Column as I see em...
For the third time in three years, the University of Washington won’t close out its football season with the Apple Cup. A home date with California awaits the Huskies on Dec. 5.
It seems like Washington is snubbing tradition by placing an anticlimactic finale on the schedule, but history indicates otherwise: Between the first UW-WSU showdown in 1900 and the 42nd installment of the series in 1949, the Huskies concluded their season against the Cougars only 14 times. Among those opponents who faced Washington in a final regular-season game were Dartmouth, Penn State, Nebraska, Colorado, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago.
That said, there is no compelling reason for the Huskies to wind up their schedule against anybody else but the Cougars. Because, hey, once the record books are thrown out of the window, everything else becomes moot.
• The Heisman Trophy candidacy of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart is gaining momentum, and the national exposure he’ll get Saturday – the Cardinal will be home against Notre Dame, in what figures to be Charlie Weis’ swan song as head coach of the Fighting Irish – only will intensify the attention on Gerhart, an old-school masher with the feathery feet of a ballroom dancer.
It’s about time a Pac-10 player was recognized from a program other than USC. The conference’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner not associated with Troy? That would be Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett, in 1970. And while five Pac-10 running backs have won the Heisman, all five (Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen, Charles White, O.J. Simpson and Mike Garrett) represented USC.
• Gerhart is projected as a second-round NFL draft choice, which reveals more about the softening of the league’s offenses than it does about him. The Lions on Thursday found themselves with a second-and-goal opportunity at the Packers’ one-yard line. In the old days – heck, even two or three years ago – an extra tight end is summoned on second-and-goal, and the offense goes to work on punching the ball in. Not anymore. The Lions emptied the backfield and put the burden of scoring a touchdown on rookie quarterback Matt Stafford. He threw three incomplete passes.
And to think, the Lions and Packers are original members of what was once called the “Black and Blue” division.
• In the category of Sports Terms That Used To Mean Something But Don’t Mean Much Anymore, And I’m Not Quite Sure Why They Meant Anything In The First Place, here’s my No. 1 nominee.
The Skins Game.
• Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner plans to play Sunday despite having suffered a “mild” concussion last week. A mild concussion? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
I’m reminded of Bill Walton’s definition of a minor injury. “A minor injury,” the basketball Hall of Famer once said, “is when somebody else is hurt.”
• If Allen Iverson follows through on his retirement announcement, he leaves the NBA with a legacy as the most productive sub-6-foot player in league history – and a nickname that was even better than his game: Allen “Me, Myself, and I”verson.
• Was the 1995 playoff between the Mariners and Yankees the most memorable postseason series of all time? Author Chris Donnelly makes that case in his book, “Baseball’s Greatest Series: Yankees, Mariners, and the 1995 Matchup That Changed History.”
Greatest series? It’s an intriguing premise, though I suspect any history that was changed resonates more in the Pacific Northwest than it does in New York. Since the hearts of Yankees fans were broken during that best-of-five series, the team has participated in five World Series parades.
As stirring as the memories of 1995 remain for us, the “Matchup That Changed History” has been condensed into one word in the Bronx: “fuhgetaboutit.”
• A sportscaster pointed out the other day that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is “playing the game the way no other 40-year-old ever has.” Huh? Granted, it won’t be a surprise if he’s honored as Offensive Player of the Year. Nor will it be a surprise if Favre leads Minnesota to the Super Bowl.
But he’s not the first 40-year-old to have made a difference.
During a five-game span in 1970, the Raiders’ George Blanda, then 43, redefined the notion of age limits in pro football. He threw three touchdown passes to beat the Steelers on Oct. 25. He kicked a 48-yard field goal to salvage a tie against the Chiefs on Nov. 1. He threw a last-minute touchdown pass and kicked a field goal in a comeback victory over the Browns on Nov. 8. He threw another decisive touchdown pass to beat the Broncos on Nov. 15, and then kicked a game-winning field goal, as time was expiring, against the Chargers on Nov. 22.
Blanda would go on to play five more seasons in Oakland – as a backup quarterback and placekicker – before retiring, in 1975, at the age of 48.
• Washington’s inability to negotiate a revival of its basketball series with Gonzaga is frustrating, but at least the UW is helping Seattle University’s fledgling Division 1 program get its legs: The Huskies and Redhawks have a long-term commitment to play each other once a year. Meanwhile, the West Coast Conference – Gonzaga’s conference – remains uninterested in granting Seattle University membership in the league.
What’s wrong with this picture? Seattle U. is based in a major media market. It is a Jesuit school, consistent with the West Coast Conference’s predominantly Jesuit affiliation. Most important, Cameron Dollar’s team has proven it belongs in D-1.
It could use a little help from its friends, but I guess it needs to make some friends aside from the big brother on Montlake.
• Most underrated day on the sports calendar? It might be this one. There are six college football games to watch, from 8 a.m. (Rutgers at Louisville) to 7 p.m. (Nevada at Boise St.) In between, there’s such rivalry staples as Alabama-Auburn and Pittsburgh-West Virginia.
Mix in the typical holiday weekend telethon of college hoops and a couple of Class 3A football playoff games at the Tacoma Dome, and we’re approaching all-you-can-eat territory.
With nobody having to cook.