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Losing doesn't always connote losers

A GRIP ON SPORTS

If one looks solely at the won/loss record, it would be easy to assume the Washington State basketball team is a bunch of losers. But nothing could be further from the truth. At least not in my definition of losers. Read on.

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• It's simple. A losing team isn't always made up of a bunch of losers. A loser, in the athletic sense, is someone who accepts an inevitable defeat. We've seen teams like that around here before. But this Washington State team isn't one of them. Yes, the losses continue to pile up, 11 in 13 Pac-12 games thus far, some in rather bizarre fashion (for proof, just see the last 10 seconds of last night's game). But an overtime loss to the conference's best team (by record) isn't the M.O. of a bunch of losers. A 30-point defeat, that's more like it. No, this Cougar team battles at a level far beyond their ability at times. But that ability level isn't enough to overcome the mistakes losing teams make. Get you close maybe, tantalizingly close. But not enough get over the hump. Which is tough to take. Even for me. Take last night for example. One aspect of working in this industry is we have to separate the human being from the journalist. There is no way the journalist in me roots for one team or another to win. A fast game, sure. The final score, however, is immaterial. But the human being in me was able to see the misery the constant drumbeat of defeat is taking on the players. I talked with Brock Motum afterward, just a chat really, not related to covering the game. And it was easy to see the Chinese water torture of each close-but-no-cigar defeat is wearing on him. But it's also revealing. A loser, by my definition at least, would have given up long ago. Motum hasn't. What's there to play for? The postseason is a dream, the finish line to the season and, in Motum's case, his college career, is drawing ever closer. So why put so much on the court night after night when the outcome seems predetermined, even if the manner isn't? Because that's what competitors do. It's not about the outcome but the journey. Listen, I've watched a bunch of Cougar basketball games not that many years ago when the players were going through the motions. The effort wasn't there. That's not the case with this group. They may not win again this year. That's highly possible looking at the schedule. Hate the outcome if you will – the players certainly do – but don't hate them. They left it on the court last night, playing quite a bit harder than conference-leading Oregon for much of the game. It's just that the Ducks were a hell of a lot better, more talented, deeper, even a bit luckier. They should have won and did. I know this is a bottom-line business. I get that. And the Cougars haven't won enough games. That statement alone is enough that it may mean there's a change in the coaching staff at the end of the season. Blame for defeats has to stick somewhere. But even if WSU ends up with a losing record for the first time in seven seasons, don't call these players losers. They just haven't been able to win.

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• Gonzaga: The antithesis of Washington State right now? Gonzaga. (And don’t forget, these teams played a one-possession game earlier this season.) The Zags find a way to win. They find a way to twist the outcome their way. It's what winners do. They did it again yesterday afternoon in a game that had Admiral Ackbar written all over it. A big win Thursday night at St. Mary's. A short turnaround. A game against a losing team that is better than its record in a place Gonzaga has trouble winning. Yet the Zags won, rather handily, actually, in the end. I'm beginning to think this team has the mental fortitude to advance a long, long way in the NCAAs. ... Jim Meehan was in the University of San Francisco's War Memorial Gym where it's been a long, long time since he's covered a GU victory. He has his game story and a blog post in the way of coverage of the game. He'll also be back later today with a day-after post. ... We also found coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle and CBSSports.com. ... BYU had the perfect formula for bouncing back: play Portland. The Cougars won easily. ... The GU women continued to roll, inching ever closer to another WCC title. Chris Derrick was in the Kennel yesterday as the Zags eclipsed the century mark in an easy win. He has a story.

• Washington State: Christian Caple was across press row from me last night, which doesn't mean I didn't get up a few times to a) get exercise and b) share some smarmy remark with him. We'll let him link all the stories (including the one I wrote for the Oregonian) in his morning post. One note. I believe the Ducks' Tony Woods will be suspended for Oregon's next game. You just can't coldcock a guy like he did and not have the hammer come down. ... Christian also has his usual in-depth coverage, with his game story, a pregame post, the tale of the tape and the postgame interviews. By the way, did anyone see that game by Royce Woolridge coming?

• EWU: The Eagles are getting on a roll, despite injuries nipping at their roster. They won again yesterday, 86-72 over Southern Utah. Jim Allen was in Cheney and filed this game story. Photographer Tyler Tjomsland was also there and has this photo story. ... Weber State was able to hold off Montana State. ... Montana avoided any letdown from its loss to Weber by handling Idaho State.

• Idaho: There is a reason Louisiana Tech is atop the WAC standings. Maybe a lot of reasons, actually. The Techsters should them off last night in Moscow, defeating Idaho. Josh Wright was there and filed this gamer and a blog post on another tough Vandal defeat. ... Denver is playing just one season in the WAC, but it is making the most of it. ... Seattle U. lost once more. ... Utah State avenged an earlier defeat to New Mexico State.

• Whitworth: The Pirates finished the regular season on an up note, winning at Willamette.

• Chiefs: It was not pretty last night in the Tri-Cities as the Chiefs were blanked 6-0. They remain in fourth place, however. ... Everett handled Seattle. ... Vancouver took the game to overtime but Portland won.

• Preps: We'll start with state wrestling, in which University won a 3A title, though it wasn't a cakewalk. Greg Lee has that story, along with stories concerning the 4A tournament and the rest of Mat Classic XXV. We also have 3A and 4A coverage from the Seattle Times along with a roundup of Idaho wrestling. ... Post Falls' girls won the Idaho 5A state tournament, defeating league rival Coeur d'Alene in overtime. ... John Blanchette was at Central Valley's loser-out victory over Gonzaga Prep in 4A boys ranks and we also have a roundup of girls GSL postseason action. There is more, though, with roundups of girls and boys hoop action from around the area.

• Mariners: The M's have new faces, some of which are familiar, working hard this spring. ... They also heard Eric Wedge's "let's-get-going" speech. ... Hope is the unwritten codicil in Felix Hernandez's contract. FYI, I am not changing the poll question of Felix's contract until there is a day without a story about it. That's why it's still there this morning.

• Sounders: By winning yesterday, the Sounders assured themselves of a busy week ahead.

• Sonics: NBA commissioner David Stern – yes, the same guy who was Public Enemy No. 1 after the Sonics left – spoke yesterday about Seattle, Sacramento, expansion and next season.

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• That's it for this morning. The snow that fell overnight (it wasn't much) is starting to melt, which save me some exertion. Of that, I am grateful. By the way, if you want to know my definition of a loser, it is someone who doesn't try, who just goes through the motions until the game or match is over. That's a loser. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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