SEATTLE — They’re happy and they should be, bless their little hearts.
They’ve taken a beating on the football field, as well as in the media and among alums. Six weeks’ worth of losing took its toll on Washington. What formerly were lively, upbeat crowds of players at media gatherings have turned into a trickle of two or three players, none especially eager to relive the previous Saturday and answer questions about why they stink.
Can’t blame them, really. Ever since Tyrone Willingham came on as head coach, he’s been preaching the power of positive thinking more than Norman Vincent Peale.
But we’re all human.
This program has lost six straight games in each of the past three seasons. A team prepares itself each week. The players don’t run themselves ragged and bash each other in practice so they can lose six Saturdays in a row.
Losing creates doubt. It creates questions about the process. Sometimes, it points fingers. It has, certainly, in this case.
That’s why you can’t underestimate the importance of Washington’s win over Stanford Saturday.
By the same token, it’s unwise to overestimate it as well.
Players may repeat the mantra created by the coaching staff, but to think every single kid believes every word, especially after, say, loss No. 4, is simply unrealistic.
That’s why Saturday set off a glow inside the players this week. Nothing like a victory to adjust attitudes. And that’s good. Who likes to see young people suffer?
Center Juan Garcia was asked about that Monday.
“I’m here talking to you guys, right?” he laughed. “I’m a sore loser. I’ll pout like a little girl. I hate losing. I can’t stand it. Last week was tough (a loss to Arizona). I was struggling. I’m smiling today. No negative thoughts.”
Kids expect results in the form of victories, but not as much as alums and boosters do.
Not many take into account that the Huskies are playing the toughest schedule in the country. Many looked at the schedule and still predicted six, seven, even eight victories.
I’m all for positive thinking, but puh-leeze.
The Huskies beat the Cardinal Saturday, 27-9. It probably was Willingham’s most important victory in his nearly three-year span here, especially coming off a torturous home defeat to Arizona that set off smoke in the streets.
Lose to Stanford, and the anti-Willingham faction would have rioted. Willingham knows that. He loved what happened Saturday as much as anyone, but he understands the limited ramifications.
“It’s just a start of where we need to go,” Willingham said. “Is it better to have that than the alternative? Absolutely.”
Some view the victory against Stanford as some sort of sign that the program is ready to turn the corner. They see the Huskies stringing together four more wins and sneak into a bowl game.
They’re setting themselves up for disappointment.
Remember. It’s Stanford. It’s not Ohio State. The stars were aligned perfectly one night and the Cardinal stunned USC. It doesn’t mean Stanford’s as good as USC. This wasn’t the signature win the program needs to put it over the top.
Anyone who watched Saturday knows what Stanford is about. It’s got a shiny, sparkly new stadium, but there’s a reason it was about 20 percent full Saturday.
I rarely listen to sports-talk radio because I don’t put a lot of stock in what’s on the air. Curiosity got to me, though, on Monday and I tuned in.
First thing I heard was someone saying it didn’t matter that Stanford is horrible. In fact, the voice said, to point out that Stanford is bad is garbage. Washington needed a win. It got it, so watch out for the rest of the season.
So we shouldn’t take into account the caliber of opponent? Would he have said the same had Washington beaten Ohio State, that it wasn’t important that the Buckeyes are ranked No. 1?
Whoa, hoss! A little perspective, please.
“We’ve got to be very focused and take it one at a time,” Willingham said. “I don’t think we can let ourselves look much past that. I thought during our stretch of unsuccessful games that we did some things well. Our two games prior to this one, we put up 75 points. I think that’s good. Unfortunately, we gave up a lot.
“We’ve done some good things. Hopefully, we can continue to do good things, put ourselves in a much more positive position and get the wins.”
Enjoy the moment, sure. But take it for what it is.
Sports columnist John Sleeper: firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach Sleeper’s blog, go to www.heraldnet.com/danglingparticiples.