Oh no! How much worse can it possibly get? It’s the end of an era! The sky is falling! It’s sadder than a country & western love song! In fact, it should be a country & western song: “I’m a poor Duck; I’m so out of luck. Ten & two is so bad; I’m cryingly sad. With a quivering lip I’m missing my Chip…”
I’ve been away from FishDuck for a few months, finishing school and getting my life direction set, but nothing could keep me from taking in as much Ducks football as I could. The trials of the 2013 season are well-documented, if not overly-criticized. It’s worth noting that while the vast majority of Oregon fans have kept their heads and see the beauty in a 10-win season, it’s the loud ones who create the buzz, and these are often ones with less than flattering opinions.
Oregon fans have taken a beating for being band-wagon, fair-weather and non-loyal, and that’s simply not fair. Find me one fan base in the country that doesn’t attract that kind of fan once they start winning. Can’t do it, huh? That’s life. Sports are not for everyone – especially allotting the time to be dedicated to a sport. Life is too busy, too fast-paced, so you’re going to have people who hop on and off the wagon as they see fit. These people don’t speak for the masses, and they don’t represent the love and passion that a lot of Duck fans have.
Now, let me back up a second. Was I disappointed with a 10-2 record? You bet. This season had all the makings of something special, something never-before-seen in these parts. And to fall short is maddening. Having high expectations is OK – it’s what gives Kansas City Royals fans hope every April. It’s why being 0-0 at the start of the season is so inspiring, because you never know when you’ll catch lightning in a bottle. Oregon had every weapon needed to make a title run, and falling short is not fun.
It’s OK to be upset. To lose perspective is where things go wrong.
Oregon had a first year head coach who won ten games. Remember the olden days (pre-2009) when Oregon was winning 8-9 games a year with a seasoned head coach? Woof! This is the problem with expectations and newly-founded success: it’s not appreciated. Oregon’s rise came so quickly, so out-of-the blue, that it was almost expected that they would win 12 games a year, no questions asked. That’s just not possible, not in this day. Every program has cycles, and by the way, Oregon is not in one yet.
Will Mark Helfrich be the next Chip Kelly? Who knows. Kelly went 10-3 his first year, Helfrich can go 11-2. He has more talent around him, sure, but Kelly didn’t have the competition that Oregon faces now. There was no David Shaw, Rich Rodriguez or Mike Leach. While Oregon has gotten better, so has everyone else. I would say 11-2 looks pretty good from here.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Oregon was happy to reach a bowl game, happy to be in contention for a conference title, and THRILLED to play a program like Texas. You know who was around for those days? Those lowly, single-digit win days?
He understands where this program came from, where it is now, and where it could go. He also understands how it could slip back, without a sense of urgency. So Oregon, its pedestrian 10 wins and all, will be just fine.
Let the bandwagon clear out. It gives more leg room to those of us who appreciate where we are, where we came from and where we could still go.
Main photo by Kevin Cline