The University of Oregon is one of the few programs in the nation that allegedly has two “rivals.” Opinions amongst Ducks fans differ, but I am in the camp that says Washington, whom we affectionately call the “doogs,” are the rival of our athletics programs. Other Ducks fans ascribe to the frankly insane theory that Oregon State (University) is our true rival.
To be pedantic about it, rival is a somewhat tricky concept to get a handle upon when there are two different candidates for one actual position of “need.” The word rival came into English via the Latin word rivalis, literally meaning “one who shares the same stream.” One.
If we were being black and white about it, both Eugene and Corvallis share the Willamette River. However, such a literal definition is small minded. It’s not as if it were the case that there is a water rights controversy or that each community is running gunships out on a shared navigable waterway, showing the flag.
The reality is that beyond a shared problem with an idiotic Board of Higher Education and an excuse mongering retread of a governor, the University of Oregon and Oregon State (University) don’t share much of anything. We especially do not share the same athletics minds-hare in the general population, worldview in the Athletics Department, or perspective among fans. The contrast is especially stark when it comes to football–the only program that matters when looking at what pays the bills.
When examined through the football lens, there is no actual rivalry between the Ducks and the Beavers, on or off of the field. How can there be when they do not have any discernible ambitions at all? Perhaps the Ducks and Beavers would have a rivalry. . .
- If the Ducks only aspired to selling out Autzen stadium once or twice a year, if that, based upon the appeal of their opponent rather than that of their own brand.
- If the Ducks fans talked about the Rose Bowl or National Championship being the goal every season, but had never even made it to the Holiday Bowl. EVER.
- If the Ducks fans went on and on about how nationally relevant they could be if only they could win a September out of conference game against a BCS auto qualifying program, let alone praying to not be routinely blown out in such contests.
- If the Ducks gave what amounts to a lifetime roll over contract to a head coach who had never lost fewer than four games in any given season.
- If the Ducks head coach needed 14 games to put up his lone 10 win campaign.
The list could become exhaustive in short order. There’s simply no rivalry there. At best, the Beavers are spoilers. They have the classical “woe is us” spoiler mentality as a fan base, the one that afflicts the inferior program in two program states everywhere. Ducks fans who have been around the block since the ’94 Rose Bowl appearance have seen the stark contrast between Michigan fans and Michigan State fans, and between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans. Those “State” programs, even when highly ranked on their own merits, featured way too many fans who reflexively referenced themselves against the superior program hailing from their neck of the woods.
It’s pathetic, like an ingrained inferiority complex that seemingly no amount of success can cure. The primary symptom is poisonous levels of both jealousy and self-righteousness, a truly ugly combination that makes for an embittered fan base when they believe themselves to be rivals to a program they cannot catch from behind.
That’s why I tend to call OS(U), Buster Douglas College. Just like the mostly forgotten heavyweight tomato can, who one magical night in Tokyo, unexpectedly decked Mike Tyson and became a short term sensation, OS(U) has been excellent exactly once in the BCS era. Now? Just the answer to a trivia question. The Beavers can’t be our rivals with their total lack of programmatic ambition.
Say what one will about the Huskies, and boy do I ever, but their best fans hate losing to us enough to do more than impotently whine about it, demand total revenue socialism like the corniest Beavers fans do, or pray that the NCAA will hammer us for what amounts to poor document keeping in the face of an audit.
They grouse about us to be sure, but their fan base and administration is also un-apolagetically raising the level of their game. Their recent spending sprees on their stadium remodel and defensive staff are both over the top ridiculous, andone of the differentiators that makes them our actual rivals rather than the wannabes.
We at Oregon, from Phil Knight on down to the anonymous guy who donates $50 to the DAF when he can, have made a commitment to see Oregon become a top football power in the Pac-12, and if we can sustain it, a burgeoning national power. Washington had that level of commitment under Don James, and they have been rediscovering it, even if the brain trust up there seems concussed on the follow through. Except for a brief dalliance with the mercenary Dennis Erickson and his “pat down” crew of players, the Beavers just show no commitment to winning at all.
We discuss expanding our stadium. Meanwhile, over in Mayberry, the “orange perspective” of Buster Douglas College is focused upon improving the lost and found at Reser.
That’s no true rival up there in Corvallis. They are too small time for the role. Parting words courtesy of Alec Baldwin. To paraphrase, “Oregon and Buster Douglas College have a “rivalry” like fire has a “rivalry” with kindling.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline