My Best Fish (Duck) Story — and Closing Memoir
I’ll never forget the date: Oct. 10, 2011. I remember feeling completely lost, staring into my computer screen for literally hours. You see, I had my first post due for something called “FishDuck.com” at 3 a.m. the next morning. And, while I had been able to come up with a topic and the basis of what I wanted to say in a rough draft, it was proving to be way more difficult than I ever imagined to put an idea into words worth reading.
For one, the only real direction I was given was to write something informative or otherwise interesting about the Oregon Ducks [Ed. note: seriously?]. I managed to come up with at least SOMETHING by about 2:59 a.m., though its literary merits — like virtually everything I’ve posted here — were limited. I sleepwalked through the next day at work and remember thinking, “Is this really worth it?,” and, “What exactly did I sign up for with this?”
Now, 114 posts later, I can say that all the late nights in the early days and crazy personal schedule-juggling required to hit even an every-two-week deadline for an entirely volunteer “side-project-website-thing”– have been completely worth it in every sense of the word.
I have seen parts of the University of Oregon’s facilities that, as a fan in the stands all those years, I had always wanted to see. And not just behind the curtain of Autzen Stadium — the Casanova Center and Matthew Knight Arena, too. I got to watch games in the press boxes in old Husky Stadium and inside the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field, and caught a Civil War from Reser Stadium in Corvallis (all big-time Duck wins, and all great memories too, by the way).
I always felt that, while I never received a single dime for my writing efforts over the years, I was given the opportunity to see and do things I would have never experienced otherwise. As a longtime and passionate Duck fan, I always felt like I was getting the better end of the deal. For my final FishDuck.com story (for the foreseeable future) I wanted to share what I consider to be my most memorable FishDuck story of all.
In 2012, I traveled to Seattle for the Oregon-Washington State game played at CenturyLink Field. I arrived with the same group of friends I had seen many Duck games with over the seasons, but this pregame tailgate was different.
After arriving at our parking spot and setting up, my friends all began to open up the pregame beers (for ‘good luck’, of course) and firing up grills, while I headed into the stadium in neutral business casual attire, carrying a laptop bag. I made my way to the media entrance, rode the elevator up to the press box and found my assigned seat on about the 40-yard line.
Shortly after settling in, a staff member informed us that “all media would need to be off the field by five minutes prior to kick off.” Quickly realizing this included me, I giddily made my way back to the elevator and asked the attendant for field level.
Excited and eagerly anticipating the opening of the elevator doors, I realized, barely, I was riding down with Kevin Gemmell (he of ESPN Pac-12 Blog fame) until he asked, “Who do you write for?” “FishDuck.com” was my reply. He told me he had both seen and was a huge fan of the site and the concept of basically a bunch of die-hard fans writing about and analyzing the Ducks.
I pulled up a pant leg to show him that even while sporting “business casual,” I had still managed to wear bright yellow Oregon socks under my slacks. He laughed, and we made our way out the Seahawks’ tunnel onto the field.
I watched as the players warmed up, and found a place to stand a few feet away from Chip Kelly and a group of coaches orchestrating drills. It was a tightly-contested game in the first half, before Kenjon Barner got on track for 195 yards and three touchdowns, and the No. 2-ranked Ducks ended up winning 51-26.
The game turned in the third quarter when Avery Patterson jumped Connor Halliday’s pass for a 34-yard pick-6. I remember instinctively popping up out of my chair and standing up as Patterson raced into the end zone, only to then awkwardly realize that I was in the press box, and “rooting” for one team, up there, is a clear rookie mistake.
But, like I said, it’s an instinct. When an Oregon Duck jumps a route or is otherwise running with a wide open field in front, an unseen yet powerful force always compels me to stand up. Two of my favorite words are “Touchdown, Oregon!” (credit Jerry Allen).
What else can I say, I love the Oregon Ducks. After the game, and after watching player and coach interviews, I started writing my game story in the press box. I wrote as fast as I could, but by the time I finished, I realized not only was I the last media member to leave, but that I was one of the only people left in the stadium, period.
So, naturally, I decided to take a “short cut” to the other side of the stadium. It seemed if I cut through the corporate suite corridor, I would be able to easily exit the stadium on the side closest to where I was going, as I was staying at a friend’s place with incredible views on Queen Anne Hill, near the Space Needle.
As I walked through the suite corridor, I passed name plates on the suites, reading company names such as ”Microsoft” and “Alaska Airlines.” I was clearly in the uber-exclusive area of the stadium.
It was now close to 2 a.m., and I was the only one around. It was great. And that’s when things got interesting. I made my way out the side of the stadium I had targeted and began to walk out across the massive parking lot.
“I’ll get out to the main street, figure out what intersection I’m at, and call a cab,” I thought. However, a few hundred feet outside the perimeter of the stadium, with each step, a temporary chain link fence began to come into focus. I was gated in!
I looked as far as I could see in both directions, but could not find an end to the fence. So, I started walking in one direction, thinking I would find a way out eventually. I was wrong!
I walked half-way around the stadium. No way out. And now, there was no way back into the stadium, as the doors had locked behind me. With a laptop backpack on, I did what I felt I had to do and scrambled over the fence, managing to land safely.
I was finally free, or so I thought. I was now all turned around, having exited the stadium on a different side (in what appeared to be a loading dock area), but I could see the Space Needle just beyond some high-rises, and decided to make my way in that direction.
As I approached the downtown area, I pulled out my smart phone and opened Google maps, and started to search for a taxi service phone number online as I made my way through the unfamiliar skyscrapers.
I found a number and placed the call, holding the phone to my ear as I turned the next corner. Looking around, I realized that I was suddenly right in the middle of the largest group of homeless people I had ever seen. I quickly hung up the phone and put it back in my pocket, but it was too late.
Calls and yells of, “You got any change?” “Hey look at this guy!” “Nice shoes!” “Hey, he’s got a computer!” were directed at me. I had to find the fastest way out of there, immediately. Survival mode took over for me, and I decided to not respond or look at anyone, instead keep moving no matter what, even as groups of them tried to block or impede my path. Finally, I was able to turn a corner down a dark alley.
I could see a few hunched-over figures about half-way down. I took a deep breath, snapped a nervous photo (maybe, my last?), and decided to take my chances. I remember thinking and maybe even saying vocally, “How in the hell did I get here?”
I have never walked so fast in my life. As soon as I reached the next corner, I turned sharply and ran at a full sprint for at least four full blocks, again in a random direction – but one that would keep me away from the WalMart-sized bum camp I had stumbled across, known it as “Pioneer Square.”
I kept walking at a fast pace and decided it was finally safe to pull the phone back out to figure out where I was and call a cab. I saw a street sign up ahead that read “6th Street” and knew eventually that would take me back toward the Space Needle and Queen Anne Hill. I was about to call a cab but something came over me (whether confidence or stupidity); I felt that I had made it this far, and honestly didn’t want to stop moving to wait for a cab. I walked the rest of the nearly four miles between the stadium and my friends’ house, getting in the door just before 4 a.m.
I woke up a friend and began to tell him what had happened. He replied groggily, “D-u-u-u-de, that was really dumb. You could have died; I had a friend get mugged downtown last weekend!” Then he went back to sleep.
I lay there thinking about the game, my impromptu adventure and how much my feet hurt after walking so far in black leather dress shoes. I knew right away I would never forget that night, as I would have never have aimlessly wandered through downtown Seattle at 3 a.m. – if it wasn’t for FishDuck.com.
I have so many more memories — most are less life-threatening – made possible by my involvement with FishDuck, and for that I am forever thankful. However, my time with the site has also coincided with a major growth curve in my business as a Realtor, going on my seventh year of experience in Eugene and Springfield area Real Estate markets.
As much as I have enjoyed writing, it is time for me to dedicate all of my time to my business and family for now. I want to say thank you to everyone who has read my stuff over the years.
I will continue to follow FishDuck.com and watch from a distance as the site continues to grow. And after recently locking in 2014 season football tickets and my trusty tailgate parking spot of 11 years, I am as eager as ever to watch this upcoming season unfold for the Ducks – again, as just another fan. If you head to Autzen for a game this year, maybe I’ll see you in the stands or outside tailgating with family and friends. We’re right under “the” big cedar tree.
Top photo by Josh White