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Sun., July 20, 2014, 8:09 a.m.

Man, the chase scenes were great


We're going to wander a little far afield from sports today, though there will be an auto racing connection to our musings. But, really, it's a tenuous connection at best. Read on.


• If you don't believe entertainment folks serve as role models, I will have to strenuously disagree with you. As evidence I present myself. And a man who died last night, James Garner. Now the "real" James Garner had little bearing on the person I became, though he was married to the same woman his entire adult life and held quiet, but deep, political views. And we both drove like, well, Southern Californians. There are some similarities there. But a TV character Garner portrayed in the 1970s, one James Rockford, probably formed my smart-ass personality more than anyone I ever met in the real world. I devoured "The Rockford Files." Watched each of the 122 episodes over and over and over again, until I could recite dialogue in my sleep. Garner's character, despite being an (pardoned) ex-con, had more ethics than Marshall Dillon, though they sometimes were bent and bruised. Rockford had more loyalty than Rin Tin Tin, even if it was tested time and again by his "friends." And he had more moves than his beloved Elgin Baylor or Wendell Tyler, getting out of jams with finesse and an occasional sore jaw. It was Jim Rockford who taught this guy how to talk his way out of a mess, like the time, in high school, someone mentioned how much they liked Jethro Tull and I said I liked him too. The laughter, which exploded when the other guy pointed out Tull, headlined by Ian Anderson, was a group, not a person, ended abruptly when I, going into my Rockford mode, begin asserting he was wrong, that Jethro Tull was the guy who founded the group years ago and Anderson just took over after his death. Being this was long before the Internet and smartphones, and I had learned from Rockford that selling a "story" was as important as the story itself, I pulled off the charade. As the years went by, Rockford became a touchstone for me. Early in my newspaper career, the reruns were on late at night, after I got off work. Such was the way I unwound. Then, later, after I became a dad, VHS tapes were all the rage. I recorded every Rockford File just so, when I was up late at night with one of the boys, I had something to watch other than infocommercials. In those days, I would usually gravitate to the episodes that featured Garner interacting with his TV father, Noah Beery, Jr. It seemed to resonate. As the years rolled by, the Files were always there, living on in re-run heaven to this day. My lifelong friend Kent and I still watch and text back and forth over episodes, sharing dialogue or just pointing out pieces of trivia (as in the little-known fact David Chase, he of "The Sopranos," cut his teeth as a writer and producer on "Rockford"). And Garner? He always seemed to play the same type of role, making it obvious there was a little Jim Rockford (or Bret Maverick) in his own personality. He went on to this or that after the Files ended, including appearing in two of my wife's favorite movies, "Victor, Victoria" and her No. 1 love story, "Murphy's Romance." Every once in a while, if I see the latter on sale in a bargain bin, I'll pick up the DVD, wrap it and give it to her as a present. In fact, if I see one on this trip, I'll sneak away and buy it. It will be just my way of saying goodbye to James Garner.


• WSU: The Cougars made a hire for their track and field coaching staff.

• EWU: Weber State's new football coach poached a trio of assistants from down state rival Southern Utah. That should make this season's matchup fun.

• Idaho: The Vandals are back in the Sun Belt Conference for this football season. Where will they finish? According to a preseason poll of the coaches, ninth. Josh Wright has all the particulars in this blog post.

• Indians: Everett rolled into Spokane last night and helped the Indians cure their recent woes – and get closer to clinching the first-half title. Spokane, behind Zach Cone's hitting, downed the AquaSox 12-3. Chris Derrick has a game story and a blog post from the victory. ... Everett is managed by former M's catcher Dave Valle (pictured), who is not only the subject of John Blanchette's column this morning but also one from the Everett Herald as well.

• Shock: Spokane's upcoming opponent in the AFL playoffs, San Jose, will travel to Philadelphia today to meet the Soul.

• Shadow: After yesterday's 11-0 rout of Seattle, all the Shadow has to do today to clinch Evergreen Premier League title is defeat Wenatchee at home.

• Golf: While Rory McIlroy is trying to hold on to the British Open title, local golfers will be trying to win the Rosauers Open. Different measures of prestige, sure, but no less competitive – or windy. Jim Meehan has the story from Saturday's round.

• Seahawks: With training camp beginning this week, Larry Stone looks at the Hawks' tough task ahead. It won't be easy to repeat. ... The Times also has things to look for during camp, a position-by-position analysis and another question to answer.

• Mariners: Another extra-inning game in Anaheim last night. Another 3-2 final. This time, though, the M's won in 12 innings. ... The winning runs came too late for Felix Hernandez, who once again gave up just one run in his starting stint. But so to did the Angels' Garrett Richards. ... James Paxton is feeling good as he makes his way back from injury. ... The trade rumors are still flying around David Price and others. ... John McGrath feels he has found the right-handed bat the M's need: Jesus Montero. ... Ryan Divish has his power rankings.

• Sounders: When CenturyLink is full and the soccer on the turf is wide-open, it makes for a fun afternoon. Such was the case yesterday when the Sounders and Tottenham played to a 3-3 tie in a friendly. ... The day opened up with a Make-A-Wish event that even made SportsCenter. ... The atmosphere in Seattle always seems to surprise, and impress, foreign soccer visitors. You would think it would be expected by now. ... The Sounders will have five representatives at the MLS All-Star game. ... Real Salt Lake and Vancouver tied yesterday.


• The auto racing connection for Garner? He loved Grand Prix racing, owned and raced cars and even made a movie about it. A long, slow, hard-to-watch movie. Sort of true to the sport. Goodbye James. Until later ... 

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

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