This past Saturday, I got my first live look at the newly remodeled Husky Stadium. I was impressed, it was as advertised. Job well done. But when you get down to brass tacks, a stadium is just a stadium. It's the football game I was most looking forward to watching.
Going into the game, despite the fan base being at a fever pitch, I didn't hold out much hope for the Huskies. My dad thought we had a 1 in 3 chance of winning the game. I told him it was 1 in 30. I insisted that the Dawgs would probably hang close for a half but then lose by 20-24 points.
As I sat down at my seat before the opening kickoff, I opened up the UW Daily newspaper. Thumbing through it, I found an enthusiastic article about head coach Steve Sarkisian having the Huskies on the cusp of greatness. Then I read a quote from Sark, where he stated that while he understands that Husky fans want to beat Oregon, they need to understand that "it's a process."
Of course, when translated that means: "Don't blame me if we lose to them several more years in a row."
I crumpled up the paper and tossed it under my seat. "What a bunch of doublespeak bullshit," I muttered.
For people out there reading this article who have heard of the Husky Half Brains and/or Hardcore Husky, THIS is the kind of crap that we loathe within the Husky program.
Steve Sarkisian takes after athletic director Scott Woodward. Both men feel that if they couch their words just right they can talk their way out of anything.
When the team goes 7-6 each year, speak of your preference for "incremental progress".
Last Saturday, the Oregon Ducks crushed the Washington Huskies for the 10th year in a row. Sark has now been on the job for five years. He has an 0-5 record against Oregon by the following scores:
2009 Oregon 43, Washington 19
2010 Oregon 53, Washington 16
2011 Oregon 34, Washington 17
2012 Oregon 52, Washington 21
2013 Oregon 45, Washington 24
Yes, Husky fans, we can beat up on Idaho State and Portland State, but in the series that matters most, signs of incremental progress don't exist. And no amount of smooth talk can persuade me otherwise.
In Saturday's pre-game warm-ups, I looked down on the field
and saw the Ducks doing wind sprints and exerting themselves with heavy duty
drills. It made me think back to writing The Husky Hitman
with former UW
linebacker Dave Hoffmann. He and the other linebackers would warm up so
intensely that team chaplain (and former captain) Mike Rohrbach worried
that they'd expend themselves too much before the game started. But of
course, it never happened, and those Husky teams were dominant.
After surveying Oregon's warm-ups, I then looked over at Washington's side. There was a lot of pitch-and-catch going on while Sarkisian yukked it up with someone in a windbreaker. There was a palpable difference in the psychological make-up of both teams.
As the game got underway and unfolded, the Huskies showed themselves to be noticably more athletic than in past years. Sark deserves credit for that, as do the resources and tradition of the University of Washington, that provide built-in advantages for any coach at the helm.
When the game entered the fourth quarter, the Ducks led 31-24 and the stadium crowd still had some life. True, Oregon had amassed 500 yards and 31 points. But the Huskies were still within seven! However, to me it never felt like Washington was ever in position to win the game. Oregon answered every UW score all day long. Psychologically they kept Washington always at arm's length.
When the new scoreboard flashed a montage of film clips designed to inspire a comeback, I watched with a sinking heart. There was Yoda and Batman and other iconic figures. Rocky gave a little speech on how when you're getting the crap kicked out of you, you've got to get back up.
In a football game, the fourth quarter is the moment of truth. It's when the alpha males are separated from the rank-and-file. The Ducks quickly tallied two touchdowns, and suddenly the muted Husky crowd looked on as the scoreboard read: Oregon 45, Huskies 24.
That was when techno music began blaring from the stadium
speakers, and the "Dance Cam" frizzled to life on the giant scoreboard. The PA
announcer exhorted the crowd to "SHOW US YOUR BEST DANCE MOVES!!" as
if we were attending a Mariner game in July with the lowly Kansas City
Royals in town. Or perhaps a Miley Cyrys concert back when she was Hannah Montana.
I turned to my dad and said, "Who's running this three ring circus? What happened to a college football atmosphere with an emphasis on an entertaining marching band and collegiate pageantry? If I want to attend a techno concert I'll log onto Ticketmaster to see who's coming to the Tacoma Dome... Since when did techno music become the soundtrack to Husky Football?"
After the game concluded, Steve Sarkisian told the media that the Huskies had hung with Oregon for three quarters and there was a lot to be proud of.
I shook my head with that same old sunken feeling. Why do many Husky fans continue to lap up whatever lines they're fed? The way I see it, we're doomed to finish the year 8-4 with a middling bowl game. Sark will get an extension and raise, and we can look forward to next year's crushing of Georgia State and Eastern Washington, before being humiliated at Autzen Stadium and reliving this Groundhog Day Nightmare scenario yet again.
When I emailed Sark's quote about having lots to be proud of to a longtime Duck fan who's a friend, he responded:
"LOL.... The moral victories are starting to pile up :-)"
Welcome to Husky Football in the 21st Century.