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The Season of Giving – What To Give To Northwest Sports Teams

Monday, December 21, 2015


Tis the season of giving.  That’s right, the holidays are upon us, and in the spirit of such I’m making a list and checking it twice in the interests of everything Northwest.

I’ve no sleigh, no reindeer, no halflings working the line, and while a pound or 10 shy of peak condition, no jelly belly to fill a red suit.  But while no Kris Kringle to say the least, for the sake of this piece and the entities on the receiving end, I’m going to play one on TV…or in this case the internet.

Who’s eligible for my charitable contributions?  Anyone or thing tied either directly or indirectly to Northwest sports.  Meaning, the Mariners, Blazers, Timbers, Seahawks, anything Pac-12, all lower-level teams or franchises, and individuals tied to this region’s sports scene.

So, without further ado I not so gently place the following gifts under my fictitious Christmas tree, in the middle of my equally fictitious, yet impressive looking community square…skating rink and all.

To the Portland Timbers I give nothing.  That’s right, while some would suggest a run at a title defense, a stadium expansion, or an additional player or two, I’m going to simply acknowledge and appreciate the lightning this franchise just caught in a bottle.  Their championship appeared so unlikely a few months ago, it’d be a disservice to the good fortune to ask the soccer gods for anything more than they’ve already blessed this city and franchise with.

To the Trail Blazers I offer timing and good fortune.  Yep, so much of life’s success is dependent upon the aforementioned, and few franchises in sport have had worse.  The Blazers are in the midst of a rebuild, and if the season were to end today, would find themselves firmly in the NBA Draft Lottery.  In a small market like Portland, it’s been well established that your only way to the upper-echelon of a league dominated by stars, is to acquire such via the draft.  The Blazers may get a pick capable of a difference maker, but will also need that player to avoid the type of injuries that have derailed past players’ potential to make a difference.

To Merritt Paulson, the Trail Blazers.  Paul Allen has been a great owner.  In spite of popular opinion in recent years, the billionaire Seahawks owner always wanted to win and hasn’t been afraid to spend the money to do it.  But, his interest seems to have waned, the market would benefit from an owner more prevalent in the community, and Paulson has proven by way of his work with the Timbers, the type of exuberance that’d reenergize a franchise desperately in need of such.  It just feels time.

To the Seahawks, a miracle.  Sorry Hawks fans, but in spite of a recent resurgence, Seattle appears to be in the early stages of the type of downturn every Super Bowl champion inevitably experiences.  Unless you’re the New England Patriots, success breeds failure in a league designed for parody.  So barring a miracle, the Seahawks distant past is far more likely than what they’ve experienced the past few years.

To the Ducks, more of the same.  Oregon has been one of the most successful programs in college football over the last 7 years, and in spite of a “down” year, coupled with the criticism regarding recent quarterback mercenaries, the Ducks remain cutting edge and might just be winning due to it.  First it was the uniforms, than the facilities, soon-there-after the offense, now it might possibly be the fifth year transfer.  Every program has or will suffer through a void created by a recruiting whiff or two, but Oregon may have just discovered a means by which to thrive in the midst of that very whiff…even at the most important position.  Texas has no quarterback.  Alabama got there’s from Florida State via transfer.  The Florida Gators had one of the best defenses in college football, but had no one behind their starter who was ultimately suspended for the year.  Those are a few of the many examples of college football’s elite, filling or failing to plug a hole in a ship compromised by the same deficiency presently apparent in Eugene.  Oregon’s simply correcting a mistake, rather than suffering due to it.

To the Pac-12 Conference, an 8-team playoff.  Yep, while the Ducks forced their way into the 4-teamer last season, their depth, 9-game conference schedule, and willingness to play tough nonconference opponents, is and will continue to heighten the chances of its champion missing the post-season.

To the Oregon State Beavers, I offer baseball season.  Gary Anderson’s inaugural season in Corvallis proved to be more painful than even he was probably expecting.  I’m not sure anyone outside of the previous coaching staff truly knew how bare the cupboard was at Oregon State, and this year’s recruiting class appears very similar to the ones responsible for that same bare cupboard.  Anderson may turn it around, but it’s going to be a few years, and Beaver Believers can always lean on a baseball program annually amongst the country’s best.

To the Seattle Sounders, alcohol.  Lots of it.  Few things hurt more than watching your arch rival hoist a trophy, but for a proud franchise and equally arrogant…errr…proud fan base, witnessing their “little brother” celebrating the championship they’ve proved incapable of winning, must elicit an unprecedented necessity for numbness.  They say time heals all wounds, but for Sounders fans that time may exceed those same fans’ lifetimes.

To the city of Seattle, an NBA franchise.  It was a travesty for the Sonics to leave to begin with, but the fact that there remains no team in the Emerald City is an embarrassment for the league office, and should be a priority for a commissioner relatively new to the game.

To Marcus Mariota, a team around him.  It’s apparent the guy can play at the NFL level, but without an offensive line and legitimate receivers, we as fans are being cheated of the obvious talent the Heisman Trophy winner possesses.

To the city of Portland, an NHL franchise.  This is a no-brainer.  Top-tier hockey would be a homerun in this town.  Someone make it happen.

To the state of Oregon, the wherewithal to resurrect Sports Action.  They took from us the ability to make friendly wagers on NFL games as part of the Oregon lottery, and in return they gave us a handful of NCAA Tournament games every couple years.  Worst trade in the history of sports.

To the Seattle Mariners, a post-season game.  It’s been too long Mariners, get your s**t together.

There you have it, my list of gifts to some of the Northwest’s favorite sports sons.  I wish them the best, and you and yours better, this Christmas and all of the next sports year.

Happy Holidays!

{image_3}GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

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#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

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#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

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#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

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#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

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#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

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#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

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#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

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#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

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#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

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#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

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#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

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#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.


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