Open letter to players, coaches and fans

<I>Dear Players,</I> <br><br> OK . . . so we all ended up breathing a giant sigh of relief, and with nervous laughter we shook our heads. After all, we won 34-10, didn't we? Nobody will long remember that first half of listless football, anyway. So now we have two full weeks to iron out our wrinkles and get better for Wyoming.

The effort you had put forth against Michigan really wowed me. You proved to be a team of moxie and mental toughness to battle like you did on the road. As Shakespeare once wrote, "the past is prologue". Thus, it stood to reason that determination would be a constant trait. It stood to reason that you would take the field and be gung-ho, charging into the home opener against San Jose State.

Instead, you looked as disinterested as a middle-aged man who had been dragged to the antique store by his wife.

I realize that it was San Jose State. I realize that you had come off of a gut-wrenching, nightmare of a loss. I realize that a tremendous amount of effort went into preparing for that game against the Wolverines, and to leave 100% of your soul out on the field and yet come away with a loss is hard to take.

But we are still in early September. The team is healthy and nobody is wearing down. Your legs should be fresh. It was the home opener… Isn't the magic of pouring out of the tunnel something to get the adrenaline going? Isn't there great joy to be had in simply taking the field on such a beautiful day and just playing football? Isn't there something exhilarating in feeling the turf underfoot and to see 70,000 fans in the stands, while representing the University of Washington on a glorious Saturday afternoon?

For the first half, you displayed a lunchbox mentality that reminded me of an NFL Sunday. You only played inspired when you felt your backs were against the wall.

This is a game that is supposed to be fun. It is a game of emotion. Win or lose, I would love to see you having a bit more enjoyment out there. I would love to see you being more demonstrative. I would love to see you getting after it for the pure love of competition and a zest for play.

Dear Coaches,

This will be brief. I am 100% a fan of Rich Alexis and feel he needs a minimum of 15-20 carries a game. I love the guy. He is the man. But he needs to develop. His field vision is a work in progress. Willie Hurst got there, and I am confident that Rich will too. However, should this be at the complete exclusion of Chris Singleton, or any other back, for that matter? My concern is that we are always one play away from having an injured Rich Alexis. It would be a pity to have to thrust an untested running back into a late-game situation against a Pac-10 foe, as necessitated by injury. That is a lot to ask. The football gods have not smiled kindly upon you this young season, so I wouldn't put it past fate to provide you with that very late-game scenario (knock on wood).

Dear Fans,

I have to be honest with you here. I don't like what I am seeing or hearing in Husky Stadium. Or should I say, what I'm not hearing. Why so sedate and listless? Have the vocal chords atrophied from disuse? For half the game Saturday, it felt like 70,000 people were inhabiting the world's largest library. That might enable entrance into the Guinness Book of World Records, but it isn't inspiring our football team to victory.

I realize that since this is being published on, I am somewhat preaching to the choir with this sentiment. The most rabid fans have a permanent home here. I also realize that not everyone will understand the point that I am making. I did write of my concern last season in an article. I was alarmed last October at how passive we had collectively become. Following that article, I remember one email that I received from a disgruntled gentleman, who wrote "Johnson, you are probably one of those screaming drunk idiots who ruins the game for everyone around you . . . jumping up every time someone on the field farts."

Now that's the type of passion I'd love to hear in Husky Stadium on Saturdays. That email had some spunk!

I am obviously not speaking of disorderly behavior. I am not speaking of cussing or verbally berating the visiting fans. I am merely speaking of the difference between being pro-active and reactive. The pro-active fans give a spark to their home team even when things aren't going right, or when the team is in a funk. They don't wait for a reason to get excited.

And 18 to 21-year-old kids know it and feed off of it.

Have Husky fans fallen into the habit of being reactive? Does it require something exciting to happen on the field to occur before fans are jostled awake from their confident malaise?

As Dante wrote, "A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark."

Good play can follow good play, the momentum begins to build, and suddenly you have a tsunami of emotion rolling and crashing over the opposing team. But it seems to require that the Huskies do something first.

It doesn't have to be that way. It hasn't always been that way. Husky teams haven't had to "earn" noise as recently as the early 1980s.

In the first half against San Jose St., the most energy that came from the stands was the lustful booing that cast a bitter pall over the field of play. The frustration was an understandable emotion, given the lack of effort and paltry results provided by the team. However, to paraphrase Dawn Van Diest's article on this site from Sunday, it takes audacity to boo the team heading into the tunnel at halftime when you haven't been cheering your butt off during the game to begin with.

That is indeed disappointing, but it might be human nature to jump on the negative and to just expect the positive. I don't really know.

Bottom line: the fans didn't bring their A-game, either. Husky fans are capable of bringing noise as loud as anywhere in the country, and I cite last year's Apple Cup as an example.

But going into a collective frenzy only for big games, is like only vacuuming when company comes over. The carpet can get pretty nasty if you have long periods of time between important visitors.

I don't know if the HuskyTron is to blame. I don't know if crowd excitement is tethered to defensive staunchness. I don't know if Husky fans are perhaps spoiled by success. I don't know if the fan base has been infiltrated by too many laid-back Southern Californian natives. I am grasping for straws, for sure.

I am certainly not asking that we become like Brazilian soccer fans; bikini-clad bronzed beauties dancing it up in the stands while the alcohol flows freely and beach balls getting battered about and spectators genuflecting to the spontaneous chanting and singing that breaks randomly among the crowd like fires of energy.

Quite simply, I would just love to see the Huskies struggling early in some game, and to suddenly receive an unsolicited boost of vocal support from the hometown faithful. To have the crowd's energy to suffuse with the team's spirit and propel them forward as they battle for victory.

As I said, I don't know the answer. Perhaps we can get the UW to hand out Ginseng before the games.


Derek Johnson

Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories