There’s grandstanding, and then there’s GRANDSTANDING.
For state Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), it was the latter that occupied him Tuesday.
As this year’s legislative session limps to an uneventful finale, Baumgartner took the opportunity to throw up a last-minute PR stunt from well beyond the three-point line, dropping a sure-to-go-nowhere bill before the buzzer that - if passed - would require Gonzaga and the University of Washington to play once a year in men’s basketball. Calling for a “rekindling the once-legendary hardwood rivalry between Spokane’s Gonzaga University and Seattle’s University of Washington by law,” Baumgartner says via a press release today that it’s “in the best interest of the state for the Legislature to take action by reigniting the competitive spirit embodied in the rivalry.” He points to a legislative effort in Kansas that requires the University of Kansas and Wichita State to play every year as proof that lawmakers can, and should, intervene.
Baumgartner notes that the UW and Gonzaga played every year from 1998 through 2007, and that, all time, the UW has a 29-13 record against the Bulldogs. However, with his Spokane roots showing, Baumgartner is also quick to point out that Gonzaga won eight of the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
“The UW vs. Gonzaga rivalry was enjoyed by the entire state,” Baumgartner says. “UW has a solid basketball program, but if the Huskies are too scared to play GU of its own choosing I think the Legislature ought to pass a law to help give them some courage.”
Here’s the bottom line: This bill has no chance this session, and only partly because we’re beyond the cutoff for non-budget efforts like it. It’s a stunt, and an entertaining one at that. It’s also a great idea, as Gonzaga and the UW absolutely SHOULD play every year. So there’s that.
However, to call the UW vs. Gonzaga a “once-legendary hardwood rivalry” is also completely overboard. It’s grasping.
“I would prefer he grab a shovel and help Bertha dig the tunnel,” Art Thiel of Sportspressnw.com says of Baumgartner and his proposal. “Washington/Gonzaga is the best college hoops rivalry hereabouts, but that falls into world’s-tallest-midget category. This isn’t Duke-Carolina; not close.”
Or, as longtime Seattle sports-talk radio personality Mike Gastineau puts it when asked: “I think it’s absolute bullshit that they don’t play each year. But, no, I don’t believe I would refer to it as a ‘once legendary’ rivalry.”
Just another day in Olympia.