I wanted to start this letter with an insult. In fact, it is killing me not doing so. I even cooked up a whooper while driving back from Pullman last weekend, it involved comparing UW football to Apple TV and it was going to build to something special, I could feel it- I was working on an Aniston reference, and maybe a punchline involving Bezos moving to Florida. I was really excited about it.
Which is what makes what we have to do here so sad. I loved our hate. I went to my first Brawl of the Wild, and the Cats vs Griz energy was outstanding. There is something special when two groups of fans get together to remind each other exactly what we find annoying about one another.
Three hundred and sixty-five days a year we’re neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Stuck in traffic together, waiting in lines together, and awkwardly checking our phones next to each other. We cut each other off, make jokes that aren’t funny, and have one too many drinks on a Friday and wind up externalizing our inner monologues to each other.
We have more in common than we have apart, is my point, and sometimes that is incredibly annoying.
So yeah, I have always enjoyed getting to call all of you entitled WWU grads the week of the Apple Cup.* I really loved the haughty looks of royal disdain those jokes triggered by Tuesday afternoon. They proved the point of the joke, and in doing so made me feel delightfully uncouth.
*Ok I loved doing this year-round.
Of course, that response often proved your point that we were more your annoying younger sibling and less your genuine competition. But little brothers win sometimes, and the realities of college football were what they were. We shared a conference, a media payout, and a state. But not donors, metro locations, or media coverage. We were never equal, but we were equal enough to make it fun to bet beers on the game every year.
After this year that will cease to be true. The demise of the PAC-12 has left WSU in a desperate state of affairs. I suspect that you, dear Husky reader, haven’t really thought through those realities. Too often my Husky friends think we’ll just drop to the MWC or Big Sky* and dominate. But that isn’t plausible. We have nine figures of debt. The MWC media payout is barely *ten percent* of the PAC12 payout and doesn’t cover the salaries of our football and men’s basketball head coaches, much less any other aspect of our athletic budget. NIL and transfer rules mean there is a real chance we’ll lose half our roster (or more) in the next three months, and then let’s consider recruiting….without the P5 status why are three star recruits from all over the country coming to Pullman again?
*Shame of you for that, BTW. Utterly insulting to think that is a legitimate landing spot for us.
I’m not trying to be defeatist here. Our facilities are great, our community is world class, our TV viewership is better than the entire BIG-12 at this point. We have things to help us navigate whatever is next, football wise at least. But let’s not kid ourselves either. We’re not within spitting distance of you anymore.
So this whole rivalry thing-it’s just not going to work out. The whole point of mocking you, shouting ‘Huck the Fuskies’* and feeling good or bad on Black Friday because of a football score was because it reminded everyone in Washington that deep down, we are in this together. By highlighting the differences between universities, towns, climates, politics, and cultures we were also highlighting the fact that, like it or not, we’re all Washingtonians man. We share restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, interstates, and taxes. We’re different-but we’re together.
*or like, whatever you say to us every year. I’ve tuned it out honestly.
Historically, you SPU graduates forget all that every once in a while. Then we’d finally win an Apple Cup and you’d remember. Which is the point. Teams need productive conflict to stay together, and the football game is a good excuse to finally let a bit of the animus out- but in a way that lets everyone take it with something closer to a laugh than the opposite.
However, in order for the fight to bring the family together, little sis has to win the argument sometimes. It’s the reminder that even though, day to day, bigger, older, richer siblings get their way more often than not, they still need to respect the rest of us. Is that a reasonable Apple Cup expectation anymore? Or will this game become an excuse to pretend like we’re having the same ole good rivalry, but really it’s just a chance to beat the crap out of your brother again?
I suggest that moving forward this game becomes the latter. The off the field differences will simply be too great. The annual family fight will morph into the annual family embarrassment, and instead of bringing us together it will only serve to push us further apart.
So I’m letting it go. No more jokes*, no more chants, no more bets, no more hate. Hate requires hope. Hate requires connection. We don’t have either of those things anymore, Huskies. So I’m calling it off. It’s not you, it’s me. Wait no, it was *definitely* you. Well, you and your lawyers. Well…you, your lawyers, and USC. Well…you, your lawyers, USC and….oh you get the point. It was you, not me, but I am the one ending it. You can’t make me hate you anymore Huskies. You’ve changed us, I don’t like who I am when I’m around you, and the spark just isn’t there anymore. It’s time to move on.
*after this week, still the PAC-12 this week you Western Governors graduates.
I know this is embarrassing for you, having helped snuff out a century of tradition just to avoid the financial fate you’ve doomed us to*, so you’ve managed to pay our athletic department enough to get an agreement to keep up a bit of a face for the neutrals. That will help us pay rent until we find our next relationship, so I guess I’ll play along. But know that it isn’t real. Know that I’ve moved on. Know that it is your fault, though maybe not only your fault.
*While also actively suing us to ensure we’re as destitute as possible moving forward!
Most of all know that all that emotional energy I used to throw your way every November will slowly dissipate year after year. When the Apple Cup moves to September, it also ceases to be a rivalry game for me. It’s just a game, like any other.
So good luck, I guess.