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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Maybe it’s the lack of sleep but the future seems hazy for the USWNT, the Pac-12 and the Mariners

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We’re exhausted. Did you know there is actually a 2 a.m.? Really. And, why? Thanks World Cup. We’re not sure we can get through the morning. But there is a pod in the Keurig and soon it will render that piping hot concoction that helps us hang on.


• There’s a haze over the homestead this morning and a malaise over the U.S. Women’s National Team. One, caused by a nearby wildfire, should dissipate at some point. The other, down under, better disappear quickly. Or there will be no three-peat.

The good news? The pride of the American side got through to the World Cup’s knockout stage with a scoreless draw against Portugal. The bad news? More than likely, the U.S. will face long-time nemesis Sweden in the round of 16. And the Swedes have beaten American teams that were playing much better.

Then again, that might be all of them.

Something is just not clicking for the U.S. as it tries to add a 2023 title to the ones it won in 2015 and 2019. The reasons are multiple and will be debated ad nauseum until Saturday’s knockout rounds, but here, today, the focus is on what happened in the just-finished group play.

The U.S. looks vulnerable. Sure. But we shouldn’t forget this is a world-wide tournament. Everyone wants to shine, especially countries like Netherlands and Portugal, where soccer is queen, king and rook. A new-look U.S. team was not handed an easy draw, opening against the group’s weakest squad, Vietnam. The result was a disjointed 3-0 victory. The Dutch, ranked ninth in the world by FIFA, were next. The draw did include a come-from-behind goal, so that was positive. And Portugal? It was playing in its first World Cup, and hung its hat on defense. The Portuguese are like playing Washington State’s hoop team under Tony Bennett. They struggle to score but wow, do they defend. The Dutch were only able to penetrate it once, but that was enough to knock Portugal out. All the United State needed was a draw and it got it, with neither team scoring in about 100 minutes of physical and grinding play.

And that’s the bottom line. For today. Another match awaits. And from here on in, that’s all that matters. Win and move on.

• How many games await the Pac-12? According to many sources and stories, the bottom line will be addressed today. The conference’s CEOs and athletic directors reportedly will gather virtually to hear, finally, George Kliavkoff’s best attempt to keep the conference together through a new media-rights deal.

Will there be enough money to end any more defections? That’s the $34-million question, isn’t it? (Sorry, only the Big Ten and the SEC get to play the $64-million game these days.) But a dollar more than what the Big 12 is making is enough. And should keep the Arizona schools in the fold, allowing Kliavkoff to begin rebuilding the Pac-12 through expansion.

Hopefully, for followers of the still-surviving nine, the number will be more than expected. And the CEOs will give Kliavkoff more leeway in expansion talks.

How? Allow him to help San Diego State pay off the Mountain West for a 2024 exit. Allow him to spread the conference’s footprint to Texas (SMU) and possibly beyond (Tulane?). Allow him to recruit less-high-flatulent academic institutions (UNLV, Boise State and/or Hawaii). Allow him the freedom to give the conference another decade of survival.

• How long will the Mariners’ postseason hopes survive? Today at 3 p.m. Maybe. That’s when MLB’s trade deadline hits and we should know their chances. The two trades Jerry Dipoto approved yesterday included one that should be praised – getting anything for A.J. Pollock is a miracle worthy of acclaim, though Dipoto gets the blame for signing him in the first place – while the other, sending closer Paul Sewald to Arizona, reeks of the Kendall Graveman deal in 2021. Not surrender, exactly, but certainly not one that gives the clubhouse hope.

That one was followed by acquiring Diego Castillo, which turned out OK. Still, the bottom line that season? Without enough firepower, Seattle missed the playoffs.

Is history poised to repeat itself?


WSU: Before we get to all the ins-and-outs of today’s conference meeting, there is football news to pass along. Quarterback Cameron Ward is on the Maxwell Award preseason watch list. Greg Woods has more in this story. … Former Washington State and Lake City High star Kyle Manzardo was included in a trade from Tampa to Cleveland. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, today’s survival library includes news from John Canzano, a listing of presidential power rankings from Jon Wilner (with Kirk Schulz in the No. 2 spot) and a scene-setter in the Mercury News and coverage of today’s big meeting from all over, including the Associated Press and The Athletic. There is also this story with a Captain Obvious headline. … In keeping with a theme Wilner identified, Arizona seems to be in a key position as far as the conference’s future goes. … Once again we can pass along a number of previews from the Oregonian, with looks at Stanford, Washington, Washington State and Utah. And breakdowns of the Ducks’ wide receivers, offensive line and interior defensive line. It was also media day in Eugene and seemingly committed to Oregon coach Dan Lanning talked about his team – and about Colorado’s departure. It’s ancient history, sure, but the Buffs did win part of a football national title once. Oregon? Nope. … The father/son coach/quarterback pairing at Colorado could make history. … Utah will treat two of its biggest stars with care during camp. Meanwhile, Kyle Whittingham feels super conferences are inevitable. … In basketball news, USC’s Bronny James is up and about, which is a great sign.

Gonzaga: Thanks to a new NCAA rule, baseball teams are afforded the opportunity for a third assistant coach. The Zags have picked theirs and it is someone already on campus. That and more is covered in the S-R’s latest local briefs column.

EWU: Former Eastern guard Angelo Allegri had the opportunity to participate in the NBA’s Las Vegas summer league. There, he talked with Theo Lawson about his future goals and his Eagle tenure. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona has hired a new defensive coordinator. … UC Davis opened its earliest preseason camp ever.

Idaho: The Vandals opened training camp Monday and Colton Clark was there. He has this story covering the first day.

Seahawks: Speaking of firsts, the Hawks broke out the pads for the first time this camp and hit each other. … The team is still a bit thin at running back due to injuries. One of the survivors is from Washington. … One of the best battles every camp is the day-to-day wars between the defensive backs and receivers. … The defense, overall and against the run, looked better.

Mariners: Sewald’s departure put a damper on the M’s day but the ending, with J.P. Crawford stretching to snare a line drive and ensure a 6-2 victory, made it brighter. The M’s are four games over the break-even mark for the first time this season. … Seattle received three position players, all relatively young, back for Sewald from the Diamondbacks. … What the Giants are sending back for Pollock and a minor leaguer will be determined later.

Golf: On Monday, 41 PGA Tour players demanded changes to the policy board. Tuesday, commissioner Jay Monahan said yes, addressing the concerns and adding Tiger Woods to the board. That’s quicker than Patrick Cantlay hits a 4-iron.


• Let’s hope there aren’t any big mistakes here. We’re going back to bed. Living on less than four hours sleep isn’t optimal, especially for someone of our advanced years. Heck, we didn’t do well with that at 21. Though, there were a few times … well, you don’t need to know that. Besides, today is the first day of August, a hot month in more ways than one. That’s what matters. By the end of the month, school will be back in session. Enjoy that happy thought. Until later …