(COLUMNIST’S NOTE: Sadly, a restraining order for over-exuberance still prevents me from getting within field goal range of the Eagles locker room. Therefore I must use today’s column to deliver the pregame pep talk I hoped to give Saturday to the Eastern Washington University football team.)
You are the pride of Eagle Nation, the champs of Cheney.
Your hard play and determination this season has earned you a 10-2 record and this spot in the FCS quarterfinals.
It’s been a season of greatness, but your work is far from done.
You are about to meet some punks from Illinois State who, like six other visiting teams this year, will hopefully be spifflicated from exposure to the garish red turf of Roos Field.
Destroy them, men.
Grind these interlopers into kibbles and bits.
Send ’em back to Illinois crying for their mamas.
Do that and we’ll be a game away from returning to the National Championship semifinals in Frisco, Texas.
Can you smell it, men?
I can. And it smells like 2010 all over again – the year my alma mater won it all in a back-from-the-grave comeback win over the University of Delaware.
That’s why I’m here today.
You need to know that there is something far bigger than a mere football game at stake here.
This isn’t about school pride.
This isn’t about winning another title.
This is about you getting ME back into the school band.
That’s the goal, men, and there’s only one way to accomplish it.
Illinois must go down.
Do that and I’ll be back in the school’s trumpet section for your Dec. 14 semifinal against either Montana State or Sam Houston State.
“You can be our artist in residence,” Patrick Winters, EWU’s director of bands, has promised.
And should victory come on Dec. 14?
I’m back on the band plane to Frisco, baby!
If I can shake the plane fare out of my tightwad editors, that is.
But that’s my mission, men.
Your mission is simple: Do it for Doug.
It might help if you players cut out the decade-old photo of me that is adjoined to this column. Tape it onto your jersey or helmet so you don’t lose sight of what you’re really playing for.
Now I don’t expect a bunch of young college athletes to know what a game like this means to this washed-up old horn player.
Your lives are still like blank canvases, wide open to promise and possibility.
It’s as used up as a Jackson Pollock splatter painting.
Heck, I never dreamed of even getting a second chance to sit in the bleachers and blast my school’s fight song after touchdowns.
Then came The Miracle of the Gridiron.
Most student musicians went home for Christmas break, leaving Winters in a fix. He needed to repopulate his band for the nationally televised playoff game against the Wildcats of Villanova.
In a genius move, musicians from the community were invited to fill in. Some 140 players responded, including rubber-lipped me.
Sure, I hadn’t played regularly since the 1970s, when I was a trumpet-tooting music major.
But was I about to let a little thing like lack of artistry stop me?
Heck, no. I dug my cobwebby King cornet out of a closet and headed for Cheney, just like the old days.
The Eagle band isn’t so desperate this go-round.
Most members say they’ll hang around for the Dec. 14 game, if it comes.
“But, we still are going to invite alums to join us anyway,” Winters said.
But that’s not even the best news, men.
The best news is that the school has new uniforms, and some of them are in sizes for the gravitationally impaired.
This means I won’t have to suffer the indignity of watching some sweet-faced coed claw through every equipment locker while she tries to find a circus-tent-size uniform to fit me.
So do I need to spell it out, men?
Losing is NOT an option!
Now get out there. Give it everything you’ve got.
And win, win, WIN!!!