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Thursday, August 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: It’s a cliche, but behind every athlete is, in some way, a mom

Coeur d’Alene High record-breaking hurdler Nate Burch, ranked No. 1 in 5A, is photographed with his adoptive mother Laurinda Burch at the school on Thursday.  Nate was adopted from Haiti as a young child. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Coeur d’Alene High record-breaking hurdler Nate Burch, ranked No. 1 in 5A, is photographed with his adoptive mother Laurinda Burch at the school on Thursday. Nate was adopted from Haiti as a young child. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There is no mold, no diagram, for the perfect mother. They are available in different shapes and sizes, different ages and looks. Some of them don’t even have to be your mom.


• One of the nice parts of being, well, “older” is you’ve had a lot of time to observe the human condition.

And, if you’re lucky, you’ve learned some things.

One thing this guy’s learned is moms are really important. I know, pretty groundbreaking stuff. But we’re talking about sports here, not rocket propulsion or brain chemistry.

Over the years, I’ve realized so many athletes have been propelled to the heights thanks to a mother, or mother figure.

The best mom I had, for a lot of reasons, was my older sister Linda. She served as a surrogate in that role from the time I could remember and helped me have the confidence to succeed in sports.

(Plus, one of her boyfriends was a catcher at UCLA and he taught me how to play the position the right way from a young age. For that, I am eternally grateful.)

As I grew older, however, I discovered my story wasn’t unique. Oh, sure, the traditional mom is, well, traditional. As is her impact on athletes in every sport.

But more often than anyone might guess, there were others who served that role despite never sharing any DNA.

From a basketball player I encountered more than 30 years ago in Southern California, who was adopted by a woman who ran into her by happenstance, to a football player at Washington State who was basically adopted by an academic advisor, the instances of athletes and moms coming together in out-of-the-ordinary ways have stuck with me.

Moms are not always the woman who gave you birth. And Mother’s Day is for them as well.


WSU: Around the Pac-12, there are a couple of football stories, one from Colorado and another from Arizona State. … The basketball news is from Arizona, as it always seems to be recently. … The biggest story from the weekend, though, comes with the passing of former Arizona football coach Dick Tomey.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs’ roster for next year is in flux. A huge state of flux. But that’s the new normal in college basketball. Jim Meehan examines how GU is dealing with it. … The baseball team pounded Lamar in a home nonconference game.

Preps: You want a touching Mother’s Day story? Ryan Collingwood has you covered with this piece about Coeur d’Alene High football and track athlete Nate Burch and his journey. … We have roundups of playoff action yesterday in softball, soccer and baseball. … The Spokane Youth Sports Awards finalists were announced this week. That’s part of our local notebook.

Mariners: There was an odd lineup of stories this morning on the Seattle Times sports web page. There was a picture of Felix Hernandez accompanied by a headline from an older story which read “ ‘I still got it’: How Felix Hernandez reinvented himself and got his swagger back.” Next to it was “Felix Hernandez shelled as Mariners fall apart after four-run first inning vs. Red Sox.” … Gene Warnick has the Out of Right Field column for this week and he focuses on the newest members of the M’s lineup.

Seahawks: What will Ziggy Ansah bring to the Hawks?

Sounders: One early Cristian Roldan goal was enough for the Sounders as they got past visiting Houston 1-0.


• If you are wondering why my lead-in today is so short, there is a reason. I spent a long time this morning writing some thoughts about my mother. There is only one problem. As the words poured out, as they tend to do, they became a bit too personal. Memories I haven’t really mined in years manifested themselves on the page. It was cathartic in a way, but as I read it over, I realized it was more personal than I wanted and I couldn’t share it with you. Sorry. So I tucked the thoughts back into my memory banks and went another direction. Until later …

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