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Wednesday, June 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: Many things have changed in the past 100 years, but the Kentucky Derby is still one of the biggest events in sports

Horses come off the track after an early-morning workout at Churchill Downs Friday, May 3, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
Horses come off the track after an early-morning workout at Churchill Downs Friday, May 3, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • If time travel really were possible, a sports fan who lived 100 years ago might find today’s sporting world awfully odd. Even if he or she were to land in Louisville, Kentucky this afternoon.

••••••••••

• The Kentucky Derby might seem familiar. The spires at Churchill Downs. The horses thundering around the track. The crowds. Today’s race is as exciting now as it was then.

It would seem comforting, until our time traveler realized this was about it for horse racing. After all, in their America, the sport of kings was really the king of sports. These days, not so much.

It shared the stage, sure, with baseball – about to have a huge scandal – and boxing, but that was about it. College football was the choice in the fall, but it was about the only college sport with any type of following. Tennis, golf, those were the sports of the rich. Other than baseball, there really wasn’t any professional team sports.

Boxing, baseball and horse racing. The triple crown of interest in 1919.

None are up there now. Maybe baseball, but an argument could be made professional baseball has fallen behind pro football, college football, college hoops and the NBA these days. The TV ratings tell us this. In 2018, the NFL dominated. Then came college football and the NBA. Fewer people watched the top-rated World Series game, according to SportsMediaWatch.com, in the U.S. than the World Cup Final.

Boxing? Almost dead. Horse racing? Other than today, when the Derby is destination viewing, the sport struggles to survive. As does its participants, at least at a few tracks.

Our visitor from 1919 could talk about the grace of Sir Barton, who won the Derby that year before going on to become the first horse win it, the Preakness and the Belmont, though it wouldn’t become known as the Triple Crown until The Depression.

But they would have little else to talk about.

Babe Ruth, maybe, then a pitcher/outfielder with the Red Sox. Or Jack Dempsey, then preparing to box Jess Willard for the heavyweight championship of the world. Or whether Notre Dame or Harvard was the best football team that season.

But the sporting world of today? It would have to astound them. You would wonder how the conversation would go.

“People care about soccer?”

“Yes they do.”

“Wow. Never would have thought that. Must be the Doughboys bringing it back from England. And they cheer for golfers?”

“Yep.”

“I thought everyone hated rich people. … OK. Let me get this one right. They don’t watch boxing anymore, because it is too violent, but they love something called MMA, which is even more violent?”

“Uh, yes, that’s true too.”

“This place is messed up. Can I go home now?”

•••

WSU: According to reports from San Francisco, the Cougars will be bringing in a guard from Australia who had signed a letter of intent with USF. Theo Lawson brings you up to speed on Ryan Rapp. … After their 7-2 home loss to Washington last night, the Cougar baseball team is 1-17-1 in Pac-12 play. That’s not good. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, did the conference go far enough with a 20-game basketball schedule? … A couple of football players were dismissed from the Arizona program. … A Colorado safety is finally settling into his role. … My friend Gary is an Arizona alum. He’s been urging me to slow down my calls for basketball coach Sean Miller to be replaced. Yesterday, he called my attention to this Sports Illustrated piece on the FBI probe, Miller and UA’s response. … The school acknowledged it is under NCAA investigation.

Gonzaga: It’s a big weekend for recruiting with the Zags and Jim Meehan talked with Larry Weir about it. Their conversation is part of our Press Box pod.

EWU: Ryan Collingwood takes some time today to introduce you to Eastern Washington’s most talented track athlete, long jumper Keshun McGee.

Preps: Central Valley won the boys and girls GSL track titles this season. The Bears finished up with wins yesterday. … Former Clarkston High golfer Joel Dahmen enjoys his profession. And has a balance between work and the rest of his life.

Mariners: The streaking M’s are streaking the wrong way, having lost their fifth consecutive game last night, 2-1 in Cleveland. … Gene Warnick has his view in the Out of Right Field summary.

Seahawks: Rookie minicamp began yesterday and the spotlight shined on a couple players. First-round pick L.J. Collier is being compared to a pretty good player while second-round choice D.K. Metcalf ran around like Hercules.

Sounders: Today’s match at the Minnesota United re-unites the Sounders with all-time franchise great Ozzie Alonso.

Bloomsday: There is a changing of the guard this year. This is the last race Don Kardong is in charge. Jon Neill will take over for the legend. Ryan introduces the new director in this story. … The elite runners are in town and some participated in the pre-race press conference yesterday. Libby Kamrowski has photographs.

•••       

• I understand there was an incredible NBA playoff game last night. Four overtimes or something. In Portland. Wish I could have stayed up to watch it. Until later …

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