OK, I confess, I went to WSU in the mid-60’s where I played football and graduated with a degree in Communications and Drama. Even with this Cougar background, I consider myself a Husky based largely upon close to 30 year of working for the Purple and Gold. Confused, conflicted, and complicated it is not for I have been a Husky ever since Don James hired me in 1984. My part on the Husky Honks has continued my involvement in Husky Football but I have never forgotten my collegiate roots and my five years as a Cougar where I was elected captain my senior year and started my coaching career under Jim Sweeney.
This past weekend, because the Huskies had a bye, I decided to make the trek to Pullman with my old college roommate and take in the WSU/Colorado game as well as the festivities of Homecoming weekend. It was to be my one weekend to be root for my school and they were playing the weakest team in the conference so naturally we were expecting a victory. What I didn’t realize is that “We were also on a mission from God”. When I picked up Al, whose nickname is Oilcan, he arranged all his Cougar memorabilia in the backseat along with a baggy of what appeared to be ashes. He immediately told me it was his father and Dad was going to the game with us and we were going to spread his ashes at the Vet School where he had graduated in 1939 before going on to deliver thousands of cows and horses for 70 years in Skagit County. I looked at Oilcan and asked if that meant we were going to be the Blues Brothers and the backseat gave me the answer. Orv (for my middle name Orval) and Oilcan became Jake and Elwood on a mission that only a Cougar would understand.
We had done this same trip two years ago (without ashes) but this time we had an extra passenger even though he didn’t say anything the whole way over. Oilcan tried to put his dad on the dashboard but I told him no way and headed out for Ellensburg where my daughter and her family as well as Oilcan’s mother both live. We got up early Saturday to make the 3 hour trip with a hope of beating the traffic, which we succeeded in doing. As college kids the same trip often had taken 10 to 12 hours with frequent stops at every watering hole along the way in picturesque little farming towns like Washtucna, Dusty, Vantage, and Colfax. We went by these same haunts but decided not to stop because we were on a Mission from God.
Those of you who know Cougars realize that going to that school leaves you with a little distorted view of life. You literally have to be a Coug to understand the true meaning. One part is of it is understood and that is you hate the Huskies and always root for whoever the Dawgs are playing against. To a real true-crimson Cougar, there is nothing redeemable about the Huskies. Consequently, I was intent on playing an undercover low profile, because nobody is considered lower than a Cougar who becomes a Husky. I’m a modern day Benedict Arnold in that neck of the woods, er wheat fields.
Most of my ex-team mates fully understand my professional choice but to the average Cougar fan I’m lower than whale poop. It really wasn’t until Bill Moos, who had worked at Oregon, came along that I found anyone in the Palouse who would even begin to understand my conversion. Having been born and raised in Seattle I had always dreamed of playing for the Huskies but they didn’t offer me coming out of high school so my decision was easy, I went where I was wanted and always had an extra incentive to beat the Huskies.
The ash in the car matched the smoke in the air and once you cross Snoqualmie Pass it was like being in Los Angeles. The smoke was with us all the way to Pullman and it should have been an indication that the game was going be Hell.
Upon arrival we parked and snuck our way across the lawn of the Vet School looking for an appropriate burial site. I walked right up to the entrance of the building and while standing on the steps located a spot right next to the front door and immediately Elwood began spreading the ashes. Feeling it was appropriate and acting upon my ministerial credentials (which I had purchased on the internet for $15) I proceeded to commend the ashes of Robert Lester Clinton, born 1925 and diseased 2012, back to the hollowed grounds of the WSU Vet School from which he had graduated in 1939. I took a couple of pictures of Oilcan and the ashes and it was mission accomplished. Now it was time for the game.
The Cougars immediately took control and marched right down the field for a touchdown and the game appeared to be the cakewalk everyone expected. And then they had to play defense and it became obvious they still didn’t know how. By the end of the game the Cougars had blown a `17 point lead in the fourth quarter and had succeeded in losing to a team that probably won’t win another game this whole year. That could also happen to the Cougars if they don’t figure out how to tackle pretty soon not to mention that their very best player dropped two touchdown passes. Somehow, someway the Cougars found a way to lose the game.
Honestly, I was in a state of shock leaving the stadium and so were most of the other fans, all of whom had blank looks on their faces, all of us disbelieving what we had just witnessed. “How could they have lost that game?” That was being murmured collectively by hundreds of us as we all walked dejectedly back to our cars. It was unbelievable, shocking and depressing all at the same time. Then we walked by the Vet School and a smile came over both of us and we accepted the hard reality of life. If you’re a true blue er crimson Cougar, you are prepared for these sorts of things in life. No one said it was going to be easy and winning football games isn’t supposed to happen all the time if you’re a Cougar. It’s sorta like being a Chicago Cub fan. Winning isn’t that important, it’s wanting to win that is. It’s all attitude and if you let your expectations get carried away the Cougars will smack you right upside the head with a clunker like we had just watched. They had just lost 35-34 and everyone in the stadium could feel it slipping away as the Colorado Buffaloes marched right down the field and with 9 seconds to play snatched the apple of victory right out of the Cougars’ mouth. I hate to use the term but they Couged it.
The drive back to Ellensburg (necessitated by lack of adequate hotels, no make that motels in the Palouse) was solemn but the same question was asked over and over. How did they lose that game? We decided it was simply because they didn’t really know how to win it. We also decided to stop and fill up with gas just as you leave Colfax and Oilcan went in to purchase some snacks and water. He asked me what I wanted an I answered that a diet-coke sounded good and when he returned (which was delayed by talking with everyone in the store about the stupid game) he immediately began a tirade on how bad diet drinks were for you and how they lead to all kinds of health issues. Then he proceeded to pull out two bags of potato chips (not even barbeque) and four packages of cookies. Go figure. That was our dinner. (Cougar soul food). Anything to take away the bad taste in our mouths. I hate to even think about how ugly some of the Cougar drunks must have been. We were getting out of Dodge as fast as we could.
The best part of the whole trip was the quality time I got to spend with my daughter, Tristen, and my three grandsons. Oilcan, who lives in Costa Rica, is staying for another week just so he can go to the WSU/Oregon game this coming weekend in Seattle. Are you kidding me? Talk about being a loyal Coug but then again that’s what being a Coug is all about. It’s called Cougar logic. If you play enough games then sooner or later you’re going to win one. Right now I have no idea which one that will be even if they do have Mike Leach as coach. Coach didn’t miss a tackle that I could see but he has to be thinking, what did I get myself into?