ON THE FACE of it, the place doesn't look like all that much: just a plain and simple concrete bowl with gray metal benches around a football field.

A press box sits atop one side, looking down on the action that is Washington State University football. A big scoreboard adorns the stands above one end zone with a replay screen.

The stadium sits in the middle of the Washington State University campus, shoehorned between the library, student union complex, and the administrative and athletic facilities. It's too calm most days, as students climbing the many hills of the campus rush off to yet another class.

But on fall Saturdays, bedlam reigns supreme. Students arrive hours before kick-off, staking out their claims of the student sections. The small highways and back roads leading to this remote Eastern Washington location begin to get thick with traffic hours before game time. From all over the northwest, Cougars arrive in droves, signs in the car windows, flags flapping in the breezes of the Palouse.

The stadium, which lies in the flight path of tiny Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, gets buzzed with Lear jets as the wealthiest Cougs come home. The only visitors in no hurry at all have arrived days earlier– the large RV encampment that sits directly across from the stadium has been busy for days now, filling the parking lot between Beasley Coliseum and Martin Stadium. In a happy atmosphere, these Cougars will drink, grill, and share anything and everything, in one of the best pure community aspects of athletics—to see otherwise complete strangers brought together for a great time. These hearty Cougs, having been watching the early action on their RV-mounted satellite dishes, keep their fellow fans informed of the scores in the early games.

In the season's early going, the September heat is apparent but not unpleasant. As the fall slips into winter, a chill can fill the air, adding to the excitement. As the cold begins to get crisper, fans immediately begin saying to one another: "You think we might get snow tonight?" hoping for any and all possible advantages to crush the Cougars' foe that day.

The VIPs and alumni donors settle in from the parties and get ready as the small, otherwise plain concrete bowl pulses with anticipation. The student section, full for over an hour before game time, begins to buzz. The pre-game spectacle begins. The bands play. The stands begin to cram together even more, like a crowded elevator. The noise gets louder. Finally, in the voice of longtime, legendary P.A. man Glenn Johnson, a voice so powerful, intense and gregarious that you'd think God Himself took the time to create that man's larynx, comes the bellow..."Here come the... Cooooouuuuuuuuugs!"

With that, a hundred young men—each proudly wearing the crimson and gray uniform—storm onto the field. Some of them dreamed of these days as boys, as a culmination of a lifelong goal that was born during childhood treks to Pullman. Many players, especially the ones from the larger Western cities, were first skeptical of coming to this rural town a long way from anywhere. Now, with this feeling, they knew they wouldn't have it any other way.

As the kickoff nears, the noise becomes deafening. The kicker places the ball on the tee; the Cougar band plays at a frenzied, wicked pace. In line with tradition, fans pull out their keys, shaking them, the jingles of metal adding the deep-throated ecstasy shaking this electric place to its very core.

The stadium sits close to a half-mile above sea level. With seating at 35,000-plus, the capacity is roughly half that of Denver's old Mile High Stadium. The old nickname we had for it was "Half-Mile High Stadium". It may not sound like a lot, it may not look like a lot. A house isn't truly a home until there are good people there. And at Ol' Half-Mile High, that's what we've got.

Husky Stadium in Seattle gets all the ink for the lakefront appeal. The Los Angeles Coliseum has the history angle, as does the Rose Bowl. But give me fans that travel for days, not hours, to show their love for the tradition. Give me the fans that stay for hours before and after the game, squeezing every last soulful minute out of the experience. Those are my people. Those are my Cougars. This is my stadium. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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