The beauty of the Apple Cup is that it always means something, even when the result doesn't change much of the season's outcome for either team.
The Cougars of Washington State come into this game at 4-7; guaranteed at least a share of last place in the Pac-12 North. The Washington Huskies are 6-5 - already guaranteed a Bowl appearance and playing to try and lock up a winning record and potentially a spot in a higher-profile Bowl.
None of this matters as much as the fact that the winner of this game gets bragging rights over its in-state rival. You can say this isn't important, but it is. It always is. A win in this game grants some immunity from smack talk from your rival co-workers, friends, family... even random people on the street. This practice is somewhat ridiculous considering us fans have absolutely no involvement in the outcome on the field, but nevertheless our association with the University pulls us in anyway. We actually genuinely feel bad about losing this game, even though sitting in the stands or on a couch in no way helps or harms our team in terms of the final score.
What I've come to dislike most about the Husky fans are all the misconceptions about Cougar fans. We're all agriculture majors from Eastern Washington. We're all conservatives and simpletons. We couldn't have gotten into UW if we tried. I've heard Husky fans accuse Cougar fans of being violent, racist, and a prominent figure in the Washington athletic department once "feared for her life" due to empty plastic water bottles raining down on a football field. Husky fans are capable of all of these things... a fact that is conveniently forgotten this time of year.
Look, every fanbase has idiot fans. Every fanbase has fans that are stupid, racist, homophobic, drunk or capable of brawling at a moment's notice. Numerous fans of both schools didn't even attend a single class at their institutions. Husky fans will argue that more Cougar fans are in this category than Husky fans, even though there never has been or never will be any proof of it. I'd argue both teams have an even ratio of intelligent fans and idiotic ones. We're better off respecting those in the first column and ignoring those in the second, regardless of school colors.
It's the disrespect of WSU that ignites a fire in me as a Cougar fan on this day. We're not looked upon as equals. The series record is 66-31-6 in favor of Washington, which would mean if the Cougars won every game from here on out it wouldn't be until 2045 that we would even tie the overall series. Again, none of this historical information matters other than to give the Huskies a nice fallback if they lose the most recent game in the series. There's comfort in this fact for the Dawg fan: As a Sounder fan I can always flaunt historical superiority over the Timbers, but I also do know one thing: I would hate losing to them. In fact, there's something particularly heartwrenching about losing to your rival when they are the underdog. We know this from experience thanks to the absolute nightmare that was the 2001 through 2003 Apple Cups - I'd imagine most of the Husky hate from our community here at CougCenter was born during that three year stretch. It's been healed a little bit in recent years, but let's face it: we prefer being the underdog upsetting our rival, not the other way around.
So, we come into today's 104th Apple Cup with nothing to lose - except, of course, our coaching staff. I'm getting tired of talking about this, as I imagine most of you are too. It was funny, but my wife posed a question that caught me completely off guard last week: what do I want WSU to do with Paul Wulff? I've ducked this for a while because a) I ultimately trust whatever decision Bill Moos makes and b) I know that no decision will be made until the end of the season, and that decision doesn't matter anyway because the program is on the upswing and will be better next year no matter who is at the helm.
Still, I suppose I should be honest about it. That's been hard to do around here because we like Paul Wulff the person... and from all accounts the man he is and the staff he's assembled don't deserve to be unemployed. What I mean by that is that they are all good guys making below average coaching salaries and in the state of the current economy it's almost vile to wish anyone be without a job. In my dreams if - and it's only an if - Paul Wulff gets fired I'd still like to see him return as the offensive line coach on the next staff. When it comes down to the ultimate decision, I've found myself agreeing with ESPN's John Clayton one hundred percent: tell me who the replacement is. If it's one of the Mikes - Mike Leach or Mike Belotti, I'm for a change. If it's almost anyone else, I'm better with Wulff returning to try to finish what he started. I can't personally find justification for hiring a coach without FBS coaching experience when we already have one with four years under his belt.
Still, In Moos We Trust. Whatever decision he makes will be the one I support. It's also one that could very well determine Moos' legacy at WSU. With that in mind, I highly doubt he'll make the wrong choice.
Recommended Local Activity - Sure, it's in Tacoma, but I still have to give some love to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Maybe it's just that my wife and I are animal lovers, but the zoo is still one of the best ways to enjoy a random Saturday. It's fresh air, it's educational without being boring, and it's an excuse to buy ice cream. And hey, they have Zoolights going on right now.
Recommended Food - Red Mill, Red Mill, Red Mill. I have eaten probably a million burgers in my lifetime (rough estimate) and this is still my favorite. I am fully aware this is setting an expectation that cannot possibly be met, and you might not feel the same about Red Mill, but I don't care. I love it. The onion rings are a must. I recommend going to the Interbay one so that you're somewhat safely barricaded from the Husky crowd by way of the SPU district.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Top Pot Doughnuts, of course. Man I love Seattle.
Gametime Cheap Beer of the Week - Dos Equis. I don't always drink beer...
Gametime Premium Beer of the Week - I think I'll just make it an Apple Cup tradition: Snow Cap.
Fun Fact: If you Google image search for "snow cap", you get a bunch of random images of marijuana, a variety of which is named "snow cap". I didn't know that was a thing. So now I feel like some kind of accidental pot researcher.
Prediction: Washington State 35, Washington 34.