Monthly Archives: October 2009

I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes — But This Guy Does

House spider

As the cool air begins to chill the nights, the annual ritual of my wife’s blood-curdling screams fill the rooms and shatter the otherwise mostly peaceful ambiance that hangs about our rural county home.

Is she susceptible to the grisly nature of horror films that profilgate the airwaves and Netflix at this time of year? (Well, yes, but that’s not what causes her to scream.) Nor is she preparing for an upcoming appearance in one of the local theaters’ annual haunted house extravaganzas — although her howls would most assuredly add an air of sinister authenticity to the fright fests.

No, what sends her into an apoplectic shrilly nonsense is our diminutive and oft-misunderstood friend: a spider.

Like many “arachnophobes,” she firmly believes our little houseguests come in from the cold as the weather takes a turn for the worse. And up until a couple of days ago, I believed the very same myth. That is, until doing research for this blog post, I came across the Web site of a one certain Rod Crawford, curator of Arachnids at Burke Museum, on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.

I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Crawford on the telephone about a dozen years ago, when as a reporter, I was preparing background information on a story of a local claiming to have found a brown recluse in their home. Mr. Crawford assured me that if indeed a person had found a brown recluse, that I had a much bigger story than I intended, as no such confirmation of this particular spider being found in western Washington had yet been made.

We talked at some length of some other spider myths before ending our conversation. Now I doubt very seriously that my one phone call so many years ago led him to publish his Web site (but I’ll gladly take some of the credit, regardless), but he has, since that fateful phone call, put upon the Web — pun most definitely intended — a site about the many spider myths. And there are quite a few.

Just some of the myths he debunks are: You are never more than three feet from a spider; spiders found in bathtubs and sinks came up through the drain pipes; the Daddy-longlegs has the world’s most dangerous venom but it’s fangs are too soft to penetrate human skin; when black widow spiders mate, the female always kills and eats the male; some bubble gum has spider eggs in it; people are bitten by spiders at night while they sleep; you can identify a spider by a photo or by its markings — and a particularly disturbing myth, that we swallow an average of four live spiders per year while we sleep.

I could go on in some detail to some of the myths vs. reality, but why when Mr. Crawford has done such an excellent job already and you can read his handiwork for yourself by clicking here?

I will admit that I have heard and believed a number of the spider myths he squashes on his Web site. In particular: that spiders come into a house to escape the cold. Think about it. They are not warm-blooded so they do not react to the vagaries of outdoor temperature changes other than to die when it gets too cold. It was fascinating to read how there are in the Pacific Northwest roughly 30 outdoor arachnid species, 25 indoor species and eight that can live indoors and outside. Most of the house spiders we see have lived their entire life inside and putting them outside is most certainly a death sentence for the spider (another myth busted).

A big myth that I still have a hard time adjusting to is that spiders rarely bite and on average a person is bitten once or twice in their life. Of the thousands of spiders he has handled, Crawford claims to have been bitten only twice.

So as Halloween approaches and the visible sight of orb weaver webs can be seen on virtually ever bush and tree, take time to read how misunderstood our little multi-eyed friends are. Like sharks and wolves, they have garnered an undeserved reputation amid their human counterparts. It’s time they earned a little respect for all the good they provide by keeping a pest-filled insect world in line.

But that respect will stop short with my arachnid-fearing wife. She won’t even discuss a spider’s attributes and the photo I’ve attached to this post will guarantee to keep her from ever reading this blog.

And my apologies to Jim Stafford’s 1970s classic, “Spiders and Snakes,” about winning love through intimidation. I loved that song as a teenager.

Forget Hawks vs. Tides, What About Gig Harbor’s Real Football Rivalry?

For more than three decades now, the crosstown football rivalry has pitted the Peninsula Seahawks against the Gig Harbor Tides in a contest so big that it garners its own name: The Fish Bowl. (The name comes from the benefit side, an annual salmon dinner served before the game that benefits the local fishermen and fleet.) Even though Gig Harbor is 4A and Peninsula is 3A, the non-league game remains big with bragging rights between the blue and green that run deep in the region’s veins. The latest incarnation of the gridiron contest is set to take place tomorrow night (Friday, Oct. 2) at the event’s only home, Roy Anderson Field at PHS, a stadium that is shared by both schools as their home field each football season.

But in my humble opinion, this contest pales in comparison to a matchup that isn’t even part of football reality — yet.

Anyone who is even remotely involved in youth football in Gig Harbor knows there are two leagues to choose from when signing up junior to be the next Peyton Manning. Part of the harbor’s rich history in youth sports is Peninsula Youth Football, well into its third decade in developing football stars of tomorrow. A relative upstart by comparison, the still young Bulldogs Football is in its fourth year of operation. Both leagues field teams from ages 8 to 14 — and both include cheerleader squads so whole families can stay involved.

Both leagues play an eight-game season with extra games included as part of a post-season tournament. Both leagues develop young minds and bodies for the rigors of football that will eventually feed their players into one of the two area high schools. Both leagues bristle with volunteers at all levels willing to help from coaching to cheerleading to recruitment. And just like their high school counterparts, both leagues do not share common opponents beyond each other.

All these similarities end at one very important point: Unlike the Hawks and Tides, PYF and Bulldogs do not play each other for bragging rights to Gig Harbor football.

Having been involved with both programs, I think I’ve gained an insight as to why this might be. As a matter of full disclosure, my son has played three years in PYF and this year is a Bulldog. I’ve been actively involved as well, having coached those same three years in PYF and now coaching as a Bulldog.

As you can well imagine, many of the “adults” involved with PYF don’t want to see this kind of matchup because they don’t want to legitimize the Bulldogs program in any way by acknowledging it (I use the term “adults” loosely because some revert to childlike behavior when it comes to youth sports). There are no doubt detractors for such a match-up in the Bulldogs camp as well, although I must confess, I have not met any of them yet. As you can imagine, those involved in a new league are eager to prove they belong, so many in the Bulldogs organization would welcome such a once-a-year contest.

At the youth level, you better believe the players are well aware of the “other” league. My son has taken his share of ribbing from his former Seahawks teammates for going Bulldog red. I just tell him to point out the difference in the won-loss records of his former and current team.

I joke, but seriously, both programs are filled with players that will one day join together as teammates on the sidelines for either Gig Harbor or Peninsula. Having now been a part of both programs, I have a better view of the youth football world than I did a year ago. Both programs are by-and-large well-run and are filled with adult volunteers who give countless hours to helping players learn and love the game of football. To be sure, both have individuals who detract from the core essence that it is and always should be by and about the youth. But I think you’d be hard pressed to look at any youth sports program anywhere and not find that element.

An annual contest between the leagues could be a good thing for the Gig Harbor community. Like it’s high school counterpart — the Fish Bowl — the games could be built around an annual fundraiser. A nominal admission could be charged and throughout the day, each grade could square off at Roy Anderson Field for bragging rights. A traveling trophy could be created, given that there are five team levels, so each league that wins three or more for a given year would earn the trophy. Non-profits could even earn needed money running concessions for the day-long event.

Granted, there are logistics to be figured out. While the Bulldogs field one team per grade, PYF fields 2-3 per grade. Creating an “all-star” team from PYF would be unfair because those kids wouldn’t have played together through the year. Maybe the PYF teams could alternate years — a Tides team one year and a Seahawks team the next.

Despite the obvious problems (where do you fit this into the calendar) and the sublime ones (those adults who don’t want to see this happen), it is an event that could be put to good use in the community to drive youth sports awareness and community spirit. I can tell you, the players on both sides would love the opportunity to play their school mates.

So how about it, adults? Can we truly act our age long enough to create a Fish Bowl in miniature? Having experienced what each program offers, I can tell you flatly that both leagues teach good values, sportsmanship and determination while also developing a respect and love for the sport of football. I no longer listen to the rumors spread about either as I’ve found it all to be just that — rumors. Let’s get past the pettiness that may have spurred the development of two youth football programs in Gig Harbor, acknowledge that there are and always will be two solid programs for players and parents to choose from, and use this opportunity to create something special and unique for Gig Harbor that involves both programs in a fun and positive fashion.

Lets embrace the competitiveness that is part of having two healthy, growing programs and develop a higher sense of community oneness by using the playing field to bring this all together. We can all feel good about creating more youth participation while raising funds that can be turned back into the community to further help make Gig Harbor a great place to live, work and play football.

I’ve snapped the ball. The question is: Will anyone run with it?