Spring is upon us. Cherry blossoms have come and gone. Cleaning of various nooks and crannies has started. The loss of winter weight is now either a new habit or a forgotten resolution. Even tax season ended last week (for most). These are a few of my favorite things.
For many of you, another favorite seasonal thing has also begun: Spring Football, an event of such magnitude that it deserves capitalization. I respectfully disagree, whether due to my pessimistic nature or constant internal admonishment that I prepare for the worst.
Objectively, Spring Football (read: televised scrimmages) brings with it a degree of speculation and analysis that should be reserved for other, more pressing issues: Solving America’s infrastructure problems, reducing European dependence on Russian natural gas, or picking the winner of the upcoming 10th season of America’s Got Talent. (Yep, 10 seasons of a televised talent competition whose judge panel includes the underrated filmmaker and author Howard Stern. Please, America’s Nielsen households, change the channel.)
Spring Football is not one of my favorite spring things. I fail to see its predictive power or the awe-inspiring performances its stars generate. To me, Spring Football brings with it anxiety and fear. To me (and probably many of you), these predictions speak to my worst fear that the Ducks have seen the mountaintop of college football, but will never ascend its apex. I worry that the immortal Dale Earnhardt was right when he said that ”[s]econd place is just the first place loser.” To the Chicken Littles of the world (me included), the start of the 2015 season is the beginning of the end of all hope.
Over the past few years, the Ducks have figured prominently in these rough draft opinions. The 2014 season was an unexpected and utterly satisfying season, outstripping the expectations of college football’s hoi polloi. The already-mythical Marcus Mariota took home the Heisman Trophy and Oregon appeared (and got spanked) in the College Football Playoff Championship Game to End All Championship Games. These are no mean feats, especially in a sport where 128 teams compete.
Oregon is facing similar expectations this year, even though individual opinions varied greatly. While many of the more informed variety expect Oregon to perform well this season, the cypher has remained constant as in years past. You might get close, but not this year Duck fans.
Fortunately for me at least, Oregon football’s motto in the tunnel leading to Rich Brooks Field in Autzen Stadium lends itself to more favorable expectations than, say, Dante’s imagined greeting at the entrance to a place most god-fearing men and women hope to avoid. And, with Oregon’s spring game around the corner (May 2 and televised) it is this statement, “Win the Day,” to which all Duck fans, half-full and half-empty types alike, should cleave.
As those better and brighter than me ponder which player will start (and star) at which position, I prefer to remain in the clouds, looking at the college football calendar from 30,000 feet. Sure, one of the many OSUs had almost 100,000 people watch its spring game. Oregon fans certainly haven’t turned out the same numbers in the last few years. Heck, last year’s spring game attendance was just a hair over one-third of the attendance of this year’s Ohio State game.
But just as one swallow does not a summer make, so one glorified scrimmage and its attendance does not a college football season make. Whether it’s Lockie or Adams or Waller or Griffin at QB, Tyner or Freeman or the other Griffin or Lovette at RB, Seisay or Nelson at CB, we will know the answers to these enigmatic questions when the season starts on September 5, 2015.
Furthermore, remember that similar questions will be asked again when Oregon football commences with the first whistle of spring practice every year hence. Where others see spring football as tea leaves of the coming season, I prefer to think of spring football as just another indication that earth continues spinning and hurtling through the universe, and that the seasons will continue to turn:
Top photo by Gary Breedlove
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