In a normal midwinter, news that America is the best in the Olympics world at men’s curling would be enough to set off celebrations across the fruited plain, with thousands of newly minted fans heading to the rink for beer, curling and . . . beer.
But so far in these parts, the celebration of conquest in the oddest sport is a little lost among the oddnesses rampant in our mainstream sports, specifically:
- Lorenzo Romar is head basketball coach at the University of Arizona
- Russell Wilson is spending a week as a New York Yankee
- The NBA is considering peeking into Seattle to see whether the same cooties that scared them from the neighborhood in 2008 are still alive.
Let us take a few moments to unpack the weirdness.
The best part about the U.S. men’s gold in curling was . . .
To get to the title match against Sweden, the U.S. had to beat Canada in the Olympic tournament. Twice.
No American men’s or women’s team had ever beaten Canada in the Olympics once. Until the Winter Games in South Korea.
The team that beat Canada and Sweden, led by four-time Olympian John Shuster, politely had been told by the curling federation in the run-up to the Olympics to drop dead. So he called his squad, “Team Reject.”
Canada may have better health care, gun control, civic discourse, manners and more Blue Jays fans in Seattle than the Mariners have Mariners fans. But bygawd, they don’t have a more heroic curler than Shuster, and now we own their cherubic behinds where it matters most.
Build your wall to keep us out, Canada. We have what we wanted.
How to fall up
Lorenzo Romar ended his 15-year turn as Washington’s men’s basketball coach with 13 losses in a row and was fired. All but one in his glittering five-player class of recruits for 2018 de-committed from UW.
Romar turned up at the University of Arizona as associate head coach next to Sean Miller. Now Romar is the head coach, at least for the moment, because the FBI investigation sucking out whatever shred of dignity remained in college basketball has further ensnared Miller.
The latest in the scandal Friday was that Miller was linked to a purported offer to pay star freshman Deandre Ayton $100,000 to attend UA. This follows the firing of longtime assistant Book Richardson for his alleged role in laundering money to players and their families.
Miller, who claims innocence, agreed not to coach Saturday’s game in Eugene. His immediate future is subject to review by the school’s board of regents.
So as Miller’s top assistant, Romar was advanced to fill in for Miller Saturday. Guess what happened?
The Ducks beat the 14th-ranked Wildcats 98-93 in overtime. At the same time, reports said two top recruits, Shareef O’Neal (son of Shaq) and Brandon Williams, have plans to de-commit from Arizona, leaving the school with zero recruits for 2019.
Romar’s streak of losses is up to 14 and another recruiting class has disappeared from the school employing him.
For as a good a guy as he is, man, can Romar clear a room.
To top it off, his own name is in the mud because the same Yahoo! Sports story that jeopardizes Miller’s career said Romar’s star player in 2017, Markelle Fultz, was “loaned” $10,000 by an agent who is a prime suspect in the investigation.
Romar has denied knowledge of the episode, and no evidence of payment has been leaked from investigators. Yet.
But given that more than 20 high-profile schools were implicated in the long-standing black market for premier-player recruitment, chances are Romar could hopscotch the country as a one-and-done for programs whose coaches taking night classes at the Rick Pitino School of Permanent Denial.
Unless, of course, the feds have recordings of Romar explaining to Michael Porter Sr. how rewarding it could be for him to come coach alongside him at Washington and bring along his tall sons.
Wilson to New York: Come get me!
QB Russell Wilson’s jones for baseball is taking him to Florida for a week of spring training starting Monday with the Yankees. They earlier acquired his baseball rights from the Texas Rangers, who had him for a day of spring training in 2017.
While Seahawks fans may snicker at the chase of his fantasy to play pro baseball (he was a .229-hitting infielder in 93 minor league games), that really isn’t the point. The point is contained in the first four words of his Instagram post last week announcing his plans.
“Hey New York City,” it said. Not, hey Yankees fans, or hey baseball fans.
This is all about spreading the Wilson brand nationally. The publicity stunt is about gaining attention for whatever’s ahead, including the expiration of his contract after the 2019 season.
The rest of the post was geared to name-dropping the Yankees’ hitting stars.
“I’m headed to spring training on Monday,” he said. I can’t wait to see you guys Feb. 26. We’re going to have some fun for that week. And, hey, Aaron Judge, I know you want to throw some passes so let’s play some ball and we’ll see. We’ll have a little home run derby, too. Stanton, I’m coming for you, too. We’ll have some fun. And, hey, let’s go win a World Series.”
It’s a bit early to say whether Wilson is anticipating an NFL tenure beyond Seattle. But a $30 million-plus annual contract will be a mighty lift for a defense-first team such as the Seahawks.
Since he is forbidden by contract rules to flirt publicly with the Jets and Giants (or any other NFL team), galavanting among New York’s sports stars and media contingent is perhaps a better way to go about expressing what teammate Earl Thomas meant last season when he went up to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and bluntly said, “Come get me!”
Thomas needs to pay attention to Wilson, at least as it applies to the sneaky-sneaky of a pro athlete’s business life.
Speaking of artificial gestures . . .
In three years, when the NHL would like to open its season at a mostly new Seattle Center arena between the Seattle Puddle Stompers and the New York Rangers, what happened in October 2018 will be little noted nor long remembered.
But that’s when the NBA may attempt to start a thaw in the great chill between the league and its cranky estrangement with Seattle. A meaningless little exhibition game between the Sonics’ former No. 1 draft choice, Kevin Durant, and his Golden State Warriors against the Sacramento Kings is reported in the works. It’s the first NBA action in a decade since varmints from Oklahoma outwitted Seattle for its team.
Nothing is official between the city that operates KeyArena and the NBA. But the Sacramento Bee reported late last week that a deal is booked for Oct. 6. Other sources have identified Warriors president Rick Welts, the former Sonics PR director, as the driver in returning ball to his hometown.
After years of reporting and commenting on the mendacity, misdeeds and flim-flammery associated with piracy of the Sonics by parties on all sides, the odor of the NBA lingers for me.
On the other hand, by the time the NBA gets ready to expand around 2025, Durant likely will be retired to his hacienda in Marin County, where Clay Bennett will ask him daily, “Sunny side up or scrambled, sir?”
So if you truly miss uncalled traveling and $10 million salaries for the 10th player on the roster, any fans on the fence about attending the ploy should probably indulge the purchase of tickets.
It’s worth it to renew acquaintances with Durant, a good dude who might need leverage for a future negotiation with Warriors.
Undoubtedly, he’s heard the Seahawks like tall cornerbacks.