I didn't intend for my "sleep-deprived thoughts" to be a regular feature, but there we are three weeks into the season and I am still tired and still thinking. This week, as is typical, it isn't entirely WSU football's fault that I am 37 winks shy of a full 40, but It's getting some of the blame anyway.
As I type this now, I'm getting ready for my second conference in as many weeks, and last week's in Vegas did little for my sleep schedule. You see, a conference in Vegas is fun, but the problem is as a journalist covering the event I still have to wake up early each day to attend the keynote--or maybe the problem is I don't bother going to bed at a decent hour because of Vegas.
And it's not as if I'm getting sloshed, I sip some beers and have a good time, but I go to bed sober (you know, because of being at work and all that). These conferences are often like reunions, where I see journalists, analysts, PR folks and whoever else that I communicate with constantly through e-mail and social media. So we enjoy each other's time face-to-face, and in Vegas it's easy to lose track of that time that could have been spent sleeping.
Fast forward to Saturday, where I had since traveled to the Chicago area for the next conference. I tracked down a WSU Alumni Association viewing of the Portland State game at a bar in Wrigleyville. I didn't know what to expect, but my girlfriend and I (she's also a Coug) knew we had found the right place when there were WSU decorations on the tables, plenty of crimson shirts in the crowd and Martin Stadium on every television.
I spent much of the night talking to a Coug who had played a few years of football in the late 80s and actually now works in IT (the stuff I cover for a living). He knew what "SAP" was without explanation, which can be like finding a unicorn at times (this is what happens when you cover the goings-on of a $20 billion company that sells business-to-business). I was excited about that, and of course I wanted to hear about his company's SAP systems (always on the hunt for a good customer story, especially when traveling on the company's dime).
But eventually we just talked about Pullman. He mentioned terms like "CCN" and "The Coug" knowing he wouldn't have to explain. He talked about going to the Snow Bowl in 1992, I shared about being in the Coliseum last season. It was exactly why Cougs who live in cities distant from Pullman come together to watch football.
And the football--it was a perfect game for me. I didn't want to be stressed, I just wanted to enjoy myself in this weird bar in this unfamiliar neighborhood with the most familiar people I'd never met. Seemingly every time I looked up, Isiah Myers was shaking defenders to get into the endzone and we were all singing the fight song again.
There were plenty of melancholy moments--when Portland State scored for a second-straight time to cut the lead to 28-14. There was lamenting the first two losses of the season--talk of the team's diminished bowl hopes. We discussed WSU's chances of taking down Oregon. I suggested "miracle." He agreed.
But that's not always bad, if you can't talk about bad Cougar football then you can't talk much about Cougar football (take it from someone that has written about Cougar football since the glory days of 2009).
As the night went on, I thought we might leave early. WSU was obviously going to win, and we had about 90 minutes of train time ahead of us. But I couldn't leave. I have had rare opportunities to watch Cougar football with other Cougs in the five years since I left the PNW. I couldn't pass on even one quarter, the same way I milk every second I have with my colleagues at conferences.
WSU rewarded me by going into video game mode in the fourth with a pair of long-bomb touchdowns. My new Coug friends and I got to marvel as Myers made another standout play and Luke Falk had the best opening to a Cougar career since, well, Connor Halliday.
The final throw back to WSU came when I got the tab--my girlfriend and I were grabbing drinks for four hours, including many of the Chicago area's finest craft brews (and maybe a few of the not-so-finest American lagers)--and the tab came to 48 bucks. Living on the East Coast for three years, and coming straight from Vegas, had trained me to expect a much bigger hit to my bank account.
So I was feeling good on the way back to our suburban hotel--even as we weaved through hordes of Zac Brown fans outside Wrigley Field. I don't believe I will ever again see that combination of John Deere, NASCAR and Chevrolet hats on a big-city subway car.
We didn't get back to the hotel until 2 a.m., which has become a magic number of sorts for me on Cougar football gamedays. We got up after a short night to go do the tourist thing in Chicago this morning. I'm getting up early again tomorrow for another keynote.
I'm tired again, but I've grown accustomed to that. At least for one weekend my sleep-deprived Cougar football fandom was rewarded, both with a win and a night of camaraderie.
That reminds me, when does the Oregon game kick off? That's right, see you next Sunday.