A Grip on Sports: When a game goes as planned these days, we should all be thanking instead of complaining about what’s missing

INFLUENZA IN SPORT • Everywhere we turn we see anger. Text messages. Social media. On TV. This is all because of circumstances that we think we can control, but we cannot. Or maybe it’s because we think it should have been under control now, but it isn’t. Yes sir, it’s really too cold outside.


• What, you thought we were going to taunt on COVID-19 and its impact on the sporting events that mean so much to each of us? In fact, we are. But the point is made, is not it? The pandemic has become as ingrained in our daily lives as the weather and we as individuals seemingly have just as much control over it.

Some days are sunny and mild. Others are cloudy and windy. And a few, like the ones recently, are filled with thunderstorms, ice, lightning, tornadoes, and just about every other horrible thing you can imagine.

It’s not like we have any control. We wish we did it, but we don’t. The virus travels through society at its own pace. It spits on our puny attempts to limit its spread. It blows, like a cold north wind, and freezes us in our tracks. This is, as Shakespeare said, our second consecutive winter of discontent. And there is no glorious summer to be seen anywhere.

So we take our soap boxes and moan about it. Some, like North Carolina state football coach Dave Doeren, get it courtesy of ESPN. He used it to tell the world he thought UCLA lied to them about its COVID-19 issues. As if the Bruins don’t want to play the canceled Holiday Bowl Tuesday night. Coaches are the first to stand up in front of their team and preach that they can only control what they can control. Do not be led astray by extenuating circumstances. And here is Doeren, bitching and moaning about something over which he – and UCLA – has no control.

If the latest tidal wave of this pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that our illusion of control is just that, an illusion. Oh, we can do anything to limit exposure and contact, but if we want to play sports, there are going to be problems. And extraordinary cancellations. The new variant is also powerful.

Wear your mask. Wear two if you feel the need to. To get vaccinated. Boosted. Try to keep your distance when possible. But if you play basketball, football, hockey, or whatever, going the next month without infection can be like seeing a unicorn.

It hit us this morning as we were sweeping the driveway and taking out the trash. We had layer after layer. Thick gloves, woolen hat, everything. And we are still cold. Funny, though. We didn’t rush, pick up the phone, and talked about it on Twitter or Instagram. Blame Canada. Cursed be Tom Sherry. Shake our fists at the weather gods. It would have been pointless. Or it’s warmer outside.

Although, to be fair, a few hundred likes could have made us feel better.

• We have always loved watching and listening to John Madden. He has been an exceptional coach with the Raiders. He was even better as a football analyst.

This is how we will remember him after his death yesterday at age 85. But the next generation, the generation of my children, will remember him as the face of the best football video game on the market.

Madden was a celebrity crossover before such things were popular. He reached my generation (and those even older) thanks to his footballing prowess. He reached the next one through marketing.

He never changed. The circumstances around him made it. He was what he seemed to be. Outgoing, talkative, fun loving, dedicated.

When a person dies, the only phrase that quickly comes to mind is that they will be missed. In the case of Madden, this has already been true. He had been away from the spotlight for a long time. And he had been missed. He will always be missed.


Gonzaga: The Zags were able to play on Tuesday which is something of a small miracle these days. But they won’t play on Thursday, which was supposed to be their West Coast Conference opener at the University of San Diego. Jim Meehan has more on this. … Back at Tuesday afternoon, Jim was in the kennel while visiting northern Alabama. And the result, a 93-63 Gonzaga victory, was similar to the first meeting. Jim has the history of the game and the difference makers. … Colin Mulvany was on the baseline and created this photo gallery. … The folks at the office covered the recap with some highlights. … Around the COE, Santa Clara’s COVID-19 issues have sidelined the Broncos. … BYU had to recover from late-season injuries.

WSU: In the town of El Paso, West Texas, Colton Clark himself had a little miracle. He was able to get there. Considering the problems with air travel these days – a combination of the virus and the weather, which causes people twice as much anger – he must be happy to be in a place where the troughs aren’t. single digit. He has a log of the Cougars’ somewhat normal practice as well as an article on a few players looking back on the season. … Larry Stone uses the Cougars Sun Bowl experience as a metaphor for everything that happens around college football bowl season. … Washington State will host Washington tonight (um, is planned to host) in the Pac-12 opener for the Huskies. UW has missed a lot of time due to COVID-19 issues and is still affected. The game will be on ESPNU at 8pm… Elsewhere in Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner examines the conference run in this SR story and predicts the rewards in this Mercury News article. … Yes, the Holiday Bowl was canceled just hours before kickoff in San Diego. What pain. … If that happens, Oregon and Oklahoma, both with interim coaches, will face off in tonight’s Alamo Bowl (6:15 pm, ESPN). The Ducks are also rounding out their staff for next season. … Regardless of the Rose Bowl outcome against Ohio State, it’s a big step for Utah. The Utes hope to build on this for the future. … Should Urban Meyer have stayed in Salt Lake City? … The state of Arizona is ready for a Las Vegas Bowl brawl with Wisconsin. … In the basketball news, Oregon and Colorado will play Monday, constituting a game postponed by a virus. … Is UCLA the team to beat? … The virus could be everyone’s toughest adversary in 2022.

EWU: Eastern women are part of the COVID-19 cancellation squad, postponing two matches this weekend to the virus. Jim Allen covers that in this story. … Around the Big Sky, the conference has put in place a policy to deal with the problems of this basketball season. … In football news, Montana State is gearing up for the FCS title game, which is still over a week away.

Idaho: Northern Arizona is set to host the Vandals tonight in the Lumberjacks’ first home game since November.

Preparations: We watched games of four high school basketball games last night. All without leaving our office, thanks to video streams from various gyms. Yes, we are paying for it, but these days it seems to be worth it. Dave Nichols probably has the same setup, although he will have to write a recap of the night’s action, something we should avoid.

Seahawks: Carlos Dunlap is on a roll. In the past, we would have called it a “wage campaign”. … Next in Seattle are the Detroit Lions, who are playing better these days. … The NFL playoffs appear to be disrupted by omicron, although they are just a few weeks away. Who knows where we will be then.


• If my parents were still with us, and they’d stayed married (the big two yes, I know), so today would have been their 75th wedding anniversary. I’m sure my dad would have made a big deal out of it, maybe even skipping for a big meal at McDonald’s. Unless the Social Security check is late. … Today is also my old friend – I mean this in two ways – Tom Engdahl’s birthday. Happy Birthday Tommy and may your day be filled with the best of puns – if there is such a thing. Until later …

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