We Oregon fans love our Ducks, but there is a singular duck we love; “The Duck”.
Since we are in time-out relative to live sports, and sports stories about Oregon’s teams have slowed to a mere trickle, maybe it will be fun to off-track to discuss The Duck. Please comment at the end on the mental images and memories you hold of times the Duck has made you laugh, swell with pride or maybe even somewhat embarrassed you. Let’s have some fun on an otherwise ‘overcast day” while remembering that the “sun always shines in Autzen Stadium” and anywhere else The Duck waddles.
Sometimes The Duck, Oregon’s famous and very popular mascot is erroneously referred to as “Puddles,” and admittedly, I’ve made that mistake myself. From Wikipedia accounts the original “Puddles” was a white duck that students put on show for campus and sporting events in the 1920’s and 30’s. Puddles waddled the sidelines during games and the team was called the Oregon Webfoots.
In the mid-1940’s the Oregon Athletics Department and the University wanted to improve the image of the sports teams as many of the fans had begun to call the team the Ducks. According to the New York Times, Leo Harris the Oregon Athletic Director was friends with Walt Disney. It was Walt Disney himself that told AD Harris in 1934 that UO could use Donald Duck as a mascot.
In 1947 the costume was changed from a sailor’s suit and the Disney Duck Donald became the design for The Duck. The initial logo that was adopted was the Fighting Duck poking out of the “O”. That duck design later become the image used to create the mascot.
After Disney died in 1966, officials realized that there was no formal agreement between the parties to share the image of Donald Duck. But Oregon produced a photograph of Disney wearing an Oregon Letterman’s jacket, with the Donald Duck logo on the chest, and a written contract was signed in 1973, again as described in the New York Times.
The ESPN Game Day sportscast kicks off every Saturday of college football broadcasts in the fall. Lee Corso has said before that “game days in Eugene are special” and it appears obvious that he loves The Duck. He with much a-do and fanfare dons The Duck’s head piece whenever he can. I don’t know about you, but I get a thrill to see the happiness that The Duck brings to Corso, to the crowd and to America (except our opponent’s fans).
Some of you may not yet have been fans of the Ducks, or possibly you are young enough that you missed it. In 2002 a tale began that the construction crews working on the athletic facilities unearthed a massive egg. When the egg hatched, out emerged Mandrake, a new Ducks mascot with a muscular build and scowling onerous face. An attempt was made to unseat The Duck by Mandrake, but Mandrake disappeared following a basketball game in 2003. (The Mandrake story is told in a short video by the Wall Street Journal here.)
The current Duck mascot is probably better known and more popular than ever today, as he is always a favorite of cameramen and broadcasters alike during game coverage. The signature moment on football game days is when (the anticipation is highest) everyone awaits the team coming out of the tunnel with The Duck leading the way riding on a Harley-Davidson holding an Oregon flag with the Oregon Fight Song blaring from the band.
The Duck rose in popularity with the rise of Oregon Football under Mike Bellotti. In the Chip Kelly coaching tenure and the Blur Offense, as the team scored points The Duck famously popped out push-ups after every point scored. In those days that meant a lot of push-ups sometimes in close succession – to the delight of the crowds.
Oh, The Duck has many antics up his sleeve from playfully sparing with the opposing team’s mascot, to pre-planned skits and even crowd surfing. We just never know what The Duck will be up to next. Even Mr. FishDuck has devoted a section of the site’s Oregon Football Repository to honoring The Duck with articles and funny videos of the past involving the mascot we love so much.
When suffering through the Oregon Football and Basketball droughts of the 70’s and 80’s it was easy for enemy fans to mock The Duck and the Ducks. A roley-poley children’s character looked meek against mascots and team names like the Trojans, Bruins, Nittany Lions, Wolverines and other menacing monikers.
It’s fun to be on the winning side now. When you are on the winning side, most of the clutter and jeers don’t matter anyway. We can shrug off insults, (or hurl them back) show our “O,” but we are still fans of the winning team. Oregon sports is at an all-time apex! The sports teams may be in medical time-out, but as fans, our favorite team is the PAC-12 Champion in Football, Men’s Basketball and Women’s Basketball.
No other PAC-12 team has accomplished that, and no other team has The Duck in their corner like we do. QUACK!
Greenville, South Carolina
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Born in Eugene, Brent Pennington grew up along the Siuslaw river in Lane county. He attended his first Ducks football game in 1960, and was inside Autzen stadium for its opening game in ’67. Brent attended the UO College of Business Administration from 1969-1975 interrupted by U.S. Army service. He has traveled much of the world in the Lotteries and Gaming industry.
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