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This is even bigger than St. Nick

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Can you believe it? It's finally here. No, not Christmas. That flew by last month with hardly a ripple in our household. I'm talking about today's NFC Championship. Heck, I think we bought more foodstuffs for this afternoon than we purchased for Christmas dinner. And a more eclectic variety too. I guess it's appropriate. In some ways today is bigger. Read on.


••••••••••

• In our little corner of the country – you know, the upper left-hand corner if you are looking at a typical map – today's game between the host Seahawks and the reviled visitors from San Francisco is as big as it gets. (Until two weeks from now, if the Hawks earn a Super Bowl trip.) We don't have an NBA team to root for anymore or a Major League Baseball one either, if you get my drift. Our local colleges have some success but they don't play for national titles. So this is it. Our NFL team is one of the final four in a year when the four best teams in the league made the semifinals. That doesn't always happen. So this afternoon when the 49ers and the Seahawks face off within the sea of noise that is CenturyLink, most of us will be plastered to our seats, stuffing our faces and crossing our fingers. No matter who we want to win we'll be nervous. Both teams are excellent, both are battle-tested, both are tougher than last night's reheated steak. Either could win. And that's nerve-wracking. But it's also exhilarating. Not knowing what's going to happen is what makes sports. Not what makes sports exciting or fun or desirable. It's just what makes sports, sports. It is the essence of our fascination. We have expectations, sure. But we really don't know. We have to wait to find out. We may bet on the outcome, we may live on the outcome, we may even die a little on the outcome, but we don't know what it will be. We have to wait. Sort of like Christmas as a kid. Only better.

• By the way, if the Seahawks lose this afternoon, has this season been a success or a failure? Expectations have risen each week, with the Super Bowl becoming the be-all and end-all. So if they fall a game short, are you going to be upset? Or will a trip to the NFC Championship have been enough? Just wondering.

•••

• WSU: Even when Washington State was ahead midway through the first half yesterday at California, I bet you thought you knew what would happen, right? And you were correct my friend. The Cougars faded in the second half and lost to Cal, 76-55. Jacob Thorpe was in Berkeley and he filed this game story for the paper along with posting video interviews of coach Ken Bone and players D.J. Shelton and Royce Wooldridge following the loss. Jacob also put up the box score last night and added his morning post today. … We also found coverage of the game with a Cal twist this morning.

• Gonzaga: I tried to multi task yesterday, listening to the Cougar game while watching the Zags on TV. It didn't work out all that well. But I caught the gist of both. The Zags may have have able to put this one away in the first few minutes if Sam Dower Jr. had just finished his bunnies. But five early misses seemed to give Loyola-Marymount life and the Lions stayed close until the final few minutes in GU's 82-72 victory. Jim Meehan has the game story from the Westchester area of Los Angeles along with a blog post from last night and a day-after post later today. … Around the rest of the WCC, St. Mary's got past Pacific, 79-73 in a foul-marred game. … USF buried a last-second shot to get past USD, 64-62. … BYU's bench came through in a 91-81 win at Santa Clara. … Pepperdine bounced back with a 76-65 win over Portland.

• EWU: The Eagles struggled with their shooting again on the road, falling at Sacramento State 75-64. … Northern Arizona started hot and handled Portland State 88-67. … Weber State got past Southern Utah 65-59. … Montana lost at home to Northern Colorado, 84-73.

• Idaho: The Vandals finally earned a win in the Cowan Spectrum, getting past Cal State Bakersfield 64-61. Josh Wright was there and has this game story and a blog post. … The Idaho women stayed unbeaten in WAC play with a road win at Bakersfield.

• Whitworth: The Pirates had little trouble at Linfield, winning 83-59.

• Preps: It's simple. We can pass along roundups from girls and boys basketball games along with one from wrestling. As I said, simple.

• Chiefs: The Tri-City Americans finally figured out how to defeat the Chiefs in regulation Saturday night. The Americans won, 3-1 in Kennewick. … Everett got past Moose Jaw in a shootout, 4-3.

• Boxing: With the U.S. Championships this week, John Blanchette has another column in advance of the competition.

• Seahawks: After all the buildup we can just relax and watch the game, right? Ah, no. You have to slog through all these stories and blog posts first. I did. Well, most of them. I was so disappointed not to find a Percy Harvin story I quit reading. Kidding. … OK, there are a ton of matchup stories. Who is better? What team's defense is stronger? What should I look for? You know, those type of stories. … There are also a lot of rivalry-based stories. The ones that tell us these teams are so alike they don't like each other. And how the coaches are really competitive, which fuels their barely held in check animosity. And more, including security. … Speaking of CenturyLink, there are a lot of Bay Area stories that seem to indicate the noise level has gotten into the 49ers heads. But we'll see. … There are stories about keeping calm, stories about the players' feelings, stories about what to eat. Just plow through them all so when your daughter asks you a question in the second quarter – “daddy, why are we watching this stupid game?” – you have an intelligent answer. FYI, “because I want to” is not an intelligent answer.

• Mariners: Missed this the other day but when the M's signed John Buck they designated for assignment Carlos Peguero. I, for one, will be sad to see the big fella leave, though he's never really done much at the major league level. I just like to watch him hit, even when he struck out. … The M's also made some minor roster moves.

•••

• If anybody wonders why 49er fans and their Seahawk counterparts can't get along, I think I've found an answer. I gave one of the few San Francisco supporters around here I know a shout out in this column yesterday and he went on Twitter to say he was “called out.” Really? Heck, I admire someone who sticks up for their hometown team. Sure, I realize it isn't easy to be a fan in foreign territory but everyone isn't out to get you. Unless of course you are walking a dark part of the Valley Mall and hear footsteps. Then you should worry. Like yesterday, just kidding. I don't want anyone to feel they are being persecuted. Until later …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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