Let me be clear. I am a Ducks fan.
Have been since I was a three-year-old in Salem, holding a basketball almost as big as I was. Have been since I played tennis and football for the South Eugene Fighting Axemen, the latter at venerable old Civic Stadium, within spitting distance of the new roundball palace that is Matt Knight Arena.
Have been since I played soccer for the U of O, back in the days when more people crowded into Hayward Field to watch a dual track meet than straggled into Autzen to watch a football game.
I’m telling you all this because I want you to understand I’m far from a fair weather fan. I’m a Webfoot for the long haul. Always have been. Always will be.
I’m also the father of three kids, two of them girls. And now, I’m delighted to be able to report, I’m the proud grandfather of two delightful granddaughters, ages seven and three – both of whom are already sporting Duck gear; both of them are already well aware that Marcus Mariota is vastly more important than the prime minister of Canada, even though neither of them has yet to set foot in the great state of Oregon.
So, it was with some considerable consternation – as a fan, a father, and a grandfather – that I received the news of the recent allegations of rape leveled against three Duck basketball players, and the subsequent dismissal of two-year starting shooting guard Damyean Dotson, former 4* guard Dominic Artis, and redshirt transfer Brandon Austin.
I know you’ll agree the Eugene police report, even taking into account the redactions, was shocking. Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman’s comment that the decision to dismiss the three was “in the best interest of the university and the best interest of the young men, and in the best interest of our program,” ranks as one of the biggest understatements of the year – so far. “There are four people whose lives have been greatly altered here,” he added. “I feel really bad for the victim and her family.”
But, of course, the impact of something like this ripples out far beyond those directly affected. What about the rest of the team? You and I know that, one way or another, Coach Altman and his staff, terrific senior guard Joseph Young and his teammates, will all be tarred by association with the three now-disgraced, now ex-Ducks.
Exciting newcomers such as Casey Benson, JaQuan Lyle, Jordan Bell, and Ray Kasongo and their families may have been worrying about, at some level, what they had walked into. Recruiting new basketball players to come to Eugene could have suddenly felt like one of the toughest jobs in the country.
Then there are the rest of us – you know, folks like me – who bleed yellow and green (or whatever color combo Nike comes up with on any given day) – who are left with a knot in our stomachs by what has transpired. And the Eugenians – and there are a lot of them – who worry that Oregon athletics have become so distanced from the lives of ordinary folks in the Emerald Empire, that loyalty is, in some cases, being displaced by annoyance, or worse, downright hostility.
I left my home state to see the wider world when I was 19, and have never moved back. But wherever I’ve gone, I’ve stayed connected with my roots through my visceral, life-long connection with Oregon athletics. I’ve listened to Duck games via shortwave radio, surrounded by AK-47-toting tribesmen on the slopes of Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat, at the western edge of the Himalayas.
I’ve listened to Ducks games through an iffy Internet connection from remote outposts in the Masai Mara, the faint silhouette of Mount Kenya floating in the distance. Last year I boated across nearly 100-mile-long Kootenay Lake in remote southeastern British Columbia – in the pitch dark – to make it home in time to catch a Ducks game – then boated back to camp and my bemused Canadian friends.
I’m not a lawyer, Rob, so I can’t even begin to comment on the legal implications of what’s gone down. But as a proud Oregon alumnus, a fiercely loyal fan, a father, and a grandfather, I commend everyone from University president Michael Gottfredson, to you, to Coach Altman, by using this opportunity to go the extra distance – to make it crystal clear, through your actions, as well as words, that there is zero tolerance for this kind of behavior among your student athletes.
And to ensure players know – and assure the rest of us – that the Oregon basketball program understands there are, in fact, some things that are bigger, that are more important than sports. That actions always carry with them consequences. And, that when Coach Altman refers to the Men of Oregon, listeners won’t roll their eyes and shake their heads in dismay.
I’m a Ducks fan, Rob. Always have been. Always will be.
Thank you —
Top photo Kevin Cline
- Managers are fascinating to me....these are people who like to organize others and get satisfaction from making things run smooth. They enjoy dealing with the mundane mistakes of associates and they find ways to communicate--and help them achieve their potential in that venture. I, Charles Fischer, of FishDuck.com do NOT have those skills and with 70 volunteers I need help from professional managers and those who wish to get experience in management. It is five hours a week to help with other volunteers. What is a curse to me, can be great fun for you! You could make a BIG impact upon the site and other Oregon fans; contact me at email@example.com
- ARE YOU A COACH who would like to share some of your knowledge with the fans and other coaches that come to FishDuck.com? Make an impact upon others as we all learn together this sport we all love. Consider being an advisor or guest writer on the site! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do you like to write? Want some experience sportswriting or wish to build your own article portfolio? Our articles are searched and found every day--even old ones! We have a few openings for writers who like to do the longer Featured Articles, and some slots for the Sports News Team that does shorter articles for our Oregon fan readership. Contact me at email@example.com
- Editors like to edit; they don't like to fuss around with the other stuff in running a site....they enjoy working with words and making articles better while mentoring young writers to improve their craft. Join us! A Duck who likes to edit is a Rare Bird that we value at FishDuck.com...contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org