Big-time reality checks on tap for NFL and Huskies hoopsters
Each Thursday, Art Thiel checks out the weekend sports scene locally and offers more casual sports fans some observations that can get them in and out of conversations without anyone catching on to your, ahem, casualness.
Whether at the water cooler, bus, lunchroom, frat kegger or cocktail party, you can drop in a riposte, bon mot or bit o’ wit to start a conversational conflagration, or put one out. Then walk away.
NFL labor ditherings: It’s not exactly a local event, but the Seahawks franchise and its players are amid the tumult. Since the collective bargaining agreement that holds together the most popular sport and TV series in America expires at 9 p.m. PST Thursday, the travail figures to be the weekend’s biggest sports talker.
For the casual fan, the intrigues of the dispute are equal parts boring and bewildering. To get off on this, you have to be a player, an agent, an owner or a sportswriter obligated to understand it a little.
If somehow you find yourself enmeshed at a party with any of the above (or, God help you, their wannabes), here’s a few things to help you navigate out of the conversational circle and toward the bean dip, which will likely have just as valid an opinion on the topic as those to whom you were talking:
Since the NFL will not admit publicly it has been pantsed in court, the consequence is that unless the union unexpectedly capitulates, each team by Friday morning will have locked the players out of its headquarters, denying them medical attention, training facilities and other benefits until a new deal is struck. In the worst case, the lockout will last into the start of the regular season in September, causing the collapse of fantasy football leagues across the fruited plain, and thus bringing out the end of the republic as we know it.
The more likely short-term outcome is that that the sides will agree to extend the deadline to see if an agreement is possible with more time. But if that merely delays the inevitable and a work stoppage occurs — the first in the NFL since 1987 — the owners will have shut down one of the few industries in America, outside of defense contracting, that is robust and flourishing, while annoying millions of people eager for football’s capacity for distraction, for no good reason.
“Talk about detached from reality,” you say to your friends. “Why don’t they just settle for some aviator glasses and fluffy gold braids on their epaulets, and a chunk of the north African desert? Works for other rich guys like them.”
Huskies basketball: Thursday, UCLA (12-4, 21-8) at Washington (10-6, 19-9), Hec Ed Pavilion (ESPN2); Saturday, USC (9-7, 17-12) at Washington, Hec Ed Pavilion, 7:30 p.m., FSN — It may be tapioca time for the Huskies. That’s what it is called when a sports team proves it is stout as pudding.
Even coach Lorenzo Romar, who has pretty much seen it all in college hoops, admitted Tuesday that Sunday’s weak home performance in the 80-69 defeat to Washington State “still has me a little confused.”
Romar usually has an answer, or at least a theory, for everything that happens on the court. Stumping him is like watching Watson, the Jeopardy! computer, whiff on a question. But after a complete collapse on offense in the first half (scoring a middle-school-level 17 points) followed by a defensive collapse in the second half (permitting a season-high 56 points), Romar could not land on anything other than the obvious — missing makeable shots — as to why his team played its worst game of the season so close to tourney time.
“The way we played defense in the first half, you don’t do that if you come out lethargic,” he said. “We just didn’t concentrate enough to finish. It’s a weird game to sum up.”
He gets to test out any theories first against UCLA, the conference’s hottest team after winning 12 of its past 14 games, then USC, winner of four in a row including a win over then-10th-ranked Arizona. After losing to UW around the holidays in LA, each team has improved markedly. The Huskies have not.
Injuries are a factor, as well as a police investigation, since abandoned for lack of evidence, of a rape allegation against a player. Still, the Huskies, mostly a veteran team, went so soft Sunday that they are candidates to be dessert for the real eaters of the Pac-10 Conference.
Should the Huskies end up falling to the Trojans and Bruins to complete the regular season with a three-game home losing streak, you simply look at your dawg-faced hoop friends and say, “Romar used to be so good figuring out his guys. Maybe the new coach, Charlie Sheen, will relate better.”
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