A GRIP ON SPORTS
If you have lived around the Inland Northwest for any amount of time, you might remember when the grass fields were torched with regularity. The smoke would rise on the horizon and, if you had the desire to drive around, you could witness the red flames turning the ground a deep black. It was an interesting contrast to the green pine trees ringing the golden fields of September. Why am I thinking of such colorful things? Read on.
• Former S-R reporter Christian Caple has a story in today's Tacoma News Tribune concerning the declining interest in the Washington State-Washington rivalry basketball game. The first meeting this season between the clubs drew the smallest crowd in the series in more than a decade, 5,796. This year, that's been a large crowd in Pullman and it actually played a part in the Cougars' upset of UW. But it is a pittance compared to the crowds the teams drew in the 10 years prior. Some of those congregations were actually overflowing and led to some interesting incidents, as in the Dick Bennett (pictured) middle-finger reaction to the Dawg Pound. But neither team is really exciting its fan base these days. The Cougars have a dismal record – 9-18 overall and a 2-13 Pac-12 mark, better only than USC – and playing a brand of basketball that can only be labeled as, if you want to be nice, “pedestrian.” The Huskies' record is better – 15-13, 7-8 – but the year has been disappointing for UW fans. So there isn't the usual buzz in Hec Ed either. All of that might just disappear Friday night. After all, when the Cougars and Huskies get together to play golf, there is even some excitement, so a basketball game, indoors in a venerable arena, should have a built-in energy. It's just not enough to light up the community of Garfield anymore.
• Speaking of Cougars, Deone Bucannon had his day at the scouting combine yesterday and it was OK. Not phenomenal, but OK. And probably helped his draft status. Why? Because Bucannon ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, better than some expected out of the 6-foot-1, 211-pound hard-hitting safety. It was the third-best 40 among safeties in Indianapolis and had to help Bucannon overcome one of the things detractors say about him (not fast enough). But the other question mark (coverage skills) were more than likely not assuaged. That's because Bucannon's times in the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle, drills designed to measure quickness and agility, weren't as dominating as his 40 or his bench press or his jumping. The 3-cone time of 6.96 wasn't bad, but a tenth or two quicker would have really made him a lot of money. Still, Bucannon has so many upsides – he loves to hit, he's great on special teams and he's a solid, solid citizen – there is little chance he'll last past the third round. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if someone takes a flyer on him and drafts him late in the second round.
• WSU: Jacob Thorpe covers the Pac-12 ground quickly today with his morning post. … ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog looks at the conference's running backs. … Oregon's Mark Helfrich doesn't see the NCAA adopting the proposed slow-down rule.
• Gonzaga: Jacob also delves into Zag country with his baseball notebook, noting Gonzaga's youthful roster. … BYU isn't going to rat out its athletes' honor code violations anymore. … A former USF star player and coach is now coaching high school basketball.
• Shock: The Shock are back on the practice field with just one goal: an AFL title. Jim Meehan has more in his notebook.
• Chiefs: Portland's 20-game winning streak is the subject of Chris Derrick's WHL notebook this week. … Everett is getting healthy and that helped it almost end the Winterhawks' streak last week. … Tri-City would just like to win a game.
• Seahawks: Russell Wilson was out making the media rounds yesterday, including the major national sports talk radio shows, and he said some interesting things. … This blog post by Todd Dybas on Percy Harvin's season is really interesting. … What is Bruce Irvin's role in the future? … Some tidbits about the Hawks' championship season.
• Mariners: There was somewhat-real baseball yesterday as the M's held an intrasquad game. Nick Franklin, now the subject of almost daily new trade rumors, went deep. … Ken Griffey was in town and held court. … Another coach has an injury. … The new home plate collision rule could have a bumpy start. … Ozzie Smith has an idea. It's fun but kind of silly.
• One last day on the radio today. We're on 700 ESPN from 3 to around 5 p.m. with Keith Osso and Rick Lukens (I have to leave early). You can listen here. Until later …