Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Civil War Week In Oregon

So I spent part of my lunch hour crafting the following entry for posting about the Civil War. After putting it to paper, I found some more information out, but decided to post the entry anyway, so enjoy, but please read the notes at the end:

I’ve hesitated to write about it, even though I don’t consider myself a
superstitious person. But it’s gotten to the point that it can’t be ignored anymore, as Oregon State sits one win away from a Rose Bowl berth, something they haven’t achieved since 1965. After the team started 0 and 2, I don’t think anyone but hardcore Beaver fans would have expected this kind of run, but after losing to Utah and knowing they needed to win out to get there, they sit one game away from that very situation. And the team they get to face this weekend is their arch rival, Oregon.

The Civil War is a uniquely interesting rivalry to say the least. Since I didn’t attend either school, I don’t have any specific allegiance to either side except that as a bandwagon fan, I pay enough attention to wish them well and hope they do our state proud. Since I have a large number of relatives from Colorado, I got to enjoy watching Oregon destroy Colorado back in 2002 and give a few of my cousins a hard time afterwards. I felt the Ducks should have been playing in the championship game that year, but the BCS felt otherwise and got a rather anti-climactic final game that year. The problem occurred the preceding year when the Beavers lit up Notre Dame, and at that point, were the best collegiate team on the field but the polls didn’t rank them higher and the BCS passed them by. But I don’t think anyone except hard core Beaver fans figured that team would destroy the Fighting Irish. But that’s why you play the games.

I haven’t talked about the Beavers much simply because they aren’t in my wheelhouse of teams that I religiously follow. I like them well enough, but I don’t have a specific leaning one way or another, which really makes this week of all weeks interesting. For 51 weeks of the year, Duck and Beaver fans politely co-exist happily in Oregon without too much issue. But then Civil War week comes around, and the fans come out of the woodwork to abuse each other with taunts, barbs, and other assorted trash talk. I seriously think that Oregon – Oregon State is the most friendly nasty rivalry around, as I find it common to hear people say, “I’m a Duck but I like seeing the Beavers do well.” If you look around at most other rivalries, I can’t imagine opposing fans wishing good luck to their rival at any point, but that’s how things are around here.

It was weird going to school in Spokane listening to Huskies and Cougars trash each other during the Apple Cup week, and the battle of Montana produced some rather odd moments (I recall seeing a drinking contest between fans before one game that I went to using everclear. No, not the band, but the alcohol, working brain cells not included), but those rivalries never seemed to go away during the offseason. And for my family, the battles between Nebraska and Colorado, well, that was one of those topics you didn’t discuss around the holiday dinner table, lumped in with religion and politics, because you were just as likely to get a smile as you would a fork in the head. So moving here in 1989, I found the Civil War to not only match up to the name by how fans interacted with each other, but the general tone of pre-game talk and antics. Granted, if I had attended either of those fine schools, I might feel differently. I know following the Timbers, I do have people confuse my support for them for the Ducks because both teams wear green, and I tend to wear a lot of green. But that’s mostly relating to Timbers, although in saying that to people, most people are surprised we have a soccer team, much less one that wears green.

But, I’ve attended the same number of football games at each school (two), I’ve actually attended online courses for each school for graduate credit (three), and I have friends that support both schools rather passionately, so I’ve really avoided picking one school over another. It’s come down to who is doing well at that point, and I follow them as much at time warrants. This does go against most of my sport leanings, because I tend to pick a team and follow them closely and I try not to waver when picking teams to support, but right now, I have as many reasons to pick being a Duck versus being a Beaver.

But for 51 weeks of the year, it doesn’t seem to matter that much. I’ve only ran across one person in my near 20 years of being here that dissed on a Duck, and it was on the golf course. My friend Obi and I got paired with two older gentlemen for a round at Killarney in Hillsboro, who were really good guys to play a round with. After the round, Obi mentioned he took some course management advice that he’d seen on TV from Peter Jacobson, a long time Portland area golf pro. One of our playing partners was a long time Beaver fan, who politely said he wouldn’t take any golf advice from Peter Jacobson because he was a &%&$%# duck. And seriously, if that’s the most vicious thing I’ve heard in almost 20 years of Civil Wars, well, it’s tame in comparison to most. The passion is certainly there, but the fans are still extremely cordial to each other even in their trash talking. Which really makes this one of my favorite rivalries, because even in totally trash talking the other side, fans are still incredibly nice to each other. I hear stories of oddness, but I think for the most part, it’s the friendliest, fiercest rivalry around.

But I know this weekend, the stakes are pretty high. Oregon would love nothing more than to get into the Holiday Bowl with a win, and keep the Beavers from getting into the Rose Bowl, something the Ducks haven’t done in a while. Oregon State would love to show the country how good of a team they are, and beat the Ducks for the third time in a row. And the game falls on one of the last weekends of the college football season, which means it will get some pretty good attention during a Saturday afternoon. I’m sure this will be a well played, competitive game, but really I’m having trouble picking a side to support.

So for this week, if I’m asked which side I support, Ducks or Beavers, I’m saying Platypus! The idea actually came from girl, who in teaching at various schools always gets asked by her students what side does she support. And so she says Platypus, and really, this combination half-duck, half-beaver creature, really it’s the poster child for those of us Oregonians who really just want our teams to play well but haven’t really chosen a side yet. In my case, I probably won’t choose one side or another, simply because it’s nice to be able to appreciate both teams without feeling too guilty. Whether it’s my college days of going to a school that didn’t have a football team, or it’s the fact I have teams I follow more closely, I think for me this week, it’s a simple theme “Have a good game and may the best team win!”

Notes: So I wrote this and sent it to myself for posting, and then I get home, and of course I wrote this before reading John Canzano's blog about 112 reasons to care about the Civil War, and I learned a lot about the rivalry. While it won't cause me to choose a side in this affair, it does give me a greater appreciation for the history of this game, and what it means to others. So really, root for your side this weekend, and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!!

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