December 31, 1997 in City

These Nice Guys Should Finish First

By The Spokesman-Review
 

If this were the movies, Washington State would win the Rose Bowl tomorrow, with a miraculous touchdown as the final gun sounds.

That’s the way it works.

The good guys - be they Mighty Ducks, Bad News Bears or Looney Tune basketball players - are supposed to fall behind to a team of big, nasty guys. The BNGs run roughshod over the heroes for awhile, sending them off the field on stretchers. Then, Michael Jordan, or in this case, quarterback Ryan Leaf, rallies the Men In White (Hats) to victory by pointing out they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like their opponents. Or something like that.

Let’s hope Michigan follows the script. Nothing would provide a better ending to WSU’s Cinderella season than a victory in the school’s biggest football game ever.

Certainly, the 1998 Rose Bowl foes fit the profiles for a Disney sports fantasy.

Pacing one sideline will be the Michigan Wolverines, ranked No. 1 in the country and spoiled by playing before 100,000 fans for each of the last 135 home games. The Wolverines boast this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Charles Woodson, a $38 million athletic department budget - and as much personal warmth as Mr. Freeze in the latest Batman movie. Michigan has been practicing in private, and its players are off-limits to fans and media.

Coach Mike Price and his cast of walk-ons and overachievers will roam the opposite sideline, star-struck and mouthing, “Hello, Mom,” into television cameras. In 1997, they played before only one sellout at 37,600-seat Martin Stadium, while becoming the first WSU team since the Depression to reach the Rose Bowl in 67 years. The Cougars encouraged fans to attend Rose Bowl practices, granted one-on-one interviews and signed autographs.

For schmaltz, the players like Price, who’s equal parts corny, loyal and sentimental. And their coach loves them. That relationship was evident Dec. 11, when Price was named national football coach of the year - and Leaf gave him a one-man standing ovation. Afterward, Leaf said of his display: “I’d be nowhere without him.” And Price said of his quarterback, “It’s great to have the best football player in the entire country on your team.”

Sensitive coach, handsome, talented quarterback, underdogs - the Cougars have what it takes. Tomorrow, they’ll write the ending to their storybook season. It’d be nice if it ends … Touchdownnnn Cougarrrrrs!!!

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board


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