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Point: Does Pullman bring down Washington State or does Washington State bring down Pullman ?

This question might seem like a joke. You might just be wondering: "Who cares whether it is Wazzu's fault Pullman sucks or Pullman's fault Wazzu sucks?"

I do. And you should too. Because, like Socrates said about life, the unexamined rivalry is not worth living. It might be convenient for us Husky fans to talk down about Washington State, and it certainly is justified. But until we really understand what makes UW so much better, all our trash talk is only superficial.

Before tackling this question, I think it is necessary to clear up one thing. I accept that the UW is vastly superior to Washington State in every relevant aspect: academic, athletic, social and even moral. It comes down to the fact that Washington consists of smarter, bolder and more driven people than WSU.

But even that cannot account for the Rainier-sized gap in awesomeness between the two schools. Nope, that difference comes from something altogether uninteresting. It comes from the town of Pullman — it has to.

Consider the fact that when WSU students enter Pullman they do so as mildly functional teenagers. The school's website asks for a 3.4 GPA, above-average test scores and a "thoughtful and well-written" essay.

That means they can probably do long division and formulate basic sentences like "Where is the keg?" before they go to college.

Why is it, then, that when they leave Pullman, Cougar grads are only a half-step above Warren from There's Something About Mary ("Have you seen my baseball?")? After all, these are people from all over. People you probably grew up with. They might have been your friends at one point and, since you have no choice in the matter, are still probably related to you.

The only possible explanation for how defective Washington State University is can be the town of Pullman. I sincerely believe that floating in the Pullman air is a magic dust that makes everything it touches 10 percent dumber.

In Pullman, car engines burn gas 10 percent less efficiently, cell phone batteries die 10 percent faster, wireless Internet moves 10 percent slower and human bodies function at 10 percent less than their full capacity.

Somehow this 10 percent rule also applies to the intangibles. In Pullman, husbands and wives love each other 10 percent less than couples everywhere else in the world. The reason Pullmanites are always drunk? Their bodies do a 10 percent slower job processing booze.

For those just visiting Pullman — say for Apple Cup weekend—there is no need to pack a case of surgical masks. While you maybe dumber in the time you spend there, the stupidity will not last. It takes about two years in Pullman for a permanent case of the 10 percent rule to set in — which is why after one year at Wazzu, your friends may not seem different, and also why Pullman transfer students graduate just as obtuse as the four-year kids.

So next time you use the phrase "cougin' it," consider the implications of that statement. Yes, as a Husky, you are immediately better than any Cougar. But spend a couple years in Pullman so that dust sets in, and you might just find that gap — and your own mental capacity — shrinking some.

Columnist Eric Nusbaum: ericnusbaum@thedaily.washington.edu

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