I got my tickets and parking pass in the mail a couple of days ago. It's real. The 2014 season is going to actually happen.
When September 6th finally rolls around, the tradition of Husky football resumes again. There's a whole group of people that I rarely see outside of football games, and it's great to spend some time before the game walking through the E12 parking lot catching up. The last few years, a poster that's been scarce of late but was a regular for a long time (Jack - T9O Dawg) would come by in his signature faded purple overalls, looking for a Dead Guy Ale. I always try to make sure I have one for him.
After a couple of hours of food and drink, there's that familiar anticipation that builds on the walk from the WAC up to our seats in the North upper deck. It's usually a fairly slow walk due to the number of people, but there are the sites of the game to take in along the way. The players getting the last few minutes of warm-up prior to the game, before the band takes over the field for the national anthem. It seems the cheerleaders are usually behind the east end zone at that time, so, well, y'know.....Great people watching all the way along. People that don't know each other high-fiving just because they're wearing the same color, visiting fans, students, people that have obviously over-imbibed and might not last all four quarters. It's all there.
After kickoff, there are some traditions during each game that make up an important aspect of the tradition of Husky Football. Here are three.
Option #1: The Siren
Just about every team has some sort of noise maker when the team hits the field or scores points. I don't think anyone else in the country employs a WWII-era air raid siren. It's loud, it's shrill, and it's got to be annoying as hell to visiting fans.
Reasons for it: unique sound, symbolism
Reasons against: All teams use some sort of noise-maker at the exact same moments
Option #2: The "Go!" "Huskies!" Chant
Again, not really unique, but when it's rockin', it's one of the coolest parts of being at a game. Especially right after there's a big shift in momentum in the Dawgs' favor. Or when the stadium (prior to the remodel, anyway) would shake with it in the seconds before kickoff of a big game.
It's going to be interesting to see how it works moving forward. When the students were on the 50-yard line, it was easy for the stadium to simply divide north/south for the "go" and the "huskies." With the students in the end zone in Century Link in 2012, it just never really seemed to work. It was better last season, but it sort of seemed like once the students began the cheer, a lot of fans would randomly pick one or the other, or simply cheer both words. Some organization would really make this work again.
Reasons for: Fan involvement, decibels, plays well on TV
Reasons against: Can be a mess when it doesn't work, not really unique
Option #3: The Ascending Chord Progression for Each First Down on a Drive
I'm not aware of any other school that does this. It's pretty cool once the count gets to 5 and 6 first downs, and the band members really sustain the last chord. Unfortunately, the pace of play in 2013 often times made it impossible for the band to finish the progression before the next play was snapped. The price of glory, I suppose...
Reasons for: Unique, plays well on TV
Reasons against: A little boring
Option #4 (yes, you get four this time): The Percussion Section and Cheerleaders Switching Roles
The female cheerleaders play a simple cadence, and the drummers engage in some stellar choreography. They usually do it at a couple of different locations around the stadium. Surprising to no one, the cheerleaders are much better drummers than the drummers are dancers. I'm not sure if this is unique to the UW or not. I've never seen it anyplace else.
Reasons for: Kitschy, brings the cheerleaders around
Reasons against: No attempt to mix up cadence or dance in years, no real point
One option that was most definitely NOT considered was the swim team, prior to the program being cancelled, attending games in their speedos. Not necessary, especially on a cold night.
Before getting to the verdict, there are two traditions that would absolutely win in a landslide here if either was still active. The first, and one of the sweetest sounds of the game, was stadium announcer Lou Gellerman's "Hello, Dawg fans..." right before kickoff. There was just something about his tone when he said it that made it sound (to me anyway) like there was an implied "And if you're not a Dawg fan, prepare for a lousy day" at the end.
The second, of course, was Captain Husky. Barry Erickson was Captain Husky from 1985 until the old stadium was closed in 2011. During that time, his third-quarter routine varied from some sort of interaction with the opposing team's mascot, to the standard spell out of "HUSKIES," to stripping down to his Captain Husky underwear as the band played "The Stripper." Both he and the band director Bill Bissell got in a little trouble for that one. I'm sure it was a tough job from 2004 on, with only a handful of games worthy of the cheer. And to be perfectly honest, I'm glad there wasn't some attempt to pass the torch to a new Captain Husky - that this one was retired with Erickson.
The Verdict: The Ascending Chord Progression
This one was tough. The "Go, Huskies!" chant is my favorite, but it's really not unique, and it's sort of been a mess the last two seasons. It needs to get figured out. Until then, the chords can let opposing players and fans know how many first downs they've just given up. In a row.