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The Huskies Calendar 2004
By Richard Linde

It has been 11 years since those episodic events of 1992 that ravaged the Huskies’ football program and led to the resignation of one of the most successful coaches in college football history. With the hiring of Rick Neuheisel in 1999, we thought the loans, the fruit-basket scandal, and the Pac-9’s sanctions were behind us.

Four years later, they’ve been replaced by a lawsuit, missing pills, a boat ride, and a charge that the athletics office failed, in part, to monitor the activities of its personnel, some of whom participated in basketball pool, which an official at the UW said was okay to do as long as it was done outside of the athletics office.

Weighing this latest set of infractions, a firing of a coach and a self-imposed sanction, the Pac-10 council will make recommendations in March to the ten university presidents, who will most likely rubber stamp them and send them on to the NCAA infractions committee for final approval in June.

After all is said and done, more letters of reprimand, admonishment and caution will be placed in a zillion personnel folders, excepting that, perhaps, of the woman in charge.

But what is in store for Husky fans in 2004? Here’s the way I see it, and please forgive the corny imagery and whimsical parody below. I'm, well, just a rabid Dawg fan at heart.

The Huskies Calendar 2004

January (The Manual’s Class). Within the athletics department at the UW, a training course dealing with the 482 pages of the NCAA Division I Constitution, (the operating and administrative bylaws manual) is presented.  Mandatory attendance is required for all, its avoidance being similar to that of being excused from jury duty.

Inspirationally, but unintentionally, the class synopsis has been written by Art Thiel of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "A system needs to be in place so her managers, staffers and athletes know she (AD Barbara Hedges) will find out if they cut corners, neglect duty or abuse policy, and that she will come down so hard they will regret the day of their birth.”

It is the first day of class, and the barebones room is filled with dispirited faces. Meticulously chosen for its bareness, the classroom, two half-trailers sewn into one, mirrors the gloomy atmosphere inside and outside. 

Attendees thumb through the pages of their manuals, trying to stay awake. His eyes closing momentarily, one of the coaches drops his manual, then lurches forward in his seat with an "ugh," as if he'd been clipped from behind. He decides not to standup, to gut it out in his chair, to brazen it out with the teachings of the manual sitting down.

At least 30 new NCAA manuals are stacked neatly on a table at the front of the room. Five erudite lawyers--all of them temps, fortunately--sit at the back of the room along with a balding minion who shuffles viewgraphs that will convey their learnedness.

With a persona that is a marriage of Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton, the head instructor rises, then walks to the front of the room, a smile on her handsome face. She favors her right profile--her high cheekbones, strong chin, and sparkling smile serving it well. 

“Mr. Gilbertson!” Salutations more formal now, the familiar greetings of the past having disappeared, along with accompanying smiles. 

“Yes’m,” he says, as if he were Tom Sawyer answering Aunt Polly.

“For God’s sake, Mr. Gilbertson, are we living in the dark ages?”

“Yes, Ms. Hedges. I mean, no.” Rising from his chair, Mr. Gilbertson stands at attention, looking disheveled and sweaty, having just run some laps in Dempsey Indoor under the supervision of his personal trainer, a former UW coach. He clasps his manual to his side, looking like a country preacher carrying his bible. Some of the pages are waterlogged, the manual having expanded even more in a midsection that looks like fat jiggling in a slim-down gym.

“Recite your general order 10.3. And tuck your damned shirt in,” she says in a bumptious tone.

“Yes, Ms. Hedges” Gibertson looks flustered, trying to tuck his shirt into his pants, despite a tightened belt that he doesn’t dare loosen because of women in the room. He brushes his hair back without thinking and his manual tumbles to the floor with a mushy “gerplunk.” A laugh from in back falls off abruptly.

Finally, he recites the general order in the lowest baritone voice he can muster. “I will not accept or solicit a bet in a basketball pool.”

“Wrong! Ms. Richardson, please help him out.”

“Yes, Ms. Hedges.” Standing at attention, with a smug look on her pretty face, looking like an 11-year old girl in a spelling bee standing over a crestfallen boy, she recites general order 10.3. “When in doubt, call either Miles Brand or Tom Hansen.”

Gilbertson throws both hands up in the air forlornly, but quickly returns them to his side under the glare of Ms. Hedges.

“Mr. Gilbertson, give me 50,” she shouts, in a fishwife’s voice, forgetting herself momentarily, for it is not her usual tone, either at home or at office. 

Jokingly, Gilbertson reaches for his wallet, grinning sheepishly like the red-headed McMurphy, looking around the room for support. Even his assistants stare straight head, not a glint of emotion in their eyes. No one laughs or even snickers. Sneering at his waterlogged manual on the floor, she hurls a new one at him which he manages to fumble.

“I was a lineman in college,” he jokes, but no one laughs.

Under the glare of her stare, Gilbertson drops to the floor and begins his pushups.

Staring at her ragamuffin coach, a troubled Hedges reflects on the past madness at Montlake. Oh, Rick, if you hadn’t lied to me; if thine own heart had been true.

Outside, the beat writers huddle under umbrellas that spit water from an unrelenting rainstorm. The can hear someone groan from inside the classroom, as if he were in pain.

“Jeez, it’s a torture chamber in there,” one of them says worriedly. Inside the pocket of his raincoat, the voice recorder is palm-sweat-wet as he clutches it. His editor told him to get an interview with her, and he is trying to think of a question that won’t annoy her.

“Yeah, she came in like a lamb and is going out like a lion. I mean even Thiel is afraid of her. Levesque won’t go near her, not even in an airport. Cathy says Newnham’s voice quavers when he calls her on the phone.”

“Let Cathy write her own freaking story.”

Epilogue: If the teachings of the manual's course had permeated the Montlake milieu twelve years ago, and in subsequent years, well...?  But then again, shouldn't responsible people act responsibly? Must they be led by the nose? Or does the stark atmosphere of the classroom reflect an unforgiving society?

In February, a blazing light flashes momentarily at one end of the Husky tunnel. All the letters of intent for the 2004 recruiting class have been faxed. “I’m not going to take that crap from her anymore, yes’m, yes’m, yes’m,” the head coach mutters as he pours through the faxes. "And they said I couldn't recruit."

He stands at mock attention, imitating his boss, "Mr. Gil-bert-son, recite for us the fourth quatrain of the Pac-10 Coach's Manual."

"Zapped with X's and O's,
Lost in the hair of his chest.
On the battlefield err it flows,
 Is a Pfizer riser on Destiny's quest."

In April, number eight’s pads are so low that they burn Turf rubber with a squeal. Quarterbacks spiral passes with Elway-crosses targeting receivers. “Wear the X of the nose, baby, next time you pose.” Pads collide with an Owens’ pop, out days of yore. Off an option pitch, a bullish runner races ahead of a passel of pursuers down a narrow street in virtual Pamplona.

"No one barks in our tunnel, but us Dawgs," is the mantra carried into fall.

It is time to bring back the purple jerseys.

In June, the NCAA hands down its edict, which Washington accepts obligingly, almost eagerly, almost Gerberdingly, for it ends one year of hell. Barbara Hedges retires.

In September, fans tailgate, attend games and make much noise by shouting, screaming and booing. With each score and wail of the siren, the old seaplane with the drawn up purple wings symbolically uses Lake Washington as its runway, its noise deafening. The mountain stands tall and white, weeping from the thrill of it all, its tears hastened by the energy expelled from the plane and its 72,000 virtual passengers, silently saying nobody can kill the Husky spirit--sewn by Dobie and harvested by James.

The symbolic plane, once offering the best view in town, is revving for one more victory lap around the mountain. Be patient, the snowcapped mountain tells us sagely, it’ll encircle me soon enough.

Streaming out of the vestiges of Denny Field late at night, the wails of mascots, Spirits and Juniors of the past, can be heard on campus. They say the newly placed statue outside the stadium sheds tears of joy at times.

In October, fans trip to Palo Alto, the memory of C-Dub embracing their thoughts. Four years ago, C-Dub told the coach “All I want to do is play.” Curtis Earl Williams played his last earthly game in Palo Alto.

In December, it will be said that football at Husky Stadium is the most attended in the Pac-10—because it’s football at Washington.

We, the fans? Why, heck, all of us will be most supportive in 2004. Where else can you watch a soap opera, see a football game, ride a virtual seaplane, and view a Shakespearean tragedy, all morphed into one 

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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