It’s my birthday today. And while I am not a big birthday person (after 21, do any of them really matter?), it would have been a nice gift for our Ducks to be 2-0. This, of course, would have meant a gigantic victory over Ohio State, which would have gifted me the right to rub it into the faces of all my Ohio State buddies on social media.
Ironically, that would have included the editor of today’s article, Natalie Liebhaber. While Natalie is a huge Oregon fan, her first love is the school she grew up rooting for in good ole’ Ohio State. Something tells me if the Ducks had won, and I did give her grief about it, that the once perfectly-crafted article I had submitted for editing last night would have “somehow” suddenly been transformed into a putrid bile of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and nonsensical hogwash.
Natalie then would have claimed to have had an “off day” when editing this piece. To which I would have responded, “An ‘off day’? You did it on purpose!”
It’s called revenge, Natalie! Jeez, I never knew you could be so vindictive (insert winking smiley face here).
But it didn’t really happen, so I digress.
Real Games or Practice Games?
As a kid, I remember growing up in 1980s Eugene where the little league programs for all sports were run by “ESP” (Eugene Sports Program), which then morphed into “Kidsports.” Before the start of every season, we would usually have a couple “practice games.” Ya know, games that do not count but gave you a chance to see where you were as a team before the real season started.
If the Ducks do have an eight-game conference season starting after the new year, doesn’t it feel like the games would just be glorified practice games for the 2021 season?
I mean, we already have players opting out because of COVID-19, while others have opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. And of course, fan attendance would be limited, if allowed at all. Many would question the physical toll on players expected to play two seasons of football in the same calendar year. Nothing about this feels real to me. Like a spring game on steroids, they just don’t come remotely close to measuring up to the real feel of fall football.
It is like forcing yourself to go on a date with somebody you are not really in to, but thinking, “Ah what the heck, they’re OK looking; maybe we’ll find a spark.” And then two minutes into the date you realize you should have just trusted your instincts and stayed home because that spark you’re longing for just isn’t there.
That is the 2020 football season we are considering pretending to play it in 2021. We are desperate for that spark of real football, but it’s not going to happen. So, let’s not pretend to play “real” football and accept it for what it really is… practice.
Unless something dramatic occurs to get Pac-12 football started no later than early November, I say the Pac-12 throws in the towel on the idea of having any sort of “real” season. Teams should instead get an extended spring season that includes a spring game scrimmage and then four practice games against their closest Pac-12 foes. It would be like the NFL preseason, where winning would be nice, but nobody is going to lose sleep over a loss. It’s all about preparing for the real season starting in the fall.
Nobody loses a year of eligibility. People above my pay grade can figure out the scholarship and eligibility requirements — perhaps a bump in scholarship limits for a couple years, as well as expanded rosters.
The idea is to give these action-hungry athletes some serious reps and to let out the built-up frustration of not having played in so long, while coaches can work on scheme, depth charts, and overall team camaraderie. It would also give fans the chance to cheer without it being under the false veil of being real.
Because, just like the year 2020, real it is not.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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