A GRIP ON SPORTS • Now that the Grammys are over, the nation is free to turn its eyes to the next big entertainment event. The Super Bowl. And, hallelujah, the convergence of football, Las Vegas and musical superstars. Are these great times to be alive, or what?
• Sure, Usher is the scheduled halftime performer this Sunday. He joins a series of A-list performers that dates back to, oh, Carol Channing’s performance in 1970. OK, that’s tongue-in-cheek, sure, but this century at least one headliner has been featured in a show aimed at out-dazzling anything Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll or even Mike Martz puts on the turf.
But it’s not just Usher who is in the spotlight this week. Nope. Not with Taylor Swift sure to be in attendance as the significant other of one of the players. The 34-year-old mega-star is fresh off Sunday’s fourth Album of the Year triumph, a Grammy record that rivals the rings won by Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes. Her presence will fuse the worlds of music and football together even more, cementing a relationship that dates back more than a hundred years. You know, when marching bands began playing at halftimes.
That the two mesh in such a way coming in the first Super Bowl played in Vegas? At the nation’s gambling mecca? Where floor shows featuring everyone from Frank Sinatra to Liberace to Elvis to Celine Dion have brightened the desert sky since the city rose from nothing following World War II?
All that’s just a happy coincidence.
Whether Swift’s boyfriend Travis Kelce and his Chiefs will win their fourth Super Bowl (the third for Kelce and Mahomes) or the 49ers will add their sixth isn’t clear. But there is plenty of time to dissect it.
The confluence of the NFL and entertainment? It’s a little more ethereal. It’s running hot right now. Might as well climb on board. Ride the wave while we can.
• Before we start worrying too much about the 49ers and KC, we can’t forget what the future holds after the NFL exits the stage. Mainly, college hoops. Spring training. NBA and NHL postseasons. In that order.
This past weekend gave us a sneak peek at how the NCAA Tournament may go. The schools capable of winning the men’s crown seems to be dwindling. Purdue proved its mettle with wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin. The same can be said of UConn, the defending champs. Those two programs, ranked 1-2 in any order you want, seem to be the favorites.
But you never know come March.
What we do know is it will take a superhuman effort – or maybe just a super human – to knock top-ranked South Carolina women off their perch. The Gamecocks are the only undefeated team remaining. They seem to be playing even better than earlier in the year, when they were only formidable. Now they seem unbeatable. Unless someone like Caitlan Clark goes off for 60 against them. Or one of the Pac-12’s sextet of powers puts together a perfect game. Other than that, though, it looks as if the Eastern version of USC will win another title. Then again, it looked that way last season too.
• As for spring training, is it possible the M’s moves lately, trading for a bat and another hard-throwing reliever, are getting hopes up in the Northwest? Baseball fans here have always been a bit like Fox Mulder. They want to believe. And will search for any little X-factor to bolster their faith.
There is no doubt Jerry Dipoto has picked up a couple of pieces. The roster is better than it was just a couple weeks ago. But enough to get in the same race with Texas and Houston and Baltimore and the like? Who cares. Spring training is just 10 days away. Hope is about to bloom once more.
• Meanwhile, the professional winter sports are still slogging through a much-too-long regular season. The NBA and NHL playoffs don’t begin until mid-April. Until then, everyone, including the Kraken, will be fighting for position. Fighting to stay healthy. Fighting to capture eyeballs.
You know, the story of sports in the 21st Century.
WSU: The story of Washington State women’s basketball right now is not a tragedy. But it’s sort of sad. The Cougars were seemingly hitting their stride when Charlisse Leger-Walker went down with her ACL tear in an upset of UCLA. Now they are going into the typically challenging Pac-12 games, like Sunday’s at home vs. No. 20 Utah, short-handed. The Cougs faded in the fourth quarter and fell 73-61. The Utes are also dealing with injuries. … The men are going the opposite direction. In fact, if Stanford had upset Arizona in Tucson yesterday – spoiler alert: the Cardinal didn’t – Washington State would have been tied for first in the conference race. Still, the Cougars are tied with Oregon for second (7-4), just a game behind the Wildcats (8-3). How has that happened? Greg Woods has some thoughts today. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we linked Matt Calkins column about the Huskies yesterday in the Times. Here it is in the S-R. … The second half has been better for Utah. … The road has been tough for Colorado. … A UCLA player looks to his grandfather for inspiration and motivation. … Oregon State’s women got past Oregon in Eugene on Sunday, giving the Beavers their first series season sweep since 2017. And putting former GU coach Kelly Graves in the spotlight. … No. 6 Colorado routed Washington in Seattle. … Fourth-ranked Stanford, coming off a home loss to USC, rolled over No. 7 UCLA 80-60. … No. 15 USC rallied past California 79-69 on the road. … Arizona swept its rivals from the north, defeating Arizona State 63-52. … In football news, John Canzano has some thoughts on how attending the first NFL games can spur a lifelong interest, even for college coaches. … Washington seems poised to hire a Belichick, son Steve, as its defensive coordinator. … There is more sizzle than steak with Colorado and Deion Sanders. At least one Denver columnist thinks so.
Gonzaga: The Zags’ rotation seems to be getting smaller and smaller. Against Saint Mary’s on Saturday, Mark Few made one substitution after halftime. Braden Huff spelled Graham Ike for a couple minutes late after Ike had picked up his fourth foul. Theo Lawson looks at that in his rewind of the 64-62 loss to the Gaels. Our question is a simple one: Can such a tight bench – the starters played all but 16 of the 200 minutes Saturday – hold up against the tougher teams GU must defeat down the stretch? Kentucky, Saint Mary’s again. San Francisco. Senior night against Santa Clara. It may have to if Gonzaga wants to continue its NCAA string.
Chiefs: A great third period lifted Spokane to a crucial 8-5 victory over Kelowna in the Arena last night. Dave Nichols was there and has this coverage.
Seahawks: The Hawks’ new defensive coordinator may be coaching in the Super Bowl. At least there are reports Chiefs’ defensive-line coach Joe Cullen is the guy. … Is Jay Harbaugh the team’s next offensive coordinator? … The Pro Bowl is no longer a tackle football game. OK, it hasn’t really been one for a couple decades. It seemed to be pretty entertaining as a series of varied competitions. … Don’t forget. The Seahawks hold the 16th draft pick.
Mariners: The M’’s have three members of The Athletic’s top 100 prospects. And the names are perfect. Colt Emerson. Cole Young. Harry Ford.
Sounders: Anybody have a room available in June of 2026 in the Seattle area? Asking for a relative who wants to find a way to get into Lumen Field for the World Cup matches. The sites were announced yesterday in an Oscar-like way. The winners? New Jersey, where the final will be. Los Angeles, with a semi and a bunch of matches. And Seattle, which will host the USMNT once and six matches total.
• If you are wondering, the first documented band performance at halftime of a football game came in October of 1907. Illinois’ band performed during the Illini’s game with the University of Chicago. Now that’s a Jeopardy question if there ever was one. Until later …