April 25, 2009 in Sports

After Apple circus comes the clown act

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Out front

No deal: Plan to move Apple Cup to Qwest Field falls apart/A1

For proof that not everything paralyzingly funny can be found on YouTube, we give you the vaudeville that is state politics, football and the raging affinity of the Dawgfields and the McCoogs.

It may never get pettier … uh, better than this.

By now, you all know that last week’s sure thing – the Apple Cup’s six-year reassignment to Qwest Field in Seattle – is this morning’s Betamax. The purported $20 million deal with Washington State and the University of Washington imploded when the Cougars insisted on a strictly equal partnership and the Huskies did a spit-take with their Semillon.

No, the Huskies – because they have more season-ticket holders to accommodate – wanted 7,000 more seats than the 31,000 each team was supposed to have, leading to the question, “What part of neutral didn’t you understand?”

But seeing as how almost no Cougar or Husky fan with an ounce of college football soul wanted this Qwest sellout anyway – except for the few grim realists who wouldn’t blink if Touchdown Jesus sported a Swoosh – everyone came away unconditionally happy, right?

Wrong! Er, right!

Actually, the thrill of seeing the Qwest games scuttled became almost an afterthought.

Because UW’s late seat-grab proved to be the torpedo to the hull, Cougars are reveling/seething in another example of the Huskies’ sense of superiority, entitlement or greed – take your pick. Hope your lake-view stadium crumbles underneath your seat!

And because Wazzu is perpetually strapped for dough and ranks waaaaaay last in the Pac-10 budget race, Huskies are gleefully certain that the deal’s demise means it’s curtains for the Cougs. Send us a postcard from the Big Sky Conference!

See, Mick Jagger was wrong. Not only can you get what you want, but you can get it with a side order of spite.

This, however, was only the opening act.

Flying parallel with the Qwest deal has been its companion Hindenburg, Substitute Senate Bill 6116. Purportedly aimed at funding an expansion of KeyArena to squeeze the last $30 million out of Clay Bennett for whisking the SuperSonics off to Oklahoma, over time it collected all sorts of budget barnacles. It was to allow an extension of the tourist tax (on hotel rooms, rental cars, restaurants) paying off Qwest and Safeco fields and a shifting of the money not just to the Key project, but also to low-income housing, arts groups and – wait for it – the remodeling of Husky Stadium.

Seattle officials apparently thought the many beneficiaries would mollify the faction still steamed from how the city was treated by the NBA, though it was just as much a self-inflicted wound. Instead, that only gave critics more reasons to shoot it down, including some noisy Cougars irate that tax money administered by the state would be funneled to UW’s project while their own stadium renovation was being self-funded. This week in caucus, the state senate’s Democratic majority pretty much left the bill for dead.

That spurred to action the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Adolescent Pique.

Having cautioned Cougars in December that their opposition would be “setting off a bomb,” Senator Ed has drafted an amendment to the state operating budget proposing that “No state funds, tuition revenues or student fees shall be used to pay for the operating expenses of intercollegiate athletic programs at any of the public research universities within the state.”

That “research” provision exempts any school other than Wazzu or U-Dub, and would obviously be a blow to the Cougars, who according to athletic director Jim Sterk derive about 8 percent of the $30 million sports budget from “university support” – i.e., state funds.

Sterk’s reaction: “I’m surprised a senator would react to three Cougars opposing the University of Washington’s stadium proposal.”

What an idealist. The rest of us are numbed to self-serving behavior by politicians.

Good thing the Christian right wasn’t able to derail Murray’s bill bolstering the rights of domestic partners or he might have come to reclaim its tax exemptions.

The hilarity here is considerable on all sides. The Cougar militants have tried to wrap themselves in the (legitimate) argument that with 40,000 people being whacked off state health care, this is no time to be extending taxes for sports palaces, but KeyArena wasn’t mentioned on the banner being trailed behind a plane that circled the Capitol this week that read, “No Husky Stadium bailout tax” – in, uh, crimson. Murray’s amendment, meanwhile, breaks new ground in hypocrisy – there ain’t a lick of moral high ground in state money funding women’s soccer at Eastern but not at Wazzu.

Of course, the amendment is going nowhere and Murray is only giving the Cougs a dose of their own medicine. And that’s why we elect these officials – to engage in cheap symbolism and behave like cartoons.

It almost makes you wish the players from Wazzu and U-Dub could line up and play the Apple Cup today.

Just so we could get some adults on the field.


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