As we get into the swing of April, I am reminded of all the great things about spring in Oregon. The flowering cherries, daffodils and dogwoods are out in their glory, the weather starts to have sun breaks in the rain, the days get longer, and the air feels fresher. It is also when Oregon State’s most successful major program in school history takes the field. I feel confident in saying that as no other major athletic team, to my knowledge, has two national championships.
It is also when I have to drive by that half-empty grave yard of a stadium called PK Park on my way to and from work. It is like driving by a big green and yellow middle finger daily. Duck baseball is the epitome of the part of the University of Broken Promises that I have the biggest issue with. There are amazing people that work at the big Yellow Toilet Seat, and players in all sports that are such good guys I would let my daughters marry them. In my time in Eugene, I have built a healthy respect for some of the people at Oregon, even though I would never tell them that. Heck, even one in every 43K fans I meet is a great fan (I am fortunate enough to work with… well, probably all of them. Three of whom may read this blog. So Sean, Ryan, and Matt, you are the three that come to mind).
But as a reasonably hateful Beaver fan, someone with a very strong petty streak, and a decade of dealing with being a Beaver in enemy territory, I think we all can embrace one simple fact:
Duck baseball is here because the the duck athletic department was so vain and, oddly for a program with so much recent success across the board, insecure.
They couldn’t handle the whole state being unified in appreciating an OSU sport. So they used their unprecedented resources to build an amazing stadium, hire a top tier coach, and craft some goofy uniforms while bringing back baseball to Eugene. And to their credit, they bought some early success.
Unfortunately, the whole baseball deal is forced on a community that doesn’t care. The University of Oregon is a football powerhouse, with a solid basketball team. More fans are into spring practice than spring fever. They have the league’s worst attendance for their games and this season is not going how a team picked to be one of the premier teams in the conference was supposed to. Now they could show up and sweep the Beavers and I would feel pretty silly. At least about making fun of the duck’s season.
I will never feel silly about making fun of the University of Oregon having baseball though. It arguably competes with their most successful program (track) and has its roots in the same mentality and fan-boy attitude that makes a soon to be 40-year old start a blog so that he can equate his rival school and their teams with crappy candy. You see, I recognize how shady and terrible their whole baseball fiasco is because I see myself in it.
It is the same mentality that had a young Peter Osborne put a car in neutral and push it into a fire zone, then anonymously call a tow truck — all because the operator of said vehicle had the nerve to say go ducks to him after a duck victory in the 1999 Civil War. Oh yeah, and in Eugene of all places! By the Rock N’Rodeo! Oh the humanity…
The only difference between what I did, still do, and what the ducks, or more appropriately Pat Kilkinney did, is that I am just a jerk fan. They are a school, and their decisions, for the most part, are meant to be made in order to better the lives of their student athletes. All the wrestlers from their storied, Olympian-generating wrestling program, as well as the huge number of local, Oregon high school kids that used wrestling to get into school were left holding the bag. Instead, they have an expensive program, with premium-salaried coaches, playing in front of a half-empty $20 million stadium, in one of the highest property tax areas of the city.
So yes, I find the Civil War between Oregon State and Oregon baseball to be particularly feisty because it represents one of the silliest moments in the rivalry’s history for any sport. I for one hope the Beavers sweep the ducks at PK Park amidst a sea of orange in the stands. The Beavers have their own issues, so it is definitely not a slam dunk that they will win the series or even a game, but for the sake of the rivalry and all it means, I would be happy with some big, big wins for the Beavs.
Go Beavers! Beat the ducks!