In Our Opinion
While Washington State University and the University of Washington fought valiantly for bragging rights in the Apple Cut last week, the Eastern Washington University Eagles were counting down to their first FCS playoff game of this season Dec. 1. It’s the first of many we hope and is against Wagner of Staten Island, N.Y. this Saturday at 3 p.m. at Roos Field.
There were 30,544 fans packing Martin Stadium in Pullman for the annual rivalry game, despite WSU’s then 2-9 losing record and UW’s fourth-place finish in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, here in Cheney, only 6,011 ventured to see the Eagles scrape out a win against UC Davis Nov. 10 in their final home game of the season. That’s a difference of 86.9 percent of Martin Stadium’s capacity to 69.9 percent to Roos Field’s capacity in the last home game of the season.
Eastern has faced an uphill battle for a long time in gaining respect and admiration from both Cheney and the greater Spokane community. That struggle continues, despite being the only football team in Washington state with a national championship won on the field. Instead, EWU is more of an afterthought in the world of local sports.
We all know of the term “home-field advantage,” which refers to the ability of teams to win on their own turf. It stems from a loyal fan base that attends each game, acting as a cohesive unit. The fans really are the 12th man. Players feed directly off their energy and the games become an event. The West Plains and Cheney have been an integral part of Eastern’s success, offering them support along their arduous journey to the playoffs.
The Eagles need that support now, more than ever. The road to Frisco runs through Cheney.
They won’t receive the headliner treatment in Spokane media, as evidenced by their final game of the season in Portland Nov. 17. They won’t have traffic backed up along SR 904 for 15 miles, like highways leading in to Pullman were last week.
No, Eastern will remain third in Spokane sports coverage, behind WSU and Gonzaga. Even if they were ranked No. 2 in the nation. Sure, the local media will pay attention to Eastern once the story gets big, but we’re already at an incredible level.
Earning the 2010 national championship was unprecedented for EWU. It spawned the Gateway Project, the incredible planned expansion of Roos Field, new transfers and a higher awareness of the university at the national level. Even Vice President Joe Biden, an alumnus of the University of Delaware, witnessed first-hand the talent of EWU in the national championship game. The university has been a big source of support for the city of Cheney. Now it’s time for the city to once again return that support.
It’s time to capture the energy coming from Eastern. The road to the championship runs through Cheney. It’s time to make a figurative roadblock right at Washington and First streets.
Mayor Trulove, it’s time to formally rally support. Let’s declare December as Eastern Football Month in the city of Cheney.
It’s time to make our team’s playoff run go all the way to Frisco, Texas once again. It’s time for some fun intimidation, as only Cheney football fans know. It’s time to bring some heat to The Inferno at Roos Field.
Get to it, Cheney. Set the attitude for the rest of our region.
Paint the town red.