BY Art Thiel 01:48AM 03/03/2011

Water Cooler Cool: The weekend scene

Big-time reality checks on tap for NFL and Huskies hoopsters

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and National Football League owners are on the verge of locking out the players/ Wiki Commons

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:

  • The sport pulls in about $9 billion in revenues each season, and every franchise is wildly popular;
  • Not yet born to this earth is a person so stupid that he or she can lose money operating an NFL franchise;
  • Politically, financially and socially, the NFL is at the acme of its power;
  • The team owners are attempting to roll back players’ salaries and benefits to pre-1992 levels for the same reason a dog licks his balls: Because  they find it not only possible, but pleasurable.
  • The average length of an NFL playing career is between three and four years, but the infirmities they acquire in the game will last a lifetime.
  • Within that career span, the player often makes more than the average American worker makes in a lifetime, which is good, because many of them discover they can’t do much else, especially when their concussed brains start to fail in their mid-40s.
  • The NFL has been told by two judges, one as recently as Tuesday, that the $4 billion in unearned TV revenues they extorted for work-stoppage insurance from the broadcast and cable TV networks that crave football content, was acquired in violation of the union contract, and damages are pending.

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.”

The Rotation’s weekly schedule:

  • Monday: That Was The Week That Was — A snarky, day-by-day review of the week just ended.
  • Tuesday: Wayback Machine — Sports historian David Eskenazi’s deep dive into local sports history, replete with photo eye candy.
  • Wednesday: Nobody Asks But Us — We ask, and answer, fun and quirky questions nobody else is asking.
  • Thursday: Water Cooler Cool — Art Thiel takes on the weekend for the benefit of the more casual fan.
  • Friday: Top 5 List — The alpha and omega of Northwest sports, at least as far as we’re concerned.


  • Angry Raccoon

    Art, this is off topic, I know, but I see that you smirked when you heard that Durant was going to miss time due to injury…It’s not personal, I know. Indeed I react the same way whenever misfortune strikes that team. Now, I see from the Times’ NBA forum that the NBA’s online store is still, or is again, selling Seattle Sonics gear. Does anyone know what that’s all about? Some in that forum are speculating that this is a sign that the NBA is prepping the soil for a Sonics return, with announcements about a new team and arena imminent. Wishful thinking, I’m sure. A cynic might think that Bennett is just trying to sqeeze a few more dollars out of this market. Count me as a member of that crowd. Don’t be fooled…and don’t give those owners a dime!

  • 1coolguy

    Wow – how does a team NOT get up for a tournament game?
    Looks like Romar needs to read up on a “getting a team ready to play” self-help book.


    Also, I don’t know how a coach does it, but somehow he may just need to pass on the “one-and-done” stars – let them go somewhere else so he can develop players who actually want to play for a few years. The list gets longer every year and IMO it’s time to stop this bad joke of players saying “thanks but no thanks” at the UW’s expense.

  • Loyal Husky

    Loyal Husky

    What a shame.  This team was not ready to play.  It began play with lazy defense, careless turnovers, and bad shot selection (by the wrong shooters).  Then, late in the game, OSU was ready to be closed out.  As the article says, the Huskies plain choked.  Back to the early pattern of poor shot selection, matador defense, and missed free throws.

    Much has been made all season about the NBA first-round talents of Ross and Wroten.
    They have talent, alright, but often play carelessly.  Ross did not even know, apparently, that his
    intentionally missed free throw had to hit the rim to remain in play.  Did Romar tell him beforehand?
    Did neither Romor nor Ross know the rules?  Why did Romar not call a timeout to steady Wroten down before he shot his four consecutive clunker free throws?  He’s done that in the past..

    Romar keeps talking about positive reinforcement of his players.  That is good.  But where is the accountability (by coaches as well as players)?  It is hard to imagine a Coach K, Williams,
    or other top-flighter tolerating the same mistakes being made time after time by the same players—without sitting them for a stretch to consider their play and watch others.  This team, in March, is still making November mistakes.  Maybe we’d be better off working from the Gonzaga model, where less publicized and physically talented kids play hard and with discipline and have a genuine will to improve and win.

    NCAAs?   It hardly matters.  It is hard to imagine this team playing even one more game in its present complacent state.

  • zigzags

    Well this should end the debate about who’s the best team Washington. I’ll enjoy watching the Zags in the NCAA tourney and hey, at least UW probably gets an extra home game in the NIT…

  • RadioGuy

    Hard to win close games when you’re only 12-of-26 from the line.  Dunks in transition are fun to watch, but when you shoot under 50% from 15 feet away with nobody in front of you, you’ve got a problem.  Unlike the 3-point line, they haven’t moved the foul line in decades at any level so it’s not as though these guys have had to make a transition from high school.

    NIT?  The Huskies looked like a bubble CBI team last night.  They’re better than what they showed, but this game says a lot about their collective mental toughness.  Basketball is more than just showing up and being more physically gifted than the other team.  You may be able to do that when you’re playing Inglemoor or Newport, but it’s not like that in college ball (even if you’re playing the #9 seed in a down PAC 12 season).

  • cruddy

    This is the kind of team that will always break your heart.  They have all the talent but none of the grit.  They are soft because they don’t like to play team defense.  Age has a lot to do with it.  O is cool and D is old school.  Watching the glove cheering on his Beavers reminded me of the good old days when he took so much pride in his defensive tenacity.  None of the puppies on the current Husky squad have that kind of game.  

  • Artthiel

     Good to see a player seize his future instead of wandering about looking for a post-career transition.

  • Michael Kaiser

    “I never did want to go anywhere,” he said in a phone interview with reporters recently. “I was in Seattle, and I couldn’t go anywhere and I didn’t want to go anywhere. I loved playing with my coaches and teammates. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but I just wanted to be in Seattle.”
    Did Tez have a reputation for bringing it every play?

  • Artthiel

     Thanks, Sean. I truly regret not being able to make it back there. It would be fun to see.

  • jafabian

    This is great to see finally happen.  Cortez was such a positive influence for the club.  My fave moment for him though is when he publicly disagreed with Ken Behring’s attempt to move the club to LA.  Few players ‘s would do that.

    Finally got a pure Seahawk in the Hall!  Still hold out hope that Kenny Easley will some day make it, as improbably as that may be.