Greetings Cougs. Here’s hoping your week is off to a great start, as we barrel down the stretch towards a holiday weekend.
Remember last week, when we said we wanted to have tryouts for adding some new writers? Well, we have to say that we have been, quite frankly, overwhelmed at the response thus far. Many of you have emailed us with some very strong words and ideas about your passion for the Cougs, and why you would be a perfect fit around here. It’s a great thing too, given all the struggles the last few years of this here football team, to see that the passion IS still alive and well in Coug Nation.
But instead of just picking a couple of entries, we thought it would be a better idea to select what we consider to be the finalists, and then let them run with a full post of their own in the coming days. No, this won’t be an American-Idol-style popularity contest. You won’t be voting or anything like that. We are still going to make the final call here. But you are encouraged to offer feedback for each of the finalists, if you so desire.
With that, we have finalist #1, Tim Huddleston. Here is Tim’s entry…..this is his story. Enjoy!
A Coug Manifesto
By Tim Huddleston
It is often said that one of the most important decisions in your life is choosing where to go to college. For me, it was both the easiest and best decision I ever made. The fact that my two older brothers went to Washington State made it really my only option. In spite of being their personal whipping boy for years, I looked up to them and tried to follow in their footsteps in virtually every possible manner. That I was traveling 3000 miles from my home in Virginia having been to Pullman once before (albeit briefly, but still enough that it precluded me from claiming I took the Derrick Low route and arrived “sight unseen”) was no matter. I was a Coug long before my brother, Mark, and I completed our five-day drive across the country and pulled into the parking lot at Stevenson Hall.
There are few things in this world I love more than Washington State University and Pullman, the community that it proudly calls home. For Mikey and Trent in Swingers, it’s “Vegas Baby” that gets them going as they first see the lights of the Strip on the drive into Sin City. For me, it’s the lights of Pullman as you drive those last few miles down Highway 195 from Colfax that put a hop in my step. The Cougar Super Basket would be a shoe-in for my choice as a last meal. My three-year-old son legitimately loves every single football team whose logo he can recognize, save one: the Washington Huskies. He learned a valuable lesson in the days leading up to Apple Cup 2010. We do not like the Huskies. He’s now quick to point out his personal distaste for “Eww-Dub” whenever he sees that grotesque purple W.
The other aspect of my life that I feel was pre-destined is my undying (and completely irrational) obsession with sports. They are what I talk most about, what I think most about and much to my own chagrin affect my mood more than anything else. When one of my teams loses, there is roughly a 90 percent chance that I will be no fun to be around for at least the subsequent half hour and potentially the rest of the day, depending on the importance of the game. Not surprisingly given my aforementioned love for Washington State, no team can have a stronger effect on my psyche than our Crimson and Gray clad heroes of Cougar athletics……
My odyssey as a Wazzu fan began in earnest in 1994. I acknowledge this is fairly recent, relatively speaking, but a youth spent bouncing between Virginia and Germany is not conducive to following the goings-on of the Inland Pacific Northwest. At any rate, the ’94 Alamo Bowl is the first Cougar football game I’d ever watched start to finish; the debut of some snazzy new jerseys and the greatest nickname of all time, The Palouse Posse, had me hooked. Since then, my distinct memories of WSU sporting events are too abundant to count, even with the benefit of the fingers and toes of myself and my entire immediate family available for the tallying.
I can recall being at Lonestar Steakhouse in Woodbridge, VA during the fall of ‘97 when the final score WSU: 37 – UCLA: 34 flashed across the ticker. In that moment, the idea of a special season was born. That season came to a close with my family on Schweitzer Mountain watching the Rose Bowl. The ski trip ended, but somehow the game never did.
I arrived on campus in 1999 and the memories began flooding in. I can still hear my first game at Martin Stadium in my head, but mostly because I thought it odd that football games played on the Martin Stadium “turf” at that time sounded like basketball games since everyone’s shoes squeaked whenever they made a cut. On a personal note, I believe my chronic knee problems are a result of playing intramural sports on that very turf.
I consider myself very fortunate to have been at WSU during the glory years of Cougar athletics. Yes, I shared my time in Pullman with two-sport superstar Paul Mencke. So the first couple years were, shall we say, inauspicious, but as they say, the journey is the destination. My journey went from showing up twenty minutes before kickoff and watching Steve Birnbaum my freshman year to witnessing a Top 10 team earn a Rose Bowl birth my senior year. I could fill a book with stories from my four years as a fan in Pullman. Since there isn’t room for a book in this space, I’ll share a few highlights:
I remember watching Lamont Thompson and Marcus Trufant and thinking, “If only the rest of the squad was on their level…”
I was openly loathsome of the “too small” quarterback from Hawaii named Jason Gesser (hey, I was a freshman; I didn’t know any better).
I was a charter member of the six person “Mike Bush Fan Club” and I remember drinking “Mike Bush Specials” before and on the way to Beasley for home games. I gave Mike a fist pound as we deliriously stormed the court following the first (and only) conference win of the year over Cal and haven’t washed my hand since. OK, that’s not true. I’m not that obsessed.
I can picture sitting in my bedroom in a Chinook apartment “studying” during the Arizona triple OT game that would not end. Incidentally, I have no clue what class I was studying for or how I fared on the test. I do remember thinking that in a close game Bob Robertson and Jim Walden are the most wildly entertaining announcers I’d ever heard.
I remember being so angered to the point of leaving a game early only once, the 2000 Apple Cup.
I witnessed one of the greatest dunks I’ve ever seen when Milton Riley threw down from a seemingly impossible distance in a surprisingly tight game against Arizona. That was really about it for hoops from my time there. The Paul Graham era was bad times. Not good times. Bad times. Nonetheless, Thursday and Saturday nights at Beasley still rank among my favorites.
I will always remember September 22, 2001: David Minnich leading the team out on the field, a former marine proudly bearing the stars and stripes.
I could go to Pullman right now and pick out the exact spot near the student entrance where I stood for hours prior to the Apple Cup in 2002, giving those around me score updates from Michigan-Ohio State. (We’re only 8 years removed from legitimate National Championship aspirations!)
I remember standing in stunned silence at the end of said Apple Cup as bottles flew from behind me to the field below. I’m thankful I didn’t have a remote control (my angry-at-sports weapon of choice) in my hand at the time or Reggie Williams would have required surgery to remove it from his forehead.
I remember going to the Rose Bowl anyway! In your face, you dumb Huskies!
Since leaving Pullman, my obsession with Cougar athletics has only gotten stronger. From the Swogger-Brink debate to the Rogers-Brink debate to “OK, this Brink guy is pretty good”, “The Ghost”, the glory of Bennett Ball, College World Series regionals, the sad end of Bill Doba’s career turning into the even sadder beginning of the Wulff era and now the optimism and potential stability that Coach Wulff can bring, I have cheered (and at times jeered) along with the rest of the Cougar nation.
Above it all, there is one thing that excites me more than anything else. I’m already eager for the memory that will be created on October 8, 2011 when I’ll be reading something that sounds about like this:
“Many among the Cougar faithful believed that head coach Paul Wulff would eventually silence his critics, but few would have believed he would do so to the tune of a 5-0 start and a showdown with Stanford looming. That’s exactly where we stand today as Coach Wulff and his dynamic quarterback Jeff Tuel have their Cougars poised to make the leap to Pac-12 frontrunner in front of what figures to be a packed and raucous house at Martin Stadium.”
That is the beauty of sports, especially as a Coug. While the memories are great, the next season is always the best one yet.