It was a long walk home tonight. For one thing, I parked my car on Patterson & 13th, which is about a 30 minute walk from Autzen Stadium by itself. For another thing, my #4 ranked Oregon Ducks lost to USC (technically unranked, but everybody knows they’re playing like a #15 team), which shattered any hopes of returning to the National Championship Game. In the brisk, 38 degree weather, I had a lot to think about.
Normally I might think about what our mistakes were and how the game would have been completely different had a few plays gone our way. Or I might rip on the refs for the few bad calls they made. But instead I thought about how much I love college football. A single team can rejoice over a Rose Bowl bid one year, and then two years later feel entitled to something better.
That’s the story of my Oregon Ducks for the past three seasons. But more broadly, it’s the story of college football. Why do I say include all of college football? Because this weekend wasn’t the weekend the Oregon Ducks lost; it was the weekend that the #2, 4, 5, and 7 teams in the nation were upset. Last week the #4 and 5 teams were upset as well, which just goes to show that you can have all the fans, all the talented players, all the best coaches, and all the support in the world, and yet lose that one time to the “no-name” school from Nowhere, USA.
I’m not at all saying USC is by any means a “no-name” school. Anybody knows it’s quite the opposite. Even though they’ve been penalized by the NCAA for the past two seasons (not allowed to play in any bowl games or win any conference championships), they’re still one of the best teams in the country. Losing to them at home sucks, but let’s be honest, it’s not that surprising.
I’m writing all this because college football is about more than my team being better than yours even though we might lose. It’s more than conference championships or even national championships. It’s about the thrill of being the little guy that one year who upset a national contender. It’s about telling the world that no matter how big its favorite team is, our little “no-name” school from Nowhere, USA has a lot of pride. And it’s about being that national contender for a few years or maybe even a decade just to show the college football world that your favorite little school is always a force to be reckoned with.
The University of Oregon will always be my favorite team – through undefeated seasons and (God forbid) winless seasons. I bleed green and yellow and no matter which bowl we play in after this season’s over, we’ve earned it. We’ve come a long way in the past decade or so to be considered a potential national contender. Let’s not forget that. Let’s not forget that the last time we went to the Rose Bowl (assuming we win out from here – which isn’t a guarantee), we turned around in the very next season to go undefeated and face off against Auburn in the National Championship Game.
As Allioti (our defensive coordinator) said after tonight’s game, “Winning is the best drug, but losing… It just sucks. It really sucks.” And yet, we can still take pride in our colors, our field, our team, our school, our city, and our alma mater. We can be proud losers.
We are Mighty Oregon.