It’s Wednesday, which normally means it’s time for another trip down memory lane to Oregon’s past glories via a DuckTales article from Kurt (Keeerrrttt1). While Kurt is busy moving this week, Kim Hastings a.k.a. TacomaDuck has been gracious enough to fill in this week. Enjoy, and look for more DuckTales articles from Kurt returning next week.
Under normal circumstances the 9 A.M. Big Ten game doesn’t hold much interest for me. Usually I would spend Saturday morning sleeping in, taking a leisurely shower, and maybe taking the wife out for an early lunch, before settling in for hours of college football. The Ducks play a lot of late afternoon and evening games nowadays, so I have plenty of time to warm up by rooting against OSU or the Purple Plague before our game. Last Saturday wasn’t normal circumstances, though. Penn State v. Nebraska was must see college ball.
The Penn State crisis had hit the news earlier in the week, and I joined everyone else in being horrified by what was, seemingly every hour, being revealed. I downloaded and read the 23 page Grand Jury Report, wishing all the time that I was reading a novel instead of findings of fact. I hurt for the victims, was enraged at the prime perpetrator, and saddened by what it all meant for the student body and greater community of the respected Pennsylvania State University.
During a crisis of this magnitude there will always be calls for immediate and drastic action. It makes us feel foolish and impotent to wait, so we call for heads to roll and actions to be taken that would be symbolic in nature but merely soporific to us:
“Cancel the game!”
“Cancel their season!”
“The death penalty will be too good for them!”
All of these say more about us and our desire for swift punitive action, than are appropriate remedies for the horrific deeds that have been strongly alleged. The student-athletes that play for The Nittany Lions were 5-9 years old when these awful deeds were first committed. Canceling their dreams wouldn’t do any good, and in fact would do a great deal of harm. Hard as it may be, this is the time to take a step back, let the justice system take its measured time, and think about the very thing that haunted me during the Penn State/Nebraska game last Saturday morning.
What if this had been us?
Oregon has, in spite of what our rivals like to say, been all about hiring coaching staffs of high moral character, befitting the leaders of young men that they are called to be. Are they perfect? Of course not. We’ve had our share of run-ins with the NCAA, from a summer school grade-enhancement gaffe during Rich Brooks’ time at the helm, to an apparent signature snafu by an assistant during Mike Beloitti’s era. These things happen everywhere in the highly competitive world of college sports. Our misdeeds were discovered and we paid the appropriate price. I would still put the character quality of our staffs up against anyone’s at any time over any time span that you would care to compare. I’m confident that our guys are that good.
However, before the leaves turned this fall, could anyone have said that our guys stood on a higher plane than the staff that worked for the venerable Joe Paterno? I wouldn’t have gone there. That said, the next logical step is:
This could be us.
So I watched the game that was played in anything but “Happy” Valley last Saturday. I closed my eyes with the players and coaches of both teams as they knelt at the Nittany Lion logo. I watched the tear-stained faces of the people in the stands. I listened to a crowd almost twice as large as what we can fit into Autzen, as they barely made a sound in response to their teams’ successes in the 1st quarter. I was almost relieved when the game ended, because next time it will be a little easier for the people who were there, and the time after that still easier.
Four hours after the whistle blew, ending the Nebraska-Penn State game, I watched another game. I pumped my fist as LaMichael James blew through the Cardinal secondary! I whooped with joy as DeAnthony Thomas turned a screen pass into a highlight reel touchdown! I did a virtual happy-dance as the Duck D befuddled the Heisman front-runner! I rejoiced as the Ducks took a strangle-hold on the Northern Division of the Pac-12. I did all of that and two things more:
I watched the obvious love and respect that our coaching staff has for their players and vice versa, and I said a silent prayer that the trust that I have (and far more importantly that the parents of their players have) in these men is as well-founded as I believe it to be.
There is much still to learn out of Penn State. It will be heart-breaking, infuriating, and mind-boggling. Let us, as parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, be ever vigilant with those who seek to lead our loved ones. Let us ponder our passion and experience it fully…but remember what’s truly important.
Kim Hastings is a 1984 graduate of Northwest Christian College. He cut his journalistic teeth as sports editor of a paper in his home town of Fortuna, CA, and, later as a columnist for the Longview Daily News in Longview, WA.
He saw his first Oregon game in 1977 and never missed a home game from 1981 until a bout with pneumonia cut his streak short in 1997. He was one of the proud 3200 on a bitterly cold night in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1989 for the Independence Bowl, and continues to be big supporter of Oregon sports. He is an active participant on the various Oregon Ducks messageboards as “TacomaDuck.”
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