There Will Be Great Crying and Gnashing of Teeth: Eugene, OR, Wakes up to Reality

Autzen Stadium Eugene Oregon football Ducks snowing, raining, Never rains at
"It never rains at Autzen Stadium"...except for tears 
The cloud cover and dreary weather that greeted Eugene, Oregon on Sunday was nothing unique to a city used to cold November rains; however on this morning it was especially oppressive.  The collective hearts of over a hundred thousand locals and thousands more alumni around the world were heavy as their beloved Oregon Ducks football team, media favorites to go all the way to the National Championship game in January, were stunted and stunned at home by the Stanford Cardinals, 17 -14 in Overtime.

This is not the first time the Ducks have come inches away from eternal greatness and fallen just short, but this time might be the most painful.  Other years were "special" years.  Where schedules, and injuries on other teams, and luck all played a part of our success. (I realize I am not on the team, but as a fan, this is "my team" so I will use the possessive pronoun when referring to "my team").  Yes, they played in the "Natty" just two years ago, and they were a great team.  But everyone thought this one was better.  Before we held our breath,

1983 Civil War toilet bowl Oregon State vs. Oregon 0-0 tie, worst game ever played black and white quarterback
The 1983 Civil War between Oregon
St. and Oregon ended in a 0 - 0 tie.
It featured 16 turnovers and 4 missed
field goals.  Lovingly referred to as
the Toilet Bowl.  
and crossed our fingers, and hoped and prayed, and couldn't believe it.  Yes, our Oregon Ducks, one of the worst Division One football franchises in the history of college football, had slowly become a national powerhouse, but could they actually be the BEST team?  Think about what that entails?  120 teams, some playing in easier divisions, some arguably better conferences, must defeat 11 other teams, 5 in hostile locations, all the while hoping against injuries to key players, and freshman mistakes, and fluke plays, and coaching miracles, to come out unbeaten and unscathed and earn the respect of media, coaches, and computer algorithms to get a chance to play against the other top team for all the marbles.

Dan Fouts Oregon Ducks football quarterback san diego chargers HOF pac-10
Dan Fouts as an Oregon Duck.  Only
thing missing is the blood on the jersey. 
Not many schools get that chance.  Most that do- have rich winning traditions, richer boosters, biased media love and questionable ethics in all aspects of the game.  Certainly, these modifiers have all been growing in the brand that is the Oregon Ducks.  But none of that matter to Duck fans that knew, we knew, that this was the best team we had ever put on the field.  Yes, I know we once had Ahmad Rashad, Dan Fouts, Jonathan Stewart, Haloti Ngata, Joey Harrington, Gary Zimmerman, and Dave Wilcox, and they were all great individual players, but this year's team, THE TEAM, was loaded.  And the hype became so much, we all started to believe it.  We didn't just hope this team would beat teams, we knew they would.  We thought they could put a 100 points on a division rival.  We thought they were all that and a bag of chips.

Ironically, the Ducks may be playing for a just a bag of chips, specifically Tostitos tortilla chips in the Fiesta Bowl, if the Cardinals win next week at UCLA.  And that seems like a great disappointment.  Not that the Fiesta Bowl, or even better, the Rose Bowl are bad fortune.  Not at all.  If you asked the 120 teams leading into this season if they'd be happy with either of those BCS bowl games, I'm sure 98% would leap at that kind of success.

Stanford Cardinal tree mascot dancing at basketball football game
The irony of a team from
Eugene losing to a team with
 a tree mascot.  We love trees. 
But success leads to expectations, which leads to belief, which leads to bravado and confidence, and irrationality, and delusions of grandeur, and ultimately to days like today. Disbelief.   Days where over a hundred thousand fans can not believe their misfortune.  Our team lost.  We had every opportunity to win, without blaming any specific play or player, because there were at least ten opportunities to seal the victory, the better team (at least in our and probably every fan's opinion not wearing Cardinal red) found a way to lose.  The Cardinal found a way to win, and we, in many different ways, accepted defeat.

And we, the fans, are wallowing in depressive, delusional, pain.  As if we were the ones doing countless hours in the weightroom, countless hours studying playbooks, suffering innumerable nicks, cuts, bruises, cramps and sprains, and watching our perfect season be ripped away like a bad band-aid removal.  And it hurts.  But should it?

I mean, did I, or you, or anyone not directly associated with team, do anything other than believe in a team.  We didn't take the hits, or spend the hours preparing, or sacrifice our grades/ personal life/ potential income opportunities to play this game for free, like those young adults did.  In reality, all we the fans did, was spend money on games and merchandise, and believe the hype, and think that little, old, mossy, hippie, Eugene, might be known for something grand on the world scale.  We wanted to be indirectly associated with the greatness of others.  We wanted to link our achievements with the achievement of 100 or so athletes, and their coaches.  We wanted to say, "WE ARE OREGON," and have it mean something special.

Yet, I did nothing.  Other than throw a remote or two and yelling motivational or profane tirades towards rebroadcast images on my television. I don't deserve this pain.  Or the glory if it ever happens. As I did nothing.  I am a fan.  And a fan, is a strangely dumb concept.  I believe in something that I can't directly have any impact on.  Like trying to will my light bulb to turn on.  No matter how great my faith, it's not going to happen.

And yet, tomorrow, or a week from now, I'll be okay.  I'll root for my team again.  I'll believe they are the best team, while knowing this loss means they can't play for all the marbles.  Who wants marbles anyways, I've always had an affinity towards chips.

Full body cast broken leg arm back neck black and white
What I would look like after one practice
with Chip Kelly's Ducks.  
How many of us have believed in something bigger than a football game, and been disappointed?  Maybe your prayers weren't answered, or a relationship didn't work out, and you lost hope, and said, "I'll never let this happen to me again."  How many of us are afraid to have faith in something, because we're afraid of the pain when it doesn't work out?  How often do you think we got cocky and arrogant, and believed we were something better than we were and couldn't accept the defeat by life's variables?  How often did we fail because of a mistake, or an error, or a bad decision of life's referees, or completely gameplanning for the wrong situations?

How many of us need to say, "I lost, plain and simple."  It's been an incredible run, but I lost.  I'll be back tomorrow, and next year, and keep trying to attain greatness, but I can't let this loss destroy who I am.  Sometimes life is like football.  Like a dumb game.  We can be on top of the world one week and beat back to reality real quickly.  I refuse to let a loss or two define my season or life.  I've had much more successes than losses, so quit letting failure to reach perfection, rain on my Sunday parades.

So, if you'll excuse the lack of an ending, I'm going to put on my rain slicker, jump on my bicycle, grab my protest sign, and boycott the BCS with a microbrew and a locally made granola bar, because that's all we do in Eugene, right, besides root for the Ducks?


  1. You seem to handle defeat of my sports teams better than I. I often am inconsolable for 2 to 3 hours. Need to relax and take a deep breath before I can return to the world.

    1. I threw my hat twice across the room. Then started cleaning my parent's house (where I was watching the game). It was quite disturbing for about 15 minutes. But It was apparent throughout the game that they weren't going to win the game.

      Looks like Notre Dame has a clear path to the title now (if they can escape a QB-less USC next week). You should be fairly happy right now.

    2. Happy but nervous. Anticipating the shoe to drop and my hopes to be dashed. It's what happens when you also grow up a Cubs fan.

  2. My sympathies. But as you'll be back.