It is the typical scene.
The venue is relatively empty but for the minions putting in their work. Head honchos standing in front of cameras armed with a cacophony of sound bites that the public never tires of hearing. Countless beat reporters scramble from station to station asking awkward questions in hopes of finding just one publishable nugget. Talking heads taking to the airways babbling about minutiae that the typical observer could never hope to fully digest, nor care to attempt to.
You probably think that I'm writing about Washington Huskies Spring Camp. Nope. I was thinking more about Congress in an election year.
Three words come to mind whenever I think about a typical session of Congress: dull, dull, and dull. In an election year, that summation requires modification: lip-biting, eye-watering, groan-inducing tediousness.
Before I get my C-SPAN on and tear down a path that is sure to elicit churlish emails from angry sports fans who abhor my allegedly frequent jaunts into the world of politics, let me acknowledge that this article really is about football. I was just kidding about that politics thing.
I know many of you were agog in anticipation of my commentary on the Sarah Palin speech in Wisconsin from a few weeks ago, but I fear that I am going to disappoint you. In fact, I might disappoint most if not all of you with this piece.
The truth is, I'm bored. B-O-R-E-D. Bored. I find this spring camp as boring as a session of Congress. As boring as stories of other people's babies. As boring as watching paint dry. As boring as a Ty Willingham press conference.
Yup, Washington Huskies Spring Camp is that boring.
To Chris Petersen, I'd venture a guess that this lassitude is a sign of success. In the old days, Spring Camp was a source of drama. Head coaches would make wild-ass promises. Prominent players would suffer major injuries. Other players would make outlandish proclamations. Position battles would be significantly mishandled. Assistants would go off message and make off-the-hip assessments that would stoke the fires of the fanbase.
Counterproductive? Probably. But, man, was it delicious.
Now what do we have? Yeah, Kaleb McGary got hurt, but coach says "he's fine." Yeah, Trey Adams is being held out, but no big deal. The offense is advancing. The defense is putting in its work. Special teams won't change under coach Gregory. There are so many people making strides that coach can't review the entire "laundry list." Everybody has something to work on. Everyone is on track.
It is so dull that even the one salacious development two weeks in is being poo-pooed. Isaiah Renfro, UW's great hope for a breakout WR, is absent from camp and facing a prospective redshirt season. Coach's reply? It is not discipline-related and he's still a Dawg. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.
Of course, Husky fans won't stand for this. They are looking to fill the void by banging on the doors of those in the media and those of us who blog. Instead of position battles, we have questions about Jake Browning's deep ball. Instead of breakout stars, we have questions about the return John Ross's speed. Instead of predictions, we have questions about what is different in Year No. 3. Answers? Not so much.
With the news flow constricting, the media coverage around the team is expanding. Both Adam Jude and Christian Caple seem to be accelerating their publication and social media outputs. The Dawgman guys have really upped their games with their podcast and video productions. The numbers on this blog are off the charts. All of this isn't happening by accident. The hunger for Huskies news is palpable.
Unfortunately, all we have to talk about are things like how weather is affecting the punting game and how new coaches Hamdan and Malloe are adjusting to their respective new roles. The most exciting thing that the average fan has to look forward to is trying to figure out who Kim Grinolds is talking about whenever he gaffes on somebody's name.
Oh, where have ye gone, Steve Sarkisian?
Obviously, I'm having a little fun with my tongue-in-cheek tirade against the boredom of this camp. Neverthless, the truth of the matter is that this really is the most boring spring of the Chris Petersen era. That fact, by itself, is a testament to the process that Petersen, him always told us was going to take 18 to 24 months. In his third spring at the helm, Petersen finally has a team whose players know the routine, manage their social media activities and are collectively on-message in their media interactions. The coaching staff has transitioned the team from a series of dramas to a system of details, and the end result is a spring camp that is executing with machine-like precision.
That isn't to say that there isn't news to speak about. The return of John Ross. The opportunities being presented to running backs Jomon Dotson and Lavon Coleman. Joe Mathis at BUCK. Elijah Qualls at tackle. Position changes for Will Dissly and former QB Jeff Lindquist. The stories of offensive linemen making moves like Coleman Shelton at center and Devin Burleson at tackle. All of these things are matters that qualify as news and have been covered in detail. The thing is that we've finally reached the point in the evolution of this team where all of those types of developments are now treated as routine. Newsy? Yes. Big deal? Not really.
It's just part of how Chris Petersen runs the teams. Highs not too high. Lows not to low. Process, process, process. The results come during the season.
This evolution to the drab was always the plan. I give credit to the coaching staff for getting this program fully installed with lean sigma precision. I give the media credit for keeping up the coverage and exploring every crack in hopes of producing insights to bring to the fans. Most of all, I give credit to the players for making this transition. Football is an emotional game and players are expected to tap into that emotion to fuel their motivation. This team, however, has bought into the notion of the process and seem to truly embrace the idea of the "long haul." To maintain their level of intensity and competitiveness in an environment where the coaching staff doesn't employ cheesy motivational tactics is a testament to both their commitment and their character.
Much is expected of the Huskies and Chris Petersen in the 2016 season. Players like Budda Baker, Myles Gaskin, Sidney Jones and Azeem Victor are garnering the attention of the national media. Coaches like Jimmy Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski are starting to be recognized as "elite" for their positions. The stellar UW defense is no longer a secret. The Huskies are increasingly spoken about as a darkhorse Pac-12 champion pick. Interest among fans is at all-time high.
Just don't tell Chris Petersen. He's got some grass to go watch grow.