My mother, Kay Rosback, bleeds orange and black. Forever a proud OSU alum and native Oregonian, rarely have I ever seen her miss a Beaver football game on television, let alone lower her unwavering support for her alma mater. And along with that pride I have witnessed a hatred for the Oregon Ducks reserved for the darkest and most detested of enemies. Let’s just put it like this: If Chip Kelly was stranded on I-5 with a flat tire during a thunderstorm, she wouldn’t just pass him by, she’d make sure to splash a puddle onto him as she did. So, it’s safe to say that come Saturday she’ll be rooting for the home team in what could be the biggest Civil War since Lincoln, right?
Although she may not admit it, and even at the risk of losing a delicious home-cooked meal the next time I visit home, I know that deep down she wants Oregon to win. The state, that is, not necessarily the Ducks. Let me explain.
For many across the nation, Oregon athletics are merely a quazi-speck on the sports radar, overshadowed by the dominance and prestige of larger markets and schools that surround the state, i.e. California. Our lone professional squad, the Trail Blazers, have not won a championship in more than 30 years and are still reeling in the wake of the “Jail Blazer” era, and collegiate athletics are routinely bullied by larger schools in the Pac-10 such as USC, UCLA and Stanford. For the most part, the state of Oregon is but a ripple in the wake of California’s tsunami.
But not right now.
For once, the spotlight is not on the Trojans, Bears or Bruins, not on the state with more than ten times Oregon’s population, not even on Kobe Bryant and his quest for a title three-peat with the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise. For once, national headlines won’t be of LeBron James’ “Decision” or Peyton Manning’s rocket arm. For once, Oregon is on top with everyone else looking up.
Not a big deal, you say? Try telling that to the fans who sell-out the Rose Garden even when the Blazers aren’t winning. Tell that to the fans who skip school and work just to greet new players, stars and scrubs alike, in the airport when they arrive in Portland. Tell that to the fans in Eugene and Corvallis who have waited lifetimes to break out of the Sun and Emerald Bowls and into the big dance.
The state of Oregon needs the Ducks to win on Saturday.
Regardless of loyalties, a win for the Ducks is a win for the state. For the first time in over 100 years, the Civil War will decide the BCS National Championship game, unprecedented stakes for Oregon sports. So Pacific, I extend an invitation to everyone, from wherever you may call home, to become honorary Oregonians. Just for the time being, lay your prior allegiances aside and embrace what could become history. For those who have never known the feeling of mediocrity, join us. We may not boast a statewide pedigree of championships, awards and parades down Main Street, but guess what?
We cheer harder.
And the sweet just isn’t as sweet without the bitter.