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