Bad Apples
Young Kwak photo

Cougar and Husky fans, I can feel your pain.

The cancellation of this year's Apple Cup, the first time the game won't be played since a World War II-induced pause in 1943 and 1944, is a gut punch for college football fans looking forward to a sense of some normalcy the day after Thanksgiving. Now you're left to shop Black Friday online and maybe watch the Oregon-Oregon State "Civil War" game while you chow down on leftovers.

COVID-19 cancellations have become commonplace during this strange sporting year, and while clearly real tragedies happen every day due to this disease that's killed roughly 260,000 in the United States and 1.4 million worldwide, the loss of a rivalry game right now is just another steaming load added to a seemingly endless stream of shit that is 2020.

The fact this is the first cancellation since America was off fighting the Nazis (remember when Americans fought Nazis?) shows how significant a moment we're living through. I often question why colleges across the country were hell-bent on playing football in the midst of a pandemic (TV money, duh), but I understand that the players want to play and the coaches want to coach. That's the "normal" for them, and they're navigating this year just like we fans, grasping at anything positive we can. And yes, playing a football game can be that positive thing for many.

This year's Apple Cup was shaping up to be more interesting than the last several years, when former WSU coach Mike Leach would routinely get crushed by UW-led Chris Petersen. This year, both the Cougs and Huskies have new head coaches after Petersen retired and Leach got lured away by Mississippi State (see, 2020 isn't all bad). Now the Cougs are led by Nick Rolovich, who brought a fun style of offense from Hawaii, and the Huskies are led by Jimmy Lake, a North Central High School grad. Rarely do you get two new coaches starting jobs at rival schools at the same time, so this Apple Cup had a little added intrigue.

My alma mater, the University of Utah, has a rivalry game every year against BYU, and it also took a pause during World War II. Then, due to conference realignments (money-driven, of course), the so-called "Holy War" was interrupted for 2014 and 2015. For a rabid fan, it was like a year without Christmas — albeit a Christmas with a lot of swearing, drinking and missionary jokes. Thankfully, the teams made a deal to continue their series that goes back to 1896. But, naturally, it's not happening this year.

There's some talk of trying to reschedule the Apple Cup for later this weird year. That offers some hope for fans, but like most things in 2020, don't bet the house on it. ♦

Fortune Feimster @ First Interstate Center for the Arts

Sat., Sept. 30
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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the former editor of the Inlander. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied at the University of Utah and University of...