But, it's not.
This is about community, but in my weird rambling way that you all are very used to, it's going to take me a bit to get there.
(Disclaimer: I understand all of the criticisms about football and I respect those opinions. This is going somewhere different, though.)
Shoes and I moved to Rural (RURAL) E Washington this year. Most of you know that. Our rural E WA town happens to have a major PAC12 University in it. Random, right? Our town's regular, non student population is about 30,000 (but the county's population is just over 40,000). This is, as I've said before, a company town. (Editor's update: Shoes firmly believes that the year round, non student population is only about 7,000. I can't find this data anywhere, but Shoes is rarely ever incorrect about these things.)
Shoes grew up here, did his undergrad here, has always wanted to come back here.
Well, we're definitely here.
Shoes grew up watching Cougar Football. As in, season ticket holder with his father since Shoes was in the 3rd grade. I made him miss the first home game in something like 15 years last year when I asked him to go to a wedding with me in the Vineyard Town. I don't think I've been forgiven yet for that.
When Shoes was in law school in Seattle, he came home for every home game. When he worked in the Vineyard Town, he made every home game. When I moved to Portland, he did not come to see me on home game weekends. During my school breaks, I went with Shoes and his father to home games when possible. I'm not a veteran Cougar Football Fan. But, I have been going as I've been able to for 4 years now, and I went to all but one home game (and we went to one in Las Vegas!) this year.
Shoes loves Cougar Football.
Many WSU students and alumni love Cougar Football.
But in the past several years, Cougar Football has brought nothing but heartbreak.
You who follow the PAC12 know this.
They've turned "Coug" into a verb. A derogatory verb. As in, "They're going to Coug it." (That does not mean things are going to go well.)
The school even adopted a new slogan a year or so ago: Undefeated Fan. (Because the team, well ...)
WSU hired a fancy new coach this year at the tune of 2.2mil a year. (Don't start. You'll be preaching to the choir.) At the beginning of the year, Cougar Fans were hopeful. Waiting. Anticipatory.
The season did not go well.
Defeat set in.
And then there was the Apple Cup.
Most state universities have this, I think -- some type of rivalry game between major universities. Apple Cup (because Washington grows Apples, right?) is WSU and UW (and please don't get them mixed up because blood may be drawn ...). The last time WSU won was in 2008. I wasn't even dating Shoes then. We went this year, of course. We always go. Even when it's in Seattle, we go. We weren't expecting much. It hasn't been a good season. Shoes has been saying things he doesn't at all mean (things like, "I'm done with Cougar Football. This is BS.") ESPN scheduled the game the day after Thanksgiving in a town where students LEAVE for the holiday. We were also expecting a low turn out.
And this is what happened. Fast forward to about 12:47.
Apple Cup 2012, WSU over UW, 31-28 in OT
(I tried to embed. It was disabled. Humor me, though, it's important to the real point of this post, which I promise ... I'm getting to ...)
I've posted about this many, many times, but the one thing I've always missed in my life is the experience of having a home town. A tribe. A tradition. Something I belong to. When Furney scored that winning field goal, something electric fried the entire stadium. Well. The Coug Fans anyway. The UW Marching Band stood there with their clarinets hanging from their fingertips and their mouths open, stone silent. Who could blame them? It was a surprise to all of us. Shoes (who is slow to show emotion) was literally jumping up and down with his hands on my shoulders shouting and complete strangers were hugging.
This is something they belong to. They shared in ownership of the experience of the entire season, and then shared in the experience of the win.
I've been having a hard time in this little town. And again, I've spent lots of time in rural communities, so it's not just that's it's small. Although it was just a football game (and in the big picture, it is, in fact, just a football game), it spoke to something that has been running through me for a long time. The need to settle down. The need to develop roots. The need to share in something and belong to something.
Coug Fans, I think, know this. (And let me just say that whomever shoved UW player Sefarian-Jenkins does not represent the mindset of the fan base.) They belong to the each other. They belong to the University. They belong to the team.
Are there more important things in life than football? Sure.
Are there more important things in life than finding your own tribe? Maybe.
Are there more important things in life than sharing in life with others? World peace?
I'm not a Coug. But I do find myself settling into this shared experience and connecting with others. Maybe this company town has something for me, after all. Maybe here, which in many ways tops the list of odd places I've lived, is where I'll start to settle down. Maybe this is the start.
Isn't that a novel idea.