What in the name of William Gerberding is going on across the various athletic ventures of the University of Washington? I, for one, would like to know.
Where to begin?
Such wonderful talent. Such huge potential. Such disappointing results.
There can be little doubt that the Huskies sundry athletic programs have never, all at once, seen this kind of influx of talent. All across the sports spectrum, Husky teams are brimming with such talent. This is no longer the University that wins championships in Crew and just hopes to compete in everything else. The Huskies are legitimately gaining access to talent across a variety of sports in ways that are unprecedented for our school. It is enthralling and addictive. It is what we all wished for and now it is here. Sports teams that are stocked with the goods.
Of course, we know about both Men's and Women's Crew. Think Olympics and 15 gold medals.
Chris Williams (Idaho) and Cheng-Tseung Pan (Taiwan) are huge talents at the foundation of Men's Golf.
Jazmine Davis and Kristi Kingma are WBB talents that could have played anywhere in the P12.
Jeremy Taiwo of Men's Track and Field is an elite talent.
Ditto that for Hooch Fagalay of the Softball team.
The talent is there. It has been attracted to UW like traffic is to the 520 bridge. One thing that Husky fans can't complain about is the personnel that has been recruited over the last decade across all of the sports. And, why shouldn't it come? Beautiful Campus with all the benefits befitting an urban setting? Check. Modern and well-funded Athletic Programs and facilities? Check. We aren't Cal, you know. Top shelf academics? Check. Much to the surprise and chagrin of UCLA fans, UW is and has consistently been a top 10 public university as ranked by a variety of well respected publications. Sunshine? Our recruits are more concerned about skin cancer than they are sun tans. Plus, we have some great Spray-Tan facilities in the neighborhood.
So, what's the problem?
For whatever reason, UW Athletics seems to bristle at the notion of harnessing that talent and actually delivering breakthrough moments. It hasn't all been bad, mind you. There isn't another athletic program in the world that has been as dominant as Husky Crew. Women's softball is just a few years removed from a remarkable run to a National Championship.
But, more often than not, us fans are left here in blogspace such as this lamenting on the question as to "what happened". It is an empty feeling to know that, more times than not, spectacular talents have been attracted to a UW program only to flame out, burn up, choke, freeze or otherwise disappear. What is it about this program that predisposes our athletes to such disappointment?
There are three possible explanations in my mind. The first of which is that, in fact, this situation exists at every university and that we are not unique in that regard. This shouldn't be surprising. The goal of every sports team in every school in every year is to compete first for a conference championship and second for a national championship. However, the number of teams that will actually reach that pinnacle is, by definition, a fraction of the total seeking that goal. When our team doesn't make that goal - or even come within sniffing distance of it - our immediate reaction is to look at everything "that went wrong" over the course of the season while conveniently overlooking all that went right. Case in point is this year's basketball team. I can't tell you how many fan comments have ripped on Aziz N'Diaye and his offensive ineptitude...or Abdul Gaddy's turnovers and poor perimeter shooting ... or Lorenzo Romar's inability to attract players to the team. But, where would we have been without N'Diaye's tough interior D and shot blocking? Where would we have been without Gaddy's overall solid play down the stretch? Where would we have been (not just this year) without the players that LoRo keeps sending to the NBA year in and year out?
The second explanation to the problem is also chronic across all schools but seems especially prevalent at UW - it is the tendency of all fanbases to over-value their own talent. I remember being struck with this notion during spring football practices last year in the midst of the run on injuries that the Husky squad endured. Amongst those injured was Nate Fellner (a name, I guarantee you, that I will have a very difficult time recognizing 10 years from now). When Nate went down, I was shocked to see the panic in the comments threads. While we all understood that the Husky LB corps was thin at the time, I couldn't comprehend the type of negative impact that many others were anticipating. I get that the reaction was really to the culmination of all the injuries but, seriously, you would have though Felix Hernandez's arm had just flown out of his socket and into the stands. A classic example of over ranking your own talent, Husky fans were collectively freaked out over an injury to a guy who, most likely, was never going to be an impact player.
The third explanation, and my personal favorite, is much more direct and, frankly, the most likely of all the explanations. The Huskies are cursed. Now, I'm not suggesting that they are stuck-in-perpetual-mediocrity-with-no-hope-for-breakthrough kind of cursed. We aren't Cal. I'm talking specifically about the types of curses that affect the individual student athlete and prevent them from realizing their potential at UW. This is clearly not a singular type of curse that hangs over the entire program for a millennium. Rather, it is a string of minor curses that eat away at the fabric of the various teams and cause great pain and consternation when the sum total of them is felt in the overall performance of any single team. Kavario Middleton - the Bonehead Curse. Kristi Kingma, Deontae Cooper and Colin Porter - The Brittle Body Curse. Spencer Hawes and Tony Wroten - the Diva Curse. Jake Locker - the Curse of Willingham. Abdul Gaddy and Keith Price - the Regression Curse. The 2011 MBB Team - the NCAA Hates UW Curse. These are just examples. There are many more if you just extend your gaze further back. Steve Emtman. Hope Solo. Jerramy Stevens. Billy Joe Hobert. Mark Pope. Brandon Roy. All of them ended up facing a different kind of adversity in their athletic lives - either during or after their college days - and all of them inextricably linked to the University of Washington.
Coincidence? I think not. Curses ... on us all.
Go ahead and feel sorry for yourself in the comments thread below.