He was looking toward the TV screen with a glazed expression on his face.
Above him was a Husky football schedule poster from the 1999 season, featuring Rick Neuheisel's signature emblazoned across it in black ink. Still looking at my Dad, I spoke up.
"Dad, could this football weekend be more pitiful?"
He looked over at me sternly. "It certainly can't get much worse than this."
"Dad, the football this weekend hasn't only been terrible, it's been flat-out boring."
He looked back toward the TV. "I think I have to agree with you."
I raised my voice. "So remind me why the hell are we abusing ourselves like this?"
My Dad issued these sage words: "Just keep in mind that the Husky basketball season starts very soon."
This USC loss took something out of yours truly. To the day I die I will hold those boosters from USC as largely responsible for the downfall of Washington's program (I am living proof that college football fans hold grudges like Stalin). Starting with the sanction years up to the present day, we've all witnessed the deterioration and plummeting decline of this once-proud program.
In one fell swoop against USC, the Trojans ended Washington's consecutive non-losing season streak, handed the Huskies their first shutout since Reagan's first year in office, and so badly assaulted the UW offense that it is questionable if Washington's already-frail confidence can be restored this season.
For simple entertainment value, Husky football this year has been dismal to watch. Washington doesn't necessarily have to win for a game to be enjoyable—as long as they can be competitive. But against USC, aside from a couple of defensive series, there was absolutely nothing to feel good about. Then the Seahawks, a team we've all had big expectations for, looked like a gun-shy team lacking confidence. They too, were embarrassed. In the closing minutes of the Seahawk game, I asked myself why I had dedicated half my weekend glued to the TV watching crappy football.
By pure twist of fate, I was channel surfing Sunday evening, when I came across a movie that restored my zeal; ESPN Classic was playing "Rudy". By the end of the film, Rudy gets into a game for Notre Dame. He sacks the QB and gets carried off the field by his teammates. I have seen it many times, and it is a rousing finish. As the credits were rolling down the TV screen, I felt like hitting something (in a good way) and I felt restored. I found myself looking forward to the Oregon game next Saturday (I will be seated among Duck fans).
And I find myself looking forward to a new era in Husky football with the start of the 2005 season.
With apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream… I have a dream that in September 2007 a coach who is in his third season leads Washington. This coach has taken Seattle by storm with his recruiting and coaching abilities. The Washington players explode out of the tunnel and onto the field, while a remodeled Husky Stadium is packed to the rafters with woofing fans. I have a dream that the Oklahoma Sooners follow suit, rumbling onto the field in their white uniforms and shiny crimson helmets. They are greeted with cheers coming from 4,000 Sooner fans in the east end zone, and boos from the rest of the purple-clad rabid fans.
I have a dream that the field has been lowered 10 feet into the ground and the track removed; the seats are all closer and the fans feel like they're hovering right near the field. I have a dream that there are luxury suites affixed underneath the south side overhang, AND up amid the current press boxes. Revenue is again booming in the athletic department. I have a dream that the Husky marching band has rediscovered its passion for entertainment and has developed a better rapport with the fans. They are finishing up a wild routine that has roused the fans further and has them applauding raucously.
I have a dream that the sky is blue and the field is drenched in warm sunshine. I have a dream that the TV cameras for this nationally televised broadcast show the vista to the west; TV viewers get to look out beyond the packed stadium toward the sparkling blue water speckled with bobbing white boats and beyond that to the blue-hued mountains looming in the distance.
I have a dream that a "Lucky Dawg", a sick child battling a tough disease, feels his pulse pounding as the Husky captains (Keith Gilbertson's guys- and Gilby's legacy to the program) hold his sweaty hands as they walk out to midfield. The Sooner captains are there and they too offer encouragement to the child. The coin is tossed, sides are taken, and everyone at midfield shakes hands in the spirit of sportsmanship, then return to their respective sidelines.
In looking at the Sooners, they are pumped, because they know this is a big game. Washington has returned to national prominence coming off a 9-3 season in 2006 where they also beat USC in Los Angeles. The nation is curious about the outcome of this Washington-Oklahoma game.
I have a dream that I get up from the press box seat and wander over to the media's concessions; instead of the stale-tasting plastic-wrapped sandwiches normally there, the university has provided an Indian food buffet, tended to by tantalizingly beautiful Indian ladies. The Tandoori chicken is so succulent that it is practically falling off the bone; the garlic naan is splashed with a touch of butter and sprinkled with basil (hey this is my dream and I can create whatever I want…)
I have a dream that the smell of curry wafts down from the press box and swirls throughout the stadium as the teams prepare to kickoff. The Huskies have a dynamic offense operated with players who are experienced and confident. The Huskies have a swarming defense that is hard-hitting and often suffocating to opposing quarterbacks. Oklahoma discovers in the first few minutes that they have entered into an alley fight, and it is going to be a high-energy afternoon of competitive football.
Washington football will finally be free of the shackles from its traumatic past. Free from the lasting bitterness of sanctions, Hedges, Gerberding, Neuheisel, Dr. Feelgood, 65-7 and 5 of 7, all of it gone… We will let freedom ring…
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every Seattle neighborhood and living room, from every city throughout Western Washington, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Microsoft programmers and Boeing workers, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, Washington football is free at last!"
Derek Johnson can be reached at email@example.com
I have a dream…
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