BY Art Thiel 07:29AM 02/24/2011

Water Cooler Cool: The weekend scene

Cougs, Huskies Sunday: Where would sports be without disrespect, payback?


Klay Thompson and his Washington State teammates face payback Sunday / SSC Photo

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: Washington State (17-10, 7-8) at Washington (18-8, 10-5), Hec Ed Pavilion, 7 p.m.  (FSN) —  After the thumping of city cousins Seattle University Tuesday at KeyArena,  the Huskies resume pursuit of the title of Prince of State Hoops with a game against their country cousins from the Palouse. It would be delightful if the Huskies would pursue the title of King of State Hoops, but that would require them to play Gonzaga. Since they decline to do so, a lesser crown is all that is available.

And should UW lose, they would not even be princes, because they would have been swept by the Cougars.  Court jesters, perhaps, in the National Invitational Tournament.

A home defeat at the hands of struggling WSU would be a blow to the hopes of reaching the NCAA tourney. But with two regular-season home games left, against UCLA and USC, the bid probably would be salvageable with a couple of wins.

At least as aggravating as the damage to the tourney bid would be the wretchedness of another loss following the 87-80 defeat Jan. 30 in Pullman.  That was the first of three consecutive road losses that took away their shot at the Pac-10 Conference title, for which they were favored in the preseason.

The win for WSU was probably its biggest emotional jolt of the season, given that the Huskies were ranked 18th at the time and were, well, the Huskies. The taunting and heckling by the well-lubricated crimson masses, as well as their creative sign-making, constituted the most hostile road crowd of the season for Washington. The Huskies looked hesitant, even intimidated.

At game’s end, they also were angry. WSU fans rushed the court to celebrate, a practice that once was reserved in college basketball for stupendous upsets of No. 1-ranked teams, but now is done so frequently that the act has lost all meaning, and represents little more than the gathering of children at the sound of an ice-cream truck. Since a primary goal of student life these days is to get oneself on TV or YouTube as many times as possible, they are inspired to do any stunt that causes attention, however meager.

Nevertheless, the gesture is seen by the vanquished opponents as pointless and a provocation, even though it is merely silly. But the mind games of college athletes, any disrespect, real or imagined, becomes a point of contention. “We’ll remember that,” said Huskies guard Isaiah Thomas, almost growling.

So the Huskies by Sunday will have amped themselves into a frenzy, and figure to have their way by 20 points or more.

Afterward, if your sports-loving friends are at all philosophical, you might pose this question:

“If an insult were made in the forest and no one heard or saw it, would there be sports?”

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.


  • Noelhiga

    I’m old enough to remember when it was the media that got graded for how closely their mock drafts predicted the real thing, not vice versa. Does anyone really believe that Mel Kiper, despite his impeccable hair, really knows more about what it takes to make a successful professional football player? When it comes to picking hair care products, I’ll go with Mel. When it comes to football players I’ll take Pete and John every time.

  • Stevo00

    Very inciteful comment Art. I missed the ESPN/NFL Network shows that explained how some of the cant miss draft picks in 2011, didn’t perform as expected.

  • Guest

    Infinitely better insights than what we get from the national media.

    This…  Seattle “just values players differently than almost every other team. They get a feeling on a guy and it doesn’t matter if they’re the lone wolves – they’re going to take the guy no matter what anyone else thinks.”

    ….is something I really like. I like the job PC/JS are doing with the roster and how the team plays. Great time to be a Seahawk fan!

  • jafabian

    Sounds as though Irvin will have a specific role on the team and is more than qualified to fill that role.  IMO, something of the Rufus Porter kind of role and we all know how awesome Porter was.  I do like how Art talks about emulating Cortez Kennedy and Dave Brown and not go down the road that Koren Robinson and Jerramy Stevens went down.  I’m not sure todays pro athletes put that as high on the priority list that Tez and Cap’n Brown did.

  • CentralScrutinizer

    I’m going to lean against Irwin becoming the next Stevens/Robinson.  Those two were coddled in HS, coddled in college (Stevens was an unconvicted rapist, for God’s sake), and thought that their talent entitled them to success in the pros, regardless of what they did off the field or how many meetings they missed.

    As one who has had his own behavior carry him almost to rock-bottom, and who has worked his way out of that trouble on the football field, Irwin is four and a half years removed from any serious “problem behavior” (given the delivery-sign incident was thrown out of court).  It wasn’t swept under the rug, he had to confront it, deal with it, and humble himself….kind of like Mike Williams did after eating his way out of the league and then training his way back into it.

    I’m more concerned that he won’t develop into an every-down player, but when it comes to that….In Pete I Trust.  Irwin’s first step is bottled lightning, but the rest of his game is exceptionally raw.  If Carroll can turn him into an every-down defender, he’ll have proven his mettle as a great defensive coach….again.

  • Soggyblogger

    Well, Art, you are almost caught up. I expect your next piece to move on from the character issues altogether. Each piece you write on Irvin gets a little closer to the truth. 

  • Richardfg7

    I have a ton of respect for this kid as far as the person he is. He was born in a tough spot and dug himself out of it. It’s going to take a couple more years but Coach Carroll will be recognized as one of the all-time great coaches in the NFL . Just like he is in the college ranks. There will always be those that criticize him after there pet team is taken apart by the Seahawks.

  • sadamahuga

    interesting how the kid is already convicted, but the verdict will be not guilty by the end of the season because his play is gonna set him free.