Monday, September 21, 2009

Husky Football Saturday: September 19, 2009

Note: This is a sports posting...which means it may contain extreme emotions over a bunch of grown men playing a game that in the grand scheme of things doesn't really change much of anything other than it gives guys an excuse to talk to each other and feel good about something other than beer.

It's no secret that 2008 was a bad, bad year for Seattle sports. With the demise of the Sonics (RIP), The Mariners loosing 101 games, the Hawks only mustering 4 wins, the unimaginable scenario of the UW football team not winning a football game all season long...and most sadly, the senseless death of a Seattle sports icon Tuba Man.

It was brutal. Perhaps, I was lucky to be over 800 miles away from the carnage. But, I didn't really feel that way. After moving to San Jose, I realized that during my 9 previous years in Seattle, I'd started to take it for granted that I could go see any of my favorite teams play, pretty much whenever I wanted. And even though 2008 was a gut wrenching year to be a Seattle sports fan, with every loss and every bad piece of news that I heard dispatched from the Emerald became more clear to me, that Seattle was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in a place with other Seattle sports fans who knew how I felt. No one in my Bay Area office had a clue what it was like to see your favorite basketball team (and my first job) pick up and move away to the Dust bowl. The Stanford and Cal fans of the Bay, were okay (if not happy) about UW's football ineptness.

And although we still went to a lot of sporting events while living in the Bay (including UW play at Stanford in 07 and Cal in 08), I vowed that once we got back to Seattle, I wouldn't take my favorite teams (especially my alma mater) for granted (win or lose) and when possible we'd go support them. So, one of the first things we did upon realizing we were coming back to Seattle, was purchase a four game package of UW football tickets against USC, UO, WSU and Cal. No matter how what happened in 2009, I wanted to be at Montlake to cheer on my school.

So, on an overcast Saturday we headed to Husky Stadium for the first time in two years, to watch the Dawgs take on #3 ranked USC. We hopped a bus from Ballard and quickly found ourselves on the Ave surrounded by crowds of people in purple and gold. (Sidenote: I think the average age of people in the U-district jumps from about 20 to 45 on football Saturdays. It was the first time I've felt young walking the Ave since I was a freshman in college.)

With UW breaking there 15 game losing streak the previous week against Idaho, there was a noticeable sense of optimism heading into this game. And I was ready to buy into it. We stopped by Big Time Brewery for a couple of beers before the game (Come on, it was 11am). And then headed to the game. It was great walking through campus to the Stadium. I think it had been about four years since I'd last walked across campus. But, it brought back a lot of good memories.

As the game started, we received a reality check, as USC went up 10 to zero early in the game. It made me start thinking about the last game few games I'd attended at Husky stadium since graduating and before moving to San Jose, most of them had been UW losses. But, regardless the excitement still remained. UW responded with a touchdown and a field goal. And some how the game was tied at halftime. As the 2nd quarter ended some darker rain clouds moved over the stadium and a slight rain began. I think at any other venue in the country, I would have taken this as a bad omen. But, not here in Seattle. This was going to be a cleansing rain.

The second half began with a nervous energy in the air. Like so many other times over the last six or seven years, there was somewhat of an expectation that UW was going to do something to screw this up. That at some point USC's powerhouse offense would come alive and take advantage of UW's young defense and blow the game wide open. But, you know what? That never happened. I'm not sure how or why, but a combination of outstanding UW defensive plays and bone head penalties by the USC offense kept the game tied up all through the 3rd.

As we headed to the 4th quarter with the score knotted at 10, I took a picture of the scoreboard. I wanted proof, that for at least three quarters UW could hang with the best (even if the best had some injuries).

Not to be a pessimist, but I feared this was going to be the high point of the game.

To be honest, the 4th quarter is a bit of a blur. I developed tunnel vision and pretty much blocked everything except what was happening on that field. But, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a quarter of football or any other sporting event more. The drama was amazing. I hung on every play. I could feel my head spinning with excitement and adrenaline (And yes, I think Tonja thought I was going to pass out at one point). The stadium roared with life each time the Husky defense was facing a must needed stop. And then when UW was on offense, a silence would fall over the stadium right before the ball was snapped. It was amazing. And when it was all said and done and the Huskies hit that field goal to claim a 16-13 victory...not to be to melodramatic, but it was stunning.

Just in case you hadn't heard...

The stadium erupted and I jumped up and down like a 9 year old, screaming and pumping my fist (once again, I'm not sure what Tonja was thinking.) And then after I calmed down, all we could do was take in the moment and watch as a purple blob of people took the field....

This purple blob came out of no where and sat on the field.

A great day.

And so that was our first Husky game of 2009. And my first home Husky game in two years. Needless to say, it was special and will be one that I remember for a very long time (more so, assuming UW can continue to play well and turn the football program around). After the game we headed to the College Inn for post game nachos and beer. A great way to end a great day.

Beer...I think that covers it.

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