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Wednesday, August 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: A day with another WNBA title and another Mariner season of tilting at windmills

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, back left, Jewell Loyd, center, and Breanna Stewart (30) react during the first half of Game 3 of the WNBA basketball finals against the Washington Mystics, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in Fairfax, Va. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, back left, Jewell Loyd, center, and Breanna Stewart (30) react during the first half of Game 3 of the WNBA basketball finals against the Washington Mystics, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in Fairfax, Va. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Wednesday was about winning. And losing. And about the past and the future. Read on.


• The winning yesterday came from the most successful professional franchise in the Northwest these days, the Seattle Storm. They picked up their third WNBA title – all while Sue Bird has been with the team – with a 98-82 win over the host Washington Mystics.

The title joined those won by Bird and her teammates in 2004 and 2010. The supporting cast has been different – Australian Lauren Jackson was the inside presence then, MVP Breanna Stewart was this season – but Bird has been the constant. Her court presence and will to win gives the Storm an identity and purpose, even when things get tough.

That didn’t happen all that often last night, or in the series, but when they did, Bird made big play after big play. 

And Seattle has another title.

• The losing came from Safeco, as it often has this century. The M’s gave away another game to the San Diego Padres as the second-half slide reached some sort of nadir. At least the two-game sweep at home to the National League West’s last-place team killed all hope of making the playoffs.

The problem is, as the Times’ Larry Stone explains here, there is little hope for the future either. The second-half M’s are more than likely the team we will see in 2019 and beyond.

Ugh. The payroll is an issue, as expensive contracts for under-performers Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Juan Nicasio are still in play next season. Nelson Cruz is a free agent. A 38-year-old free agent whose bat cooled in the second half. Yes, there is a core, but the augmenting that core while it is still in Seattle may prove difficult for Jerry Dipoto.

Throw in the ascendance of Oakland – again – and the possible improvement of other American League teams who took this season to rebuild, and the future has a black lining. This year was an opportunity lost. It may have been the last for a while.

• Ryan Leaf holds a special place in the heart of Cougar fans. The quarterback that led them to the Rose Bowl for the first time in almost a century will never lose that spot.

Though he came close. Leaf’s troubles have been well documented. They have strained his connections with the area. And they just may be behind him, finally. 

He spoke with Theo Lawson this week about a wide range of subjects and Theo decided to present the responses in a question-and-answer form.

• America has always been the land of opportunity. Half of my family traveled here two generations ago, trying to find a life they couldn't have in Italy. They found it. And they passed on the opportunity to their offspring. What a gift.

Our Ryan Collingwood describes a similar journey and the same gift Batala Webster gave her family more than 20 years ago when she immigrated to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

It’s a football story, sure, as Ksimba and brother Nzuzi play for Eastern Washington. But it’s more than that. It is a story of hope, hard work and opportunity. It is, in a sense, a story of the foundations of this country.


WSU: There is the Leaf Q&A to pass along this morning as well as Theo’s Q&A with the readers. The transcript of his weekly chat, in which he is the one answering questions, is available. … I have a question. How can anyone pick Texas to beat USC? C’mon. … Theo drove up from Pullman yesterday to visit the Spokane Interstate Fair, which is not an unusual occurrence around these parts. He was, along with Sam Adams and Larry Weir, the one on display, though. They got together for the latest Press Box pod. … The Times has a Gardner Minshew piece. … I don’t know how I missed this, but Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop spent the weekend with the Hilinski family in Pullman. … UPDATE: This Daily Evergreen story about a WSU investigation into actions by Jason Gesser broke late, but we pass it on now.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, who is going to win this week? … Washington’s Jake Haener has already won. So has Ty Jones, who is making news all over. … Oregon State would like to raise its sack count. … There are some connections between Oregon and San Jose State. … Stanford just seems to churn out tight ends. … There is little to connect California and Idaho State. … Colorado is gaining confidence everywhere. … Utah isn’t as tough at home as one might think. … A freshman quarterback has to grow into the role, even for USC. … Is this the last chance for UCLA to pick up a win in Chip Kelly’s first season? … Arizona State is on the road at San Diego State. … Arizona’s 0-2 start is easily explained by the numbers. … In basketball news, Washington’s nonconference schedule is done.

Gonzaga: This year's unicorn, transfer-to-be Geno Crandall, told a podcast recently he will be enrolling at GU in a couple weeks. Jim Meehan explains the mechanics of how that might work in this story

EWU: With another matchup with Washington State looming, Ryan has his story about the Webster brothers. … An Eastern golfer was honored by the conference. … Around the Big Sky, Montana State coach Jeff Choate is recovering from emergency surgery. … There were some tough memories for Southern Utah last week. … Northern Arizona may have Case Cookus back this week. … Idaho State has another Pac-12 challenge ahead. … UC Davis may have received a bit of a break from Stanford. … It’s time for Portland State to start winning. … In basketball news, Southern Utah is rebuilding with transfers.

CCS: The volleyball and women’s soccer teams each picked up wins yesterday.

Preps: It was a quiet Wednesday in high school sports, but we do have roundups of soccer and cross country action.

Seahawks: You have questions? Here are some answers.

Mariners: Not only did the M’s lose last night, their last nine hitters all struck out. Nine. Wave the white flags. I have this vision of the team huddle breaking up with a “Cancun” cheer, as in where they will spend their offseason. … Yes, the Mariners are making us sick. James Paxton too. 


• My cat taught me a valuable life lesson this morning. The key to happiness is finding your place in the sun and lying in it as long as you can. Until later … 

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