COMMENTARY: Shattering media myths

THEY'RE REPEATED ALL the time -- so much so that they've become self-perpetuating myths. Pullman is indeed different than Seattle, Los Angeles, even Corvallis. There's no place like it in the Pac-10. But much of what is reported -- and repeated ad nauseum -- about the place, is just plain wrong. Wrong on facts. Wrong on premise.

Take a look at what an Arizona sportswriter blogged recently:

WSU, a team that plays in a great stadium (Martin Field Stadium is genuinely one of my favorite collegiate atmospheres,) that is cursed with having that stadium in the middle of nowhere, where it is bitterly cold 50% of the year, and scorching hot the other 50% of the year. The weather, area and finally the football team – who managed just three conference wins in 2007 – are beginning to drag down recruiting efforts. Just 10 players have thus far committed to Washington State ....
-- Eric Hess, Arizona Daily Star (Jan. 18, 2008)

Bitterly cold? Scorching hot?


I know Pullman. Winters can be snowy and cold -- but nothing even close to the Wisconsins or Minnesotas of the world. Summers get warm, but nothing like Arizona or Southern California or anywhere on the Eastern seaboard.

Missives like the Arizona Daily Star's should probably be more amusing than anything, and not just because the author called the stadium Martin Field.

But perception often can become reality. So let's set the record straight, lest other knee-jerk sportswriters or worse, potential recruits, fall for the nonsense.

Pullman, says the Daily Star, is in the middle of nowhere. Last October, the Los Angeles Times said Pullman was at the center of "a vast nothingness called the Palouse." ESPN's Pat Forde likes to talk about being forced to travel to Pullman.

Pullman is 75 miles from Spokane. Spokane, give or a take a few spots depending on the year, is one of the 100 largest cities in the United States.

It takes longer to drive through rush-hour from Palo Alto to downtown San Francisco than Spokane to Pullman.

Former USC coach John McKay refused to play in Pullman until the conference eventually forced the Trojans to do so. McKay apparently felt his players too delicate to travel all that way down from Spokane. Mr. Forde looks to be cut from the same girly-man cloth.

SO IT'S LEFT to someone like Daven Harmeling -- one of the student-athletes coaches and writers sometimes endearingly refer to as a "kid" -- to provide sage perspective.

"People who do live here love it and don't ever want to leave," says Harmeling. Teammate Taylor Rochestie, who grew up in tony Santa Barbara, Calif., no less, echoes those sentiments: "Once you're in Pullman, you understand what it's like to be a Coug. Your life is changed. I truly believe that."

Forde gets credit for at least putting Harmeling's quote in one of his ESPN columns. It doesn't exactly offset all the other times he's sucked up to UCLA and whined about Pullman, but perhaps it's a start.

But let's get down to the tangibles. For all of the references to Pullman being a cultural waste land, the facts don't support it.

The WSU Museum of Art is one of the great fine arts venues in the Inland Northwest. Top-name comedians, rock and jazz acts, ballet and operatic touring companies and symphonies perform regularly at Beasley.

And there are few places -- take your pick of any college campus -- more beautiful in the early fall than Pullman.

Business conferences' find state-of-the- art technology when in town. This spring, the championship Palouse Ridge Golf Course opens.

Hey, I'm not saying Pullman is the cultural equal of New York. But I've been to Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN. I lived in the Nutmeg State for a time. And I can definitively state, thankfully, that Pullman is no Bristol. For starters, there are no slums in Pullman.

LET'S TALK MORE about the weather for a moment. "Scorching hot" six months of the year, says the Arizona Daily Star. No, really. Someone in Arizona said that. You know, Arizona -- the same place Satan plans to retire to because nothing will grow there.

If 72 and 74 degrees is "scorching hot," well, I guess they've got Pullman dead to rights. Those are the average high temperatures in the third- and fourth-hottest months of the year. The hottest two months boast average highs of 82 and 83 degrees. Rounding out the six-month period are daily average high temps of 65 and 60 degrees in months five and six.

Good woman, bring me your finest meats and cheeses -- plus a gallon of Coppertone and a block of ice! Oh the heat. My God, the heat!

But it does get chilly at times in the winter. True fact. Unlike L.A. or Phoenix, Pullman does experience the four seasons found in nature. People in the Northwest have indeed seen snow in their lifetimes.

OK, ENOUGH ABOUT the weather. Let's talk football. The Arizona Daily Star puts a fork in Cougar recruiting.

Before Paul Wulff was named head coach, WSU had two verbal commitments on the books. The Cougars have 14 as of today. That means Wulff & Co. have landed 12 kids in about six weeks. There are plenty of reasons why kids choose one school over another, but in the case of WSU this recruiting cycle, the reason was clear: Bill Doba's future as head coach looked uncertain.

But who wants to dwell on a simple fact when there's a chance to do some knee-jerking trash-talking of Pullman, WA -- one the quaintest little towns you'll ever see if you don't allow yourself to be snookered by the nonsense coming out of Tucson, Los Angeles or Bristol.

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