Dear Ducks Football Team,
What a long, strange trip it’s been. We’ve had a bit of an on and off relationship, you and I. As a second grader, I got really into you for a few months, after my very first trip to Autzen Stadium. It seemed so big and glamorous and full of excitement. Even though it was the mid-nineties and you were having a fair amount of trouble winning games. My parents loved you and that was all I needed to know. I remember being in the UO Bookstore that trip, purchasing my first (and actually only) pom-pom; asking my parents why everyone was yelling each time the crowd stood up to cheer. It was fun, even if I didn’t really know what was going on. I was part of something my parents cared about.
Then I forgot about you until the Joey Harrington era. It was during those years that I sat on the couch next to my dad religiously. Every Saturday wearing the same shirt – that classic tie-dye. If I didn’t wear that, they might lose! We watched every single game those years, me and my dad. Mom was there too, but she couldn’t sit still long enough to watch the whole game – especially when there were coupons to clip and closets to organize. My sweet little sister, Emily, was going through her rebellious “I’m an Oregon State fan” years, but don’t worry. As you’ll see below, she’s come around in a big way.
After Joey graduated and got married and I realized he and I would never fall madly in love and have a ton of adorable children, I moved on from you guys and didn’t really pay attention to college football at all for a while. Then, I became a UO student and, ironically, paid even less attention to you. I knew more about you guys when I was talking to my mom on the phone, than when I was sitting on campus doing the crossword in The Daily Emerald and leaving the rest of the paper for someone else to read.
I only went to one game my freshman year, and it put me off Autzen in a big way. By then, my dad had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. My mom got us tickets in one of those fancy boxes. In the end, he probably wasn’t well enough to make the trip for the game and it was my first time really seeing him that sick. We left at half-time and I had a hard time seeing him like that, but he got to see his Ducks, in Autzen, score some big plays against ASU and – even better – we ran into then still head coach Mike Bellotti at the Hilton before the game, and my dad got to shake his hand and say hello. That likely made the entire trip worth it for him.
I didn’t want to go to U of O. I only ended up there because Dad got sick July before my senior year of high school and I knew three things:
- Eugene was close enough to home that if something happened I could easily get back to my family.
- It would be cheap.
- It would make my Dad happy and proud that I was a Duck.
So I went to U of O. It was a fine experience, but nothing special. Dad died in the middle of my sophomore year, which put a bit of a damper on things and no matter what school I was at it would have been rough.
Since he’s been gone, I haven’t been watching your games until this season. This year, I watch from LA when I can. My cable package offers the BYU network, but not the PAC-12 Network, because that makes all the sense in the world. Maybe it’s partly that Marcus Mariota is filling Joey Harrington’s “Handsome Quarterback” shoes, but it’s also something more.
I miss my aforementioned baby sister like crazy and her love for you exceeds that of any frat boy I ever met on campus. She loves you people. Watching the games with her is the only way I would do it now that watching with my dad is not an option. It’s part of our sister way of grieving him and missing him.
He was born in 1954 and was 54 when he died. That number shows up EVERYWHERE. You really have no idea. Including on September 22, during the Arizona game, when Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had a 54 yard interception returned for a touchdown. I’m sure wherever my Dad is he is very much enjoying this undefeated season (especially last night’s “dismantling” of the Huskies) and probably rolling his eyes at all your ridiculous uniforms.
Rolling his eyes out of love, though. Don’t worry.