November 10, 2013 in Sports

Enjoy optimism while it lasts

A Grip On Sports
 
Associated Press photo

Thursday was a good day for the M’s as GM Jack Zduriencik, left, welcomed Lloyd McClendon.
(Full-size photo)

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Vince Grippi has an opinion about everything local, especially sports. Every Sunday we provide samples of his daily riffs. Read him daily at spokesman.com/sportslink.

Friday: You know it’s not a good day in regional sports when you have to rely on the Mariners to bring you a dose of optimism.

•Let’s just review what happened yesterday around here. Stanford hammered Oregon and the term “literally” almost applies.

I swear I saw a couple of Cardinal offensive linemen pull sledgehammers out of their jerseys. How else can you explain the holes they opened in the Oregon front play after play? Now it doesn’t look as if a Pac-12 school will win a national title – again.

The Sounders are hammered in Portland and the term “literally” almost applies. I swear some of the Seattle players must have over-imbibed in the first half. How else can you explain such an embarrassing effort when the MLS playoff series was still in doubt?

And the Mariners introduced their new manager – or as Art Thiel dubbed him, their newest scapegoat. Lloyd McClendon said all the right things, came off with the right level of humor and gravitas and won the press conference – something general managers love. But can he win on the field with the team Seattle has?

Who cares?

Right now, today, Nov. 8, it’s all about optimism and hope. The new guy is here to save the day. I’m surprised he wasn’t  wearing a white hat, a string tie and strumming on a guitar. After watching highlights of McClendon’s press conference I am all fired up for spring training. Who cares if the M’s don’t have any consistent hitters, lack speed and need middle relief? It’s Lloyd’s time and we’re all supposed to buy in.

Our optimism won’t be hammered down until, I don’t know, June or July.

Thursday: There is one change going on in college basketball that seems to be causing coaches to tear out their already thinning hair: The new hand-check rules.

Or should I say the old hand-check rules.

See, the NCAA has codified in the rulebook something that was understood back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. You touch the offensive player as he or she is dribbling and it’s a foul. The idea is to encourage freedom of movement. I like to think of it as the “move-your-feet” rule.

There was a time when defense was all about beating your opponent to a spot, not trying to stop him or her from getting there by grabbing, arm-barring or riding.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll return to that some day. But until then, don’t expect college basketball games to fit in a nice compact two-hour window. Games should take a bit longer, especially at first when more  whistles will be blown.

After that, either the players will adjust or the officials will stop calling it so tight. I’m rooting for the former. I would like to see scoring improve. I would like to see an emphasis on defensive quickness over strength.

Tuesday: Last night I turned on the Monday Night Football game. Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers. Two of the NFL’s best franchises. Two of the NFL’s high profile quarterbacks … what, wait? Josh McCown and Seneca Wallace? 

Yep, those were the two guys under center when I picked up the game. No Jay Cutler for the Bears – he was on the sidelines injured. No Aaron Rodgers for the Packers – he was on the sidelines injured, joining a long list of quarterbacks and receivers and players at every position injured. But you expect injuries in football. What you don’t expect is coaches falling to the turf at halftime, stricken by a TIA (a stroke-like condition) in the middle of the game. That’s what hit Texans’ coach Gary Kubiak on Sunday.

Or coaches in the hospital following a heart procedure, as is the case with Denver’s John Fox. The sad thing is, though, the injuries, the coaches going down, those things are not the worst news the NFL is dealing with.

Nope, that’s coming out of  Miami where former Stanford star tackle Jonathan Martin left the team recently. It’s been revealed he was basically forced out by the actions of a “teammate,” Richie Incognito, who, I’m sure, wishes he was really incognito right now.

This story of  bullyingabuse, racial epithets, sick humor and just plain inconceivable behavior is spilling all over the  national media. And making a mockery of the old saying any publicity is good publicity. This story is giving the league – already dealing with former player suicides, current player concussions, assorted other major injuries and outdated nicknames – a black eye. As if that was possible anymore.

The game is exciting. The management and peripheral actions? Not so much.

Monday: Have to say it. Sorry. Mea culpa. Apologies. However you want to hear it. When we compared the Seahawks to a rollercoaster last week, we were wrong. Nope, a rollercoaster is too safe. It’s more like a guy on a high wire between two skyscrapers, without a net. Sooner or later he’s going to fall off. And it isn’t going to be pretty. 


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