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Walter: New job perfected, you can find me with the Eastern Washington Eagles in Reno

Nearly two weeks have passed since becoming The Spokesman-Review’s new sports editor, and I’ve already made a splash.

Missed deadlines? Check. Scheduling conflicts? Check. Some crafty budget work that kept three writers from getting paid last week? Check.

Obviously, I’ve mastered this gig. What better time to hit the road?

So on Thursday, I’m heading out for a little adventure. When I first started at The S-R in the late 1980s, then-Sports Editor Jeff Jordan embraced being part of the local sports scene, whether it was watching high school wrestling or … watching high school wrestling. He’d proudly proclaim he was “just trying to be visible!”

Seems reasonable to me.

As a guy who grew up in the Valley, and as a proud graduate of East Valley High School and Eastern Washington University, I’ve always had a strong appreciation for the home team. I hope to see them all.

However, the timing of this sporting adventure couldn’t be worse.

The Gonzaga men’s and women’s basketball teams are awaiting their NCAA assignments. The Washington State men just got bounced from the Pac-12 Tournament. We’re between winter and spring sports for high schools. And our Arena football team, the Spokane Empire, is in the midst of a 7,000-mile road trip.

I could crash one of the Spokane Chiefs games at the Arena on Friday or Saturday, which would be fun.

But I’m thinking I should check out something new. Something fresh.

Something like … the Eastern Washington basketball team at the Big Sky Tournament … with my brother, Jess … in Reno?

OK, so what I lack in imagination I apparently also lack in funds. That’s why Reno is so perfect:

I was able to pay for cheap flights with credit card miles. (Although I’m not sure how to pay off that credit card. Oh well, worries for another day.)

Jess sprung for our club-level room at the Whitney Peak Hotel. Cost: $120 a night. (Had it been my choice, I would have preferred The Sands Regency, which offers rooms for just $25 a day. $25 a day!)

And all it cost for our all-session passes to the tournament was my dignity, since we won them in an epic foul-shooting contest (and I do mean foul: I air-balled four straight) at an Eastern game last month.

So by the time you read this, we’ll be tucked into our Southwest Airlines middle seats on our way to Reno. When Jess and I made the 11-hour trip by car a year ago and ran out of things to talk about by Ritzville, we vowed to fly this year.

I know that by Vegas standards, Reno might seem sort of bottom-shelf. No Bobby Flay restaurants for me, I’ll be dining on a $2 chili dog at Cal-Neva casino. While Vegas has Bruno Mars in concert this weekend, Reno has something called Micro Championship Wrestling (I guess there’s a reason they call it the biggest little city in the world.)

But give me the nostalgia (and value) of $5 blackjack and a $9 prime rib buffet over slick, overbuilt Vegas any time. I like Big Sky basketball for the same reasons.

This year, Eastern finished second in the Sky, won 21 games and boasted the conference’s top player (Jacob Wiley). The Eagles are only three wins from going back to the Big Dance. Standing in their way are the league’s hottest team, Idaho, first-place North Dakota and perennial power Weber State. (I’m not sure if Montana is still attempting collegiate sports, but the Griz might be there, too.)

And I’ll be there to watch it all, and trying to be a little visible myself. As long as I don’t have to shoot free throws.

Please forward all complaints to former Sports Editor Joe Palmquist. For all other inquiries, contact Ralph Walter at (509) 459-5471.


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