What We Learned: Comedy, Tragedy, and The Coliseum

I ask you, college football fans around the country, “Are you not entertained?” Storied programs fell this first week of October like a game of bingo at a retirement home; painfully slow at first, then all at once as shouts rose across the empty space filled with stale air and quiet resignation.

Success Breeds The Upset

Solomon's Wisdom--Anu escaped Oregon's rushers for the win

Kevin Cline

Solomon’s Wisdom–Anu escaped Oregon’s onslaught for the win

This day of overthrowing the powers that be was predicted by prophets of old. Keith Jackson, Brent Musberger, Lee Corso, and even contemporaries such as the hair model/sage Jesse Palmer warned:

“If you build it, they will come. Then they will come to hate you for it.”

For decades Duck fans pined for perennial powers to fall in upsets, to humble USC and Washington fans and inch those ailing Duck teams closer to ever elusive success. With cap feathering achievements as Pac-12 and BCS bowl winners over the past ten years, the Ducks have turned the tables. Rare failures are remembered, rather than the countless victories as the unexpected becomes the signal flare, rather than monotonous violent beatings of faceless opponents. “Kenny Wheaton’s gonna scooooore” is a much more stirring cry than “The Ducks finish Nicholls State 66-3.”

In a dramatic turn, Oregon has had to combat fan boredom during early season beatdowns more often than losing records. Oregon hasn’t endured a losing season since 2004, and it shows in the way the fan base has reacted during challenging stretches of the Helfrich era.

Comedy At The Coliseum

Eating Crow--Proud Ducks fans were eventually silenced in the Autzen upset.

Kevin Cline

Eating Crow–Proud Ducks fans were eventually silenced in the Autzen upset.

Humor can be found this sour weekend in the reactions of some Duck fans calling for resignations and questioning a hundred years of accumulative coaching experience from the comfort of their La-Z-Boys. If every disappointment meant an immediate firing, I reckon most of us would be out of work, as would Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Jim Mora, Mike Leach, and Steve Sarkisian. The carnage called for by fanatics hearkens back to those days in ancient Rome, when cheers of adulation could swiftly turn to cheers for a hero’s bloodshed. When we no longer are entertained, what use have we for them?

Heartbreak permeated the Pac-12 this weekend, with every game decided by one score or less. That deserves to be highlighted. Oregon vs. Arizona was the widest margin of any of the contests, meaning one possession decided the winners and losers in every game. For those Ducks fans entangled in the throes of depression, our tragedy could be much worse. We could have had two heart-rending chances at a field goal to win like UCLA, two losses by a total of six points like Stanford, two inexplicable collapses like USC, or worst of all, we could live in Pullman.

 

Lead Photograph Credit: Kevin Cline

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