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Ralph Walter: Don’t be blindsided by our film-inspired football section this year

I like to think I’m an idea guy.

But frankly, some are better than others.

“I’m not sure where the Gateway Project came from,” read a post from the Eastern Washington University fan forum earlier this year, “but we basically lost five years to the stupid plan.”

Uh … my bad.

The year was 2011, and my alma mater was coming off its magical championship football season. One August night at the Red Lion Tavern – where really, only the best decisions are made – I offered up my idea for a much-needed EWU stadium expansion to a couple of friends who at the time worked for the university.

Plans were sketched out: State funding provides cash for a new dorm, built strategically alongside Roos Field behind the current visitors’ section. Once the dorm is finished, the school raises a couple of million dollars to replace the tiny visitors’ bleachers with a big grandstand attached to the side of the building facing the field. Voila!

Fast-forward a few years and my dorm/bleacher hybrid idea had morphed into the $70-million Gateway Project, a massive stadium renovation that included a bank, gourmet restaurants and doctors’ offices. And now? The whole thing is shovel-ready – as long as that shovel is used to bury the entire, unfunded boondoggle.

So why dig it up now?

Because inside today’s Spokesman-Review, we’re presenting our annual football section, and frankly, I’m feeling just a little Gateway about the premise. (It’s not exactly a $70-million dollar gamble, but stressful nonetheless.)

Last year, we had an obvious hook: the local star power at quarterback. From high schools to colleges and even the Seahawks, the talent was historic.

This season proved more challenging. Then, in late July, Idea Man struck: What about a movie theme? As I sketched it all out, I realized every team could be connected to an actual football flick.

Washington State, seeking a new quarterback, was easy – The Replacements, of course. As I scanned movie titles, they all came into place:

North Dallas Forty? Obviously, it’s EWU! The FCS football championships are in Frisco, Texas, about 40 minutes north of Dallas, and the highly ranked Eagles would love to get back there. How about Idaho, moving back to the Big Sky? All the Right Moves, naturally.

One by one, each team connected with a classic football movie. Everything was set.

Until reality set in and this cheeky football-at-the-movies idea devolved into an office horror flick.

  • Ever try arranging a photo shoot in the middle of summer for four school mascots 90 miles apart? Our photo editor did, and now she hates me.
  • Our Whitworth writer urged me to change his movie title to “The Blind Side” last week because the Pirates apparently boast one of the best tackles in the nation. He was absolutely right, but it was too late to change. Now he hates me.
  • My designer hasn’t had a day off in weeks, and I’m fairly certain that in between movie posters, he’s been gussying up his résumé just to escape. Yes, he hates me, too.
  • And we realized after the section was published that we accidentally omitted the Class 1B teams (which you can find on page 3 today.) So, I’m sure fans of those schools now hate me, as well.

To be sure, the section is packed with some amazing work, from stunning design and photography to wonderful writing.

John Blanchette’s column ranking the top 15 football movies is terrific and his all-Hollywood team (Wooderson from Dazed and Confused at wide receiver!) is just plain fun. And don’t forget the Block Busters, profiles of three dominant defensive players at WSU, EWU and Idaho.

In addition, our staff has in-depth looks at all of the local teams, from high schools to colleges to the Seahawks.

And then there are the movie posters. And even a movie trailer, which you’ll find playing Thursday morning at It’s all meant for fun. It’s football, after all.

The idea may be a box-office stretch, but trust me, the work is stellar.

Either way, I’m sure you’ll let me know in the coming days. I just hope I won’t be haunted by it five years from now.

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