What I’m about to say is not going to sit well with some of you, even less with others, and to the lunatic fringe; Wade Evanson is not my real name. Okay, maybe I’m not operating under an assumed identity, but it’s time somebody said this, and the morning of this season’s first conference game might just be the perfect time to do it: Oregon is becoming USC.
Relax, while alarming to say the least, there’s still time to turn the tide of an epidemic in need of just that.
If 50 is the new 40, then complacency may be this generations Oregon Duck fan. Success has a way of burying past disappointment, and three straight conference titles, four straight BCS bowl games, and a painfully near miss at a National Title which would’ve been a pipe dream two decades ago, can have a numbing affect on a process much more difficult than it may seem.
We’ve become spoiled. Few fan base’s have or will experience the type of success Oregon has in recent years, and due to such fanaticism has taken a backseat to noise – or lack thereof - during the game, an extra beer in the parking lot at halftime of the game, and beating the traffic following a game that most have deemed a foregone conclusion prior to.
While Eugene remains a difficult place to play, the game experience has diminished and people have begun to notice that Autzen has become a shell of what it used to be. It’s no longer Washington of 1994, Michigan of 2003, or USC of 2007. The raucous scene which used to send teams to a football fetal position, has since diminished to a wine-sipping, Polo sweater wearing, proper behaving scene fit for the “Blaine,” “Hunter,” and “Muffy’s” of the world, most likely seen eating Sushi and drinking Chablis in a reserved parking lot on the campus of USC prior to a Trojan game circa 2004.
Teams don’t expect to win here, but they no longer see it as the impossibility that it not-so-long-ago seemed to be. In recent years, both Stanford and USC have won here in spite of National Title appearances on the line for a Duck team favored in both, and during such Duck faithful who in prior years would’ve turned the place upside down, have sat stunned expecting the tide to turn, rather than doing their part of a process necessary to overcome.
Two weekends ago, a team representing the conference single-handedly “keeping the man down,” came to Eugene in an attempt to put the Pac-12 in its place. Sure, Tennessee is a has-been power in the process of resurrection, but even in their lesser state they felt – due to geographic location and conference affiliation – they had a chance to upend a national power and stem the tide of a conference pushing back. As we now know, Oregon crushed the Volunteers and in the process kicked them to the college football curb in a manner befitting an unworthy opponent, but while cheering their Ducks on, Autzen inhabitants coasted through the majority of the contest and left some of their own longing for what it used to be, and many of “Tennessee Nation” questioning what they’d heard it was.
Oregon has spent the better part of 30 years building a reputation of formidability on the field, and a reputation of elite fanaticism off of it. Due to such, success has reached unparalleled heights and the aforementioned reputation has reached a level of borderline mythical proportions. It’s possible few if any could live up to such expectations, but factual that this fan base at one time did just that.
It’s still a very good atmosphere in Eugene and the “experience” is one the school and its alumnus should take pride in, but “very good” is who greatness pats on the head, and “great” is what Oregon has been and should continue to want to be.
Do your part Duck fans…protect your house!