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Regrettably, sobering nature of loss didn’t extend to Ralph

Sun., Dec. 5, 2004, midnight

CHENEY – We came all this way just to Coug it?

A near-perfect day of college football was spoiled for my brother Ralph and me Saturday when Sam Houston State beat our plucky alma mater Eastern Washington University on the last play of a gut-wrenching football game, 35-34, to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Division I-AA championships.

There’s nothing quite as sobering as watching your team lose a big fourth quarter lead (except maybe watching Ralph sing “Three Times a Lady” over and over at the karaoke bar in our motel).

It was a brutal end to a 15-mile odyssey that took us all the way from our homes in Spokane up the Sunset Hill (back to my house to get my shaving bag) through Airway Heights (with a stop at the casino) onto the freeway, past two exits and all the way to exotic Cheney. After three long days on the road, we’re ready to get home.

We should be there in about 15 minutes.

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. Hopes were high late Friday night when we went to a Cheney pub to meet our nephew Christopher and his EWU cellmates Paul and Mock (who had just finished his final in Witchcraft, Sorcery and Shamanism, Anthro 457. Really. Seriously. They get actual credit for stuff like that). Chris took us to a party where he kept introducing us as his druncles.

The college kids were friendly (“Look buddy, this is a Gamma Phi party, not a Grampa Phi party”) but the fun ended abruptly when the sorority sisters called the police because of “two creepy old guys” who apparently crashed their party. (We never saw these sickos but Ralph has vowed to keep looking for them – sort of like O.J.)

The next morning, Ralph and I walked across the revitalized campus, soaking up the students’ excitement. (“Look, it’s those creepy old guys again.”) It was wonderful to see so much going on in Cheney. Back when we attended Eastern, even the buildings went home for the weekend. It’s just another sign that this new EWU is a different school from the one we can’t quite remember attending.

The tailgate party got off to a slow start, but it got better when we realized the game wasn’t at the Cheney Rodeo Grounds and drove over to Woodward Field. By the time EWU super-fan The Jord arrived (looking like Cousin Eddie in a 1970s RV complete with beer taps on the sides), the upper parking lot was full of tailgaters.

Our other nephew, Cody, a “student” at Washington State University, looked around the crowded parking lot – barbecues flaming and footballs flying – and announced that WSU games should be this fun. In hindsight, we should’ve beaten him to death right then.

The game got off to a great start when Eastern scored after a fake field goal. But later when they faked a fake punt, Ralph and I became a little worried about all this deception (it turned out we were right; they also faked winning).

By the fourth quarter, Matt Houston State was beginning its stirring comeback and the Huntsville, Texas, radio team of Cooter and Leroy was hee-hawing it up in the press box.

And so the road trip is over.

Nine-year-old David Laurence Delaney, of Cheney, summed up our adventure best when we asked him why, in his excitement for Saturday’s game, he painted the words “Girls Rock” on his face. “I thought it would be kinda … like … funny.”

Yeah. Us too, kid.

Rather update: Even though Sam Houston State alumnus Dan Rather never e-mailed me back to respond to our friendly wager, I am a man of my word, and I plan to put on a Bearkat T-shirt and handle his anchor duties for the “CBS Evening News” on Monday. (I’m thinking of leading the news with a poem.)

Ralph update: As you read this, he’s refusing to admit the road trip is over and is boarding a plane to Seattle for today’s EWU basketball game against the Huskies. I’m a little worried. I think he might be drunk.

Final road trip tab:

Gambling losses: $92. ($70 in blackjack and poker and the $22 we mistakenly bet on the Eastern Illinois basketball team with a friend’s bookie. We got 7 points, but the Panthers lost to Indiana State by 19.)

Gas: $2.09.

Two motel rooms: $74.

Food and assorted beverages: $1,326.52.


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