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Rediscovering the Joy of Mediocre College Football

Friday, November 06, 2015

 

For the past few years, being an Oregon Duck football fan has been akin to attaching yourself to rocket ship, rapidly ascending to exciting new heights you never thought possible. It has been a quest for perfection that, while it was never quite reached, always seemed just around the corner and well with grasp. 

In the poll-driven world of college football, that meant that most games were played not against an opponent, but, against the weighty expectation placed on the team by fans and media alike. No longer was simply going into Pullman and gutting out a win against a scrappy Washington State team a badge of honor, it had instead become a potential black mark on the all-important season-long resume.

Following the Ducks was hardly ever about the individual game at hand; no, the Duck (and their fans) were playing the long game. Most games were just glorified scrimmages leading up to the 2 or 3 major matchups that would ultimately decide the season.

Yes, that sounds arrogant and cocky and somewhat condescending, but, it was the truth for a Duck team and fan base that went almost five years without being a betting underdog, and nearly four years without losing to an unranked opponent.

So, this year, when the Ducks and their now spoiled fans found themselves sitting at 1-2 in conference play through 3 games, with only a narrow victory over Pac-12 doormat Colorado to their credit, they were treading in what has become strange new waters. 

And, you know what… in a weird, messed up, twisted kind of way… it’s sorta nice.

Sure, the ultimate goal of any team and fan base is to win a championship (a dream that’s long gone for an Oregon team who’s spent half a decade in perpetual contention), but, is that really what keeps bringing you back? If you’re being truly honest with yourself, that answer is no. I don’t care who you are, or what team you root for.

That’s because even the most fervent, die-hard fan would likely admit that it wasn’t the lure of crystal footballs and leather-bound collectable issues of Sports Illustrated that drove them to be a fan. It wasn’t being able to lord over your rivals or that annoying neighbor with the ridiculously oversized flag hanging off his garage.

It was sitting on your dad’s lap while he rooted for his favorite team on TV, while you mimicked his cheers without really knowing what was going on. Or, it was finding that one team that you could always beat your annoying friend at NCAA Football with, and then finally seeing the real version and being awed at how much better then were than even a video game. Or, maybe it wasn’t until that cute gal you met in the dorm starting talking to you about going to the big game that weekend and you had to quickly respond like you knew what you were talking about (“Oh, of course, I’m a HUGE fan of the football!”).

Everyone’s story starts out a little different, but, no matter how you got there, I guarantee you it was the same few things that kept you coming back. 
The first time you set foot in an honest-to-goodness football stadium, with the marching bands, organized cheers and the pageantry that makes college football so unique.

That first time you were absolutely certain that your team is going to lose, but, they somehow pull the rabbit out of the hat, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and leave you uncontrollably shouting the your favorite faith-based curse word over and over again (despite the fact that you haven’t seen the inside of a church in years).

The irrepressible urge to high-five and hug every person you see after a big win, like some sort of deranged lunatic flying high over the cuckoo’s nest, truly convinced that your refusal to change seats or eat anything but green M&Ms during the 4th quarter contributed mightily to the big win.

It’s about going (quite literally) insane over something you have no control over, and then looking to that complete stranger sitting right there next to you and silently knowing that they are going through the exact same thing you are. That for that one moment, they are your favorite person in the whole world. Even though you’ve never met them before, and likely will never see them again.

You see, being a college football fan is about those singular moments in time that leave an indelible mark on your soul, and keep you coming back for more. And more and more and more. That make you do stupid things, like forking over hundreds of dollars you can’t afford to spend, in order to attend a game, just on the off chance one of those magical moments happens to strike again.

And, while no true fan will ever say “oh darn, my team won by too much” or “I’m getting bored with winning all the time” (I mean, talk about a super-jinx!), there is something to be said about missing the weekly drama and uncertainty that is missing from being 3 touchdown favorites week in and week out. Because, let’s be honest, no one has ever watched a 50-point beat-down and been transformed into a lifelong fan.

College football is great because it inspires passion and emotion on a level that is second to none in the world of sports and entertainment. The highs are only as high as the lows that came before it, and it’s all pretty much pointless if you aren’t left with a myriad of memorable moments along the way.

So, while sitting through the rain and cold at Autzen Stadium for the soul-crushing double-overtime loss to Washington State a few weeks ago is a moment I’d gladly wipe from my memory bank forever, it played in integral part in the overwhelming joy that I felt watching the Ducks pulled out a miracle in the Arizona desert this past Thursday night. 

And, if you talk to me in 10 years, I’ll almost certainly have more fond memories of what will probably end up being an ultimately meaningless game in a disappointing season, than I will for any of the numerous 40- and 50-point drubbings of the past few years. Because, it’s that type of thrilling, gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster of a game that made me a college football fanatic for life, and keeps bringing me back, week after week, year after year.

Of course, after the near cardiac arrest-inducing drama of last week’s absolutely bonkers game, I would take the hell out of a good ol’ fashioned blowout win this weekend, because I’m not sure how many more games like that my heart (or my liver) can take.

Hell, who am I kidding? I know exactly how many more games like that I can take: 

All of them. Every. Single. One.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Top Pac-12 College Football Players

Here are some of the Oregon players who have managed to make it into the 2014 Top Pac-12 Players List.

Prev Next

#22 Byron Marshall

College: University of Oregon

Position: Running Back

In 2013 he had 168 carries, 14 touchdowns, 13 catches, 155 receiving yards, and 1,038 rushing yards.  It’s no wonder he makes it as #22 on this list.  Not only do these stats make him a player to watch, but also a player with a lot of potential to climb the rankings.

 

Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#19 Isaac Seumalo

College: Oregon State University

Position: Offensive Lineman

This Offensive Lineman managed to block QB Sean Mannion who set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.  With his abilities to block in the manner of which he did makes him a prime candidate to possibly win the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy, and/or Rotary Lombardi Award.

 

Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#10 Hroniss Grasu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Center

As a junior in 2013 he became one of three Oregon native players to be named All-Pac-12 two seasons in a row.  He has managed to lead the offensive line to the conference’s number 1 rushing attack.  Entering his final year at U of O, Grasu has started all 40 games of his career at UO making him one of the Duck’s greatest players.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#6 Sean Mannion

College: Oregon State University

Position: Quarterback

Ranking here for breaking the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards thrown, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, this is a player the NFL is watching closely. Already sitting at #10 on the conference’s all-time passing list, it’s going to be a breeze for him to pass Matt Barkley’s record of 12,327 yards thrown.

 

Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#4 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Cornerback

In 2013 he was the second Ducks player to have 84 tackles with 3 interceptions, and 9 passes defended.  He is a force to be reckoned with.  It has been unanimous that he is to be the 2014 Preseason All-American.  It’s also been hinted that he may not last too long in the 2015 NFL draft.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#1 Marcus Mariota

College: University of Oregon

Position: Quarterback

With stats such as completing 63.5% of his passes with 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, rushing a total of 715 yards with 9 touchdowns, this makes him a hot candidate for the NFL.  He has managed to make U of O one of the Pac-12 favorite college teams as well as a national title contender.  He has also set a U of O single-season record throwing 4,380 total yards and set a Pac-12 record by attempting to throw 353 consecutive passes without interception.  He is also in the running to win the Heisman Trophy as a 1A option.

 

Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

 
 

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