BY Art Thiel 07:22AM 03/17/2011

Water Cooler Cool: The weekend scene

An answer to the complainers about Huskies’ banishment to the South

Isaiah Thomas, teammates and coaches in a unique American ritual: Selection Sunday / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

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.


Huskies basketball: NCAA tournament, No. 7 Washington (23-10, 11-7) vs. No. 10 Georgia (21-11, 97), East subregional, 6:45 p.m. PDT (CBS, Ch. 7)  — For those new to this ritual of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it is unique in American culture — for most of three weeks, a nation deeply absorbed in itself breaks free of its navel-gazing to care suddenly about obscure colleges such as Wofford and Hampton. Well, not so much the colleges as their hoops teams, and not so much caring as gambling.

For the addicted, it is an irresistible pleasure that will tear its victims away from home, work and loved ones to fill out and track bracket forms that attempt to forecast the endeavors of hormonally charged 19-year-old men with only the slightest engagement to the colleges that fund their exercises. The Super Bowl probably generates more gambling revenue, but the energy expended in betting on and following the tourney would, if devoted to, say, adoption of alternative energy sources, end America’s dependence on fossil fuels by mid-April.

The Huskies have become almost annual participants in March Madness, along with Gonzaga of Spokane. They must travel this time to Charlotte, N.C., to begin their tournament, thanks to the need to balance the field competitively rather than geographically. Unfortunately for them, they ended up drawing an opponent, Georgia, whose home is a mere 200 miles from Charlotte. Should Washington beat the Bulldogs, it is likely to end up playing the University of North Carolina, whose campus is a long par five from Charlotte.

The technical basketball term for this disadvantage is “screw job.” It is considered bad form in college hoops for teams and coaches to complain about seeding and location, but most fans most of the time are all about bad form. The complaints about seeding and location that go on for days is the biggest flow of treacle since the invention of of the Senate filibuster.

So if you wish to elevate yourself above the office caterwaul, you say, “Of course, the location will always be unfair to some teams. But those are the teams that lost more games and were denied a location closer to home. Washington messed its chances by losing 10 games.

The games have to be played somewhere. If you want a neutral court, let’s play ’em all in Canada. It’s a month before the NHL playoffs, so everyone is still asleep. A nice, quiet gym in Yellowknife is perfect way to watch these games.


Sounders soccer: At New York Red Bulls, 4:30 p.m.  (KONG, Chs. 6/16) —  The Red Bulls are the defending Eastern Conference champions and the second quality opponent in a row for the Sounders, who lost at home 1-0 Tuesday to the MLSs most glamorous team,  the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Sounders also lost one of their designated players, Swiss national team member Blaise Nkufo, whose reluctance to play the style preferred by Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, as well as his age (35) and salary ($480,000), made him abruptly expendable before his salary was guraranteed for the season.

The team dumped him just before the game. At midseason last year, the Sounders traded another aging designated player, Freddie Ljungberg, who turned prima donna after a good season in 2009.  The question the moves raise: Why do the Sounders invest in expensive,  veteran, pouty free agents on the fade?

If you like to cross-pollinate your Seattle cultures, ask your soccer-loving friends, “Don’t we already have the Mariners to do these kinds of things?”

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.


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