PULLMAN, WASHINGTON — Shit, that’s a lot further down than I remember.
Wait, should I remember? Have I ever actually done this before? Oh my God, I’ve never rushed the field at Martin Stadium before.
Why is my first attempt as a 35-year old man with lower back and knee issues? Why in God’s name am I contemplating this? If I get this wrong, I’ll crumple in a heap of yelps and groans.
You know what? Who knows what the hell the future is. This may be my last chance. I’m not chickening out and going to the stairs a section over. Besides, it only looks like three feet. Yeah, that’s not as far as I think. Let go of the fence and go, dude.
Oh damn, this is more than three feet.
Big Ten teams just don’t come to Pullman. In fact, the last time it had happened was more than 20 years ago when the Cougs beat an Illinois Fighting Illini team in an otherwise forgettable season. There was reason to believe the Wisconsin Badgers would back out of this, it had happened plenty of times before. We always got the front end of a home-and-home and then a sack of money for the back end and a “we’ll get ya next time”.
The years marched by, Wisconsin didn’t cancel. Surely, they’d change their minds as the appointed date for their trip to Pullman grew closer. No way are they coming. None.
Maybe seven straight bowl appearances helped. Maybe Wazzu as a national brand helped. Hell, maybe even some belt tightening from a crowdless pandemic year helped.
Whatever it was, Wisconsin got on a plane Friday morning and left for Pullman.
I felt weird all week. Normally, I’d be besides myself with giddiness, unable to stop fidgeting in my seat at work as early as Monday morning before a game of this magnitude. Thoughts of Boone’s passes, carrying a cooler around the tailgates, seeing so many friends and loved ones didn’t allow for calmness. Pictures of long lines for the RV lots on Thursdays all but assured productivity of zero unless related to packing or figuring out the perfect mix of drinks for the aforementioned cooler.
Not this week. Not in a week just about a month after you could finally drive a stake into the heart of our conference. Not in a week when we actually filed a lawsuit against that very conference because we’re so concerned the members who’ve shown how little they care about us threatened to strip it for parts, leaving us virtually penniless. Not in a week after a summer where television networks actually did manage to do just that even after a last minute hail mary that, apparently, no one else was really interested in.
Not in a week where we have no idea what the future holds. I just had to hope that getting Pullman and getting into the motions would help.
Surely, I would enjoy our traditional Friday night downtown bar crawl. And I did.
Surely, I would enjoy The Coug, Valhalla, and the tailgates. And I did.
Hopefully, I would enjoy the game.
And I did.
You wouldn’t know it if you were in Pullman that we only have three football games scheduled for next year. Shoulder to shoulder and butt to butt in every bar on Friday evening, The Coug absolutely leaking at the seams thanks to their new offering of a breakfast sandwich and a door opened just minutes after the sun migrated above the horizon.
The tailgates buzzed starting at lunch. The sounds of animal protein on flat-tops and grills flew in the wind on the backs of smells they’d helped produce, truly the best example of symbosis in nature. Shouts of “Go Cougs!” and keys meeting the bottom of a beer can were plentiful.
Something started to fill the air. It didn’t matter that the future was so uncertain. What mattered was that fate said today, the Wisconsin Badgers would regret fulfilling the back half of that home-and-home. So much had gone wrong in the last two months it just felt like today was going to go right.
A brilliant first half. The usual turd quarter. Then, as you often need: a timely turnover and an offense that, mercifully, chose now to put together their only touchdown drive of the second half.
A 4th and 6 with Four Verts. The call I can respect, if only because the pass fell to the turf.
Two third down conversions on the ensuing drive. Kneel down. Kneel down. End of game.
The joy. The sheer joy after the game. We needed it, perhaps more desperately than ever. Hugs. So many hugs. Did I know all those people? Well, I knew most. The tailgate tear down took longer than usual, there was beer to drink and, yes, more hugs to pass out.
For the first time, I didn’t mind the lack of cell reception and the constant drip of sweat in the downstairs of Valhalla. How the young lady in the leather pants was surviving I can’t even comprehend. “Dancing Queen” came on, my anthem.
We left for a hot dog. We could hear the fireworks and smell what we thought was smoke as we ate them on the front lawn of Delta Delta Delta. A cacophony of music all along Colorado Street, kids skipping across streets from party to party.
We walked away from College Hill last night and for one day, everything was exactly as it should be. We all reveled in little David on the Palouse slaying Goliath again. Counted out again, maybe this time for good, we showed everyone why they shouldn’t: Pullman is a damn special place with damn special teams and damn special people.
Everyone else has forgotten us. We won’t.
23-P07639 Theft Other 23:26:02 09/09/23 H Humphrey CLO
900 NE COLORADO ST; PULLMAN, WA 99163
Officer requested case for a male that was caught with a stolen pylon from Martin Stadium. Computer report.