Ancient Israel traveled in the wilderness for 40 years, led by Moses. A select few, the Levite priests officiated in the Tabernacle of the Temple. Fewer still were allowed entrance into the most sacred of areas, called the Holy of Holies, where the Arc of the Covenant and singular worship with God was held.
Our leader is Mario Cristobal, his entire staff and the athletic department are striving to take us back to the promised land on the gridiron.
We as Duck fans can draw biblical parallels to Oregon Football and Basketball. We, however, are not ‘worthy’ to gain entrance into the ‘inner sanctum’: the Duck practices. The rites, skills and techniques are developed there to achieve the ultimate experience and fulfillment — championships! Yet we are denied entrance, and this simply should not be.
To be sure, mega donors, some media, the “connected,” and others associated in and around these programs are granted admittance to practice. We mere mortals or gentiles should be allowed in, too. Let’s list the “why nots” and reasoning around why we should gain admittance.
Security: The enemy must not know our designs, methods and/or secrets.
We are not talking about launch codes to a Trident Submarine’s ICBM missiles. Please! There is security at every practice. Scouting by the enemy nearly eliminates all surprises anyhow. Besides Spring ball is generic in flavor, acclimating players and coaches to the grand overall scheme. Fall brings subtle nuances, not spring. Bogus reason, indeed.
Liability issues: Protecting coaches, players and support staff et al. is crucial.
Yes, we get that. We, the mere mortal onlookers, are humble devoted fans. Is there not insurance coverage that exists to mitigate such situations? Of course there is, or it could easily be obtained. Double bogus.
Logistics: How could we handle all the unwashed masses and control them?
Been to a museum lately? What you can touch and see is directed, and the same should go at practices. Security, in all its forms, persons, cameras and designated areas, make this another moot point. Have ‘docents’ to guide, explain and give valuable insights at these two-hour practices.
Ancillary reasons for exclusion: Established norms and traditions. Potential loss of special media perks. Less hero worship because the ‘exclusivity factor ‘ is diminished, and the schism between us and them is reduced.
These would all be long gone, thank goodness.
A new paradigm change is uncomfortable but often brings great rewards. Here are some suggestions:
Begin small: Allow groups of 10 people, with five separate ‘stations’ for each guide. Rotate fans to each station during practice at respectable distances. Do this times two and you could easily accommodate 100 fans per practice. Multiply this by 15 practice sessions and, presto — you have 1,500 fans involved with an inside look at acceptance to these multi-tasking football spectacles.
Pay to watch play: I shudder to mention this. However, you can see the athletic department licking its proverbial chops as always, as it is forever seeking ways for increased revenue! This would fatten the coffers, no doubt, if done correctly. Nothing in life is really free — even this great site may change to gain admission in the future. So charge $25 a pop to let us in. Go lottery if the demand is great.
Let these select few see and feel the equipment, facilities and technology, which are constantly evolving. The energy and buzz at practice fields is entertaining. If this pilot project takes off, expansion could follow. Simply put, it should not be an ‘us verses them’ kind of a deal. Stop ‘circling the wagons,’ and let us gentiles in because we are not on the warpath … yet!
Expanding the Oregon brand is a process, and has been marketed both at the University Oregon and with Nike’s skill and largess. Devoted fans can also play a huge role in this. Provide merchandise to buy after each tour package — ah the sales pitch, too — cha-ching!
A worthy consideration add-on, or force multiplier, is the following suggestion. There are around 60 K-12 schools in our geographic area. Each spring, send two players in full football regalia to each school for an hour of show-and-tell. Leave no school out, be inclusive to every learning institution. Connect, and future Duck fans will jump on board.
You would pique interest even more through a community outreach program. Players would feel connected as role models, and they are (or should be) admired for competing on the field and stressing the value of education to attentive kids.
Each player would only need this opportunity one or two times in the spring. The time and cost is minimal for the rewards and good feelings that would surely ensue. The size, strength, height and demeanor of a UO athlete would be impressive in many ways to a lot of younger folks.
A few, selected players, after the aforementioned tours at practices conclude, could visit briefly to enhance the connection with fans.
The hue and cry is this: let us in, and we are, or can become, worthy to worship at the high alter of Duck sports, and the practices that entertain, inspire and give greater insights.
Here you have one perspective. How do you feel? Can you share any suggestions to improve the scope and inclusion of more fans going to practices? Will the elite scoot over and share a seat in this sanctuary, or do you want the status quo left as-is, continuously leaving us out?
Steven E Smith
Powell Butte, Oregon Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
Steve Smith was born and raised in Eugene, and has been attending games since 1957, and is a long time season ticket holder. He is an avid student of Duck football and basketball and is a retired Dentist currently living in Central Oregon. He loves his family, Ducks, golf, Toastmasters, his church community and this site.
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