Washington State University may be 450 miles from Eugene, but it seems as though it's 10,000 miles from nowhere. Sure, while making the trip northeast from the western half of Oregon you'll pass through towns such as Lacrosse, Colfax, maybe Pomeroy depending on your route, but aside from an off-brand gas station, a general store and a local eatery with a cute yet obvious name (Dis-el-dew Café), you'll see very little resembling human life as we know it…at least not since Marty McFly took us on a whirlwind tour of Hill Valley, circa 1955.
"Tripping" to Pullman, while providing an endless supply of scenic beauty, often seems like an eight and a half hour ride in a time machine; the further you go, the further you get from present day life and its amenities. Rivers turn to streams. Mountains turn to hills. And trees turn to wheat…and lots of it. The Palouse is like a topographical groundhog day, a repetitive cycle of terrain, seemingly leading to nowhere and doing so in a very dull, monotonous manner. Yet, in the middle of this "wheat treadmill" lies a town and a university proud of what it has to offer, as well as its history and traditions.
But do they expect too much?
Washington State University ranks amongst the nations best in fields such as Broadcast News, Hospitality Management, Writing, and Jazz. Its Hall of Fame includes greats such as Drew Bledsoe, Ron Cey, and Jud Heathcote to name a few. While playing in the Pac Ten Conference, the Cougars have compiled conference championships in numerous sports including Football and Track & Field. The latter produced a National Championship. But while all of the aforementioned legitimize a universities standing from a competitive point of view, it doesn't change the fact that it resides in a town seemingly progress challenged.
Sure it has a Starbucks. Sure it has a Blockbuster Video. And sure it offers a bevy of overnight-stay options including Holiday Inn Express, but if you're looking for the "land of opportunity," keep going. Unless you're a teacher, a nurse, or aspire to work in the Utility Industry, you're in the wrong town.
There's no Mt. Hood or scenic coastline, but there are the "Four Hills of Pullman!"
There's no Oktoberfest or Hood To Coast, but there's the National Lentil Festival, consisting of attractions such as the Lentil Gallery of Arts and Crafts, the Tour De Lentil Bike Ride, the Lentil Pancake Breakfast, and my personal favorite; the coronation of the "Little Lentil King and Queen."
While the Lentil Festival alone would be enough to have most planning their vacations, consider what the Pullman Walk of Fame has to offer. Much like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Pullman's version allows passer-by's to peruse a traveling list of fore-fathers, whose contributions are to thank for today's Pullman and all it has to offer. Celebrities such as George W. Lilley, Enoch A. Bryan, and everyone's number one, Wilson M. Compton are forever etched in the roadside walkways of Downtown.
It gives me goose-bumps just thinking about it.
Maybe not, but the game might be exciting?
How could it not be? A spelling bee would raise the decibel level of "the town that never wakes."
I can't imagine 37,000 people in or around this town, let alone in a single location…but they'll get it. Six Saturdays a year the circus comes to Pullman. This Saturday that circus is the Oregon Ducks.
While the Ducks can expect little to no excitement from the locale, they certainly can expect a relatively formidable and remarkably average opponent on the field. The Cougs bring to Saturday's game, a defense leading the nation in sacks, and has only allowed six touchdown passes in seven games. Although losing 21-3 versus Cal last week, the Cougar defense allowed no second half points and held the high-octane Bear offense to just 107 second half yards. Defensive End Mkristo Bruce will anchor the Cougar defense and will likely be the key to stopping or slowing down the Duck offensive unit.
But the Coug fans will boo.
Offensively, Washington State will go how quarterback Alex Brink goes. Brink has taken the brunt of the Cougar criticism and remains a wild card in terms of success. But a solid game from Brink would certainly give the Cougs a chance, while the opposite would certainly seal their fate.
But the Coug fans will boo.
They say a team mirrors their coach, but in the case of the 2006 Cougar football team, I'd say they mirror their town. Their quarterback is milk toast. Their running game relies on a back-by-committee system which produces mediocre results. And their defense is stingy, but has little to no star power. In other words, boring and insignificant.
But the Coug fans will boo.
Pullman is a city allergic to growth. Over the last five years its population has grown by an estimated 352 people. That's right, 352 people. It seems to be lost in time and apparently OK with it. It aspires for the status quo and reaches its apparent goal of mediocrity with relative ease. Yet it expects excellence from its football team?
But maybe that's OK. Maybe there's nothing wrong with playing it safe, staying inside the lines, and refusing to raise the bar. However, with pedestrian goals come pedestrian results. You can't expect more from others than you expect from yourself. Or in this case your football team.
The city of Pullman has an obvious amount of pride in their community, along with the university which resides within it, but at times seems unwilling to spread its wings. It's evident in their town and it's evident in their team. Remember one thing; Marty McFly wanted out of Hill Valley, not because it was 1955, but because he didn't want to be mediocre.
Game Day: Back To The Future
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