It was slightly spiritual. I looked out of the car window ahead of me to see the line of cars winding through the easy, rolling hills of Eastern Washington, full of fans making the pilgrimage to Pullman. Martin stadium, home of the Cougars, had, on this day, become a football mecca.
My brother, a sophomore at WSU, had secured me a spot in the student section for the Apple Cup game, a yearly contest between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars. Because I had no intention of standing out, or getting informally kicked out of the student section, I subtly adorned myself in a borrowed Cougars sweatshirt.
My brother and I arrived to the stands a little more than an hour before kickoff. The crowd along the rails was subdued as a result of the fact that there was nothing yet on the field worth yelling at.
The first real action came when around 10 UW players trickled out of the tunnel onto the field. They were greeted by a rousing chorus of, “Fuuuck the Huskies!” a favorite chant of the WSU student faithful. I may have said it too, had to blend in and all.
In the fourth quarter, when the Cougars marked an incredible 18-point comeback with a late field goal, I found myself hugging people I didn’t know, a moment I’ve never found myself in at Western. Not even at the basketball games on our team’s road to the national championship last year.
With five seconds left in the game, UW had the ball 20 yards out, an easy field goal for any college kicker. I and the rest of the student section were 99 percent sure the game would be over.
However, the kicker, by the grace of some Cougar god, missed the kick.
In overtime, the Cougars seemed doomed once again. With the Huskies on the 25 yard line, UW quarterback Keith Price dumped the ball to the flash of a gold helmet. The ball bounced off the helmet and into the hands of number 98, Cougar's nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole. All 6 foot 1 inch and every one of his listed 277 pounds engaged in a sprint for the end zone. After he was tackled, Cougars kicker Andrew Furney easily kicked the ball between the uprights, sealing the Cougars victory.
As the ball soared through the uprights, I reared back to climb the rails, already feeling the mass of people on my back as I tried not to topple forward off the rail dropping 10 feet to the field.
Storming the field was incredibly exhilarating, and unfortunately we at Western will never get to experience the feeling unless we bring back our football team. I came to Western with the knowledge that we had no football team, and at the time, I didn’t care. After experiencing this game, I’ve become keenly aware to what we are missing. I hold no investment for the Huskies or the Cougars, yet the sense of involvement I had and the feelings I got made me yearn for a way to get that feeling here.
We need an entity to bring this campus together. I am ecstatic we are building a stadium on south campus next year in the Fairhaven fields. With the proper facilities, our soccer teams will be able to receive the support they currently lack playing at Whatcom Community College. It will bring an infusion of unity and spirit to our school. Our basketball team charged toward a national championship last year without much of an uproar from the student body. We have good sports, yet they largely fly under the radar. We don’t get to experience the hype, the unity or the celebration of a big game. We seem apprehensive about our athletics here at Western, unmotivated to be spirited. It’s nothing to be afraid of. I finally got to experience the feeling at the Apple Cup, and I emerged very much alive.
Imagine if you could have felt the same?