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A Grip on Sports: Most of 2020 is a haze of day-to-day survival, though a few things do stand out – for good and bad

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, center, poses for a group picture after the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 to win the baseball World Series, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas.  (Associated Press)
Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, center, poses for a group picture after the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 to win the baseball World Series, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Welcome to the final day of 2020. What a disaster of a year. That is all. We could look back, but why? Let’s look ahead instead. That would be the smart decision. In 2020, some of us haven’t been all that smart.

•••••••

• You want to know the truth? I’m having trouble recalling clearly a lot of what went on in the 2020 sporting world. Other than all the postponements, cancellations, angst and dread, I mean.

The high points are easy, with the Los Angeles sweep of the professional basketball and baseball titles. Kansas City winning the Super Bowl, that’s easy, being it occurred when COVID-19 was still a minor thing. And I kind of remember St. Louis winning the NHL title. No, that’s not right. It was Tampa Bay. The Blues won the year before. Man, it’s hard.

Everything else, all the competitions held in front of small or non-existent crowds, all the – and man do I hate to admit this – deaths of heroes of my youth, all the other usually key milestones, they all seem to melt together, like a set of crayons left in the July sun.

But instead of an exotic mix of bright colors, we were left with a lifeless lump of dull off-brown.

Try as I might, it’s impossible to distinguish events in May from those in August, June from October. The days grew longer, then shorter and it was hard to notice. Some day, I’m sort-of sure, it will come back into focus. Or it will always be this gray blob in my memory, like something out of the first low-budget Star Trek series, trying to envelop Kirk and Spock in its unbreakable grip.

No matter. The calendar turns a new leaf tomorrow. My Dilbert page-a-day is ready to be opened, ready to supply its chuckle every 24 hours or so. That’s a good thing.

So are the plans everyone is making.

The NCAA is not going to allow its signature tournament to be shut down for a second consecutive year. The organization is preparing to develop a multi-million dollar bubble, probably in Indianapolis. All the athletes will be remote students during the day and stars at night. A simple but solid idea.

Heck, those in charge of the college football invitational, which is supposed to start tomorrow, have contingency plans in place if COVID-19 begins the new year like it ended the old.

And, man, is it hitting hard right now. The virus has taken down college basketball games this weekend all over the country, including in our backyard (see the EWU section below). The WCC is reeling. The Big Sky is reeling. Even the Pac-12 is.

Sure, the NCAA tourney will go on. But with all the washouts, figuring out who belongs in the field is going to require some heavy lifting.

The professional leagues have been treating this professionally. The NFL has steamrolled through. The NBA seems to have it under control. The NHL has switched its conference structure to isolate the Canadian teams and reduce travel. Baseball and the MLS will figure things out.

When you raise your glass tonight – mine will be filled with ice water – don’t look back too long. Instead, say a little pray for the year ahead. Even with all the planning in the world, it will need it.

•••

Gonzaga: There is a method to the seeming madness of playing overmatched nonconference games. Jim Meehan articulates it once again today in this rewind of Tuesday’s easy win. … The women finished up their first WCC road trip by breezing past Pepperdine 58-42. Connor Gilbert has the game coverage. … Larry Weir talked with Justin Reed about the Zags for the latest Press Box podcast. … The “U” word is being bandied about. As in “undefeated.” … Former Bulldog standout Zach Collins is facing an uncertain future in Portland after another surgery. Jim covers that development. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Pepperdine  and Santa Clara have been hit by the virus, so BYU won’t be meeting the Waves. The Cougars have some bad recent memories from Malibu, so maybe this is for the best. … San Diego is still a go as of now. … Saint Mary’s routed Sacramento State.

WSU: The top can’t-miss story in this morning’s paper? That would be Theo Lawson’s in-depth look at the extraordinary lengths the Cougar basketball staff went to entice this year’s freshman class to Pullman. Take some time to read it. … Around the Pac-12 and college football, Oregon will be carrying the Pac-12’s banner again, this time in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks, facing a physical Iowa State team, not only have this game to worry about, but the future as well. … The last act wasn’t the best, but Colorado hopes it has turned a corner. Who will return for the rest of the journey is still undecided. … UCLA received some more good news on that front while USC lost its best defensive player to the NFL. And Talanoa Hufanga will be in the NFL. … A key Arizona State player is returning. … In basketball news, Washington took some time off. The Huskies hope it helps turn their season around. The first step, against Arizona, won’t be easy. … Oregon returns to the court this weekend. … The Ducks also reached agreement with former Gonzaga women’s coach Kelly Graves on a contract extension through 2029. … One of those postponements we mentioned above? Stanford is sitting a while, so the game with Oregon State is out. … Colorado has won the last two games at USC. … Utah is also in Los Angeles for an untypical road trip. … UCLA is happy to be back on the court after a 12-day layoff. … USC has expanded its roster. … It’s been an up-and-down start to Arizona State’s season. Now the season has stopped for a while.

EWU: Another positive test among the members of the basketball program has forced the Eagles to cancel its weekend series with Portland State. The Big Sky recently decided to just skip missed games, so it’s on to Weber State. Ryan Collingwood has more in this story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky,

Preps: The Coeur d’Alene Charter’s girls soccer team has been extraordinarily successful the past five years, leading to a national award for coach Stacy Smith. Dave Nichols have more in this prep notebook. … Dave also has a roundup of basketball tournament games

Seahawks: Pete Carroll spoke to the media yesterday and once again professed his love of Chris Carson. And his hope Carson and the team could agree on a new contract. … Carson has yet to post a 100-yard rushing day. Maybe his last regular season game with the Hawks would be a good time. … Jordyn Brooks is showing he’s not like a lot of Seattle’s top picks. He’s better. … Bobby Wagner is the best. And is having another great season. … The 49ers let an injured D.J. Reed go. The Seahawks pounced. Now Reed is entrenched in their secondary and San Francisco is sick about it.

•••       

• Today may just be a perfect winter day as far as I am concerned. Rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains. Lots of both. A strong snowpack not only helps the ski resorts but also ensure a good runoff in the spring and healthy forests in the summer. But we don’t need another day like Wednesday in the Spokane area. Every part of my body hurts today after wrangling the snow blower around the front twice yesterday – and shoveling the back deck and stairs three times. Let’s ring in the New Year with some rain and a safe day on the roads, OK? Until later …

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