A Cougar is the MacGyver of football fans, able to use duct tape in a single yank and make it to Southern California on a truck and a prayer.
On Tuesday, many resourceful Cougar fans managed to find the first big rally for their Rose Bowl-bound football team at the ABC Entertainment Center in Century City.
They cheered for Coach Mike Price, spelled “Washington State Cougs” at least three times and watched Butch, the Cougar mascot, bodysurf on top of a crimson crowd.
About 2,000 people hung over balconies, waved Cougar flags and cheered and cheered and cheered when they gazed at quarterback Ryan Leaf, listened to the marching band and sang - yes, sang - the Washington State fight song, which sounded a bit like barking dogs.
This crowd didn’t need to get worked up for the Rose Bowl on Thursday. Fans already were foaming.
“It’s a dream,” graduate Jeff VandenDyssel repeated at least 10 times. “It’s a dream. It’s exactly what it is. It’s a dream. It’s a dream come true.”
VandenDyssel was a walking grin, a caricature of a Cougar fan. He wandered around, staring at the crowds of people in school colors decorating the outdoor courtyard. This rally didn’t cost a cent to attend, but at least one item of Cougar clothing seemed to be an entry requirement.
People like Stew Brown raised Washington State apparel to an art form. Brown cobbled together a football TV tray, pompons, a garden of silk roses, a couple of flashing roses and a score featuring a Washington State win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. He plopped the whole mess on top of a Washington State baseball cap with the help of some tape.
“I’m the master of duct tape and clear wrapping tape,” said Brown, a Rose Bowl baby born in 1930, the last time Washington State made it to the big bopper of bowls.
“It took me 67 years to get here.”
Their roads to the Rose Bowl were all different, but the fans all had one thing in common - a bet against a Michigan point spread that the Cougars will win Thursday and win big.
Bill Grandstaff, who held a cigar like a good-luck charm, sounded like a coach with his sandpaper voice and football-speak.
“If we don’t turn the ball over, we quit jumping offsides, we cover the kicks, we win the game,” he said, ticking off his advice point by point. “You wait and see.”
Around him, one kid powered by sugar ran around with a flag brandished like a weapon. Two kids tossed a tiny football with a Rose Bowl insignia.
Jim Jacka, 67, waved a Cougar flag like he was getting paid for the work. He made the flag post out of the pole he uses to retrieve lost golf balls.
“I think it’s the greatest school in the whole world,” he said.
Bill Baird, also 67, wore a 1930 Washington State College Rose Bowl sweat shirt that he bought pre-faded about 10 years ago. He only takes it out for special occasions. He listened to the earplugging fight song.
“I don’t know the words, but they’re cute,” Baird said. Daughter Marijean Woodward, who graduated in 1989, knew the words involved spelling the school’s name.
“It takes six years, but we can spell,” she said.
Many fans can even write. They scrawled words on signs, pleading for six tickets or two tickets or anything.
Jim Schmidt drove all the way from Spokane with his family and signs saying “Go Cougs” and “Need tickets.” At the rally, one son wore a necklace of a sign asking for tickets. Another son held up a sign asking for two tickets.
“Actually we need five,” Schmidt said. “But we’ll go two at a time.”
It’s worked before. The resourceful family has found tickets to supposedly sold-out events, such as the Mariners at the peak of the season, the 49ers in San Francisco, and the Bears in Chicago. If family members don’t find tickets for the Rose Bowl, they’ll go to Disneyland.
Ticketless David Anderson, a friend of the grinning VandenDyssel, planned to get into the game no matter what. He held a up a Radford Ave. street sign taken from a Seattle suburb street. On the back of the green sign, he pleaded for two tickets in black marker.
Not that he was incredibly worried. He and pal Greg Ness are masters of disguise, and they’re willing to tell anyone all about it.
“We’ve snuck into the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the Apple Cup,” said Ness, who still has to earn seven credits at Washington State despite his six years and two summer sessions of classes.
“We’ve snuck into like 70 events,” he said.
Ness has carried three tuxedos over his shoulder to pose as a bartender for one game. For the Apple Cup, he donned knee pads, headphones, a backpack and a notebook to pose as a reporter. “I was one of you,” he said proudly.
Meanwhile, Anderson preferred a shirt proclaiming “International News … Fine clothing for young Americans.”
“Nobody ever reads the part about the young Americans,” Anderson confided. “Are you writing all of this down?”
Hadley Griffith would never give up her ticket to the Rose Bowl, but she was willing to bow down before anyone with a plane ticket. The Washington State freshman was the lone woman with four men driving down in a truck. Two people rode in front, and three reclined in sleeping bags in the truck cab.
“I don’t think you can put what happened in the newspaper,” Griffith said.
Oh, come on. Just the highlights.
“Burping,” said Griffith, on a roll. “Other kinds of gas, and then: ‘Hey, look at the hot chick in the car next to us;’ ‘Hey, let’s see how rowdy we can be.’ I think I was praying about two minutes into the car ride that I could hitchhike. I’m so happy to finally be here.” After 67 years, so was everyone.
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