Until later …