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!