A GRIP ON SPORTS
As a fan, would you rather have your team, in this case the Seattle Seahawks, win a playoff game in a dominant fashion, making it look easy, or would you rather have them gut out a win? It's a legitimate question, especially after yesterday. Read on.
• There are arguments to be made either way. A blowout win, with the offense purring on 18 cylinders and the defense dominant up front and the back end, builds confidence that no one can stand in a team's way. Football, quite possibly more than any other major sport, is a game of intimidation – who hits harder, who gives in less, who is more of a macho being – at its essence. So domination, on the field and on the scoreboard, pays dividends in the future. But there is a downside. There is always who wants to spit into the wind, to tug on Superman's cape and – I think you know where I am going here – mess around with Jim. There is always that team out there who believes (and is motivated by that belief) they can conquer the bully. And oftentimes the bully team, the one that has been near-perfect just about every week and hasn't been tested, struggles when someone stands up to it. Which is where the team that seems to barely get by, that has to battle each and every game, has the edge. Battle-tested? That happens every week. So they know what to expect. Players on those type of teams have a aura of invincibility around them. They've been here before. Things our going bad? No big deal. They'll go our way eventually. We'll figure out a way to win. This year's Seahawks, which took a big step toward the NFC title yesterday with a less-than-perfect 23-15 win over the visiting New Orleans Saints, have been both teams this season. They have looked like the 270-pound fifth-grade bully at times, pushing good teams around and grinding them into the CenturyLink turf. And they've looked like that barely-get-by team as well, mainly down the stretch and most recently yesterday afternoon. But even after New Orleans scored late, even after Golden Tate let the football slip through his fingers like a warm-from-the-fryer Maple Bar, even when the Saints marched into Seahawk territory, did I ever get the feeling the Hawks would lose. OK, I watching a DVR of the game and I knew the score, but still, as I was following somewhat live on my smart phone while watching basketball, I wasn't worried. Were you? I kept expecting Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas to finally hang on to one of those errant Drew Brees passes and trigger some more seismic activity. I certainly didn't have a brain freeze by a Saint receiver among the ways the game would end, that's for sure. But, for tough, defensive-minded, tested teams, those things seem to happen. Their opponents know it is so hard to win against them, they clench up and make mistakes. The Saints made plenty. Or, if you prefer, just enough. It certainly was exciting, wasn't it? Much more so than a 34-7 beatdown or something. But that brings us back to our question. Which do you prefer?
• WSU: Remember the good old days when the Pac-10 had mainly Thursday-Saturday games? Ya, me too. But the Pac-12 is richer in so many ways. Richer in that it now has games on just about every Sunday for out enjoyment. The Cougars have one today, as they host Utah. Jacob Thorpe will be there and to get you ready for the showdown with traditional rival Utah (pictured against Washington this week) he offers up this advance along with a morning blog post with links. … The Cougar women made it two wins in a week against UW. Go years without one, then win twice in a week. Go figure. … Don Pellum, long-time assistant and really natty dresser, will be the next Oregon defensive coordinator according to the Oregonian and the Register-Guard. You might recall Pellum's nephew, Romeo, played for a while at WSU. He was one of my favorites in that if you asked him a question, you got a provocative answer. That's not always the way it works. Of course, he had off-field problems and ended up transferring, but he was a great after-game quote.
• Gonzaga: The Bulldog women put together what coach Kelly Graves called their best-ever half of basketball in the Kennel yesterday and went on to a 79-50 win over a ranked USD team. Thomas Clouse was there and he has the game story. Tyler Tjomsland was there as well and he adds a photo story. … On the men's side, Randy Bennett received a pregame standing ovation from the St. Mary's faithful – I wonder if any of them would go down to Folsom and applaud when someone is released there? No, probably not – after serving his suspension for disregarding NCAA recruiting rules and the Gaels went on to dismantle USF, 88-73. … BYU, and Matt Carlino, seem to be getting their game together as they routed Loyola-Marymount. … Pacific earned its first WCC win, 80-68 over Santa Clara. … San Diego is just struggling, plain and simple.
• EWU: If the Montana game was one Eastern had to have, then what was Saturday's 77-72 victory over Montana State? The way it happened – EWU led by 16 early, trailed by 11 in the second half – might just make it the one that jump-started the Eagles' season. If Eastern had lost, it could have been devastating. As it is, it was exhilarating. Jim Allen was there and has this game story. … Portland State earned a Big Sky win, but it took the Vikings three overtimes to get past Montana. … Weber State got back on the winning side against North Dakota.
• Whitworth: Saturday's NWC game was a bit easier for the Pirates than Friday's nail biter as Thomas Clouse's story relates.
• Seahawks: There were just so many storylines from Saturday's game, as is usually the case in the NFL playoffs. Most of them revolved around certain players, as is also usually the case in the NFL playoffs. … Let's see. There is the Percy Harvin (pictured) is back storyline, wait, no, he isn't, as the receiver – and Seahawk-offense savior – was knocked out with a concussion that forced him to miss the second half. … There is the Marshawn Lynch just seems to love running against the Saints story, as the Hawks' beast wore down New Orleans en route to 140 yards on the ground. (There was also a change up front as the Hawks finally seemed to give up on guard James Carpenter and moved a tackle inside; it worked.) … There is the Michael Bennett has sure anchored the Hawks defensive front storyline. … There is the Russell Wilson is ready to put this one behind him and get prepared (remember the separation is in the preparation) for the NFC title game storyline. … There is the weather affected everyone but Stephen Hauschka storyline. … There is the Pete Carroll is happy to be winning storyline, but that is written just about every week. … There is the Saints' Jimmy Graham shouldn't have riled the beast that is the Seattle secondary storyline, though that one is probably overblown. … There is the Saints' Sean Payton knows what hit his team line, though he didn't like it. … And there is the most important one, the one about the defense being really tough and really darn good and wanting to be one of the best of all time. John Blanchette was in Seattle yesterday and that's the storyline he followed with his column.
• Wow. My fingers hurt. That's a lot to cover on a Sunday morning, a supposed day of rest. I'm ready for the rest part now. We'll be back tomorrow when we find out who the Hawks will be playing next Sunday. Until then …