SPORTS COLUMN NOTES: The real MLB-to-PDX money is behind the scenes
Touching on a few timely subjects in our sporting vortex …
• Those who read the list of investors to the MLB-to-PDX movement that was revealed publicly last week might be left with the impression that they are the foundation of the ownership group trying to attract major league baseball to our city.
Not true. The published names — some of whom had previously been identified, others who hadn't — are minority investors mostly helping fund the operating costs of the group spearheaded by managing partners Craig Cheek and Mike Barrett.
But the bulk of the full tab of a new ballpark and expansion fees (if the Oakland A's don't seek relocation), which could reach $2 billion, will be covered by a pair of heavy hitters from outside this area, according to my sources.
Those majority owners — who I'm told have the resources to handle such an undertaking — likely wouldn't be identified until Portland is promised an MLB club.
There's still a lot of water under the bridge until that happens. But if that piece is in place like I'm told, it's more important than anything else in the entire equation.
• Former Portland State quarterback Chris Crawford — who died Saturday from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) — left a legacy of loyalty, friendship and family.
The undersized signal-caller, who led the Vikings to some of their greatest football heights under then-coach Pokey Allen in the late 1980s, was still living life to the fullest when he succumbed to the disease on a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Crawford, 51, was planning to officiate the upcoming wedding of the daughter of close friend and former teammate Brian Coushay. He was organizing a golf outing of friends and ex-teammates.
"'Craw' had a close-knit group of friends," says one of them, former PSU tight end Barry Naone. "He was an ambassador of friendship and doing fun things and living a good life."
Crawford's children — son Carson, a wide receiver at UC Davis, and daughter Payton, a student at Oregon — had his full attention to the end. Chris, a long-time executive with Nike, flew to attend most of Carson's games this season.
"We were planning a trip to drive down and see our daughters in Eugene," Naone says. "My kids and his kids are close. That's a beautiful thing. Chris and I always had a connection. When you see that same thing in your kids, it's special.
"(Teammate) Jason Jackola said Chris always made who he was talking to feel like that was the most important person in the world. He was that kind of guy, and he handled his health problems with courage. He didn't want people to know what he was going through."
(Editor's note: See these stories on Chris Crawford from 2017 and 2011.)
• The reason Moe Harkless has remained a starter ahead of Jake Layman with the Trail Blazers is simple.
Harkless, 25, has been the team's starting small forward through a good portion of the past three seasons. Coach Terry Stotts is wary of "losing" Harkless if he were to relegate him to the bench and elevate Layman — who has played much better than Harkless in recent weeks — into the starting unit.
Layman, 24, will handle a role coming off the bench much better than would Harkless. So Stotts will likely continue to start Harkless, unless Layman plays so well that Stotts can no longer say that starting Harkless "puts (Layman and Harkless) in their best situations."
If I were the coach, I'd be giving more opportunity to Layman, who has even more athleticism than Harkless and has made strides with his overall game in this, his third NBA season.
• The Blazers have put together a campaign to entice fans to vote for guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum for the NBA All-Star Game.
Lillard is a shoo-in to be chosen by Western Conference coaches as a reserve for his fourth All-Star appearance, but the next-most-deserving Blazer is center Jusuf Nurkic. The 7-foot Bosnian, enjoying the most consistent roll of his career, is averaging 16.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.5 blocks in January. His season averages are up to 15.1, 10.4, 3.2 and 1.6.
McCollum, who is averaging 20.5 points but having a sub-par season shooting the 3-ball, has little chance in a crowded list of West guards that includes Lillard, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Seth Curry, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Donovan Mitchell, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker.
Nurkic would be in a better position if he had to beat out only opposing centers, who include Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the West. But voting is done for three front-line positions, not a center and two forwards. That means Nurkic is also competing with such as Paul George, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, among others.
Neither McCollum nor Nurkic will make the All-Star Game this season barring a flurry of injuries to other candidates. But the way Nurkic has contributed at both ends in recent weeks — he has had four games with at least five blocks this month — has had more to do with the Blazers' winning ways than has McCollum.
• When New England and the Los Angeles Rams tee it up in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, the opposing punters will be quite familiar with each other.
In 2008, Oregon State coach Mike Riley welcomed two freshman walk-on punters to his squad — Johnny Hekker of Redmond, Washington, and Ryan Allen of West Salem High.
Hekker won the competition and wound up being a four-year starter for the Beavers. Allen transferred to Louisiana Tech, where he became the first back-to-back winner of the Ray Guy Award — emblematic of the nation's premier punter.
Hekker has gone on to be the premier punter in the NFL, a four-time first-team All-Pro (2014-17) who was named to the second team this season and has played for the Rams for his entire seven-year career.
Allen has spent his six seasons with the Patriots. This will be his fourth Super Bowl; he already has two championship rings.
"One of my favorite stories," Riley says. "It's just unbelievable we had two great punters like that together at one time. And both walk-ons. What are the odds of that?"
• Northwest baseball fans are rightfully happy to see the Hall of Fame selection of Edgar Martinez, one of the great hitters in Seattle Mariners history. Terrific player. Terrific human being.
Martinez's selection may signal an increased appreciation of designated hitters among Hall of Fame voters. The only DH to gain prior induction was Frank Thomas. David Ortiz — if voters can overlook his 2003 failed drug test — will be next.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.