A GRIP ON SPORTS
There was a lot going on last night, ranging from college football to high school basketball. But weekends are made for pro football. At least the next few are. Read on.
• The NFL playoffs are special. Don't believe me? Just check out the television ratings. Nothing in the world of sports draws like professional football (and for you soccer fans ready to rave about the World Cup, re-read the first part of this sentence and see how I covered my tail two ways). And the NFL playoffs take it up to 11. Especially when the weather adds a level of intrigue. The cold in the Midwest is going to do just that, with a chance for an Ice Bowl II in Green Bay this weekend. Whenever the offensive and defensive lines face off against each other and steam is rising from their breath, that's football in our memory. See, we were alive – and interested – during the original Ice Bowl and, as a child of Southern California, had no idea what the players were going through. All we knew is our hero, Bart Starr, had scored and, thanks to the miracle of instant replay, a guard, Jerry Kramer had become a national star. (Hence the name of Kramer's book, "Instant Replay," which I probably read a dozen times before getting married – and zero times since.) I might have been playing Pop Warner then, but in my mind I was on that frozen tundra in Green Bay, trying to move Jethro Pugh out of the way. Memories like that stay with you a lifetime. Which makes me wonder if somewhere in Spokane there is a seven or eight-year old kid who will watch the game tomorrow and remember the day Aaron Rodgers blew on his hands, took a shotgun snap and threw a game-winning touchdown as time expired.
• Is that the scenario you want? Would you rather see San Francisco or Green Bay in Seattle next week? Or New Orleans, which controls its destiny? If the Saints win, they make a return trip to the Northwest, where they lost earlier this season. If they lose Saturday (fixed from earlier) to Philadelphia, then it will be the Packers or 49ers. I am torn. I think the Saints would be motivated, but have too many weaknesses to defeat the Hawks (though K.J. Wright, who did a great job covering Jimmy Graham in the regular season win, would not be ready to go next week.) But Green Bay is the weakest team, even with Rodgers back. I would rather hold off seeing the 49ers until the NFC championship game just because that seems more appropriate – though not playing them at all would also be fine with me. Well, we have no control over it so let's see how this weekend unfolds.
• WSU: The Cougars have an extra day this weekend to prepare for Arizona State, as the game isn't until Sunday. You think they did a few extra shooting drills yesterday? Jacob Thorpe is in Arizona and has a morning post with Pac-12 links along with a short story on a subject he covered on the blog Thursday. ... The WSU women (pictured) upset Arizona State at home last night and Thomas Clouse was there. He has this story.
• Gonzaga: The Gonzaga women traveled to Portland and completely shutdown the Pilots, especially in the second half. The 56-24 win set a Gonzaga record for fewest points allowed. ... The men will host Pacific tonight in the Kennel and Jim Meehan will be there. He has a short advance and also put up a day-after post concerning the St. Mary's win. ... The Gaels have moved down the river to Portland for a meeting with the Pilots today. ... USD has the toughest assignment, winning at BYU. Both are 0-2 in WCC play.
• EWU: The Eagles will try to shake off a tough loss at Weber State and get into the Big Sky win column when they face Idaho State today. ... The team that defeated Eastern in the FCS semifinals tries to ruin North Dakota State's perfect season in the title game today.
• Whitworth: The Pirates opened Northwest Conference play by shutting down Pacific, 65-52, on the road.
• Chiefs: Spokane played host to Victoria last night and came away with a 5-2 victory. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post on the win. ... Portland has lost three consecutive games including last night's 5-1 decision at Tri-City, which snapped an Americans' losing streak. ... Everett will be short-handed when it visits the Spokane Arena tonight.
• Preps: The Christmas break is over. Just about everyone was back in action last night. Greg Lee was out in the Valley last night to witness Lewis and Clark's 62-52 victory over Central Valley in girls action (pictured). So was Colin Mulvany, who added a photo story. ... We also can pass along a GSL boys roundup and roundups in girls and boys action from around the area.
• Seahawks: There is only one even that can knock Percy Harvin news to the back pages: A press availability for Marshawn Lynch. The usually silent running back spoke with the media yesterday, albeit only for a short while. Still, that's news. ... Lynch wasn't the only one to speak, of course. So did safety Earl Thomas and coach Pete Carroll. Carroll did address the Harvin situation though no one still knows if he'll play next week. Stay tuned for news on that front as well as all the injuries. ... Carroll also talked about the possibility of losing an assistant or two. ... The NFL handed out fines for the Rams game. ... The All-Pro team was announced yesterday and three Hawks were honored. Yes, only three. ... The punt coverage team didn't set a record, mainly because the Rams had as much yardage on one punt return last Sunday as the group gave up all season.
• I wish I could put my non-football-watching life on hold today, but I can't. So I will have to DVR games and catch up when things settle down. I will. And we'll talk about the results. Until later ...