Arrow-right Camera


Jim Kershner: Zags’ ‘home game’ a matter of relativity

Sat., March 19, 2011

You know how Einstein showed that time is relative? Well, distances are relative, too, and by that I mean 100 miles just seems shorter for people who live in Spokane and the West.

Case in point: During the Gonzaga Bulldogs NCAA basketball telecast Thursday night, the announcers said, “This is practically a home game for Gonzaga.”

This game was being played in Denver, which is 830 miles away as the crow flies.

830 miles? Would they have called it a “home game” if the school was from, let’s say, Springfield, Ill.? Or Madison, Wis.?

Of course not. That would have sounded silly. But Madison, Wis., is the same distance from Denver as is Spokane, and Springfield, Ill., is even closer.

Yet here’s the bizarre thing: These announcers were right. Denver is close to us, relatively. The arena in Denver was jammed with Gonzaga fans, because Spokane residents hardly consider 830 miles a “trip” at all.

This is all explained by my well-documented Theory of Western Distance Relativity, for which – and I hate to brag – I won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983. A lifetime of living in Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington has taught me that 830 miles is a short hop.

This was all on my mind this week because we just returned from a week on the Gulf Coast of Florida. During one leg of the flight, we had to fly from Chicago to Nashville. I couldn’t believe how brief the flight was.

Now, I consider Chicago and Nashville to be just about as far apart as two cities can be. One is in the North, one is in the South. One is the capital of the Midwest; one is the capital of Country Music. Yet they are actually only about 20 miles farther from each other than Spokane is from Eugene, Ore.

Meanwhile, if you really want to understand the Theory of Western Distance Relativity, you have to look at the East Coast.

Let’s agree that 830 miles constitutes a virtual “home game.” Here is what would be considered home games on the East Coast:

• Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., playing in Tampa, Fla.

• Duke University in North Carolina playing in Bangor, Maine.

• St. John’s University of New York playing somewhere in the middle of Hudson’s Bay.

Well, you get the idea. 830 miles gets you a lot farther on the East Coast than it does here.

We Westerners like to revel in our ability to cover distance – heck, I just drove almost 600 miles round trip just to catch a plane – but it comes with one serious problem, getting serious-er, you might say, by the day.

Fuel price hikes have an inordinate effect on us. It takes us more gas and more jet fuel to get to any place that might conceivably be termed a “place.” Everybody in the U.S. is shedding tears at those signs that say “$3.55 per gallon” and “$3.75 per gallon,” but those of us who live under the iron laws of Western Distance Relativity have extra reason to weep.

I hate to break the news, but that jaunt to Denver isn’t actually an 830-mile trip. Assuming that you want to drive on paved roads and that you actually want to return to Spokane, it’s a 2,184 mile round trip.

Some home game.

Click here to comment on this story »