A GRIP ON SPORTS
If I had any culinary skills outside the barbecue, I would make waffles this morning. Smother them in butter and syrup and then eat them with gusto. I guess it would be my patriotic duty. Read on.
• I'm talking about the U.S. World Cup match this afternoon with Belgium, of course, another of those supposed watershed moments in our nation's soccer history. Win and World Cup fever – along with its ancillary benefits for the sport – continue for another week. Lose and the fever breaks, leaving soccer fans to sweat alone for the next four years. At least that's the way the mainstream, elitist media sees it. (I hate those guys.) Take this recent story from the Seattle Times. Within the piece are some television viewing statistics, used to illustrate how far soccer in this country has to go to join baseball, basketball and, ahem, hockey in the sport hierarchy below all-dominating football. The World Cup numbers, ratings and eyeballs that rank above recent figures for championship events in those three sports, are cited as an anomaly. OK. After all, the argument goes, the MLS numbers are dropping on ESPN and are below even those of the WNBA. Now that's the mainstream sports fan's kiss of death. In 2013, ESPN and NBC had some 332,000 viewers for an average telecast, dwarfed by the 532,000 who watched the NHL on average each week. But there's a problem with those figures. The MLS isn't the premier soccer league in the world as the NHL is in hockey. The English Premier League holds that honor and a couple of paragraphs below, the story says, “American TV ratings for English Premier League games still outpace MLS.” If that's the case, and more than 332,000 watch EPL games on average, then the combined numbers are well above the NHL's. I understand there is some overlap in the viewership but, talking with a lot of younger soccer fans around here, I get the impression it's not as great as one might think. And sure, in the Northeast corridor, where all the media buying power in this country exists, hockey is still a viable, dominant sport. And soccer isn't in that category. But in the Southwest, the Midwest and especially the West Coast, soccer has blossomed, not just in participation but as a spectator sport as well. And it's only going to grow. The story cites various statistics that show soccer is more popular among the young than it has ever been. It is also popular in countries south of us and, as the demographics of the nation change, that popularity is moving north. So no matter what happens today, whether the U.S. moves on or is knocked out of the World Cup, an evolutionary change has occurred. By the time the World Cup returns, soccer will have established itself as a spectator sport in this country. Not a sport that needs patriotism to excite the populous, but a sport that a good percentage of your younger neighbors, friends and relatives enjoy watching on a summer's day.
• WSU: Football is still the once and future king, however, among American sports fans and that won't change anytime soon. Here it is July 1 and Jacob Thorpe has a couple of blog posts on Cougar football. I bet they are among the most read pieces on our website. He has a post on a new defensive back commit and another looking ahead to this fall's Utah game. … ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog looks at the conference's tight ends, something that isn't of much use for Cougar fans.
• Gonzaga: Courtney Vandersloot will miss much of the rest of the WNBA regular season after injuring her knee last night. … Former Zag guard Maiki Viela will finish her college career at Moorhead State in Kentucky.
• Indians: After the first game of last night's doubleheader in Eugene, the Spokane Indians had done something they hadn't done all season: lost two consecutive games. But they bounced back with a 10-0 win in the nightcap.
• Preps: You know it's summer around here when the American Legion Wood Bat Classic pops up. Of course it corresponds to July 4th, so there is that. Greg Lee has more in his weekly youth sports notebook. … The Times also sent a reporter to Wellpinit after the paper's decision to not use the Redskins nickname anymore.
• Mariners: The big news before the game was the return of phenom Taijuan Walker (pictured). The big right-handed starter did not disappoint. He went six innings and was dominate in the last four of those. But he didn't need to be. The M's bats were smoking in their 10-4 win at Houston, pushing them a season-high seven games over .500. … Everyone was hot except reigning American League player of the week Kyle Seager, who chased high fastballs to no avail all night. … John McGrath, who is even older than me, thinks Felix Hernandez is pitching as well as anyone in his memory. I agree. I even compared him yesterday on the radio to my gold standard, Sandy Koufax, and had a long defense of that argument that I won't go into here. But may some day in the future.
• Sounders: DeAndre Yedlin took a little time out from his preparation for Belgium to talk with the Seattle media yesterday. Players like the 20-year-old Yedlin, a Seattle-area product, are part of the reason why soccer is on the upswing here. … If you do watch today's match with the Red Devils – I don't know why that is Belgium's nickname, but I'll go with it – here are some things to look for. I also pass along a couple of stories from the Los Angeles Times, mainly because the writer is an old friend and co-worker at two different newspapers.
• That's it for today. My morning is booked with chores but my afternoon is free. Except for watching the match. Retirement does have its perks. Until later …