As the clock neared zero last Saturday night in Madison, Wisconsin I peppered off a text to a friend and Duck fan which simply proclaimed, "Oregon’s about to be number one, regardless of what happens, that’s pretty cool.” And it is. It’s cool because it’s never happened, it’s cool because it’s six games in, and it’s cool because it speaks to the hard work and effort of a team, program and fan base that’ve spent the better part of two decades stretching towards this mark. If you remember disco, eaten at a Bob’s Big Boy and/or remember music before Rap, you remember the bad times; losing seasons, 0-0 ties and Decembers without bowl games. But, if you’ve never owned a cassette tape, listen to Emo music and/or wear your hat with a straight bill, you’ve only heard tales of the woe for which I speak. You know 10-win seasons, BCS bowl games and Heisman candidates like Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon and now LaMichael James. You know uniform combinations, first-rate facilities and Game Day appearances. Oh, and you’re probably fairly familiar with Phil Knight. But trust me when I say the Ducks weren’t always good, could only dream of being ranked and had merely home and away uniforms.
So appreciate this time. That doesn’t mean rub it in your rival’s’ face, sing from the roof tops or act like…a Husky fan, but reflect on where you’ve been, where you’ve gotten and where you’d like the Ducks to be come January.
Since Sunday afternoon Coach Kelly has continued his rhetoric, “win the day,” “we don’t pay attention to rankings” and “we’re just trying to get better,” and believe me when I say that I’m completely fine with that. You have to stay in the moment, play every game like it’s your last and focus on the task at hand, but that doesn’t mean you the fan can’t lean back, kick up your feet and appreciate the undeniable fact that the Oregon Ducks are the number one ranked team in America!
Say that with me, the Oregon Ducks are the number one ranked team in America!
You should revel in that! Do you think Bill Musgrave saw this coming after he led the Ducks to their first bowl game in seemingly an eternity in 1989? Do you think Rich Brooks saw this coming when he bolted for the NFL at the high water mark following a Cinderella run for the roses in 1995? And do you think anyone anywhere could’ve envisioned this more than 10 years ago when the only ones in the world of sport who could differentiate between the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers lived somewhere wedged in-between Canada and the Siskiyou Mountains?
Of course not.
The game tonight versus UCLA is a big game because it’s the first of a six game stretch towards something big. If Oregon wins – and they should – they’re 7-0 and more than halfway home towards the goal of an undefeated season. They can’t afford to overlook the Bruins…and they won’t. They can’t afford to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding the BCS…and they won’t. And they can’t allow themselves to feel an entitlement due to a #1 ranking…and Chip Kelly will never let them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t walk with a hop in your step, puff your chest out and relish a moment in time that you may or may not ever see again.
I hope Oregon runs this table, ends up in Glendale January 10th and hoists the crystal football for the first time in school history, but if they don’t, you still have this; Oregon is the #1 ranked team in America!
And don’t forget it.