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A different sound last night

A GRIP ON SPORTS

There was something a bit different about Gonzaga's game against BYU on ESPN2 last night. I just couldn't put my finger on it. Well, honestly, yes I could. Read on.

••••••••••

• One of the first things I noticed when I turned the TV on was the announcing team: Beth Mowins (play-by-play) and Kara Lawson (color). Two former women's college basketball players announcing a men's college game. I was sure I had seen it before, but just couldn't remember where or when. Still, it got me to thinking. And the first question that came to mind was what would my dad have said? My father was from the generation that lived through The Depression (with a capital T), World War II, the Fifties, Camelot, the Great Society, Watergate ... well, you get the picture. He was a conservative Italian man with old school values. And he always felt his daughters never got the chances they deserved in sports. I came along last, when my dad was a bit older and quite a bit paunchier (the apple didn't fall far from the tree). But when he was young, my father was quite a striking figure and a great athlete. So when his first child came along, she may have been a girl but that didn't mean she wasn't going to be a player. A softball player, as that was the best opportunity back then. So Linda followed my dad footsteps as a pitcher. And she became a good to great one (at least according to my father; I wasn't around to verify it). These days there would be about 27 colleges slobbering over her, but back in the mid-1960s there wasn't a one. And that always ticked my dad off. Sure, Linda went to college, entered the workforce, got married, had a family. But she never had the athletic opportunities a man her age would have had. That bothered pops. But his second daughter's fate really bugged him. Margie was the athlete in the family. Of all of us, she was faster, stronger, just plain gifted. She could make a softball disappear over a fence faster than an X1 rocket plane. These days every Division I college in America would be slobbering over her because she had the size and skill to be an All-American. But strong, athletic, large women back then earned a label, one I won't dignify by using here. And having that label broke my sister's back. She divorced sports. Gave it up. Acted more "feminine." And I know that hurt my dad. Yes, by then I was around and he could channel his energy into molding my lesser talents. But I know Margie's situation hit hardest. Sure, she went to college, entered the workforce, got married, had a family. But she never had the athletic opportunities a man her age would have had. That bothered pops. This was America, after all. Everyone deserved an opportunity. He had watched Jackie Robinson play at Pasadena City College. He had marveled at his skill as a youngster and followed – and admired – his struggle to stardom. But women had yet to break through the barrier. They were still, athletically, second-class citizens. High schools didn't have the opportunities. College? Heck, the NCAA wouldn't even get its hands dirty with women's sports. When I brought my future wife home to meet the family and dad learned she played basketball at UC Irvine – and had lettered in five sports as a high school senior – that was the main subject of the conversation. How was she treated? Was her team treated the same as the men? Did people still whisper behind their backs? The changes that were overcoming sports in America surprised him. Just a few years earlier it seemed as if there were no open doors. But by the late 1970s, when I was in college, windows had been cracked and the doors were about to be unlocked. Change was coming. And, as I watched last night some 40 years later, I imagined my 88-year-old dad (if he were alive today) complaining about not being able to understand what those women announcers were saying. And I chuckled. Because I know the 40-year-old version of my father would have marveled at the change. The acceptance. And wished it had occurred earlier. For his daughters.

•••

• WSU: The Cougars return to the court this afternoon when they host reeling Oregon. Jacob Thorpe has an advance in today's paper along with more in this blog post from yesterday. He also has a blog post this morning with links. ... We found a couple of advances on the game from Oregon, most focusing on the Ducks' five-game losing streak. ... We are getting near the football signing day, so recruiting stories are big. Bud Withers has one in the Seattle Times. He also has a basketball blog post.

• Gonzaga: When the Bulldogs have three guards playing as well as David Stockton, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. did last night, they are tough to stop. And BYU, with its swiss cheese defense, didn't stand a chance in Gonzaga's 84-69 victory at the Kennel. Jim Meehan, John Blanchette and Dan Pelle were there with Jim supplying the game story and blog post, John a column and Dan the photographs. Jim will be back later today with a morning-after post. ... The Cougars' side of things is covered in these stories from Utah. ... A late officiating controversy may have decided Portland's 65-63 loss to USD. ... St. Mary's rolled Loyola-Marymount 89-61 in Moraga. ... USF hit to boards to dominate Santa Clara, 75-66. ... Pacific ran away from Pepperdine in the second half, winning 76-66. ... The Gonzaga women had no trouble in Malibu against the Waves, winning 69-39. And one of the Zags had her own personal rooting section.

• EWU: The Eagles were off Saturday night but Monday's opponent, Portland State, got past Southern Utah, 67-64. ... Weber State held off Montana 68-63. ... Northern Colorado seems to have emerged from its two-year funk.

• Whitworth: The Pirates hosted Lewis & Clark last night and Thomas Clouse was in the Fieldhouse. He has the game story from Whitworth's 81-65 victory.

• Chiefs: Spokane and Tri-City like to work overtime. At least against each other. Chris Derrick was in the Arena as the two played OT for the third time this season. He has a story and a blog post on the Chiefs' 2-1 shootout victory.

• Preps: It was a light Saturday with just boys and girls basketball roundups to pass along. ... The News Tribune and Times did their high school recruiting stories, with Tacoma having this piece on Shadle Park's Brett Rypien.

• Boxing: Jim Allen was at Northern Quest last night for the boxing and produced this outstanding story.

• Seahawks: What did we say when the week started? That the contrasting history of the two quarterbacks would make for a lot of pre-game fodder. That was a no-brainer actually and we were just the guy to point it out. Today there are a bunch of stories on the Hawks' wooing of Peyton Manning and his subsequent denial of those overtures. And we also have a story on Russell Wilson and baseball (pictured). ... The Hawks leave for the Big Apple today and there are stories about that as well. ... Not a lot of football stories, but we do have stories on sack dances, national perceptions, coaching successes, matchups, you know, all the usual pre-Super Bowl subjects. Wait, here's something a bit different. A story on Shaun Alexander's life after football. And the Hawks players talking about their last Super Bowl appearance. If they say it, it must be true.

• Sounders: Training camp opened in Tukwila yesterday (sounds exotic but it isn't) and there are a lot of stories about the new-look Sounders. Almost as many stories as you find about the Super Bowl. No, not that many. But a lot. Including a CenturyLink story.

•••

• A Sunday without football. What to do? Well, that's a stupid question. Basketball of course. There has to be some hoop somewhere. Oh ya, the Cougars. It starts at 4 p.m. and, if you don't want to make the trip to Pullman, is on the Pac-12 Network. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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