Can't help but smile at Wazzu win

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- It was the type of victory that makes an old man feel young again. Yes, even crusty old sports writers. Washington State's dominating performance over Oregon State was a win for the ages. And the aged. And the young. And all those in between.

Covering Washington State football has not always been easy in recent years. We're paid to be objective and still, we are human, as are the players and coaches we deal with week after week, month after month, season after season. Or, in WSU terms the last three seasons, loss after loss, month after month, season after season.

That all changed Saturday. On a cold, gray, miserable afternoon in Corvallis, a 1-9 Cougars football team provided a vat of sunshine for millions of WSU fans everywhere simply by improving to 2-9, such was the way they won.

You couldn't help but feel good for the players and coaches who work so much longer and harder at their crafts than most of us truly fathom.

Not that the same cannot be said for the Oregon State Beavers and the many other teams that have routinely pounded Washington State into submission in recent years. For all the joy experienced in Cougarville this weekend, it is matched by the depths of despair experienced by Beaver Nation.

That said, when a sweet, sweet Pac-10 victory finally arrived for Wazzu, it was wrapped in the sort of warm embrace that cannot be fully savored unless you have walked barefoot on the embers of the football hell the Cougars have occupied.

It was a strange and wondrous sight to see young men dancing and hugging and skipping with joy on the green carpet of Reser Stadium. They sang the WSU fight song with hundreds of jubilant, crimson-clad fans as the Cougars marching band performed in the corner of one end zone. Players soaked up the atmosphere for several minutes, then headed off to the locker room to celebrate in private with their comrades.

Their "private" celebration became quite public when shouts of joy and raucous cheers periodically escaped from the locker room deep in the bowels of creaky old Gill Coliseum. Down the hall, reporters could not help but smile.

Not because they wanted them to win, or wanted Oregon State to lose. No, reporters could not help but smile because reporters are only human, and sports are all about being human. The good and bad, happy and sad, ups and downs, rewards and curses.

On Saturday, the Cougars finally were able to experience the incredible joy and satisfaction that comes with being properly rewarded for a job well done. Not just for the three hours the general public witnessed on the field, but for the countless hours spent practicing and watching tape and lifting weights and running that one extra wind sprint last summer in Martin Stadium when no one was watching and the Palouse heat was hovering near triple digits.

Chances are that none of WSU's players were thinking about all the grueling and, yes, often tedious workouts they've endured as they made their way up the steep incline that leads from the Reser Stadium playing surface to the visitors' locker room after Saturday's game.

Lined on both sides, cordoned off by ropes, were hordes of Oregon State fans and a handful of Washington State supporters. Oregon State fans were quiet and respectful as WSU players walked by, but the Cougars faithful let their feelings be known.

"Thank you!" one man yelled.

"We needed that!" another cried.

And, finally, as the last players disappeared from view, a voice rang out, "Long live the Cougars!"


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