A GRIP ON SPORTS
Isn't it just like Spokane? I commit to spending most of the next three days indoors at the State 2B basketball tournament and the weather turns nice. Highs in the high 40s and low 50s and sunshine, at least Friday and Saturday. The perfect time to step outside for a long walk after the interminable 30-degree days (and lower) of winter. But basketball is basketball. Read on.
• I don't know about you, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the state basketball tournaments. Eight teams, 16 teams, 32 teams. It doesn't matter. For years I spent the first week of March or so in Tacoma or Seattle, watching a friend's team – or watching with my friend – compete in the bigger school tournaments. Lately I've spent more time at the Bs in Spokane. Doesn't really matter. The games are filled with excitement, pageantry and, more than anything, sadness. And that's OK. It's a sadness that means something. It might be caused by a loss, the sudden end of what was a really successful season. The gold ball in sight, then nothing. It happens. But sadness isn't reserved for defeat. Even in victory, there is a touch of it underlying the joy. It happens. Saturday night, gold ball raised and you see it. A coach tearing up a bit, not just because a team has reached its goal but because the seniors, usually the key folks, have played their last game. The good times, the tough times, the laughs, the tears, the effort, the instruction, it all comes rushing back. And it's over. A senior looks at another senior and realizes they'll never share a ride to practice again. They won't be on the bus next to each other headed god-knows-where anymore. Ya, there are days left in their senior year but it won't be the same. The tie that really binds them, made up of equal parts sweat, desire and trust, is severed for good. And even in that moment of triumph, you can see the gloom, lurking under the water like something out of a Spielberg movie. But that's where it stays, drowned, appropriately, in a sea of happiness. The rest can wait. One night is reserved for the accomplishment, the name in the record books, the gold ball. The rest of it? That can wait for Sunday. When it's raining.
• WSU: The Cougars host USC tonight, trying to stay out of the Pac-12 cellar. The Trojans, of course, are like one of those stars in "This Is The End," reaching up from the hole to Hades, grabbing on and trying to pull WSU in with them. Jacob Thorpe will be there and he'll share all the exciting action with you. Being that today is Thursday, he has his usual weekend preview – with an out-of-the-ordinary two games – and his usual morning post. He also has a story on the Cougars' offensive woes. ... Over at ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog, they have a look at the linebacking corps around the conference (WSU is in pretty good shape) and an offseason spotlight focusing on WSU running back Theron West. ... You know that proposed 10-second slowdown rule? It's been tabled for this year. ... The Pac-12 women's basketball tournament begins today with the Cougars facing Oregon in what could be the most exciting game of the week. ... Yahoo.com has a good look at why Tony Bennett relented and became a basketball coach.
• Gonzaga: The WCC tournament gets underway today with the lower seeded teams in action. Still, Jim Meehan is in Las Vegas for fun, no, wait, that's not right, for work, and he has an advance of the men's tournament and the women's. He also has his weekend preview. ... Though people are talking tough, the Zags are still the favorites in both tournaments. ... Portland's men open up with Loyola Marymount while BYU will put its trust in Tyler Haws. San Diego has its sparkplug as well. ... Many of the Bay Area schools begin action today.
• EWU: The Big Sky tournament is in the Eagles grasp. And, as Jim Allen's story shows, they are confident they can grab it. Eastern hosts Idaho State tonight in a must-win game and then Weber State on Saturday in a probably-must-win game. Jim has all the particulars in his weekend preview.
• Preps: OK, so the state tournaments begin today in Washington. Greg Lee and others combined to put together feature advances on the 4A boys and girls, 3A boys and girls, 2A boys and girls, 2B boys and girls and 1B boys and girls (pictured). ... John Blanchette has a column on the genealogy inherent in the 2B this year. ... And Greg has an advance of the Idaho 5A boys tournament.
• Mariners: It's funny. The only Big Three pitcher healthy right now is James Paxton. Taijuan Walker is dealing with a shoulder problem and Danny Hultzen's bum shoulder means he'll start the year at Triple-A. ... The bullpen should be deeper this year thanks to a bit of money being spent. ... Abraham Almonte has a chance. ... The M's lost to Cleveland even though Paxton had a strong outing. ... You had questions, the New Tribune's Bob Dutton had answers.
• Sounders: The Mariners may no longer have a Pineda on their roster, but the Sounders do now. ... The U.S. was basically impotent against the Ukraine and that was with Clint Dempsey playing the entire game. ... Brad Evans thinks a good start to the season is imperative.
• The sun is shining. The temperature is in the 40s and I'm headed inside later today. Great timing. I'll be back here tomorrow. Until then ...