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Why I’m a Fan of the Washington Huskies

Or, “How I learned to stop worrying and love the Keith Gilbertson era.”

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the refreshed UW Dawg Pound! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts section to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Like many Washington fans, it’s probably most accurate to say that I was born into my fandom. I grew up across the lake from Husky Stadium and my grandpa had football season tickets for decades before I was born. For many of us, those criteria are reason enough for purple blood to flow through our veins but I had to work a little bit harder.

My parents were baseball people rather than football folks and so it took me a long time to catch the Husky football bug. My first memory of Husky sports is from the first day of school after Winter break in 2001 when I was in (cough, cough) 5th grade. One of my classmates came to school with temporary Husky tattoos on each cheek and was decked out in purple Husky gear. Like any normal 11-year old, I loved me some temporary tattoos and so had to ask why her parents let her apply those right before school. I was quickly informed that Marques Tuiasosopo was the greatest quarterback who ever lived and that the UW Football team was Rose Bowl Champions. And that was reason enough.

The first game I remember actually watching (on TV, still not in person) was the loss to Ohio State in 2003. It’s still a miracle that my Husky fandom blossomed during the Keith Gilbertson era but it happened nonetheless. I didn’t watch every single game but I tried to watch as many as possible. Given the Mariana Trench level depths of the Tyrone Willingham era, I might not have gone any further than being a fair-weather fan if not for Brandon Roy, and Lorenzo Romar.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Washington
It ended poorly, but thank you again to Lorenzo Romar for sparking my love for Husky Basketball
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

My first Husky basketball memory is of the 2005 NCAA Selection Show when the Dawgs were awarded a #1 seed. At that point in time I was the definition of a bandwagon basketball fan. I happened to start watching at the end of the most successful season in 50 years. But I kept watching both the football and basketball programs throughout the rest of high school and when it came time to pick a college to attend I never really gave any other school serious consideration.

The depths of my fandom would be tested the following year though. I had to work during the first home game of the 2008 football season (the Jake Locker celebration penalty fiasco against BYU) so I was excited to attend my first game as a student against #3 Oklahoma. It was an incredibly gorgeous and sunny day and me and one of my good friends from high school got there as soon as the doors opened, 2 hours before kickoff. After all, it was general seating in the Dawg Pack and we wanted to get a great seat (we were also two innocents who had never before been exposed to tailgating). So we waited in the near 80-degree heat as the benches remained vacant for most of the next 2 hours realizing that maybe the average student wasn’t quite as enthused for the matchup as we were. But then, FOOTBALL!

I give you the first paragraph from the AP recap of that game:

Ho-hum. Sam Bradford threw for five more touchdowns. No. 3 Oklahoma again reached half-a-hundred points. The Sooners won big -- again.

55-14 was the final. My friend and I sat through every terrible second of that game while I quickly realized I had forgotten sunscreen and every part of me (including my eyes thanks to the on-field product) burned thoroughly. I sat through every game that year in what turned out to be one of the worst seasons any team has ever had in the history of the conference.

But I wouldn’t give back a second of the time that I spent watching the Dawgs get bludgeoned that year because that’s how you measure the strength of a person’s love for their team. It’s easy to show up amid a winning year but a truly passionate fandom is forged inside of the crucible of losing.

As the traffic on this site over the last year suggests, there are a lot of readers out there who adopted the designation of “Husky fan” within the last 12 months. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nobody over the age of 16 starts rooting for a team when they suck. But there’s no greater bonding experience than being able to say that you spent three months worth of Saturdays your freshman year of college watching some of the worst football ever played and that you stuck with the team through all of it. Rooting for a winning team is amazing but rooting for that same team knowing that winning represents redemption after years of struggle and sorrow makes it that much sweeter.

Once again, we’d like to hear how you became a UW fan so share your stories in the comments or in a FanPost if you’d like a shot at a $500 gift card. Go Dawgs!

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