Top 11: Unheralded Northwest Rivalries

Credit Ian Furness with providing the inspiration for this article. The afternoon radio host on 950 KJR wanted to know what the best rivalry in the Northwest was. There are any number of answers to this question, none right, none wrong. But undoubtedly, there are rivalries that are often overlooked. We present those to you in this week’s Top 11.

Because there’s more to life than just Huskies versus Cougars.

11. Ichiro Suzuki vs. The English Language

Like a coy zen master, Ichiro manipulates the English language with the calculated finesse of a rock gardener over his rock garden. Sometimes he speaks it, sometimes he doesn’t. Just depends on the chi of Ichiro at that precise moment.

One thing that remains true is that for eight years now, the Mariners have employed a translator at Ichiro’s behest. The rumor is that the M’s right fielder chooses to utilize his English-speaking mouthpiece so as not to look foolish in the public eye or be misquoted. Okay.

Anyways, in this battle of nature versus culture, we have but two words for No. 51: Rosetta Stone.

10. Kevin Lopina vs. Life

Ah, Kevin Lopina. Like a house made of straw, it takes barely a huff or a puff to impair the Washington State quarterback. Dude goes down more than Jenna Jameson.

A senior who played his last collegiate football game on Saturday, the 23-year-old Lopina has endured a career ravaged by injury.

After transferring from Kansas State in 2006, the De La Salle High School product suffered a calf injury that sidelined him for most of his sophomore season in Pullman.

A year later, as a junior, Lopina appeared in just nine of the team’s 12 games with shoulder and spinal injuries.

Finally, in his senior year of 2009, Lopina made it through an entire season without an injury. That is, until last week’s Apple Cup, when he nicked up his shoulder and tore his oblique all before halftime. Yikes.

Fortunately for Kevin, his playing days are behind him now and he can move on to more important things. Like surviving.

9. Jarrod Washburn vs. Kenji Johjima

In the midst of their 101-lost season of 2008, an intriguing soap opera played out in the Seattle Mariners’ clubhouse involving starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn and catcher Kenji Johjima.

Washburn, a Wisconsin native, expressed frustration with Johjima, a Japanese transplant, after finding little success pitching to the team’s primary backstop. With regards to miscommunication and alluding to the fact that Johjima was simply a poor defensive catcher, Washburn unleashed his emotions to the media and became Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the fans. Not that Johjima was a hero, or anything.

A year later, Washburn enjoyed his best season as a Mariner pitcher, working almost exclusively with…backup catcher Rob Johnson. Sidelined by injury and inconsistency, Johjima watched most of Washburn’s outings from the comfort of the dugout bench. By the time he had nursed himself back to health, Washburn was on his way to Detroit, a casualty of the trade deadline.

Only months removed from their veritable falling out, a Washburn-Johjima cage match to settle the score would sell out Key Arena in minutes. I mean, what else are they gonna have at the Sonics’ old home? A Miley Cyrus concert? Give me Wash and Joh in the octagon and call it good.

8. Howard Schultz vs. The Public

I have to imagine that if Howard Schultz was strolling down the street and saw a person in Sonics apparel walking towards him, he would turn around and run for his life.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Schultz hasn’t already been taken out by an angry green-and-gold mob. I mean think about it. Has anyone seen the rat since he pawned the team off on the Oklahoma City Bandits? The guy is basically the Osama bin Laden of Seattle. We’re looking for him, and he could be hiding in a foxhole somewhere in the mountains, but he might also be dead. We’re not sure.

Either way, many denizens of the Greater Seattle area would relish the opportunity to take a crack at the owner of Starbucks. Five minutes in a locked room with the Benedict Arnold who gave away our NBA franchise would make any Seattle sports fan happy.

7. Mark Few vs. Jeff Spicoli

“Aloha. My name is Mr. Hand.”

I imagine this is how the head coach of the Gonzaga basketball team addresses his troops at the beginning of each season. Immediately thereafter, he walks to the chalk board and writes “I DON’T KNOW” in big letters for all his players to see.

Here’s a visual aid. First, we have Mr. Hand:

Now here’s Few:

Don’t see the resemblance? What are you people? On dope?

6. T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Reality

How can I put this nicely? Maybe in a formal letter. Let’s give it a shot.

Dear T.J.,

Hey, we haven’t met but on behalf of a large contingent of Seattle sports fans, I have to tell you something important. You’re not the best wide receiver in the NFL. In fact, you’re not even the best wide receiver in the conference. Actually, you might not even be the best wide receiver on your own team. I know, right? That’s hard to stomach.

You led everyone to believe that you were a gift from God from the moment your plane touched down at Sea-Tac airport and for a minute, we actually bought your line of reasoning. But a few games of limited production, a handful of dropped passes, and a consistent desire to brag about the things you have yet to accomplish have endeared you to very few people (except maybe those fans that bought your jersey in neon green…they’re basically diehards to the bitter end).

You need to put your ego aside and try your best to be the receiver we think you can be. Not the receiver you think you can be, because that’s unrealistic at this point. But the receiver we think you can be. A productive pass-catcher in the mold of Bobby Engram. A guy who dominates in the slot and turns it up a notch on third down. That’s all we ask. You don’t have to front with us, T.J. We accept you for everything you are, and everything you are not. It’s as simple as that.

Sincerely,

Seattle Sportsnet

Yeah, that’s nice. I like that.

Dreaming of tea and crumpets....mmmm

5. Matthew Bryan-Amaning vs. Britishness

I once read the perfect analysis of Huskies forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning and his frustrating inconsistencies: “He’s too British.”

Well said. And we’ll leave it at that.

4. Nick Holt vs. The Sideline

The Sideline. Enemy to wide receivers. Friend to slow-footed defensive backs. Arch-rival of Nick Holt.

The Huskies’ first-year defensive coordinator has waged a season-long war with The Sideline, often coming out on top, but occasionally falling victim to its chalky whiteness. On more than one instance this year, Holt has let The Sideline get the best of him. As a result, referees have doled out sideline interference penalties to the Washington football team along their path to greatness.

It’s not entirely Holt’s fault, however. The Sideline is a beast of an opponent, stoic in nature, and crumbling to no one. Kind of like Tim Duncan. Only with more personality.

Though I think we can all agree that witnessing two sideline interference penalties in the same season is new. Not horrible. Not egregious. Just new.

3. Steven Gray vs. The Razor

You have to applaud Steven Gray for trying. While most basketball players prefer to go shaven, he’s doing his best to bring back the full bush.

At one time in his life, the Gonzaga shooting guard resembled everyone else. Close-cropped head of hair, clean-cut around the grill. Not so, these days.

In case you haven’t caught a glimpse of the 6’5″ Bainbridge native this year, allow us the pleasure of bringing you a before-and-after photo montage. Here’s Gray just one season ago:

Pretty normal looking, right? Exactly as we described, I’d say.

Well erase that image from your mind, because here’s Gray now:

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!! What the hell happened?! It looks like he went on Oprah and got the opposite of a makeover. I’ve seen his type before. And they usually ask me for spare change.

If I had to wager a guess, I’d bet that somewhere down the line The Razor ends up winning this battle. The hair can only keep growing for so long before it becomes impractical.

However, if this were a video game, Gray and his bushy new appearance would have a blistering red momentum meter right about now. So at this point, it’s anyone’s ballgame.

2. Klay Thompson vs. The Law of Averages

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Entering Wednesday night’s matchup with Gonzaga, Thompson was leading the nation in scoring at 28.3 PPG. That’s an impressive feat for a Coug.

But you have to figure that in due time, that number will diminish considerably.

Take, for instance, Washington State’s, first six opponents: Mississippi Valley State, Eastern Washington, Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (Huh? Better known — kind of — as IPFW), Alaska-Anchorage, Nicholls State, and San Diego. With apologies to former Nicholls State legend Adonis Gray, there are no good teams in that grouping. You could maybe make a slight case for San Diego, but that would be like Boise State fans whining like broken records for a national championship bid every year (But we beat Hawaii? Doesn’t that count? Aww, come on…dang it).

In any event, Thompson was shut down (for him) by the Zags defense, scoring just 15 points in 39 minutes. Get used to it, Klay. Sadly, there are no Sisters of the Blind State U.’s in the Pac-10. Best of luck.

Yes, this really happened

1. Boise State Football Fans vs. Gonzaga Basketball Fans

Two fan bases with serious Napoleon complexes battling for supremacy in their own minds but no one else’s (except maybe ESPN2’s).

Put one fan base on one hill, the other fan base on an opposing hill. Let them charge at each other and meet in what would amount to a valley of death. Let them destroy each other. Send in a cleanup crew when they’re done, and put that garbage on FSN so it can be replayed again and again for everyone to see.

This will accomplish two things. One, it will give FSN something worthwhile to broadcast. Two, it will eliminate both fan bases so no fans of any other school in the country have to endure their smug senses of entitlement that comes with winning…well, nothing.

7 responses

  1. “Sadly, there are no Sisters of the Blind State U.’s in the Pac-10. Best of luck.”

    Have you seen UCLA this year?

  2. HA Steven Gray is a baller, go Spartans! (Bainbridge of course)

  3. Skyline Spartans > Bainbridge Spartans

    well maybe not in basketball…

  4. That picture of the Boise State fan will haunt me forever. Another reminder that you can be too drunk.

    You have to give Boise State the edge. They did beat OU in a BCS bowl….all I can remember of Gonzaga in the tourney is their guys crying on the court after imploding again.

    In conclusion I direct this quote from Anchorman to all the Gonzaga Fans….”I GOT NO SPINE BECAUSE A SHE-DEVIL STOLE IT! And you know what….she is better then me. SHE IS BETTER THEN ME!”

  5. […] "Top 11: Unheralded Northwest Rivalries" [Seattle Sportsnet] Credit Ian Furness with providing the inspiration for this article. The afternoon radio host on 950 KJR wanted to know what the best rivalry in the Northwest was. There are any number of answers to this question, none right, none wrong. But undoubtedly, there are rivalries that are often overlooked. We present those to you in this week’s Top 11. (tags: PNW_History) […]

  6. I will say this. Kevin Lopina was able to throw a football 35-yards – the limit of his arm strength to Jared Karstetter that set up WSU’s game-winning field goal over UW last season. I wouldn’t have believed it if I wasn’t standing on the sideline. I swear Lopina couldn’t throw a ball six inches farther than that pass.

    I know for a fact that Ichiro speaks English and understands it perfectly. I know for a fact that Jose Lopez understands the hypnotic power of cheetohs and ding dongs perfectly.

  7. If Cheetohs and Ding Dongs can work for Miguel Cabrera and Bartolo Colon, then damn if Jose Lopez won’t try to make them work, too.

    As for Lopina, I fully anticipate running into him in a flag football league at some point in my life, assuming he can stay healthy long enough to continue playing.

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