ESPN’s College GameDay is visiting Pullman, Wash., in Week 8 for a critical Pac-12 North game between Washington State and Oregon.
Wherever GameDay goes, a party is there also. GameDay enhances the party, providing a scene for thousands of undergrads to stand in a field and yell for five or six hours (including the three when the show’s actually going on) well before kickoff.
This is a unique weekend, though.
GameDay had never been to Washington State, a place in the middle of nowhere that’s known for its ability to put on a good time. And Cougs fans have been itching for this chance for years, led by a group of devoted alums who have made sure a Washington State flag has flown behind every GameDay set for the last 15 years. Fans were so excited about the news announced six days prior, they made shirts about it.
All of the ingredients are in place for a complete banger that will test the inventory limits of the Pullman businesses that sell things you can drink or smoke.
“We are all expecting this to be just about the most crazy thing we’ve ever experienced,” Roxanne Trocino, the general manager of popular local bar Valhalla, says.
Almost all sports fans like to drink. Washington State fans like to drink.
I’m not here to judge, and I also don’t care about which magazines or college admission guides rank them among America’s TOP 50 PARTY SCHOOLS or BEST PLACES TO HAVE A ONE-NIGHT STAND. But their school certainly has a reputation for loving cinnamon whiskey Fireball, a legend that’s grown with this iconic moment a few years ago ...
... and this Mike Leach tweet ...
... and a bunch of other moments like this, which, well, you tell me if it involved some sort of liquor:
Two things I know about Cougs: they enjoy Fireball and partying.
“When it became available in the grocery stores, it was the No. 1 selling liquor item in the state of Washington,” Archie McGregor, the owner of Pullman grocery market Dissmore’s IGA, said. He wasn’t sure how it got that way, but it’s always been up there. It just is.
(It’s not the sole drink for Cougs. Vodka outsells it significantly in at least one big local bar.)
Now College GameDay is in Pullman for the first time ever, after 15 years of Washington State fans asking for it more than any other fanbase ever has.
Can you see where we’re going here?
Pullman’s alcohol distributors expected a significant jump in sales.
SB Nation called several of them to get a sense of the business climate in the days leading up to the ESPN show’s appearance on campus. The consensus was that, yes, business is booming.
At Valhalla, a usual home football weekend lifts business six times above usual numbers, Trocino, the bar’s GM, told me. But there’s no parallel for what GameDay brings.
“Normally, we consider Apple Cup to be the one ‘blow you out of the water, just order like crazy, do everything you can to be prepared, all hands on deck, all the time,’” she said. “But this one is even more so.”
At Dissmore’s, the grocery store, sales usually double for a football weekend. But this week?
“It’s abnormal,” the owner, McGregor, said. “It’s not something normal.”
He didn’t disclose specific sales figures, but meeting demand has required planning. There were no guarantees, even then, that supply can keep up.
“A guessing game is nothing to go to, so hopefully we planned appropriately,” he said.
A guy at a local Safeway generally declined to be specific, but he was really nice when I reached out.
“It’s a busy weekend is what it is. That’s all I can say. I can’t give you numbers. You know that,” he told me.
“A few people that I’ve seen come in to buy alcohol are stocking up,” an attendant at local institution Cougs Corner Mart said.
There’s also going to be so much marijuana smoked in Pullman.
Gabriel Haulk, the general manager at local cannabis dispensary Kush21, was preparing for a watershed sales weekend. The usual bump in business for a home Washington State game is 10 or 20 percent “at least” over normal weekends throughout the year.
“We’re expecting Friday and Saturday to be huge days for us,” he said when I called Thursday. “We’re expecting big sales. We’re gonna have a lot of product coming in today to get us all stocked up, because we are anticipating a huge weekend.”
“It’s just like a passion for it around here, for Coug games,” he said. “Everyone likes a little drinking, a little smoking, just having a good time partying.”