Come August, CougCenter will turn nine years old. Nine! That’s about 163 in internet years. And I’ve been around this place for all of them, spanning a pair of SB Nation redesigns, including the fresh coat of paint you’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. (Don’t worry, I promise the bugs will get worked out. They always do.)
We’ve come a long way from this:
There have been/are a lot of factors working against that kind of longevity for us — on-the-field stuff such as our first four years coinciding with Paul Wulff’s four seasons ... Tony Bennett jilting us within the first nine months ... Ken Bone/Ernie Kent ... and then, off-the-field personal stuff, such as my wife and I adding two more children to our family ... with one of those kids getting (and beating) cancer ... my wife beginning and completing both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees ... and, yanno, my day job of trying to help teenagers at least somewhat command the English language.
It’s not easy. How not easy? Take a look at the number of Coug-related sites you’ve seen come and go in that time. (Also, that’s why I have an undying admiration for the work that Cougfan.com does, because they’re approximately 492 internet years old. We might be different, but I respect the heck out of them and what they bring to WSU fans.)
We’ve got a great group of people here, all of whom do a little something that’s important, and that’s the main reason we have yet to go the way of the buffalo. As for my own personal involvement, some of this persistence is pure stubbornness on my part.
But really, the main reason I stick around is because I love being a fan. I don’t know how not to fan, particularly when it comes to WSU — something that’s probably not all that dissimilar to how a lot of you feel about the Cougs.
My passion for WSU far eclipses that of, say, the Seahawks, to which I split a pair of season tickets with my dad. (He’s a Husky fan. One of the nice ones.) It’s our thing that we do together, and I enjoy it very much. But the Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners will never hold the place in my heart that the Cougars do. The Sonics — RIP — would be the closest second ... but they’d still be pretty distant.
There’s only one place about which a silly video could actually make me have all the feels.
And ... there it goes again. NO, YOU’RE CRYING.
It wasn’t always that way.
I grew up in the Seattle area, and probably like a lot of you, grew up as a UW fan. My family had season tickets to the Huskies, and I'm not sure about this, but there's a decent chance I've actually attended more football games in Husky Stadium than I have in Martin Stadium. I even went to the 1993 Rose Bowl against Michigan (and watched Tyrone Wheatley run up and down the field).
So naturally, when it came time to pick a college, I was sure I was headed to Washington — that was my dream!
But I had this persistent journalism teacher — Vince DeMiero at Mountlake Terrace High School — who said, "Hey, you want to be a journalist, right? WSU's got an awesome journalism program. Come with me to a football game. It'll be fun!" I thought: “Well, if you're paying ... and I do like football ... ”
So I went. Since 17-year-old me was an obnoxious jerk sometimes, I spent a good part of the drive to Pullman mocking WSU — Jack Husky to the core. As we descended into town, I thought to myself, "Good lord, where am I?"
We drove around and up onto what I now know is Stadium Way, where I had a realization that has stuck with me to this day: “Wait — is that the football stadium? Right there? In the middle of campus?” Vince: “Uh, yeah.” I thought that was about the craziest thing I'd ever seen, given the fact that my only experience with a college campus involved a monstrosity that's only “on campus” because the boundaries of the school stretch to the lake.
My curiosity piqued, I started to give the place a chance. About the only lame part of the weekend was the game — Arizona beat the Chad Davis-led Cougars 10-7, in what is surely one of the most boring games I’ve ever watched in my life. But I became increasingly intrigued by the idea of attending school in a sleepy college town.
I remember walking around late Saturday night that weekend and being amazed at the fact that stop lights turned blinking orange, stunned at how peaceful everything was, and surprised by how safe I felt. This was quite the contrast to the U District, where 17-year-old Jeff was convinced murders and muggings took place regularly. I figured that’s what all colleges were like.
I was accepted to both UW and WSU, but I knew in my heart that WSU was where I wanted to be. I didn’t pick Pullman ... Pullman picked me. I got the Comm department to throw a little money my way, I came for Alive! that summer, learned the fight song, and it was completely over: The guy who sat at that terrible football game in October who wondered if there was any possible he could ever actually become a Cougar was, in fact, a full-blown Coug.
Shared experiences with other Cougs over the next four years just made the bond stronger. Sports were a massive part of that — I got to go to a darned Rose Bowl while I was in school! — but as you all know, there was so much more. For me, it was deadlines at The Daily Evergreen. Bowling at the CUB. Sella’s. Daylight Donuts runs. Parties at CCN. Pickup hoops at the PEB with Ike Fontaine(!). More parties at CCN. Sitting in line all night at Beasley for 1997 Apple Cup tickets. Intramurals — SO DAMN CLOSE TO WINNING THE OPEN DIVISION SOFTBALL T-SHIRT THAT ONE TIME. (Also, yellow cards in intramurals. Yes, plural. And you’ll have to get a couple of beers in me to talk about the red cards. Yes, also plural.) Delta Chi. That one time I almost got a hole-in-one on No. 2. Shakers mystery beer, Shakers Power Hour, Shakers open to close.
And when I left in 1999, it didn't diminish. If anything, it became a greater point of pride as I came back to the west side and found myself surrounded by Husky “fans” everywhere I went. Being a Coug is so much a part of who I am that back in 2003, my new bride knew it was futile to try and keep us from the Holiday Bowl since we were already going to be in San Diego for our honeymoon, anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I have a favorite comeback for when a Jack Husky starts riding a little to high on his horse after an Apple Cup. “Oh, you love UW? What year did you graduate? ... No? Oh. OK then.”
Because none of those fans will ever understand why I love WSU so much. Heck, most of my friends who actually went to UW — or most other colleges — don’t get it. They can’t. It just makes no logical sense. That’s the magic of Pullman, and why I can never let go of the one connection I can keep with the place from 300 miles away: Cougar athletics.
And this website — and all of you — are a big part of how I get to do that. That stuff I listed above is 20 years in the rear view mirror at this point; now, it’s game threads and Twitter, CougCenter tailgates, teaching my kids to say GO COUGS, trips to out of town games and nights out with Craig Powers and Brian Floyd and Brian Anderson and PJ Kendall and Colin White and all the other amazing people who are too numerous to name that I’ve met met over the years through this awesome/terrible/amazing/time consuming thing we do here at SB Nation.
So thanks. Thanks for being a part of my fandom. Here’s to nine more years.
Ready to tell us your story? Head on over to the FanPosts section, start with a headline that says “Why I’m a fan of WSU” and tell us why you’re a fan of the Cougs and/or why you choose to “fan” with us here at CougCenter.
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