Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

John Blanchette: A four-step program for Washington State Cougar football fans

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk had some words of wisdom after the loss to EWU: “Don’t panic. We’ve been in this situation before.” (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk had some words of wisdom after the loss to EWU: “Don’t panic. We’ve been in this situation before.” (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

If you’ve followed Washington State football for the previous four seasons, you know there’s only one thing to do with the hangover from Saturday’s ambush at the hands of Eastern Washington.

And that’s to make steady improvement. Just steadily improve and get better. Improve, at a steady pace. Steadily.

Perhaps this is the termite in the woodwork of Cougar football openers under coach Mike Leach, who has lost every one of them in five years at Wazzu – something that does not suggest steady improvement. How can real improvement – not practice make-believe – be gauged without the baseline of a first game? If only some logic pretzel existed that would allow the Cougs to have that starting point without the messy business of actually playing the opener, at which they’re inevitably ill-prepared if not just plain lousy.

Maybe Leach should sic the Wazzu philosophy department on that. Could be another book deal in it for him if he finds the right prof.

But if the Cougs are going to make a tradition out of losing to a Big Sky Conference team out of the gate each September, then their fans are going to need a coping mechanism. And, no, selling beer in the stadium –Wazzu whiffed on getting that done at the opener, too – isn’t going to be enough.

Neither is DABDA, the long-embraced five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Not to be confused with the law firm of the same name.

No, the Cougs need something more specific to their pain.

My suggestion: WOMB. Because trauma like what the Cougars wrought and endured on Saturday night – and a year ago against Portland State – makes you want to return to where it’s safe and warm.

Look, I’m here to help. I’m no stranger to football angst. My old high school, already strapped with a 33-game losing streak, is forfeiting every game this season because kids stopped turning out for the team.

Then again, they don’t have $12 million tied up in a head coach (so far) and $61 million invested in a football mansion they abandon every August to hole up in Lewiston.

So instead of being overwhelmed by the Cougars’ face-plant and Eastern’s 45-42 victory, go back to the WOMB.

What is WOMB? Glad you asked. It’s …

Wallowing – If your football crush is going to hand-deliver disappointment at $50 a ticket, you’re going to want to get your money’s worth. So reach waaaaay down for that despair. Don’t just accept that it was unfortunate – embrace that it was cataclysmic.

The Eagles didn’t just beat your team, they ran up 606 yards. They not only failed to wilt when WSU pulled within a field goal with just under five minutes to play, they found the end zone themselves in the space of seven plays. The Cougars looked like they’d been jumped by three guys outside a Domino’s Pizza.

And the repercussions! You know who loses to FCS teams? Bad FBS teams. The schools that did in 2015 were a combined 25-85. The other three who belly-flopped last weekend? Just 12-24 a year ago.

Don’t try to dodge it. Feeling terrible validates your investment of time, emotion and money. If you don’t care enough to over-care, what’s the point?

Outrage – Misery truly does love company thanks to our incredibly over-social technology options, sharing pain with fellow sufferers is just a few thumb-clicks or keystrokes away. Just consider this sampling from Twitter:

“Things could be worse. I could’ve been both a #Mariners and a #WSU fan.” – @OhLookRain

“Seriously Cougs?!” – @BrenanAOS

“At least when Michigan loses to FCS they have the dignity to fire a nearly legendary coach. Leach will be extended.” – @Longballj

I’m sure they all feel better now. Give it a shot. So will you.

Mitigation – This is a lap around the track from wallowing, finding reasons that, in the immortal words of Patrick Swayze, “Pain don’t hurt.” This is Kevin Bacon in his ROTC uniform telling the “Animal House” parade mob to “Remain calm! All is well!”

A natural leader, WSU quarterback Luke Falk took that tack, too, telling Cougar fans, “Don’t panic. We’ve been in this situation before.”

Perhaps that leaps over the concept that the whole point is to not be in this situation and that Wazzu is certainly making a habit of it, but he’s absolutely right. The Cougs lost to Portland State last season, and still won nine games and went to a bowl.

Plus there’s this: Maybe this will prompt Donald Trump to distance himself from Leach, since the coach has been unwilling to distance himself from Donald.

And finally …

Boise State – The Cougs opened as 12-point underdogs next Saturday night. Being the hunted isn’t working out. Being the hunter has to be an improvement, steady or not.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.