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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: This Memorial Day weekend not only feels different, it is different

FILE - In this May 26, 2019, file photo, Simon Pagenaud, of France, leads the field through the first turn on the start of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race on May 26, 2019, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 scheduled for May 24 has been postponed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Darron Cummings / AP)
FILE - In this May 26, 2019, file photo, Simon Pagenaud, of France, leads the field through the first turn on the start of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race on May 26, 2019, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 scheduled for May 24 has been postponed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Darron Cummings / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • When does a holiday weekend not feel like a holiday weekend? Now.

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• Other holidays have better PR (we’re looking at you New Year’s Day) or food (and you, Thanksgiving) but few are as important as Memorial Day. It’s the day we honor those who, as Lincoln so eloquently called it at America’s most important battlefield, “their last full measure” for the rest of us.

Folks who froze at Valley Forge. Brothers who fell within the same battle as their siblings in the Civil War. Friends who died in the woods of France, on the beaches of Tarawa, the frozen wastes of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam or the desert and mountains of the Middle East.

It’s a day to remember them all. And to thank them, silently if we must, for what we have.

Like most every holiday, however, the deep meaning has been coerced for other, less important but easier to embrace, meanings. In Memorial Day’s case, it’s the unofficial start of summer.

Why? Mainly because for much of our history, schools around the nation closed the week after and let loose a horde of children upon an unsuspecting world for three months – all with Alice Cooper’s anthem blaring in the background.

That’s changed – school runs until mid-June in many place now – and has really changed this year.

School has been out for a while just about everywhere. Not out, really, but shifted to the homefront. So that aspect of the holiday has disappeared for this strange and stressful year. But summer also means other things as well.

For almost two centuries, at least in Cincinnati, it’s meant professional baseball. By Memorial Day weekend most baseball fans know whether their team is going to have a good or Mariner-like summer. Sorry, that was mean. But for the past two decades, few Memorial Day weekends have been met with optimism by Pacific Northwest baseball fans. At least as it pertains to their local nine. Of course, each spring we think it will be different. This year really has been.

Forget baseball for now. It’s on hold, like so much in this spring of the pandemic. It may come back in time for the next big holiday, July 4th, but no on knows for sure.

We know another Memorial Day weekend tradition, the Indianapolis 500, isn’t returning until the days have long since started growing shorter.

For years and year, Indy was run on Memorial Day itself. But my senior year of high school (1974), the organizers moved it to the Sunday of the holiday weekend and there it has stayed. Until this year. It will be run Aug. 23, and we can guarantee it will be hot and muggy in the heartland.

At least those of us who enjoy a brisk walk, whether on a golf course or in the woods, will be able to partake this weekend. That is, if the weather cooperates. It’s always been a bit dicey in the Northwest.

Memorial Day weekend has also coincided with the end of the high school sports season in Washington, which meant there were many a year I was on the other side of the state, umbrella in hand, trying to keep my scorebook dry while a local school attempted to win a State softball title.

Others were at track meets or soccer matches, baseball fields or golf courses. There are a lot of spring high school sports, a lot of titles earned and a lot "none of it" in 2020.

But don't despair. We have each other. We have our dreams and goals. And we have our memories. On the aptly named Memorial Day weekend, that’s enough.

It is a full measure, that’s for sure.

•••

WSU: Nick Rolovich’s recruiting collection continues to grow, with the latest style more Crocodile Dundee than Major Dundee (to use two outdated movie references). Early yesterday morning, Rolovich flew his Twitter flag, announcing the commitment of Australian punter Nick Haberer. Theo Lawson has all the information in this piece, except his sure-to-come request for a trip to Melbourne to check out Haberer’s life story. … Theo has another story, one not so uplifting. News broke late last night of Ryan Leaf’s arrest on domestic abuse charges. No other comment than to say this is a sad turn in Leaf's saga in so many ways. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Larry Scott is of the mind athletes are safer on campus than at home. He might be right. But his track record over the years makes it a 50/50 proposition. … Don’t worry Oregon and Oregon State fans. The governor has assured everyone your schools won’t fall behind this summer. … Is there really a bright side of the COVID-19 outbreak? One Utah football player thinks so. … Even in these tough financial times, athletic departments are on the hook for academic bonuses. Actually, it’s the one bonus that should always come first.

Gonzaga: For many years, GU basketball fans had a favorite NBA team. OK, maybe a second-favorite NBA team. But it was the same for every Zag: The Utah Jazz. John Stockton’s team. And if you knew the Jazz, you were well aware of their coach, Jerry Sloan. Heck, Sloan’s impact on Stockton’s life transcended basketball and extended beyond Stockton’s career. One of the best videos ever on the Interweb featured Sloan not too long ago high-fiving one of Stockton’s grandchildren in the stands of a basketball game. Jerry Sloan died yesterday at age 78. … Around the WCC, BYU will open selected training facilities June 1.

EWU and Idaho: The Big Sky announced yesterday the conference basketball season will be cut down to 16 games in the 2020-21 season. The stated reason is to allow easier nonconference scheduling and to facilitate less-expensive regional play among conference schools. But two more guarantee games, if there are any, would go a long way toward helping conference schools and their cash-flow problems. 

Seahawks: Russell Wilson would like another target, say Antonio Brown. But that’s a long shot. … The Seattle defense still could use some help. … Carlos Hyde is officially on his way to help the running game.

Sounders: MLS players are doing their training thing. Is it a blueprint for future football training?

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• If you are wondering, we have had more than enough precipitation this May to keep even the most demented rain-lover happy. There is one in this household and even she has started to grumble. Guess what? There is more in the Spokane weekend forecast. But there is a chance it could be in the 80s as early as Thursday. We’ll believe it when we start to sweat. Until later …

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