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WSU vs. Rutgers: Sleep-deprived thoughts on a gut-punch loss

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The Cougars broke our hearts once again, and we look to 90s pop songs for guidance.

Playin' games with my heart.
Playin' games with my heart.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There was a point when Rutgers took a 14-3 first-quarter lead over WSU on Thursday night that I thought to myself, "Hey, if the Cougs are going to lose, then they might as well get their doors blown off so I can get to bed at a decent hour."

You see, I have this obligation every third Friday in which I get up at 6 a.m. (East Coast time) to drive 55 minutes one way and back, and I wasn't really looking forward doing that on four hours sleep. But alas, WSU would wait until the final minute to confirm what the 14-3 deficit had foretold and I sauntered up to bed just before 2 a.m.

"Never go to bed angry" is a common refrain in relationships, but that's hard to do when you've got little time to spare. I know I could have stayed up arguing with the Cougs, pointing out all they had done to wrong me that evening, but I just didn't have the energy. Instead, I was left with that uneasiness when I awoke, that "Are we okay or are we still fighting?" thought in my head.

Of course, it would make sense that I didn't follow that one "golden rule" about relationships in this case. My love affair with WSU football has been like many bad connections. It was great at the start, a 10-win season and a Holiday Bowl victory my freshman year. That honeymoon phase quickly faded with a number of rocky years featuring sometimes good, but more often bad moments.

Then there was that period where WSU football seem to just stop caring. I tried to follow suit, but I still couldn't let it go. I attended occasional 50-point blowouts before moving across the country and enduring the same on television in the wee hours of the night.

To give it credit, WSU football did start coming around eventually. A change of scenery invigorated it and it looks like it is trying again. But the results are closely resembling that post-honeymoon phase of our relationship and those glory days seem like little more than a distant memory at this point, only serving to frustrate me more when things don't go well.

That doesn't mean I'm about to or will ever break up with WSU football. I don't know anything else, and that's probably the best thing our relationship has going for it.

So, why the cliché relationship analogy this morning? Well, it has a lot to do with what I heard on the radio during my nearly two-hour jaunt.

I typically listen to NPR when I drive, and Steve Inskeep even took some time to mention WSU this morning--to point out its bookstore's planners that featured pictures of our rival's campus.

Shortly after that embarrassing bit, there was a recurring segment where Morning Edition brings on local public radio DJs to talk about songs they like to play. This particular edition featured a sappy love song, with the DJ explaining that people just love to hear other people in misery, because it makes them feel better about their own situation.

With that, I was inspired to write about my misery, because apparently all y'all love to hear it.

If you've ever listened to NPR's morning show, you'll know that stuff starts repeating each hour. That's always the point in my drive that I start flipping through radio stations. This morning, I felt a pair of 90s pop songs really hit home for me and my relationship with WSU football.

The first, "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, made me feel like WSU football was speaking directly to me through Ginger, Scary, Baby, Posh and I'm pretty sure another spice:

"If you want my future forget my past, If you wanna get with me better make it fast."

It's true. If I can't suppress memories of past WSU football failures, what reason do I have to continue in this relationship? If I remember all that the Cougs have done to hurt me, then I'm knowingly delving into insanity. At least if I ignore the pain, I can claim negligence in the matter.

As "Wannabe" ended, I hit scan and the next 90s gem came along, almost as rebuttal. This time it was the Backstreet Boys speaking back to WSU football on my behalf:

Quit playin' games with my heart
I should've known from the start
You know you've got to stop
You're tearin' us apart

Last night's (this morning's?) loss was a perfect example of these "games" that WSU football plays with my heart. After that 14-3 deficit to start, I shook my head in disappointment, but at least I knew the Cougs might at least let me get some sleep.

Then things improved, and we were having a great time. Connor Halliday was leading the offense to touchdowns at will, and the defense was keeping Rutgers out of the endzone. I was remembering why I was ever in this relationship in the first place.

But "I should've known from the start" that this wouldn't last forever. Rarely have the good times stayed good in our relationship, and the final seven minutes saw WSU playing those games again. River Cracraft fumbles a punt. The defense gives up the go-ahead score on another barrage of cutback runs and an offense that had looked largely automatic for three quarters stalled.

Then I went to bed angry. And like so many bad relationships, I still woke up this morning with a little optimism against all odds and facts and common sense. There were some great times, if ever so brief, so what's to say that won't happen again?

I mean, if WSU "really really really wants to zigazig ha" then I will continue to oblige, because I "live my life the way to keep it coming back to me."