Before I get into it, let me first say that if you haven’t yet read Brian Cobb’s Fanpost article “Why are Cougar fans afraid of winning?” from CougCenter, the time is now.
After reading the article, well, while reading it really, I was repeatedly reminded of a conversation of tweets I was involved in with “CougHouse”, “Michael Gruber” and “Joe Baker” over the past week. I’ll paraphrase because the convo was really long and you don’t want to read it all (if you do, it’s HERE):
"JB: expansion? We can’t fill the place as is. CH: awww but Joe!!The WSU athletic, I mean propaganda team, says we will be winning & selling it out soon JB: we maybe winning soon. Selling out? Not so much. Even during 97 we were not selling out. CH: of Cougs winning anytime in near future, slim to none! But it will come up again"
These are just a sample of what I’ve seen and heard around the Cougar community. Let me tell you, these are not the thoughts of a winner and there are thousands of Cougar fans who feel this way. I would even venture to say that the better part of Coug-Nation feels this way.
However, there are a few individuals around here that feel differently and luckily they are now running things, so out of those few will come a sense of aspiration and excellence within this program. Out of those few will begin a time in the very near future in which Martin Stadium will only be sold out and it will be difficult to get your ticket. Those few individuals will soon lead Washington State into a new era of tradition.
For the rest of us, we’ve become so adept at losing that we’ve all but accepted it, and it’s a real shame. On top of what Brian says in his fanpost, I think we have too much of a “Good Guy” mentality and it’s blinded us Cougs to the simple truth that winning is the most important thing. That’s right, winning is the most important thing! But we’re alright with showing up to the game after kickoff and leaving at halftime or midway through the 3rd quarter, just so we can say we’re loyal to the cause. If the Cougs win, we say we were there and if they lose we say “saw that coming” to justify leaving early.
Don’t get me wrong, staying humble and being Cougs in the true sense of what a “Coug” means to us as individuals, is equally as important. That’s why we also remember that winning isn’t the only thing. But I think it’s pretty obvious we’ve lost sight of the fact that while losing is part of the game, it’s not ok to lose and just be happy about it.
Mike Leach put it best during the season when he said
"It’s almost as if we’re afraid of success, afraid of what success might bring and the expectations that go along with it. Why? That’s crazy!"
Maybe we’ve never had enough sustained success to really grasp the concept of it, but when we had 3 straight 10-win seasons in football from 2002-2004, did we lose anything in our “Coug-ness”? When we went to back to back NCAA Tournaments in 2007 and 2008, did we become snobs and lose our integrity?
Probably more importantly, did we gain anything in that regard when we started losing again? Absolutely not! If anything (like Brian wrote) the winning brought us closer together and helped us to show off what we’re all about here. It’s not bad to win and it’s certainly not bad to set high expectations and lofty goals, only to achieve continual success and parlay it into a proud tradition all over your campus and throughout your community (hello Gonzaga).
But even worse than falling into the trap of thinking it’s even kind of ok to lose every season, we’ve now almost begun to encourage it. We’re so busy giving trophies to Johnny for his last place finish so he can feel good about himself because he lost ‘the right way’ that we forget to compete and help Johnny compete. All you have to do is look at our mixed reaction to the Ken Bone saga, where many fans respond to thoughts of an adequate coach and more NCAA Tournament teams by saying things like:
"No coach worth that much wants to come here, you can’t recruit to Pullman"
"So I guess we’re a big-time program now that we had 2 good years?"