It's once in a blue moon where your trip to Pullman can be delayed because of crazy oncoming traffic.
Last Friday, we packed up and headed over for one last Cougar game and arrived an hour or so later than expected because Highway 26 was such a mess. In most college football scenarios, you'd assume I was late because of the great caravan onto Stadium Way, yet it was entirely from the thousands (yes, thousands) of cars heading westbound OUT OF TOWN, leaving literally no opportunities to pass the RVs and trucks, save the rarest gap every 20 miles or so.
I don't want to make this a students vs. alumni thing, because lord knows I've given the alums their share of grief,and made it well known I don't like it when the students get one of their home games taken away from them every year. I get it that more alums should've been at this game, too, but that mass exodus out of Pullman that everyone on Highway 26 witnessed on Friday was pretty embarrassing.
Students, let me walk you through the conversation taking place in your standard alumni kitchen last week:
"Wow, did you see all the crazy prizes they're giving away to the students that attend the last home game?"
"Why are they getting prizes? Aren't they getting to go to a football game for free?"
"Yeah, but this game is taking place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving break."
"Oh, do they not get a full week off for Thanksgiving anymore?"
"Yeah, they totally do. I guess they need to get home a day early."
"To do WHAT? Troll the high schools? I guarantee their parents don't miss them enough that a day would matter."
"I have absolutely no clue."
"Well, so are all these crazy prizes going to keep the students in town to watch the football game?"
"Isn't this the biggest game for WSU in, like, the last seven or eight years? They still need to go home one day early?"
Now we have plenty of things we need to get to this week, so I don't want to harp on this too much, but seriously, students: If one of you could explain the need to get home a day early for Thanksgiving break, I would greatly appreciate it. It must be a generational thing, because I think pretty much everyone over 30 will tell you they might not have gone home for Thanksgiving at all if the university didn't close everything down. I know there are a few thousand students who don't care much about football, but I'm pretty sure if we drew a Venn Diagram of the students who skipped the Utah game and the students who sent angry tweets, e-mails and open letters to that girl from Arizona, a LOT of you would be in both groups. And I don't mean to lump in the students who stayed with those who left, but it's gotta be said: The 2013 Students will probably forever be known as the class that was offered iPads and flatscreens to ATTEND A FOOTBALL GAME and actually said "Nah, we're good."
That being said, we're going bowling! I can't remember being this excited about our team being a hair better than mediocre in my entire life. Oregon's throwing fits because they lost a second game and we're burning Pullman to the ground in one celebratory couch fire because we beat a Utah team that started a walk-on quarterback. And I won't take any of it back. It was the best. The CAF opened up the club section for a "5th Quarter Rally" to drain the booze from the booze-guns for the year, and I can legitimately say I don't remember anything that happened in the three hours between the final whistle and when my wife pulled us up to the parking lot at the Spokane Dick's. I'm piecing everything together through received texts and e-mails and at this point I'd believe nearly anything you told me. Apparently I talked the owner of The Coug's ear off to the point my wife had to throw me in an elevator. I found his business card in my wallet, so I can only assume I tried to sell him the rights to Cougcenter. Bob, if you're reading this: I'm sorry and I don't have the clearance for that. I already gambled those away in March Madness 2011. Upon getting thrown in the elevator, I found myself face to face with Cougcenter's own Jeff Collier and lifted him off the ground, tv cables and all, with a giant bear hug. Upon returning to our tailgate to pack everything up, apparently I threw an empty cooler to (at?) Neil Roberts, Mean Joe Green style, declaring I didn't have room for it and didn't need it. The next morning I got a text from my friend Brian saying "Hey man did you see what happened to my cooler?"
And now we're at Apple Cup week.
It might sound like heresy, but after the last few days of jubilation, I'm having a hard time getting pumped up about playing the Huskies. In an e-mail thread when I explained how I was having difficulty mustering up any rage this week, I found I wasn't alone. I think we narrowed it down to this set of goals.
1. Rose Bowl/BCS Bowl
2. Any Bowl
3. Apple Cup
4. Don't Die
So for nearly every year over the past couple decades, the Apple Cup has been necessary to achieving at least one goal that year. In the years we've been bad, Apple Cup is all we've had and the years we were good, we had the opportunity to achieve goal #1 if we beat the Huskies. This is the first year since I became a Coug fan (1997) that beating the Huskies wasn't life-or-death. Losing to the Huskies isn't going to cost us the Rose Bowl and beating them isn't going to keep out of Pasadena, either. We're probably going to a bowl game regardless of the outcome and since we have six wins already, the Apple Cup isn't our bowl game this season. I don't mean to sound like I'm preparing myself for a loss; it's not that at all. It's just bizarre that this is the first time in so long that the Apple Cup isn't the biggest part of the regular season. I get playing for pride, but "the battle to determine preferable bowl position" doesn't really have the same ring to it as the "Crapple Cup."
Don't worry, it soon hit me.
"Oh yeah, I forgot. Husky fans are dicks."
I get it; Coug fans aren't the classiest bunch, especially when it comes to the Apple Cup. I was there for the airborne Dasani Bottles in 2002 when Babs Hedges "feared for her life" and saw the students throwing snowballs at the player getting carted to the locker room in 2010. But Husky fans are kidding themselves to think their students wouldn't have pulled the exact same stunts if A) it ever snowed for Husky games and B) their arms were strong enough to get any projectiles past their track. Husky fans like to hype their reputation as a group of snobby (yet classy!!!) wine-and-cheese eaters, when the reality is their 300 level is littered with the dregs of King/Snohomish County who can't afford Seahawks tickets.
I think my worst Apple Cup experience had to be 2003. Apple Cups over the previous six or seven years had resulted in the victorious fans storming the field and the Cougs were favored, so in the east endzone, the chain link fence we destroyed in the wake of the 1997 victory had been replaced with a wooden fence about waist-high that was easily hop-able without anyone getting trampled. Turns out we lost again, so nobody would be storming the field in Crimson that day, so the fences weren't needed. As the game ended and we shuffled out of the section, some idiot knocked my hat off my head once I got toward the fence and it landed on the other side near the edge of the field. I leaned over the fence to retrieve my hat and a man in his mid 40s (not a student, just a regular old asshole) ran up behind me and jumped on my back, driving my stomach into the edge of the fence. While I rolled around on the ground trying to get the wind back in me, regular-old-asshole started running away. A Coug who saw the entire thing ran up to him and cracked one of those souvenir hot chocolate mugs over his head. So what did regular-old-asshole do? HE WENT AND FOUND A COP AND TOLD HIM I DID IT. YOU TOLD THE COP IT WAS THE GUY LYING ON THE GROUND BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE FUNNY TO TRY AND KILL SOMEONE GOT UP TO HIT YOU IN THE HEAD AND THEN WALK BACK TO LIE DOWN IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT WHERE YOU CRUSHED HIS PANCREAS. I literally spent the next twenty minutes convincing the cop that I hadn't left the ground, much less been able to run him down and crack a mug over his head. After I gave the cop my information (I'm assuming he thought I may have to check into a hospital), I left the stadium and then found one of the guys I was sitting with lying on the ground in the parking lot in the fetal position while two Husky fans were kicking him. This was a game they won.
So while winning this game doesn't get us much more than a fancier locale for our bowl game this season, it's really worth everything to know that the dudes in their Starter jackets and puff-ball hats have to keep their mouths shut for another year.
I wasn't planning on going to this game. Not really because of my pre-season outlook on the team or how much I despise going to Husky Stadium, but because UW has the nerve to charge us $100/head to sit in their endzone. That's almost as much as a Rose Bowl ticket. I was sitting out due to pure principle. But some good fortune came up. My buddy Bam is a Marine who tries to does his best to get us all to go to every Cougar game he's available to attend between deployments, and who are we to say no to the guy who singlehandedly defends our freedom? Bam was able to get up to Pullman for Apple Cup last year, and when I rewatched the fourth quarter on this site a couple days ago, it brought me back to the most vintage Bam moment I've ever witnessed. After falling down 28-10 in the fourth quarter and having lost legitimately all hope, I sat in my seat during that break with my head in my hands just ready to ride out yet another horrible end to another Cougar Football Saturday. Bam slapped me on the back and calmly and matter-of-factly said "Sherwood, we're winning this game. Watch." I get it, Bam. You don't get to too many games anymore and you really want to win. I do, too. But this thing is over.
"No. We're going to win this game. Watch."
And after every touchdown and field goal happened, and the fans became gradually more delirious, Bam remained calm and said "What did I tell you? We're going to win."
And when UW drove down the field in the closing minutes and merely needed a chip shot field goal to send us home? "We're still going to win this game. Watch."
To this day, I have no idea how Bam stayed that confident. Most of us just believe he was too drunk to understand we were losing the entire time. But it didn't matter. Dude called his shot and never wavered.
So at the end of the Arizona game when everyone is excited about win #5, I get a text from Bam: "Coming up for Apple Cup. I have an extra ticket." So now it's my duty as an American to storm Montlake.
We're going to win this game. Watch.
Go Cougs (take them and the points!)