A View Through the Rivalry Blinders

There's nothing like controversy, national spotlight and heightened success to bring a rivalry to the surface. But there's a fine line between rational and irrational. Where do you stand?

Certainly by now, you, I and everyone else outside the state of Oklahoma have heard and seen enough about the infamous Duck/Sooner last minute fiasco. But aside from the two major players involved (three, if you count the referees), an additional element has risen from the ash…and it stinks.

I'll preface the following by admitting an unquestionable hanker for rivalries and the intensity which they entail. They offer an element rarely found in other areas of life, and passion infrequently present in life in general. But at what expense?

Shortly following the Duck game Saturday afternoon, my curiosity led me to a cross-state message board somewhere in or near the town of Corvallis. Maybe you've heard of it? It's a small town consisting of a number of pizzerias, a grocery store or two, and a large population of rodents, past and present. Regardless, the aforementioned message board was aglow with banter regarding the game and disdain for the events which had occurred. To some extent I would expect nothing less, but while observations and Tomfoolery would be par for the course, the accusations, or more appropriately the absurdity of them, were unfathomable at best.

First and foremost the assertion that an owner and co-founder of a world famous shoe company greased the palms of the crew of referees and most notably the referee in the booth. While I'm not certain what the going rate for manipulating the outcome of an NCAA game is at present, I am fairly certain that the accused is too intelligent and/or ethical to involve himself in such an act, in spite of his financial capability. While this may seem humorous at face value, the level of its humor decreases dramatically at the realization the source isn't kidding.

Nor were they kidding when they suggested the errors which occurred were in some way the fault of the team in green and that they had but one option…concede victory and assume full responsibility for all actions completely out of their control. Hmm, such a suggestion takes me back to a game played early in the 2003 season, in which Derek Anderson (previously of the Oregon State Beavers and now back up to the back up for the Cleveland Browns) fumbled in the backfield during an attempt to kill the clock in the waning moments of a 26-24 home victory over Boise State. On the field they ruled him down, but instant replays showed he had obviously lost the ball prior to going down and it should've been Boise State's ball with an opportunity to win the game. At this point and irrational thought comes to mind; Oregon State, while attempting to guarantee victory, assures the "zebras" working the game that at no point in their lifetime will they ever have to purchase another tub of salsa and/or a frozen Hispanic entrée. In return, they're guaranteed victory and supplied the comfort of knowing all questionable calls will go their way…conveniently of course. While such an idea may seem outrageous at first, after considerable thought it becomes preposterous. Not only are such allegations slanderous and irrational, but they lack an ounce of common sense.

I, like most sports fans, understand the level of intensity involved with rivalries, particularly those of the in-state variety, but despite the level of intensity one has to use at least the slightest bit of reason when analyzing situations involving said rival. While emotionally it may be instinctual to spew venom in the direction of the "hated," one has to show restraint. Or risk the chance of being seen as a buffoon unable to differentiate between emotion and intelligence.

Was Oregon the beneficiary of a stroke of good fortune as a result of a horrendous call by the referees? Absolutely. Were they directly involved in the decision making process and/or in some way responsible for the outcome? Absolutely not. What's being lost in the fray of all this fiasco is the fact that the referees (and the calls they make) are a part of the game. It doesn't matter how or by what means they make such calls, reviews are as much a part of the game as a holding, offsides or a false start penalty. It just so happens that the call or calls in question were reviewable and were at a critical point in the game. Screwing up a play via the replay booth carries no more weight than screwing up a face mask penalty on the field of play. Sure one allows for more time and accuracy, but it's still an error, and still a "facet" of the game.

I get why "Beaver Fan" would be upset with another victory by the Ducks, especially over a nationally ranked team like the Sooners. I also get why "Beaver Fan" would be jealous of the level of success the Oregon program is in the midst of, especially considering the current state of the football program due north, but while jealousy and ire are to be expected, ignorance and stupidity are not.

Love your team. Hate their rival. Heck, root for their opponent on a regular basis, but in times like these, it is the responsibility of the fan to stop and take a deep breath when irrational thoughts come to mind. Not because it makes them feel better, but because it reflects them and their fan base in a much more respectable light.

Even if the light is orange.

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