I thought I understood my son’s love for Washington State University, after all, I have always done my best to imagine myself in another person’s shoes. I had empathy, an understanding of another’s plight. But even the most empathetic person on the planet cannot walk in the shoes of a true Coug.
Through Mom’s weekends, WSU graduation and a recent trip to Pullman, I have watched my son’s immersion in the Coug culture. From embracing the crimson and gray (everyone wears the gear over there 24/7), hanging out at The Coug or Valhalla, or just saying “Go Cougs” to anyone with the WSU logo displayed anywhere on their person, there is a camaraderie among this group like nothing I’ve ever seen. I think it hit me hardest when we went to the WSU home football opener in September as we watched a music video on the big screen displaying all the joy of living (if only for a few college years) in the Pullman family. The key line of the song brought a tear to my eye—more than one in Brett’s expressive hazel eyes—“It don’t matter where we go, we always find our way back home”. I almost thought I understood, but I don’t think I ever will.
I went to the University of Washington and although I only spent two years there, I have many wonderful (and not so wonderful) memories of my time on the UW campus. The contrast between my beginnings there in a sorority and my final days participating in campus protests against the Vietnam war, is a clear indication of my evolution in my two and a half at UW. I learned a lot about life there, but I never felt the bond to the school that I see in my son’s devotion to WSU. So, I ask myself today, do I have to be a Husky just because I spent some time there over 40 years ago? This is a question I have been pondering for the last couple years.
And now as we count the hours to this year’s Apple Cup, I must decide where to place my loyalty. I can never truly be a Coug because I didn’t attend classes in beautiful Palouse country. But, sadly, I don’t feel much passion for a school I attended so long ago—Sonny Sixkiller is no longer there, right? I feel a hell of a lot more love for the loyal, passionate Cougars.
So, although I will take a lot of heat from my UW friends, I am here to announce: I am defecting. Although I can never know or understand what a Coug feels, I want to feel as much of that passion as an outsider can reasonably hope for. Sadly, I will never know the depths of WSU loyalty in my son’s heart, but at least I know that I don’t know.
In other words, I finally get it: I don’t get it.