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The Seattle media made such a point of discussing whether Oregon State belonged in the Pac-10 in 1985 it provided Dave Kragthorpe, literally, all the locker room material he would need to motivate the '85 Beavs to pull off the biggest upset in college football history at the time. The 38-point underdog Beavers defeated legendary Husky Coach Don James' UW squad 21-20 in Seattle, instantly casting a warm glow over every Beaver fan on the planet, one that would not dim the rest of the year despite OSU losing it's final four games.
But... it's an interesting point, once you finish bristling over the idea.
I guess it comes down to the big question: Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? Personally, I enjoy watching Pac-12 football and enjoy seeing the talent that comes to Corvallis, either on the team or on the visiting squad. I watched Reggie Bush play in Reser, watched him break OSU's heart with his punt return on the sidelines in the fog. Saw Andrew Luck play in Corvallis. Watched the Carson Palmer- and Troy Polamalu-led USC team fall to the Beavers. Watched the Beavers CRUSH Notre Dame, (which was immensely satisfying).
The ‘98 Civil War, one of the greatest sporting experiences of my lifetime was simply pure - just an incredible, electric atmosphere. Tears filled my eyes as I walked the field after Tevita Moala (pictured above) recovered a fumble and ran it back to help beat Cal and secure a winning season for the Beavs in ‘99. Steven Jackson bulldozing Oregon defenders en-route to paydirt during his sophomore season is still frozen in my mind’s eye.
And even the little moments count. Watching Mike Stoops and Jim Harbaugh’s epic meltdowns on the sidelines in Reser. The opossum coming down the steps and outrushing the USC offense, then ending up on SportsCenter.
Just watching James Rodgers play, making would-be tacklers look like awkward, uncoordinated newborns.
Would those moments disappear completely if Oregon State were playing in the Mountain West? Maybe not. Although I mean, you're probably not going to see the Reggie Bush’s come to Corvallis in Oregon State is in the MWC.
While OSU doesn't consistently finish in the top 3-4 spots in the conference, they do remain competitive. Mostly, I feel like Oregon State almost always has a puncher's chance (or better) when Saturday rolls around. And everyone loves rooting for the underdog.. when you win, you're overjoyed. When you lose it's not the end of the world, because that's what was "supposed" to happen.
It's OK that I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I don't need to root for the Yankees. I'm just fine with Buster Douglas being my favorite boxer, so to speak.
It doesn't mean that I "accept mediocrity" and that I don't wish for more. It means that in life we can get too caught up in winning always means everything, and paying too little attention to anything gained in the process. I had this conversation with my 6-year old daughter the other day when she lamented we're not Duck fans like her closest friends’ families at school are.
Part of me feels like we’ve lost our way a bit through the byproduct of handing out trophies to everyone, and no longer keeping score or delineating between winners and losers. I understand the natural enjoyment of watching your team win, but that doesn't mean it should define you. When push comes to shove, winning and losing in sport are not the most important things on the planet and I really came to these realizations while talking it through with her.
I told her that I lost more bouts than I ever won, but it didn't make me quit boxing. Losing didn't discourage me, because it isn't always about all or nothing - it's about finding satisfaction in being the best that you can, and finding beauty in the small moments over the course of the match and in football, the game.
It's different as a spectator, for sure. But in this instant-gratification culture that we live in, it feels like there is some value in recognizing that not everybody wins. Not everybody gets a trophy. In life, you get knocked down. Learning how to accept losing with grace, and learning to get back up again when you fall - that's the real victory.
I'm proud to be an Oregon State fan and watch my Beavs in the Pac-12 conference.
I'm proud to be a Mike Riley fan.
Wouldn't change a thing.