Like many of you husky faithful, the triumphant return to Montlake was a magical moment that will last a lifetime. I share my story in hopes to hear fellow dawgs offer their viewpoint and emotions from that special day.
This story of course begins on Saturday, November 5th, 2011 as the mighty men in purple took the field in an attempt to end the streak against the evil empire of the south. We all know how that day ended. I remember walking away from that stadium angry and ashamed. Partly because of the outcome that day, knowing I would have to endure another year of green and yellow insults, and partly because I was so irritated that the powers that be decided this would be the way we send off our old beauty. Not with the storied tradition of another hometown beat down of our cross state apple eating little brother, but at the merciless defeat of those pompous jerks of Eugene. I stewed in anguish in what felt like a 3 day car ride down 1-5 and tried to process my feelings. I was angry at the UW and angry at myself. I felt as though I had just left the bedside of my terminal grandparent, and instead of leaving them with loving words and I kiss, I had berated them for not leaving me their vintage Brunswick pool table in the will and left them with a string of curse words.
Alas, as it does every year, the autumn sun rose again on husky football - only this time in new and unfamiliar confines. Century link field proved an adequate temporary home for husky football. Sure there were memorable moments. The Stanford upset was particularly memorable, including my first ever "field rush" and a chance on field meeting with my celebrity crush - Elise Woodward. Also memorable was sitting shivering in the hawks nest with my best friend watching the bishop barrel in for the bowl game inducing touchdown. But none of it was the same. This wasn't husky stadium. This wasn't home.
The weeks had turned to months, the months eclipsed more than a year, and the hunger to return to Montlake grew ever more intense. The day arrived to select seats in the "new" stadium by the lake. It was a day filled with chaos, pandemonium, and hand-holding a few over the hill men uncomfortable with the thought of wireless technology determining the next chapter of our legacy on the lake. Surrounded by a half dozen internet enabled devices, my father, uncle and I clicked away furiously to once again lay claim to the hallowed ground my dearly departed grandparents taught us were the ideal latitude and longitude to make your fervent WOOFS rattle the noggins of opposing quarterbacks. We locked up the new "family seats" as close as we could to the ancient map, and now the countdown was on to retake Montlake.
The summer of 2012 was like one I've never experienced. Nearly every night I lulled myself to sleep with memories of my favorite place on earth. The smell of the grill, the sound of the band, the sight of the sunlight glistening off the water all danced in my head. The triumphant feeling of my 10 year old self finally scaling to the top of the rock wall. It was just a matter of days before we could go "home" - and those days couldn't pass quickly enough.
On august 30th, all husky's eve, I organized an overnight pre-game party with a number of my husky faithful brethren. The night consisted of more hours of "husky classics" replays than sleep, and by the dawn we were hurtling down the freeway towards commencement bay and a date with the Euphoria. The Euphoria is a 60 foot pleasure boat captained by my good friend and fellow season ticket holder Jim Wagenblast. Jim has attended every rose bowl held in the last 30 years and is one of the few people I know that bleeds purple and gold as much as I do. Myself and a dozen other members of the husky navy left port that morning around 6 am and set sail for our date with destiny - our long awaited rekindled romance with husky stadium.
As we motored northward and soaked up a sweet sunny Puget Sound morning, we popped a bottle of champagne. As the most poetic of the husky navy, I offered the following toast to bless our journey: "today - we retake Montlake! May our feet be fast, our tackles be fierce, and god bless Keith Price!" And on that day, God did bless Keith Price, and all of Husky Nation with some of the most beautiful and picturesque weather and scenery any Washington State Visitors Bureau director could ever hope to place on a postcard. As we made our way up the coast and through the locks, the reality of the situation began to sink in. We're back. Husky football is back.
As we traversed the familiar waters,the "float gate" grub was devoured, the wine flowed like - well wine, and a number of Georgetown brewing growlers met their quick and delicious demise. We honked our horn, bantered with a few wide-eyed broncos lucky enough to find themselves afloat, and danced on the deck to the intoxicating sounds of "tequila." And then, in the blink of an eye, we rounded the bend and there she stood in all her majesty. The familiar pointed peaks that evoke pure pride of the purple pack and cause all others that enter to recall the words "all I saw was purple." Yes she was new and improved, nearly re-built from the ground up, but the familiar face we had all been waiting to see was indeed there to greet us.
It was an unorganized scramble into the skiff, taking the shore to roam our hunting grounds as packs of wild dawgs. With ticket in hand, I couldn't stand to wait another second to sprint through the shiny new gates and soak in the atmosphere of my long lost friend. But I lost my dad. My dad. The man who first carried me on his shoulders inside the walls of these hallowed grounds. The place I learned that you can't sit set next to my grandma because she will bruise your ribs with over joyous elbows and blow out your eardrum with bellowing 5'0 barks. The place where I learned through strained binoculars that the most beautiful women on earth wear pleated purple and white skirts. The place where names like Hobart, Huard and Looker made me proud to one day be a Puyallup Viking alumn. I couldn't walk through those gates without my old man by my side.
So I waited. And called. And sent text messages. And ran around like a mad man trying to understand why a shuttle boat supposedly "right behind me" could take a full 30 minutes to arrive. But finally it did. We celebrated a slightly frowned upon toast under the eves of Hec Ed Pavillion, and stood in line to complete our homecoming. We smiled and shook hands with the friendly ticket takers and rushed through the concourse. We emerged through tunnel 217 and beheld the sight the eyes had been dreaming of. It was better than we ever could have imagined. Tears welled in my eyes, the same tears I felt exiting Qualcomm stadium after Jake Locked held the Holiday bowl trophy. I hugged my dad and we pointed to the sky. A silent gesture to thank my late grandfather for the enduring tradition he instilled on my family. We were husky's, and we were finally home.