A GRIP ON SPORTS
The NFL began a while ago. Colleges started late last month. And now football season is officially here. Yep, the high schools here in Washington began practice yesterday. Read on.
• With an apology to my Idaho friends, who have been sweating buckets on the high school fields for more than a week, you can't say football season is fully underway until the local high schools are all going full bore. That happened yesterday. As I drove around the Spokane area on my usual list of errands, I saw high school-aged young men walking through neighborhoods carrying their helmet and shoulder pads. Their shirts were sweat-stained, their steps a bit slow. The walk home after football practice is a rite as old as harvest around these here parts, and bring as many smiles to faces. There is something special about the beginning of a high school football season, just as there is something memorable about each Friday night. The first day is for winners. Everyone believes their team will win, maybe not a state title, but at least a few games, including the all-important one with that high school down the hill or the block or up the way. All the sweat over the summer, all the weights lifted, all the work, it also gives each kid a dream. A dream of donning the uniform they've watched for years, of running out on the field, of starting, of starring, for their school. Not everyone can, of course, but on the first day of practice it sure seems like it. That five pounds of muscle that developed over the summer? It's going to be all the difference when it comes to filling the guard-tackle gap. That half-step gained with all the speed/explosion exercises? It's the burst needed to blow by the cornerback down the sideline. That confidence built by setting personal bests in squat and bench? It's enough to get you on the all-league team this season. Such were the thoughts when the horn blew yesterday, signaling the beginning of another season. They all won't come to fruition, sure, but they were there. And they are needed. It's such thoughts that keep young athletes going, no matter the sport. High school sports and dreams have always run on parallel tracks and that's a good thing. No, a great thing. It's part of the coping mechanism young men and women have, dealing with one of the toughest times of life. The days in the classroom may drag on for many but the minutes on the field never last long enough. It's the great high school coach who makes those minutes seem like hours, who builds memories that last a lifetime, who maintains at least some of their players' dreams even if he or she know they never will be completely fulfilled. The great high school coach makes even the last member of the team feel as important as the star, the support staff as crucial as the players and that kid walking home with his helmet and shoulder pads as big as any NFL superstar. And it does happen folks. I've seen it. I've never been able to reach that level myself, though I've tried. But there are those out there who can. And they are worth their weight in platinum.
• WSU: I've got to send a big thank you to Jacob Thorpe today. I knew today was the publication date of our yearly college football preview section, so I got up early due to the number of links I was going to have set up. Then I couldn't get on the 'Net. It took a half-hour of fiddling with the modem, the router and my computer before I was back in the 21st Century. Then I discovered Jacob had already linked all the stories in the section in his morning post. Thank you. ... Because Washington State is in preparation for the season opener with Rutgers – the Scarlet Knights are doing the same on the other coast (pictured) – Jacob wasn't allowed to view their walk-through yesterday. So there is no practice report. He did, however, take a look in this story and blog post at the freshmen who may be called on to contribute right away. ... Jacob also held a live chat yesterday. ... If the Cougars make it back to a bowl this season, Mike Leach better be the conference's coach of the year. After all, they don't have anyone on the preseason all-conference lists that I've seen, including this one from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog. ... They do have the deepest corps of receivers in the conference, even if only one writer here agrees. ... They also have a bunch of Southern California players ready to play as well.
• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs had targeted a Gonzaga Prep girls' basketball player but Otiona Gildon has decided to head south.
• EWU: Sam Houston State has a new coach, but he's faced Eastern before. Jim Allen has a feature on first-year Bearkat mentor K.C. Keeler, who lost a FCS title game to EWU while at Delaware. ... Jim also has a morning post with links and will hold a live chat this morning.
• Preps: Greg Lee drove around to a bunch of GSL practices yesterday and focuses on the league's three new coaches in this kickoff story. ... Because it was the first day around the state, we found coverage of the opening ritual from Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Tri-Cities.
• Seahawks: Guess who feels as if he's as fast as he's been since high school? Yep, it's Percy Harvin, the guy who could make all the difference in the Hawks' passing game – and running game – if he stays healthy. He feels good right now. ... So does Paul Richardson, which hasn't always been the case. ... Cliff Avrill wants to have a good year. And then get paid. ... Defensive lineman Greg Scruggs is just happy to be here. ... The Hawks are battling on each possession at practice. Well, a lot of them anyway. ... Russell Wilson thinks the offense is going to be really good.
• Mariners: Yesterday the M's gave a game away. It may just bite them in the butt. Can’t do that in a pennant race. But the 4-3 loss to the Phillies came mainly due to mental errors – missed squeeze signs (pictured), passed balls – as much as physical ones. (Yes, I know passed balls are considered physical errors in scoring the game, but 99 out of 100 of them are due to lack of focus or communication, which are mental problems.) ... Mike Zunino leads the league in the category no one wants to lead in: hit by pitches.
• Sounders: Speaking of mental errors, the Sounders are just as guilty as the M's. They frittered away a couple points last night as San Jose scored late to earn a 1-1 tie. The Sounders felt the tie was a loss – as well they should – and the Quakes saw it as a win. ... Sigi Schmid wasn't too happy afterward and neither were his players. The San Jose guys, on the other hand, were pretty upbeat. ... Clint Dempsey could use a rest.
• My 40th high school reunion is coming up next month so, in preparation, I am trying to lose a little weight. Going from morbidly obese to just plain obese, if you will. Which, I know, sounds a little strange after I wrote yesterday about dropping a Pop Tart. Don't judge me. Anyway, after the little fellow hit the ground and my crying stopped, I decided to see if I could go 24 hours without eating anything really stupid. You know, junk food. I can tell you this. I am no Jack Bauer. Twenty-four hours seems like forever. Wait, I guess that makes me just like Jack Bauer. Without the muscles, guns and great-looking femme fatales, of course. At least I will always have my Pop Tarts. Jack Bauer can't say that. Until later ...