Duck Family Day is a new feature article where Oregon fans share their stories of … being Oregon fans! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experiences, your family stories and what it means to be a Duck fan. Jim Ross (below) is a writer for FishDuck.com and is extremely passionate about our beloved Ducks, the same as you and I. Contact us and share!
Can you truly be an avid Duck fan but not a U of O graduate? Over the years I have read many posts claiming one cannot be a true fan of a college team without being a graduate of the school, but I disagree with that wholeheartedly.
Since we have no NFL team here in Oregon, as football fans we somehow become attached either to the Oregon or Oregon State in our childhood, just like those who live in NFL cities become attached to their local teams as kids.
The moment for me was in 1985, when our eighth grade football team made the drive from Eagle Point to Eugene to watch the Ducks play mighty San Jose State. The Ducks won the game behind strong performances by running back Tony Cherry and quarterback Chris Miller. Attendance for that game was a little over 22,000.
My friends and I spent a good portion of the game running up and down the stands in what is now the student section because there were no people sitting there.
Somewhere in one of my old photo albums, I have pictures of myself standing on the sideline with the Duck cheerleaders because to get to the nearest port-a-potty, you had to walk down onto the sideline to get out of that end of the stadium.
The next year, hometown hero Joe Meerten was given a full ride to the U of O, which buried the hook a little further because a guy I grew up watching play right in my backyard made it to the big time.
I graduated in 1990 and got the pleasure of playing high school football against some guys whose names may sound familiar to Duck fans, such as Chad Cota, Rich Ruhl, Heath Howington and Greg Fogle. Now, guys that I had actually traded paint with made it, and my process of becoming a die-hard fan was complete.
As time has passed and my hair has transformed to the color of the fall Oregon hardwoods that have lost their leaves, my passion for Duck football has not aged.
The only difference now is that instead of heading up from Medford with a bunch of buddies, I head up from Brookings with my wife and four step-kids. Instead of a two-and-a-half-hour drive I have a four-and-a-half-hour drive, yet I rarely miss a home game.
The games have gone from party time to family time. (When we take the kids. Otherwise we still manage some party time.)
I have a lifelong friend in the Eugene area who has four kids as well, and we have a great big Ducks slumber party at his house. Four or five times every fall we pack his house with at least six adults and eight children. There is not a strand of carpet that doesn’t have a body asleep on it. Not all the kids like going to the games, which perplexes me, but we take those who want to go to the magical land that is Autzen Stadium.
Autzen — the place that transformed from a hole in the ground surrounded by blue and green Cooks houses to a piece of artwork surrounded by perhaps the best athletic facilities in the entire country.
We tailgate, we buy way too expensive hats and shirts, we go into the stadium and buy way too expensive nachos and hot dogs, yet the amazement I get to see in the kids’ faces being among the frenzy of the fans far exceeds the cost of every $7 soggy nacho I have ever bought.
We scream until it feels as if we have swallowed a roll of 60-grit sandpaper, we drink some water or a soda and we scream some more. Win or lose — and fortunately for our kids they get to see winning more than losing — we make the long walk back to our parking spot by the O Bar, and we head home.
After one more night of the slumber party, which for some reason usually winds down a couple hours earlier than it did the night before, we embark on the long drive back to Brookings, all the while counting the days until we get to turn around and do it all over again.
My hope is that these games become to my kids what the San Jose State game became to me when I was a kid. I want these games to be the beginning of a lifelong love of Duck football, but there’s more to it than that.
The beauty of going to Duck games is that the game is only a small part of the experience. It’s a time of year where we get to see a lot of our good friends a lot more than at any other time of the year.
It’s a time of year where a bunch of people who may not agree on a lot of things come together to bond in a way that not many other forums could allow, or encourage for that matter. It’s a time of year where we get to watch the new recruits who also saw in Oregon what we who have lived here all our lives know makes it the best place in the country to live.
Yes, I’m a die-hard fan and spend way more time perusing websites featuring high school kids with star ratings, but to me, the best part of being a Duck fan is being a part of the Duck family, alumnus or not. I hope at least one of our kids becomes a U of O student.
That may not happen; however, I know I’m laying the groundwork for them to be part of the Duck family for life.
Top Photo of Gavin Pieren at the Oregon Spring Game by Jim Ross