Being a University of Washington alumnus and the father of two WSU grads, the Old Sport can at least claim some degree of impartiality in matters between the Huskies and Cougars.
And we’ve been observing the various doings on both sides for more than 70 years. In fact, the first Husky-Coug football game we viewed in person took place in 1936. And it was a classic of sorts.
A Rose Bowl berth was at stake, but it turned out to be no contest. The Huskies won, 40-0, thus winning the right to appear in Pasadena where they were thumped, 21-0, by Pittsburgh.
Fast forward to the 1980s. The Old Sport was in the WSU press box watching the Cougars play Arizona State, if memory serves. We were there on one of our several Pullman trips to visit either one or both of our collegiate offspring.
What our memory clearly relates is that the Cougars, trailing by something like 10 of 11 points late in the game, scored to come within a touchdown.
Then their opponents fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Cougs recovered. A comeback victory looked to be in the offing. But no.
There had been 12 WSU players on the field during the kickoff. The fumble was nullified; the Cougars were penalized, and their bright chance for victory was gone.
In the next day’s Spokane press, sports writer John Blanchette cited that play as a perfect example of the saying, “They Couged.’’
The term “They Couged” had long been a byword on the WSU campus, to be used whenever the Cougars found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, a frustrating but rather common occurrence.
However, this was the first time the saying ”They Couged”” had been offered publicly. And Blanchette was simply pointing it out.
But the Seattle press, which promptly picked up on this juicy tidbit, mistakenly credited Blanchette with originating the term.
But the fact that the term “They Couged” was already a part of WSU lore was made clear to me the day following the game.
On his return trip from Eastern Washington, the Old Sport stopped in Olympia to visit his son Mick, then a recent WSU grad who was beginning his career there as a teacher.
When we related the previous day’s doings to Mick and a friend who was also an ex-WSU student. they exclaimed almost in perfect unison, “They Couged!’’
In recent years some Johnny-come-latelys have extended the term to “They Couged IT.’’ Personally, we think the first version, being both the original one and more succinct, is far better.
All of which brings us up to the Husky-Cougar pleasantries of last Saturday, when the Cougars came back from a 28-10 deficit to win in overtine.
If the above sequence had been reversed, with the Huskies coming from way behind to prevail, the applicable terminology would have been obvious. But how to speak of this one?
Would one say that the UW team Couged? Or would one say they Huskied?
Feel free to call it your own way.