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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Every athlete’s journey is enhanced when family members can come along for the ride

Washington State Cougars wide receiver Rodrick Fisher (88) reacts with wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. (8) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, August 31, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars wide receiver Rodrick Fisher (88) reacts with wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. (8) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, August 31, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There is something about playing in front of your parents. The special nature of the experience starts at a young age, continues through middle and high school and never seems to end, even as you enter college and beyond.


• Years and years ago I was lucky enough to play an all-star game at then-Anaheim Stadium. It was for a local college summer league and occurred after the Angles had faced Jim Palmer and the Orioles. The crowd was quite large and, due to the tight nature of the game, was still somewhat impressive as we took the field.

No matter. There was only one voice I recognized among the crowd. My mother’s. I don’t remember what she said or where she was sitting. But I do remember, when she yelled encouragement (or something else), I heard it despite the cacophony of voices. There has to be deep-rooted, psychological explanation articulated by Sigmund Freud or someone, but the tone and timbre just fit my ear.

Fast forward to last Saturday night. The season-opening football game in Martin Stadium. Theo Lawson took time out to talk with the parents of Rodrick Fisher and Anthony Gordon. Both Cougars were making their first college starts. Both were part of Washington State’s first touchdown, Gordon throwing and Fisher receiving. And both were aware their parents were watching.

Theo’s story catches that awareness, sure, but also the parents’ pride. It comes with the territory, right? Last season neither had much opportunity to see their sons play, as Fisher appeared in just three games before an injury cut short even a planned redshirt year and Gordon waited on the sidelines, vainly for the most part, in case Gardner Minshew needed relief.

That wasn’t the case Saturday. Yelling, screaming, cheering? Mandatory. And probably heard by the sons playing below.

• In the personal story above, my recollection of hearing mom’s voice came as I was running out to my position, catcher. One of the many reasons I played there was hero-worship of Bill Freehan, the Detroit Tigers’ catcher on their 1968 World Series-winning team.

I had Freehan’s poster in my bedroom (along with another Tiger, Al Kaline and another catcher, Johnny Bench) growing up. I read Freehan’s book, “Behind the Mask.” I even used a Bill Freehan model Wilson catcher’s mitt.

He set a standard I aspired to reach.

Freehan has been suffering from dementia for a while, possibly caused by the myriad of concussions a professional catcher in those times dealt with. It’s a sad tale that has been told many times about professional athletes over the years.

His tale, however, has a local connection, as Freehan’s brother, Rick, lives in Spokane. Steve Christilaw mentions the Freehans as part of an in-depth look at brain trauma in today’s paper. It’s a story you won’t want to miss.


WSU: Besides the story on Gordon and Fisher’s parents, Theo explains the Cougars’ standing in the polls as well as his weekly vote. … Tuesdays are also for awards, with Gordon earning Pac-12 and national honors. Theo has more on those as well. The conference has added more weekly awards this year, including the offensive lineman of the week. New left tackle Liam Ryan is the first winner of that one. … It's Wednesday and Theo has his picks for this weekend's games. … We can pass along this story on Northern Colorado’s quarterback, a sixth-year senior who has dealt with numerous injuries. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it’s never too early to start thinking about bowl games. Well, yes it is, but folks do it anyway. … A not-so-big guy may have to continue to shine of Washington wants to have big success. … Size matters for one newly minted Oregon wide receiver. … By the way, Oregon’s loss didn’t kill the conference’s playoff hopes. Those will probably die a natural death soon enough. … With Jake Luton running the show, Oregon State’s offense played well. … All defensive eyes are on one guy when Colorado has the ball. … There’s a good chance Zack Moss will be the all-time leading rusher at Utah. … Stanford isn't sure if K.J. Costello will be able to play this Saturday. … With J.T. Daniels out, USC has to move forward. … UCLA would just like its offense to move forward more this week. … Arizona wants to get after the quarterback.

Gonzaga: The FIBA World Cup seems to feature a matchup of GU alums nearly every day. It happened again Tuesday, with Lithuania defeating Canada. Jim Meehan tells us how Domantas Sabonis, Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos fared. … Jim also passes along some David Stockton G-League news.

EWU: Eastern has made a tradition of recruiting the smaller schools in Eastern Washington. That hasn’t changed. Ryan Collingwood has more in this notebook. … Ryan also spoke with Larry Weir for the latest Press Box pod. … Around the Big Sky, both Weber State and UC Davis lost last week to FBS foes, but both moved up in the polls. … Montana State’s loss may dictate the rest of the season. … Montana won on the road and now plays at home. … Idaho State is starting its season this weekend. … An autopsy states the recent death of a Northern Arizona football player was due to a drug overdose.

Youth sports: We linked Steve Christilaw’s head injury story above, which seems to be a companion piece to Jim Allen’s story on the recent growth of flag football among middle school athletes.

Seahawks: All of the DK Metcalf fans out there can rejoice. The rookie wide receiver seems to be healthy and should start this week. … When the Hawks traded Frank Clark, did they know they would replace him so soon? … Each game on the schedule has its challenges. … Shaquem Griffin is going to be asked to do something different.

Mariners: Felix Hernadez didn’t last long in his Wrigley Field start and the Cubs posted a 6-1 victory. … The newest Mariner pitching prospect had a strong first season.


• Next time you are at T-Mobile or any other major league baseball park, notice how the seats are situated in such a way to force you to face home plate. It makes it seem, even if most of those seats are empty, there are thousands of eyes on you as you stand there. That Anaheim Stadium game was my first experience with the phenomenon. It’s also probably why, with the adrenaline flowing, my first throw during infield sailed wildly into centerfield. I'm sure that really made my mom proud. … Speaking of making a mom proud, happy birthday Tyler. Until later …

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