Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ducks' Season Dishes Out Slice of Life

This is taken straight form the Register Guard, written by my favorite columnist, Bob Welch. It summarizes John and I's feelings so much I thought I'd copy it on to my blog.

This was not the death of a president, but decades from now, where I to be asked where I was when I heard the news, I will remember.

The text message from my older son arrived in Yachats at 4:39 pm, the Friday after the Oregon-Arizona game, All it said was: "Dixon is done fro season. Torn ACL."

Amid the absolute best - and, at the moment, worst - Oregon football season in history, I've been thinking about those of us who consider ourselves sports fans. And I've concluded that hitching your wagon to a team of player is a lot like hitching your wagon to anyone or anything.

In every relationship, there's a price to pay for the benefit you receive. For Duck fans, the bill simply came at the worst possible time - Oregon positioning itself for a run at a national title and quarterback Dennis Dixon for a run at the Heisman Trophy. And was far higher than the usual we-lost-a-game variety.

It was football's version of "Cold Mountain," the novel in which a Confederate soldier spends the entire book desperately trying to get home to the woman he loves, then arrives, only to be killed in a freak shootout.

Against the odds, Duck football had arrived this fall. And so when Dixon went down, I found myself thinking: Is this really happening?

After the Ducks' loss to UCLA last Saturday, the answer was as stark as a visitor's "0" on the the Rose Bowl scoreboard: Yes, it is.

Our worst nightmare.

It's not fair, some have said about the Ducks rags-to-riches season. Nope. But, then, if sports is a microcosm of life, why would we expect it to be?

Some deadbeat dad wins the lottery while model parents lose a child. Hurricane Katrina hammers the poor while O.J. beats the rap.

With sports, better to accept that it's just a game. That the ball will bounce your way roughly half the time. And that if you commit to a team - just like when you commit to something or someone in real life - that team will raise your spirits and occasionally break your heart.

And so it is that some choose, in the Simon-&-Garfunkelian model, to not commit or de-commit, because "a rock feels no pain." True, but a rock also feels nothing. Ever.

After the 2002 Seattle Bowl, in which Oregon was humiliated by Wake Forest while Husky backers laughed in our rain-splattered faces, I returned home thinking this fan stuff just wasn't worth it.

But four games later, I watched UO beat Michigan in endless Autzen sunshine. It felt like a perfect day. This season alone, I've watched or heard three unbelievable wins over Michigan, USC, and Arizona State.

I've hooted and hollered with family, rubbed shoulders with UO students at ESPN's Game Day and made friends with tailgating neighbors who saved my buns (and hot dogs) when my camp stove died.

I've seen Dixon emerge from the depths of despair to join Pre and two Lukes as UO athletes for the ages. And, sure, I'd give up my basketball season tickets to see play just a few more games.

But what will never be doesn't wipe out what was. Or preclude Duck fans from hoping for better days, be it next year of Saturday.

On paper, of course, there's nothing to suggest Oregon can muster the offense to beat Oregon State in the Civil War. But the wonder of sports is that you never know.

The wonder of sports is Appalachian State beating Michigan, and a Stanford freshman quarterback beating USC in his first start.

And the essence of fanhood is accepting that it's a little like being the rescued author in Stephen King's "Misery". One minute your "Number One Fan" who's taken you in after your car accident is fluffing your pillow, the next minute reaching for an ax. Delicious and diabolical, sports heal us and haunt us.

But the author keeps writing and we keep reading. Because we can't wait to see what happens next.

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