Make the Northwest Proud -- Back in 1939, college basketball was vastly different from the game we know today. The center jump after each basket had just been eliminated, and shooting usually consisted of heaving the sphere with both hands from a dead stop. And in New York City the previous year, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) began. When the NCAA started its own basketball tournament that year, the climax came when Oregon, nicknamed the "Tall Firs" due to the team's three big men topping out at nearly 20 feet in height, defeated Ohio State 46-33 for the championship.
In the next five seasons, three of the nine distinct championship finalists also came from campuses in the Northwest -- the 750,000 square miles bounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains and the 10 degrees of latitude from Canada to Colorado. Washington State lost the title game in 1941, while Wyoming and Utah won in 1943 and 1944. It looked at the time that this NCAA tournament might become truly representative of the whole nation. The reality, though, was that only two more Northwestern colleges attained the finals after 1944: Seattle University (led by a young Elgin Baylor) in 1958 and Utah in 1998.
Out of the 88 different schools that have made it to the Final Four in the 65 years of the Big Dance, just eight colleges are from the Northwest. The other Final Foursomes are Colorado (1942 and 1955), Washington (1953) and Oregon State (1949 and 1963). The 1998 Utah runner-up finish was the first Final Four finish by a Northwestern school in more than 30 years.
It's not so hard to figure out why our region has suffered such droughts. With the exception of Seattle, Portland, Denver and Salt Lake City, there are no other large urban centers in the Northwest that can produce talented high school players. Additionally, small schools in our region, like Gonzaga, face other competitive challenges. Like small college minnows in a big university pond, only Holy Cross and LaSalle have ever won the NCAA title from campuses with student body enrollments about the size of Gonzaga's, and that happened half a century ago. And small, indeed, is the Spokane metro area, ranking 99th in the U.S. according to the 2000 census. (For the record, the smallest metro area claiming an NCAA title is El Paso, Texas, home of Texas Western in 1966, now called Texas-El Paso -- the first champion in which all five starters were black.)
For those of us who call the Northwest home, the best hope that we have for Final Four fame rests in the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Go Zags!
Bad Ad -- I have just viewed the Bush-Cheney campaign ad exploiting the tragedy of 9/11. I am disgusted to think that we can expect more of this type of campaigning in the months leading up to November. This use of the images of 9/11 for political gain is hypocrisy at its worst and demonstrates the depth that the Republicans are willing to sink to further their agenda.
Last year, following the rush to a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, Bush banned media from showing flag-draped caskets of our soldiers killed in combat returning to Dover Air Force Base. This policy was allegedly enforced to "spare the feelings of military families." Yet in the first televised ad for the Republican's 2004 election bid, the Bush-Cheney team has chosen to blanket our airwaves with an image of firefighters carrying a flag-draped body from the carnage at Ground Zero. Apparently, the Bush-Cheney team is not concerned about sparing the feelings of 9/11 survivors, especially when those images can be used to further their cause.
The political use of the tragedy of 9/11 appears to be a major component of the Bush-Cheney election strategy. This type of ad campaign is over the line, in extremely bad taste and an insult to the victims and survivors of that terrible day. I am calling on all media outlets to stop running these ads, and I also ask that other citizens who are likewise offended by the use of our nation's pain for political gain to stop watching them.
Nena M. Blackwell
Stitching Rocks -- I loved seeing your article on knitting, "Stitch Enriched" (2/19/04). I also have a shop dedicated to a wide variety of fiber arts. We spin our yarn to knit or weave, we felt, we design. My customers spin, weave and, of course, knit, for the same reasons you mentioned, plus a few more.
If you would like a nice experience, drop by my shop, Bairns Croft, in Post Falls, with your needles on Saturdays to chat, get inspired, and enjoy your craft with others who have come in for the same reason.
Post Falls, Idaho
Unwise Environmentalist -- According to Paul Lindholdt's guest editorial, "Wise-Use Wedges," (3/4/04) it's a hard life being an environmentalist in this day and age, what with all the threats and dirty looks that he has experienced. What Lindholdt doesn't realize is that a farmer, logger, rancher, miner, fisherman, and neighbor doesn't take very kindly to a member of the Self-Appointed Saviors of the Environment (SASE, as we shall call them) telling them to stop their business and lifestyle because SASE is all-knowing of worldly things -- or simply doesn't like what they are doing. No matter how politely this message is delivered, there are bound to be some hard feelings from the party being told to stop. This is just plain common sense, yet Lindholdt seems truly surprised that a cattle rancher or grass grower would want to lynch him. The nerve of these people!
I'm sure the ranchers are very surprised to learn in Lindholdt's article that their herds of Angus and Hereford cattle did not originate from Britain but from Asia. I wonder what other facts might be wrong when the members of SASE are speaking from their pulpits? The fact that they're right and everybody else is wrong, possibly? He also states that cattle are damaging to public lands. I would agree with this if I ever saw a cow riding a four-wheeler smoking a cigarette while carelessly flicking ashes into the dry underbrush or leaving a campfire unattended. I especially like how he says that he and his wife planned to "camp peaceably in the park." Is there any other way? I know of no one who likes to camp "war-like" in a park, except maybe subscribers to Soldier of Fortune magazine.
If you are going to make a hobby out of telling other people how they should live their lives, be prepared for threats and dirty looks. It comes with the territory and is brought on by your own actions, period.
False Advertising -- While I do not think the images of 9/11 should be used in the Bush TV ads, there's something else that bothers me even more about the pieces. The ads start out "I am George W. Bush and I approved this message." Then goes on to put "An economy in recession," "A stock market in decline," "A dot com boom.... gone bust," and finally, "Then a day of tragedy" across the screen. It's the next part that they leave out that bothers me. It should read "All while on my watch."
Safer? Not likely. Stronger? Probably. Even more hated now by the world community? No doubt. In debt up to our eyeballs? Yep. More loss of personal freedoms than with any other president? Absolutely. Bigger government? Biggest ever. Four more years of this? Please, no!
Sunday School -- In the Inlander's article "GibSon of God" (3/4/04), Michael Bowen asserted that The Passion of the Christ is "long on brutality and short on what Christ stood for." Really? Did Jesus not stand consistently for what we all say the world needs now, "Love, sweet love?" Is not the whole movie a graphic depiction of to what extreme God's love will go to redeem His rebellious children and free us from Satan's hateful grip? An obedient son's passion to fulfill the will of His Father in loving to the death His enemies? (Did you not hear His request on the cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"?)
To spend two hours illustrating, yes, the brutality of unredeemed man, but also the tenderness of a mother for her son, disciples for their master, Pilate's wife for her husband, some religious leaders for justice and at least two Roman soldiers for the witness of their conscience in this most profound dramatization of the meaning of love, hardly falls "short on what Christ stood for." The questions the movie leaves all of us with are: Why did Christ have to die and who is ultimately responsible? I submit it was Mother Teresa who placed that thorny crown upon the head of Jesus. It was Billy Graham who hammered in those nails. It was Martin Luther King who erected the cross on Calvary. It was you. It was I. But that is still not the full truth. It was really neither Jews nor Romans nor all of us who crucified Christ. "I lay down my life that I might take it up again," Jesus declares in one scene. "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again" (John 10:17).
The death of Christ took place at the hands of men, but it was done, as Peter said on the day of Pentecost, by the "determined counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). God, in His infinite love, sent Christ to die for our sins. Almost incomprehensibly, the final, most full truth is that "It pleased the Lord (the Father) to bruise Him (Jesus); He (God) has put Him (Jesus) to grief" (Isaiah 53:10).
The whole movie is the stunning visualization of the eternal fact that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).