BY Art Thiel 07:45PM 12/08/2010

Apple (Cup) maggots make an ugly picture

If the iceball throwers can’t be caught, at least show them to world

Apple Cup 2010 postgame

Police had their hands full at Martin Stadium when rowdy students took to the field after the Apple Cup / Noel Zanchelli, Sportspress Northwest

Attempting to curb the knucklehead sports fan population is a task more suited to those who built Grand Coulee Dam, given their experience with projects that take many years and thousands of people.

But the latest episode of Apple Cup mayhem, the difficult hire nevertheless seems worth a try.

The convergence of rivalry, alcohol, students and stupidity is rarely a pretty thing, although it is certain to be a TV reality show.

“Are You Smarter than a Drunk Freshman?” will feature a series of questions put to meadow voles.

Starting early in the game, then gaining momentum with the halftime field appearance of the bands of the University of Washington and Washington State, a besotted part of the Martin Stadium crowd descended into the lower vertebrates section of the life-forms ladder.

Due to no particular developments on the field, they threw chunks of ice, the remnants of a midweek snowstorm that didn’t get shoveled away, as well as plastic bottles filled with frozen and unfrozen liquids.

Both perpetrators and victims favored neither purple nor crimson, although the homestanding Cougs had the numbers.

“All of us on the field were looking up in the stands, wondering why they were throwing iceballs,” said Noel Zanchelli, Sportspress Northwest’s video director who was working on the sidelines.  “Then we started wondering why nobody was doing much about it.”

As the game ended, Huskies fans, despite admonishments from the public address announcer, police and unarmed private security – and to the mouth-breathing delight of the Cougars inebriates – rushed the field and became targets.

The aim of the mouth-breathers, as with their likely fates in life, was random. One of chunks smashed into the right side of Zanchelli’s head.

“If it had been one of the frozen water bottles, I’d have been knocked out,” he said.

He managed to stay on his feet, and kept shooting video that has made the rounds of local TV stations and YouTube. But the iceball was more than a flesh wound. The subsequent headaches, dizziness and nausea, which made for a wretched six-hour drive back and a slow return to work, were standard symptoms of a concussion.

He was hardly the first media guy plunked in the line of duty at a frozen football game, and wouldn’t be mentioned here except that he was one of many injured.

His video report showed band members and fans from both sides wounded by projectiles. More than 30 people were treated for injuries at the Pullman Fire Dept.’s aid station and ambulance on the field, and eight were hospitalized.

Campus police made 21 arrests, including three for reckless endangerment and one assault (14 were minors in possession of alcohol). Another 30 were ejected from the stadium.

But according to Lt. Steve Hansen, the numbers weren’t that unusual for an Apple Cup, and he’s been on the WSU campus police force for 27 years.

“There’s always a little more for the Apple Cup,” Hansen said by phone. “But it’s pretty disappointing when everybody’s doing it – fans on both sides throwing objects into their own fans and teams.”

WSU campus police were supplemented by 11 members of the Spokane police department, as well as four from UW’s campus police. And they had a private contractor supplying unarmed security force. But it wasn’t nearly enough to quell the mayhem, including psot-game fights among fans on the field.

Melees are hardly unusual events at college football games, where judgment and alcohol are usually in inverse ratios that test the frontiers of mathematical probability as well as liver capacity. Throw in the availability of nature’s weaponry, and it’s a Cro-Magnon’s dream.

Nor is it unique to WSU. Snowball episodes are a part of football lore, including Seattle. On the occasion of Mike Holmgren’s final game as Seahawks coach, his post-game walk-around of Qwest Field to say goodbye was received warmly by most, but was speckled with dozens of snowballs that came close to Holmgren and peppered his entourage. And this is the guy who took these “fans” of the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

Holmgren wasn’t hurt physically, but later confessed to some emotional injury. There are some times when a fella just doesn’t want to visit with the back end of humanity.

WSU fans still have a hard time topping (bottoming?) themselves during an Apple Cup awhile back when they hurled dog poop in the sideline direction of then-UW athletic director Barbara Hedges.

“I feared for my life,” she said later. Nevertheless, it was good training for managing football coach Rick Neuheisel.

Still, it’s time to bring a little more teeth to the Apple Cup sideshow. Adding numbers to law enforcement would be nice, but it isn’t really practical.

As one deputy put it to Zanchelli along the sideline, “We don’t have a jail big enough.”

What might be more useful is having civilian crowd-sourcing provide some restraint. Since everyone seems to be packing still and video cameras now, photographic evidence presented to security people during the game might prove a deterrent. Nothing these days like photos following someone through social networks to a job application.

A visual Rat-on-a-Frat-Boy campaign has merit, Hansen said.

“The tools have helped,” he said. “We’re looking at photographs now from fans and the professionals at the games to see if we can identify people.”

Stiffer punishments are welcome too. It would be good to know ahead of another Pullman Apple Cup that anyone convicted of mayhem would be sentenced to watch ALL Cougars games for five years.

Cruel and unusual, perhaps, but an important public-safety message would be sent.


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