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Doug Clark: Insanely talented Zags team has turned me into a believer

Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

As all of Spokanedom knows, the Gonzaga University men’s basketball team plays the Syracuse Orange Friday in Chicago.

What isn’t known until now is that so much more is riding on this encounter than just the rare opportunity for our Zags to move again into the rarefied air of the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight.

See, this isn’t just about Wiltjer and Sabonis and McClellan and Perkins and …

This is about payback for yours truly. This is about a chance for me to get back at my old pal and nemesis, Jeff Kramer.

The Zags win and Kramer, who writes a great column for the Syracuse New Times, has agreed to the following terms of self-abuse:

He’ll paint his face Gonzaga blue-and-white and don a fake mullet. Then he’ll wander the grounds of Syracuse University while yelling the words that are emblazoned on the sign he’s holding.

“Gonzaga rules!!”

“Gonzaga rules!!”

Odds are he’ll be clubbed into a gelatinous puddle in under an hour.

And then there’s the unthinkable flipside to this slice of March Madness.

Should the Orange win …

I’ll explain the hideous fate that awaits me in a second. First, let me tell you why I made such a potentially humiliating wager.

My main motivation is that I’ve become a believer.

I positively love how this GU team has overcome its earlier self-doubts and inabilities to close the deal. This insanely talented team is peaking at exactly the right moment.

Gonzaga’s annihilation of Utah last Saturday was one of the finest games I’ve watched in years.

There’s no reason why the Zags can’t do it again.

Revenge is the second force that fuels me.

I have never forgiven Kramer for what happened years ago when he called me one Friday morning and talked me into flying to Seattle to watch the Mariners play the Angels on Saturday.

Now I’ve never been one to pay much attention to the Mariners. And this happened back when money was tight. But it sounded like fun so I pulled out my credit card, bought an overpriced plane ticket and flew west to Kramer’s hometown after work.

Kramer, a diehard Mariners fan, is a huge and hilarious lug.

We met in the early 1980s. Straight out of college, he worked as a freelancer when I mismanaged The Spokesman-Review’s Coeur d’Alene Bureau for a year.

Kramer impressed me immediately, and not only because his rumpled countenance and goofball ways belied his intellect and natural ability to write and report.

He also had a wolfish appetite that led him to set the rib-eating record one night in a local restaurant.

Not known for fastidiousness, Kramer left the table so slathered with barbecue sauce that he looked like he’d just finished the day shift in a slaughterhouse.

But back to the ball game.

On game day we got a ride to downtown Seattle. After consuming a dinner for eight in a Chinese restaurant, we shambled several blocks to an intersection that overlooked the old Kingdome parking lot.

The empty Kingdome parking lot.

Kramer began slowly convulsing with laughter until it reached the point where he suddenly collapsed onto the spittle-and-bacteria ridden Seattle sidewalk.

And there he remained, flat on his back, shaking and quaking like 2 tons of fresh Jell-O – while the terrible truth overtook me.

Kramer hadn’t bothered to check the baseball schedule. Yes, the Mariners were playing the Angels – but in California.

I hovered over Kramer and started screaming while terrified pedestrians gave us a wide berth as they walked softly around us.

“YOU IMBECILE!!” I hollered, my arms flailing. “I flew here – FOR NOTHINNNNGGG!!!”

So you can see what this basketball game means.

Should the unthinkable happen and Gonzaga lose? Kramer demands that I dress up in the garish garb that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim used to sport back in the 1970s.

He wants me to paint my face in the school’s colors, which – sadly for me – are shock orange with dark blue trim.

And, yes, I’ll prepare a similar sign to hold while I traipse around the Gonzaga University campus yelling, “Syracuse rules!”

For the love of all that is pure and holy, this cannot be.

Go Zags.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at