As a measure of how the once-mighty Pac-10 hath fallen in men's basketball quality, the Village Pub in Magnolia as I sat at the bar at 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 27) awaiting the tipoff of the Dawg-Coug tiff had precisely 21 customers — oops, two just left.
Mind you, the VP ain't just some neighborhood joint. A few years ago arbiters at the Seattle P-I staged a "playoff" among sports bars. The VP, despite what some of us regarded as grub of a lesser aesthetic quality than what you get at other beer, burger and bee-ess venues, was adjudged numero uno among sports pubs.
This was considered by many to be a triumph for a place called Wazzu because the Village Pub is unapologetically Coug territory, every bit as much as the Duchess in Ravenna is a den of Huskydom. VP owners have had ties to the Palouse institution, which would be apparent to visitors noting that employees wear the Washington State University crimson and gray.
But 21 customers in an expansive sports bar with a fire-department max of 97? Where virtually all the wall space was alive with plasma screens tuned to the action in Pullman?
Waiters said they expected more traffic. Then again, this is Pac-10 men's basketball, a league in which any team seemingly can beat any other and none seems likely to get beyond the first round of the NCAA tournament, possibly because only one club, Cal, may be invited.
And yet, those who actually watched the Wazzu-Dawg game may have found themselves at least perversely entertained. It was sloppy and mostly one-sided, though the Cougs led for a few possessions during a back-and-forth second half. Washington'ês 59-52 win means the Huskies still have a chance to impress the powers that be that they belong in the plans for March Madness. Wins later this week at the Oregon schools would leave the Dawgs at 21-9 going into the league tournament, victory at which would itself qualify UW for the NCAAs.
But, here again, this is the Pac-10 of 2009-10. On Feb. 27 the Oregon programs triumphed against the Los Angeles schools — on the road, yet, hence nothing seems impossible.
In any case, the 16-12 Cougs can't possibly finish the season with a losing record. Moreover, help in general seems to be on the way in the Palouse. In attendance for the basketball Apple Cup game was one Bill Moos, the new Coug athletic director late of the University of Oregon. Moos brings great expectations about Wazzu sports programs that have been languishing for years.
One doesn'êt exactly expect overnight miracles from former Coug footballer Moos. At the very least, though, his work may result in enough enthusiasm to bring a few more of the curious to the Village Pub once in a while.