Before sports fans and school boosters get too worked up about Friday’s Apple Cup, let’s try a little perspective.

This is a game. The players are college kids. It’s supposed to be fun.

Interim Huskies head coach Bob Gregory showed up at a news conference last week with a shirt that read: “Play with joy.” Good advice. But as this season has proven, that hasn’t been easy for players and coaches on either team.

The University of Washington Huskies go into the Apple Cup with a disappointing 4-7 record. The losses cost Jimmy Lake the head coaching job. His stumbles with taunting the University of Oregon and shoving a player notwithstanding, it’s hard to believe Lake wouldn’t be on the sideline if the Dawgs were 7-4. In big-time college sports, winning is everything.

When it comes to hiring a new leader, UW Athletic Director Jen Cohen assured Husky Nation that the school won’t be constricted by financial limitations. “We have the resources to get the best coach for Washington,” she said at a news conference.

Never mind that Lake can continue to collect his $9.9 million compensation package without having to work in the next three years.

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Because Lake was not fired for cause, his $9.9 million buyout will be paid in monthly installments with that number reduced by any compensation he earns at another job between now and the 2024 end of his contract.

The off-field saga of the Washington State University Cougars needs no rehashing. When the state’s highest-paid public employee goes against the direction of the state’s chief executive regarding deadly infectious disease prevention, there are only bad outcomes.

University president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun were right to fire Nick Rolovich once his public evasions hit the deadline for state employees to be vaccinated.

Football at this level has become moneyed and hyper-serious. College athletes can now retain their own agents and get paid for endorsements, opening a new dimension in amateur sports.

With all the chaos and financial stakes, it’s easy to lose track that this cross-state rivalry is intended to highlight students and rekindle fond collegiate memories among fans. This year, Montlake seemed like a pit of despair. To wit, head to the men’s restroom in Husky Stadium after a loss and get an earful from the rain-soaked, bitter and loudly opinionated males waiting in line.

UW’s quarterback, Dylan Morris, said he doesn’t follow social media during the season. Given the rude and outrageous comments online, that’s a wise decision.

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That Friday’s Apple Cup seems a tossup is a testament to the resiliency of athletes on both sides of the field.

As fans gather for this annual rite of November, let us not forget that the players are just a few years out of high school.

So to Morris and Cougar running back standout Max Borghi and all those suited up and ready to play: Have a great game. Don’t let the adults spoil the fun.