John McGrath

John McGrath: Taking the Beast Mode Challenge with a variety of sports topics

Beast Mode Challenge at Swan Creek Park

Thousands turned out to try their hand at the obstacle course and enjoy family friendly activities.
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Thousands turned out to try their hand at the obstacle course and enjoy family friendly activities.

Column as I see ‘em ...

▪  Participants checking in for the third annual Beast Mode Challenge were given a map Saturday of the 3.5-mile obstacle course at Swan Creek Park in Tacoma. Because a portion of the proceeds from the charity event were to go to Marshawn Lynch’s Fam 1st Family Foundation, the map contained the eight words Lynch famously repeated during the media day preceding Super Bowl 49: “I”m just here so I won’t get fined.”

To the disappointment of some and the surprise of nobody, the former Seahawks running back was not there. Around noon, event emcee Terry Hollimon informed the crowd that Lynch “is out of the country,” not an implausible scenario for somebody who has made goodwill trips to Egypt and Haiti since announcing his retirement.

Lynch’s mother, Delisa “Mama” Lynch, represented the family.

“Marshawn does not like to converse,” his mother told the audience. “Mama will converse with you.”

She also posed for photographs and signed autographs, showing a smile consistent with the festive mood of an event that challenged participants to negotiate such obstacles as inverted walls, a hill climb, balance beams and mud pits.

“Everybody is having a wonderful time,” said Tacoma Athletic Commission president Rob Tillotson, who served as a marshal at the “Leap the Defender” obstacle near the end of the course. “This park is perfect for something like this.”

▪  The commissioners who conceived the inaugural College Football Playoff as a New Year’s Eve doubleheader last winter have achieved consensus with a message: If at first you don’t succeed, change the date.

It was hoped that holding the playoff semifinals on Dec. 31 in some years would become as entrenched a New Year’s Eve tradition as the squeaky noisemaker, the cardboard fez and the countdown to midnight. One problem: When New Year’s Eve falls on a weekday — as was the case in 2015 — it deprives millions of fans from tuning in because they’re either working or commuting.

Ratings for the Clemson-Oklahoma showdown in the Orange Bowl were down 45 percent from the previous season, and the falloff of Alabama-Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl — 34 percent — was almost as severe.

The kickoff time for the Orange Bowl was 4 p.m. on the East Coast and 1 p.m in the West. Tacoma-area residents who worked until 5 p.m. had no chance to watch that game, and those required to use Interstate-5 in either direction had next to no chance of watching the first half of the Cotton Bowl.

And though ratings were not helped by the fact both games were mismatches — Clemson’s 38-17 victory was followed by Alabama’s 38-0 shutout — the Nielsen nosedive reflected a work-play conflict that proved to be untenable.

From now on, semifinals will be scheduled on New Year’s Eve only if Dec. 31 falls on a Saturday. That might not sound like a giant leap for mankind — or even a small step for man — but given how long it took for the commissioners to relax their steadfast opposition to a playoff in the first place, it’s progress.

By not tuning in, the public spoke. And in what might be described as a monumental moment in the history of college football, the public was heard.

▪  Speaking of public opinion, the NFL’s stance against the benefits of marijuana is absurd. Voters in four states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational pot, and voters in dozens of other states have passed referendums allowing medical marijuana. Eight more states will take up the issue in the November elections.

For athletes suffering the consequences of playing a violent sport through high school, college and the NFL, pain-killing pills are an addictive scourge. And yet the league regards those who choose an organic alternative to pharmaceutical garbage as lawbreakers?


▪  Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline expires Monday, which brings to mind a former Mariners general manager I saw last week during Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction into the Hall of Fame. On the evening of July 31, 1998, at literally the last hour, Woody Woodward agreed to trade Randy Johnson to Houston for what turned out to be three Astros prospects: Starting pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama, and infielder Carlos Guillen.

Woodward wasn’t thrilled with the exchange. He had pushed for a deal with the Dodgers based on Hideo Nomo and a trio of combination-plate options: Nomo and fellow starter Ismael Valdes, or Nomo and second baseman Wilton Guerrero, or Nomo and outfielder Roger Cedeno.

But somebody in Seattle’s then-murky ownership group nixed each deal, forcing Woodward to settle for a trade that gave the Mariners three players who contributed to the team’s back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series in 2000 and 2001.

Woodward is 73, but appears to not have aged a day since July 31, 1998. I asked him how he managed this.

“Simple,” he said. “I stopped taking phone calls from agents, and worrying about contracts.”