The Blackened Hearts of the Black and Orange

(Ed. Note: This article is referring to the majority of a specific fan base, not a description of each individual member of that fan base.  There are plenty of reasonable, grounded people within each fan base, just as all fan bases have total idiots who serve as terrible diplomats for their team.  What is addressed here is the majority’s behavior.  That could be called “stereotyping”, and yes, stereotyping is harmful when applied to certain protected classes; however, college football fan bases aren’t one of those groups.  If you are bothered by a lack of political correctness on the topic of college football, it might be best to just avoid the internet all together.)

 

There are two ways Duck fans feel when it comes to the Civil War:

1)      Those who hate Oregon State unilaterally, who refuse to capitalize “beavers” or even acknowledge “that school” by name; fans which will have no problem summoning the necessary amount of hate this week, or

2)      Those who have family or friends who were a part of that school, and for whom victory creates conflicted feelings; knowing that happiness came at the expense and misery of those aforementioned people held dear.

I am amongst the conflicted.

I was always jealous of those who held an unbridled hatred of the Beavers, it was such a direct mindset, one I never had the luxury of experiencing.  My parents both went there, they even met at a football game. My brother is currently enrolled there, as were a fair number of my friends and family.

Don’t let my sympathies confuse where my loyalties lie; at this point rooting for the Ducks is a completely reflexive process.  Yet whenever a Civil War ended, after the celebration had ceased, it was hard not to feel a tiny measure of guilt at knowing that those whom you cared about being on the losing side.

Then came last Saturday night.  A few short minutes after Oregon’s heartbreaking loss to Stanford, Reser Stadium erupted louder than it would the rest of the night at the stadium’s announcement that the Ducks had lost.  With that reaction, all feelings of guilt about beating the Beavers were forever extinguished.

Even though I chose to go to a different school, my dad and I had always found common ground in the same philosophy, though we chose different teams through which to believe it.  We understood that parity was when sports are at their greatest – when all teams have a fair shot at winning.  It is a structure and philosophy is overtly evident in only one sport in America, the one that is also its most popular: the NFL.

College football once exceeded pro football in popularity.  Today, that popularity is inverted, despite college football being a more entertaining product.  It would not be unreasonable to assume that the loss in market share could be attributed, in no small part, to an existing system designed to sustain the sport’s plutocrats.  The game is rigged; changes are made at a glacial pace, and progress hindered under the guise of “tradition”.  The entire power structure – the bowls, the conferences, the media – are in place to make sure the rich stay richer.  When Oregon was ranked #1 for the first time in school history in 2010, it was the first time in twenty years any college had a debut week at #1, and only the eighth time a school had done so in the last fifty years.  It is an establishment that does not like letting new members into the club.

Until last Saturday, this was going to be a red-letter year for college football’s proletariat.  Oregon and Kansas State, two programs who had matching 2-9 seasons only 30 years ago, were on the verge of meeting for the BCS Championship, while the most relevant program in college football history, Notre Dame, would have been left out even if undefeated.  Of the 28 participants in the BCS Championship game, only two (Virginia Tech 1999, Oregon 2010) didn’t already possess a national championship coming into that game.  An Oregon-Kansas State matchup would have doubled that number.

Prior to Oregon State’s game against Stanford two weeks ago, it was looking to be a strong year for the state of Oregon.  A dream scenario was emerging for me, not only with Oregon going to the National Championship, but also for my terrible sympathizing guilt; Oregon State could get to the Rose Bowl without having to defeat Oregon, a near-impossibility in any other year.  It was becoming the state’s strongest year since 2000, the parallels of which were terrifying. That year, Oregon State also had a three-point loss at Washington, and hosted the only matchup between two top-10 teams (where Oregon State would have been ranked with a single loss) in the rivalry’s history; a game Duck fans would like to forget.  But the Beavers went to Palo Alto, and their dream season was lost.

Fast forward to just after 8:30 last Saturday evening, when the announcement of Oregon’s loss caused Reser Stadium to erupt; far louder than the Brandin Cooks touchdown scored moments later.  The loudest cheers that night came not from something the Beavers did, but at something the Ducks didn’t do.  It would be understandable to cheer for your rival’s downfall against a lesser team, but why would Beaver fans root for Stanford, a team that had knocked them out of as many Rose Bowls (2008, 2012) as Oregon (2008, 2009) had?  Under what mindset is it better for Alabama and Notre Dame to play for the title instead?

Pair that with the reaction that Oregon fans had earlier this season, when Oregon State’s victory over Wisconsin was announced.  Fans cheered.  Oregon fans had no alterior motive for their celebration, no axe to grind against Wisconsin, whom they had triumphed over in January.  Instead, it was about wanting to play the best Oregon State team possible, or least one that was highly ranked.

These examples illustrate the fundamental difference between the agendas of Oregon vs. Oregon State.  Oregon fans want Oregon State to be good (just not better than the Ducks), if only to enhance the value of any victory over them.  Oregon State fans want nothing more than to see the Ducks lose, even at the expense of their own success – evidenced by cheering the Oregon loss, all while ignoring the lost opportunity of a shot at knocking off the #1 team in the country.

The shortsighted perspective from “Beaver Nation” causes them to lose focus on what it means to be a fan of a team.  Ideally, your goal and rooting interest as a fan is to see your team have as much success as possible; specifically, you want your team to win as many games and championships as it can.  In college football, the only sport in America where success is determined by factors other than the game itself, the enhancement of a team’s profile is paramount to its success.

That success is determined not only by a team’s achievements during the season, but what they have done historically. Additionally, what those in their conference and on their schedule have done historically is just as significant.  A single season’s achievements aren’t enough to gain the benefit of the doubt.

Beaver fans should understand this better than anyone, their 2000 team was one of the most discounted teams of the BCS era, yet constructed largely similar to Auburn’s 2010 team – a one year apparition with a roster full of junior college derelicts who became the country’s most unstoppable team by season’s end.  Yet while Auburn played for the National Championship, Oregon State did not.  The difference?  The perception of relevancy of the program amongst its place in college football.*

*(I know that Oregon State had a loss and Auburn didn’t.  However, a one-loss team played for the national championship in 2000, Florida State, went to the National Championship over a one-loss team that defeated them, Miami, largely due to reputation. Florida State was the defending national champion, the likely reason they were chosen over five other one-loss teams.)

 

Oregon fans realize the necessity of democratizing success in college football, that the attainments of those around them is just as vital to their success as their own achievements.  Oregon State fans fail to grasp that by rooting for an Oregon team to fail so that a Notre Dame or Alabama might prosper, isn’t just rooting against your rival; it’s rooting against your own chances at success.  It’s maintaining the status quo, squabbling over a fiefdom while ignoring the bigger picture in the college football universe.  Ensuring that the existing power structure is never threatened loses sight of the big picture.  Wishing for victory over a rival is good.  Wishing for the demise of a rival outside of the upper echelons of college football’s historical hierarchy is nothing more than crabs in a bucket.

As long as Oregon State fans continue to wish ill on Oregon’s program in its entirety, and by proxy, wish ill on its own, it exists no longer as a rival, but as an enemy.  Saturday’s game is not only about possession of the state, it’s about fighting a system that has done everything it can to repress parity in college football.  It’s a system that Beaver fans continue to perpetuate, and until they understand that dynamic, they will be nothing more than another part of that repression.  To beat Oregon State is to notch another victory against the existing structure, and it’s a victory I won’t feel the least bit guilty about.

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Nathan Roholt

Nathan Roholt

Nathan Roholt is the Managing Editor for Fishduck.com. He is a 2005 graduate of the University of Oregon in Business Administration, a degree he used to obtain a series of unremarkable corporate jobs prior to his current position. He currently lives with his wife in Portland, OR. Follow him on twitter @nroholtfd and email him any questions or feedback at nroholtfd@gmail.com.

  • Briwlls

    Nice article, I experienced this a few years back at Reeser with a co-worker. They were cheering pregame as Oregon was losing to Utah, which at the time was an out of conference game. I’m now torn to wanting to play a high ranked Beavers at the end of the year and just wanting them to lose every game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rod.wirtz Rod Wirtz

    I used to be a “State of Oregon” fan, always cheering on both teams because they both represented our state. Even in the Civil War, I would cheer for the team who had the best opportunity to represent the state at the highest level. But over the last ten years that has all changed because of our little brother’s fan base. Rivalry is good and allows fans to tease each other after the game, but our little brother’s outright hatred of the Ducks leaves no room for light-hearted teasing, just arrogant, ignorant badgering.

    Your example of the Duck response to our little brother’s win and our little brother’s response to the Duck loss is a prime example. Our little brother’s fan base has absolutely no class and are a bunch of selfish jerks more concerned about their own little world in Corvallis than the great state of Oregon.

    I will still root for our little brother in any other game but the Civil War, even if Oregon were 1-10 and our little brother 10-1.

    • Thisarticleisasham

      Yours and the article writers arrogance is just beyond words, it almost makes me laugh.

  • shirecliffe

    If you can’t beat ‘em hate ‘em.

  • BeRational

    As a life-long Beaver fan, I regret that so many among the Beav’s fan base have behaved so badly. I was disappointed that the Ducks lost to Stanford, hoping that the Ducks would get a chance to show what they could do in the title game. But the cheers that went up at Reeser were mostly from the student section. In the grown-up world, very little of the acrimony you described ever reaches the levels you imply. And its far from being one-sided. Even I find myself getting frustrated by the Duck fans who belittle their “little brother” often in the foulest terms possible. One recent Duck fan posted on the Beav’s Oregon Live page that he was praying for a couple of our best players to suffer career-ending injuries. I was at the Civil War at Reeser when you knocked us out of the Rose Bowl, and I’ve never been treated so rudely by any fans as I was that day. (And yes, I’ve heard similar stories from Ducks as well).

    Let the players play the game. Cheer for your favorite, and show class in victory and defeat. May the best team win (probably Oregon once again, but oh well)

    • http://www.facebook.com/rod.wirtz Rod Wirtz

      I wish all fans (Ducks and Beavers) had your attitude.

    • Nate

      I hear the same things from my brother (a current OSU student), who expresses concern about buying tickets next year because of it. It’s always unfortunate when their are poor fans representing any fan base, Oregon’s or Oregon State’s

      • Nate

        *there

  • GoBeavs!

    The most arrogant fan is “duck fan”. A true Beaver fan growing up in Corvallis, I was raised to love the Beavers and hate the ducks. For some reason “duck fan” wants us to believe that they are rooting for us and want us to win. No self respecting Beaver fan believes you. It’s a rivalry, We don’t like you we don’t want you to win. In response to this article, the beaver fan base is not a part of the problem as the author says, if Oregon State goes undefeated they will play in the National Championship, barring a crazy scenario of undeterred traditional powers like Alabama, Michigan, USC etc. They would have played in the National Championship in 2000 if the 3 point loss to Washington hadn’t occured. All of this aside it is really easy to hate oregon. Why is it so easy? Your coach is an arrogant coach. Anyone who will continually go for it on 4th down inside his own half of the field is an idiot. Basic principals like field position is why you lose close games. Why don’t you scholarship a kicker already? You shanked your way out of the “natty” and have lost a civil war or two from a kicker missing a field goal. Go Beavs! Go Stanford!

    • Nate

      Thank you for posting a comment that completely reinforces the “Beaver fans love an Oregon loss more than a Beaver win” stereotype that some Beaver fans would like to shake. To paint each fan base as so one-dimensional that they are incapable of rooting for the other in games not between each other is insulting to both fan bases.

    • NorthRiverS

      Sorry, you are wrong, and pathetic, in so many ways.

  • OSUFB

    Well written article. Being a former OSU player, I used to feel extreme hatred towards Oregon. However, as time goes by and I grow older, I seem to be indifferent to both schools. A few years back, I went to an OSU/OREGON game. I had to leave by halftime because of what I heard in the stands. It was the same garbage said to me as a former player. I have not been back since. I can understand yelling at a coach, ref, or opposing fan, but to yell at a kid who is 18 or 19? I was sickened by the Beaver fans and how they acted, most of them, if not all, had never played a down of college football in their life. People seem to think that by rooting for a team or attending a game that they actually are part of the team. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Those same fickle fans who want a picture with their kids after a win and the next minute beat you up anonymously on an internet forum when you lose. Those fans sickened me then and make me feel the same now. I have two bowl rings, played in over 40 games, and lettered four years. This is not bragging, this is the truth. I have seen enough football from a stadium view and due to poor behavior of adults (who act like children in front of their children), I won’t be back.

    Most of my teammates, who I still communicate with, feel the exact same way. Good article Nathan………….don’t let a fan base leave you jaded, regardless of who you root for.

    • fishduck

      This comment is…instructive to all fan bases. It makes us all ashamed of our actions regardless of who we support. Thank you OSUFB for giving us perspective, and I am truly sorry that all of us fans ruin it for the former players.

    • Nate

      It’s unfortunate that level of negativity has to seep into fan behavior. I wish there was a better understanding of this amongst fans when they lose sight of the human aspect of the game, I’ve never felt that passion and appropriate behavior were mutually exclusive. Thanks a bunch for that reply, it’s always awesome to get that kind of insight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melanie.manning Melanie Marie-Jahnke Manning

    You guys do it too. I remember one year that the ducks beat us, and celebrated taking away our chance at the rose bowl-even though it didn’t get them anything. If they felt the way you describe, then they would’ve at least felt bad for destroying one of the Oregon team’s chances at getting to the rose bowl. Seriously, you really think that the fans are any different? They are all the same melting pot of people from Oregon and other states. This article is naive and insulting.

    • Nate

      That year when Oregon took away the Beavers’ opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl (2008), they had two losses. The other loss? To Stanford. Who knocked OSU out of the Rose Bowl this year? Stanford. Who were OSU fans rooting for on Saturday? The team that knocked them out of those Rose Bowls, not the team they hadn’t played yet. Seems silly, unless the sole reasoning is hate.

    • Thisarticleisasham

      “This article is naive and insulting.” I could not have said it better myself. The writer lost all credibility as soon as he tried to say the Duck fans are somehow above the Beaver fans. What a joke.

  • Thisarticleisasham

    Oh please, what a crock. Don’t get all high and mighty acting like the Beaver fans want the Ducks to lose and all the Duck fans are “better than that” and only want the Beavers to win. All the Duck fans I know cheer JUST AS MUCH when the Beavers lose. The only reason Duck fans wanted the Beavers to win was so we would be highly ranked when you had the chance to beat us in the Civil War, giving you a better chance to go to the National Championship.

  • NorthRiverS

    You don’t expect Beaver fans to realize this or understand it do you? They have been living in the past for decades and their “season” is determined by Oregon and Oregon only. Oregon “moved on” back in the ’80s when Rich Brooks achieved enough success to cultivate a rivalry with Washington who was a much larger powerhouse than Oregon at that time. Since then Oregon’s focus was more on Washington than OSU. Sorry Beavs, it’s true. Oregon continued to improve thru the Mike Belotti years and the rivalry with Washington began to wane when Washington lost a lot of its success while being sanctioned by the NCAA. Along came the Chip Kelly era and Oregon’s advancement continued, along with national championship implications. Hard to imagine that Oregon views OSU as anything more than just another conference foe that they must beat to get to the larger performance stage. Again, sorry Beavs, it’s true. You are stuck in the ’70s and have never “moved on”. And that is the reason for your hatred. Or maybe a more appropriate word would be “jealousy”, or “envy”. Neither is a positive trait.

  • Beavblazer

    You guys are still butt hurt about Stanford? Guess so. Hope you still have some tears left for tomorrow?

  • Thisarticleisasham

    Do you even know what a “rivalry” is in college football? RIVALS ARE SUPPOSED TO HATE THE OTHER TEAM IN THE RIVALRY. You clearly don’t understand this since you wrote this article after getting your poor feelings hurt about the Stanford loss. I sincerely hope you go to the game today and please wear yellow and green. I want all my fellow Beaver fans to know which guy will cry like a girl as soon as he gets heckled. ;)

  • BMB

    Sorry, but most Duck fans I know seem very arrogant, and bring that hatred on themselves. I have noticed a lot of Duck fans seem to be Laker fans, NY Yankee fans, etc. Big “band wagon” fans. May not be entirely true, just my personal observation. Lots of trash talking on FB from them, not as much from Beaver fans. Ok, I must admit, having a son attending OSU tends to make me somewhat biased.but, one of my sons is also a Duck fan too. (And I love him just as much as all my kids, but he does have that Duck arrogance, as does my Brother.) That’s my two cents. Bottom line, sportsmanship is a thing of the past, and I truly miss that quality in most athletes of today. (And the fans too…)

  • Mike Sexton

    OSU has shirts that say ‘I hate your Ducks” UO doesnt have those kind of things.

  • Charley

    I think the dislike for the Ducks comes on many levels. First and foremost the attitudes of the fans, Chip Kelly(cant stand the man, I have witnessed him being very rude in public) The fact that multiple Duck players are less than model citizens, oh and lets not forget setting a portion of the Beavers field on fire one year.

    Take a look around and watch your coveted duck fans they are asses. Recently witnessed a duck fan bring a little boy to tears all because he was wearing Beaver gear to support his team.

    • JDWebfoot

      You have never seen Chip Kelly, let alone being rude in public. Which Ducks are “less than model citizens” exactly? The Beavs led the conference in offseason arrests. The Beavs field is hideous, and deserved to be burned. And also, way to make up a story about a crying little boy. Was he a cancer patient too? Everything you have said is either made up or sour grapes. The Ducks are just better. At everything. Have fun in the Tire care bowl.