Text messaging brings new view of Cougs

THERE WAS A SILVER lining in the Cougs' loss to Hawaii. I found it right there -- or perhaps, more aptly, WRITE there -- in bold black and white on my cell phone. The spirit of Cougar fans is well known, but on Saturday it reached an entertaining new level thanks to the power of technology. I "watched" the WSU-Hawaii game one text message at a time. And it was downright riveting.

While my wife Anne and I were walking an Achilles-straining 60 miles in the Susan Komen Race for the (breast cancer) Cure, a host of my crimson-hued family members and friends kept me fully apprised of what was happening at Qwest Field.

And I must say it was entirely consuming. And humorous. Five different people, unbeknownst to each other, were sending in blow-by-blows of the game.

The outcome of the contest was a stinker, to be sure, but the collective passion of the texters was most heart-warming. A fellow Coug was in a radio and TV black hole and they weren't about to let me suffer. They did it because they share the hypnotic pull of the crimson. They would surely want – indeed, expect – the same kind of assist in a similar situation with roles reversed.

It's what Cougars do.


The first message arrived from Justin Felker, the talented fundraiser for the WSU Athletic Foundation. "Down 14-0, fumbled on the goaline," he wrote.

Since it seemed like the game couldn't be more than a few minutes old I texted back asking if he was pulling my leg, as I knew in my heart – and guaranteed to my 11-year-old son – that victory would be ours on this sun-drenched weekend in the Emerald City.

Before Justin can respond that he's not kidding around, I get a missive from CF.C associate editor Pat Mitchell. All it says is "Call me."

When Pat simply says "call me" you know it's not to report on how many brats he consumed at the tailgater. But I can't call because I'm on a soccer field somewhere in Everett, midway through the stretching, icing and taping required of 47-year-old legs after they've walked their 40th mile in two days.

So I tap out a quick reply, asking Pat if he's trying to tell me that Diablo Valley College – where his son Billy is a first-year defensive back – might have better luck against the Rainbow Warriors than the Cougs.

Before Pat can respond, my sister Kathy reports that the Cougar defense looks like swiss cheese. Worse, she says, we can't hang onto the ball, costing us one TD on each side of the scoreboard. And worse yet, she notes, my little guy Ryan, who is at the game with her, is looking distressed.

Mind you, Ryan is an eternal optimist – and a serious fan. He can tell you every nuance about each of the final 20 plays of last year's Apple Cup. On the basketball hoop at home he has relived Daven Harmeling's narrow baseline miss against Vanderbilt in the 2007 NCAA tourney roughly 1,000 times. The reliving only counts if he cans the shot -- otherwise, there's a foul on the play and he does it over. And over again until the good guys prevail.

If Ryan is distressed this early, I wonder, are we looking down the barrel of a USC-type of pounding? Please, God, let Hawaii's coach be as merciful as Pete Carroll -- or Ryan might need hours of post-traumatic therapy. His lame (literally, it turns out!) dad promised victory, after all.

A moment later, Justin and Steve write in almost simultaneously that the first quarter has ended and it's 21-0.

Holy smokes. I really didn't see this coming.

Pat checks back in shortly thereafter. He wants to know who wears No. 84 because the lad's in need of the yellow stickum that Fred Biletnekoff of the Raiders used to plaster on his hands, arms and jersey before every game. He says No. 3 also needs Biletnekoff's goop.

No. 84 is receiver Jared Karsetter and No. 3 is return man/defensive back Brandon Jones and I presume both need stickum because of one or more of the fumbles my sister mentioned earlier.

Kathy's next missive is succinct: "28-0."

Steve then informs that there are 10 minutes to go until halftime and the Cougs have more four-times more turnovers than points.

Kathy weighs in again: "They kicked off to us and first play is fumbled. Hawaii driving."

I wonder if that fumble is one of the ones Steve counted, or is this now a fifth turnover?

At the rate matters are progressing, one delinquent text could set the chronology off in a big way. But does it matter?

In what seemed liked no more than a nanosecond after news of the latest turnover, cousin John Witter, CF.C's managing editor emeritus, weighs in for the first time all day: "Cougs down 35-0."

Despite the score, I'm highly amused by what's happening on my cell. I can't put the thing down in eager anticipation of what one of these "reporters" is going to disclose next.

It's like watching a train wreck through the eyes of people standing next to the track. Anne, my wife, starts to get interested. "What's going on -- it sounds like a wild game." She's a Husky, but considers the Cougs her second-favorite team.

Wild indeed, I tell her. You can't believe what's happening.

Then Kathy checks in again: "Another interception!"

Me: "Lopina or Lobbestael?"

Before she responds, Steve fires up some good news: "Hawaii fumble at the 1. We recover and return to midfield. Now driving. Hooray."

Kathy: "Lopina fumbled but recovered it."

Pat: "No shutout today. Just kicked field goal."

Steve: "35-3. Couldn't score from 2."

Kathy: "We kicked field goal. On 2. Should have tried for TD instead."

Pat: "Hawaii fumble, Stripling recovers. Hawaii penalty."

Steve: "35-6 halftime. Grasu 40 yds."

With the game out of reach, the second-half texting wasn't nearly as fast and furious, but when the Cougs closed the gap to 35-20 at the start of the fourth quarter, Pat went so far as to tell me "Not done yet."

That glimmer of light had visions of 1984 dancing in my head. That was the year Mark Rypien and Rueben Mayes led the Cougs back from a 42-14 fourth quarter deficit at Stanford to a crazy 49-42 victory.

Of course, it was not to be this time. Still, letting the imagination run while awaiting word of the next development was a treat. It wasn't quite Braddock vs. Baer or Ali vs. Frazier, but it was good theater nonetheless. Best of all, though, was the Cougar spirit I found in all of my texters. Our team was getting waxed, yet they insisted on watching to the very end and they refused to let one of their own stay trapped in a radio-less, television-less bubble.

The Cougs can lose, but the Cougar spirit thrives.

Bring on SMU. And bring the cell phone, too.

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