COUGARS • UPDATED 11:30 A.M.
If you are a classic movie buff, and by that I don't mean you remember the original Friday the 13th, you might recall a scene in "The Birds" in which Tippi Hedren et al walk by a schoolyard. There are thousands of birds on the playground equipment, the fence, the power lines, everywhere. If you remember that scene, you understand the view out my front window today. We have a robin infestation. And as I watched all of them peck around the trees, fight over the little holes in the snow full of water and avoid the squirrel that's ticked off by their presence, I thought of the Pac-10's basketball standings. Read on.
UPDATE: Taylor Rochestie's career-best 33-point performance in Saturday's upset of UCLA earned him the Pac-10 player of the week award. ... Also, Marshall Lobbestael was cited by the Pullman police on Sunday as a minor exhibiting the signs of having consumed alcohol. We'll have a brief in tomorrow's paper. You can see the unedited version on the link.
• Crowded. No margin of error. Heels being nipped. That's what came to mind this morning while thinking of the top of the Pac-10's standings. Though Washington leads with an 11-4 record, and controls its destiny, this race can still become really interesting. WSU's win Saturday had a part in that, as has Oregon State's three-game winning streak. Last night's victory by Arizona State, the Sun Devils fourth consecutive win over their down-state rivals, played a part as well. There's a battle for the championship and there's a big battle for seeding among the lower echelon teams – darn, just saw a black cat with white socks sneak through the yard and hide in a bush; the birds have attracted a predator.
The stress those robins live with this time of year must be tremendous. And it's the same in the Pac-10, though nothing on the basketball court is life or death, it's just we make it seem like it sometimes. At USC, the stress seems to be bubbling to the surface, propelled by an ESPN report about schools hiring dads, then having their sons play sports for free – many schools give free tuition to the children of employees. As if this is something new. Folks, this has been going on since I was in high school, and that was a long time ago indeed. You can call it a loophole in the scholarship-limitation rules if you want, and more than likely the NCAA will close it now that ESPN has decided to make it an issue, but it's not all black and white. Some coaches and other college employees would just like their kids to stay close. But that might not be an option next year if the kids want to play sports. By the way, the cat trotted off, unable to surprise any unwary birds.
• A couple more items for this morning. Greg Hansen wrote an interesting column last night about the changing of the guard in Arizona and it brought up a question in my mind. Arizona State plays at UW Thursday. If the Sun Devils win, they've got a shot at the Pac-10 title. If they lose, the chances dim considerably. So who should a Cougar fan be rooting for: ASU, which then would come into Pullman on Saturday with a lot to play for, or UW, because a loss for the Sun Devils might be a psychological blow from which they won't recover? The wild card here is, as I understand it, WSU fans don't like the Huskies much and don't want to root for them no matter the circumstances. Just wondering. ... On last thing. The Trojans might be fighting among themselves, but they will have a new center next year, though his announcement of USC seemed a little over the top.
• Here's the unedited version of the Lobbestael brief ...
Washington State sophomore-to-be quarterback Marshall Lobbestael was arrested Sunday by the Pullman police department for being a minor exhibiting the signs of having consumed alcohol.
According to the police report on-line, Lobbestael, 19, was cited outside the Pullman police department at 1:24 a.m.
A WSU spokesman said Lobbestael, who is recovering from off-season knee surgery, has been suspended from team activities pending an investigation of the facts by the football staff.
• That's it. The suspension means he can still work out, still rehab. But he'll probably receive some sort of team discipline above and beyond whatever is faced with the citation.
• That's it for this morning. The cat is back, the bird are gone and the squirrel just took off over the top of the house. And some fog is rolling in, which seems appropriate. We'll be back if any news warrants. Until then …