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Grip on Sports: Winning teams attract the most interesting ‘long-time’ fans

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Do you know somebody here in town that is all in with the University of Washington this year? That you didn’t know was a Husky fan until about halfway through the football season? Me too. And not just one. Wonder how they will handle tonight. Read on.

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• Over the past few years I rarely saw one of those big “W” sweatshirts around here. You know the ones I’m talking about, right, with the huge purple W ringed in gold? But about late-September they started to pop up all over town.

There are friends of mine who actually owned them and, despite the tag hanging off the back, “have for years.” Oh, really?

How come we didn’t see them in 2008 or 2011 or 2014?

Cough, “frontrunners,” cough.

Well those “lifetime” Husky fans will be tested tonight. Who do they root for, Washington, “their” school, or Gonzaga? You know, Spokane’s school. At least it is for those folks around here who either went there or have adopted them since 1999.

It’s that latter group, the group that has been with the Bulldogs through thick and thick, who might have their allegiance stressed when Gonzaga hosts Washington for the first time in about a decade tonight.

Some of them anyway.

It shocked me a bit this fall how many Gonzaga fans I knew also had ties to UW. And, for that matter, the Chicago Cubs and the Denver Broncos. It seems an odd combination, but who are we to judge?

After all, if someone wants to root for a winner, that’s their choice. Being a sports fan is hard. The ups are incredible. The downs are depressing. Too depressing for some.

My first encounter came as a youth with people in Los Angeles who rooted for the Yankees or the Celtics. This was back when the teams were the gold standards in professional sports.

“My dad grew up in Boston” or “my cousin is a Yankee season-ticket holder” were the most common reasons given but we all knew the truth.

Winning is fun.

Losing is a $@%&#.

So don’t be surprised if that Husky sweatshirt is hanging in the closet tonight. Vegas has the Bulldogs as a 16-point favorite, which is about as much of a lock as is on the board tonight. (The only bigger ones I could find were Louisville over Southern Illinois and Texas A&M over Denver.)

But it will be cold and snowy tomorrow. The basketball game will be over. The area’s eyes will be back to football. And that nearly new sweatshirt will be nice and clean. Ready to be worn until December 31. Then it will be time to break out the Gonzaga gear.

• I kid, in part. I do know a lot of folks who bleed purple and have bled a lot of it over football the last decade or so. If you are one of those, good for you. But even you must be amazed by the fellow travelers who have popped up the last few months.

I’m sure there is room on the bandwagon. There always is. But it must be hard to share space with all the new arrivals.

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WSU: The Cougars have a rivalry game of their own tonight when they host Idaho. It is actually the most-played rivalry basketball game west of the Mississippi. Jacob Thorpe has his advance, centered round the good deed Ernie Kent is doing in relation to the game. If I had an extra $2,100 I would have bid on the chance to sit on the Idaho bench. I would have set there with a rolled up program, smelling of cheap whiskey – I don’t drink it, but would have spilled it on my ratty coat for affect – and urged the Vandals to “run the picket fence.” And, then I would have reminded them not to get stuck watching the paint dry. … Mike Utley was officially inducted into the college football hall of fame yesterday.

Elsewhere in Pac-12 football, Oregon has decided on a coach. It’s South Florida’s Willie Taggart, a Jim Harbaugh disciple with a spread offense bent. The Bulls rank 10th in total offense among the 128 FBS schools but 120th in total defense. That latter number is just six spots ahead of Oregon. … Some of today’s stories were written before the Taggart news leaked this morning. … What bowl games will be the most fun to watch? … Colorado Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam was found dead in a Boulder park Monday. … In basketball around the conference, Utah found a way to get past Utah Valley, 87-80. … California got past Princeton in Hawaii. … Purdue routed Arizona State, 97-64, and Arizona homered the heck out of gallant UC Irvine, 79-57. … Speaking of ASU, it is dealing with a Valley upstart. … Oregon is getting better as the Ducks get healthier. … USC is helping to turn Los Angeles into a college basketball town.

Gonzaga: The matchup with Washington has some impressive roots. Former Spokesman-Review reporter Mike Schmeltzer digs deep into the series, all the way back to World War II. … Jim Meehan has a more contemporary look, with an advance, the key matchups and a look back at recent games. … John Blanchette knows the history well, having just missed out covering the team Schmeltzer wrote about. (I kid.) Anyhow, John has a column on the UW transfers who have had an impact at Gonzaga. … There is also deep coverage from the other side of the mountains, mainly focused on Nigel Williams-Goss. … Around the WCC, Saint Mary's is really good right now. … USF picked up a win last night against San Francisco State. … BYU faces Weber State tonight looking for its outside shots to fall.

EWU: Beau Baldwin talked about his job interview with Nevada, but, as Jim Allen points out in his story, the emphasis is still on Richmond, Saturday’s FCS playoff opponent.

Whitworth: The Pirates fell for their first time this season, losing 79-65 at Whitman.

Preps: Greg Lee was at the top matchup in the Greater Spokane League last night, watching as Gonzaga Prep's boys shut down Shadle Park, 53-38. … We can also pass along a GSL girls’ roundup and roundups of other girls and boys action.

Seahawks: The Hawks made it official yesterday, placing Earl Thomas on injured reserve and ending his season. … Thomas Rawls is trying to show he can stay healthy while running like Marshawn Lynch. Next, Rawls will have to narrate a wildlife video like Lynch. … Ricardo Lockette stirred up some folks yesterday. … What is Justin Britt's value?

Mariners: The M’s roster is almost set, though they still want to add another starting pitcher. … Some trades yield more than one player of consequence.

Sounders: With the MLS Cup on tap Saturday, it seemed like a good time to check in with former Sounders’ coach Sigi Schmid. … The Sounders are trying to emulate another former Seattle team that won a title. … Stefan Frei has played for two MLS teams. They are meeting for the championship.

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• We will be back later this evening with our TV Take from the Gonzaga game, which will air on ESPN2. And then, of course, we will be back here tomorrow morning. Until then …

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