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Wednesday, December 12, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Grip on Sports: It seems like a good day to cover mistakes and misses, crowds and the lack of crowds

Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew  puts a fake mustache on head coach Mike Leach as he is interviewed after the Cougars defeated  Colorado 31-7 on Nov. 10 in Boulder, Colo. (David Zalubowski / AP)
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew puts a fake mustache on head coach Mike Leach as he is interviewed after the Cougars defeated Colorado 31-7 on Nov. 10 in Boulder, Colo. (David Zalubowski / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There was a joke that has traveled around every newsroom from the beginning of time. As far as I know, it is still swirling around these days. It has to do with being in the communication business and not being able to communicate. It, like most newsroom jokes, wasn’t very funny. Read on.

••••••••••

• We are going to try to do a better job of communicating this morning. That’s our goal anyway. So that you, the reader of this most-everyday feature, understands where we stand.

• Yes, there was an egregious mistake on ESPN’s college football award show last night. When it came time to highlight Gardner Minshew and the special season he had in Pullman this year, the ESPN folks screwed up the Davey O’Brien Award graphic. Instead of Washington State Cougars, the nickname listed was … wait for it … Huskies.

Really, unknown person at ESPN? Of all the nicknames you could have picked to be wrong about, you picked that one?

Didn’t you know you would pull a Ralph and break the Internet?

Now that’s just wrong.

• Speaking of wrong, I thought I was clear in my disdain for Bill Walton’s work as a color analyst. Over the course of two TV Take columns (and in this space), I felt I pointed out enough of his odd comments and off-the-subject stories to let everyone know his act just doesn’t work for me.

But I guess not.

Yesterday I received two emails from folks who wanted to let me know they disagree with me. They hate Walton as a color commentator.

Wait, what? I thought I was clear about this. It’s not that I hate his work. That’s too strong a word. Dislike is better. The way he does his job takes away from the game itself way too often. It becomes about Bill Walton and not about the game. Small doses, fine. Minute after minute, possession after possession, when we miss action because of some off-the-wall story, that’s too much.

Bill Walton of a few years back, fine. Bill Walton these days. Too much.

Is that clear enough?

• Gonzaga signee Drew Timme was in the stands for the game, having made the trip from Texas. And Justin Reed talked with him for a story that appears in today’s S-R.

I’m not sure, but this might be a problem. When I was covering the Cougars a decade ago, a Spokane football player, who had already signed his letter of intent, like Timme, made the trip down for a spring scrimmage. I knew this player well, having been friends with his father for years.

So I talked with the player. Interviewed him, actually, and included his quotes in my story, mentioning he was watching the scrimmage. I figured he had already signed, was no longer a recruitable athlete and was fair game.

Turns out I was wrong. It was an NCAA violation. The school was held accountable for my story and had to self-report the rules breach. The punishment? The next year the media was not allowed on the sidelines for the spring game. All because I spoke with a kid I knew for years and quoted him in a story from the campus.

Makes me wonder if the rule is still in the NCAA rulebook.

• Our Theo Lawson tweeted out a picture of the Beasley stands the other night, which seems to be an odd sentence to write. But there was a reason for the picture.

There was an entire section in the arena’s lower bowl that was empty. Now that would be OK if Theo had taken the picture in the middle of practice or something, but he used his phone’s camera during the first half of Wednesday’s game with Idaho.

You know, the Battle of the Palouse. The second-best basketball rivalry the Cougars have these days, just behind the one with the school from across the mountains.

The place was nearly empty.

Now, sadly, that’s not unusual. Washington State basketball fans are notoriously fickle. There aren’t enough of them in the greater Pullman area to fill the big barn even when the Cougars are playing well. So it takes enticing Spokane Cougs to drive down if you want a decent crowd.

And that’s a rare occurrence. WSU has to be really special, NCAA-bound special, to get the Spokane folks to forsake their TV-room couches and easy chairs and make the trip down U.S. 195 midweek.

Sadly, that type of special only occurs in Pullman once every decade or so. Most years the Cougars labor in anonymity. In my Inland Northwest lifetime, which reaches back to the year after George Raveling left for Iowa, I can only remember a handful of seasons Washington State was good enough to entice Spokane fans to make the trip consistently.

That’s not good.

•••

Gonzaga: The Zags are good. Good and tired, maybe. Jim Meehan’s look back at the Washington squeaker dwells on the minutes the starters are playing, what with the bench thinned by injuries to Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall. The starters have been playing a lot. … Justin has the Timme story.

WSU: The Alamo Bowl is in the business of selling seats, filling up the Alamodome and making money. Along those lines, the organizers held a press conference yesterday to introduce the two coaches, Washington State’s Mike Leach and Iowa State Matt Campbell. Theo listened in and has this story on what they said. He also has a transcript of their comments. … Later that night, Minshew was in Atlanta for the awards ceremony basking in the news he and Leach also picked up major Pac-12 awards as decided by the West Coast media. Theo has that story as well. … The Cougar volleyball team will try to continue its NCAA postseason run with a win tonight at Stanford. Jim Meehan has a preview. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Jon Wilner pulled back the curtain a bit more on the debacle that is the conference office, examining emails sent after the Yahoo story on the USC game. That caused others to weigh in. … In basketball, Arizona trailed by double digits at home to Utah Valley but rallied in the second half. … Washington did learn some things against the Zags. … On the football field, the Huskies’ Ben Burr-Kirven is small in stature but big in results. … Oregon’s matchup with Michigan State should be hard-hitting. … Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson earned a freshman accolade. … Colorado introduced its new coach, Mel Tucker, to everyone yesterday. Like all coaches, he shared his blueprint for success. … California’s Justin Wilcox has experienced some success, so he now has a longer term on his contract. … UCLA’s Caleb Wilson is headed to the NFL.

EWU: The Eagles have a defensive back that plays with a weight on his back. Figuratively. Josh Lewis is still dealing with the loss of a close friend. Ryan Collingwood explains in this story. … Around the Big Sky, UC Davis knows it won’t be easy tomorrow in Cheney, but the Aggies feel they can turn around the recent loss here and move on in the FCS playoffs. … Weber State plays a Maine team that has many similarities. … In basketball, Portland State’s new arena is nice.

Idaho: Volleyball player Kelly Dopke earned another honor this week.

Preps: We can offer roundups from girls and boys basketball, gymnastics and wrestling from last night.

Seahawks: K.J. Wright has earned a prestigious award. … The Hawks have some interesting celebrations. … David Moore has been part of many of them.

Mariners: How much better is the M's farm system these days?

•••       

• Last night I discovered I’m not as old as I thought. Kim and I picked up some furniture we had purchased. It was loaded on the back of our pickup truck. On the way home, she texted one of our sons for help getting the piece out of the back. He was busy but would be over later. We didn’t wait. Long story short, we were able to wrestle the heavy box out of the back of the truck and into the garage, where it will sit for the next 11 months as we try to decide where it should go. Just like we used to do 30 years ago. Until later …


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