A GRIP ON SPORTS
Are non-major collegiate sports important to you? I ask because tonight my alma mater, UC Irvine, plays for its second consecutive NCAA men's volleyball title. Read on.
• Back in 2007, I spent quite a bit of money to fly to Omaha in the middle of June. UCI was playing in the Division I college World Series for the first time and my roommate and I had a long-standing agreement – about 30 years at that point – to meet at Rosenblatt to root the Anteaters on if they ever made it. They did and we did. I know baseball doesn't rival football or basketball in college for the public's attention but there are a few of us who enjoy the game and follow our school's accomplishments. (I have personal knowledge of this from Washington State and Gonzaga's recent trips to the NCAA tourney while I was the S-R's college baseball beat writer. I heard from people I never even knew cared, mainly concerning the lack of coverage of their team.) Olympic sports (the preferred way to refer to non-revenue sports these days), however, are another story. Take men's volleyball for example. Only about 30 schools compete for the title and rarely does a non-West Coast school win it. But that doesn't matter to me. When I can, I check the rankings during the season. As the playoffs go on, I look to see how the Anteaters are doing. And I will try to carve out time today to watch the championship (it is on ESPNU at 6 p.m. if you're interested). UCI will be facing a league foe, top-ranked BYU, for the title. But BYU is in the WCC, Gonzaga's league, these days, right? And Irvine is part of the Big West, isn't it? Yes and yes. But men's volleyball is such a niche sport, both are in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation during the volleyball season. Minor sports can make for strange alignments, as in Boise State wrestling competing in the Pac-12. Not many know that. Which brings us back to our question. Do you get excited when your alma mater ascends into the national spotlight – even if it is a 40-watt bulb – for a minor sport? I know I do.
• By the way, I am counting on you folks in another area I mentioned yesterday. I want to honor moms (and the way they have influenced our sporting life) on the upcoming Mother's Day, but I can't do it without your help. Take a few moments to sit down and write me an email concerning a memory you have of mom and her contributions to one of your sporting events. For example, my mom ensured our sixth-grade basketball team wouldn't be undefeated when she got lost ferrying us to Assumption School. She had three starters in the car and she didn't find the place until the second half. We lost, forcing a one-game playoff for the league title. While we were driving all over San Marino looking for the school (it is in Pasadena), I heard my mom use a swear word I never thought she was capable of. It was darn or damn or something. But that's another story for another time. I just use it as an example of what you could share. You can pass along your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't wait to read them. It will be fun. And the stories will also appear in the newspaper on Mother's Day, if we can get enough folks to participate. So chip in.
• Washington State: Not a lot here, but we do have the mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog to pass along.
• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs rallied in extra innings to win another WCC baseball game.
• EWU: Jim Allen takes some time today to share a position-by-position look at Eastern after the completion of spring football practice.
• Preps: North Central clinched a share of the GSL girls softball title yesterday and Chris Derrick was there. … West Valley wrapped up the GNL baseball title and Mike Vlahovich was there. … We have a roundup of Friday's soccer action. … Steve Christilaw has his weekly tennis notebook and Jim Meehan has a golf notebook.
• Golf: Now this is one strange golf tournament. And I know strange golf tournaments, being a founding member of The Wet Dog Fur Open. Jim Meehan has more on the Bang-Whacker Tournament in his weekly golf column.
• Mariners: When Felix Hernandez's name is penciled in on the Mariners' lineup, you know the M's have a good shot to win. And when he's on a roll, as he is now, you know the M's should win. They didn't disappoint last night, defeating Toronto 4-0 as Kyle Seager continued to swing a hot bat. … Daren Brown coached third base for the M's in place of Jeff Datz. And John Stearns is enjoying his new role as Tacoma's manager.
• Sounders: The Sounders are in Philadelphia today, kicking off a packed May MLS schedule.
• Sonics: The Sacramento group met a deadline to put money into an escrow fund.
• The one thing I can say positive about winter weather is you don't have to work in the yard. I have a packed schedule of planting and mowing, so I'll say goodbye now, get my daily nap done early and then go outside and throw my back out. Until later …