Somewhere between the third and fourth Utah touchdown on Saturday, I stared at my half empty glass of Sam Adams and a mostly eaten plate of hot wings and wondered what would make all the pain go away. The waitress came back with a menu and my eyes instantly locked onto the chili dog covered in nacho cheese plus an additional Sam Adams. The chili at Barney's Beanery in Los Angeles is legendary and piled on top of a hot dog, it only got better. Washing the hot dog down with a delicious Boston Lager took some of the pain away. Then I looked up at the projection screen in front of me and realized there was no amount of suds or formerly alive animals smothered in cheese sauce and chili that could make me feel any better.
I sunk back in my chair and continued to watch the horrific scene unfold in front of me. Why? Who knows. Maybe it's because I'm a masochist and love nothing more than being perennially miserable every Saturday from September to late November. More likely than that though, Sam Adams was on special and the waitress did make the effort to ask me if I'd like another one.
Once the final whistle blew, one of the more disastrous Cougar football games in a couple of years came to an end. As we walked home, I began wondering if I should even care anymore. Washington State football has caused me insurmountable quantities of pain over the past half dozen years (the 2007 and 2008 Apple Cups completely withstanding) and yet, I continue to go back, like a moth to a porch light or Honey Boo Boo to Mountain Dew. Wouldn't life just be easier if I didn't care about whether a bunch of 18-22 year olds won a, in the grand scheme of life and universe, pointless game every Saturday?
The simple answer is yes. It would be better for my blood pressure and my mental health. Life would be a lot easier if I didn't go through more mood swings on one Saturday than most teenagers do in a....Saturday.
But it isn't that simple is it? Of course not. Part of what makes Washington State University a special place is not just the beauty of the surrounding Palouse but since all there is in Pullman for you is the school, you become so engrossed in the university, you develop more pride and love for your university than any other. I'm not saying that to get you to open your check books or make some stupid, pointless appeal to your fandom. I'm saying it to help you realize your passion is a double edged sword. When the times are good, they're great. But when they're bad, it's terrible on a level that's difficult to comprehend.
Its taken me nearly 500 meandering words complete with enough poorly constructed arguments to have Nusser bashing his head against a desk for me to finally spit out who the most important person is: it's you. It doesn't matter if this team wins or losses without you. Without a fan base to care about this team, the school won't really care about whether the team succeeds or not. It's your passion, no matter your opinion, that pushes this university to improve their athletics. Whether you think the decisions made by the athletic director, head coach or whoever are correct or incorrect, they're trying to make decisions that are best for the program. Please don't view that as me sitting here with a dumb look on my face, thinking about Jim Sterk or Paul Wulff or Paul Graham, going "He's the best, he's the best, he's the best." If you want that, you know where to go. But without you, people in a position of power within the athletic department wouldn't give a damn about any decisions they make.
If we're completely honest with ourselves, we know what the Cougars chances are when they step onto a very chilly field against a top-25 team on Saturday night. They're pretty similar to my chances of dunking without a trampoline or moon boots. But if it gets bad, don't stop caring. Don't stop agonizing over it, don't stop screaming and most importantly, don't stop caring. I don't care what your opinion is on any topic pertinent to Washington State football, I'd rather us be on the verge of going Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr on each other than approach it with the apathy of an average citizen towards a zoning board commission meeting. Given the likely result on Saturday, you could stop caring altogether. Don't let that happen.
You are and always will be the most important person to WSU football. I don't care how stupid or naive that sounds. Without you, there's no passion, there's no pride, there's nothing. Hopefully, one day sooner rather than later, this will all get better. And you'll be glad you never stopped caring because the pay off with be sweeter than you could've possibly imagined.