No room for arrogance or bitterness in Apple cup win

How healthy is the cross-state football rivalry between the University of Washington and Washington State University?

That question must have entered quite a few minds as the Apple Cup wound down to a lopsided end. As happy as the day was for the Huskies, it was difficult for the Cougars. Judging from the postgame remarks of many players, though, the focus still seemed to be where it belongs: on the rewards and benefits of disciplined, long-range preparation. There seems to be little rub-it-in-your-face arrogance among the Husky players or they-deserve-nothing bitterness among the Cougs.

As Herald sports writer John Sleeper wrote on Monday, however, the victorious Huskies’ fans have built a collective reputation over recent years for poor behavior. Around the Pacific-10 Conference, the Husky rooters are widely viewed as obnoxious.

It really shouldn’t be a complete surprise. Anyone paying attention to the UW football scene has caught hints. No warning signal has been as obvious as the dismissive way some Husky boosters viewed former Coach Jim Lambright for producing merely good results in very difficult circumstances. The fans’ sense of entitlement was clear — and arrogant.

Even while celebrating the on-field successes of a courageous team, UW supporters ought to take note of how they are seen by others. There would be a huge advantage in paying attention now. Husky fans still have time to return to a tradition of civility before they earn a permanent rap. After all, the chants of rich boosters to run up the score on Saturday were fortunately futile. UW Coach Rick Neuheisel saved the team from long-lasting embarrassment by keeping his offense from a final-minute touchdown.

Over the years, UW fans have managed to make Husky Stadium a more friendly place than many college and pro sports arenas. But being better than horrible isn’t anything to brag about. UW fans ought to remember the gracious behavior of Nebraska fans, both at home and on the road. The Nebraskans manage the joy-filled enthusiasm which sports ought to engender everywhere. That can be achieved here, too. Consider the Mariners’ generally positive atmosphere, which led a surprised Alex Rodriguez to thank fans for not booing him during a late-season slump.

When one team is on top, its fans should be able to enjoy victory with a sense of perspective that respects and appreciates the efforts of opponents. That’s a challenge any institute of higher education and its alumni ought to be able to tackle.

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