It's safe to say that dad was disappointed in me. It was last November at Husky Stadium as the Apple Cup played out before us on the field below. The Huskies had just scored and yet I wasn't cheering. I had mixed feelings on the matter. Dad was on his feet clapping and yelling and yet I remained seated beside him with my hands thrust deep into the pockets of my coat to stay warm.
"C'mon son," he shouted. "I taught you better than this!"
It's true that me and dad and have attended Husky football games since I was five years old. To this day we still sit together 2-3 times a season. He's been a season ticket holder since 1957 and has seen a lot of things in that stadium. We both have. The epic 1979 game vs. USC with the Rose Bowl berth on the line — when Washington couldn't score from four attempts at the 2-yard line. Or the 1982 game against UCLA when both teams were ranked in the top 10, and the Huskies prevailed 10-7 and my hands were shaking from being so nervous. Or the 1986 game against #10 Ohio State, when the Dawgs clobbered the Buckeyes 40-7 in front of a national TV audience. Or the 1992 night game against Nebraska, when the sky was an orange and pinkish hue, and sappy as it is to say — there was love in that stadium.
Obviously I could go on and on with examples, but I'll stop. The point is that Husky Football was in my DNA.
And yet, sitting in that stadium in November 2013, and having mixed feelings in a game against the Cougars, was surreal for me. I even felt a bit numb. You see, Sark was our coach and from day one of his arrival in 2009 I couldn't stand him or what he represented. He was an overgrown frat boy with a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality that had no correlation to the hard-hitting history of Husky Football. He was a total reach by Washington AD Scott Woodward, a boneheaded mistake. And Sark represented a continuation of poor decisions by our athletic department since the day in 2003 when AD Barbara Hedges fired Rick Neuheisel only one month before the season started. And since 2004 when former president Mark Emmert and AD Todd Turner signaled the death knell of Husky Football by hiring Tyrone Willingham. We went on to witness Willingham's subsequent 11-37 record and his selfish destruction of dozens of playing careers— while Emmert and Turner publicly defended the merits of Willingham as a coach and of him being a paragon of virtue. In fact, to this day, Emmert won't admit he made a horrific mistake with that hire.
As I sat watching last year's Apple Cup, I was painfully aware that every time Sark managed to win a game, we would be stuck with him longer. That it might be decades before we could reclaim Husky Football again. After all, when Sark led the stupefying "Go!!!... Huskies!!!" chant at Don James' memorial service last October, he also said he wanted to stay at Washington longer than James did. That would have been 19 years...
19 years of sycophants like Yogi Roth of the Pac-12 network sucking up to Sark without any pretense of professionalism. 19 years of Scott Woodward publicly telling everyone how wonderful Sark was. 19 years of Dawgman.com banning and deleting anyone who dared criticized The Great Man. 19 years of robotic fans repeating the mantra of what a great coach and recruiter Sark was. ("After all, didn't Sark bring the excitement back to Husky Football? Maybe he isn't perfect, and yes all those blue chip stars keep leaving the state... but Sark's sure better than Willingham!")
What was the need, I constantly asked myself, for this slavish devotion to mediocrity and boorish behavior?
And then came that magical sequence of events last December. Suddenly Sark bolted for USC. Chris Petersen became UW's new coach a few days later. Dawgman's Kim Grinolds fell into despondence and then took on a petulant stance toward Petersen. And people within Scott Woodward's orbit began whispering that the Washington AD was relieved that Sark was gone. That Sark's antics had grown wearisome, and that having Petersen in charge now brings so much more professionalism and credibility.
I remembered a post from my former boss, Kim Grinolds at Dawgman, where he told his readers "Derek lost a lot of credibility when he started criticizing Sark."
Nevertheless, as the 2014 Spring Game came and went last month, I found myself occupied with other things. Frankly, I didn't care. I can't name for you all our starting offensive linemen and I have no idea if Deontae Cooper is first string or third string at tailback.
But I'm going to try to get back there. I want to once again feel that joyful surge of adrenaline about the Huskies on Saturday mornings in the fall. I want to experience the impatience of getting to the stadium to prepare for kickoff.
I want to feel passionate for Husky Football again.