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Cougars are facing an air-borne dilemma as opener looms

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Who would have thought the most important number associated with Washington State football right now would be 100. As in the air quality index and the line between healthy and unhealthy air. Read on.

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• I know, it seems kind of trivial to be talking about a college football game in this context when the catalyst for the poor air is wildfires throughout our state. After all, the only reason our breath is labored is because acres and acres of trees, brush and open range are burning. Not to mention homes threatened and lives endangered. I get the disconnect in importance. Still, it’s just another consequence of our awful fire season. As the smoke makes its way east from the central part of Washington, it fouls the air. If it gets too foul, it becomes dangerous. At lower levels, dangerous to only a certain segment of high-risk people. At higher levels, to everyone, especially those people who have to do strenuous activities, in this context football players. (As an aside, my father-in-law was an L.A. City firefighter his entire adult life. He was a firefighter before breathing apparatus and after, but knew he had inhaled crud year after year. He died way too young of a brain tumor. When he received the diagnosis, he felt the two were connected. Maybe, maybe not but just keep that in mind when saying your prayers for those out on the fire lines.) Which brings us to next Saturday. The Cougars are scheduled to host Portland State in the season opener. But what if the fires are still raging (and they very well could be)? And what if the air quality index is still above 100, which would make sitting in the stands at Martin Stadium a chore for some fans? Or it’s above 150, making the air unhealthy for the players? What do you do? Well, it would make playing the game problematic. Which is why the WSU athletic department is exploring its options. Is it possible to move the game away from the poor air? Possible, sure, but not likely. The Kibbie Dome, across the border in Idaho, holds about half what Martin Stadium does, which means there would be a lot of upset fans. And there is no other indoor facility on this side of the state. So can the Cougars and Vikings reschedule the game? Maybe, though their byes don’t match up, making an in-season weekend tough to find. So what to do? It’s solving these types of problems why athletic director Bill Moos earns such a nice salary. A decision may have to be made next week. So the WSU staff has to work on a solution this week, a solution, hopefully, that will never have to come into play. Maybe the fires will die down, the smoke will dissipate and we all can get on with our lives. That would be the Cougars’ – and everyone else in the state’s – first win of the season.

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• WSU: Jacob Thorpe covered this problem yesterday with a blog post and then a story in today’s paper. It’s a dilemma he’ll stay on top of. ... He also has some on-the-field news, including Connor Halliday’s attempt to latch on with the Kansas City Chiefs. Halliday has spent the past few weeks working on his game in Florida for just this opportunity. The football bug, seemingly, has bitten him again. ... Jacob also has his usual practice report, though players are now off-limits until post-game interviews (coaches are still available), as well as his position preview. Today he profiles the offensive line, WSU’s strongest group (a statement you can read two ways). Finally, Jacob has his morning post with Pac-12 links. ... Ted Miller has a nice piece today on the struggles facing USC coach Steve Sarkisian.

• EWU: As the Eagles move toward the season opener at Oregon, they know they will need to get more out of their running game this year. Jim Allen’s story today profiles the guys who will try to make that happen. ... Jim also has a blog post with Big Sky links.

• Whitworth: The Pirates were picked to finish fourth in the Northwest Conference in a poll of league coaches.

• Shock: What a great league. The AFL championship game will be played in Stockton, Calif. Wait, where? Yep, the San Jose team still can’t use its facility. The circus has priority.

• Preps: The Bellevue school district wants Bellevue High’s football program investigated by the state. And some people wonder why we need newspapers anymore.

• Indians: It was a bad three-game series in Eugene for the Indians. They lost all three and are pretty much out of the playoff hunt.

• Seahawks: Listened to Michael Bennett talk after practice yesterday and had one thought: His wife must have a thick skin. ... Is Kam Chancellor’s holdout just the price of success? Or could such things be avoided? ... Pete Carroll gave a vote of confidence to a couple players. Wonder if that is the kiss of death. ... The offensive lineman the Hawks were hoping to sign decided to head to Denver. Does it matter? The Hawks just have to find another defensive lineman to switch over.

• Mariners: OK, when the Mariners fell behind 5-0 last night, how many of you felt they could still win? Let’s have a show of hands. Anyone who raises their hand is lying or a true die-hard fan, and I’m not sure there are many of the latter left. Yet, the M’s did rally and defeat the A’s 6-5. Of course, this time of year, losing could be winning as it may earn you a better draft spot. ... Ketel Marte is learning every day. ... The bullpen’s ERA is certainly ugly. ... Jeremy Affeldt came back to our area on his off day so he could see his family and play with his sons. It’s a decision that may cost him much of the rest of the season.

• Sounders: Despite a Champions League match in Honduras tonight – a place that wasn’t all that easy to get to – the Sounders’ focus is still on a crucial MLS match with Portland this Sunday.

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• That’s it for today. Breathe easy my friends. 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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