Yesterday my beloved Oregon Ducks suffered their worst loss since 2008 (USC, 44-10). I say “their” because it was the University of Oregon’s football team taking the field and not me. But really, their loss is my loss, too. At least it feels that way.
It doesn’t help that I still work for the University’s bookstore (The Duck Store) and started my shift after Oregon lost. For the first couple of hours we were forced to be the bearers of bad news to those who, for whatever reason, couldn’t catch the game. Many were shocked by what we told them – that it was actually a 26-point difference and not in our favor. Evaluating each reaction and relating with those who were shocked, I quickly realized something for our green and yellow fan culture: we’ve become complacent.
No, not all of us. In fact, maybe even the majority of Duck fans are taking this loss in stride as we’ve been accustomed to do in decades past. But I think the loudest fans among us (oftentimes, myself included) have encouraged a fan culture that expects greatness and perfection in every game. Even in the games we win by more than three touchdowns, there seems to be an implied asterisk to the “W” – indicating that this win was technically a win, but it was “sloppy” by the fans’ (ridiculously high) standard.
We seem to have forgotten our roots. Oregon and Oregon State are not known to be particularly dominant football programs until this most recent decade. In fact, until the BCS Championship game in 2011, we seemed to expect a winning season, but also to be the underdog to one team or another. Thinking back to games I watched when I was a kid, I relished in the underdog role with the possibility, which oftentimes felt like a blind hope, of upsetting our opponent and causing all sorts of chaos in the rankings.
Losing to Arizona (which, before yesterday, hadn’t happened since 2007) might have been the best thing for us moving forward. Not only were we forced to eat our words about not wanting the Rose Bowl (I know, De’Anthony said it, but plenty of us fans thought it), but our pride was checked. No, I shouldn’t say “pride”; our arrogance was checked. Since we lost, we now have the opportunity to mature, to return to humility, and, the part that most excites me, to be quiet.
Ever since the BCS Championship bid three seasons ago, we’ve been “the team to beat,” especially within the Pac-12. Of course, it does help when we win a few conference titles in a row (2009-2011), but even when we face off against non-conference teams, we’re the ones expected to win. But now, we’re out of the spotlight. We were taken a little bit about of the picture in the loss to Stanford, but we’re definitely out now. And I think that’s exactly what we need.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like being “the team to beat.” I don’t like the national attention with the prime-time TV broadcasts. Maybe it’s my introverted nature, but I like being the team in the background, that’s never heavily considered until the upset is done and over with. No, I don’t like losing. But I also don’t like expecting my team to win so much that when they lose, I feel cheated, as though I want my money back.
My Oregon Ducks, my alma mater, has a history of not being recognized as a title contender. Honestly, I miss those days. I loved watching the game not sure if the Ducks were going to pull through and yet surprising everyone, especially the commentators, with a “W.” I want to be relegated to the channels nobody watches with the commentators no one has ever heard of. I want to be taken “off the radar” of BCS talks until our winged jerseys come out of nowhere with another season sweep and the actual title trophy – not just a BCS bid.
Losing still stinks, but we have a opportunity in front of us. To get quiet, hidden, and without ridiculous expectations until we’ve actually done something no one can deny – not even Lou Holtz (like winning a Championship). We’re back to the background, where “Win The Day” was coined. Let’s enjoy it, draw strength from it, and come back in a better fashion (and with a better attitude) than ever before. Once we’ve done all that, then we can start expecting greatness and perfection.
Besides, the real game that has to be won is the last game against the Beavers (this Friday).