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

A Grip on Sports: In the game before the game, just which Northwest ‘enemy’ will Cougar fans root for Saturday?

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The sun rose today on the first week of the college football season. The first week, actually, in which the Cougars have a loss. And Washington doesn’t. That’s probably leading to a few cross words in office spaces all over the state. But will it lead to Cougars and Ducks joining forces?


• We’ve always felt rivalries are the best part of college athletics. Heck, the most contentious baseball games we ever played years ago were against rivals. They often included on-field skirmishes – if not outright fisticuffs.

Not by us of course. We are dedicated pacifists. Instigators? Maybe.

But it doesn’t take much in the way of instigation to start a brouhaha between Huskies and Cougars. They don’t like each other. Which has made for fun, physical, contentious Apple Cups over the years.

Then again, neither fanbase is enamored with their Nike-themed conference cohorts from the south end of the Willamette Valley.

Which makes Oregon is an interesting barometer of the depth of the Washington rivalry.

We have never encountered a UW follower who would ever lower themselves to pull for the Ducks in any circumstance. Wait, let’s amend that. If an Oregon victory would benefit their Dawgs, that same fan would hold their nose – tightly – and pull for UO, all the while expecting the Ducks to lose on purpose to undermine their hopes. It’s all about the Purple and Gold, right?

A different formula applies for WSU’s faithful and the Huskies. We’ve actually quizzed Cougars over the years, throwing different scenarios at them concerning UW and their rooting interest. About the only “yah-we’ll-hope-they’ll-win” answer concerned the Rose Bowl. But no one ever expressed any pleasure in it. And all did it grudgingly. Otherwise, it’s UW hatred at all times.

Which brings us to this week. The Cougars host up-and-coming Arizona late Saturday afternoon. We’re sure if you wander through the pregame tailgate area, all the TVs will be on ABC, where undefeated and eighth-ranked Oregon will try to prove oddsmakers wrong and hand seventh-ranked Washington its first defeat.

As either outcome will help the Cougars’ final drive for a Pac-12 – as we know it – championship, we can almost guarantee the Crimson and Gray squad will be loudly supporting the Ducks in their quest. Heck, if Kenny Wheaton happens to be in town, they would probably buy him an adult beverage or two.

But if that’s the case, he better high-tail it out of town right after the game finishes. Washington State heads to Eugene next Saturday.

• Name the best sporting events in the Northwest, year-in and year-out. Use all levels of sports if you want. We bet games between Washington State and Washington, Oregon State and Oregon, have a strong presence on your list. Doesn’t matter the sport, although football elicits the most passion, of course. Basketball isn’t far behind, but, heck, baseball games and soccer matches and golf tournaments might make someone’s top 10.

Which brings us to the tear-inducing truth of conference realignment. Such things are going away. And they are never really coming back. The intensity of a conference game against your most-reviled rivals just can’t be matched.

Oh, the games may go on. They may even carry the traditional moniker, with Apple Cup and whatever the state of Oregon calls its one these days, living on. But there is no way they will carry the same weight over the years.

The first few might, but as soon as the rosters evolve and players who knew the hurt of betrayal head into alumni status, the intensity will ratchet down a notch. And there is no guarantee they will continue at all, despite the rhetoric we’ve heard the past few months.

It’s too bad. When we were talking to UCLA fans Saturday for our column, one of them mentioned how, when he was competing, no matter where he went in the Pac-12, he ran into a former high school teammate or competitor. They greeted each other warmly, shared memories – and then tried to kick each other’s rear.

That’s what’s happened to every Northwest rivalry.


WSU: The Cougars’ first loss can be blamed on a lot of different facets. Offensive line play. Injuries. Heat. And, so some degree, Cameron Ward’s play. Though, if you listened to him, put the majority in that last camp. Greg Woods shares Ward’s sentiments this morning. … The loss dropped Washington State to 19th in the latest Associated Press poll. Greg has more on that as well. … The biggest sporting event on campus last weekend occurred in Bohler Gym, with the fourth-ranked Cougars hosting No. 3 Stanford. The Cardinal prevailed in four sets Sunday. … Next up for the football team is Arizona, who lost a five-star recruit over the weekend. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner looks back at the conference’s weekend in his usual rewind. … The most-entertaining conference this season? It’s easy. The soon-to-be-broken-up Pac-12. … The two best teams, as ranked nationally, play this week in Seattle, with GameDay in attendance. Washington hosts Oregon, with the Huskies installed as a three-point favorite. … California may have lost to Oregon State 52-40 but the Bears also may have found their quarterback. … Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders waited until the last minute of the game (and after) to show it was his time. … Of all the puzzling things that have happened this season, the status of Utah quarterback Cam Rising’s knee might top the list. It’s still unresolved heading into a key stretch. … Defense is certainly UCLA’s strength this season. The Bruins are still an underdog this week. … USC can’t say that but the Trojans are an offensive powerhouse. … Arizona State hasn’t graded out well recently. … In basketball news, Washington has changed everything heading into a make-or-break season.

Gonzaga: We somehow missed Jesse Tinsley’s Kraziness in the Kennel photo gallery from Sunday morning. Here it is.

EWU and Idaho: Former Eastern star Cooper Kupp returned to the Rams this week. His performance, and that of former WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew, leads off Taylor Newquist’s look at locals in the NFL. … The win Saturday was the Vandals first in California since 2011.

Seahawks: As the Hawks begin the week, where do they stand in the West?

Kraken: If Seattle wants to reach its goals, Philipp Grubauer has to perform at levels he’s reached in the past. … A couple of young budding stars will begin the season in the minor leagues.


• If we are ever hired to coach a football team and it led with less than 40 seconds left, we are sure said team would just take a knee. Pretty simple way to ice a victory. To do anything else seems, well, not bright. Just saying. And, no, we really don’t want to move to Miami. But we will consult on such matters from here. For the bargain price of $1 million a year. Seems cheap. Oh, by the way, it was a great birthday. Thanks to all who found a way to share a birthday wish. We appreciated each and every one. Until later …