The Internet has spoken: the best, nay ONLY, way to discuss anything is a list. Seriously. Any topic of worth is worthy of a list. Everyone, even the Grey Lady herself, knows that lists neither leave anything out nor stoke the flames of good-hearted trolls. College football has been a trendsetter in the list-making world, with its first definitive annual list of the greatest football teams appearing in 1936.
- Marcus Mariota
I could probably stop the list here and just say that the Five Greatest Ducks of All Time are Mariota, Mariota, Mariota, Mariota, and Mariota. (Sorry Dylan, your fire ain’t that hot.) However, tradition, as well as a desire to keep the doors of the Temple of Janus closed, prevents me from ending here.
To wit: Mariota has the best nickname in the history of sports nicknames, Super Mariota. I am a lover of video games. One of my earliest memories involves convincing my parents that Mario does not have a limited supply of fireballs. As any good millennial knows, Mario is the capo di tutti capi of video game characters. So, it is only fitting that the University of Oregon’s QB optimus maximus shares his nick-nomenclature with the eponymous Mario.
Also contributing to Zeus’s Mariota’s inclusion on this list: his incredible backstory. Right next to Luke Skywalker and Odysseus, Mariota’s story, his rise from objective anonymity (two scholarship offers out of high school) to subjective greatness, deserves a bust in the Joseph Campbell Hall of Fame. I can say this unreservedly: Marcus Mariota is the Horatio Alger of college football.
I need not mention his gridiron feats of strength: neither his efficiency, nor his touchdown to interception ratio, nor that he is one of three college football players to finish with more than 10,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards. An Ohio state university might have put a damper on the end of Mariota’s career, but like Yogi Berra said, “even Napoleon had his Watergate.”
- Phil Knight, Bill Bowerman, and Bill Bowerman’s wife’s waffle maker
I can feel the eye rolls from here. But without them, there would have never been the Joey Heisman Billboard. The uniforms would be pictured in the football dictionary next to the phrase, “the blind side.” The Blur Offense would describe the tearful haziness unleashed upon watching the Ducks offense.
Yes, Phil Knight has given the University of Oregon Athletics Department a lot of money, leading to the moderately creative ”Nike U” title. But T. Boone Pickens, oil tycoon extraordinaire, has given even more money to Oklahoma State University, yet OSU is not popularly referred to as “Oil Tycoon U.”
And without Bill Bowerman, Nike, née Blue Ribbon Athletics, would never have been a thing.
But most importantly, without Bill Bowerman’s wife’s wafflemaker, the Nike Cortez would not have been created, and I would not be writing this column.
- Onterrio Smith
Because he taught all future Ducks, notwithstanding Cliff Harris, what is not proper carry-on luggage.
4b. Motorcycle Man
Everyone loves Puddles, as they should. He’s cute, funny for a mascot, good at eating Tostitos, and bears a poignant, even direct, relationship to the team name (unlike this monstrosity).
One could even make the argument that he is the Dylan of the Greatest Duck of All-Time because of this. Anything that keeps Mandrake, aka Robo-Duck, from becoming THE Oregon Duck deserves the love and affection of both football and futbol fans everywhere.
As a pretend Harley enthusiast, the motorcyclist, the man responsible for one of the most thrilling pregame traditions deserves consideration for a spot in the Greatest Ducks of All-Time pantheon. Bo Pelini’s cat is a pretty sweet mascot, but motorcycle roar beats kitty meow every time.
In all honesty, mascot rankings are more Grantland’s Zach Lowe’s bag than mine. But I think all can agree that anything, including nothing, would be a better mascot than Dr. Moreau’s version of Darkwing Duck.
- Kenny Wheaton’s Hands
Without those, there would never have been this:
Top Photo by Kevin Cline