Jim Moore: WSU 'with me every day'

TWO WEEKS AGO Cougfan.com co-founder Greg Witter wrote a really nice story announcing my arrival as a Cougfan columnist, but ohmigod did he go over the top, talking as if I'm a Pulitzer Prize winner. Here are the actual facts as I know them: In 30 years as a sportswriter, I have won one award.

I believe it happened in 1995. A buddy of mine, Steve Turcotte, was working for the Unlimited Power Boat Association, and at the time, I covered the hydro circuit for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

As I recall, the conversation went something like this:

Turcotte: "Hey, Moore, have you ever been named hydro writer of the year?"

Me: "No."

Turcotte: "OK, we'll give it to you this year then."

It was completely bogus, an asterisk marring an otherwise flawless three-decade streak as an award-losing journalist.

I figured a little more accurate introduction was in order. Some of you might know me from the Post-Intelligencer, but I'm guessing most of you don't. I say this because if our paper was more widely read, we'd still be in business. The Hearst Corporation closed us down on March 17 when we published our last newspaper.

The P-I continues as an on-line publication, and I will write two columns a week as a free-lancer.

I had been at the P-I for 26 years, the last six as a sports columnist who pretty much took every opportunity to slam the Huskies as hard as I could. It didn't make sense to blast the hometown team in the hometown newspaper, but as a Coug, it made sense to me. The editors told me to be myself, so I was just following orders. When you're a Coug, you trash the Dawgs.

My genuine dislike for all things purple and gold began with the 1975 Apple Cup during my sophomore year at WSU. I remember watching that game from the east end zone of Husky Stadium with my buddies, Robert Landick and Chris Perry. They were hammered, and for some reason, I was not. We were all drenched and celebrating our apparent victory that Al Burleson and Spider Gaines snatched away in the waning minutes.

I left the stadium in an absolute funk and bought a Cougar pennant on my way out. I went home and curled up in bed, devastated by the heart-wrenching defeat. I bailed on my girlfriend's sister's wedding that night without even calling to tell her I wasn't going to make it.

The next day, when I told her why I no-showed, she didn't understand.

"You missed my sister's wedding because the Cougars lost?" she said.

"Yes," I said.

She broke up with me on the spot, and that was a blow at the time, but when I look back, it was one of life's blessings -- if I'd married her, she would have never gotten my infatuation with Washington State. In her defense, I'm guessing it was a life blessing for her, too, unless she grew up hoping that her Prince Charming would be a drunken idiot for two decades on every fall Saturday, which I suspect she didn't.

More than 30 years have passed. I figured some of the crimson-and-gray passion would have faded by now, but if anything, it's gotten stronger. Like the rest of you, I'm just so damn proud to be a Coug.

To this day -- and I'm 51 now -- the best four years of my life were spent in Pullman ... and Moscow. For those of you who scoff at people like me who talk about the good old days, they really were -- back then, the legal drinking age was 19 in Idaho.

A group of us from Gannon 2 regularly went to the Billiard Den in Moscow. You could make a night of it on $5 -- happy-hour pitchers were a buck apiece, then you threw in four quarters for foosball, a couple of quarters for the jukebox (J5 for ZZ Top's "Tush"), and you still had a dollar left for an Apple Grande at Taco John's on the way home.


Nowadays I still get excited when I reach Colfax and know I've only got 15 miles to go, and when I drive down the hill to Pullman, I'm fired up to be back again.

But even when I'm not there, Pullman and Washington State are with me every day. I've got a Cougar room in my house that has a Cougar banner and pictures of Shawn McWashington and Jason Gesser with roses in their teeth, and one of the Throwin' Samoan who played at WSU when I was there.

On the average, I bet I say "Go Cougs" 10 times a day. Anytime I see anyone wearing anything with a WSU logo, it's "Go Cougs." Anytime I see anyone I know is a WSU alum, it's "Go Cougs." When I run and have a hard time going up a hill, I tell myself: "C'mon, man, Go Cougs." When I put my 4-year-old twin boys to bed at night, it's two more "Go Cougs."

On my last P-I road trip, I was driving to Arizona for spring training and saw a Cougar license plate on an SUV between Barstow and Needles, Calif. I raced up to the guy and his wife and motioned for them to roll down their window. I had to give them a "Go Cougs" too.

Ranking as one of the greatest thrills of my otherwise undistinguished life, I found out last November that my 17-year-old daughter had been accepted at WSU. This little girl of mine has known the fight song since she was 2, and every phone conversation with her usually ends with "Go Cougs." Now I've got four "Dads' Weekends" to look forward to.

As much as I love the Cougs, I won't be a complete homer in this space. For instance, I'm already conflicted about Paul Wulff. I support him but wonder about him. If you can be hopeful and skeptical, that's what I am.

I've been watching the Cougars for 35 years, which means I've seen a lot of bad football, but nothing that came close to last year's team.

And those NCAA miscues under his watch at Eastern? Didn't care much for them, either. I'm sitting here trying to rip the Dawgs for fog machines; I need my coach to be as pure as Mother Teresa. It would really bother me if I were an objective journalist who had an ounce of credibility, but I'm not and I don't. So that helps.

And Wulff is 1-0 against Washington, so he definitely gets slack for that. He also deserves time to build his program. As long as he someday gets us to the Las Vegas Bowl, all will be forgiven.

Like Wulff, we've had our own struggles, but we're all Cougs who overcome adversity because we're used to dealing with it, and as a mostly unemployed writer, it's something I'm dealing with now. I find it useful to draw on past experiences.

I need to understand that at one time in my life, WSU professor Tom Heuterman flunked me in advanced reporting and Jim Carberry fired me from the Daily Evergreen, but I rallied to become a mediocre columnist at a defunct newspaper.

And now I've gone full circle, back to my roots via Cougfan.com.

Editor's note: Jim Moore got a B when he took advanced reporting over again but was never rehired by the Evergreen. He graduated with a Communications degree in 1978 and is without a doubt the flakiest member of the Murrow Advisory Board. His columns also appear at seattlepi.com and cybergolf.com. He can be reached at 206-448-8013 or jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com.

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