Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Are You Not Entertained?

Why exactly do you watch Cougar football? Is it because of your student roots, whether you are still in Pullman or a former student/alum/whatever? WSU isn't exactly your standard "t-shirt" school, where people all over the country buy your gear. That's no secret. Sure, we had some bandwagon hoppers climb aboard from the 2001-2003 seasons. But those that hopped on at those times have clearly hopped right back off.

My blood runs crimson because I went there, and those of you who went there or still go there can attest at the affection you develop towards the place. It's hard to put into words, but you simply understand. And because of that affection, that love of all things WSU, is why you care, even in these dark times. It's why you criticize or celebrate on message boards and comments, even right here on this little site. It's why you come here, looking for something new. We do what we do because we LOVE it, that's all.

That said, one of the worst things you can do in sports, whether it's college or professional, is be boring. Around the turn of the century (2000, to be exact) I worked in a sports news room, where NCAA football and MLB games were logged and sports were reported on a daily basis on a web site. There were people in this news room with all sorts of experiences in the sports media, from ESPN to SI to local stations like KING/KIRO/KOMO. They all had great stories from their various walks of life, and it was fascinating to listen to all the anecdotes of what they had experienced, from all over the country and all types of sports.

But one in particular caught my attention that I'll never forget. It was from a guy who had a ton of experience, working in the NBA and NHL. He said the worst thing you can be, in sports, is BORING! For example, the NBA model is either go for the title, or tear it down and rebuild, but don't be trapped in "middle earth". You know what I mean by the NBA, right? Back when there was a team in Seattle, the most times the Sonics "moved the needle" among the fanbase was when they were contending for the NBA western conference, or when they stripped it down to nothing and rebuilt towards the future with youth like a young Gary Payton or Shawn Kemp. The big losses were OK, as long as GP was throwing alley-oops to the Reign Man and getting on plays of the week. You could see the promise of the future. But those years where they would be a mediocre 41-41, flirting with the 8-seed in the playoffs and getting into the back end of the lottery?? BORING. (note - you cannot bring up the poor attendance and Kevin Durant in Seattle, as everyone knew regardless of how wonderful a player he was/is, the Sonics were history in Seattle.)

The thing is, fans get it. If you are going for it, you are going for it. If you are rebuilding, and you are playing your young talent to point towards the future, then do it and don't be shy about it. Rebuilding can, in fact, be entertaining. It can be worth the price of admission to get a glimpse at the young talent in the pipeline, and most of all, have hope for the future.

I remember the 2000 WSU football season. A young sophomore QB in Jason Gesser getting his first crack at the full-time starting gig. It was full of potholes and wildly up-and-down performances, from awful losses vs. Stanford and Idaho and UW that year, but also some high moments like at Utah, at Cal, and even at USC(!). But the one thing I took from that team was that it was really entertaining, and full of hope for the future. That was the year of three OT losses, where these young guys played their butts off. You could see glimpses of what Gesser could do, before he went down with the broken leg. You could see a young, high-energy defense with just young kids like Isaac Brown and DD Acholonu coming off the edges. You could see promise with Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant, Jason David in the secondary.

Most of all, we were ENTERTAINED. They were exciting, promising, and the best point yet, the seeds were planted for an excellent run to follow. 2001-2003 are the greatest years in program history. We've never topped that, and we might never again. But the 2000 season meant something. It was simply part of the process, a necessary process we had to experience. We had to see them get knocked down in 2000, so they could get up again in 2001-2003. And as a fan, I know I appreciated the pain of 2000 because of the fruit harvested from 2001-2003.

I heard our own Ian Furness on KJR yesterday. Amongst the gnashing of teeth of the inept Seahawks in New York (yikes), and the husky angst over Willingham, etc, he snuck in a little info regarding WSU. He said that based on who he has talked to over the last couple of weeks, there is a real growing belief internally at WSU that they will be MUCH better the moment the 2008 season is over. There is a strong feeling that there is hope for the future, and that there are some redshirts right now, players we haven't seen, that will make this team a much better unit in 2009 compared to what we see right now. Furness also mentioned the CAL transfers, like James Montgomery and Brandon Jones, and that they will help a lot for 2009. Combine all that with a promising recruiting class that is forming as one of the best we've had in a long, long time, well, the seeds are in fact being planted.

So after this long rant, I ask you - are you ENTERTAINED right now? Do you look at Marshall and see a young Gesser? Do you see Jeshua Anderson making some athletic plays and see another Jason Hill or Brandon Gibson? Do you look at all the young players on defense, with the youth at linebacker and in the secondary, and do you see some promise for better days ahead? I know I have preached for patience, and belief in this coaching staff. I am approaching the rest of the season to hope for entertainment, improvement and most of all, a glimpse at a hopeful tomorrow. What do YOU hope to take from the rest of 2008?

We'll have a Wulff radio recap available, either late tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!


Anonymous said...

Good post and I get it. If you are going to suck, don't lose spectaularly with seniors who will not be here in the future. That is boring and like 1998 and 1999. Not only awful football but no payoff at the end of that disaster.

Anonymous said...

I was born in Pullman, played my HS football games in Martin, went to WSU, and go back for every home game. My 3 year old runs arround singing a hacked version of the fight song, no matter how bad or good it gets I will be ENTERTAINED for life.

PS Longball the Geoduck's need you!

Longball said...

Awesome stuff, Hawk. I, for one, am really excited about watching Ocho Rojo each week and confident that sooner or later things are going to start to click with him, Ivory, Karstetter, Anderson and some of our young linemen. Its been a hard thing to express for fear that it may sound like I am happy Rogers and Lopina suffered horrible injuries. I think its unfortunate things happened the way they did, but given the trajectory of this team, going young was the right way to go whether forced to or not. And Louis BLand? That was exciting. And lets get Toby Turpin in there, club-hand and all!

I know i may come across as a bit of a blind optimist in the middle of our worst season ever, but its because I truly see what I think are the seeds of success. One thing that was made crystal clear to me seeing practice this summer and talking to coaches and even their wives was that we had wildly disparate expectations. While I saw a team with just enough fire power at the skill positions to compete for a bowl, they saw a team way too thin at key spots to even be competitive. It took me a while to understand that while we were all talking post season, the improvement and progress the coaches were hoping for was measured not in W's and L's, but in things like guys learning how to tackle, or adding the extra strength they need to play D1, or filling the holes we have through recruiting and reestablishing connections to high school programs and coaches. These things are all happening.

I watch Cougar Football because I am from here, and nothing represents where I'm from to the outside world as much as Cougar Football (and lentils). I watch because while winning seasons dont come often, when they do come they are so much sweeter knowing all we were up against and had to overcome to achieve them. I watch because i don't want to miss the next turning point where we all look back and say, THAT was the moment it all turned around.

My friends and I have been known to sit around drinking beers and play an unnamed game where someone names a Cougar football player, past or present, and the next guy has to name a player whose name begins with the last letter of the previous player's name. This can go on for HOURS and you wouldn't believe some of the players whose names pop-up. Frequently someone will pull out a name none of us have thought of for years, but instantly brings roars of appreciation as we all revel in the nostalgia. Many of these guys we have the fondest memories of played their hearts out on some of our worst teams. So I guess you could say, I watch Cougar Football because Kitrick Taylor was worth watching whether we went to bowl game or not.

Brinkhater said...

GREAT call on K.T.

Great comment, L.B.

Aubs said...

Well put big brother!

LouisianaCoug said...

What do I hope to take from the rest of 2008? BEAT WASHINGTON.

Seriously, sell out, spend the entire rest of the season preparing for the Apple Cup, even if we go 2-11, who cares? If we could win 4 out of 5, I would look back on the 2004-2008 seasons as one of the most exciting in school history. 2001-2003 were great, but frankly, I'd rather beat Washington 4 of 5 than relive those seasons. It doesn't matter if the UW has been "bad" in these years, for Cougs, the most important game of the year is and always will be the Apple Cup.

Go Cougs.

logan said...

i'm entertained 99% of the time. and as long as they are trying their best and working hard, i'm happy. i'm always proud, always there for support (as evidenced this year in both home blowouts staying until 0:00). they need me as much as i need them. life would be less fun without my school pride. through thick and thin, i'm always 100% a coug.

Woody said...

I have been stewing on this for awhile now and have not posted. lately. My ulcer, wife and sanity has prevented me from doing so.

There is literally nothing that translate from marriage to
blogging, except for the old adage:

Never go to Blog angry.

So, instead of going off half cocked this season; I have chosen to simmer, be patient and take deep breaths...Serenity now, serenity now!

Like every Cougar fan we have had to figure out a way to deal with (going out on a limb here) the worst Cougar team in history. The losses have been tough. Actually the losses have not been that tough. Unfortunately, I think I am numb to the concept of win vs. loss. However, the absolutely horrific manner in which we get our a** kicked is what has been tough.

We can simply ignore the games, drown them out with a half rack of Natty Light or submerse ourselves as gluttons and try to find glimmers of hope.

I am not going to comment on specific performances or game details, what's the point.

I was a Wulff Guy from the get go AND STILL AM! However, I think a few changes might need to be made.

I knew we would be bad this year. But I never figured us to be Historically putrid...I mean we suck!

Wulff came in to the beginning of this season with great support and admiration from the base. But that sunny optimism has slowly been disappearing as the historic drubbings we have taken this year has really cast a shadow amongst the program. Might I even say cast some doubt if a DII Coach was the right way to go.

I am afraid that while fans will be patient the window of patience has already begun to close.
Hey, I think Cougar Fans could handle a 2-11 year, lord knows we have done it before.
But a 2-11 year in which we set records for ineptness, worst losses in history @ home and god forbid also lose the Apple Cup to the worst Husky team in history.
It will have seemed that the keys were given to the wrong crew. Fans patience will maybe, just maybe be short starting next year. Which would be a shame, but I think a reality. Fans are going to need to see something in the next 7 games. Maybe not wins but something that reassures us that the right decision was made.

We will watch again this Saturday and hope to see something special happen, baby steps from our QB, and hope we can hold that little Beaver RB to no more than 2 - 50+ yard TD runs.

That reminds me I need to go to the store for more Natty Light!

Serenity Now...Serenity Now...Serenity Now...

Go Cougs!


'03CouveCoug said...

I had the good fortune of attending Wazzu from 1999-2003. I will always look back on memories from those times with great fondness. I was telling my wife on our way to Homecoming that I really enjoy going back to games in Pullman because it reminds me of where and when my life came together. The WSU Football team from that time had a little something to do with many of my fond memories. It sounds silly, but I look back and liken the journey of those teams with my own through college.

I went to Pullman a cocky 18 year old who thought he had the world by the tail. Probably like several of those freshmen on the football team. Boy did I find out quickly that things were going to be different. The Cougs suffered through a dreadful 3-9 campaign and had to go back to the drawing board, but they did discover this kid named Gesser. By my sophomore year, I started figuring out how to be a disciplined student and an adult (at least sometimes), but still had my ups and downs. Much like our Cougs on the field, there were glimmers of greatness followed by heart-wrenching failures.

My junior year, things started to come together. I had declared a major and found my niche, not to mention friends that I’ll have for life. The Cougs still weren’t expected to do much, but proved all of the “experts” wrong by finishing 3rd in the Pac-10 and winning a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Finally by senior year, I had high expectations for myself. I searched for a career and found it. More importantly, I also found my future wife. Life was good. And the Cougs put it all together and went wire-to-wire winning the Pac-10, culminating in its second Rose Bowl in 5 years.

This is why I cheer and always will. I’ll remember my journey to adulthood at WSU and always feel like the journey of those teams mirrored my experiences. Where am I going with all of this? Well, this season feels an awful lot like the 1998 and 1999 seasons that made it seem like all was being squandered after the 1997 season for the ages. Things seemed pretty bleak then, as well. But, WSU was bringing in kids with a lot of character that wanted to work hard and prove to all that they were among the best. After some growing pains, they sure did that. And that is exactly what I think Coach Wulff is fostering right now. We’re not looking good at all in the games, but we’ve already gotten back to the basics. I have great confidence that the staff and players will continue to build on those basics one step at a time and take our team back to winning ways.

So, what do I hope to see, you ask? I hope to see continued improvement on and off of the field, fundamentally, in attitude and in character. Imagine what a valuable experience this is for the young guys…they’ll be able to look any challenge in the face in future years and know that they can overcome it. I hope to see the young guys get a shot and hopefully make the best of it. Most importantly, I hope to see our students, alumni and fans rally around the cause of making our football team great again. I know we will because we’re Cougs…we’re “The Little Engine That Could!”