A GRIP ON SPORTS
Every time I read a story on the roots of Hoopfest, I get a warm feeling. It is nice to know you were at the beginning of something. A trailblazer if you will. Or one of the original speed bumps, depending on how you look at it. Read on.
• Sports Illustrated has a story on Hoopfest's 25th edition and the event's history. There are a couple of mistakes, like saying the first year it was held in a parking lot. Ah, no. I played with my best friend, Steve Larson, and a couple of other guys (which is basically what Steve and I did for the next 11 or so years) and we played on a street, Wall, I believe. For a few years I played on a couple teams, throwing a year or three of play in the now-defunct media bracket into the mix while also teaming with Steve. As the years went by that was tougher and tougher to do – I was already in my 30s when Hoopfest began, so I wasn't a young pup who could run all day – so I throttled back, finally giving it up all together early in this century. I do have my 10-year shirt, the one given to those of us who played in the first 10 Hoopfests, and I have kept all the player shirts I earned, though some of them are pretty darn old and ratty – and the first ones don't come anywhere near fitting anymore (I guess shirt sizes have grown in the 21st Century). My memories of Hoopfest have grown old and ratty as well. But most still bring a smile to my face. Even the two consecutive years our son Jack wandered away – I must admit, a real common occurrence – and we were paged over the loudspeaker system. Great parents we were. Steve and I never seemed to win very often – the first seven years, I believe, we never had a Sunday game – but there was the one year when we were just bad enough to get into the consolation bracket – and win it. That shirt still holds a place of honor. Some players we were. That might also have been the year I saved my boss' life in a media division game when I jumped on the back of a guy who was about to deck him with a solid right. The bodybuilder shrugged me off like a gnat and I experienced the feeling of flying for the first time ever playing hoops. Some sportsman I was. I remember trying to play in the family division, an experience right out of August, Osage County. But I also remember watching my son Tyler and his friends win their division. It is the smiles I remember the most from that year. There was the year I drew up a play – yes, a play – at the end of a media game and Dave Trimmer nailed a game-winning 2-pointer. We ran it perfectly. And there was the time when I was at the free-throw line with a chance to win another media-division game. One of the opponents tried to talk trash, saying something about pressure and if I missed, we would lose. I started laughing. Pressure? It was Hoopfest for god's sake. I hit the free throw. But I guess my favorite memory from Hoopfest came the last year I played. It was 2006 and I was in my late-40s. I had no plans to play. But my friend Tom Engdahl – a high-volume shooter before the term became popular – called me just a few days before and said one of his teammates had dropped out and they needed a fourth guy. Could I fill in? As long as I didn't have to play much, I answered. No problem, Tom said, the three of us are just looking for a break every once in a while. OK, I'm in. Tom's friends included a former Notre Dame football player who was the fittest 50-year-old I ever met and another guy who was built more like me, but obviously not as much of slug as myself. Cool. I could watch and occasionally step into the street. Heck, I might not even break a sweat. Good plan. Our first game was a good game, tight all the way. But not as tight as the third guy's Achilles tendon, which decided to snap as the game wound down. I finished that game and contributed to our defeat. And the team was down to three players, one of them me. Really? No problem, I thought. Any team counting on me to contribute won't last long. Expect Tom can shoot – did I mention he is a high-volume shooter? – and his fit buddy was as good a player as the division had. We won our next game. And the next. By then I was down to rebounding, guarding a post guy – read, leaning on a post guy – and setting screens. We won again. And again. My screens were now being set in the shade of the nearest tree. I tried to guard that tree as well, hoping it wouldn't go by me. We won again. Next thing you know, we've come all the way through the losers' bracket – somewhere in there Saturday turned to Sunday but I don't remember it happening – and we were stuck facing the team we played in the first game, this time for the championship. They were better than us, but we had the best player. He willed us to victory in the first game. And that's when even he and Tom hit the wall. No, not me. They didn't hit me. I had been doing an imitation of a 5-foot-10-inch brick wall for six games and they had avoided me for the most part. I tried to rally and carry us to victory in the final game but it was to no avail. We lost. For some reason I didn't care much. The weekend was over. That's all that mattered. However, among my many Hoopfest T-shirts is one for second place. I hope it never wears out. I earned it.
• Shock: The last time the Shock made the trip to Anaheim to face the L.A. Kiss, their season was ruined. Let's hope nothing like that happens tonight. Jim Meehan has an advance of tonight's game.
• Ironman: Jim also has an advance of tomorrow's race in Coeur d'Alene.
• Golf: And Jim, pulling triple duty, has his weekly golf column.
• Seahawks: Is Brandon Mebane the NFL's most underrated player?
• Mariners: Even if you expected the Mariners to win last night, I'm not sure you could have expected how they won. They margin of victory: An Endy Chavez home run. Yep, they are living right. ... Michael Saunders came back from the disabled list – Jesus Montero was sent back to Tacoma – and had a couple hits.
• Sounders: It's back to the MLS grind for Seattle and the Sounders do it this evening in D.C., where former teammate Eddie Johnson awaits. ... There is a changing of the guard coming in Sounders coverage.
• We're headed downtown to watch some Hoopfest today. When you have coached basketball in Spokane as long as I have, there are a lot of courts to visit. Always like to check in with your former players. Until later ...