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

Grip on Sports: It’s time for our annual gift-giving exercise

Seattle Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett (81) celebrates with a fan after he scored a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Merry Christmas Eve. Or, if I am talking with the woman who used to live down the street, Merry Christmas, Eve. We have presents to hand out. Really cool presents. Read on.


• My youngest son was once talking about Santa Claus and his existence when my elder son interjected, “there is only one fat guy in this house and he’s not jolly.” Yes, I raised a smart-aleck kid. But he wasn’t lying.

This not-so-jolly fat guy has a few gifts to hand out this Christmas Eve, not the least of which is one for all of you. We will take Christmas off. No Grip on Sports tomorrow. We will share the day with the family.

• The first gift goes to Seahawk fans. The new 12s and the old 12s alike. It’s a simple gift. The Hawks are going to play as well as they did yesterday from here on out.

It may not mean they win the Super Bowl. But if they play as they did yesterday in the postseason-clinching win against the Chiefs, they have a shot of a long playoff run. And that’s all you want, right?

No one knows how the ball will bounce. No one knows which team is the best in the NFC – New Orleans, probably, but it could be someone else. And no one knows which team will benefit from the inevitable odd flag or call.

But if the Hawks play at their best, as they did Sunday night, then they have a shot to win every game. And that’s a gift worth opening.

• A bowl win for Cougar fans.

All season long this Washington State team kept proving it was different than past Mike Leach-coached teams. Until the face plant in the snow on Apple Cup Friday. So this Friday night the Cougars have a chance to prove, again, that they are different.

It won’t be easy. Iowa State is not your quintessential Big 12 team. It can defend. And the Cyclones have played Air Raid teams before, so the defense is familiar with what’s needed to slow down Gardner Minshew and crew.

But it’s Christmas and Santa has run out of Crimson sweatshirts so, in lieu of an I.O.U., he’s handing out an Alamo Bowl victory.

• Deep into Santa’s bag of gifts is an upset. One that may marvel the gift he gave Mets fans back in 1969. It’s dusty, that’s for sure. And it can’t be opened here. Only in Frisco, Texas after the first of the year.

Yep, Santa is bringing Eastern Washington a win over the most-dominating FCS program of all time: North Dakota State.

I know a few Eagle fans. They have been especially good the past few months. Heck, one of them shoveled the sidewalk in front of my house yesterday. They deserve a special gift. Here it is. A one-point win in the FCS title game. That’s the best Santa can do.

• No, the guy in the red suit isn’t bringing Gonzaga an NCAA title this Christmas. That’s not when they are won. It’s up to the Easter Bunny to hand those gifts out.

But Santa can bring something almost as good: The gift of health.

A healthy Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall would go a long way in helping the Zags reach their ultimate goal.

Gonzaga has played well – 11-2 well – with those two key players out much of the nonconference season, but it’s time to begin preparing for March. An improved WCC will help in that regard. And the injuries have also helped, giving Filip Petrusev and Jeremy Jones a chance to play more and show what they can do. But now it’s time to start playing the folks who will be the keys in March and April.

• Finally, we are going to open a can of decent winter weather for everyone in the Inland Northwest. How does that work?

It includes massive amounts of snowfall in the mountains, leading to a great skiing season and a high water table next spring.

It includes an occasional snow in the valleys, just so those folks who like to play in it can be happy, but not so much that it makes getting to sporting events like high school wrestling matches or state basketball tournament games difficult.

There is enough snow to cover the growing plants in the Palouse, but not too much that spring comes late. There are a few days in January when the sun shine sparkles off a snow pack, giving the area the look of a diamond necklace and making all of us dream of spring (training).

When Groundhog Day comes, the clouds roll in and magically assure us of an early spring.

Seems about right, doesn’t it?


Gonzaga: The Christmas spirit is alive and well in the GU family, what with assistant coach Tommy Lloyd welcoming his international charges into his home for Christmas time. The Zags’ plans for the holidays is the subject of this Jim Meehan story. … Around the WCC, San Diego wasted an opportunity to win a holiday tournament.

WSU: The Cougars are getting ready for Iowa State in San Antonio. Theo Lawson will be there and he has this first look at the Cyclones. … The men’s basketball team fell to New Mexico State again, this time on a late 3-pointer. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, a chancellor with an English background will guide California academically and athletically in the future. The Bears are in good hands. … This is part of the reason why the conference isn’t better in the most-high-profile sports. … Utah has a receiver that has harnessed his speed. … Colorado couldn’t harness Hawaii and lost a second consecutive basketball game. … Arizona needed a last-second shot to seal some cracks in their game.

EWU: Around the Big Sky yesterday, Northern Colorado lost its fourth consecutive basketball game.

Preps: There is one local player on the News Tribune preseason all-state basketball teams.

Seahawks: The 38-31 home win over the Chiefs assured the Hawks of a playoff berth. The seed will be determined after next week’s games. Seattle hosts woeful Arizona. … The win over Kansas City is special but don’t forget the Chiefs under Andy Reid have had a tendency to fade as the season goes on. … It was near-perfect performance in many areas and the grades reflect that.


• The throw Russell Wilson made last night to Tyler Lockett was some 40 yards of perfection. Makes you wonder why the Hawks don’t do that more. … Have a great Christmas. We will be back Wednesday. Until later …