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Of all the many descriptives applied to Dan Fitzgerald over his lifetime, one was invoked too seldom: Indispensible.
Revel in your football today. Throw on your replica NFL jersey, invite some friends over, wolf down some wings. Meticulously add and project your fantasy league points. High-five your buddy when a particularly vicious hit is delivered. Maybe even lament that the last labor agreement didn’t allow the league to add two more weeks to this wonderment.
PULLMAN – To borrow shamelessly from YouTube’s Greatest Coaching Rants, they are who we thought they were. Oh, not Washington State. The Cougars’ first two opponents.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Say, any way that mass exodus from the Western Athletic Conference can be accelerated?
Speed guys? Easy to spot. They wear single-digit jerseys, or maybe something in the 20s or 80s. Wide at the shoulders, narrow in the hips – they’re A-list mesomorphs. Almost regal in bearing, but with a studied nonchalance about their gift.
The players do get paid so it is professional football, but frankly speaking when it comes to the Arena Football League and the Spokane Shock there’s still a lot of, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” Don’t think so?
Consider that not even five months ago, the man announced Monday as the Shock’s newest field boss had never coached before and was paying the rent pouring concrete. Just what about that suggests real-deal football?
From the moment the Spokane Shock announced they would play a game outdoors at Albi Stadium this summer, there was one image that was hard to shake. It’s of the cyclist who buys an exercise bike to keep in shape over the winter … and then moves it to his patio to use when the clock strikes June, while his $1,700 carbon frame beauty hangs on hooks in the garage.
Chauncy Welliver knows three expressions in Chinese: nín hão (hello), xiè xiè (thank you) and something he called a “native word” for “you’re welcome,” which frankly sounded more Tongan over the phone. But from Chinese to boxer to sports writer, something was bound to get lost in translation. “Maybe a thousand more fights here,” he said, “and I’ll be fluent.”
The first couple of hurdles aren’t the ones that vex him – the minor intrigue of the staggered start, who might be tracking you from behind or whether you’re making up too much ground too quickly on the runners ahead. He does not dread the backstretch and the inevitable wind that lives to ruin your rhythm, or the far curve where gearing down seems instinctual but gearing up is demanded. It’s not even the last two barriers, the desperate juggling of fatigue, steps and spacing where the closest races are always won and lost.
The story begins, as it so often does, with how it almost wasn’t a story at all.
Whatever tonight brings for the Spokane Chiefs – one more game to play or none at all – it’s good to remember that hockey in May seemed the least likely of all outcomes back in September. Oddly enough, the Chiefs still do. “We were picked to be last and look where we are now,” offered defenseman Jared Cowen. “People didn’t think we were going to be very good, and none of us really forgot that all year. “We’ve kept it in the back of our heads, even now.” Not that backup motivations are needed tonight, when they meet Portland in Game 6 of the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference finals at the Spokane Arena, with the Chiefs a loss away from elimination. “But it’s just human nature,” Cowen said, “to want to be better than people think you are.”
So now it’s “Win the day for Pantone Matching System 19-1543 TC and 14-1159 TC?” Damn, that screws up the rhyme in the fight song. In the color-by-numbers nitty-gritty of athletic apparel, those are the digits that identify the new crimson and the new gray – well, one of the new grays – in which Washington State athletes will be swaddled in the coming years, the first peek coming Monday night at what the school called an introduction of a “department-wide brand and identity program.”
SEATTLE – After each home game, the Seattle Mariners media relations staff issues a page of notes, statistical curiosities mostly – RBI streaks, a hitter who owns opponent pitching, season highs and the like. All as straightforward as junior high math.
One thing about basketball this time of year: There’s always room for another somebody special. For all the milestones passed, records set, poster poetry inspired and oohs aahed, Courtney Vandersloot is, in the end, still just one person, albeit 68 inches of giant. The Gonzaga Bulldogs may go just as far in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament as she, uh, Sloots them – or they may go further, now that the Zags have unleashed Kayla Standish.
After stops at Gonzaga, Minnesota and now Long Beach State Dan Monson has a keen perspective on things as a coach and a father.