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Apple Cup Decision Day: Will Paul Gallant choose to be a UW or WSU fan?

Max Borghi and the WSU Cougars come to Husky Stadium for Friday's Apple Cup. (Getty)

It’s a polarizing world that we live in. And it might be getting worse.

“PAWL, you monobrowed moron, we barely like your Seahawk takes. You think we want your deep philosophical thoughts?”

Apple Cup history isn’t usually on WSU’s side, but it could be Friday

Don’t worry. I’m not here to drop a piping hot political take on you. Your insufferable (insert relative here) will be doing plenty of that while stuffing their face with tryptophan Thursday. But I might be about to make half of the people reading think less of me. After all, picking a side in the Apple Cup has consequences.

College Football rivalries might be the last place in our country (Alabama doesn’t count) where animosity-laced divisiveness can be fun. And even though I’ve got no dog/predatory cat in the fight, I want in on Washington’s Friday-after-Thanksgiving tradition. Why? Because I’ve never really had that.

I grew up outside of Boston, a place that doesn’t care that much about college sports. Most people in the area pick a random college football power (I picked Florida because I loved their uniforms) and casually root for that school from afar.

I went to high school in Florida and sort of experienced the Gator-Seminoles rivalry, but while I was living there, most of my classmates were Gator fans. At least, until they didn’t get accepted at UF.

After that, I went to Syracuse University. The ‘Cuse hasn’t really had a football arch-rival in decades. Even worse, they won a whopping seven games during my first three years on campus.

My last stop was Houston. And while there’s some real animosity between Longhorns and Aggies, the schools only played each other once while I lived there.

LET ME IN, APPLE CUP.

To properly experience this rivalry, I’ve got to pick a side. Washington, or Washington State?

UW HUSKIES

Pros

• As a spoiled sports fan, I can identify with the school’s arrogance.
• The school is like 10 minutes away from me.
• Huskies look like direwolves, which is pretty sweet.
• There’s no NBA team in town, but this current UW team may be loaded with NBA level talent.
• I’m told I look good in purple.

Cons

• From an on-the-field perspective, are they allowed to be that arrogant?
• The stadium is beautiful. But the in-stadium experience? Not so much. How is it that difficult to acquire a beverage?
• They’ve have way too many mediocre QBs named some variant of Jake.
• Mike Hopkins, the former Syracuse coach in waiting, being the Dawgs’ coach is a further reminder that my alma mater’s head coach, Jim Boeheim, is 75 years old.
• I hate purple.

WAZZU COUGARS

Pros

• Cougar legend Drew Bledsoe was my first favorite athlete.
• I’m obsessed with cats, and cougars are really just giant cats when you think about it.
• Mike Leach thinks about mascots the same way I do.
• Not only do the fans care, they seem to be a lot more fun.
• Pullman is a beautiful college town and treated me right when I visited.

Cons

• They clearly don’t get the same $$$/recruits as the Huskies.
• I’d be on the other side of Husky condescension.
• Uh, do they even play basketball? Is rooting for WSU and Gonzaga allowed?
• Pullman is like 8,000,000 miles away from here, give or take.
• The Dawgs own the rivalry.

It was a tough decision. But ultimately, I’ve decided to root for the Cougars. The final reason? I want to take Huskies fans down a peg or two.

I’ve only been here a couple of months, but there’s an arrogant aloofness to Dawg fans that amuses me. While pondering aloud what school I should pick, I heard variants of this from nameless 710 Dawgs:

• “You know Paul, I think it’ll be good for you to root for a team that’s challenging to root for.”

• “I’m not sure I’m going to the Apple Cup this weekend. It just doesn’t feel worth it given the struggles this year.”

• “Paul, you kind of need to prove that you’re good enough to root for us.”

I’m most tickled by UW fans casually dismissing – and even occasionally rooting for – Wazzu. Yeah, they have the upperhand against the Cougs. But the idea that Oregon is a bigger rival is… bless their hearts… ADORABLE. Those cute little puppers! Who’s the good boy that lost 13 of 15 to their “rival” *wink wink*? What a cute boy!

On a serious note, think about this going forward. I get that UW can out-recruit, out-spend, and out-(insert thing) Washington State in a lot of different departments. But with all those resources shouldn’t the Dawgs:

• Win more “big” games under Chris Petersen?

• Be concerned that Petersen’s been unable to make things work with a supposed NFL QB prospect?

• Look to move on from Petersen’s offense, which is a series of complicated guys moving in motion before the snap and unnecessary Jacob Eason spin moves?

I get that a seven- to eight-win season is probably the best-case scenario for most Wazzu squads. But with Mike Leach, I know that Washington State will always have an exciting offense that can make any QB succeed and put up numbers. It’s not ideal for a spoiled sports fan like myself, but it’s enough.

I’m not sure the Dawgs have that with Petersen. Through all of their success the past three seasons, the Huskies’ offense looked limited with Jake Browning and now looks limited with Jacob Eason. Can it ever be more than this? And doesn’t it need to be for UW to actually be a true rival to Oregon?

Friday’s game isn’t going to level the playing field for these two. UW will probably always have the edge. But in 2019, that edge doesn’t seem anywhere close to where Husky fans really want to be. And as the state’s newest Wazzu fan, this Friday excites me.

Go Cougs. Yeah, I said it. And it feels so right.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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