A GRIP ON SPORTS
I really wanted to wait until later to begin writing today. I wanted to make sure the sun was going to come up. I had my doubts after Saturday, a day that probably should have its own wing in the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame. You know, "Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013: The Day of Despair." Read on.
• With all that was going on yesterday, it seemed probable that some segment of the Inland Northwest's sports fandom would be able to breath easy after Saturday night. But it was not to be. There is little doubt Saturday was the worst sports day in these parts. Ever. I've lived here more than 30 years and can't think of a worse day. It had breadth, it had width, it had depth. And all of it bad. It just wasn't that Washington State, Gonzaga and Eastern Washington all had its major sports teams lose, it's also the way they all lost. A handful of defeats on one day is bad enough but how about losing and losing one of your best players to injury? That's the tale of Gonzaga's day. Or losing in a national semifinal on your home field on basically the final play just seconds after you had a chance to put the game away for good? That's the outcome Eastern fans are dealing with this morning. Or, worst of all, playing Santa in your first bowl game in a decade, just handing the victory to a Grinch-like opponent in the waning seconds. Yep, that's what the Cougars did yesterday. Heck, we haven't even mentioned the 17 points the Cougar mens' basketball team scored in the first half last night en route to a home loss to UTEP. That's such a footnote on a day like Saturday it hardly seems worth noting. But what else could have been expected? After the events of the early morning/afternoon, there is nothing that could have occurred last night to salvage the day. And yet, the results from Saturday may have a silver lining.
• If there is one thing I am sure of after the Day of Despair, it's that the sports fans in this area will pull themselves out of the gutter, brush off their clothes, take two Advil, pour a cup of coffee and prepare themselves for the Seahawks game. You see, we are a resilient bunch. Adversity is our middle name. You can't root for Washington State in football and not have experience dealing with awful mo-jo. It's what a WSU fan does. Get to the Rose Bowl? Oh sure, we can bounce back from the missing final seconds. Win 10 games three years in a row? Sure, we can deal with 10 seasons wandering in the Netherlands of the Pac-12. Blow a 15-point lead in the waning seconds of the New Mexico Bowl? We'll be back next year, waving our flag and anticipating success. But the Cougars among us are not alone. Every year Gonzaga roars through the regular season, pounds the WCC into submission and then flames out in the NCAA tournament. Are Zag fans dismayed? Sure, but we keep coming back. We keep packing the Kennel and yelling ourselves hoarse in front of our TV, our Gonzaga sweatshirt stained with pride over another win against Michigan State or Memphis – in November. Another second-round defeat, this time as a No. 1 seed? No big deal. We'll be back next year. Better than ever. Or take the friendly neighborhood Eagle fan. It was just a few years ago he or she was able to celebrate the ultimate prize. A national title. It was such a rare occurrence of good fortune sometimes we're not sure it really happened. But it did. And we've got the T-shirts and ticket stubs to prove it. But the stubs are starting to yellow and the shirts to fray. The last couple years the road to Frisco has had one huge semifinal pothole – appropriate for around here. Last season it was a 35-0 deficit, a huge rally and a tough-to-take defeat. Yesterday it was a 14-0 deficit, a rally and a-this-close-to-Frisco missed connection. But we won't dwell on it. We look at who is coming back. Who will lead us next year. That will be our year. Again.
• If I could, I would raise a glass in toast to every one of you. You deserve it. No matter what happens you continue to believe. To root. To defend your guys. It's admirable. No matter how bad it gets, the Inland Northwest sports fan stands tall, like some guy in a beer commercial, hands on hips, chest thrust forward, head held high. The jetsam from yesterday may have knocked you down, tested your faith, bruised your pride, but it didn't defeat you. Or did it?
• WSU: Regardless of the outcome, wasn't yesterday's New Mexico Bowl the longest darn football game you've ever seen? Didn't the 48-45 defeat seem to go on forever? And answer this question for me: If attacking was the way to go late, then why did WSU run a quarterback keeper and a dive play in its last possession? That doesn't seem to be attack mode to me – or run-out-the-clock mode either. Just wondering. Anyhow, we received no answers, even though Jacob Thorpe and John Blanchette tried to get them. Jacob has the game story and a feature on Connor Halliday's record-setting day while John has a column. They also combined on a notebook. Tyler Tjomsland put up a photo story on the web, while Jacob's web-based report includes his morning post with links, interviews with Joe Dahl, Justin Sagote, Theron West along with a video from the testy postgame press conference and the WSU notes. Plus, Jacob finished up his bowl journey with the 2003 Holiday Bowl and had a pregame chat. ... We can also pass along the statistics and scoring. ... Thomas Clouse was in Pullman last night and covered the basketball team's loss to UTEP ... Back to the New Mexico Bowl. Bud Withers has a game column in the Times. ... The frantic finish overshadowed a vulgar beginning, with CSU assistant coach Greg Lupfer possibly paying a big price down the road for some words he said to Halliday, caught on the game broadcast. Obscenities and slurs don't go over very well. ... The loss was also a big win for the Rams, who were led by their All-American linebacker. ... Switching back to basketball, Oregon rallied late and defeated BYU in overtime. ... Stanford couldn't complete a comeback against Michigan.
• Gonzaga: It was not a good day for GU, though x-rays on Sam Dower were negative, which is a positive. (Don't you just love sports terms?) Jim Meehan was in Wichita and has a game story and a blog post from Gonzaga's 72-62 loss to Kansas State. ... The only local major college team to win yesterday? That would be the Gonzaga women, who handled WSU in Pullman. Tom has the story. ... We have more on BYU's loss and some news from Portland, where G-Prep grad Ryan Nicholas scored his 1,000 college point in the Pilots' win over Princeton. ... USD wins again but it isn't pretty.
• EWU: On a cold, foggy day in Cheney, the Eagles came this close to moving on to Frisco (pictured). But Towson's last-second touchdown (OK, there were 19 of them left when Towson scored) gave it a 35-31 victory. Jim Allen was there and he put together a game story and a couple of sidebars. He was assisted by Greg Lee, who has this story from the Towson side of things. ... Colin Mulvany was on the field and put together this photo story.
• Seahawks: OK, I am going to say what all of you are thinking. Thank god for the Seahawks. The 12-2 Seahawks. No matter how bad Saturday was, the Hawks will save the day today, right? Well all I can say is they better or it just might be too much for us. I know my will to root will be tested if the Hawks lose to Arizona today. Piling it atop all that happened yesterday might just break my resolve. Which is a heck of a lot of responsibility to heap upon our local pro football team, but it is there today. Let's hope they can carry the load. ... The Hawks defense is probably up to any task right now. ... There are a lot of things to watch today.
• And yes, the sun did come up this morning. A little earlier than yesterday in fact. Which means spring is just around the corner. And that means Mariner baseball is nearly here. They'll save the day, right? They'll be our shining beacon in a sea of despair, right? ... OK, we're all hosed. Until later ...