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‘98: The Year Ahead ‘98 Looks Great, Especially When Reality Is Tossed Aside

What if six years ago somebody told you that O.J. Simpson would be tried for murder, that Magic Johnson would turn up HIV positive and retire, that Northwestern, Oregon and Washington State would play in the Rose Bowl, that Toronto would have pro basketball and Morrisville, N.C., would be in the NHL?

What if somebody suggested that the Mariners would draw 3 million the same year that Mike Price would be coach of the year?

Yo, doof. HOW can you SAY that?

Well, you can. It’s sports. You used to throw out the records. Now you throw out the reality.

Our Cougars writer, Mike Sando, picked the Cougs to finish seventh. See why his point spreads are for recreational purposes only? What’s more recreational than watching an expert, climbing out on a limb?

There are lock-solid predictions out there. Mike Price will become the new head coach at Arizona. Or Notre Dame. USC?

Realizing that anything’s possible, here’s a stab at what you might see in the coming months.

JANUARY - Ryan Leaf triggers the Cougars to an upset win over Michigan, then turns pro after promising that in his heart Washington State will always be No. 1. He backs it up by changing his name to Tuffy, in honor of the late Tuffy Ellingsen, quarterback of the last Washington State team to play in the Rose Bowl.

The name change has a short-term negative effect, however, when the quarterback is inadvertently snubbed by pro scouts, who are quoted at the NFL Combine as saying, “Tuffy Leaf? Never heard of him.”

FEBRUARY - Spokane’s Chad Little, frustrated over the lack of restrictor plate technology in his Pontiacs, drives a souped-up John Deere tractor at the Daytona 500. He qualifies 26th, finishes 19th.

MARCH - Rick Rizzs has the happy totals right after Randy Johnson mows down the Indians in the Mariners spring training opener. The M’s re-sign Johnson after working out a revolutionary contract that ties the Big Unit’s salary increase to a statewide hotel/motel tax.

Although it was voted down overwhelmingly in Eastern Washington, the tax was approved in a special state election paid for by gajillionaire Juwan Howard, the basketball forward with the $105-million contract.

Howard tells reporters that he just couldn’t sit back and watch 3 million Mariners fans lose their Johnson.

APRIL - Tiger Woods announces plans to purchase Augusta National, where he’ll install lights for evening play open to the public following each round of the Masters. Woods also reveals the previously unthinkable. He and entertainer Bill Murray will buy Bushwood.

Buy Bushwood?

MAY - Eastern Washington University, flush with success over its ‘97 football team, upgrades Woodward Stadium by adding padded seats to stadium port-a-potties just in time for the Orland Killain lobster feed and spring game.

JUNE - Directors at Hoopfest, Spokane’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament, ignore their executive director and announce plans for unlimited expansion. They claim the anticipated overflow can be handled by putting courts along the John Wayne Trail, from the Idaho border through the Yakima Firing Center across the Cascades to North Bend.

JULY - The charitable trust that controls the Kansas City Royals sells the American League team to Bobby Brett, his brothers and their partners. Brett announces that his group won’t go crazy in the free-agent market but will go crazy over promotions. They start by introducing Hershey Human Bowling during rain delays. Fans are told they can redeem ticket stubs for free pizza anytime the Royals score seven or more runs in a homestand.

Brett turns over his Spokane sports empire to mascots Otto and Boomer, who sell the Shadow and show up at the Western Hockey League summer meetings in their costumes. Boomer votes no on Victoria re-joining the WHL by turning on the red light in his headgear. When he removes his horns for the invocation, Boomer turns out to be Todd Doolittle.

AUGUST - Brett brings the Memorial Cup to Kansas City.

SEPTEMBER - With Ryan (Tuffy) Leaf replacing Jim Harbaugh as the starter with the Indianapolis Colts, and Mike Price the new head coach at USC (Paul Hackett turned down the Trojans after initially accepting a job offer) after turning down offers from Arizona, Notre Dame and Grambling, Mike Sando picks the Cougars to finish seventh.

OCTOBER - Ten months after parting company with Gonzaga University, Dan Fitzgerald is invited back on campus. Fitzgerald tells Gonzaga that Washington State is absorbing the wrong school.

He promises to think about it if the GU president pledges his fair share to the United Way.

Fitzgerald steps out from under the Cone of Silence by commenting, “When they say they need two quarters to make a decision, watch it. Two quarters. Summer and Fall.”

NOVEMBER - A USA Today/CNN poll reveals that nearly a year after he popped his coach and sort of apologized, Latrell Sprewell has dropped out of the public eye. Pollsters offered the following multiple choices to the question, Who/What is Latrell Sprewell?

A. - WBC/IBF heavyweight champion?

B. - A trade name for feminine deodorant spray?

C. - A leading antiperspirant?

D. - A basketball player about to be sent to the Celtics, where he’ll be known as the Boston Strangler?

E. - Some of the above.

Responses were evenly divided.

DECEMBER - Tuffy Leaf takes the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC title game. Mike Price, interviewing for the Atlanta Falcons job, has no trouble getting an evening tee time at Augusta National from Tiger Woods. Bill Doba is coach of the year for leading WSU to its second straight Pac-10 co-championship. The Cougars accept a Fiesta Bowl bid when they lose the conference tie-breaker to USC, the school that has been away from the Rose Bowl the longest.

, DataTimes

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