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How not to feel emotionally spent about the state of sports conferences

Let’s just face the music.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Washington State at Colorado Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, Coug fans.

Yesterday, we talked logically about what the Colorado Buffaloes departure from the Pac-12 could mean for them and for the conference. Today, I’m writing to you more from an emotional side.

We’ve discussed this phenomenon before, you and I. About how, in this day and age with NIL debates and TV contracts and finances, oh my, it can get really overwhelming. No matter what stage of fan you are, be that a casual Saturday consumer or getting Go Cougs tattooed on your ankle (who on EARTH would do that?!), the nuance of why we love sports seems to slide to the side.

I guess I’m writing this to you, and to me, to almost make sense of the uncertainty. I don’t have the answers about where we’ll land with the TV deal, nor do I have the answers about how to not feel like the bridge between schools with limitless NIL opportunities as opposed to schools without doesn’t feel like it gets larger and larger with every breath. These are frustrating feelings as fans of the Underdog. We are so used to feeling like the little brother, feeling underestimated in a condescending manner, feeling like no matter the passion and drive and talent we may possess, it will never be enough compared to the Goliath standing in front of us, their pockets lined with “greater opportunities”.

I want to encourage optimism, even though I know it’s hard. On the one hand- let’s be frustrated about this. Let’s be angry. It’s not a fair situation. We deserve the same shot as everyone else, and we don’t get it time after time after time. Every step forward, every championship won or Bowl game played, or athlete who makes it from the Palouse to the big stage is coupled with some shinier opportunity elsewhere.

However- these current dealings do not negate those successes.

The things I like about sports, why I keep coming back season after season, is really the personalities behind the game.

This clip of Jake Dickert is particularly relevant, in my opinion.

I know we all got used to a winning mentality coupling with actual results. And those results will look different as conferences shift around, that’s a given.

I think for me, as a fan, it would be a bummer to watch us either brushed aside to a conference we socially and athletically (& potentially educationally, let’s throw that in there too, why not) deem as “lesser”, or watch our conference that we’ve put energy into cheering on despite it’s major pitfalls over the last few years waste into something less than it’s former reputation.

I’m sure a lot of you are feeling like that too.

However, an invaluable piece of advice I was given, one that is extremely hard to follow, is the phrase we don’t compare. In every walk of life, there is always going to be someone who has it better than you, and always someone who has it worse than you. That doesn’t take away from the problem you’re currently at the base of, the summit and solution seeming impossible to reach. We don’t compare is about not looking next to you, and measuring your success off how poor or well your neighbor is doing- we don’t compare is about looking forward. Focusing on your own journey, and being the best you can be.

There are few things I know to be certain in this world, but one of them is this:

If we slide down to the Big Sky, or Mountain West, or somehow get tapped into the SEC and win the National Championship- it doesn’t matter. Coug fans will wake up every Saturday this fall, drink a cold beer, don the crimson and gray, and root.

If the Pac-12 adopts three more schools, we will have three new and different opportunities for victory. We’ll have three new fanbases to riff with, to welcome to Pullman, and to invade the towns of and overwhelm bars to a degree they could never recover from.

The spirit of Coug fans will never change. As corny as that sounds!! But it doesn’t sound corny to you. If you’re reading this, you’re likely somewhere on the spectrum that I described earlier, or you care enough about me to understand that this is more than a landlocked college in Eastern Washington.

I guess the moral of the story is, it’s okay to be confused and upset about the tumultuous changes we’re having, but don’t lose what makes us most special.

Go Cougs!