Duck Family Day is a new feature for every Saturday where Oregon fans share their stories of … being Oregon fans! Email email@example.com to share your experiences of you and your family and what it means to be a Duck fan. Paul Jones is a former writer for FishDuck.com and is extremely passionate about our beloved Ducks – the same as you. Contact us and share!
If you live in a major sports market – or grew up in one – chances are that’s who your team is. Having grown up in the Northwest, I’ve been a Seattle Seahawks fan my whole life, but college sports is a paradox. I see more fans of non-NW college teams up here than I see fans of NFL teams not from Seattle. So why is this, and what does that have to do with my family?
First, I’m a lifelong Oregon Ducks fan. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not talking about the ’80s (the only rough decade for Oregon football I can remember, being a Gen-Xer). I’m talking about growing up in Oregon, all the way up until just before high school when I unexpectedly ended up in northern Washington – in dreaded Husky country.
If that doesn’t take the cake (assuming I don’t need to explain all of the challenges that come with starting high school in a new city where you don’t know anyone), my parents went to college east of the Cascades, which made them anti-Husky, Coug-lovers.
Of course, hating the Huskies was easy, but I didn’t care for the Cougs either, and here I was in no-man’s land. Don’t get me started about other family members who ventured east of the mountains, as well, friends.
I took off and explored the country after high school, and when I was done, and got to choose where I landed, and, of course, I chose Oregon. This was the late ’90s, and what a great time to be back. Eventually my first daughter, Maddie, was born in Oregon and thus started the cleansing of the blood. No more dreaded Husky country, no more guilt about not being a die-hard Coug. Just plenty of Duck-Beaver rivalries and good football.
When my daughter was still a baby, I ended up in Minnesota, but took my love of the Ducks with me. Fortunately, being a Ducks fan in B1G country was A-OK with most people, even after the beatdown the Ducks put on Michigan (which to most Wolverine fans is still the height of embarrassment to them, NOT the Appalachian State loss). Maddie, like me and probably completely because of me, had a deep affinity for the Green-and-Yellow, which she thought looked good on her — regardless of what Mom thought.
Maddie and Daddy took their love of the Ducks and moved a few years later, ending up in college football purgatory – also known as Seattle. While I knew what was in store, Maddie was, of course, excited, as she was turning 4 and “ready to go to see the Ducks play football in person, Dad!”
While we never missed a game on TV up to that point, taking her to a first Oregon game was a crucial step — this was how the father-daughter bond were sealed — with the blood of opposing rivals, high scores, and The Duck, who, of course, is a hero to all children under 6 and over 18.
Being in Seattle with Maddie still somewhat little, hopping into the car and driving the 5-½ hours to Autzen Stadium wasn’t really doable, especially since Maddie, now had a baby sister that wasn’t ready for the thrills of Oregon football up close and personal.
What do I do? She’s not old enough for Autzen, yet (recommended minimum age is 7), and do I dare take her to Husky Stadium, where the bloodiest rivalry in the Pac-12 would occur? The answer, much to the chagrin of my wife, was “ABSOLUTELY!”
In 2009, I took my 4-year-old to her first Oregon football game. The tickets were from my boss at that time, who was a season ticket holder and booster, so we were fortunate to be in the “old fogy” section where the harassment was only slightly less than had we been near Husky fans my age.
But the bond — a bond that has only grown stronger over the years was formed that day. Of course, Oregon destroyed Washington, as we have been prone to do over the past decade-plus, but it wasn’t just the score. Maddie had the “best time EVER!!!” Hot dogs, popcorn, pictures, and yelling as loud as we could for as long as we could gave us something only we could share from that point on.
Since then, I’ve taken Maddie to games every year, culminating with the greatest road trip of our short time together so far — Maddie went to Autzen Stadium. What an experience, not just for her, but for me, as well. She got pictures with the cheerleaders, saw The Duck up close, and was 20 feet from her hero Marcus Mariota.
We ate more hotdogs, had more popcorn, and — as she does every game (not to mention birthdays and Christmas lists), got more Duck gear.
Now, no matter where she goes to college, or where she lives, she will be a Duck fan. She and I will wear green and yellow five days a week, save ALL of our Oregon gear, and laugh at cars on the freeway that have a big purple “W” on the back.
NFL fans are amazing, but their fandom is different from college fans. Maybe it’s where they live, maybe they don’t have a favorite NFL team, but just became HUGE Tennessee Titans fans (cue Marcus Mariota). Or maybe it’s what they grew up with.
But college fans are diehard, hardcore, fans for life. There is no betrayal, there is no giving up and it’s definitely a family thing.
My favorite subplot story from a game – I took Maddie to what was the first game at Autzen. We needed tickets, and after finding out that it would be Maddie’s first game in Eugene, a season ticket holder gave us their 50-yard line, 5th row tickets – right behind the Oregon bench – for pretty much nothing.
Ever hear of an NFL fan doing that? — Of course, not. It’s a different kind of family, one that you are born with, grow up with and pass on to your kids. And it doesn’t matter where you live, only that you are wearing green, and your “O” matches.
And this year, Maddie’s younger sister comes of age to go to her first Oregon game – and wouldn’t you know it – because the Ducks are coming to town!!!
Top photo from Paul Jones