I got a call from an Oregon State fan after Oregon pounded Florida State Thursday night. The call was similar to the call many of you made or received. It was a congratulatory call from a Beaver to a Duck, celebrating the win. These calls across the state are simple: “I hope you win the national championship. It would be good for the University of Oregon. It would be good for the state of Oregon.”
And there you have it; that is something that very, very, very few states have. It’s a state bond that transcends the Civil War, with the greater good being success for the state of Oregon.
If you’re a Duck fan and weren’t excited when Pat Casey’s Beavers won the 2006 and 2007 College World Series Championships, you just don’t get it.
I remember the University of Oregon and Oregon State University football in the 70’s. I remember the 80’s. I was at the 0-0 Toilet Bowl in 1983. As a 16-year-old I thought a dry cleaner bag was enough to keep me dry. It worked for about five minutes. I was one of the last 10 people who left the stadium that soggy day. I was convinced the players were going to come back on the field and play another quarter. How could a game end in a 0-0 tie?
As a teenager in Albany, my parents would drive me over to Parker Stadium to sell concessions during football games in the 80’s. I’d watch the game for free and make about $20 selling pop. I didn’t think a better job existed: Making money and watching sports — what could be better than that?
I remember the Oregon State stadium PA announcer would give score updates during games, and if Oregon happened to be leading over a California or Washington school, there was a huge roar of approval from the Parker Stadium crowd. Autzen fans were the same way then, as those Ducks and Beavers fans got it. The Cougars, Bruins, Trojans and dreaded Huskies were and are the enemy.
I know it’s harder to root for the “other school” now than it was three decades ago, but that state of Oregon unity is still there. You may have heard about the classy move Oregon State made, taking out a newspaper advertisement congratulating 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. OSU’s Heisman hero Terry Baker gets it. You could hear it when he was interviewed and asked about Mariota.
You think people in other states pull for each other’s teams? Ha! The Los Angeles schools can’t stand each other.
Cougars hate Huskies, and Huskies hate Cougars. I remember a friend telling me that former Washington coach Don James walked into a Seattle church late for the service and was trying to find a seat. He saw a row with a few extra seats, but a Cougar fan sitting on the aisle wouldn’t let him get past to the empty seat. “Don James can get to church on time if he wants a seat,” growled the Cougar fan.
I went to the Oregon vs. Auburn National Championship game in 2011, where there was a guy wearing an Alabama shirt that said, “I’m a Crimson Tide fan but showed up to root for Oregon. We hate Auburn, so go Ducks!” Amusing, but the SEC is a different world and they can have their world; I like Oregon better.
Albany’s Kathie Whitmire is a Beaver season ticket holder and HUGE Beaver supporter. She called me before the 2010 Civil War and said she’d be pulling for the Ducks because the Civil War meant more to Oregon than Oregon State. She’s bigger than me, as I can’t do that.
I remember calling Super Beaver fan Bernie McCarthy during the fourth quarter of the 2001 Fiesta Bowl rout of Notre Dame. The Beavs were putting the finishing touches on a statement game.
“Bernie, can you believe this?” I asked. There was a brief silence on the phone, but I heard the background noise from his party. “Bernie, are you there?”
“Yeah Mike, I’m here, I’m here. I just don’t know whether to yell for joy or cry. I think I’ll do a little of both.” We laughed.
I remember that conversation from 2001 like it was yesterday. That wasn’t the last time we spoke, but it was the second to last time. He called me after Oregon beat Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.
Bernie lived on the outskirts of Corvallis all of his life. He and his wife Anita raised three kids who went to Corvallis schools. Bernie attended as many Beaver games as he could get to and remembers them all: the Great Pumpkin Dee Andros, Fertig, Avezzano, Pettibone, Erickson, Riley, etc. …
Bernie passed away a few years ago. I don’t know if football is something people in heaven watch or even care about, but if they are interested in such things I think that: 1.) Bernie likes the hiring of Gary Anderson, and 2.) he’s proud of the Ducks and hope they bring in the national championship. State of Oregon pride trumps in-state rivalries.
If you can’t root for the other team in the state during its heyday, move to California.
Top photo by Kevin Cline