It’s Saturday and I’m sitting in a Wenatchee coffeehouse waiting for the Apple Blossom Festival Parade to pass by outside, and I can’t help but recall my own little parade of a week ago to the Oregon spring football game.
Myself in the lead, my two nephews in tow, yapping at me all the way.
Like other families raised in Oregon, the Mahers are of mixed blood — Duck and Beaver. In our case, we’re mostly Ducks — the exception being my brother-in-law and his four sons, two of which are the nephews in question.
I was in Eugene for the football game and the Eugene Marathon the following day. My brother, Rich, is the race director. The event invariably becomes a family reunion of sorts. This year, that included the two little Beavers from Portland — Devin and Ryan.
Whenever I get the chance to go one-on-one with these guys, I go for broke. Put on the full press. Hit them with everything I got.
They’re 11-year-olds, after all.
And in return, they slam the brakes on my banter, and accelerate in reverse. Pedal to the metal. Take no prisoners.
I’m a 51-year-old, after all.
So it was of no surprise the talk was Ducks and Beavers are we began our journey from the Eugene Hilton, where the marathon expo was being held, to Autzen Stadium. I figured we had a good 30 minutes for some serious debating. Once we got there and the Ducks kicked off to the Ducks, and they were slurping down Mountain Dews and getting some sun, it would be a lost cause.
I noted the Lake Oswego football and Portland Timber hoodies they wore. It wasn’t Duck stuff, but it wasn’t Oregon State garb, either.
A sign of respect? An opening?
Not likely. As I’ve discovered the past few years, these kids possess a steely resolve to be forever Beavs.
I let go with the first salvo.
“So you think your Mike Riley has got to win some games this year … or else?”
“Hey, why did Chip Kelly want to leave?” Devin shot back.
The switch had been flipped.
“Darron Thomas left. You don’t have a quarterback,” they both said simultaneously, as if they had been rehearsing the line for some time.
Before I could answer, Devin followed up with, “And we have Sean Mannion, freshman All-American.”
Me: “LaMichael James got drafted in the second round yesterday.”
Them: “LaMichael James disappeared against Auburn.”
Me: “Orange is not a natural color.”
Them: “Green is the color of Phil Knight’s money.”
Before long, we we got down to brass tacks.
“What’ll it take for you to become Ducks?” I proposed.
“What do you mean?” Ryan asked.
“I can guarantee your future,” I responded.
“He’s trying to bribe us, Ryan,” Devin cut in.
“OK, then I want an Xbox 360,” Ryan said.
“And I want a red Mustang and $30,000 in cash,” Devin added.
I knew it was hopeless. They were playing me. Again.
And so it went, across the Peter DeFazio Footbridge, through Alton Baker Park, along Pre’s Trail, by the Science Building, through the open Autzen gates, into the Moshofsky Center, up to the stairs, and finally into the hallowed grounds.
The best I could get was a “Hey, this place is cool” from Ryan when we walked into the Mo. And a “I wish the Beavers had a stadium like this” from Devin in the stands.
No major concessions. No switched allegiances.
Which is OK, after all, isn’t it? If we all looked the same, wore the same clothes, read the same books, voted the same way, played the same sports, rooted for the same teams, life would be one big bore, wouldn’t it?
Got to have the ups and downs.
Wins and losses.
Ducks and Beavers.
As my nephew Devin blurted out as we neared Autzen: “Yea, the Beavers suck! But you gotta remain true!”