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Admiring a long-awaited Apple Cup win from afar

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It’s been nine years. It felt like 90.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. I don’t know about you, but yours truly is still pretty much floating through life as a result of what took place on Friday evening, at the second-greatest setting in which to witness the Washington State Cougars beat the piss out of the Washington Huskies (Pullman being the greatest, of course). I don’t know how long the feeling will last, but I’m totally fine if it never goes away.

I do know there are none of you who are eagerly anticipating my lazy and uninformative intrepid and peerless analysis of the game, but the truth is that I haven’t seen more than a few highlights, so it would be rather disingenuous to pretend that I know what the hell happened, outside of looking at the box score (which reflects a goddamn curb-stomping that even Derek Vinyard would think was over the line).

So instead, I’ll write a bit about what it’s been like to wander through the Apple Cup desert over the past few years, from a personal point of view. Why? Well by now you’re well aware that I’m largely incapable of doing anything original, so I may as well play third string to CougCenter’s resident Killer Ps, Preston and Powers. (I just made up that nickname but it’s totally awesome and will stick for sure). Anyway, here goes.

Living a vagabond existence since leaving Pullman has been almost universally rewarding. Trouble is, nearly all of that time has been spent in the Central time zone or points east. Fandom-wise, this makes things a bit weird, and I’m sure there are several of you who are in the same situation. The games come on at hours that you’re not used to, often late at night, which brings about its own amount of friction. But there’s also an odd dichotomy when one doesn’t live among the fan base that is sometimes a bummer, but is also a boon. And that is the fact that nobody cares.

When the Cougs win, nobody in Tampa, or Destin, or Central Europe gives a damn. I can wear my Coug gear here, there and everywhere and the needle doesn’t move. In this era of competent Cougar Football, that’s been a bit of a bummer. But then the Apple Cup rolls around, and still, nobody cares. And let me tell you, that’s an awesome thing. Unless I seek it out online (I don’t, and have no idea why anyone does), I don’t have to live and work among sidewalk Husky fans who have nothing better to do than rub my nose in another UW blowout. God help those of you who do.

Moving overseas in 2018 introduced even more separation between fan and team. Not only is there an even more pronounced paucity of Coug fans (save for my guy Garrett, of course), it’s a miracle if the Cougs are even on during partial waking hours. As with the scenario in the previous paragraph, usually that’s a bummer. But for the Apple Cup, it became a blessing.

In 2018, WSU was the betting favorite with everything to play for, but WSU realistically didn’t stand much of a chance, all things considered. Sure enough, it came on in the middle of the night, so I went off the grid and watched the recording Saturday morning. Thankfully, it was all over in an hour or so, as I sped through the majority of it in anticipation of the inevitable outcome. I don’t know how that tactic would affect anyone else, but it took a bit - a tiny bit - of the sting off since I didn’t have to sit through it in real time. And again, I there were precisely zero people where I live and work who cared. It helped!

Then came 2019. Our family was in London, WSU was ok, and was facing a UW team that was also just ok. Despite the relatively even - on paper - matchup, every WSU fan knew what was going to happen based upon five consecutive years of butt-kickings. Sure enough, it came on around midnight. This time, I had no interest in watching, so I just looked at my phone when I woke up (the first thing I saw was a text from a fellow WSU alum that read, “this sucks”, which told me all I needed to know) and went on with my day. I still haven’t seen a play from that game, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss anything.

Now came 2021, and another situation in which WSU seemed to have a decent chance - on paper - to finally put a stop to the tyranny. Washington was going through its worst season in over a decade, having fired its hilariously overrated and disastrously incompetent blowhard coach in Jimmy Lake. Across the mountains, the Cougs had overcome 10 years’-worth of turmoil and somehow, some way, cobbled together a 6-5 record. Even more crazy? UW opened as a 3-point favorite, and the line almost immediately swung five points in the other direction! What on earth were these bettors thinking?!

Thankfully, the game was again kicking off while I’d be asleep, 2 a.m. to be exact. YESSS! For yet another year, I don’t have to watch! To add to that, my parents finally made it over after 18 months of trying, and we were spending the Thanksgiving weekend in Krakow, Poland. So I wasn’t even in a position to think about watching live, even though Garrett invited me over, not knowing I was out of town. Matter of fact, when he did shoot me the invite, my exact response was, “I wouldn’t watch this game if it were taking place in my living room.”

So after watching Mrs. Kendall’s beloved Dayton Flyers take down Kansas at the buzzer, then watching my Iowa Hawkeyes rally to beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the seventh straight season, it was time for bed around 11. This is where my irrational fan brain took over. What should I do when I wake up? Check my score app? My text messages? Go straight to the CougCenter site to see the headline? Of course, this was all so very important, because whichever means I used would determine the outcome!

Side note: If you’re a person who does certain things in a superstitious manner because you think it somehow changes the direction of a game, it’s stupid and you need to stop it.

Sincerely, someone who does those exact things

Ok, we’re back. After a couple dreams in which the Cougs lost - something like 30-23 - I woke up about 430 a.m. A chance to glimpse at the score late in the game! Tempting! Ok not really. I knew that if I looked, I was committed to firing up the stream and my sleep time was done. So I ignored my score app, along with the texts and went back to sleep. It was like that time in college when I lost my wallet, then kept dreaming that I found my wallet, only to wake up repeatedly and realize that I had not, in fact, found my wallet. It got so bad that I honestly didn’t know if WSU had actually lost or if I’d just dreamt it.

Then, after a couple more dreams in which UW won (I kid you not), I woke up again at 620 and decided that I was tired of dreaming about another Apple Cup loss. I decided to look at my texts. First message from my brother:

Oh no.

But then!

Could it be? No. No way. Time to check the score. Oh my god. 40-13??!! How in the world? I was in such disbelief that I woke up Mrs. Kendall to tell her. (she pretended like she cared but just wanted to go back to sleep, which is always the correct play). So I briefly looked at the stats and called my brother, still with a mixture of sleep-induced brain fog and utter disbelief. What a start to the day.

I tried to soak up as much as I could before we went about our day in Krakow, part of me not really believing that the Cougs had not only exorcised the UW demons, but had done so by way of the biggest WSU beatdown in series history. Hell, I just watched the replay for the first of probably several times and I still can’t really process it.

BTW - Petros Papadakis is the goddamn best. “I wouldn’t want to be a grain silo on the Palouse tonight!” Love that guy.

So to recap, this season started with a series of embarrassing events. Then apathy set in on my part. Then the coach got fired. Then, then, this team and these coaches somehow, some way, made the 2021 edition of the Washington State Cougars one that I will never forget. Maybe even one that I’ll dream about. GFC

Football

Washington State won't play for Pac-12 title, but the Cougars head into bowl season with high spirits | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State had one of its most uplifting days in recent memory Friday, clobbering archrival Washington 40-13 and planting Ol’ Crimson on the “W” at Husky Stadium.

Washington State lifts Jake Dickert into permanent head-coaching job | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars removed the interim tag from Jake Dickert’s title and lifted the defensive coordinator into the program’s permanent head-coaching job.

A Grip on Sports: Dickert rides a wave of fan support into the top spot, but that backing has to remain in place to ensure continued success | The Spokesman-Review
No matter what, next August, when camp opens again, the Cougars will be different. Markedly different. And more than likely, not improved.

These Cougars battled through adversity all year. After dominant Apple Cup win, they deserve to be celebrated. | The Seattle Times
It looked, for a minute, like it might end up the same way it so often has for Washington State.

Washington State won't play for Pac-12 title, but the Cougars head into bowl season with high spirits | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State had one of its most uplifting days in recent memory Friday, clobbering archrival Washington 40-13 and planting Ol’ Crimson on the “W” at Husky Stadium.

2021 Apple Cup: Washington State vs. Washington (Nov. 26, 2021) - Nov. 26, 2021 | The Spokesman-Review
Action from the 113th Apple Cup between the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Seattle, Wash.

Basketball

Welp, if Kyle Smith and the Cougar basketball team was gonna pick a time to suffer an embarrassing defeat, this weekend was probably the time to do it. A home loss to a Big Sky team as a 19-point favorite? That definitely won’t hurt the team come March.

Eastern Washington overcomes 19-point deficit to beat Washington State for first time since 1997 | The Spokesman-Review
The Eagles (3-3) upset the Cougars (5-1) 76-71 in Pullman, behind Mason Landdeck’s 24 points on 5-of-12 shooting and 12 free throws.

This Week in Parenting

I mentioned that the family visited Krakow, Poland over the holiday. For one thing, I can not emphasize enough how awesome Krakow is. We’ve done a fair amount of traveling while in Europe, and Krakow is up near the top.

As part of the trip, I took the kids to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. On Thanksgiving. That’s the kind of dad I am.

Non-Sports