With talking about my Vegas trip the subject of the past few of my blogs, I haven’t had much time to talk about other things going on with the sports world, including the big game in my former back yard. Well, I mentioned it a few entries ago, but the whole Boise State – Oregon game just left a bad taste in my mouth, but probably not for all the reasons you might expect.
It was stupid for Oregon to walk into that stadium cocky as anything, expecting to win because they showed up and they’re from the Pacific 10 Conference. Oregon lost simply because their offense melted down for most of the game, as they couldn’t get anything going on the ground or in the air. Their defense played amazingly, and kept a rather potent Bronco offense at bay for most of the day, but in the end, they just didn’t score enough points. But then, the aftermath turned the entire affair into a cartoonish, frightening moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
Oregon got past it by acting quickly with discipline and getting a win against Purdue this past weekend. They didn’t kick LaGarette Blount out of the program, they just pushed him aside in an attempt to show authority. Whether you agree with his suspension for the entire year, I do applaud them for making a quick decision and not letting it linger for too long. It was an embarrassing display, and it was important to try and distance things as much as you can.
However, the other side of the ball has some culpability here, and I’m not happy that they’ve just been allowed to skate along without answering some of the tough questions. I’m not going to excuse a player throwing a sucker punch at another, but when the program’s response to their guy tapping Blount on the shoulder pad and saying something to incite him is “a punishment handled internally”, that strikes me of a program that doesn’t get it. When your response to the scoreboard operator who repeatedly showed the brawl on the big screen is “we’re handling it internally”, you show how small time your football program is.
I grew up in Boise, and I’ve seen the rise from a small time program that dominated I-AA football during the 1980’s to WAC powerhouse, and I can say I’ve seen Bronco Stadium with green turf, and I’m actually OK with them using blue turf. It’s a statement they make to remind people of where you at, but it’s a statement along the same lines as a middle aged guy who gets new hair, a fast car and a new “hovering around college age” girlfriend. You want people to notice, and Boise State has been trying to get people to notice them for years. It’s always been about an inferiority complex, wanting fans outside the Gem State to realize there is a lot going on here.
Fine, it’s great you want to have colored turf and play with the big boys. Then, act like a big boy program and show that you mean business. If one of your players does something wrong, it’s not OK to just try and shuffle it under the carpet or try and handle it in house. Big time programs face incredible scrutiny, and the sooner that lesson is learned, the sooner you realize that you have to communicate and play the press game. Boise State could have gained a lot of credibility by not only winning the game, but handling their affairs above board in the open. Instead, the result here is that the Broncos seem paranoid and small time, not wanting to address their part of this whole affair, even if it was a small portion of the issue.
Meanwhile, the Memorial Coliseum gets a new nametag as a historical landmark, as the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places. Pardon me if I can’t contain my excitement here at having a historical building in my backyard, but this entire mess doesn’t change the fact that the Memorial Coliseum is a heavily used arena, but it is also largely ignored in terms of upkeep and maintenance. We now have a historical building, but what are the long term plans of this site, and who’s going to pay for it to be maintained. The Trail Blazers had been given the task of booking events there and keeping up the old barn, but instead, it’s fallen into a moribund state.
And putting an exhibition game in the old arena isn’t going to help things, except to have a nice night of nostalgia. Not that I don’t have sentimentality about things at all, but this event will simply prove how small and antiquated this facility has become, and how much a new plan needs to be there to address its state. The Coliseum’s fate was sealed when the Rose Garden was built, but instead of finding a new use and doing something long term to help the city, we’ve seen nothing but inactivity and putting plans in place to then ignore.
The Coliseum was supposed to be an amateur sports complex, then a retail complex, then the home to the WinterHawks, then the site of a baseball stadium, now the site of a velodrome, but what it stands for is the land that wonderful ideas have come to die. I get the significance of the building, but then find a way to make it usable for the future instead of just treading water. It’s historical, great, so then bring it to its former glory instead of just pining for memories gone by. Besides, even with this designation, I still feel the Trail Blazers have other ideas for the complex, and the Memorial Coliseum isn’t part of that plan. And if anyone thinks that any long term plans to address this isn’t going to come with some significant costs, they are really kidding themselves.
In other news, the team that Portland forgot - the Portland Beavers baseball team, had some news about their long term quest to find a new home. The City of Beaverton and Beavers owner Merritt Paulson have put out some extremely preliminary figures about stadium costs, which include a large up-front contribution of money and guaranteed rent from Paulson. The plan doesn’t address which site would be chosen, and there’s plenty of talk about the former Westgate theatre site right now. Owners of adjacent property aren’t happy about the prospect of losing their property if the city needs more land, and have been fighting against this site, while other proposed sites have been shrouded in mystery so far. The above plan also doesn’t address the land costs associated with the site, either, but at the very least, it provide a framework to start from.
The timeframe might seemed compressed for some, but the home of the Beavers has been a topic around town since the end of the 2008 baseball season, when the plans to bring MLS to Portland started taking shape. The realization that baseball and soccer couldn’t share a site meant somebody had to move, and it was determined that baseball would have a better chance of survival elsewhere. The city and the region deserve to have baseball here, and I think a plan will be figured out to keep everyone happy, as long as everyone is above board about the ultimate goal here.
Paulson wants a home for his team, that’s obvious. The city of Beaverton wants to improve its image and provide additional entertainment for their residents without bankrupting the city, and that makes sense to me as well. I don’t get the motivation of the business owners around the Westgate theatre, because I’d think they would want people visiting their area and providing customers to those establishments. On one respect, they seem to want to preserve the surrounding area, but in other comments, they seem to just be wanting more money. What I will say is that it’s nice to see talks continuing on this because it’s important that the Beavers stay. I just wished that the city of Portland had enough insight to realize that.
Finally, the topic of sportsmanship has come up quite a bit lately with the Oregon – BSU game, the tirade at the U.S. Open by Serena Williams and Roger Federer and the acceptance speech given by Michael Jordan after being accepted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. I read the transcript of Jordan’s speech and it read more like a roast of everyone that has wronged him over the years, which isn’t what I would expect from an acceptance speech. Has sportsmanship really suffered over the years, or are we just more aware of the fact that a lot of athletes are perceived now as whiny, overpaid divas who demand everything.
When I play soccer, I always shake the hands of my opponents at the end of the match, regardless of result. I respect my opponents enough to look them in the eye and say “Nice game” in the spirit of competition. I personally feel that athletes should some common courtesy to their opponents after the game, and it’s not necessary to fan the flames of competition by opening their mouth. The game should be enough, but for many world-class athletes, it appears that it’s not enough.
It’s not enough to win, but you have to humiliate and dominate the other side, and let the world know of your prowess. It’s also important to be vocal about anything that you perceive to be wrong, even if that requires yelling and demonstrations to prove a point. Never mind that you might not be right, never mind that an official might have seen something slightly different, never mind that the rules state this is how things should be done, it’s more important to be right and look passionate otherwise.
Competitive juices cause people to do some very strange things, including trying to bend the rules just to gain the glory of a title, or some form of recognition. I think in our adoration of athletes, we’ve all enabled this group by worshiping winning and titles above all else, and glorifying winning or doing something memorable above the spirit of competition. Athletes want to win badly, but many of them have forgotten that it’s simply a game and that having fun and pushing yourself should be what it’s all about. Instead, it’s about the money, influence, and prestige, which then clouds the decision making process into thinking it’s all about you. And showing sportsmanship is a sign of weakness, showing some humility about things.
But before we point the finger at athletes, I think we can all learn a lesson from this in our own lives. We all tend to think it’s about us, when drivers move aggressively in lanes trying to shave seconds from their drive time, or they cut off people in lines at stores, or text while driving or walking instead of paying attention to the task at hand. Those actions all reinforce the belief that’s it’s all about me. I love it when my sports teams win, but I value being classy and having integrity much more, and I’d rather have a team of character guys that are floating in the mid table than a whole team of spoiled winners. It didn’t work very well for the late 90’s/ early 00’s Trail Blazers, who had a supremely talented, but volatile team, and the franchise has just now recovered. But I also want to do my part in the human race by being more aware of my surroundings and paying attention to what I’m doing to my fellow humans. It might not get me many wins on the pitch, but it will get me points in the kharma domain, and I think that’s the best scoreboard to pay attention to. Until next time…