Friday, January 29, 2016

Free bacon, free t-shirts and free three pointers at tomorrow's EWU basketball game

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 3:59 PM


Last night, Eastern Washington's men's basketball team scored 112 points against Portland State. That number is impressive, but more insane is the fact that they hit 20 three-pointers (on just 31 attempts, a school record.) Five Eagles finished in double figures and the team shot 64 percent from the field.

If those numbers, and the fact that EWU is scoring 104 points per game at home in Big Sky Conference play this season aren't enough to get you out to Cheney for tomorrow's game against Sacramento State, the EWU athletic department has a few more enticements to lure you to Reese Court.

First off, if you're an EWU student, you could get yourself some free bacon. Yes, bacon. The first 300 students through the door get bacon. This is not a joke. There might be no such thing as a free lunch, but, apparently, free bacon is a very real thing.

For the rest of us, we could get a free Eastern basketball shirt. Those go to the first 1,000 people through the door to help with the "Red Out" planned for the game.

Tip off is set for 12:05 pm. Here's where to get advance tickets.
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Morning Place Kicker: Super Bowl set and a whole lotta hoops

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 11:49 AM

Ike Iroegbu can't do it by himself for the Cougars, who are in the midst of a five-game losing streak. - WSUCOUGARS.COM
  • Ike Iroegbu can't do it by himself for the Cougars, who are in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

After months of celebration and consternation among NFL fans, we finally have our matchup for Super Bowl Sunday, so start planning your menus for the Denver Broncos vs. the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Feb. 7. (Allow me to suggest some pulled pork barbecue to represent Carolina, and, um, Rocky Mountain Oysters for Denver? 

Denver and its geriatric QB Peyton Manning managed to outlast defending Super Bowl champs New England thanks to a stellar defense, a missed extra point and a last-ditch two-point conversion that went awry. It was a pretty ugly game overall, ending up 20-18. At least the ending was exciting as the Patriots repeatedly got into scoring range, only to be repelled by the Denver D. 

Facing the Broncos will be the Carolina Panthers, the team that took out the Seahawks and made the Arizona Cardinals look absolutely ridiculous on Sunday, routing the NFC West champs 49-15. Much like last week, the Panthers ran out to a big lead, but the Cards had no second-half surge in them and this one was a laugher. No doubt that Seahawks fan who hates Panthers QB Cam Newton — aka the about-to-be-named MVP — is not too happy this morning. 

Now we get two weeks of hype about how old Manning is, how brash Newton is, and how good both defenses are. And a whole lotta Papa John's commercials starring one of the teams' QBs. 

The Super Bowl is Feb. 7 at 3:30 pm Pacific time on CBS. 

Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. - GOZAGS.COM
  • Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis.

One great thing about living in Spokane is the access to so many college hoops teams in the area. From nationally ranked programs like (usually) Gonzaga and Whitworth, to up-and-coming teams like Idaho and Eastern, there's always someone to cheer for. Here's how they all did this weekend: 

Zags Rebound
After a borderline-inexplicable loss to St. Mary's on Thursday, in which Gonzaga frittered away a large second-half lead and lost what could have been a huge win in the West Coast Conference, the team came back strong to beat the surprisingly frisky Pacific Tigers. It was close for much of the game before Kyle Wiltjer and Co. pulled away for a 10-point win. The Zags now sit alone in second place, one game behind St. Mary's, who will have to visit the Kennel later this season. 

Next on the docket: Two homes games this week, with Santa Clara visiting on Thursday and San Francisco coming through Spokane on Saturday. 

Continue reading »

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

The first preview trailer of Gonzaga's HBO series is here

Posted By on Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 8:58 AM

As we told you a few weeks ago, the Gonzaga men's basketball team is to be the subject of a five-part HBO series beginning Feb. 16 on HBO. A lot of Zag fans I've ran into since the series was announced are excited to see such a high-profile look at the team, especially when it comes to the off-court stuff we don't get to see. But, they all seem to add, "Why did it have to be this season?" Then again, the Zags unexpected losses could add some interesting drama to the series.

But from this first look at Gonzaga: March to Madness, it looks like things are going to be pretty booster-y. Regardless of how the season is playing out, you can't help but get a few goosebumps from this trailer, released this morning. The Zags take on Pacific today at 1 pm in the hopes of getting back on track their devastating loss to St. Mary's on Thursday night. 
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Friday, January 22, 2016

6,000 students to get "Fit for Bloomsday...Fit for Life"

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 4:42 PM


Over 6,000 students in the region have amp-ed up their P.E. game — to get Fit For Bloomsday. Elementary schools from across the Inland Northwest are scheduled to participate in Bloomsday's annual kids fitness and health program, with late sign-ups still welcomed.

The Fit for Bloomsday...Fit For Life program  (Fit for Bloomsday, for short) is in it's 31st year of operation, educating kids on everything from healthy eating to proper exercise training. This year, over 60 elementary schools and around 6,500 students have signed up to participate in the 8-10 week program.

“We’re really pleased with the support this program receives from principals, teachers, PE instructors and parent volunteers,” Bloomsday Race Director Don Kardong said in a press release. “They’re really making a difference in the fitness of kids in the community.”

Over the past 31 years, the program has been exponentially supported, and more than doubled in size over the course of its existence. In its inaugural year, Fit For Bloomsday had about 35 schools and 2,500 kids participating in the yearly program. Although 31 years seems like a long time, and it is, the Kardong and the Bloomsday officials believe their mission that started in 1986 still holds true. With support from PE instructors, teachers, and other figures in the communities, the goal of integrating the mission of Bloomsday into local schools became a reality.

"I think it's evolved over the years, but the basic idea is still the same," Kardong said. "We certainly get more schools signing up for it than we did when it first started."


Every year, schools from this region sign up as they have for years, and the program has been consistent in terms of numbers. But as for expansion to reach further for more schools, Kardong says that, for now, those 60 to 70 schools are enough for their capacity to encourage and teach kids about fitness and health — with a lasting impact.

"We hope as [the students] get older, they understand running and fitness and eventually they'll come, if they haven't already, [to] the big Bloomsday."

As the 6,000-plus students begin their program this year, the mission and drive behind the work that the Fit for Bloomsday...Fit for Life program provides the community is steadfast, even after 31 years. It's about getting kids off the couch and moving.

"It's fine to say kids should have an hour of exercise, but do they [actually] do that?" Kardong said. "This [program] isn't the total solution, but it's part of it."

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Newsweek tackles the mystery of Connor Halliday's failed NFL dream

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Spokane's Connor Halliday was on target for the NFL before an injury and other issues waylaid him.
  • Spokane's Connor Halliday was on target for the NFL before an injury and other issues waylaid him.

Ever since former Washington State quarterback and Spokane native Connor Halliday bailed out of Washington, D.C., the night before the start of his rookie training camp — a camp that could have potentially landed the undrafted free agent in the NFL, a lifelong goal of his — there have been questions about just what happened to the tall, cool QB The Inlander and others considered a real gunslinger and near-lock for a pro career. 

The questions actually go back further for those of us surprised the kid didn't get drafted after having one of the most prolific passing careers in college football, but the injury that cut short his senior season seemed to be ample reason for NFL teams to wait before taking a chance on Halliday, rather than using a valuable draft pick. HIs mom even wrote a powerful essay about watching her boy's injury, and how the NFL was still his goal, just before Draft Day last year. 

Now comes a new piece via Newsweek, in which reporter John Walters tries to find out what happened in D.C., and what's next for Halliday on his rocky road to the pros. Ultimately, the reader is left still wondering what went wrong, and whether Halliday has what it takes to still make a go of it in pro football. 

This is all the explanation we get of why he bailed out of his rookie training camp: 
He spent nearly two weeks at the Redskins’ facility in Ashburn, Virginia, ingesting coach Jay Gruden’s playbook. Like a law school grad cramming for the bar exam while his mind is plagued with self-doubts about practicing law, Halliday was easily distracted. Mentally and emotionally, he had tapped out. On the eve of the three-day rookie training camp, he bought a one-way ticket home.

“I felt bad about not telling coach Gruden face-to-face,” says Halliday. “But I also felt like they told me that they were going to draft me, and then they didn’t.”

Halliday’s flight out of Dulles International Airport departed before dawn. His cab arrived at 3:45 a.m. As the taxi approached the on-ramp of the highway, a lone vehicle pulled directly in front of it: a BMW 760, just like the one he had dreamt of owning. “It was right in front of us,” says Halliday. “Then the driver floored it. He must have been going 100 to 120 miles per hour. And that was my dream disappearing in front of me.”
There's new info about his brief — as in, one day — career in the Canadian Football League, a brief — as in, two months — marriage to his childhood sweetheart, and Halliday's struggles to get a "regular job" in Spokane while he mulls what might have been. 

“I am disappointed that I’m one of those stories,” says Halliday in the article. “‘Do you know Connor Halliday? He had all the talent in the world, but it just didn’t work out for him.’”

Hopefully there's still a chance for Halliday to inspire a better story, or at least a better ending to his own. 

Read the full Newsweek article here
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This weirdly fun but agonizing Seahawks season is finally over, EWU scores a lot, Zags right the ship

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 11:30 AM

I woke up this morning wondering why I didn't have that same sinking, dreadful, world-ending feeling I've had the last two times the Seahawks were bounced from the playoffs. Both of those losses (last year's Super Bowl bed-shitting, and a loss in Atlanta after an epic comeback in 2012) felt like guaranteed wins at one point and yesterday's loss in Carolina seemed like it was over before people who made the most of their Saturday nights had even gotten out of bed. That was part of it.

But the 31-24 loss also didn't sting as much because the Seahawks probably shouldn't have been in the playoffs to begin with. They'd lost four of their first six games, key players went down to injury and they generally looked like a raging garbage fire until mid November. Everything after the 16-game schedule felt like gravy or icing or the fake butter movie theaters now irresponsibly trust customers to apply to their own popcorn.

In a way, and I'm not the only person to make this comment, the improbable-but-too-little-too-late comeback yesterday after the worst first-half drilling the Seahawks have experienced in the Era of Russell was a microcosm of Seattle's entire season. You screw things up and get yourself in a massive hole, but then somehow manage to get yourself almost out of that hole, only to fall short at the end.

Or perhaps my lack of complete emotional devastation was because the entire first half, during which the Seahawks forgot to play football and allowed touchdowns in all ways conceivable, had allowed me to progress through the grieving process early. Still though, I couldn't have been the only one who knew they wouldn't just let us off like that. They would have to score a bunch of points somehow, because the Seahawks somehow never get blown out. For some, the fact that everything somehow came down to a Stevie Hauschka onside kick that looked very promising at first didn't make the loss any easier to accept.

If you want to think of what could have been, just consider that, down three touchdowns early, the Hawks never got to really run their offense, not even in that gutsy second-half rally. So we never got to see what the repaired Marshawn Lynch could do — and there were a few signs he might have been able to do something — or what Seattle could have done with more time on their side in that first half. And those two interceptions Wilson tossed in the first quarter? That's the game right there, especially the pick-six.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Steve Gleason documentary set to debut at Sundance

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:10 PM

Steve Gleason has become a larger-than-life figure in the eyes of many, especially in his hometown of Spokane and his adopted home, New Orleans, where this ESPN article made him sound like the Crescent City's patron saint. And, surprisingly, all this fame has come after his football career.

Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) back in 2011, Gleason has been a tireless and inspirational advocate for ALS research, while also doing utterly cool things, like climbing Machu Pichu and hanging out with Pearl Jam. Now, his story is the subject of a feature documentary, entitled Gleason that is set to debut at next week's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film has received substantial funding and could very well make a theatrical run, depending on how things go at Sundance.

The film has been long in the making, and follows him through his playing days, into fatherhood and then, of course, his ongoing battle with ALS. Here's a tear-jerking clip courtesy of Sports Illustrated with Gleason talking to his then-unborn son Rivers.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

ESPN ranks Gonzaga's John Stockton as No. 3 point guard of all time

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 at 4:18 PM

These shorts are baggier than Stockton typically wore during his Hall of Fame NBA career.
  • These shorts are baggier than Stockton typically wore during his Hall of Fame NBA career.

Ah, lists. You gotta love 'em. We media folks sure do, because they're designed to get people yapping around the ol' water cooler — or on social media, if you were born after 1970 — and sparking discussion is always a goal for us. 

With that in mind, there's no reason to get too riled up about ESPN's new list ranking the all-time best point guards. The sports network conducted a poll of "experts" to divvy up the 150 greatest NBA players of all time, and when they broke that list down further into positions, Spokane's own John Stockton found himself at No. 3 among point guards. 

Now, being the third-best-ever at anything is pretty awesome, but you could certainly argue that the diminutive Gonzaga alum know for his stellar passing, tough-as-nails defensive presence and oh-so-tight shorts should be even higher on the list. After all, he IS the all-time assist leader in NBA history, by more than 3,000 dimes, and assists ARE what playing point guard is all about. At least, it used to be before the Allen Iversons and Steph Currys of the world helped turned the position into a score-first one. 

Oh, Stockton is also the all-time NBA leader in steals, too, roughly 600 past No. 2 Jason Kidd and 700 past some dude named Michael Jordan. Hell, Gary "The Glove" Payton even said Stockton was harder to cover than Jordan

But it's hard to argue with Magic Johnson topping the point-guard list, given his NBA titles. And Oscar Robertson DID average a good 12 points a game more than Stockton in his career. 

Still, our vote goes to the hometown boy who tore it up for the Utah Jazz for years. Here are some sweet Stockton highlights: 

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Gonzaga basketball is the subject of an HBO series debuting in February

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 at 12:23 PM


There have been a few moments over the past 15 years when you've probably said to yourself, "Wow, I never thought Gonzaga basketball could get this big." Maybe it was when Adam Morrison was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Or when the Zags went to No. 1 in the polls and got a No. 1 seed back in 2013. Or when Kyle Witljer was named the pre-season Player of the Year before this season began.

Or, perhaps, it's today when you realize that Gonzaga is the subject of a five-part series called Gonzaga: The March to Madness debuting February 16 on HBO. Yeah, HBO. That is pretty big-time. You may have heard rumblings about this or seen the extra camera crews on hand during home games this season, but it's pretty remarkable that this is an actual series

“We are always looking for fascinating stories that will appeal to our subscribers, and this project will shine a spotlight on one of the most successful basketball programs in America,” says Rick Bernstein, the executive producer of HBO Sports. “Gonzaga University has built a tremendous program, but so many of its accomplishments and backstories are largely unknown.”

Well, around here, at least, people hopefully know something about the backstory of Gonzaga basketball. But to have this sort of inside look is going to be fascinating, considering most press access to the team is tightly regulated. Maybe we'll get to see some more Mark Few dance moves.

Seriously though, it will also be interesting to see how the series handles the Zags' struggles in high-profile games earlier this season, including the losses to UCLA and Arizona at home.

In other Zag news, Gonzaga takes on BYU on Thursday night here in Spokane. The students are back and the place should be loud for what is going to be a tough contest against a good Cougars team that can get up and down the court.
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Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Morning Place Kicker: Squeakers, rivalries and shanks for the memories

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 11:46 AM

By a show of hands, how many Seahawks fans were cursing the rotten luck of making an epic fourth-quarter comeback only to have it stolen by some shady penalties/poor defense? I know at least a few of you were convinced the season was over when the Vikings lined up for this:

Oh happy day in 12-land! A miracle finish to be sure! And much-needed after a few hours of frozen football in which, let's face it, not a lot happened. I'm not a Seahawks fan, but I live with some, and watching that game was, shall we say, boring as hell. Sure, it was exciting in the fourth quarter, when the Seahawks made some huge plays to get back into it, from Kam Chancellor's strip of the Vikings' best player, Adrian Peterson, to Russell Wilson grabbing a loose snap and finding Tyler Lockett for a huge gain instead of a potentially disastrous loss of yards as the 'hawks moved into position for the only TD of the game. 

But let's be real — a 10-9 game is pretty tough to watch no matter what the weather. Russell Wilson threw for less yards than his Vikings counterpart Teddy Bridgewater, and neither of them cracked 150 yards through the air. Prodigal son Christine Michael did run for 70 yards, far exceeding Peterson's 45 on the ground. The Seahawks defense showed up for sure, and the whole "survive and advance" thing is as true in the NFL playoffs as it is in March Madness. So the Seahawks and their fans can be super-stoked they're not these poor bastards: 

Up next? A trip to Carolina to take on the No. 1 seed Panthers. The teams have had some close ones through the years, and you can expect another one, in far warmer climes than Minnesota. Can we expect to see Beast Mode this week, after he skipped traveling to Minny, or has he returned to the mysterious place he goes to rehab? Will Wilson recapture the magic he showed for the latter half of the season and light up one of the best defenses in the league? And will the Seahawks' D end Cam Newton's probably MVP season and set themselves up for yet another conference championship? 

Find out Sunday at 10 am on Fox. 

Zags continue romping through WCC, Cougs lost to Huskies, Eagles beat Vandals
Okay, maybe "romp" is a strong word for an 11-point win over Portland, but Gonzaga's two main men, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, are certainly doing the most damage of any of the Bulldogs so far this season. They've had to, of course, as the leaders of the team, but dropping a combined 60 points on the visiting Pilots is borderline unfair. Next up for the Zags is a home game against BYU Thursday at 6 pm. 

WSU faced off with the surprising UW Huskies Saturday, and while the Cougars played with the Pac-12 leaders the whole game, they blew a second-half lead and lost in overtime, 99-95. Clearly Ernie Kent has the team moving in the right direction, but losing at home to a rival in a winnable game — that hurts. The Cougars have a road game at Arizona State on Thursday. 

After Eastern Washington's huge run to the conference title and NCAA tournament last year, hopes were high for a repeat this season. The pre-conference schedule, though, was marked with a lot of losses, and two losses to open the Big Sky didn't bode well. Idaho, on the other hand, is a strong 10-6 overall, even after taking a blowout loss to the Eagles on Saturday. Next up for the Eagles is a home game against Southern Utah. For the Vandals, it's a home game Thursday against Northern Arizona. 
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