The inability to sleep can be a tricky beast with which to contend. I myself am prone to some tossing and turning from time-to-time, particularly when faced with big deadlines, major events, or a caffeinated beverage too late in the day. This week, though, every time I’ve found myself struggling to drift away, my thoughts have been on Pullman and Wazzu’s home opener against New Mexico State.
Now I sit on Saturday morning at 6 am., Cougar Football Saturday morning, the first of the season. My alarm is set for 7:15 am. The plan, before I went to bed last night, was to maximize those sleep hours in preparation for a long day. I’m staying with family in Yakima before my Dad and I make the drive to what is now called “Back Home.”
I found myself wide awake at 5:30 am and tried to fight for an extra hour of rest for a bit before realizing that battle would never be won. This has become a yearly tradition starting around Labor Day—I give up my weekend rest for the cause of Cougar football. So, here I am.
I’ve had Wazzu season tickets since 2015, after living many years in other parts of the country. When I moved back to my home state, I knew the drives would be tough each weekend, but I didn’t care. At the time I spent most of the week during the fall on the road for work. There were several times when my significant other picked me up from the airport to head straight to Pullman. That’s an exhausting schedule.
That first return to Pullman was not ideal on the football field. We were hoping the team was good enough to get into a bowl game, those hopes seemed dashed immediately. However, as bad as the loss was, I felt some comfort spending the rest of the day with fellow Cougs. It was therapy.
I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep up WSU tickets, how long I would get before I was tired of driving such a long distance for so many weekends a year. Strangely, that 2015 loss to Portland State only reinforced my desire to get back to Pullman.
A lot of winning has followed. Now, going to Pullman isn’t just about the fellowship. It’s also about watching the Cougs wallop teams. I’ve witnessed many more wins than losses. I’ve seen a memorable Friday night win over USC and had the best day of my entire life when College GameDay came to town.
But it’s that fellowship that makes those big moments so much better. The drinking, the hugs, the dancing, off-key singing, the drinking. A celebratory beer at the tailgate. A celebratory Pendleton at Valhalla. A celebratory pitcher at The Coug. A celebratory basket of chicken strips at My Office. All of this with friends that I spend most of my fall weekends with, and rarely see the rest of the year. That is part of the experience. That keeps me coming back for more, and it would be the same with or without the winning.
The winning is pretty damn great, though.
This year, for the first year since I’ve had season tickets, I foresee being able to attend every game in Pullman. In past seasons, work travel has conspired to keep me away for at least a game. In fact, last season, I missed the last three with an international work trip that turned into a family vacation. So, this is my first Cougar Football Saturday (not counting the Spring Game), since that ultimate Cougar Football Saturday last October. I might be a little excited to return.
It’s a little over three hours to Pullman from my Dad’s house in Yakima. It’s not an exhilarating drive. You head straight out Highway 24 until you hit Hanford, then you turn and cross the Columbia before turning again for another 30-mile-or-so stretch to connect with Othello and Highway 26. There ain’t much to see. I’ve bobbed my head many times over the years. I’ve stopped and taken naps just to get to the finish.
It’s a drive for which you want to be rested. I won’t be rested for it. When I get to Pullman, I’ll drop my stuff off and the day will begin. That’s daunting, but I’ve done it all before.
There’s nothing I can do about this Cougar Football-induced insomnia. It has origins in my childhood, when I sat awake waiting to see what Santa put out underneath the tree. Back then, I could fall back asleep after tearing open presents. But I’m an adult now, and that nap isn’t coming, because the gift is the entire day.
The game tonight won’t get over until nearly 11 p.m. That’s a little over 15 hours from the time I write this. I’ve had maybe four hours sleep. I probably won’t get to bed until well after the Cougs finish stomping the Aggies.
There’s a lot to happen between now and when I lay my head back down. My alarm is set to go off in about 20 minutes, then I’ll have an excuse to actually get off my butt and start my day—shower, drive, lunch, drink, friends, drink, friends, drink, football, drink, friends, drink.
I’ll be tired, but not for long. There is Pullman waiting.