A GRIP ON SPORTS
Far be it for me to bite the hand that feeds me, but what the heck. After all, they sprung a new blog-writing format on me today without as much as a how-do-you-do. Read on.
• Each week we pass along a new-this-year feature The Spokesman-Review does in conjunction with SWX, the NWPrepsnow Power Rankings. It's a fun little exercise, ranking the best high school football teams in the area. It's a great idea, one I never would have thought of doing. Because it's a power ranking, you would expect the voters are ranking matchups each week, that is if the top-ranked team played the fourth-ranked team that week, the top-ranked team would win. At least that's my understanding of the way you do a power ranking. Which has made it hard for me to comprehend some of the choices, the first of which is why there is just one ranking. You may not know, but for a few years in the early part of this century, I was in charge of the S-R's prep coverage. In that role, I covered a lot of Greater Spokane League games but made sure to get out and see the smaller schools as well. (Greg Lee had Idaho covered like a tarp, so I rarely crossed the state line.) I loved heading out U.S. Highway 2 to watch, say, Davenport battle Reardan. Or heading down U.S. Highway 195 to catch one of the great matchups between Colfax and Freeman when they were both in the Northeast A. Heck, I even had the opportunity to cover a Cheney High game at Eastern before Hall of Famer Tom Oswald died. And that's a big part of the reason why I don't understand a single ranking system. This week Freeman (an A school) and Lind-Ritzville/Sprague are atop the rankings. Both are great football teams, at their level. The Broncos should win another B state title, Freeman has a great shot at the A crown. That's really cool and worthy of praise. But does anyone really believe LRS could line up and defeat, say, sixth-ranked Gonzaga Prep this week and fifth-ranked Coeur d'Alene next? I'm sure Tom Oswald wouldn't and he knew a lot more about high school football than you or I. When I covered that Cheney game years ago, the Blackhawks were in the GSL, forced to play larger schools each week by Washington's classification system. And Oswald wasn't happy. He was down right mad about it. Though he coached a football powerhouse that had a great weight program and a strong tradition, Oswald hated lining up against bigger schools week after week. He railed against it that night and every chance he got. Football was different than basketball and baseball and other sports, he said. It's a numbers game, and smaller schools had fewer numbers. Fewer numbers meant fewer big kids, meaning somewhere in the matchups, there were going to be, well, flagrant mismatches. He was right. I can remember covering a Freeman-Colfax game from the sidelines one year and realizing I hadn't seen a game with more intensity all season. It was a great high school football matchup. I reveled in it. But I also realized there were players standing near me, ready to go into the game who were smaller and, as I watched them, slower than my son, who wasn't in high school yet and wouldn't crack the starting lineup when he got there. He wasn't big or fast enough to play at Ferris, a middle-of-the-GSL team at that time. The top players at the smaller schools were as good as any top player anywhere else. Still are. But there aren't as many of them. That's why there probably needs to be two power rankings. One for the 2A and smaller-sized schools, one for the 3A and larger-sized schools. Oswald was right. Football is different. Size does matter.
• WSU: Speaking of power rankings, Oregon could stake a claim as the best in the NCAA. And the Ducks just happen to be the Cougars' opponent this week. In Eugene. Under the lights. That's why Washington State has to bounce back quickly from the horrendous fourth quarter against Oregon State. Jacob Thorpe, who takes a first look at Oregon, has more in his notebook today. He also passes along video of Elliott Bosch, Damante Horton and Darryl Monroe as they met the media yesterday. And there are couple other posts, Jacob's grades on the Cougars play from Saturday and links this morning. … The folks at ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog have midseason reports on each conference team, including WSU. They also have a quick look at this week's games. … More from around the Pac-12.
• Gonzaga: It's official. St. Mary's Randy Bennett will not be in Spokane with the Gaels when they face Gonzaga. The NCAA turned down the coach and school's appeal of sanctions.
• EWU: Jim Allen passes along his Big Sky links today and, as I write this, the post looks like an e.e. cummings poem. It might be changed by the time you read it, though.
• Shock: Spokane will hold tryouts Saturday for interested players.
• Seahawks: The Hawks don't practice on Mondays but coach Pete Carroll does meet with the media. As usual his comments are honest and upbeat. … The Arizona game is Thursday night in Phoenix, meaning the Hawks have a short turnaround, with little time to let their bumps and bruises heal. … Dave Boling likes Russell Wilson's play as much as I do. … The offense is getting better. … I like this weekly blog post.
• Sounders: You know, after the Sounders defeated Portland in Seattle, the Timbers' coach, Caleb Porter, had a lot to say about the officials not protecting his players. Now his team wins at home and Seattle's Sigi Schmid sounds off about the rough play and Porter doesn't like it much. OK. Just be consistent, will ya? … The Sounders don't need anyone's help to know they are not playing well right now. And that they need to do a better job of keeping under control. … Well, at least their reserves won.
• I hope no one takes what I wrote today as a criticism of any sort concerning smaller-school football, though I'm sure some sensitive soul will. It's great football that is as much fun – or more – to watch (and I assume to take part in) as big-school football. But the playing field isn't level, so don't treat it as if it is. It's not fair to the kids. That's all I'm trying to say. … And if you are wondering why there are no photos today, it's because I don't know how to insert them in our new system. Sorry for how gray the post is today. Until later …