Hey everyone, long time no see or write or comment. Unfortunately this summer I was going to try and put together a Cougar Legends series and just as quickly as I got excited about doing it my life took a few unexpected turns that left it to sit on the back burner. As we prepare to celebrate the arrival of another season of Cougar Football Saturdays I have been able to steal some time and sit down to write. As such I wanted to sit here in my apartment and crank something out that will hopefully inspire some confidence, hope, or even a spark of optimism beyond what you may already have in you for this season. If you find yourself on the short end of the hope stick, or just feeling a little apprehensive about getting your hopes up about this team click on the jump and lets do this.
First, a little background. I have been and will always be a homer for this team. I am unabashed in my Cougar Pride and wearing it on my sleeve. I've attended the last 42 home games and became a first time season ticket holder this off season. It hasn't always been fun these last few years to say the least. I arrived at WSU as a Freshman in 2004 and on the heels of the Holiday Bowl victory over Texas. I remember those days well because they are the last time I remember the town of Pullman, as well as campus, feeling like a place full of optimism in looking forward to what the football season held for our Cougars. It's a feeling that has welled up inside me every year regardless of our prospective schedule ever since. I don't know if I took to being a Cougar or if being a Cougar took to me, but either way it is something that has become engrained in the very fiber of my existence.
Unfortunately, the years since have taken their toll on our fans and on the school as a whole. Coupled with the troubles our nation currently faces I can understand why each one of us could understandably walk away, choose not to care, and generally just bring out the colors if and only if we win. I spent the entirety of last season unemployed and only attended the home games thanks to the charity of other Cougs that are as strongly believing (masochistic some say) as I am that this team can and will turn it around. It is easy to get down, to get hit in the wallet, to get hammered by life and to make it seem like football and other stuff just doesn't matter.
This year is a little bit different from last in that people are finally starting to at least recognize that there is some talent on the field. It is also different because there is an expectation that has been laid down, from the fans, the administration, and even from Coach Wulff of going to a bowl game when it's all over. What hasn't changed is the situation outside the confines of Martin Stadium. People are still taking it on the chin, including myself, and it isn't getting any easier to justify the purchase of season or even single game tickets simply because of the hope that comes with largely positive practice reports, a lack of serious injury (thus far), and a highly favorable schedule.
The hard sell of Cougar Football's potential resurgence to relevance is not something I have a comprehensive solution to. However, I can say this. Football matters. It doesn't matter because it's going to change our lives if the Cougs come out of nowhere to win a Rose Bowl or another bowl game, but it does matter because it is worth following these young men as they take the field to represent US. Cougs, Coug fans, Undefeated Fans, whatever it is you identify yourself as being they represent our school and our pride out there. Like many of us, they've taken hard knocks over the last few years. We've seen 6-3 turn into 6-6 and home for the holidays, we've seen 63-0 in Martin Stadium, we've seen boys have to play against men twice their size just hoping to learn on the fly without getting too battered. What we haven't done is gone out there on the field and taken those knocks, taken those bruises, or taken the brand of being labeled as terrible, inept, incapable, or lousy. We have seen these things, but we have not lived them.
The same thing can be said of our players right now. They haven't been laid off, they haven't graduated into joblessness, and they haven't seen their retirement plans destroyed. They haven't directly walked in our shoes any more than we have walked in theirs, but like us they have struggled, they have fought, and they've done all they know to do to try and win the day for the Crimson and Gray. That's something to be commended and admired and most importantly observed. Last year's win over Oregon State wasn't just a win for them, but a win for all of us that have taken a pounding, been down, and been pushed to the edge of our ability to keep trying. It was a win in the midst of loss, an indicator of what's to come provided you believe that hard work, perseverance, and conviction can pay off even when everyone says something can not be done.
Cougar Football isn't important because it's fun to win over a rival or topple a power, but because of what doing those things represent. Even those of us doing the very best right now, the guys that can afford to pledge a loge or luxury suite has had a time, both as a fan and as a person where they have endured the hard knocks life can and does regularly throw at us. They have also prospered in spite of whatever setbacks they have encountered and as such supporting a football team, OUR football team, has become a priority. The fact is that supporting our team, our school, ourselves doesn't have to strictly be the responsibility of those that have experienced success, but that for those of us struggling the daily grind hoping to move upward and onward and in a better way can and should also be a part of that network.
When I started writing this I said I'd give readers a reason to hope, or care more, or maybe just inspire the thought of trying to care one more time. The reason we should care, the reason we should listen, watch, and travel to see our Cougars play is not because we love our logo, or our flag, or our colors, but because we can not wait to see the payoff of what true effort, grit, and conviction is. The football itself is the exciting means to an end, the experience of true victory over adversity in a time that is as difficult as this is the reward.
All fan bases have people that are happy to wear the colors, sing the songs, and relive the memories of glories past when winning is happening. Those people are necessary and good for a program not only because of the influx of excitement, money, and spirit they bring, but because they can be made to care. This year can be a year where people are made to care that normally wouldn't. Whatever your situation, be it good, bad, or in-between, it is possible for the joy of victory, the agony of defeat, and the pride of hard work to leave a lasting impression. Our team is not just a group of guys that wear our colors, they are us, they are simply younger physically gifted versions of us that had/have to learn the value of hard work on the field and in the classroom, instead of out here in the real world.
The 2011 Football season is not simply another chance to tailgate in the yellow lot, or get hammered at the Coug, or whatever your ritual is. It is an opportunity to examine the very things that make you a fan, that make you the Coug you are, and that makes Washington State University the special place that it is. It is an opportunity not only to feel your Cougar pride, but to use it. I haven't written all summer because of a move, from my buddy's couch after nearly a year, and because I have been studying like hell to go to law school. I've been kicked, beaten, and busted up by the world at large since I graduated in December of 2009, but every experience, trial, and challenge has helped to shape me as a person. I learned how to deal with adversity and trouble while I was at Washington State University. Our football team has done the same thing the last 3 years or so. It has been hard, painful, and difficult to watch but they've made it through the worst of it and gave us hope at the end of last season.
The struggle isn't over, there will be bumps along the way this year, but I would encourage everyone that can to simply pay attention to these Cougs. They've earned at least that much in going through what they have the last few seasons. Take stock of your situation when you do, and maybe think about why you care like you do, or why you have tried to stay away for awhile. You're likely to find out something about yourself and what you learned in your time at WSU. Hard knocks only last so long, eventually you get to come out swinging again. This team is done taking shots and like some of us it's ready to start hitting back. It's time to Win.