This was all a dream. It was one of the more in-depth dreams I’ve ever had, but it was still a dream. Football season can’t come soon enough and my brain has apparently grown tired of the Mariners’ failure. So, while the rest of me has been asleep, my dreaming has turned to Husky football.
“If I was only a little bit faster” I thought, as I had just finished stretching with the rest of the Washington football team. We always finished with a sprint at the end of stretching and I, being the lowly walk-on among the receivers, always ended up coming in last.
But, after this bit of wishful thinking, I immediately turned to being grateful. There I was, practicing on the field that I’d watched my favorite players and teams roam in years prior. “There’s where Reggie Williams made his leaping grab against Michigan. That is where Mason Foster made his interception against Arizona. That is where Corey Williams made his game-winning catch in the Apple Cup.” The memories continued throughout practice. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good. I was still in awe of how close the stands were and the new technology all across the new Husky Stadium. The west end-zone looked unbelievable. The north and south stands still held their triumphant positions. Heck, the east end-zone, where I grew up, upgraded to permanent seats. When I closed my eyes, I could feel the crowd noise wash over me.
Practice was wrapping up while I was still in a dazed amazement. We finished our practice and a few members of the team, along with the coaches, were going to go over to see some fans that were watching a volleyball tournament in Hec Ed. I somehow found myself riding along with the head coach, Steve Sarkisian, in a gator as the team followed behind. I’m not sure why he let a walk-on like me ride with him but there I was. Along the way, we were stopped by a few equipment managers for other sports. They were saying that they wished they had the facilities that the football team had. Sark just smiled and nodded. He added in his thanks when he was supposed to. It’s the same thing he did with the fans that we stopped to see.
Before long, we were back at the stadium. We were up on the west concourse, looking down on the field. The rest of the team had thinned out. A few players were still tagging along, but mainly it was just him and me. We stood there, looking out over the lake and the field. Football stadiums aren’t supposed to be this beautiful.
Around this time, an older booster came by. He was wearing a black suit and tie, asking about August 31st. Our first game was coming up. The older gentleman said, “I remember the days when going to see the Huskies was an event. They were the top ticket in town and you made a day out of it. You would tell all of your buddies you were going, just to make them jealous. The crowd’s would be so loud that you could hardly hear the fly-over after the National Anthem. Now, look at where we are. They aren’t events anymore.” I could feel my face start to get red. “A lot of the time, I don’t even care about going to the games. They usually start so late now. Excellence doesn’t ooze out of the team like it used to. What you have on August 31st, that is as close as we’ll get to an event like the old days but even that won’t come close.”
I had heard enough, and thankfully the booster had stopped talking. It was my turn to speak up, “Coach, for me Husky football will always be an event. I’ve sat in those stands (pointing toward the east end-zone) for the last 15 years. I grew up here. Saturdays were a way to spend a day with my family. We sat through an 0-12 season. We sat through Casey Paus. We sat through those awful, wet Oregon State games and I wouldn’t have changed any of it. August 31st is an event. Husky fans have been waiting for a game like this for 10 years. I have no doubt that they’ll show up, in full voice that night.”
Sark thought for a moment before he began. “For our football team, this isn’t an event. It’s another game. We have to stay focused on that, even though there are sure to be distractions. For our fans, this will be a day to remember. I wish I could be out there as everyone enters. I’d like to see the looks on their faces when they see the new video board. I’d like to see excitement in the zone. I’d like to feel the energy as the band takes the field 22 minutes before the game starts. This is a big day for our program and a day that I hope proves to be a landmark for when the program started to ooze excellence once again.”
Just like that, my day had ended. 77 more days, Dawg fans.