I've read numerous posts and comments from Cougar fans the last few weeks, and really over the last six years, about how we as Cougar fans just have to wait out the bad times. That it will all be worth it. That we're investing emotion with the team, and the payoff will be all the better when it comes. I'm starting to wonder if the whole argument about "winning will feel better when you've experienced losing" isn't just a delusion that fans of bad teams tell themselves.
I grew up as a Cougar fan but was the definition of "casual." Mostly because my dad only turned on the games when the Cougs were good or for the Apple Cup. I didn't watch Cougar bball either. My first year at WSU was 2002-03, the Rose Bowl year with Gesser. I didn't really go to the basketball games until the middle of the 2005 season, when we got to 9-3 before swan diving the rest of the season and then made the NCAA tournament the next two years. Depending on your perspective, I was either spoiled (became a "true" fan at just the right time) or a casual fan. In my WSU career, I saw two bowl teams (well, 3 if it weren't for freaking 6-6 UCLA) and two NCAA tournament teams, a period of success probably unmatched in WSU history (plus the volleyball team was really good for a few years in there).
From my experience, I just can't get on board with the idea that watching this team make a bowl game next year will be all the sweeter because of how long we've been an abject disaster. I have experienced the highs and the lows, but started with the highs, and they felt pretty good. I don't feel like I missed anything by not sticking it out through the Paul Graham years, or suffering through the pre- Mike Price era. I just look at the current lows and think "why do I bother? Why can't I just walk away for a while and start paying attention again when they're winning?"
I will admit that it was special to watch Weaver, Low, Cowgill, Baynes and Rochestie grow up and find success, so maybe it meant more when they finally made the Sweet 16. But you could kind of see that coming, that there was a core group of all young guys (good people, by the way, easy to root for) going through tough times but obviously getting better every year. With the football and basketball teams we have now, I just don't see it. We have some young players with promise but our only real hope is that Leach and Bone really do know what they're doing.
I, like many Cougars, am also a Seahawks fan. Now that team has a core of young and promising players, and it seems like the Seahawks will only get better over the next few years. Unlike the last few years of Cougar football, there is solid evidence that next year's team will improve, and the year after, etc - in comparison, us Cougs can look back on our optimistic preseason comments with a cynical view now. But even if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl in 2014, will it really be that much better because of the travesty in 2006, or subsequent years of mediocrity? I think the only additional benefit of having been a Seahawks fan at the moment we finally win will be the assuaging of the pain of that Super Bowl loss.
Think about that. The extra "sweetness," if it really exists, is only the removal of past pain. Pain we wouldn't have had if we weren't fans at the time! I believe the net effect is the same as if we hadn't been fans and jumped on the bandwagon at the right time. That's my theory. I won't go so far as to call the loyal fans "suckers" or insist I'm just as much of a true fan if I don't go to all the games. I have admiration for the people who gut it out. My question is really just whether in the end it's actually worth it.