Are you ready for some football?
No, it's not Monday night, I'm not Hank Williams Jr. and Frank Gifford will not take this column out with some drab, nostalgic rhetoric of yesteryear, but if you're a fan of the green and yellow the answer to that popular culture question is "yes, and I have been for 15 years."
That's right, by now you've certainly heard (probably too often), been reminded or recall the 1995 Rose Bowl – the last which Oregon played – against Penn State. Since then there have been Cotton and Sun Bowls, Aloha and Holiday Bowls, Seattle and Las Vegas Bowls, and a Fiesta Bowl to remember. There have been great plays, great players and great games, along with disappointing plays, disappointing players and disappointing games, with some mediocrity scattered in between. But, while USC has turned the Rose Bowl into their second home, much of the Pac-10 lies in a similar to older bed than the Ducks.
Aside from the aforementioned Men of Troy, over the last two decades Washington has played in the Rose Bowl four times, Washington State, UCLA and Oregon twice, and Arizona State and Stanford once, sadly leaving Oregon State, California and Arizona on the outside looking in. With that in mind, I can't help but wonder what it is those fine institutions and their even finer followers are doing and thinking on a day in which their brethren rejoice?
Logic says they'd be rooting whole-heartedly for the conference in which they reside, while emotion sings a different tune. Many's hatred inhibits them from rooting for anything Oregon. They'd sooner be dead than be caught even secretly pulling for the "University of Nike," "Phil's Merry Men" or the "Entitled Ones." Humiliation by association attached to any Pac-10 disgrace would be an acceptable alternative to an impressive and decisive victory for the boys in black…or green…or white…or whatever it is they'll be wearing Friday afternoon.
It is what it is. I get it when I hear Beaver Fan suggest Ohio State is now their second favorite team. I understand that Husky Fan's disdain for the Ducks has them frothing at the mouth at the thought of an Oregon win. But I also see the other side, the silent minority that does set aside an allegiance in the interests of the greater good. The acknowledgement of a truth which says; a win for the Ducks is a win for the Pac-10, which is a win for everyone in the Pac-10, and results in a positive perception of the Pac-10 and everyone in it.
But like previously stated, that is the minority view. With that in mind, I offer the following thoughts in regards to what those other nine fan bases may be doing this lovely New Year's Day, while their hated Pac-10 colleagues prepare for the "Grand Daddy Of Them All:"
Arizona State – Calculating the difference between Dennis Erickson's salary versus previous head coach Dirk Koetter's and wondering what that difference would buy. Erickson's regime has been a disappointment to this point and with the ascension of their cross-state rival, I'm guessing things are far from rosy in Scottsdale.
Arizona – In addition to licking their wounds from their recent Holiday Bowl debacle, Wildcat fans are probably wondering if a Rose Bowl will ever be theirs to lose. It's been more than 30 years since the Cats joined the Pac-10 Conference and they've yet to finish on top. How does a school that size with that climate, fail at that level?
USC – Sipping Latte's on a street corner in Newport Beach wondering how a bunch of second-class citizens like Oregon could be representing THEM in THEIR bowl game. In addition, they're drafting a letter to the NCAA administration requesting to have the 2009 season expunged from the record, citing inequities in a system which was obviously slanted in favor of their competition. "Have you seen Matt Barkley? No mortal could possibly best him in a fair fight of any sort!"
UCLA – Arguing with that same Trojan Alum, on that same street corner, sipping that same Latte', but arguing the "Powder Blue's" prowess. "Have you seen NCIS? Mark Harmon is a dream!"
California – Wondering how it is that they're seemingly picked to upset USC and win the Pac-10 Conference at the onset of every football year, but rarely finish in the top-2, continually underachieve and always point to next year as "the one?" While a pretty good coach, with every passing year it becomes more and more apparent that Mike Bellotti was actually the alpha dog coach during Oregon's 2001 season, and not the product of then offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford.
Stanford – Not caring. When you're curing incurable diseases, trying landmark cases and engineering hostile takeovers, Toby Gerhart's near Heisman, Andrew Luck's broken finger and least-of-all Oregon's game with Ohio State, means less than sunscreen to an Antarctican.
Washington State – In all honesty, probably wishing Oregon good luck and thanking the lord it's not the Huskies. The Cougs - while pitiful in recent years – have experienced more success than most this past decade and wish little ill will on those who don't call Seattle home.
Washington – Feeding the homeless, donating time to their local school district, and picking up trash along their local highways, all in an effort to work a trade with the powers-that-be for an Oregon defeat this afternoon…and preferably by a large margin. This is their worst nightmare. If Al Pacino opens a law office anywhere near Montlake, a soul transaction may need to be investigated.
Oregon State – Wishing they could close their eyes and wake-up during the ninth inning of a 12-2 rout of an Oregon baseball squad still searching for its identity. They've been so close the past two years, this year's result is merely the most concentrated salt in the most open of wounds.
I could be wrong; each and every one of those opposing fan bases may very well be harboring nothing but love and respect for your Ducks this afternoon. They are likely congregating with their peers, toasting the West Coast, toasting the Pac-10 and certainly toasting an Oregon Duck victory later today. I'm sure I've sold them short, sure I've misinterpreted their remarks, and sure they'd love nothing more than a Pac-10 Champion putting the Big-10 in their place on college football's oldest and "grandest" stage.
Or is that wishful thinking?
Regardless of who is saying what, I hope you enjoy your day Duck Fan. In spite of what the BCS has made College Football, if you grew up in the West, you rooted for this day. If you played football in the West, you played for this day. And if you're a fan of football history, you'll remember this day. It's been 15 years since you've been here, and 36 years before that, so soak it in, relish the opportunity and wish your "quackers" well…because you might be the only ones who are.
What's the Rest of the Pac-10 Doing?
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