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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: No matter who wins today’s Derby, our weather-predicting skills have already been proven true

A tarp with standing water covers the playing surface during a rain delay at Avista Stadium on Friday, My 6, 2022. The game was eventually cancelled.   (Dave Nichols)
A tarp with standing water covers the playing surface during a rain delay at Avista Stadium on Friday, My 6, 2022. The game was eventually cancelled.  (Dave Nichols)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Maybe we should go into the prognostication business. If there is such a thing. After all, we focused on the weather yesterday and, boom, the skies opened up around Spokane. Next up, our lottery picks.


• Close enough. Horse racing. When we were young, that was as close as anyone could get to gambling.

Legally, of course. Under-the-table wagers were available, though we would never have availed ourselves of that. Unrelated, does anyone else remember those colored sheets, about a foot long and a few inches wide, that used to circulate before NFL Sundays? They held every game and you could make a bunch a picks for just a few bucks. Looking back now, we wonder if we helped finance The Godfather.

We digress. We were going to give you our choice for today’s Kentucky Derby. As if you care.

We’re torn. We usually pick a Bob Baffert horse but you probably know how that turned out last year. Win, lose? Both happened at the same time. As a result, Baffert is not at this year’s Derby, suspended for a couple years after Medina Spirit’s drugging disqualification.

But a couple of his former horses are in attendance, which allows us to flip a coin. And the winner is … shoot, the coin got checked into the corner and we can’t see which way it landed. Which must mean we need to pick Messier. After all, he’s the only horse in the field named after a hockey player.

Messier is not the betting favorite. But the California horse is our favorite.

Which brings us to our value pick of the day – and we stay with the hockey theme. Ever see Mark Messier smile? There were a few gaps. And we believe Smile Happy, coming out of the fifth position, could find a gap or two with Epicenter inside and Messier outside at the start.

At 14-1, we think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to place a quid on Smile Happy to finish in the money.

• We won’t be here tomorrow. Mother’s Day. So we’ll share one of our favorite stories about my mom and sports.

It has to do with directions, something she wasn’t good at.

Our sixth-grade basketball team at St. Rita’s Elementary was really good. We had two big kids, a shooting guard who would have loved the 3-point line and a point guard whose mom volunteered to drive to a game against the second-best team in our Los Angeles-area league.

Except she wasn’t sure where Holy Family was located.

And she got lost. With four starters in her car.

Remember, this was the mid-1960s. Google had to do with eyes. You wanted directions, you had to ask someone. A gas station attendant, dad at home, some kid riding his bike off Huntington Drive, whatever.

Mom somehow figured it out. Maybe she just drove the old Mercury around until we ran into the South Pasadena school.

We arrived at halftime. The coach was apoplectic. My mom was apologetic. Neither made a difference. We lost.

Coupled with a home win against the same team later in the season, the schools tied atop the league standings, both with the single loss. Nowadays, it probably would mean each would be co-champions. After all, it was sixth-grade hoops.

Not back in the ‘60s. A winner had to be decided. A playoff game was scheduled.

At La Salle High. In the gym. What’s the big deal, you ask? In Southern California, our Catholic elementary school games were held outside. On the asphalt courts. Yes, we had the occasional game rained out. But it was L.A. Even in winter sun was usually on the agenda.

Back then, no elementary school had a gym. It wasn’t worth the money.

Playing on a high school court, with stands and hardwood? That was special.

Inadvertently, my mother had allowed us to have one of our best youth sports memories.

The playoff game was tied at halftime. Our coach unleashed our UCLA-like 2-2-1 press after halftime. Turnover after turnover happened. The place was rocking. Heck, the pass-first point guard actually scored a basket or two.

We blew out those heathens from Holy Family and took home the trophy. If there had been a trophy.

All because my mom couldn’t read a map.

And for that we say Happy Mother’s Day to all.


WSU: The baseball team is taking the weekend off from Pac-12 play and hosting Utah Valley. It won. … CJ Elleby needs to improve his shooting to get more time with the Blazers. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner has a mailbag in the Mercury News. There is a Washington State answer included. … The Oregon trial ended with the jury declining to assess damages against the NCAA. … Utah has the depth to replace a couple graduated stars. … In basketball news, when you get to the next section, you will see a mention of the USA Basketball U18 team. Colorado’s Tad Boyle is the head coach. … Cody Riley has decided to leave UCLA after five seasons and start the rest of his life.

Gonzaga: Mark Few has coached in the USA Basketball program off and on for years. Now a couple of his former assistants, Leon Rice and Tommy Lloyd, are getting to do it as well. Jim Meehan has this story. … We can pass along this local story on the WNBA’s opening night. It covers the exploits of Courtney Vandersloot, Briann January and Lexie Hull.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Northern Colorado has promoted a basketball assistant.

Preps: Dave Nichols put together this roundup of Friday’s action, which includes a district playoff soccer match.

Indians: We mentioned rain above. Nowhere was that more evident than at the Indians’ game, which was postponed in the second inning when a monsoon blew through. Dave has the video evidence within this story.

Mariners: The bottom seems to be falling out with the M’s right now. They get an uplifting two-run pinch-hit home run from Jarred Kelenic to take a lead into the ninth and the bullpen blows it. They lost 8-7. … It may make sense for the M’s to move Matt Brash to the pen. … Will George Kirby take his spot in the rotation Monday?

Sounders: Joao Paulo’s season-ending knee injury will mean some adjustment. And an opportunity for someone.

Seahawks: The rookie mini-camp began yesterday and it contained, you know, a bunch of actual rookies who are expected to make an impact. That’s different. … Ken Walker III was rocket-like in his first pad-less workout.

Storm: Seattle opened the season with a blowout win over Minnesota. That isn’t the most exciting thing, however. The WNBA game was in the rebuilt Climate Pledge Arena. It was a show, that’s for sure.


• Again, we are taking tomorrow off. If you can, hold your mother tight Sunday. We wish we could but haven’t been able to for more than 40 years. Until Monday …

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