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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


If it happens anywhere in the world, there always seems to be some connection to this area

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We used to sit around the newsroom years ago and talk about the Spokane vortex, a made-up term to explain how so many world and national events had a connection to the medium-sized city on the river. It still exists. Read on.


• Late last evening my son texted me about something he discovered on the Net. It was a Facebook and Instagram post from Husain Abdullah, the former Washington State University and NFL safety. It concerned Muhammad Ali’s Jenazah service in Louisville, held yesterday. It seems Husain and his brother Hamza, both Cougar players back in the day, were asked to escort Ali’s body into the service. Husain was not going to available, as he was already in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage to Mecca. But Hamza, as the Associated Press picture accompanying this column shows, was able to serve. (If you don’t recognize him, he is second from the right, dressed all in white.) The Abdullah brothers were not only outstanding football players – Hamza played eight years in the NFL with Arizona, Denver and Cleveland while Husain played seven with Minnesota and Kansas City – but they also live their Muslim faith. In 2012, Husain took a year off from pro football while he and Hamza made the traditional Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, a cornerstone of their faith. They have been frank about their beliefs and what it means to them ever since, which explains the connection to Ali, who was quite possibly the most high-profile Muslim in America. Husain returned from the year off to play three more years in the NFL while Hamza’s playing days ended. They have been in and out of the news ever since, though no longer holding as high a profile as when they were in the NFL. Until yesterday.

• As we were writing the end of our post today, the news broke that Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, had died at 88. When he retired after a record 26 seasons and 1,767 NHL games, Howe was the leading scorer in the league’s history. His 801 goals still ranks second behind Wayne Gretzky. But he was more than just a scorer. He was the heart of four Detroit Stanley Cup championship teams, a scoring machine who was also tough enough to take care of himself back when hockey was an even more physical game. Though he’s been out of the public eye for years, Howe’s abilities should never be forgotten.


• WSU: The Warriors need Klay Thompson to get untracked in the NBA finals.

• Gonzaga: BYU is losing a guard with some pedigree. Jordan Chatman has graduated and said he is transferring, though he hasn’t decided where.

• EWU: New Southern Utah football coach Demario Warren has an interesting back story.

• Idaho: Speaking of transfers, backup quarterback Jake Luton is leaving Idaho, leaving the Vandals a bit thin at the position. Sean Kramer has more in this story.

• Preps: Former Mead High standout Baylee Mires will compete in the NCAA 800-meter finals today. ... The younger George Yarno is Sandpoint High's new football coach.

• Empire: There is still a lot on the line tonight when the Empire plays at Nebraska. Jim Meehan has an advance of the Intense Conference matchup.

• Mariners: It was the frustrating Mariners who showed up last night, beginning with starting pitcher Nate Karns, who couldn’t find the strike zone, and continuing throughout the game with the offense, which couldn’t get the game-breaking hit. It all added up to a 5-3 loss to Cleveland when Joaquin Benoit gave up three runs in the eighth inning. ... Yesterday was the first day of the baseball draft and the M’s selected outfielder Kyle Lewis, who many people believe was the best hitter available. ... Leonys Martin is still expected back tonight, though he didn’t play last night in Tacoma. 

• Seahawks: OTAs ended yesterday and a few veterans were excused and skipped them. Doug Baldwin didn’t. ... The last day included some light scrimmaging, which allowed some young players to stand out. ... Russell Wilson is doing just fine financially.

• Sounders: Roman Torres is healing up and is getting closer to returning.


• The San Jose Sharks stayed alive in the Stanley Cup finals last night, winning 4-2 in Pittsburgh and cutting the Penguins lead in the series to 3-2. Stay tuned. Game six is Sunday in California. Until later ...

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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