Happy Birthday To Me: Cougs at Rutgers - by Brian Phillips

50.  Fiddy. Half a bill. Half a century. Embrace it, I say. The wife says "pick something to do and we'll do it. You are FIFTY after all." Nah, that's more her style. Jump out of an airplane? Never once wanted to do that. The Replacements were supposed to be here, and had I known Paul Westerberg would contract scurvy and cancel I would have plowed in the van with our editor and gone to Minneapolis for the show last fall. Too late for all that. Too late for lots of stuff. More days past than future. What to do, what to do, what to do? I know!

22 years it's been since I've seen my school play college football in person. Full disclosure: I attended a great university and had the time of my life. I wouldn't trade those years, that experience and all the people I met for anything. To this day I share with them great memories, friendship, and decades in the third circle of college football hell: I am a Washington State Cougar. And knowing we're horrible and will continue to be horrible I chose for my 50th birthday to drive to New Jersey (of all the Godforsaken places on the planet) to see a team so putrid they could only be the fever dream of a bacteria festering in Chris Christie's bellybutton. Yup. Washington State at Rutgers. Fuck me. 


When I hatched this plan I was not drunk. Not having a stroke. Nothing. A rational-thinking 50 year old man decided that to mark this milestone he would drive 8 hours to purposely see a defense incapable of tackling. Tackling is important in the game of football and the Cougs have - for most of our history - chosen not to do it. Every defensive staff at Wazzu, including the one currently led by prepubescent newbie Alex Grinch, pursue a strategy of running into, and bouncing off of ball carriers. That doesn't work, not even against reigning Big Sky conference 11th place finisher Portland State this past Saturday. 35 point u-dogs were the Vikings of Portland State. Clad in high school uniforms and led by a coach who has been held in interim captivity for a year now, PSU ran amok over the allegedly Pac-12 Cougs for several hundred yards and a 24-17 win in Pullman last Saturday. 


For this reporter it was too late. A Stub Hub 'bot had already belched forth tickets 20 bucks apiece off their face value into my mailbox. A neo-liberal free marketeer would praise the elegant efficiency of the transaction, but as the Vikings skipped off the Martin Stadium turf on their way back to what probably resembles an ironic West Coast take on Cleveland State's campus the wages of football sin were already being paid in full. 

Oh sure, the Cougars can score points almost at will on most afternoons. Last season we lost to Cal 60-59 after missing a 19 yard field goal as time expired. That's called "Coug-ing it." It's a verb, look it up. It means snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and all that cliched shit about teams that can't get out of their own way. We invented that! Even when we're decent, which ain't often, we Coug it. 


Coug-ing it predates current coach Mike "The Pirate" Leach by decades and despite his law degree, and civil war reenactment hobby or whatever the fuck, he's powerless against it. In fact Leach seems to embrace the concept. During his 11-25 tenure in "The Palouse" he's gone for it on multiple occasions on his own 30 yard line. Perhaps he remembered that the Cougs forgot to practice punt coverage, or for that matter kick-off coverage, because Cal scored a good chunk of their points running back kicks that night. 

Here's where it gets good! Guess who the highest paid public employee in the state of Washington is... Yup! Mike Leach. A man who may have stuffed the son of "television personality" Craig James into a metal lawnmower shed one windswept Lubbock afternoon. This has to be the first and only time WSU paid its coach more than those fucking Huskies over in Seattle. Hey, they have their own problems.....paying off former Coach Cutty Sark's bar tab being one of them, but the Dawgs have to be laughing. Leach's agent managed to bury a poison pill in the "Pirate's" contract whereby WSU will be "on the hook" for 60% of his salary should the entire fanbase wish to "mutiny" and demand he "walk the plank." AAARRGHHHH! (Hey, I admit it I fell for all this quirky "He loves pirates, he never actually played football, he's actually a Hobbit" shit.)


So while Ohio State is busy beating Hawaii (Hawaii? why does Hawaii have a football team? there can't be a reason for this) with a dead fish, think of me blowing four hours of whatever life I have remaining reliving my college years. Yay! Go Cougs! I'll let Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington have the final word.