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Wednesday, August 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: This is the month of many tradtional Spokane events – though one of the best has been ‘postponed’

Road trips have become a bit of an obsession for brothers Jess and Ralph Walter. In 2011, they wander the practice fields in Frisco, Texas, prior to Eastern Washington’s 2011 victory over Delaware for the FCS football title. (File / SR)
Road trips have become a bit of an obsession for brothers Jess and Ralph Walter. In 2011, they wander the practice fields in Frisco, Texas, prior to Eastern Washington’s 2011 victory over Delaware for the FCS football title. (File / SR)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We’re a little sad today. The weather is decent, the golf clubs are calling my name and yet we’re not going to be doing what we’ve done for the past 35 second Mondays in June. Play in the Wet Dog Fur Open.

•••••••

• There is one drawer in our armoire dedicated to T-shirts from two annual events in June: Hoopfest and the Wet Dog Fur Open.

You might know of one – and it’s not the one with the weird name.

“What’s the Wet Dug Fur Open,” I’ve been asked more times than I can count over the years, mainly by perplexed cashiers as they read the logo on my T-shirt or cap.

“I work at the newspaper,” is how I explain, hoping they’ll tune out, “and it’s the Sports department’s annual golf tournament.”

The name? As Ralph Walter explains in his column today (a must-read for everyone just because it's so funny), a reader once told Sports editor Jeff Jordan – the true Dogfather – his Sports section sucked wet dog fur. Thus a golf tournament was born.

When it started, in 1985, I had just started as the S-R’s graphics editor. Everyone assumed I had a lot of time on my hands – it was a one-man department, dammit, which meant I said “no” a lot – so I was tasked with all the logistics. And for about 20 years that’s what I did.

Jeff took care of the trophies – there are five championship ones around my house, though I’m pretty sure the teams I was on only won three times – and finding a course. The rest went through my cubicle, including the money for some unknown reason. Heck, I have trouble counting up to eight – my usually score on a par-3 – at times. Actually, on the Dog Fur, Jeff and I worked together like peanut butter and jelly, which is odd because we disagreed often when he was my boss. Just kidding. After the fistfight in the assistant managing editor’s office, we got along splendidly. But I digress.

Some of the best artwork my growing department produced is on display on the front of those T-shirts, except for one Ralph mentions in his column. I did it. Hey, miscommunication happens. I’m not blaming anyone – cough, cough, Jordy – but no one told me the artwork was due at 5 p.m. on a Friday. At 4:45 I was still trying to cobble something together. Ya, I know it sucked but …

Anyhow, the Dog Fur was something unique when we were young. Ralph shares his fondest memory and it includes his brother Jess. That's why the two of them are pictured above. Their relationship (and many like them) are also part of the foundation of the sports department's golf tournament. It may be a work-organized event, but much of it revolves around family. And non-family members who feel like family. The tournament built camaraderie in its early days and saved morale in the years when downsizing meant seeing many longtime co-workers go out the door. It also is an avenue for staying close to some folks you wouldn't see any other way.

My “fondest” memory? Having to call Kim and her mother to come pick us up after one non-winning appearance. That would be myself and Fred, Kim’s father, who was an L.A. firefighter at the time. He was a consistent WDFO participant – the tournament reminded him of the ones his firefighter buddies put on back in the day – until his death 15 years ago. As the story goes, Kim drove her dad home and I rode with her mother. Ya, sitting in the passenger seat with your ticked-off mother-in-law for the half-hour drive home, trying to keep the turkey sandwich and Kokanee from making an unscheduled appearance, isn’t my idea of winning.

Times change, however, and I now play with my son, a member of the S-R Sports staff these days. He’s the designated driver on the course, I take on those duties everywhere else. It may not be a symbiotic experience, but it certainly is fun.

As has been just about every WDFO. Don’t worry. A pandemic may knock the tournament off the June schedule this year, but it will be back. And somewhere about the 14th hole, I will once again pour out a short one for those participants who are no longer with us.

I will share one WDFO memory I have. Fred and I were playing in a foursome with photographer Bart Rayniak and Kevin Taylor, who was covering prep sports at the time. I was the only one who needed to get a drive in (the rules called for three from each player has to be used in our four-person, best-ball format). We were on Liberty Lake’s old 14th hole and I was nervous.

I stepped up the to the tee and hit the best drive of my life on that hole, cresting the hill before the green for the first time ever. Relieved, and not entirely sober, I turned to my father-in-law and made the biggest mistake of my life.

“You don’t have to hit old man,” I said for some ungodly reason. “We’re good.”

Fred uttered some curse word firefighters say as a burning beam starts to fall, stepped up, swung and came out of his shoes. He airmailed me, almost reaching the green. He then turned and said something I will never forget, something that made Bart and Kevin fall to the ground with laughter.

Sorry. I can’t write it here. But it easily could be the Dog Fur motto. Though I'm not sure it would work on a T-shirt.

• You want the Wet Dog Fur – though for the life of me I’m not sure why anyone would – and sports in general to return? Then here’s a little tip from one of the world’s most respected epidemiologists.

“If 80 percent of people wore a mask 80 percent of the time, COVID would go away,” Larry Brilliant told a group according to a recent Marin (Calif.) Independent Journal story.

And if COVID-19 goes away, the sporting world, as part of the overall world, could return to something akin to normal.

So wear a mask.

As for the outlook as it really is, Brilliant isn’t so confident. He’s afraid people believe we are over the worst of the disease when, in reality, it is still spreading at a high rate.

•••

WSU: As we’ve mentioned a couple times in this space, former Washington State basketball player Aron Baynes had one of the more thought-provoking responses to our nation’s social unrest of anyone. Reading through his social media post, his thoughtfulness and empathy reminds me once again how special was the group of basketball players that went through Pullman more than a decade ago. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, next up in an L.A. Daily News series, the UCLA secondary. … Oregon coach Mario Cristobal is listening to his players. … In basketball news, Colorado is welcoming new walk-ons.

EWU: The National Association of Basketball Coaches honored Eastern basketball assistant Bobby Suarez recently. That’s part of our weekly local briefs column.

Idaho: Lots of news to pass along from Moscow, including an update on the new basketball arena (you can watch the construction here) and Peter Harriman’s examination of the Vandals’ preparation for the upcoming school year.

Preps: Don’t worry. The B tournaments aren’t going anywhere – at least for the next basketball season. The WIAA decided yesterday there is too much uncertainty surrounding the school year, so any changes to the State basketball tournaments will have to wait.

Seahawks: In the middle is the NFL’s best. But elsewhere, the Hawks’ corps of linebackers is a bit mysterious.

•••       

• I think back to 1985 and the person I was and I shake my head. There are a lot of positives about being young. But how some of us used those positives is pretty embarrassing. At least how I remember it, anyway. My advice to anyone under 30 who may be reading this? Burn all the embarrassing pictures. But keep the ones with friends and family. Those you will want to have someday. Until later …

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